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Defending the Categorical Imperative

R0b1Billion
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1/13/2014 3:26:30 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
I am starting to put Immanuel Kant towards the top of my all-time list of thinkers. Some say we are in the midst of a "Kantian Revolution" in physics, based on the premise that physical reality is a product of our consciousness, and not the other way around - as one would normally assume. I believe Kant's ethics are just as remarkable as his metaphysics.

Kant's categorical imperative is consistent with my moral theory, so I would like to use this thread to defend it. There should be no shortage of teleological thinkers here who would be repulsed by the idea, so it should be a good show!

==Definition==
A categorical imperative... denotes an absolute, unconditional requirement that asserts its authority in all circumstances, both required and justified as an end in itself. - Wiki

My moral theory is sort of a marriage between Christ's and Kant's. Christ's "seven deadly sins" are the categorical imperatives I allow:
1) Rejection of Pride (i.e., the feeling of self-superiority over others) - the virtue of Humility.
2) Rejection of Envy (i.e., the feeling of being hurt by the perception of success in others) - the virtue of Kindness.
3) Rejection of Wrath (i.e., the feeling of anger) - the virtue of Patience or Fortitude.
4) Rejection of Sloth (i.e., a failure to act or utilize talents and gifts; laziness) - the virtue of Diligence.
5) Rejection of Greed (i.e., the desire to possess material goods in excess of what one needs) - the virtue of Charity.
6) Rejection of Gluttony (i.e., wastefulness, over-consumption) - the virtue of Temperance.
7) Rejection of Lust (i.e., craving [e.g., sex, power, addictions*, etc.] ) - the virtue of Chastity.
*There is some semantic overlap between Gluttony and Lust, in fact just about this entire list is victim to colloquial bastardization.

I would say that these are the ONLY categorical imperatives that exist, and arguments that there are others usually will fall one of two categories:
1) Virtues that are simply products of the aforementioned list or semantic equivalents (e.g., "selflessness.").
2) Descriptive virtues. Honor, responsibility, goodness, etc. seem to be universally positive traits, but they aren't specifically-prescriptive courses of action in and of themselves. I can say one is "honorable" because they exhibit virtue, but honor has no direct prescription for action and can change based on the character and duties of the actor.

What are your thoughts on the categorical imperative in general, or my specific usage of it?
Beliefs in a nutshell:
- The Ends never justify the Means.
- Objectivity is secondary to subjectivity.
- The War on Drugs is the worst policy in the U.S.
- Most people worship technology as a religion.
- Computers will never become sentient.
Wocambs
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1/13/2014 3:34:31 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
I don't want to sh*t on all the hard thinking you've been doing, but I would respond that this is the only categorical imperative: 'I must do what is right'. My understanding is that it is not possible for an individual to behave in a way that they truly believe is wrong - otherwise rationality, responsibility, and hence, morality, all goes out the window.

As to what determines what is 'right', that would be relative to the individual's own subjective values, although I would continue to argue that due to the essential similarities and subjectivity of our moral situation that there is a certain 'universal law', which I think is individual freedom, understood as the absence of unjustified authority.
R0b1Billion
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1/13/2014 7:29:55 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/13/2014 3:34:31 PM, Wocambs wrote:
I don't want to sh*t on all the hard thinking you've been doing, but I would respond that this is the only categorical imperative: 'I must do what is right'.

As you will likely agree, the basic categorical imperative is hardly useful. Unless somebody is willing to put themselves out there and establish one - as Christ did - I don't see much point in the concept at all. I have yet to delve into any intense study of Kant, but from what I've read already, he simply resorted to some sort of Golden Rule because he was unwilling to be more specific.

My understanding is that it is not possible for an individual to behave in a way that they truly believe is wrong - otherwise rationality, responsibility, and hence, morality, all goes out the window.

I disagree. A cigarette smoker knows the ill-effects of tobacco usage, but they smoke anyway because of the craving - they give in to what they know is wrong because they give up. We all do it. Our moral goal isn't perfection, it is minimization of immorality.

As to what determines what is 'right', that would be relative to the individual's own subjective values,

Bare assertion.

although I would continue to argue that due to the essential similarities and subjectivity of our moral situation that there is a certain 'universal law', which I think is individual freedom, understood as the absence of unjustified authority.

I appreciate you conceding in a small way that there is some sense of absolute morality, but I would criticize "freedom" as being rather useless in determining it. Freedom is not a causal consideration for an individual. It is a result, and a social one at that.
Beliefs in a nutshell:
- The Ends never justify the Means.
- Objectivity is secondary to subjectivity.
- The War on Drugs is the worst policy in the U.S.
- Most people worship technology as a religion.
- Computers will never become sentient.
TheAntidoter
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1/14/2014 8:00:15 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
Interesting, I would critique but I am already a firm believer in Kantian theories of Ethics, so meh.
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R0b1Billion
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1/14/2014 9:27:34 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/14/2014 8:00:15 AM, TheAntidoter wrote:
Interesting, I would critique but I am already a firm believer in Kantian theories of Ethics, so meh.

Well there should be plenty for you to disagree with once the utilitarians find this thread lol
Beliefs in a nutshell:
- The Ends never justify the Means.
- Objectivity is secondary to subjectivity.
- The War on Drugs is the worst policy in the U.S.
- Most people worship technology as a religion.
- Computers will never become sentient.
Objectivity
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1/14/2014 12:40:21 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/13/2014 3:26:30 PM, R0b1Billion wrote:
I am starting to put Immanuel Kant towards the top of my all-time list of thinkers. Some say we are in the midst of a "Kantian Revolution" in physics, based on the premise that physical reality is a product of our consciousness, and not the other way around - as one would normally assume. I believe Kant's ethics are just as remarkable as his metaphysics.

Kant's categorical imperative is consistent with my moral theory, so I would like to use this thread to defend it. There should be no shortage of teleological thinkers here who would be repulsed by the idea, so it should be a good show!

