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Moral Realism

Freeman
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10/18/2010 11:44:21 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
How to move from an "ought" to an "is" with science:

Sam Harris, in his recent book, has attempted to vindicate moral realism. His argument has fascinated me, but I am more interested in what other people think of it.

He bases his argument on two premises:

1. Questions of morality relate to claims about the wellbeing and suffering of conscious creatures.

The first part of his argument is based on first principles (or what some people refer to as "basic beliefs"). According to Harris, the "worst possible suffering for every conscious creature in existence for the longest time possible" is truly bad. It is not intellectually vacuous to say that this is really bad- for if the word bad means anything at all, it must apply to the "worst possible suffering for every conscious creature in existence for the longest time possible." Any doubts about this claim can be put on par with skepticism about the existence of the physical world. Moreover, if it is true that the "worst possible suffering for every conscious creature in existence for the longest time possible" is really bad, it follows that every state of the world in which there is more wellbeing is better than the "worst possible suffering for every conscious creature in existence for the longest time possible".

If there is someone that says that there is actually something more important than avoiding the "worst possible suffering for every conscious creature in existence for the longest time possible," then that person isn't being intelligible or coherent (Harris would argue). Likewise, the person that says that there is something worse than the "worst possible suffering for every conscious creature in existence for the longest time possible" has ceased to make sense.

Having established that the "worst possible suffering for every conscious creature in existence for the longest time possible" is actually bad, one other thing becomes illuminated. There is a continuum of wellbeing in between the "worst possible suffering for every conscious creature in existence for the longest time possible" and everything that is more ideal. According to Harris, we can envision this continuum as a "moral landscape" on which the highest levels of human and animal wellbeing represent peaks and the deepest depths of suffering represent valleys on the landscape.

2. His second premise is fairly straightforward: Brain states directly correlate with the wellbeing of conscious creatures (i.e., some brain states will necessarily lead to suffering and some brain states are conducive to wellbeing). In other words, there is a lawful relationship between activity in the brain and the wellbeing of conscious entities. As such, wellbeing can be directly quantified through the methods of science. Therefore, science will be the main authority on moral questions, since science can in principal answer questions about how best to maximize wellbeing and avoid the "worst possible suffering for every conscious creature in existence for the longest time possible".

The second premise is undeniably true. Science has the proper tools and insights about how to best maximize wellbeing. For example, it is a scientific fact that torturing children with power tools is a very poor way to maximize human wellbeing (of course, we don't need to do experiments to know that this is true).

Interestingly, the truth of religion wouldn't actually falsify this argument; it would only alter the temporal layout of the landscape (i.e., the highest forms of wellbeing for all humans may be best served by orchestrating society so that humans live rather poor and pious lives here on Earth in order to get a good afterlife.)

So, what do you think of this argument? Of course, I am bound to have not completely grasped it at this point, but I think I get the gist of it.
Chancellor of Propaganda and Foreign Relations in the Franklin administration.

"I intend to live forever. So far, so good." -- Steven Wright
J.Kenyon
Posts: 4,194
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10/19/2010 12:06:36 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
Interesting; we're both moral realists, but I couldn't disagree more with your version of it. I really want to discuss it right now (and possibly debate it in the future), but unfortunately it's 3 am and I have an essay due in 12 hours...
Puck
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10/19/2010 12:07:39 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
Harris advocates a form of util, his 'wellness' factor; his claim of science able to determine moral facts relates to that i.e. determining what promotes wellness.

What he he doesn't do well and skips over is why the heck should I bother with his system and why morality should be defined as he uses it. He makes a small attempt at the former two, however it's not the focus of his book, and so suffers for it. Apply all the usual util critiques and you have a very underwhelming attempt.
J.Kenyon
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10/19/2010 12:09:51 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 10/19/2010 12:07:39 AM, Puck wrote:
What he he doesn't do well and skips over is why the heck should I bother with his system and why morality should be defined as he uses it. He makes a small attempt at the former two, however it's not the focus of his book, and so suffers for it. Apply all the usual util critiques and you have a very underwhelming attempt.

