Friday, December 18, 2009

13 A grand total

12 lectures ago we started a quest in Modern Theories of Ethics. We already have seen a number of ways to deal with ethics and moral judgement and in the first lecture is said:

…... to find any coherence in all this, to find an answer on the question "What should I do?" , not just a personal answer, but a kind of generally accepted and justified answer, that will be a huge enterprise.

And now I feel the need to take stock of what insights we have come to so far. Is there emerging some general conclusion. Is there some growing insight of our heading and will we find a haven?

Just for the record: 'haven' is a nice word expressing exactly what we might be looking for. The nice thing about the word is, that it is a Dutch…. the dutch word for 'port'. Must have slipped into the English dictionary in the 16th or 17th century :-)

I think there is already one interesting thing which may help us defining our position: is ethics an individual responsibility, ethics as conceptually justified or is ethics embedded and defined by the social framework we live in.

Here I think of a contraposition of a philosopher like Kant with his Categorical Imperative against cultural relativism also read as moral relativism.

From the lecture on moral relativism I want to store in memory at least the view of Philippa Foot (1978). She holds that words like 'good' or 'rude' or 'brave' not only have an evaluative content, but also a descriptive content.

That means that moral judgements can have truth-value, which means that they can be rationally evaluated. Here I see a link with the "moral point of view" idea of William Frankena.

In lecture 3 I already mentioned the Golden Rule as an example of a moral judgement, that is found in almost all cultures. In my latest lecture I related that idea with the phenomenon of reciprocity, which you see in social behavior of primates.

So my conclusion was that moral relativism or moral subjectivism was not a tenable option. This means that we have to move on to some kind of objectivism in the theory of ethics. The truth or falsity of a moral judgement is not just depending on one's personal opinion.

Here we have reached the quintessential question of ethics: how can we justify an objective (which means: not entirely depended of an individual mind) base for morality. I have committed myself to that.

This opened doors to sociobiology and evolutionary theory in relation to our understanding of human nature and how morality can be a part of human behavior.

That was the moment that I introduced the idea of the "personal philosophical program". That means, that you adopt a number of theories or arguments and regard them as yours.

You don't question their origin but you take it as your philosophical program to put these theories and arguments as much as possible to the test.

So, while we were heading for a naturalistic ethics, we ran into G.E. Moore, who showed us with his "naturalistic fallacy" that we are completely wrong.

Forget it…. completely impossible to translate ethical terms like "good" and "right" into non-ethical terms like "please", "happiness" etc.

And again Frankena shows up. He nicely pointed out, it cannot be assumed at the outset that what Moore calls the naturalistic fallacy really is a mistake of any kind.

The naturalist proposes a certain kind of definition of some moral term and the non-naturalist then simply asserts that anyone who thinks such definitions are possible is mistaken.

But there is no fallacy here. It is a discussion on semantics and as Moore does, claiming that a concept as "good" is an intuition and can not be defined is unsatisfactory.

Thence as moral realists we face a cluster of explanatory challenges concerning the nature of moral facts (how they relate to naturalistic facts, how we have access to them, why they have practical importance).

In this context there was no room for the emotivism as proposed by Alfred Ayer. The idea that moral judgements have no truth-value but are expressions of attitudes.

So far it has shown us that at least my quintessential question in modern ethics is: Is (rational) justification of moral values possible or not. Or stated more popular, can we transcend the"Well, that is your opinion ..... but this is my opinion!" deadlock?

A first step in the direction of an answer is John Searle's idea about metaphysical objectivism and subjectivism. If you want to refresh your memory on that, reread lecture 9.

Finally I discovered in William Frankena is an inspiring source of support of the idea that justification of moral judgements is possible by taking the moral point of view.

So, what is my position in these ethical discourse now? My opinion is that ethical term like 'good' and "wrong" and "right" can be defined in non-ethical terms.

This means that moral judgements can have a factual content of which we can establish the truth of falsity. Thence moral judgements are not the expression of just personal opinions.

Course is laid in ….. ENGAGE!

The Discussion

[13:24] Repose Lionheart: hehehe
[13:25] herman Bergson: If you have any questions or remarks...feel free...
[13:25] Repose Lionheart: well, not sure what to say
[13:25] Repose Lionheart: i seem to agree with it
[13:25] Repose Lionheart: and am just making sure i do
[13:25] herman Bergson: No..Is a bit like your course Repose, isnt it?
[13:25] Repose Lionheart: and am not just being pulled along in your wake ㋡
[13:26] Repose Lionheart: my course?
[13:26] herman Bergson: no..we were already on the same ship, I guess ㋡
[13:26] Repose Lionheart: suspect so
[13:27] Repose Lionheart: disagree on particulars upon which the verdict is still out
[13:27] Repose Lionheart: nature of matter, deep things that make the natural world
[13:27] Repose Lionheart: social ethic
[13:27] Repose Lionheart: thought a couple of sessions ago of feral kids
[13:28] herman Bergson whispers: feral kids..what are those?
[13:28] Repose Lionheart: can't separate a social from an individual ethic
[13:28] Repose Lionheart: children raised with little or no human contact
[13:28] Abraxas Nagy: ah
[13:28] herman Bergson: ok...
[13:28] Repose Lionheart: ummm...Truffaut (sp?) made a movie of one
[13:28] Abraxas Nagy: wow... that could be me then
[13:28] herman Bergson: never the less these children will display social behavior
[13:29] Repose Lionheart: hehehe
[13:29] Repose Lionheart: not much
[13:29] herman Bergson: lol...I didnt want to say it Abraxas... ㋡
[13:29] Repose Lionheart: they don't ever really acquire language
[13:29] Abraxas Nagy: haaaahaaaahaaaahaaaahaaa
[13:29] Abraxas Nagy: o A o!
[13:29] Abraxas Nagy: its not that bad with me
[13:29] Repose Lionheart: but it shows how much we owe to our social environment
[13:29] herman Bergson: nevertheless simple rules of survival will apply to them too
[13:30] Abraxas Nagy: mmm indeed
[13:30] Repose Lionheart: yes, they do
[13:30] herman Bergson: I think that ethics is a social thing
[13:30] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:30] Repose Lionheart: maybe the ground isn't
[13:30] herman Bergson: philosophers my dissect it and analyze it and try to reason about it, but to me it is a social thing
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: yes, agree
[13:31] herman Bergson: ethics is behavior
[13:31] herman Bergson: what a philosopher does is to make this behavior object of contemplation
[13:31] Abraxas Nagy: what else would it be
[13:32] herman Bergson: it could be conceptual Abraxas
[13:32] Abraxas Nagy: ah sure
[13:32] Repose Lionheart: and behavior is always relational
[13:32] Abraxas Nagy: of course
[13:32] herman Bergson: The rationalist approach...ethics is a discovery of the mind
[13:32] Repose Lionheart: oh
[13:32] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:32] herman Bergson: We become ethical beings because of our mind
[13:33] herman Bergson: But I prefer to compare use with a group of chimps in a zoo and observe the behavior
[13:33] Repose Lionheart: that's science
[13:34] herman Bergson: and from there I would begin to try to understand the rules
[13:34] Repose Lionheart: which i just note
[13:34] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:34] herman Bergson: yes Repose, ethology
[13:34] herman Bergson: or ethology>
[13:34] Repose Lionheart: ahhh...not heard of either ㋡
[13:35] herman Bergson: what is is called in English..Conrad Lorenz is a great name in that field of study
[13:35] herman Bergson: Desmond Morris: The Naked Ape
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: not really sure
[13:35] herman Bergson: And Dawkins goes even further: The Selfish Gene
[13:36] herman Bergson: Ok...we make it an easy class today...
[13:37] herman Bergson: The teacher is ill...huurraaa!! ㋡
[13:37] Abraxas Nagy: haaaahaaaahaaaahaaaahaaa
[13:37] Repose Lionheart: hehehe
[13:37] Abraxas Nagy: so students go ape
[13:37] Abraxas Nagy: haaaahaaaahaaaahaaaahaaa
[13:37] Repose Lionheart: always
[13:37] Abraxas Nagy: without any doubt
[13:37] Repose Lionheart: thatks, Prof
[13:38] herman Bergson: A lot of them stayed in the trees today Abraxas
[13:38] Abraxas Nagy: I'd say
[13:38] Repose Lionheart: your program/project is clarifying for me
[13:38] Abraxas Nagy: they missed this tho
[13:38] herman Bergson: Dont know what is the matter today ㋡
[13:38] Repose Lionheart: they'll never evolve that way :0
[13:38] Abraxas Nagy: me neither
[13:38] Abraxas Nagy: right
[13:38] Repose Lionheart: press of the holidays, maybe
[13:39] Abraxas Nagy: I guess so
[13:39] herman Bergson: Hasnt happen in three years...except when there was a grid issue or the time shift
[13:39] Abraxas Nagy: mmmm I can imagine this is strong
[13:39] herman Bergson: Well...let's see who shows up next Tuesday
[13:39] Abraxas Nagy: wow yes even closer to the hollidayts
[13:40] Repose Lionheart: true
[13:40] herman Bergson: Ah yes....
[13:40] herman Bergson: I make next tuesday the last class before the Holidays…good idea Abraxas
[13:40] Abraxas Nagy: ah yes i think that might be a goodplan
[13:40] Repose Lionheart: yes, sounds like
[13:41] herman Bergson: yes indeed
[13:41] herman Bergson: So than you all for your participation ㋡
[13:41] Abraxas Nagy: ok I guess I'll go then
[13:41] Repose Lionheart: Thank you both ㋡
[13:41] Abraxas Nagy: ty professor
[13:41] Repose Lionheart: bye
[13:41] Abraxas Nagy: bye my friends
[13:43] herman Bergson: Das war es fur heute ㋡
[13:43] bergfrau Apfelbaum: heute waren nicht viele da
[13:43] bergfrau Apfelbaum: man merkt eben dass bald weihnachten ist :-)