==Definition==
A categorical imperative... denotes an absolute, unconditional requirement that asserts its authority in all circumstances, both required and justified as an end in itself. - Wiki

My moral theory is sort of a marriage between Christ's and Kant's. Christ's "seven deadly sins" are the categorical imperatives I allow:
1) Rejection of Pride (i.e., the feeling of self-superiority over others) - the virtue of Humility.
2) Rejection of Envy (i.e., the feeling of being hurt by the perception of success in others) - the virtue of Kindness.
3) Rejection of Wrath (i.e., the feeling of anger) - the virtue of Patience or Fortitude.
4) Rejection of Sloth (i.e., a failure to act or utilize talents and gifts; laziness) - the virtue of Diligence.
5) Rejection of Greed (i.e., the desire to possess material goods in excess of what one needs) - the virtue of Charity.
6) Rejection of Gluttony (i.e., wastefulness, over-consumption) - the virtue of Temperance.
7) Rejection of Lust (i.e., craving [e.g., sex, power, addictions*, etc.] ) - the virtue of Chastity.
*There is some semantic overlap between Gluttony and Lust, in fact just about this entire list is victim to colloquial bastardization.

I would say that these are the ONLY categorical imperatives that exist, and arguments that there are others usually will fall one of two categories:
1) Virtues that are simply products of the aforementioned list or semantic equivalents (e.g., "selflessness.").
2) Descriptive virtues. Honor, responsibility, goodness, etc. seem to be universally positive traits, but they aren't specifically-prescriptive courses of action in and of themselves. I can say one is "honorable" because they exhibit virtue, but honor has no direct prescription for action and can change based on the character and duties of the actor.

What are your thoughts on the categorical imperative in general, or my specific usage of it?

Shouldn't we set up a more broad standard when applying morality for legal purposes? i.e "My categorical imperative is that morality is derived from non aggression, therefore we should make laws that protect people from aggression, while not making laws that make us the aggressors". A categorical imperative is meant to be broad, not intricate and detailed.
Objectivity
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1/14/2014 12:48:16 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
Basically morality is perception, there is no objective morality. Morality is privilege and is only meant to control, naturally there is no morality. Want to know what happens in nature when one species is stronger then the other and has more wit? It eats the weaker species and steals everything it has. Therefore the only thing that allows you to be protected is human civility, and even that doesn't protect you. I can still shoot you in the head and sure I'll be punished after the fact, but it didn't protect you; did it? Basically anything and everything you have is a privilege that only you can protect on your own, and therefore morality that tries to prevent certain actions by claiming they are wrong or immoral is invalid and not a deterrent to 'immoral' acts. Only force prevents force, not reason or morality.
Wocambs
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1/14/2014 2:04:30 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/14/2014 12:48:16 PM, Objectivity wrote:
Basically morality is perception, there is no objective morality. Morality is privilege and is only meant to control, naturally there is no morality. Want to know what happens in nature when one species is stronger then the other and has more wit? It eats the weaker species and steals everything it has. Therefore the only thing that allows you to be protected is human civility, and even that doesn't protect you. I can still shoot you in the head and sure I'll be punished after the fact, but it didn't protect you; did it? Basically anything and everything you have is a privilege that only you can protect on your own, and therefore morality that tries to prevent certain actions by claiming they are wrong or immoral is invalid and not a deterrent to 'immoral' acts. Only force prevents force, not reason or morality.

1. What is right is not what is unjust
2. I must always do what is right - my rationality requires this
3. The claim to authority is a positive claim (and hence requires justification)
Therefore, if I am properly exercising my rationality, I realise that I ought not, let's say, murder someone, provided that murder constitutes a 'claim to authority' that is rationally unjustified

Furthermore, "Only force prevents force, not reason or morality" appears to me to be positive feedback, and ultimately the worst way of looking at the world. Oppressive societies will either create enemies faster than they can destroy them, or destroy their enemies with such force that the society itself is the greater evil.
Wocambs
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1/14/2014 2:31:18 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/13/2014 7:29:55 PM, R0b1Billion wrote:
At 1/13/2014 3:34:31 PM, Wocambs wrote:
I don't want to sh*t on all the hard thinking you've been doing, but I would respond that this is the only categorical imperative: 'I must do what is right'.

As you will likely agree, the basic categorical imperative is hardly useful. Unless somebody is willing to put themselves out there and establish one - as Christ did - I don't see much point in the concept at all. I have yet to delve into any intense study of Kant, but from what I've read already, he simply resorted to some sort of Golden Rule because he was unwilling to be more specific.

My understanding is that it is not possible for an individual to behave in a way that they truly believe is wrong - otherwise rationality, responsibility, and hence, morality, all goes out the window.

I disagree. A cigarette smoker knows the ill-effects of tobacco usage, but they smoke anyway because of the craving - they give in to what they know is wrong because they give up. We all do it. Our moral goal isn't perfection, it is minimization of immorality.

As to what determines what is 'right', that would be relative to the individual's own subjective values,

Bare assertion.

although I would continue to argue that due to the essential similarities and subjectivity of our moral situation that there is a certain 'universal law', which I think is individual freedom, understood as the absence of unjustified authority.

I appreciate you conceding in a small way that there is some sense of absolute morality, but I would criticize "freedom" as being rather useless in determining it. Freedom is not a causal consideration for an individual. It is a result, and a social one at that.

Regarding the cigarette smoker: the conscious individual, responsible for his actions, governed by the categorical imperative necessary to his responsibility, which is that he must and may only do what he believes is right, must believe that lighting that cigarette is the right course of action - to their subjective conception of morality. If you imagine a murderer suddenly giving mercy to the last member of the family he has slaughtered, and a nicotine addict 'attempting to quit', you would tell me that the former suddenly realises what is good while the latter gives in to the evil - but that is because you conceive of morality as objective, at least, an objective morality with far more content than I do.