Way to kill the discussion (although I have to admit, you're spot on as usual).
Freeman
Posts: 1,239
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10/19/2010 12:26:13 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 10/19/2010 12:07:39 AM, Puck wrote:
Harris advocates a form of util, his 'wellness' factor; his claim of science able to determine moral facts relates to that i.e. determining what promotes wellness.

What he he doesn't do well and skips over is why the heck should I bother with his system and why morality should be defined as he uses it.

That's a bit like asking:

Why the heck should I bother with "health" the way doctors define it. If I (Puck) am dying of lung cancer, who is a medical doctor to say that I should bother taking chemotherapy (or that I am actually "sick" to begin with).

Technically speaking, there is no such thing as a right definition. However, there are useful and useless definitions.

He makes a small attempt at the former two, however it's not the focus of his book, and so suffers for it. Apply all the usual util critiques and you have a very underwhelming attempt.

Go ahead, throw them out there.

Let me ask you a very simple question:

Do you think there is anything more important than avoiding the "worst possible suffering for every conscious creature in existence for the longest time possible."
Chancellor of Propaganda and Foreign Relations in the Franklin administration.

"I intend to live forever. So far, so good." -- Steven Wright
Puck
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10/19/2010 12:46:04 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 10/19/2010 12:26:13 AM, Freeman wrote:
At 10/19/2010 12:07:39 AM, Puck wrote:
Harris advocates a form of util, his 'wellness' factor; his claim of science able to determine moral facts relates to that i.e. determining what promotes wellness.

What he he doesn't do well and skips over is why the heck should I bother with his system and why morality should be defined as he uses it.

That's a bit like asking:

Why the heck should I bother with "health" the way doctors define it. If I (Puck) am dying of lung cancer, who is a medical doctor to say that I should bother taking chemotherapy (or that I am actually "sick" to begin with).

Technically speaking, there is no such thing as a right definition. However, there are useful and useless definitions.

Not analogous. In ethics there is a great deal of discourse over what exactly "moral" means and what basis there is for when it is applied. It is fundamental to any ethical system to have a coherent basis for the term moral as opposed to other definitions that seek the same term.


He makes a small attempt at the former two, however it's not the focus of his book, and so suffers for it. Apply all the usual util critiques and you have a very underwhelming attempt.

Go ahead, throw them out there.

Why? I have no desire to refute util and I'm sure you know of them, or lacking that, the skills to find them.

Let me ask you a very simple question:

Do you think there is anything more important than avoiding the "worst possible suffering for every conscious creature in existence for the longest time possible."

Again, why the heck should the moral system be based upon 'others' and what they 'are' and why I should bother with them in the manner Harris wants. It's not a priori given, it's something any moral system must justify.
Freeman
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10/19/2010 1:05:21 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 10/19/2010 12:46:04 AM, Puck wrote:
At 10/19/2010 12:26:13 AM, Freeman wrote:
At 10/19/2010 12:07:39 AM, Puck wrote:
Harris advocates a form of util, his 'wellness' factor; his claim of science able to determine moral facts relates to that i.e. determining what promotes wellness.

What he he doesn't do well and skips over is why the heck should I bother with his system and why morality should be defined as he uses it.

That's a bit like asking:

Why the heck should I bother with "health" the way doctors define it. If I (Puck) am dying of lung cancer, who is a medical doctor to say that I should bother taking chemotherapy (or that I am actually "sick" to begin with).

Technically speaking, there is no such thing as a right definition. However, there are useful and useless definitions.

Not analogous. In ethics there is a great deal of discourse over what exactly "moral" means and what basis there is for when it is applied.

So what? In America, there is a great deal of discourse about what "biology" actually means. If you don't believe me, you can ask the 50% of the population that believes in creationism.