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

12 The Golden Rule

Our main question at this moment still is, how to justify our moral judgements. On what do I ground my judgement that I ought to do something, that some action is morally wrong?

In our former lectures, dealing with the ideas of William Frankena, I found an interesting combination of ideas of moral duty, rationality and also a utilitarian approach. So he stays on my list.

But can't it be way more easier, based on thousands of years of human history? Don't we have what we call "The Golden Rule". Read this:


We propose the Golden Rule, which for thousands of years has been affirmed in many religious and ethical traditions, as a fundamental principle upon which to base a global ethic:

"What you do not wish done to yourself, do not do to others," or in positive terms, "What you wish done to yourself, do to others." This rule should be valid not only for one's own family, friends, community and nation, but also for all other individuals, families, communities, nations, the entire world, the cosmos.
-end quote

The Wikipedia (EN) has an extensive article on the Golden Rule: "The golden rule has its roots in a wide range of world cultures, and is a standard which different cultures use to resolve conflicts; it was present in the philosophies of ancient India, Greece, Judea and China."

So, global ethics, a long history and support of the rule in Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Humanism, Islam, Judaism: this rule seems to have the best papers as a way to justify moral judgements.

There may even be an evolutionary base in the phenomenon of reciprocity. In social psychology, reciprocity refers to responding to a positive action with another positive action, and responding to a negative action with another negative one.

But I think you already feel it coming: this is not my favorite rule at all. And it seems I am in good company. The philosopher Immanuel Kant himself rejects the the golden rule in his Critique of Practical Reason, not by discussing it extensively but just in a footnote.
So what is wrong with this rule?

The norm of reciprocity varies widely in its details from situation to situation, and from society to society. Anthropologists and sociologists have often claimed, that having some version of the norm appears to be a social inevitability.

And there is the catch. Reciprocity may exist, but is depended on situations, societies and cultures. Just imagine…… some examples:

It is a consequence of someone's deepest religious conviction that his wife should wear a burkha and should walk 2 meters behind him in public, not at his side? Is this this man acting immorally to do this to his wife?

Or another situation. I see that a man falls in a canal in Amsterdam. I know that man. Was smarter than the police and escaped conviction of rape, women abuse, forced prostitution and women slavery.

The evidence was waterproof and corroborating, but he got away because of such a legal formality, that was not correctly applied. And now he yells "I can't swim !!"

What is my moral duty? Would I like to drown? No! But then, save the man? That would mean that he possibly will continue his horrible treatment of women and criminal behavior and hurt other people again.

Or when the man gets convicted he could ask the judge, if he would like to spend the rest of his life in jail. Would he do that to himself? I guess not. So isn't is justified then to let the convicted man go?

We must conclude that this rule wont work as a universal one, but within the boundaries of a specific group, it definitely can be used as a guiding principle. It relates to the reciprocity, which can be observed in the behavior of primates.

But what about Kant. When he wipes such a golden rule off the table in a footnote, then he must have been pretty convinced about his own rightness, when he proposed his Categorical Imperative.

Kant's rule: "I am never to act otherwise than that I could also will that my maxim should become a universal law. It is the simple conformity to law in general that serves the will as its principle."

Suppose I lie to you, telling you that Christmas won't be celebrated this year due to the global warming of the climate…. no snow. I should say to myself… suppose it is a universal law that everyone may lie.

Any rational person will say, that that is not good, so my lie about Xmas is immoral. Thou shall not lie. Ok, an other example then.

They knock on the door. I open the door and there is the Gestapo: "We are searching for Jews. Do you hide jews in your home?" I answer "NO" and my jewish friends hiding in the attic feel relieved.

There is a lot more to say about Kant's ideas, but he doesn't stand the test either. So, although it looks so attractive to solve all moral issues with a single rule, we must conclude that life isn't that simple.

To finish a simple instruction on how to use google to study philosophy. Many of us have the habit of typing one or two words as search key. That is ok, but may I advise you to type as search key, for instance, "What is wrong with the Golden Rule".

You will be amazed about the results you get. The only critical thing is that you need the knowledge and insight to determine what is rubbish and what result of the search has quality.

In other words, use as search key anything you like, words but also whole phrases. The search engine of Google, Yahoo, Altavista or whatever program you like to use does the rest.