On the subjectivity of morality, I defer to Sartre. He conceived of one's behaviour as similar painting a picture, in that there is no predetermined way of conducting ourselves. It is our approval of something that makes it 'good', and every individual has their own unique conception of what it is that makes them happy, the world that they approve of. You may find that most, if not all, people you encounter may share some ideas of what constitutes good, but I don't think you will find anything which makes it necessary that they find something good other than that it is something they approve of, which is a tautology.

So, what if I look upon murdering someone as a 'good' thing? Then if I was to do so I would proceed on an error, in that I seek to enforce my subjective opinion of morality upon another, an assertion of authority only justifiable to prevent the unjustified.

That is how I justify my 'ethics of freedom'. Please don't ask me about personhood.

My opinion on ethics is still under construction, so feel free to help... at least the only thing I'm attempting to do is allow everyone to pursue their own happiness, hardly seems like a terrible way to look at life to me.
R0b1Billion
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1/14/2014 10:14:51 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/14/2014 12:40:21 PM, Objectivity wrote:

Shouldn't we set up a more broad standard when applying morality for legal purposes? i.e "My categorical imperative is that morality is derived from non aggression, therefore we should make laws that protect people from aggression, while not making laws that make us the aggressors". A categorical imperative is meant to be broad, not intricate and detailed.

I'm not sure where legality entered the argument here, but without specificity, there's little chance for utility. It's "meant to be broad" just like a lock is meant to keep people from entering a house. But when you have the precise key or code for the lock, or in this case the precise ideas for how the CI can work, then it's a much different story. Jesus talked of "walking the path," in the sense that there was only one way to achieve the good - following his lead. He described the path as "narrow" and impossible to find simply through intellectual means (i.e., consequentialism). In other words, you can't rely on painstakingly weighing out the consequences of your actions, you need the key to unlock morality from the side; from the side of prescription, as opposed to the "after-effect" side of things where you're simply using descriptive methodology. Put succinctly, the ends do not justify the means. If one had an omniscient brain then the ends could probably justify the mean, but nobody is intelligent enough to be infinitely descriptive, or else I can say reality is never simple enough to calculate all paths of possibility. Faith is the virtue of being intelligent enough to know the limits of your intelligence ;)
Beliefs in a nutshell:
- The Ends never justify the Means.
- Objectivity is secondary to subjectivity.
- The War on Drugs is the worst policy in the U.S.
- Most people worship technology as a religion.
- Computers will never become sentient.
R0b1Billion
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1/14/2014 10:35:08 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/14/2014 2:31:18 PM, Wocambs wrote:
At 1/13/2014 7:29:55 PM, R0b1Billion wrote:
At 1/13/2014 3:34:31 PM, Wocambs wrote:
I don't want to sh*t on all the hard thinking you've been doing, but I would respond that this is the only categorical imperative: 'I must do what is right'.

As you will likely agree, the basic categorical imperative is hardly useful. Unless somebody is willing to put themselves out there and establish one - as Christ did - I don't see much point in the concept at all. I have yet to delve into any intense study of Kant, but from what I've read already, he simply resorted to some sort of Golden Rule because he was unwilling to be more specific.

My understanding is that it is not possible for an individual to behave in a way that they truly believe is wrong - otherwise rationality, responsibility, and hence, morality, all goes out the window.

I disagree. A cigarette smoker knows the ill-effects of tobacco usage, but they smoke anyway because of the craving - they give in to what they know is wrong because they give up. We all do it. Our moral goal isn't perfection, it is minimization of immorality.

As to what determines what is 'right', that would be relative to the individual's own subjective values,

Bare assertion.

although I would continue to argue that due to the essential similarities and subjectivity of our moral situation that there is a certain 'universal law', which I think is individual freedom, understood as the absence of unjustified authority.

I appreciate you conceding in a small way that there is some sense of absolute morality, but I would criticize "freedom" as being rather useless in determining it. Freedom is not a causal consideration for an individual. It is a result, and a social one at that.

Regarding the cigarette smoker: the conscious individual, responsible for his actions, governed by the categorical imperative necessary to his responsibility, which is that he must and may only do what he believes is right, must believe that lighting that cigarette is the right course of action - to their subjective conception of morality. If you imagine a murderer suddenly giving mercy to the last member of the family he has slaughtered, and a nicotine addict 'attempting to quit', you would tell me that the former suddenly realises what is good while the latter gives in to the evil - but that is because you conceive of morality as objective, at least, an objective morality with far more content than I do.

Unless I misunderstand you, I would point out that cigarette smokers usually do admit that they are doing the "wrong" thing. I don't see that people are constantly operating under moral guidance, they are consciously breaking their moral platitudes (e.g., "I need to quit smoking"). It's one thing to have a sense of morality, and another entirely as to how well you'd like to follow it.

On the subjectivity of morality, I defer to Sartre. He conceived of one's behaviour as similar painting a picture, in that there is no predetermined way of conducting ourselves. It is our approval of something that makes it 'good', and every individual has their own unique conception of what it is that makes them happy, the world that they approve of. You may find that most, if not all, people you encounter may share some ideas of what constitutes good, but I don't think you will find anything which makes it necessary that they find something good other than that it is something they approve of, which is a tautology.

In Plato's world of higher forms, there would be a precise image, a perfect image of the painting that we all aspire to recreate imprecisely. Some of us have a good approximation, others are twisted beyond recognition. I wouldn't follow Plato all the way, to say that every desk and chair in the universe has a perfect metaphysical form, but I certainly would of morality. The perfectly moral person is completely selfless and loves all other people as one loves their own child. This is the logical outcome of following the idea of the seven sins to its fullest meaning.

So, what if I look upon murdering someone as a 'good' thing?

Murder is never a "good thing."

Then if I was to do so I would proceed on an error, in that I seek to enforce my subjective opinion of morality upon another, an assertion of authority only justifiable to prevent the unjustified.

If you use the wrong key in a lock, it doesn't mean that there isn't a perfect key.

That is how I justify my 'ethics of freedom'. Please don't ask me about personhood.

My opinion on ethics is still under construction, so feel free to help... at least the only thing I'm attempting to do is allow everyone to pursue their own happiness, hardly seems like a terrible way to look at life to me.