It is fundamental to any ethical system to have a coherent basis for the term moral as opposed to other definitions that seek the same term.

Well, yeah. There is a coherent basis for what is "moral" under this view.


He makes a small attempt at the former two, however it's not the focus of his book, and so suffers for it. Apply all the usual util critiques and you have a very underwhelming attempt.

Go ahead, throw them out there.

Why? I have no desire to refute util and I'm sure you know of them, or lacking that, the skills to find them.

I know them quite well, which is why I am curious about what you think about them. If you don't think any of them are valid (or you aren't sure which ones are valid), how can you say his case is "underwhelming"? That's why I ask.

Let me ask you a very simple question:

Do you think there is anything more important than avoiding the "worst possible suffering for every conscious creature in existence for the longest time possible."

Again, why the heck should the moral system be based upon 'others' and what they 'are' and why I should bother with them in the manner Harris wants.

Because doing so is "good" by definition. It's also in your interest because many moral decisions are not zero sum games, as Robert Wright points out.

It's not a priori given, it's something any moral system must justify.

Let me ask again:

Do you think there is anything more important than avoiding the "worst possible suffering for every conscious creature in existence for the longest time possible."
Chancellor of Propaganda and Foreign Relations in the Franklin administration.

"I intend to live forever. So far, so good." -- Steven Wright
Puck
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10/19/2010 1:14:52 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 10/19/2010 1:05:21 AM, Freeman wrote:
So what?

So the definition as I said needs to be justified. Which he doesn't bother to do well - and again your analogy isn't getting it - there is professional biology as a field of science which defines biology just fine - lay misunderstandings aren't relevant; there is no such thing for the philosophy of ethics and the term morality.

Why? I have no desire to refute util and I'm sure you know of them, or lacking that, the skills to find them.

That's why I ask.

No I can refute various forms of util quite fine, as I said I have no desire to here. Find someone who cares for that one. :P

Let me ask you a very simple question:

Do you think there is anything more important than avoiding the "worst possible suffering for every conscious creature in existence for the longest time possible."

Again, why the heck should the moral system be based upon 'others' and what they 'are' and why I should bother with them in the manner Harris wants.

Because doing so is "good" by definition.

Circular. Hence the whole issue of his lack of foundation.

It's also in your interest because many moral decisions are not zero sum games, as Robert Wright points out.

It's not a priori given, it's something any moral system must justify.

Let me ask again:

Do you think there is anything more important than avoiding the "worst possible suffering for every conscious creature in existence for the longest time possible."

If you didn't work out what my response relates to then read again. I'm skipping the 'middleman' in your argument to get at the point i.e. there is no reason to answer the question till it's justified to be the case - that is the work of an ethical system to solve, which again, Harris does not ...
Puck
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10/19/2010 1:17:14 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
In short if you want a debate either standardised or forum based about the merits/issues of util or Harris' particular version you won't be finding it with me, so don't bother. :P
Freeman
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10/19/2010 1:38:04 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 10/19/2010 1:14:52 AM, Puck wrote:
At 10/19/2010 1:05:21 AM, Freeman wrote:
So what?

So the definition as I said needs to be justified. Which he doesn't bother to do well - and again your analogy isn't getting it - there is professional biology as a field of science which defines biology just fine - lay misunderstandings aren't relevant; there is no such thing for the philosophy of ethics and the term morality.

Why? I have no desire to refute util and I'm sure you know of them, or lacking that, the skills to find them.

That's why I ask.

No I can refute various forms of util quite fine, as I said I have no desire to here. Find someone who cares for that one. :P

Well, Ok... that's a bit of a dodge.

It would be like me saying:

"Your argument isn't valid after I apply criticisms (1 2 and 3)." And after that, I don't defend what criticisms "1" "2" and "3" actually are. How am I supposed to know that argument X is bad for reasons (1 2 and 3) if I don't know what reasons (1 2 and 3) actually are?