The Discussion

[13:22] herman Bergson: That is my Golden Rule for today ㋡
[13:22] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:23] Abraxas Nagy: ah
[13:23] Gemma Cleanslate: perhaps if it started from the beginning as the way of life it might work
[13:23] herman Bergson: It works really fine
[13:23] Gemma Cleanslate: but it did not
[13:24] herman Bergson: interesting is to see that this golden rule principle occures in almost every religion
[13:24] oola Neruda: i think one of the things that is both obvious but also not factored that not everyone lives by that rule
[13:24] herman Bergson: but what it overlooks is cultural differences
[13:24] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:24] Scope Cleaver: Do you adhere to that rule personally?
[13:24] oola Neruda: thus some of the examples are weakened
[13:24] herman Bergson: tho in all cultures people come to the same conslusion
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: i try but it dos not always work lol
[13:25] herman Bergson: usually a normal person adheres to that rule
[13:25] Repose Lionheart: when i thought about it, i realized i've always thought of the Golden Rule as just a rule of thumb
[13:25] herman Bergson: it is simply the reciprocity principle which is common to social behavior
[13:26] herman Bergson: yes Repose...within the context of your own culture it works
[13:26] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:27] herman Bergson: but we see that cultural differences disable the application of the rule
[13:27] Ludwig John: and what rule have the terrorist have in Iraque or Afghanistan?
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: they don't
[13:27] Abraxas Nagy: one mans terrorist is another man´s freedom fighter
[13:27] Daruma Boa: in war and love everything is allowed. another rule;-)
[13:27] herman Bergson: well they just long for dieing as a martyr and would certainly wish this to you too Ludwig
[13:28] Yejiba Severine: So sorry Professor, I have to go now :(
[13:28] herman Bergson: Like a sadist is a masochist applying the golden rule
[13:28] Ludwig John: does god respect that Golden Rule?
[13:28] Abraxas Nagy: c ya Yi
[13:28] herman Bergson: Bye Yejiba ㋡
[13:28] Daruma Boa: bye yejiba
[[13:29] Abraxas Nagy: hahaha
[13:29] Repose Lionheart: one additional problem with it might be that it seems to have the structure of an infinite regress...
[13:29] herman Bergson: What do you mean Repose?
[[13:30] Repose Lionheart: Wiki called it the "self-correcting" nature of the Rule
[13:30] Repose Lionheart: not so sure its a good thing
[13:30] Repose Lionheart: guy goes into a bar looking for a fight
[13:30] herman Bergson: ah ..yes.... the Wiki article is worth reading
[13:30] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:31] herman Bergson: YEs that is a nice one....leads to a big fight:)
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: not necessarily
[13:31] herman Bergson: and all following the golden rule
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: if he considers whether he would want others to apply the rule as he is donig
[13:31] herman Bergson: Indeed..not when he hits a pacifist ㋡
[13:31] Abraxas Nagy: haaaahaaaahaaaahaaaahaaa
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: but then you can twist the argument back on itself again
[13:32] Repose Lionheart: and again
[13:32] herman Bergson: or one who offers him the other cheek too ㋡
[13:32] Repose Lionheart: infinite regress
[13:32] Repose Lionheart: always suspicious of those
[13:32] herman Bergson smiles
[13:32] herman Bergson: they don't bite
[13:32] Repose Lionheart: in physics, they indicate a lack of knowledge
[13:32] Repose Lionheart: and theoretical adequacy
[13:33] Repose Lionheart: suspect in ethics
[13:33] Repose Lionheart: same thing
[13:33] Repose Lionheart: ㋡
[13:33] herman Bergson: ANyway, I think that the golden rule is nice general wisdom, but hardly a way to justify our moral judgements
[13:34] Repose Lionheart: yep
[13:34] Scope Cleaver: Sorry crashed, I must have missed your response
[13:34] herman Bergson: It can be used as a personal guideline tho
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: and so we go on searching for the handle to the door
[13:34] herman Bergson: You were out of Scope?
[13:34] Scope Cleaver: Yes for a few minutes
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:35] Scope Cleaver: I had asked if you did adhere to the rule yourself, before I crashed
[13:35] herman Bergson: Oh ..I answered that it is general behavior within a given culture to do so, I f=guess
[13:35] Daruma Boa: hi tsme
[13:35] Daruma Boa: +i
[13:35] itsme Frederix: ;)
[13:36] herman Bergson: It is based ion the nor of reciprocity which is part of our social behavior
[13:36] herman Bergson: and not only ours
[13:36] herman Bergson: funny story about baboons.....who help each other
[13:37] Scope Cleaver: Yes, I understand there is/possibly could be an evolutionary explanation for it.
[13:37] herman Bergson: the alpha male controls all attractive females..
[13:37] herman Bergson: the younger ones get together and start distracting the alpha male
[13:37] herman Bergson: then the each at his turn can mate with the females of the alpha male
[13:38] herman Bergson: I distract him you take the girl..then you do the same for me
[13:38] Ludwig John whispers: Owner say /chat or touch me
[13:38] herman Bergson: so this reciprocity also appears in social behavior of other primates
[13:39] herman Bergson: The golden rule has just a limited scope
[13:40] herman Bergson: If you have no further questions we should prepare for the next lecture and try to find other answers
[13:40] herman Bergson: answers
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: ok
[13:40] herman Bergson: Thank you for your participation ㋡
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:41] Abraxas Nagy: ty professor
[13:41] Ludwig John: thank you
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: see you thursday i hope
[13:41] Scope Cleaver: Next lecture being next week? or today?
[13:41] Repose Lionheart: Thank you, Professor
[13:41] herman Bergson: What has happened to you Itsme...cloak and dagger stories?
[13:41] Abraxas Nagy: I enjoyed it
[[13:41] Abraxas Nagy: as always
[13:41] herman Bergson: Next lecture is onThursday, Scope ㋡
[13:41] Daruma Boa: *GIGGLES* :)~~~~
[13:41] Daruma Boa: and looks a bit like death
[13:41] Abraxas Nagy: WOOOOOOOO
[13:42] Scope Cleaver: Yes I have tons of questions if we have time...
[13:42] Abraxas Nagy: oops
[13:42] Daruma Boa: how much is the fish?
[13:42] Daruma Boa: ^^
[13:42] herman Bergson: Have you become a sorcerer Itsme?
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:43] Abraxas Nagy: AH HAHAHAHA
[13:43] Scope Cleaver: This is Q&A?
[13:43] Abraxas Nagy: yep
[13:43] Abraxas Nagy: i think
[13:44] Scope Cleaver: herman?
[13:44] herman Bergson: Well...class dismissed
[13:44] Ludwig John: good night and good bye
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Sunday, December 6, 2009

11 The Moral Point of View of William Frankena

Sometimes in your research yo run into a philosopher, who is not one of the standard textbook philosopher. However, his ideas have been influential and important.

In American philosophy curricula of universities you see that the works of William Frankena are been used very often. So in these days he still is an often read and quoted moral philosopher.

You'll find his important book "Ethics" at William K.Frankena, an American philosopher with Dutch parents, lived from 1912 to 1994.

The first thing we learn from him is that the main debate in ethical theory at present is about the controversy Action-Based Ethics vs. Character-Based Ethics.

What is the primary concern of an ethical theory: should it focus
primarily on WHAT TO DO or HOW TO BE?

Action-based theories the "ought", what we should do, are primarily teleological. This means, that what we should do is determined by a 'tells', a goal.

To mention a few examples: hedonism regards as its goal: pleasure for me, utilitarianism seeks happiness for everyone.

Or you see a deontological approach, which means that the ethical theory focusses on on 'to deon', what HAS to be done, so on Duty. The categorical imperative of Kant is an example of such a theory.

The character-based theories focus on how we should be as a person, on virtue. We are already familiar with this action/character based theories since the Greek.

Frankena argues that we should not see the relationship between action-based and virtue-based ethical theories as disjunctive, but as conjunctive.

Both moral principles and virtues have important roles to play in a complete theory of ethics. Thus, the two types of theories are complimentary not competitive. 

In his discussion of utilitarianism he says:
we cannot be satisfied with the principle of utility as our sole basic standard of right and wrong in morality (…). In particular, I have contended that we should recognize a principle of justice to guide our distribution of good and evil that is independent of any principle about maximizing the balance of good over evil in the world.

(…) we should recognize two basic principles of obligation, the principle of utility and some principle of justice. The resulting theory would be a deontological one, but it would be much closer to utilitarianism than most deontological theories; we might call it a mixed deontological theory.
-end quote-

So moral action is focussed on bringing about the greatest possible balance of good over evil in the universe. It seems clear, however, that this principle presupposes another one that is more basic, namely, that we ought to do good and to prevent or avoid doing harm.

We have a prima facie obligation to maximize the balance of good over evil only if we have a prior prima facie obligation to do good and prevent harm. I shall call this prior principle the principle of beneficence.
-end quote-

But to do good leads to questions like what is desirable, good, or worthwhile in life? what is the good life as distinct from the morally good life? what values should we pursue for ourselves and others?

What it is all about now is, can we explain moral terms, like good, right, wrong in terms of nonmoral terms?

For example, if one is asked why that was a good concert, one must say something like, "Because it was profoundly moving," which implies that being profoundly moving is a good-making characteristic, at least from an aesthetic point of view.

In fact, all evaluations properly so-called are at least implicitly made by reference to some standard or to some set of general judgments about what is good-making or prima facie good.
- end quote-

And like there is an aesthetic point of view there is, according to Frankena, also a moral point of view. When we say "X is good" this value judgement becomes an aesthetic or moral judgement depending on the reasons we give.