That's a great place to start. But ethics is a balancing act. You don't want to be too general as to not have any hope for utility. A lot of people just give up there and become nihilistic or relativistic about morality, because they don't have anything worth sticking their neck out for. I have been defending these virtues for a long time and I don't have to shrink back into an Aristotlein "moderation" either. Virtue ethics are moderated because they don't work.
Beliefs in a nutshell:
- The Ends never justify the Means.
- Objectivity is secondary to subjectivity.
- The War on Drugs is the worst policy in the U.S.
- Most people worship technology as a religion.
- Computers will never become sentient.
bsh1
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1/14/2014 11:22:07 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
I think Duty Theory fails where we consider the subjectivity of the idea of "right."

As a rule/preference utilitarian, I believe that everyone has certain moral preferences. For example, Person A might consider it moral to eat sentient animals, yet, to Person B, this notion might be considered utterly repugnant, morally speaking.

The Imperative relies on being able to universalize moral norms in order to extract moral rules; e.g. everyone knows it's wrong to kill, thus killing is wrong. This not only strikes me as a logical fallacy (ad hominem), but it seems to assume the there are universal rights, and universal wrongs. I just don't believe that is true.

Therefore, we must default to an ethical system that better reflects the non-universal nature of morality.
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EndarkenedRationalist
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1/14/2014 11:23:13 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
R0B1Billion, you already ran when I challenged you on the 'objectivity' of morality in a different forum post. Yet know you back Kant - a significant figure in Utilitarianism.
bsh1
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1/14/2014 11:54:04 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/14/2014 11:23:13 PM, EndarkenedRationalist wrote:
R0B1Billion, you already ran when I challenged you on the 'objectivity' of morality in a different forum post. Yet know you back Kant - a significant figure in Utilitarianism.

Kant is NOT utilitarian.

Kant is Deontological. Sort of the nemesis of utilitarians everywhere.
Live Long and Prosper

I'm a Bish.


"Twilight isn't just about obtuse metaphors between cannibalism and premarital sex, it also teaches us the futility of hope." - Raisor

"[Bsh1] is the Guinan of DDO." - ButterCatX

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R0b1Billion
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1/15/2014 12:09:08 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/14/2014 11:54:04 PM, bsh1 wrote:
At 1/14/2014 11:23:13 PM, EndarkenedRationalist wrote:
R0B1Billion, you already ran when I challenged you on the 'objectivity' of morality in a different forum post. Yet know you back Kant - a significant figure in Utilitarianism.

Kant is NOT utilitarian.

Kant is Deontological. Sort of the nemesis of utilitarians everywhere.

Making claims like that, no wonder I ran from him! lol!
Beliefs in a nutshell:
- The Ends never justify the Means.
- Objectivity is secondary to subjectivity.
- The War on Drugs is the worst policy in the U.S.
- Most people worship technology as a religion.
- Computers will never become sentient.
R0b1Billion
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1/15/2014 12:42:51 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/14/2014 11:22:07 PM, bsh1 wrote:
I think Duty Theory fails where we consider the subjectivity of the idea of "right."

As a rule/preference utilitarian, I believe that everyone has certain moral preferences. For example, Person A might consider it moral to eat sentient animals, yet, to Person B, this notion might be considered utterly repugnant, morally speaking.

Well perhaps one person is right and one person is wrong -_-. As far as relativity in rightness and wrongness, I can't accept that certain things are not wrong. Torture is wrong. It's not a matter of preference. The subjectivity involved arises from either finding issues that are amoral, or else making unnecessarily complicated scenarios to cloud the basic principles involved.

As far as your example regarding eating animals, I would note that our species evolved eating animals (I'm not touching the "sentient" part unless you want to provide a precise definition), so it's quite illogical to find immorality in something natural. Animals eat animals all the time.

However there is more to the story, isn't there? Animal ethics isn't just about the physical act of eating animals - eating them is simply criticized because it enables funding to operations like CAFOs that are quite unnatural (I find a great deal of importance in the natural versus the artificial). It's one thing for an animal to live a free, natural life the way it was genetically predisposed to do - and then be hunted in a "survival of the fittest" sort of fashion and killed in a very short episode - rather than live a mundane existence, penned in, serving no other purpose than to rot in a cage until it is used by us.

The beginning of my analysis would start like this. Find the logic in both sides of the argument and be as open-minded as possible. Since I've stirred up conflicting evidence, I will need to really look at the intention of the actors involved to get to the moral heart of the matter.

When I procure and consume meat, am I tripping over any of the seven deadly sins in the process? After looking at the lot of them, I see that the indulgent vices could very well be at play here. Is eating meat a selfish act? Is it a gluttonous or lustful act?

The answer is that eating meat certainly is selfish - at least commercially-sold meat. Meat is 90% less efficient to supply calories than plants. So when I go to the store and buy commercially-sold meat, I know that I could have saved everybody else in the global community a lot of energy by not insisting on buying energy-inefficient food. By insisting on using more energy than I reasonably need, I am hurting everybody else. Also, other environmental effects are at play, like what to do with all the animal fecal matter, and degradation of the land animals are kept on. Coupling this all with the ethical concerns mentioned earlier, it is clear to see that one is acting selfishly by eating commercially-sold meat, and by refusing to eat it one can improve the environment for everybody else and allow more energy for others to use.

The Imperative relies on being able to universalize moral norms in order to extract moral rules; e.g. everyone knows it's wrong to kill, thus killing is wrong. This not only strikes me as a logical fallacy (ad hominem), but it seems to assume the there are universal rights, and universal wrongs. I just don't believe that is true.

Bad intentions are universally wrong. How can you look at torture and not agree that there's something about it that is completely unambiguous?

Therefore, we must default to an ethical system that better reflects the non-universal nature of morality.