Let me ask you a very simple question:

Do you think there is anything more important than avoiding the "worst possible suffering for every conscious creature in existence for the longest time possible."

Again, why the heck should the moral system be based upon 'others' and what they 'are' and why I should bother with them in the manner Harris wants.

Because doing so is "good" by definition.

Circular. Hence the whole issue of his lack of foundation.

No... the way he sets it up isn't circular. He is proposing that the claim that the "worst possible suffering for every conscious creature in existence for the longest time possible is bad" is an axiom from which other conclusions can be drawn.

It's also in your interest because many moral decisions are not zero sum games, as Robert Wright points out.

It's not a priori given, it's something any moral system must justify.

Let me ask again:

Do you think there is anything more important than avoiding the "worst possible suffering for every conscious creature in existence for the longest time possible."

If you didn't work out what my response relates to then read again. I'm skipping the 'middleman' in your argument to get at the point i.e. there is no reason to answer the question till it's justified to be the case - that is the work of an ethical system to solve, which again, Harris does not ...
Chancellor of Propaganda and Foreign Relations in the Franklin administration.

"I intend to live forever. So far, so good." -- Steven Wright
Freeman
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10/19/2010 1:39:26 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 10/19/2010 1:17:14 AM, Puck wrote:
In short if you want a debate either standardised or forum based about the merits/issues of util or Harris' particular version you won't be finding it with me, so don't bother. :P

Uhm... Ok...
Chancellor of Propaganda and Foreign Relations in the Franklin administration.

"I intend to live forever. So far, so good." -- Steven Wright
TheSkeptic
Posts: 1,362
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10/19/2010 1:40:15 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 10/19/2010 1:17:14 AM, Puck wrote:
In short if you want a debate either standardised or forum based about the merits/issues of util or Harris' particular version you won't be finding it with me, so don't bother. :P

Especially since Harris doesn't provide anything substantively different in his utilitarianism. His attempt to ground it by hoping we all agree to the premise that "the worst possible suffering to all beings in existence is truly bad" is ill-founded. Am I suppose to agree to this premise on intuitive grounds or what? What does it mean to say such a situation would be truly bad (thus the whole point of the meta-ethical is-ought problem...)?
Puck
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10/19/2010 4:20:09 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 10/19/2010 1:38:04 AM, Freeman wrote:
Well, Ok... that's a bit of a dodge.

No. It is simply based upon that util in general and Harris in particular are dull and not very interesting ... I simply have no desire to argue them here. I'm not substituting that for an argument at all, merely telling you that my opinion is as given, as you asked in the opening post, and I don't really care to argue it here.
annhasle
Posts: 6,657
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10/19/2010 4:22:59 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 10/19/2010 1:40:15 AM, TheSkeptic wrote:
At 10/19/2010 1:17:14 AM, Puck wrote:
In short if you want a debate either standardised or forum based about the merits/issues of util or Harris' particular version you won't be finding it with me, so don't bother. :P

Especially since Harris doesn't provide anything substantively different in his utilitarianism. His attempt to ground it by hoping we all agree to the premise that "the worst possible suffering to all beings in existence is truly bad" is ill-founded. Am I suppose to agree to this premise on intuitive grounds or what? What does it mean to say such a situation would be truly bad (thus the whole point of the meta-ethical is-ought problem...)?

THIS. Thank you, TheSkeptic.
I'm not back. This idiot just upset me which made me stop lurking.
GeoLaureate8
Posts: 12,252
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10/19/2010 4:58:39 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 10/19/2010 4:20:09 PM, Puck wrote:
At 10/19/2010 1:38:04 AM, Freeman wrote:
Well, Ok... that's a bit of a dodge.

No. It is simply based upon that util in general and Harris in particular are dull and not very interesting ... I simply have no desire to argue them here. I'm not substituting that for an argument at all, merely telling you that my opinion is as given, as you asked in the opening post, and I don't really care to argue it here.

inb4 Cerebral "your intellectual cowardice is pathetic. You're just too scared to debate him trying to protect your weak ego."