"Good" can mean a lot in a nonmoral sense. But as Frankena says: "We also sometimes say that things are good, desirable, or worthwhile in themselves, as ends, in themselves, as ends, intrinsically."

In an extensive analysis Frankena shows that not only pleasureless is intrinsic good. He gives a whole list of concepts which can be used as arguments for the goodness of moral judgements.

What is intrinsically good is not truth, knowledge, beauty etc. but what is intrinsically good is the contemplation or experiencing of them.

All this is obtained by our morality. As Frankena says: "Autonomy seems to me to come in here, as well as the other things just listed, but I should want to add rationality and related dispositions like objectivity and intellectual responsibility too. And perhaps this is where one should mention love again."

And what it is all about is how we are as a moral person:"Virtue, as Socrates says in the Meno, is not the power to achieve the good or obtain good things; it is acting justly, honestly, temperately, and, we must add, benevolently."

The Discussion

[13:21] herman Bergson: So much on Frankena
[13:22] Gemma Cleanslate: He is very interesting
[13:22] Paula Dix: yes i liked very much
[13:22] herman Bergson: if you have any question or remark, feel free ...
[13:22] Gemma Cleanslate: his chapters were easy to follow
[13:22] herman Bergson: Yes it is an interesting approach
[13:22] herman Bergson: And readable indeed Gemma
[13:22] Gemma Cleanslate: i will read the whole thing when i have time
[13:23] Paula Dix: just to avoid confusion: this expression " maximize the balance of good over evil" means lots of good and less and less evil, right?
[13:23] Gemma Cleanslate: but as usual there are still the questions of good and what is good
[13:23] herman Bergson: What is so interesting is that he combines a utilitarian theory with a virtue theory
[13:23] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:23] herman Bergson: Well... in that matter is more or less follows in Moore's footsteps
[13:24] Paula Dix: i liked that he gives a general view besides his position, i felt situated
[13:24] herman Bergson: He doesnt define good, even talks about intrinsically good
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: YES
[13:24] Paula Dix: he gives that list of 5 or 6 ways something can be good
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: that is what i camr out of it all with still not a clear idea of good as we are triying to define
[13:25] herman Bergson: However, wiht his moral point of view theory he yet gives nonmoral reasons and arguments for the meen ig of good
[13:25] Repose Lionheart: so he just asserts the existence of non-moral intrinsic goods?
[13:25] herman Bergson: Yes, PAula, where the last on is intrinsically good
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: the intrinsic good
[13:26] herman Bergson: Cant be explained he end up in saying "Try it eand see!"
[13:26] Paula Dix: no, the intrinsic is the most englobing, isnt? in total?
[13:26] herman Bergson: He grounds his view on human rationality
[13:27] herman Bergson: Freedom is intrinsic good, as knowledge is and truth
[13:27] herman Bergson: If you would deny that, you have to come up with a rational argumentation
[13:28] Repose Lionheart: innocent until proven guilty?
[13:28] herman Bergson: to say beauty is not good, sounds irrational
[13:28] Paula Dix: lol some will say some knowledge isnt good ( i dont agree)
[13:29] herman Bergson: The morality of knowledge is not in its content but in what we do with it
[13:29] Repose Lionheart: true until proven false?
[13:29] herman Bergson: What do you mean Repose?
[13:29] Repose Lionheart: don't like his method much
[13:29] Paula Dix: exact, to know isnt bad or good. or no, thats wrong, to know is always good
[13:29] idanthology Sandalwood: you mentioned love at the last does frankena tie love into this?
[13:29] Repose Lionheart: think he needs to ground his assertion of non-moral intricsic goods
[13:30] herman Bergson: to answer your question, Idan, I would refer to chapter 5 of Ethics ㋡
[13:30] idanthology Sandalwood: haven't had time to reach that chapter as yet, but i'll get there ;)
[13:30] herman Bergson: He dedicates a whole paragraph to that specific issue
[13:31] herman Bergson: neither did I read that specific paragraph ㋡
[13:31] herman Bergson: I just loved other parts
[13:32] herman Bergson: I had no time to read the whole book
[13:32] herman Bergson: But what about his method Repose?
[13:32] herman Bergson: What dont you like in it?
[13:32] Repose Lionheart: well, he simply asserts that intrinsic goods exist
[13:33] herman Bergson: true..
[13:33] Repose Lionheart: don''t find that very satisfying
[13:33] Repose Lionheart: would like to see some justification for the claim
[13:34] Repose Lionheart: esp. as he seems to ground moral goods in intrinsic non-moral goods
[13:34] herman Bergson: But this intrinsic good is closely related to obtaining a balance of good over evil as goal of moral action
[13:34] Repose Lionheart: hmm,ok, but don't understand the significance of that
[13:34] Repose Lionheart: hmmm...
[13:34] Paula Dix: if its a balance, shouldnt be equal amounts of both? thats bothering me
[13:35] herman Bergson: What he calls intrinsic good are things that improve a life, create a good life
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:35] herman Bergson: Primarily should the balance be in favor of the good
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: i hope so
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:36] Paula Dix: so it should be in balance of good over evil :))
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: oh....his notion is descriptive
[13:36] herman Bergson: Well, Gemma, that is what makes us moral beings, to make an effort to create such a life for oneself and others
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: i think i see
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: exactly
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: i always go so ontological on things ㋡
[13:37] Repose Lionheart: things
[13:37] herman Bergson: I see ㋡
[13:38] herman Bergson: His idea of goodness is not meant to be a property of something like knowledge
[13:38] oola Neruda: when Nietzsche talks about looking inside...recognizing and even embracing what is there... and it is often not good... is he getting into ethics or is it a separate kind of thing entirely
[13:38] herman Bergson: We experience knowledge as good, as excellent, satisfactory in life
[13:38] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:38] Paula Dix: interesting oola!
[13:39] herman Bergson: I dont know oola
[13:39] herman Bergson: I would say it is more how Nietzsche interprets being
[13:40] herman Bergson: Maybe he refers to weakness there
[13:41] oola Neruda: separate issue? i am wanting all the parts of philosophy to match up with the other parts
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: lololol
[13:41] Paula Dix: looks to me he says we should accept our bad things also... not necessarily moral i guess
[13:41] oola Neruda: maybe the different questions are isolated
[13:42] Paula Dix: or it can be moral in the sense that knowing our weaknesses we can deal better with everything, prevent them of being a problem
[13:42] herman Bergson: I'll have a look at how Nietzsche fits in in theory of ethics
[13:43] herman Bergson: Well, anyway we can say that William Frankena is a discovery, like time ago Marry Midgley was
[13:43] herman Bergson: Or was it Margret ? ㋡
[13:43] idanthology Sandalwood: balance of good over evil...he sees evil as a necessary component to drive the good or he sees evil as, unfortunately, an inescapable part of existense & human nature?
[13:44] herman Bergson: I would say the later, Idanthology
[13:44] herman Bergson: Besides it is a complete new chapter to talk about the existence of evil
[13:44] herman Bergson: Fascinating subject tho
[13:45] herman Bergson: But I think Frankena takes evil as a fact of life
[13:45] oola Neruda: nietzsche
[13:46] oola Neruda: too
[13:46] herman Bergson: and regards the virtuous person who sees it as his duty to do good as the one who will fight evil
[13:47] herman Bergson: Next time we'll discuss the Golden Rule and dig into deontic ethics, duty ethics
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: ok
[13:47] herman Bergson: in fact uses Frankena the Golden Rule too
[13:48] herman Bergson: You can find that in chapter 6 where he explains his theory of the moral point of view
[13:49] herman Bergson: If no one has any questions or remarks anymore, I thank you for your participation ㋡
[13:49] BrainCrave OHare: thank you herman
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: thanks Herman
[13:49] Repose Lionheart: Thank you, Professor
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: see you tuesday
[13:49] BrainCrave OHare: bye all
[13:49] Abraxas Nagy: ty herman
[13:49] Abraxas Nagy: bye brain
[13:49] herman Bergson: We yet missed Q ㋡
[13:49] Repose Lionheart: thanks for the tree, too ㋡
[13:49] oola Neruda: thank you Herman
[13:49] Justine Rhapsody: thank you Professor
[13:49] herman Bergson: My pleasure Repose
[13:50] Abraxas Nagy: see you all next time :D
[13:50] herman Bergson: Bye Justine ^_^
[13:50] idanthology Sandalwood: later y'all

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

10 Justification of moral judgements

A recent cartoon in a local newspaper depicted a man and a woman talking. The caption read, "Of course your mind is cleaner than mine, you change it more frequently."