Can this moral system deal with the example of eating commercial meat?
Beliefs in a nutshell:
- The Ends never justify the Means.
- Objectivity is secondary to subjectivity.
- The War on Drugs is the worst policy in the U.S.
- Most people worship technology as a religion.
- Computers will never become sentient.
bsh1
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1/15/2014 1:01:33 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/15/2014 12:42:51 AM, R0b1Billion wrote:
At 1/14/2014 11:22:07 PM, bsh1 wrote:
I think Duty Theory fails where we consider the subjectivity of the idea of "right."

As a rule/preference utilitarian, I believe that everyone has certain moral preferences. For example, Person A might consider it moral to eat sentient animals, yet, to Person B, this notion might be considered utterly repugnant, morally speaking.

Well perhaps one person is right and one person is wrong -_-. As far as relativity in rightness and wrongness, I can't accept that certain things are not wrong. Torture is wrong. It's not a matter of preference. The subjectivity involved arises from either finding issues that are amoral, or else making unnecessarily complicated scenarios to cloud the basic principles involved.

That is your OPINION about torture. It is hardly moral fact.

I can see a case for the morality of torture, were if proven that torture saved more lives than it ruined.

As far as your example regarding eating animals, I would note that our species evolved eating animals (I'm not touching the "sentient" part unless you want to provide a precise definition), so it's quite illogical to find immorality in something natural. Animals eat animals all the time.

Animals have killed other animals for no apparent reason. Animals have killed other animals over mating rights. If it is "illogical to find immorality in something natural" then it is not immoral to kill or to use deadly violence to try to impress a mate.

However there is more to the story, isn't there? Animal ethics isn't just about the physical act of eating animals - eating them is simply criticized because it enables funding to operations like CAFOs that are quite unnatural (I find a great deal of importance in the natural versus the artificial). It's one thing for an animal to live a free, natural life the way it was genetically predisposed to do - and then be hunted in a "survival of the fittest" sort of fashion and killed in a very short episode - rather than live a mundane existence, penned in, serving no other purpose than to rot in a cage until it is used by us.

The animal example was simply illustrative of the idea that morality is subjective. The complexity you're pointing out here only underscore my point.

The beginning of my analysis would start like this. Find the logic in both sides of the argument and be as open-minded as possible. Since I've stirred up conflicting evidence, I will need to really look at the intention of the actors involved to get to the moral heart of the matter.

There are several problems with the idea of intent as the mechanism by which we evaluate morality. (1) Intent is often mixed and highly complex, (2) we are not just responsible for the intent of our actions, but for the reasonably predictable consequences thereof.

1. Let's suppose that Person A is wielding a knife, and threatening to kill Person B. Both know, and dislike, each other. Person B, shoots Person A dead. When asked about his motives, Person B admits that he killed Person a not just because of the need for self-defense, but also out of a desire for vengeance. He says it is a half/half split.

In this example, we see how one legitimate motive (self-defense), is stained by one illegitimate motive (vengeance.) How do we determine if his action was moral, if his actions were motivated by 50% immoral motives, and 50% moral motives?

2. Let's say that there is a button. If you press this button, there is a 30% chance that you will save 100,000 lives. If you press the button, there is also a 70% chance that you will kill 100,000 people.

You really want to save 100,000 lives. You intent is pure. You decide that you'll take the risk in order to save so many people. Instead, when you press the button, 100,000 people die. You are morally responsible for those deaths, regardless of your intent. They were reasonably predictable consequences, that you failed to take into account, despite your good intentions.

Thus, intent fails.

When I procure and consume meat, am I tripping over any of the seven deadly sins in the process? After looking at the lot of them, I see that the indulgent vices could very well be at play here. Is eating meat a selfish act? Is it a gluttonous or lustful act?

The answer is that eating meat certainly is selfish - at least commercially-sold meat. Meat is 90% less efficient to supply calories than plants. So when I go to the store and buy commercially-sold meat, I know that I could have saved everybody else in the global community a lot of energy by not insisting on buying energy-inefficient food. By insisting on using more energy than I reasonably need, I am hurting everybody else. Also, other environmental effects are at play, like what to do with all the animal fecal matter, and degradation of the land animals are kept on. Coupling this all with the ethical concerns mentioned earlier, it is clear to see that one is acting selfishly by eating commercially-sold meat, and by refusing to eat it one can improve the environment for everybody else and allow more energy for others to use.

The Imperative relies on being able to universalize moral norms in order to extract moral rules; e.g. everyone knows it's wrong to kill, thus killing is wrong. This not only strikes me as a logical fallacy (ad hominem), but it seems to assume the there are universal rights, and universal wrongs. I just don't believe that is true.

Bad intentions are universally wrong. How can you look at torture and not agree that there's something about it that is completely unambiguous?

There is a torturer out there who has said to himself, if I torture Person A, I can save 100 lives. That's a good thing to do.

In that example, I would posit that the tortures had good intent, yet committed a vile act. In other words, your argument isn't making sense. Either evaluate the intent, or evaluate the action.

Kant isn't prioritizing intent. Kant prioritizes the nature of the action. People can have good intentions, but do bad things. Regardless of their intent, they did something bad. In this way, you're misunderstanding Kant's own argument.

The problem with analyzing the nature of the action as Kant does, is that it assumes the actions are right or wrong.

For example, killing is not always wrong. In situation 1, I kill a man to steal is money. In situation 2, I kill a man in self-defense. In one case, killing is wrong. In the other, killing is right.

Therefore, we must default to some other sort of moral paradigm (utilitarian, rights-based, libertarian, etc.) Personally, I default to utility.
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StevenDixon
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1/15/2014 5:57:14 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
Why do I have a responsibility to do what I believe in right? If I don't believe anything is right or wrong, wouldn't this mean that what you're claiming is a categorical imperative doesn't apply to me?

As far as the OP...why should I do any of that?
Stephen_Hawkins
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1/15/2014 6:27:29 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
I see no reason why rejecting pride is bad, and certainly no reason why liking sex is sinful. As Aristotle showed, the excess of your virtues is just as deadly as its deficiency. For example, a complete lack of any pride is to be pessimistic and hate oneself for one's own successes. Similarly, the excess of charity is to give away so many of one's own possessions that one is harming yourself and your ability to be happy or even maximise good consequences by giving away things prematurely and in excess.