Lol
"We must raise the standard of the Old, free, decentralized, and strictly limited Republic."
-- Murray Rothbard

"The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is, not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended."
-- Frederic Bastiat
Freeman
Posts: 1,239
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10/19/2010 6:16:16 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 10/19/2010 1:40:15 AM, TheSkeptic wrote:
At 10/19/2010 1:17:14 AM, Puck wrote:
In short if you want a debate either standardised or forum based about the merits/issues of util or Harris' particular version you won't be finding it with me, so don't bother. :P

Especially since Harris doesn't provide anything substantively different in his utilitarianism. His attempt to ground it by hoping we all agree to the premise that "the worst possible suffering to all beings in existence is truly bad" is ill-founded.

I have no idea what you could possibly mean by "good" if any notions you have about what is "good" could be incorporated into "the worst possible suffering for all beings in existence".

Am I suppose to agree to this premise on intuitive grounds or what? What does it
mean to say such a situation would be truly bad (thus the whole point of the meta-:ethical is-ought problem...)?

Let me put it this way. You accept science as a valid method for discovering truth about the universe, right? Science can only be conducted if you accept certain values (i.e., you must value evidence, parsimony, logical coherence etc. in order to do science) And yet, you don't lay awake at night wondering whether or not it is "rational" or "logical" to value things like "logic", "evidence" or "parsimony"; you just value them. And unless I am mistaken, Harris would argue that you value these things out of a more general concern for wellbeing. For example, if there were certain facts about the world that, if discovered, would lead to the "worst possible suffering for all beings in existence" you would cease to value some pieces of evidence (i.e., there are some facts we may be better off not knowing).

No knowledge system (including chemistry, biology, physics, psychology etc.) could possibly survive the current level of skepticism you are applying to ethics. If you are being consistent, you should be equally skeptical as you are with regard to scientific values as you are about ethics.
Chancellor of Propaganda and Foreign Relations in the Franklin administration.

"I intend to live forever. So far, so good." -- Steven Wright
Cody_Franklin
Posts: 9,484
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10/19/2010 6:34:25 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 10/19/2010 6:16:16 PM, Freeman wrote:
At 10/19/2010 1:40:15 AM, TheSkeptic wrote:
At 10/19/2010 1:17:14 AM, Puck wrote:
In short if you want a debate either standardised or forum based about the merits/issues of util or Harris' particular version you won't be finding it with me, so don't bother. :P

Especially since Harris doesn't provide anything substantively different in his utilitarianism. His attempt to ground it by hoping we all agree to the premise that "the worst possible suffering to all beings in existence is truly bad" is ill-founded.

I have no idea what you could possibly mean by "good" if any notions you have about what is "good" could be incorporated into "the worst possible suffering for all beings in existence".

Am I suppose to agree to this premise on intuitive grounds or what? What does it
mean to say such a situation would be truly bad (thus the whole point of the meta-:ethical is-ought problem...)?

Let me put it this way. You accept science as a valid method for discovering truth about the universe, right? Science can only be conducted if you accept certain values (i.e., you must value evidence, parsimony, logical coherence etc. in order to do science) And yet, you don't lay awake at night wondering whether or not it is "rational" or "logical" to value things like "logic", "evidence" or "parsimony"; you just value them. And unless I am mistaken, Harris would argue that you value these things out of a more general concern for wellbeing. For example, if there were certain facts about the world that, if discovered, would lead to the "worst possible suffering for all beings in existence" you would cease to value some pieces of evidence (i.e., there are some facts we may be better off not knowing).

No knowledge system (including chemistry, biology, physics, psychology etc.) could possibly survive the current level of skepticism you are applying to ethics. If you are being consistent, you should be equally skeptical as you are with regard to scientific values as you are about ethics.