I don't think you will have trouble guessing who was speaking and who was the object of the assertion. The cartoon speaks to a pervasive societal attitude-that one of the ways in which the sexes differ is in moral character.

Schopenhauer wrote, "The weakness of their reasoning faculty also explains why women show more sympathy for the unfortunate than men." More frequently, when differences between the sexes are claimed, women are portrayed as men's moral inferior. Check Freud, for instance.

For women, the moral problem arises from conflicting responsibilities rather than from competing rights and requires for its resolution contextual and inductive thinking rather than formal and abstract reasoning (Gilligan 1979).

I think it is good to mention the gender issue again, when we discuss justification of moral judgements, because this difference does not exist in philosophical discourse.

When you do a search on "justification of moral judgement" you get tons of hits, which refer for 99% to all kinds of psychological research on this subject.

A dominant perspective is in philosophy, psychology, and law centers on the idea that our moral judgments are the product of a conscious decision in which individuals move directly from conscious reasoning to moral verdict.

An alternative theoretical perspective holds that at least our moral judgments are the product of unconscious psychological processes, and thus, intuitive. A significant component of the intuitive perspective places a strong emphasis on the role of emotions.

An interesting parallel with the theories of ethics we have seen sofar, from realism to emotivism. Psychology and philosophy show a close relation here.

William K.Frankena, an American philosopher who lived from 1912 to 1994, presents an interesting philosophical view on the justification of moral judgements.

A judgement becomes a moral judgement by the point of view, that is taken, in giving reasons and facts to justify the judgement.

"What is the moral point of view? (..) Hume thought that the moral point of view was that of sympathy, and it seems to me he was on the right wavelength. (…) My own position, then, is that one is taking the moral point of view if and only if

(a) one is making normative judgments about actions, desires, dispositions, intentions, motives, persons, or traits of character;

(b) one is willing to universalize one’s judgments;

(c) one’s reasons for one’s judgments consist of facts about what the things judged do to the lives of sentient beings in terms of promoting or distributing nonmoral good and evil;

(d) when the judgment is about oneself or one’s own actions, one’s reasons include such facts about what one’s own actions and dispositions do to the lives of other sentient beings as such, if others are affected.

One has a morality or moral action-guide only if and insofar as one makes normative judgments from this point of view and is guided by them."
-quote end-

But why be moral? Why should we take part in the moral institution of life? Why should we adopt the moral point of view? This may mean we ask for a motivation or for a justification.

Motivation for taking a moral point of view is easily given. It can be a lot of things, from fear, self-interest to altruism.

Justification is an other chapter. First, why should society adopt such an institution as morality? Why should it foster such a system for the guidance of conduct in addition to convention, law, and prudence?

There is a clear answer to that. Without it we hardly could life a satisfactory life in groups. We would end up in a Hobbesian society or in some totalitarian society, ruled by brute force.

But every criminal might say :"This shows that society requires morality and even that it is to my advantage to have others adopt the moral way of life. But it does not show that I should adopt it, and certainly not that I should always act according to it. And it is no use arguing on moral grounds that I should. I want a nonmoral justification for thinking I should.”

The answer Frankena gives is, that, if you were to choose rationally, or in other words, freely, impartially, and in full knowledge of what it is like to live the various alternative ways of life, including the moral one, what would you choose?

The response "Why should I be rational?" is a bit odd, for asking for a justification implies already being rational, of course.

So Frankena concludes that what makes normative judgements moral judgements, is not the use of the words "good" or "right" in them, nor feelings that accompany such judgements, but the moral point of view you choose to give justifying reasons.