The virtues will clash over certain issues, as well. Ought I aim to maximise these virtues in others, or simply promote them in myself? If I am just promoting my own virtues, then the obvious problems arise: do I have any moral obligation to help others follow the categorical imperative and thus be good; ought I promote a tolerant society by allowing any to take part - even those who plan to overthrow the society - or ought I limit society and bar those who seek to destroy it?

And the honourable thief problem emerges. If I am Robin Hood (steal from the rich and give to the poor) and do so out of charity, am I a moral or immoral person? Certainly this honours your virtues, but then stealing becomes morally acceptable (and clearly anathema to what Kant says). This would be able to be extended to others: J.J.C.Smart points to the honourable Stalinist military general, who is honourable in battle and has a moral private life. He sends tens of thousands off to die in a war against your country fighting for a megalomaniacal dictator and promotes his totalitarian policies. Ought we commend or condemn him?

Another obvious problem is that of applicability. A famous example (as Sartre reared his head I'll use his example) to illustrate this, from Sartre. He tells the story of a pupil of his who was faced with a genuine moral dilemma: whether to stay in France to look after his mother who doted on him; or to set off to join the Free French in England to fight for the liberation of his country. Now, how do the virtues inform this decision? Walk me through it, and please be entirely convincing, for your moral theory to me does not make clear definitive guidelines.

In short, I feel the abstractism objection still stands. I have no reason to buy your virtues as being true, and so they are not fair forms of the categorical imperative.
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Stephen_Hawkins
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1/15/2014 6:27:31 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/14/2014 11:54:04 PM, bsh1 wrote:
At 1/14/2014 11:23:13 PM, EndarkenedRationalist wrote:
R0B1Billion, you already ran when I challenged you on the 'objectivity' of morality in a different forum post. Yet know you back Kant - a significant figure in Utilitarianism.

Kant is NOT utilitarian.

Kant is Deontological. Sort of the nemesis of utilitarians everywhere.

Debate on "Kant is the nemesis of utilitarians"? I lean towards Hare and disagree with this claim. Modern ethicists in the English speaking world are generally coming to a huge shift on their consensus away from this conclusion.
Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach him how to be Gay, he'll positively influence the GDP.

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Stephen_Hawkins
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1/15/2014 6:31:21 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
bsh1, you say intent fails, but what about intent combined with prudence? I'd say that the intent was impure, as it was not informed by reason. If the agent was irrational, they cannot be held to account. Yet if they were rational, they need to use prudence/phronesis. Use of phronesis is a necessary condition for acting morally. Therefore, as they did the act based on poor use of information, they are immoral.

If instead the button was 30% fail, 70% success, and 100,000 people still died, would he not be less morally culpable? Would he even have done the right thing?
Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach him how to be Gay, he'll positively influence the GDP.

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Fox-McCloud
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1/15/2014 7:51:40 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
Another problem is that it cannot, too, overcome Hume's is-ought problem.
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EndarkenedRationalist
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1/15/2014 8:38:15 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/14/2014 11:54:04 PM, bsh1 wrote:
At 1/14/2014 11:23:13 PM, EndarkenedRationalist wrote:
R0B1Billion, you already ran when I challenged you on the 'objectivity' of morality in a different forum post. Yet know you back Kant - a significant figure in Utilitarianism.

Kant is NOT utilitarian.

Kant is Deontological. Sort of the nemesis of utilitarians everywhere.

Which branch of Utilitarianism have you studied?
EndarkenedRationalist
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1/15/2014 8:39:05 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/15/2014 12:09:08 AM, R0b1Billion wrote:
At 1/14/2014 11:54:04 PM, bsh1 wrote:
At 1/14/2014 11:23:13 PM, EndarkenedRationalist wrote:
R0B1Billion, you already ran when I challenged you on the 'objectivity' of morality in a different forum post. Yet know you back Kant - a significant figure in Utilitarianism.

Kant is NOT utilitarian.

Kant is Deontological. Sort of the nemesis of utilitarians everywhere.

Making claims like that, no wonder I ran from him! lol!

Same for you - which branch of Utilitarianism have you studied?
TheAntidoter
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1/15/2014 9:05:19 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
I will be back to visit this thread, but For Now I saw some post in the religion forum and I have to go probably get in a flame war, as well as post sign-ups for my mafia game.

BRB.
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Wocambs
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1/15/2014 11:11:20 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
An individual's personal morality is subject to change at any moment, thereby enabling me to say 'X is bad', and then do it two hours later, and still say 'X is bad' the next day. The situation I have to imagine is completely contradictory to believe that someone could honestly believe that their behaviour was not the best thing to do in the given circumstances that they can imagine - otherwise, how are they responsible for their actions? If my mind comes to the conclusion that eating ice-cream is the best possible action that I can imagine in the given circumstances, and my body instead starts massacring children, how is my mind (which is to say, what I really am) in any way responsible for that aforementioned massacre? If actions are performed externally to the purview of our intrinsic rational categorical imperative, 'do what is right', then it's not an action that we have chosen to perform. (StevenDixon makes perhaps one of the most bizarre responses ever. If no action was the 'right' one then... well, you'd explode. You couldn't sit still, as that wouldn't be right. You couldn't move, as that wouldn't be right...)

Therefore, you can't really say that 'good intention' exists, unless you're saying 'That person acted with the intention of doing what I believe is good'.

If I am selfless and love everyone, then I could still commit immorality. I could believe that by becoming a dictator and enforcing a strict Kantian lifestyle upon everyone that I would be doing them good - but where do I gain the justification for this authority? My love? My 'selflessness'?

"If you use the wrong key in a lock, it doesn't mean that there isn't a perfect key."

I'm not really sure what you mean by this. Plus - purpose is subjective. You may say 'the purpose of a key is to open locks!' but if I place it on my wall as a piece of art, do I commit an error?