You do realize that there's a difference between trying to reduce moral facts to non-moral ones and substantiation of non-moral assertions by looking to non-moral means of producing certainty based on observations concerning the human ability to gain knowledge, right?

That is to say: with science, there is no is-ought gap.
Freeman
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10/20/2010 4:44:59 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 10/19/2010 6:34:25 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 10/19/2010 6:16:16 PM, Freeman wrote:
At 10/19/2010 1:40:15 AM, TheSkeptic wrote:
At 10/19/2010 1:17:14 AM, Puck wrote:
In short if you want a debate either standardised or forum based about the merits/issues of util or Harris' particular version you won't be finding it with me, so don't bother. :P

Especially since Harris doesn't provide anything substantively different in his utilitarianism. His attempt to ground it by hoping we all agree to the premise that "the worst possible suffering to all beings in existence is truly bad" is ill-founded.

I have no idea what you could possibly mean by "good" if any notions you have about what is "good" could be incorporated into "the worst possible suffering for all beings in existence".

Am I suppose to agree to this premise on intuitive grounds or what? What does it
mean to say such a situation would be truly bad (thus the whole point of the meta-:ethical is-ought problem...)?

Let me put it this way. You accept science as a valid method for discovering truth about the universe, right? Science can only be conducted if you accept certain values (i.e., you must value evidence, parsimony, logical coherence etc. in order to do science) And yet, you don't lay awake at night wondering whether or not it is "rational" or "logical" to value things like "logic", "evidence" or "parsimony"; you just value them. And unless I am mistaken, Harris would argue that you value these things out of a more general concern for wellbeing. For example, if there were certain facts about the world that, if discovered, would lead to the "worst possible suffering for all beings in existence" you would cease to value some pieces of evidence (i.e., there are some facts we may be better off not knowing).

No knowledge system (including chemistry, biology, physics, psychology etc.) could possibly survive the current level of skepticism you are applying to ethics. If you are being consistent, you should be equally skeptical as you are with regard to scientific values as you are about ethics.

You do realize that there's a difference between trying to reduce moral facts to non-moral ones and substantiation of non-moral assertions by looking to non-moral means of producing certainty based on observations concerning the human ability to gain knowledge, right?

That is to say: with science, there is no is-ought gap.

No, the gap exists in science also. It just doesn't go by any particular name.

Why should I value the scientific method?

You could say, "because that will help you uncover the truth". But that response is only based on the notion that I "should" care about what the truth is. In science, as with other areas of rationality, you have to hold to certain values and axioms that aren't always perfectly self-justified.

In science, if there "is" hard empirical evidence for a claim to be true, you "ought" to value that evidence. If you don't value that evidence, you're not really doing science. Notice, for a moment, that our epistemic concerns don't hold us back in this area.
Chancellor of Propaganda and Foreign Relations in the Franklin administration.

"I intend to live forever. So far, so good." -- Steven Wright
TheSkeptic
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10/20/2010 5:25:23 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
I have no idea what you could possibly mean by "good" if any notions you have about what is "good" could be incorporated into "the worst possible suffering for all beings in existence".

Unless I don't believe in the existence of "good" in the relevant sense?

Am I suppose to agree to this premise on intuitive grounds or what? What does it
mean to say such a situation would be truly bad (thus the whole point of the meta-:ethical is-ought problem...)?

Let me put it this way. You accept science as a valid method for discovering truth about the universe, right? Science can only be conducted if you accept certain values (i.e., you must value evidence, parsimony, logical coherence etc. in order to do science) And yet, you don't lay awake at night wondering whether or not it is "rational" or "logical" to value things like "logic", "evidence" or "parsimony"; you just value them.

Actually yes, there are ample reasons to question methodologies in science; hence philosophy of science :P. But that's besides the point...