You find William K. Frankena: "Ethics", 1973, second edition at
Worth reading…

The Discussion

[13:21] herman Bergson: So much on this subject
[13:21] herman Bergson: The gender issue is crap indeed....
[13:22] Cailleach Shan: LOL many live by it though!
[13:22] herman Bergson: If you look at development psychologists like Erikson and Piaget for instance...
[13:22] herman Bergson: yes Cailleach..even worse...
[13:22] oola Neruda: schopenhaur's views on women are not not not rational... any of them...
[13:22] Repose Lionheart: agree
[13:23] herman Bergson: Those psychologists have developed a theory of stages of moral development..
[13:23] Cailleach Shan: The gender argument is getting a bit tired don't you think. It just gets in the way.
[13:23] herman Bergson: girls dont follow these stages exactly, so they are said to have a deviant development
[13:23] oola Neruda: schopenhaur would be a legit rationale for censorship
[13:23] Rodney Handrick: Deviant?
[13:23] Repose Lionheart: yes, like Freud's theory of psychosexual development
[13:24] Repose Lionheart: same thing
[13:24] Rodney Handrick: hmm...
[13:24] herman Bergson: deviant.....other word.... devious
[13:25] herman Bergson: Anyway...the difference between psychoology and a philosophical approach is that psychology tries to explain and philosophy asks for justification
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: interesting
[13:25] freereed Freenote: :)
[13:26] herman Bergson: Justificaiton is a logical and rational explanation of the why
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: well psychology usually asks for justification also i think
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: well perhaps more why
[13:26] herman Bergson: And Frankena focusses on the moral point of view you take
[13:26] Cailleach Shan: Re. your earlier question " herman Bergson: But why be moral? Why should we take part in the moral institution of life? Why should we adopt the moral point of view? This may mean we ask for a motivation or for a justification." I think countries without humane morality quickly descend into anarchy.
[13:27] herman Bergson: Yes Cailleach....that is the way Hobbes explained it: man would be w wolf for his fellow man in such a society
[13:28] freereed Freenote: freud: homini lupis... man is wolf to man...
[13:28] freereed Freenote: civilization and its discontents
[13:28] Cailleach Shan: So, does a focus on capitalism come into this category do you think.
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: lol i saw a play sunday in which 4 school boys wre reciting their lesson of why women were so important to stop that from happening
[13:29] herman Bergson: what should stop happening, Gemma?
[13:29] Repose Lionheart: homini lupis
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: men descending to their base instincts
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:29] herman Bergson: the full text is Homo homini lupus
[13:29] herman Bergson: is from Hobbes
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: ah
[13:30] Rodney Handrick: nothing wrong with basic instincts
[13:30] Repose Lionheart: ㋡
[13:30] herman Bergson: No...that is where the moral point of view comes in
[13:30] herman Bergson: when you justify your moral judgement..
[13:31] Rodney Handrick: this is true
[13:31] herman Bergson: There is a Kantian influence when Frankena asks for the possibility of universalizing your judgement
[13:31] Paula Dix: Herman, the "sympathy" that ethics is build upon is the hability to "feel" what others are feeling?
[13:31] herman Bergson: and other thing is that you should read Chapter 5 from Ethics, Frankena's book
[13:32] herman Bergson: yes Paula....Frankena develops that in chapter 5 much further
[13:32] Paula Dix: ok
[13:32] Paula Dix: makes sense for me :))
[13:32] herman Bergson: this sympathy are a whole list of aspects of our existence which are intrinsic good
[13:32] herman Bergson: Suppose that someone were to ask you whether it is good to help others in time of need. Unless you suspected some sort of trick, you would answer, “Yes, of course.”
[13:33] herman Bergson: If this person were to go on to ask you why acting in this way is good, you might say that it is good to help others in time of need simply because it is good that their needs be satisfied.
[13:33] herman Bergson: If you were then asked why it is good that people's needs be satisfied, you might be puzzled. You might be inclined to say, “It just is.”
[13:33] Gemma Cleanslate: but get a lawyer first
[13:33] Paula Dix: yes
[13:33] Cailleach Shan: It makes the giver feel good.
[13:33] Paula Dix: lol gemma
[13:33] Repose Lionheart: it is good to be good
[13:33] herman Bergson: And here he follows G.E. Moore
[13:33] Gemma Cleanslate: lol that is the thinking these days in the usa it seems
[13:34] Paula Dix: and there is the idea that when its your turn to be in trouble, others will help you
[13:34] herman Bergson: Intrinsic good things cant de defined
[13:34] Epicurus Zuidde: that's contract theory, isn't it?
[13:34] Repose Lionheart: maybe not, but that does not preclude their existing ㋡
[13:34] herman Bergson: I wouldnt say that....
[13:34] herman Bergson: it is closer to a kind of intuitionism still
[13:34] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:35] Epicurus Zuidde: sorry, that was directed to Paula.
[13:35] herman Bergson: dont be shocked...I'll show you that list of intrinsic good things according to Frankena
[13:35] herman Bergson: He doesnt claim that the list is complete
[13:35] herman Bergson: Life, consciousness, and activity
Health and strength
Pleasures and satisfactions of all or certain kinds
Happiness, beatitude, contentment, etc.
Knowledge and true opinion of various kinds, understanding, wisdom
Beauty, harmony, proportion in objects contemplated
Aesthetic experience
Morally good dispositions or virtues
Mutual affection, love, friendship, cooperation
Just distribution of goods and evils
Harmony and proportion in one's own life
Power and experiences of achievement
Peace, security
Adventure and novelty
Good reputation, honor, esteem, etc.
[13:36] Paula Dix: woudlnt that sympathy concept be explaining?? we help because if all are happy world will be better for us
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: whoa
[13:36] herman Bergson: A major concept in his theory is The good life...
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: whoa, indeed
[13:36] herman Bergson: It comes close to the Golden Rule too
[13:36] Rodney Handrick: wow...a lot to digest
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: oh..
[13:37] Paula Dix: Epicurus, i have no idea, whats contract theory?
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: will we be discussing more of him on thursday if we read??
[13:37] Epicurus Zuidde: Can a utilitarian just group those all together under "wellbeing"?
[13:37] Epicurus Zuidde: Paula, It's Hobbes and Locke's theories.
[13:37] herman Bergson: yes epicurus, they use that term indeed
[13:38] herman Bergson: and Rousseau too I would guess
[13:38] herman Bergson: Interesting here is that the contract theory presupposes that the good life emerges based on a kind of social contract
[13:38] Paula Dix: ah, got it
[13:39] herman Bergson: Where Frankena and others see 'The Good" Life", well-being, as an intrinsic quality of being
[13:39] herman Bergson: which is understood by our rationality
[13:39] Repose Lionheart: people didn't live good lives before the invention of contracts, loosely defined?
[13:39] Paula Dix: do you think they would write these ideas on some other way if they knew biology, genetics, like we do now?
[13:40] Repose Lionheart: good question
[13:40] Paula Dix: i mean, this idea of "contract" looks like this desire to form society, something animal on us
[13:40] herman Bergson: Frankena doesnt hold a contract theory
[13:41] herman Bergson: In fact he sees the good as an intrinsic value of being
[13:41] herman Bergson: all these things like freedom, happiness etc
[13:41] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:41] Paula Dix: ah, so animals wihtout this society urge also do good things... makes sense
[13:41] herman Bergson: I dont think that would be different because of knowledge of biology and genetics...
[13:42] herman Bergson: Well...chimps come very close to human psychology
[13:42] herman Bergson: but the big difference is that they cant make theuir world an object of abstract contemplation by the use of language
[13:43] Paula Dix: im thinking, a tiger wont kill for fun, its not the society that makes lions have some kind of good behavior, ethical behavior
[13:43] Paula Dix: a tiger being a solitary being
[13:43] Rodney Handrick: Are you sure about that Paula?
[13:43] Paula Dix: quite, as much as biologists friends are
[13:44] herman Bergson: There are animals that kill for no reason now and then....if the reason for doing so is normally getting food
[13:44] Paula Dix: yes, true, people do that also
[13:44] herman Bergson: yes, but a person can reflect on his actions....have a moral judgement about it
[13:44] Paula Dix: yes
[13:45] Paula Dix: b ut then, its not society that makes ethics emerge
[13:45] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:45] herman Bergson: And when you give certain reasons you get into that moral point of view, Frankena mentions
[13:45] Cailleach Shan: So Herman do you think it is possible for a human to be amoral?
[13:46] herman Bergson: Like you can make a normative judgement and reason from an aesthetic point of view
[13:46] Paula Dix: good question :)
[13:46] herman Bergson: no..I dont think so......
[13:46] herman Bergson: it is absolutely impossible to escape from the question "Why did I do that?"
[13:47] Paula Dix: even being raised away from other people, this person can think about his/her actions
[13:47] herman Bergson: However, you can heave a very selfish motivation.....
[13:47] herman Bergson: greed for instance....
[13:47] Cailleach Shan: So what does that do in terms of the death penalty. Do we judge another's lack of morality.
[13:47] herman Bergson: Bu tyou get into trouble when you have to give a justification
[13:48] herman Bergson: I think that you have to involve psychology here too, Cailleach
[13:49] herman Bergson: Our explanation of the criminal behavior is that he will do it time and stop to that
[13:49] Paula Dix: woudnt that have to do more with judging the person incapable of learning how not to kill others than moral positions?
[13:49] herman Bergson: so we remove a person out of society
[13:49] herman Bergson: yes Paula
[13:50] herman Bergson: Like Frankena presupposes rationality to be able to justify a moral judgement
[13:50] herman Bergson: Some people lack rationality
[13:50] Epicurus Zuidde: a lot of people lack rationality.
[13:50] Cailleach Shan: Where does the Golden Rule come into that?
[13:50] Paula Dix: lol most people!
[13:51] herman Bergson: No Epicurus, it sounds funny but I dont think so
[13:52] herman Bergson: Frankena even supposes that eventually when two people disagree on a judgement, one judgement will prevail becuase rational considerations will show who is making a mistake
[13:52] herman Bergson: He has a positive believe in mankind, I would say ㋡
[13:52] Paula Dix: lol
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: Will we be discussing him further on thursday??????????//
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: after we read
[13:53] herman Bergson: The golden rule is related to Frankena's demand that your moral judgement has to be universalizable
[13:53] Paula Dix: i guess its related to education... i see many people around here that only act upon what mother/father teached, cant change from that
[13:54] herman Bergson: Might be an interesting idea Gemma
[13:54] Paula Dix: where we can find Frankena to read??
[13:54] Cailleach Shan: mmmm... do you mean that our judgements must be based on 'We are One' ?
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: Herman put the link
[13:54] Paula Dix: i crashed
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: ahha
[13:54] herman Bergson: That we have a closer look at his "Ethics"
[13:55] herman Bergson: The book is on the Internet
[13:55] Gemma Cleanslate:
[13:55] Paula Dix: thanks!
[13:55] herman Bergson: yes...
[13:55] Abraxas Nagy: ty gemma
[13:55] Gemma Cleanslate: yw
[13:56] herman Bergson: I think chapter Five is a central part
[13:56] Gemma Cleanslate: ok
[13:56] herman Bergson: Ok....let's spend another lecture on this moral philosopher
[13:56] Repose Lionheart: good
[13:56] Gemma Cleanslate: sounds good to me
[13:56] herman Bergson: The book is from 1973, so rather modern
[13:57] Cailleach Shan: I hope I can be here. Very interesting.
[13:57] Rodney Handrick: 1973...that is recent
[13:57] Rodney Handrick: what's the name of the book again?
[13:57] herman Bergson: Ethics
[13:57] Rodney Handrick: thanks
[13:58] herman Bergson: The URL Gemma showed will bring you directly to it
[13:58] herman Bergson: Then I thank you for your participation ㋡
[13:58] Rodney Handrick: got it
[13:58] Gemma Cleanslate: ok see you all thursday i hope
[13:58] Cailleach Shan: Thanks Herman..
[13:58] Abraxas Nagy: thank you professor
[13:58] freereed Freenote: thank you :)
[13:59] Rodney Handrick: thanks Herman
[13:59] Repose Lionheart: Thank you, Professor
[13:59] herman Bergson: We'll continue on Thursday on this subject
[13:59] Gemma Cleanslate: maybe you could send that link in a notice for those who are coming Thursday and not here
[13:59] Abraxas Nagy: ah great
[13:59] Gemma Cleanslate: ty Herman
[13:59] herman Bergson: I will Gemma....good idea
[14:00] herman Bergson: I'll do it right away
[14:00] Abraxas Nagy: see you all al next time :D
[14:00] Cailleach Shan: By everyone. Good session Herman.
[14:00] herman Bergson: Be well Abraxas ㋡
[14:00] herman Bergson: Thx Cailleach
[14:00] Abraxas Nagy: ty herman and tc
[14:01] Paula Dix: perfect
[14:01] Paula Dix: copied the book... will try to read all
[14:01] Paula Dix: we will talk about it next class??
[14:01] oola Neruda: ahhhh back to real
[14:01] oola Neruda: be well all
[14:01] herman Bergson: yes we will Paula
[14:01] Paula Dix: lol
[14:01] herman Bergson: Bye oola ㋡
[14:01] Paula Dix: ok, so chapt 5 will be first :)))
[14:02] herman Bergson: ok Paula ㋡
[14:03] Paula Dix: i have also to read the previous classes i missed!
[14:03] herman Bergson: a lot of work to do then ㋡
[14:03] Paula Dix: yes :)
[14:04] herman Bergson: ok
[14:04] Paula Dix: going home to read then! bye!
[14:04] herman Bergson: bye Paula ㋡
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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