"A lot of people just give up there and become nihilistic or relativistic about morality, because they don't have anything worth sticking their neck out for"

I am not nihilistic or relativistic, unless by by 'relativistic' you mean 'relative to all men', not 'relative to some men' like your theory. My conception of morality allows harm to be done to a person only when that suffering is predicated upon demands that should not or cannot be met - just because I love someone very much does not mean they are obliged to marry me, no matter how much it would hurt me. Rather than give one way of life domination over any other, I allow all ways of life to be lived - provided, obviously, that they do not dominate any other!
R0b1Billion
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1/15/2014 12:38:41 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/15/2014 1:01:33 AM, bsh1 wrote:
At 1/15/2014 12:42:51 AM, R0b1Billion wrote:

That is your OPINION about torture. It is hardly moral fact.

I can see a case for the morality of torture, were if proven that torture saved more lives than it ruined.

1) Torture creates pain, anguish terror, etc. These things are absolutely bad, and the intent to create them is absolutely wrong.

2) The ends never justify the means. Just because you perceive some just ends for immoral action, doesn't justify the immoral action.

As far as your example regarding eating animals, I would note that our species evolved eating animals (I'm not touching the "sentient" part unless you want to provide a precise definition), so it's quite illogical to find immorality in something natural. Animals eat animals all the time.

Animals have killed other animals for no apparent reason. Animals have killed other animals over mating rights. If it is "illogical to find immorality in something natural" then it is not immoral to kill or to use deadly violence to try to impress a mate.

As I alluded to earlier, there is a distinction between the artificial and the natural. I should have said this earlier, but I was up late last night and should have been in bed lol (my moral analysis should have been a lot more succinct and now I need to clean it up).

Morality is a function of intelligence. A lion has no function for intelligence, because he is not intelligent enough to escape his natural environment (perhaps he has a capacity for a minute amount of morality, but that is relatively moot). Humans are intelligent, and therefore are capable of artificiality. Artificiality allows us to escape the confines of our natural environment and affect the global, perhaps even the galactic community with our actions. Our intelligence is a privilege, and privilege is necessarily accompanied by responsibility.

Morality, at its heart, is a result of the privilege/responsibility relationship. A lion, for example, cannot decimate the jungle due to his own selfishness. A human really can! Just like a teenager has a greater responsibility and privilege while playing tag with a toddler (he can easily win, and can also easily hurt the younger child, so responsibility must be exercised), humans' incredible power must be responsibly controlled. The environmental movement is a direct result of this facet of humanity.

There are several problems with the idea of intent as the mechanism by which we evaluate morality. (1) Intent is often mixed and highly complex, (2) we are not just responsible for the intent of our actions, but for the reasonably predictable consequences thereof.

As I'll show below, complexity is not a problem. The consequences of our actions, if we act morally, are never negative. Now if you are going to throw some Hannibul Lectur scenario at me, where I'm asked to kill someone or else he will kill x+1 people, then I will reject that right off the bat as ridiculous. You don't learn how to be a good person by studying a sociopath's twisted games of murder.

Now I am just fine fielding examples from you about how a good decision can lead to harm. And I am confident I can show you that, in each instance, the decision based on my moral system always turn out positive. But keep in mind that my system only works in reality. Reality isn't about suddenly popping into existence on a desert island and, for no apparent reason, having a choice to make in which each one kills people lol. This seems to be all people can come up with around here. In reality, there is much more information for me to work with!

1. Let's suppose that Person A is wielding a knife, and threatening to kill Person B. Both know, and dislike, each other. Person B, shoots Person A dead. When asked about his motives, Person B admits that he killed Person a not just because of the need for self-defense, but also out of a desire for vengeance. He says it is a half/half split.

In this example, we see how one legitimate motive (self-defense), is stained by one illegitimate motive (vengeance.) How do we determine if his action was moral, if his actions were motivated by 50% immoral motives, and 50% moral motives?

Well I would start by saying that, in reality, he might also have the chance to simply walk away non-violently. There is something morally to be said about a guy who brought a gun to a place where there's a knife-wielding maniac that he wants to kill! This is the difference between theory and reality - theories are meant to be simplistic, but reality is not simplistic and the actual morality of the situation probably occurred before the episode you just described. Why was he there? Was the knife-wielding maniac threatening other people as well? Why didn't he just escape instead of resorting to violence? Did he bring the gun out of an intention to kill him? All these questions, and more, are part of the moral analysis. If he was following morality, he wouldn't have ended up in that situation to begin with. Looking at the scenario just as he's supposed to make a split-second decision to kill or not kill is not really helpful.

Given the information I have, which is pathetically too little and too late, I'd have to conclude that the killing was not immoral. As you pointed out, intentions are often mixed. But the important thing is that immoral intentions are not the basis of our decision-making. So I may be in the position to hurt somebody. I feel the anger and the pleasure derived from taking it out on them. I know there is immoral intentions in my actions. But the fact remains that logic is still on my side. So, while I am exercising anger, I am not taking action because of the anger, I am taking action because of logic. Logically, if you are being attacked by somebody with a weapon, you should defend yourself. If you weren't defending yourself, then the action would be based solely on anger and it would be wrong. You see, our immoral intentions are sometimes satisfied indirectly, and that is OK. The question to ask is: if the immoral tendency were removed, would I act anyway? If the answer is "no," then that means you are acting immorally. If the answer is "yes," then you have successfully weeded out immorality from your decision-making process.

2. Let's say that there is a button. If you press this button, there is a 30% chance that you will save 100,000 lives. If you press the button, there is also a 70% chance that you will kill 100,000 people.

You really want to save 100,000 lives. You intent is pure. You decide that you'll take the risk in order to save so many people. Instead, when you press the button, 100,000 people die. You are morally responsible for those deaths, regardless of your intent. They were reasonably predictable consequences, that you failed to take into account, despite your good intentions.

Thus, intent fails.