And unless I am mistaken, Harris would argue that you value these things out of a more general concern for wellbeing. For example, if there were certain facts about the world that, if discovered, would lead to the "worst possible suffering for all beings in existence" you would cease to value some pieces of evidence (i.e., there are some facts we may be better off not knowing).

No, I don't value scientific methodologies out of general concern for wellbeing. I value rational tools because my goal is to know the truth -- if I don't care about knowing the truth (which is common for many), then I need not value rational tools. In other words, they are NOT intrinsically valuable.

You talk about this hypothetical discovery leading to the worst possible suffering for all beings in existence. Would I cease to know about it, or regret my discovery in some way? Sure, but that's from a purely emotive standpoint and nothing morally worth pointing out (after all, morality is what we're talking about aren't we?).

No knowledge system (including chemistry, biology, physics, psychology etc.) could possibly survive the current level of skepticism you are applying to ethics. If you are being consistent, you should be equally skeptical as you are with regard to scientific values as you are about ethics.

I'll repeat: scientific values are valued if you value the goal :D. In other words, if you want to know the truth then it's rational to follow principles of logic, standards of evidence, etc. If not...then it likely doesn't matter to you.
Cody_Franklin
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10/20/2010 5:27:18 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 10/20/2010 4:44:59 PM, Freeman wrote:
At 10/19/2010 6:34:25 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 10/19/2010 6:16:16 PM, Freeman wrote:
At 10/19/2010 1:40:15 AM, TheSkeptic wrote:
At 10/19/2010 1:17:14 AM, Puck wrote:
In short if you want a debate either standardised or forum based about the merits/issues of util or Harris' particular version you won't be finding it with me, so don't bother. :P

Especially since Harris doesn't provide anything substantively different in his utilitarianism. His attempt to ground it by hoping we all agree to the premise that "the worst possible suffering to all beings in existence is truly bad" is ill-founded.

I have no idea what you could possibly mean by "good" if any notions you have about what is "good" could be incorporated into "the worst possible suffering for all beings in existence".

Am I suppose to agree to this premise on intuitive grounds or what? What does it
mean to say such a situation would be truly bad (thus the whole point of the meta-:ethical is-ought problem...)?

Let me put it this way. You accept science as a valid method for discovering truth about the universe, right? Science can only be conducted if you accept certain values (i.e., you must value evidence, parsimony, logical coherence etc. in order to do science) And yet, you don't lay awake at night wondering whether or not it is "rational" or "logical" to value things like "logic", "evidence" or "parsimony"; you just value them. And unless I am mistaken, Harris would argue that you value these things out of a more general concern for wellbeing. For example, if there were certain facts about the world that, if discovered, would lead to the "worst possible suffering for all beings in existence" you would cease to value some pieces of evidence (i.e., there are some facts we may be better off not knowing).

No knowledge system (including chemistry, biology, physics, psychology etc.) could possibly survive the current level of skepticism you are applying to ethics. If you are being consistent, you should be equally skeptical as you are with regard to scientific values as you are about ethics.

You do realize that there's a difference between trying to reduce moral facts to non-moral ones and substantiation of non-moral assertions by looking to non-moral means of producing certainty based on observations concerning the human ability to gain knowledge, right?

That is to say: with science, there is no is-ought gap.

No, the gap exists in science also. It just doesn't go by any particular name.

Why should I value the scientific method?

No particular reason.

You could say, "because that will help you uncover the truth". But that response is only based on the notion that I "should" care about what the truth is. In science, as with other areas of rationality, you have to hold to certain values and axioms that aren't always perfectly self-justified.

Actually, I never assert that you should care about the truth. If you don't, you'll probably die, but eh.

In science, if there "is" hard empirical evidence for a claim to be true, you "ought" to value that evidence. If you don't value that evidence, you're not really doing science. Notice, for a moment, that our epistemic concerns don't hold us back in this area.

I think you're missing the point. In science, you're deriving facts from facts. In Ethics, you're deriving values from facts. It's a matter of reducibility.