09 A personal view...

You may or may not yet have noticed that there is something special developing here. What you are witnessing is in fact the confrontation of my personal philosophical views with the theories of ethics.

One thing that emerges clearly is my personal rejection of subjectivism in ethics (as well as in other areas like epistemology).

An other thing that becomes clear is, that since Hume we make a strict distinction between "feelings" and "sensory experiences", which is closely related to "subjective" and "objective".

When you look at the order of subjects on the board behind me you also see a road from subjectivism to objectivism. That order is not my personal creation.

It is from "Ethics: Contemporary Readings" a Routledge publication form 2004. After a global survey of the book I thought its setup would be a nice roadmap and to me it is a revealing adventure.

Sofar it has shown us that the quintessential question in modern ethics is: Is (rational) justification of moral values possible or not. Or stated more popular, can we transcend the"Well, that is your opinion ..... but this is my opinion!" deadlock?

You may have noticed that it is my conviction that we can. Yes, we can ...who said that before? This means that we once and for all have to get rid of that simplistic dichotomy "subjective - objective"

In everyday conversation they are mutually exclusive. "Subjective" means private "mental" stuff: sensations, beliefs, feelings, emotions, opinions, etc.

"Objective" means public "physical" stuff: publicly-observable things, events, knowledge, facts.

But this is just a way we, as thinking beings, have interpreted our world, our experiences. We love simplicity, however the philosopher John Searle showed that we have to be less simplistic in this case.

Metaphysics consists of arguments and counterarguments about what we should call "real" or what we should say "is" or "has being". "Is free will real?" is a metaphysical question.

In metaphysics, something exists objectively if its existence does not depend on its being experienced. A claim is epistemologically objective if there are generally recognized methods for deciding whether the claim is true or false.

Now we make the following distinction. We should distinguish two kinds of objectivity:
1. metaphysical objectivity, and
2. epistemological objectivity.

We also should distinguish two kinds of subjectivity:
1. metaphysical subjectivity, and
2. epistemological subjectivity.

Your toothache is metaphysically subjective. It is your pain. Noone else can feel it. Impossible to know if my toothache would feel the same for you. So, when you say "It hurts!" is this just your personal opinion, about which I can't say a thing?

On the contrary. Your toothache is also metaphysically objective. First there is your public statement "It hurts!". Then there is the dentist who describes the bad condition of your tooth, the infection, etc.

Your toothache is a private experience. Only you know what you feel. What knowledge does the dentist have about it about this metaphysically subjective matter.

In epistemology, a statement (claim, assertion, proposition) is epistemologically objective if its truth value can be determined intersubjectively by generally-agreed methods or procedures.

To say a statement is epistemologically objective is not to say the statement is true; it's just to say we could figure out a public method for determining whether or not the statement is true.

As you may understand, the dentist has access to the metaphysically objective properties of the toothache. He can examine your tooth and together with you observe its specific condition.

In other words, what seems to be a subjective matter, your pain, can be objectively assessed as well. Your pain is not just a matter of opinion.

Okay — are ethical statements mere matters of opinion or expressions of personal attitudes or emotions?

A moral subjectivist says in effect that moral judgments are either subjective or objective in the ordinary (over-simplified) sense.

The subjectivist then assumes that if you feel a certain way about X, you can’t then be objective about X, since feelings are subjective and "subjective" and "objective" are supposed to be opposites. And if you can’t be objective, you can’t use math or logic, i.e., you can’t reason.

When you take into account the more nuanced view of John Searle, you can see the shortcomings of the subjectivist's reasoning .

An example: "Abortion is wrong." If this is only a pure metaphysically subjective feeling, how should we then discuss this matter? It is indeed your opinion, just that.

However, whether you are for or against abortion, I guess everybody would agree that it is wrong to take innocent human life.

And then the debate on ethics will start and we can only reason our way to consensus, based on metaphysically objective facts.

In other words, the way people generally think in terms of subjective/objective is a simplification and a cause of many unnecessary disagreements.

Finally let me show you something on the board behind me. The scheme is a development from R. M. Hare’s A Taxonomy of Ethical Theories (1997) and then the test.

Read it carefully and then answer the question: where do you think, I stand in this taxonomy?

Take your time.. ㋡
Well ....any suggestions?