I have only two things to say about this example:
1) There is no morality here whatsover. This is a Hannibul Lectur scenario - somebody else has prepared these people to die, and you are simply a pawn in their game struggling to make sense of it. I would simply choose not to participate as a rule in any situation like this.
2) The odds of being put in this situation are about as likely as an elephant suddenly quantum-tunneling out of Africa and landing on top of my house. Why you think it helps one in a moral discussion is completely beyond me.
Beliefs in a nutshell:
- The Ends never justify the Means.
- Objectivity is secondary to subjectivity.
- The War on Drugs is the worst policy in the U.S.
- Most people worship technology as a religion.
- Computers will never become sentient.
R0b1Billion
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1/15/2014 1:47:52 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/15/2014 1:01:33 AM, bsh1 wrote:

Bad intentions are universally wrong. How can you look at torture and not agree that there's something about it that is completely unambiguous?

There is a torturer out there who has said to himself, if I torture Person A, I can save 100 lives. That's a good thing to do.

Then he is using a perception of ends (and a pretty shaky one at that) to justify immorality. The ends cannot justify the means, and there is no situation that ever will.

In that example, I would posit that the tortures had good intent, yet committed a vile act. In other words, your argument isn't making sense. Either evaluate the intent, or evaluate the action.

Torture is different than, say, self-defense. In self-defense the victim is culpable and leaving you no alternative for escaping violence because you are being attacked suddenly (if it isn't sudden, then you probably morally erred being there in the first place). In torture, the victim is not culpable and you have every opportunity to walk away.

If the victim somehow is culpable and forcing your hand (e.g., a terrorist who planted bombs and can hypothetically be tortured to disclose their locations) then I still cannot justify torture. For starters, there's a reason why we're being terrorized in the first place, and by agreeing to torture we are making the problem worse in the long-run by sacrificing our principles in the short-run. We are justifying the means with our perception of ends. I ask myself: what would I do if my daughter was being held captive by a man that I had tied in a chair? Would I let him walk and condemn my daughter to further torture herself in doing so? If my only option is to start peeling back fingernails in hopes for information leading to her release (or for information about bombs in populated areas) then I cannot sacrifice my humanity for even these noble causes. I must find a non-violent answer. Outsmart them, follow them where-ever they go, SOMETHING other than agreeing to turn myself into the same monster they are. Two wrongs never make a right.

Would you be able to torture them? If I handed you a pair of pliers to rip off their fingernails would you be able to do it? Or would you leave the dirty work to somebody else?

Kant isn't prioritizing intent. Kant prioritizes the nature of the action. People can have good intentions, but do bad things. Regardless of their intent, they did something bad. In this way, you're misunderstanding Kant's own argument.

My intentions are specific. Hurting somebody while intending that it will produce good results doesn't qualify for my idea of "good intentions." So it is actually impossible, in my theory, to "do bad things" under good intentions. People generally act logically, and when they don't it is because the seven sins are affecting their judgment. If you are successful in removing this ill-intent from your decision-making process, you won't do bad things.

I don't believe Kant's argument is much different than mine. He supposed that acting in a way which is universally-acceptable as good is moral. My seven sins (or more precisely, the aversion to them) is universally-acceptable.

The problem with analyzing the nature of the action as Kant does, is that it assumes the actions are right or wrong.

For example, killing is not always wrong. In situation 1, I kill a man to steal is money. In situation 2, I kill a man in self-defense. In one case, killing is wrong. In the other, killing is right.

Therefore, we must default to some other sort of moral paradigm (utilitarian, rights-based, libertarian, etc.) Personally, I default to utility.

That's why I stick to intent. Killing is an amoral activity. It is the intent behind the killing that makes it moral or immoral. I would have no problem with euthanasia, for example.
Beliefs in a nutshell:
- The Ends never justify the Means.
- Objectivity is secondary to subjectivity.
- The War on Drugs is the worst policy in the U.S.
- Most people worship technology as a religion.
- Computers will never become sentient.
bsh1
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1/15/2014 2:30:10 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/15/2014 8:38:15 AM, EndarkenedRationalist wrote:
At 1/14/2014 11:54:04 PM, bsh1 wrote:
At 1/14/2014 11:23:13 PM, EndarkenedRationalist wrote:
R0B1Billion, you already ran when I challenged you on the 'objectivity' of morality in a different forum post. Yet know you back Kant - a significant figure in Utilitarianism.

Kant is NOT utilitarian.

Kant is Deontological. Sort of the nemesis of utilitarians everywhere.

Which branch of Utilitarianism have you studied?

Rule and preference utility are things I'm interested in. Unlike most utilitarians, I disagree that the goal is to maximize pleasure/happiness. My objective is to maximize societal welfare.
Live Long and Prosper

I'm a Bish.


"Twilight isn't just about obtuse metaphors between cannibalism and premarital sex, it also teaches us the futility of hope." - Raisor

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bsh1
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1/15/2014 2:39:57 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/15/2014 6:31:21 AM, Stephen_Hawkins wrote:
bsh1, you say intent fails, but what about intent combined with prudence? I'd say that the intent was impure, as it was not informed by reason. If the agent was irrational, they cannot be held to account. Yet if they were rational, they need to use prudence/phronesis. Use of phronesis is a necessary condition for acting morally. Therefore, as they did the act based on poor use of information, they are immoral.

If instead the button was 30% fail, 70% success, and 100,000 people still died, would he not be less morally culpable? Would he even have done the right thing?

I guess for me, moral blame is a combination of what the act itself is, and what the results (ones that can be reasonably predicted) are.

So, if the ratios were switched as you illustrate there, the action was still bad (i.e. people died) but this is offset by the fact that the reasonably predictable consequences were good.

We should take those actions best designed to maximize benefit.
Live Long and Prosper

I'm a Bish.


"Twilight isn't just about obtuse metaphors between cannibalism and premarital sex, it also teaches us the futility of hope." - Raisor

"[Bsh1] is the Guinan of DDO." - ButterCatX

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