The Discussion

[13:27] oola Neruda: is it necessary to go through a step...or can you skip to the next one
[13:27] Dudda Susa ist offline
[13:28] herman Bergson: oh sorry....this is the wrong board
[13:28] Daruma Boa: *GIGGLES* :)~~~~
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:28] Abraxas Nagy: ah
[13:28] BrainCrave OHare: i was wondering about that
[13:28] Cailleach Shan: He he
[13:28] Abraxas Nagy: me to
[13:28] Abraxas Nagy: aah
[13:28] George Taurog ist offline
[13:28] herman Bergson: that was a real test ㋡
[13:28] itsme Frederix: mm I just wanted to answer 0 step
[13:28] herman Bergson: slow rezzing here
[13:29] herman Bergson: ah..there is comes
[13:30] herman Bergson: can anyone read it?
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:30] itsme Frederix: np
[13:30] herman Bergson: still a little blurred for me
[13:30] Abraxas Nagy: yep
[13:30] Cailleach Shan: Yep.
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: might be good on a notecard
[13:30] Abraxas Nagy: mmm yes
[13:30] itsme Frederix: So we have to understand the board and you for an answer, tuff
[13:30] BrainCrave OHare: i had to get up to read it
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: lolol
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: i am using my cam
[13:31] herman Bergson: It should have been up much earlier so it had time to rezz..
[13:31] Abraxas Nagy: I use my camara controls
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: but would be BETTER ON A NOTECARD
[13:31] Abraxas Nagy: here here
[13:31] Cailleach Shan: I took a snapshot.
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: if we are going to refer to it again after today
[13:31] herman Bergson: Next time on a notecard Gemma ㋡
[13:31] Abraxas Nagy: good tip ty
[13:32] Cailleach Shan: mmmmm.. I seem to have a foot in all 10 camps!
[13:32] Gemma Cleanslate: don't we all
[13:32] herman Bergson: Oh my Cailleach...
[13:33] herman Bergson: The question was...where do you think I stand in this taxonomy?
[13:33] itsme Frederix: Herman if you were putting a pistol agains my head, I would say ... 6 You probably would shoot ;)
[13:33] Gemma Cleanslate: 8
[13:34] Cailleach Shan: I would say 9 Herman
[13:34] Repose Lionheart: yes, 8
[13:34] Kayle Matzerath ist online
[13:34] herman Bergson: I see I have still a lot of explaining to do
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: lolol
[13:34] oola Neruda: i go with 6
[13:34] Duda Poulot ist online
[13:34] Cailleach Shan: Hahahahahaha
[13:34] Apmel Ibbetson: I say 10
[13:34] BrainCrave OHare: based on the little i've seen, i'd say 3
[13:34] herman Bergson: No other bids?
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: hmmm
[13:35] Cailleach Shan: Aren't we inevitably projecting our own views here Herman?
[13:35] oola Neruda: 10 is a good one Apmel
[13:35] itsme Frederix: Well how objective is your answer, or may it be subjectieve (epistomological & methaphysical)
[13:35] herman Bergson: Well when I take the answers in account I would say Yes Cailleach ㋡
[13:36] herman Bergson: Like the subjects of this project this taxonomy runs from
[13:36] herman Bergson: objective to subjective
[13:36] itsme Frederix: Calliebach right you are, is it possible to judge Herman on his own ... by us?
[13:36] herman Bergson: this means that my views belong to the area from 3 up to 1
[13:37] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:37] herman Bergson: As I said is possible to ratioanlly discuss moral judgements
[13:37] Apmel Ibbetson: well i don´t agree I think the three first ones are extremly subjective:)
[13:37] Daruma Boa: you standing in my camera brain^^
[13:37] Daruma Boa: ^^
[13:37] BrainCrave OHare: i'm very sorry
[13:37] BrainCrave OHare: i think i need glasses
[13:37] Daruma Boa: no problem^^
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:38] Daruma Boa: *GIGGLES* :)~~~~
[13:38] herman Bergson: Is the board upside down for you Apmel:) ?
[13:38] Apmel Ibbetson: the tenth one seems to be openminded ..:9
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: do you know how to use your camera??
[13:38] Apmel Ibbetson: no herman I just don´t agree with you :)
[13:38] Apmel Ibbetson: on what is subjective
[13:38] herman Bergson: ok....
[13:38] BrainCrave OHare: yes, but it didn't seem to come in close enough
[13:38] Jester Fizzle ist offline
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: ah
[13:39] Apmel Ibbetson: the tenth one seem more objective to me than any of the other
[13:39] herman Bergson: subjective is when something is only private to the mind, not accessible for any outside verification or so and ceases to exist when the state of mind disappears
[13:40] itsme Frederix: Is this Hegelian logic (more or less adverse) you are using Apmel?
[13:40] Apmel Ibbetson: no herman..I don´t agree
[13:40] oola Neruda: your example of free will for example
[13:40] Apmel Ibbetson: there is NOTHING private to the " mind"'

[13:41] herman Bergson: Well Apmel, your dont agree is an example of a subjective state
[13:41] Apmel Ibbetson: hahaha..sure
[13:41] herman Bergson: so it cant be discussed
[13:41] itsme Frederix: and your judgement also Herman
[13:41] herman Bergson: no...
[13:42] itsme Frederix: no why?
[13:42] BrainCrave OHare: to me, #2 seems out of order - or, at minimum, a contradiction
[13:42] herman Bergson: First of all I have given arguments and explanations of metaphysical and epistemological subjectivity and objectivity
[13:42] herman Bergson: I have shown how something can be metphysically subjective and objective at the same time
[13:43] herman Bergson: reread the lecture ㋡
[13:43] oola Neruda: but that does not mean it covers ALL instances
[13:43] Apmel Ibbetson: I was Imming at the time..sorry:9
[13:43] Apmel Ibbetson: i will read it afterwards
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:43] oola Neruda: like in science.. you experiment to find the exception
[13:44] herman Bergson: that is not the point
[13:44] Repose Lionheart: i didn't see the taxonomical arrangement at first, but it is ordered across the elements of the list...
[13:44] herman Bergson: what this is about is about the semantics of moral judgements

13:45] herman Bergson: it is about the question: can moral judgements be true or false, or dont thet have a truth value
[13:45] Lovey Dayafter: whose moral judgements?
[13:45] herman Bergson: anybody's
[13:46] herman Bergson: and is a suggested in my lecture of today...moral judgements can have factual content
[13:46] Apmel Ibbetson: is there a moral above surviving?
[13:46] BrainCrave OHare: thinking apmel
[13:46] herman Bergson: the dichotomy feelings/ sensory experiences is artificial
[13:46] Apmel Ibbetson: come on!!
[13:46] itsme Frederix: are moral judgement not like a "law", doesn't matter if true (a law is most certain neither true or false)
[13:47] herman Bergson: Yes Itsme that is one approach ..duty ethics
[13:47] herman Bergson: or the Golden Rule
[13:47] itsme Frederix: give me another approach please
[13:48] herman Bergson: prescriptivism assumes that moral judgements are a kind of prescriptions (laws to act upon) too
[13:48] itsme Frederix: thats about the same
13:49] herman Bergson: But who justifies and how to justify your laws Itsme?
[13:49] itsme Frederix: the one obeying is justifying
[13:49] herman Bergson: but give him a reason to obey
[13:50] Cailleach Shan: Fear
[13:50] BrainCrave OHare: life
[13:50] itsme Frederix: turns out well, pragmatism
[13:50] Abraxas Nagy: wealth
[13:50] Ninoo Vita ist online
[13:50] Repose Lionheart: love, kindness
[13:50] herman Bergson: ok...there you come in the realm of factual statements related to moral judgements
[13:50] Apmel Ibbetson: the last time was here herman .said someting on the line of being an evolutionist.. moral has to do with what´s good for the species..NOW he say she is somewhere from 1 to t´3 on the board..those three are about syntax..come on!!'
[13:51] itsme Frederix: at last there is always faction (presumed)
[13:51] herman Bergson: here we go in the direction of utilitarianism

[13:52] herman Bergson: No Apmel..they are about descriptive statements that can be true or false
[13:52] itsme Frederix: well util... is a way to survive (for what purpose I do not know)
[13:52] Apmel Ibbetson: only syntax can be true or false
[13:52] itsme Frederix: sorry 2 discussions
[13:52] Apmel Ibbetson: that is math
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: hmm
[13:52] Apmel Ibbetson: truth doesn´t exist outside that
[13:52] herman Bergson: No Apmel..
[13:52] Apmel Ibbetson: yes herman
[13:53] Apmel Ibbetson: there is no truth outside of math
[13:53] herman Bergson: what is meant that the staement "John is a man" and "John is honest" have the same syntax
[13:53] herman Bergson: but a different semantics
[13:53] Repose Lionheart: Godel, Apmel
[13:53] Marley Blogfan ist offline
[13:53] Apmel Ibbetson: it is the only syntax where you know what you talk about when you say s´omething is true
[13:54] Apmel Ibbetson: notwithstanding godel
[13:54] Repose Lionheart: no, and on its own terms
[13:54] herman Bergson: And what I am after is analyzing the semantics of moral judgements away from the simplistic subjective/objective dichotomy
[13:54] itsme Frederix: Apmel that is 1900 talk, read Russell and others, they gave up
[13:54] Repose Lionheart: how can you withstand him?
[13:54] Apmel Ibbetson: a lot of math can not tell what is true or not either
[13:54] Repose Lionheart: true
[13:54] Apmel Ibbetson: but some parts can
[13:55] Apmel Ibbetson: änd that is all there is to truth
[13:55] Apmel Ibbetson: no itsme no
[13:55] itsme Frederix: seems an ethical statement about holy mat(h)ers
[13:55] Ninoo Vita ist offline
[13:55] herman Bergson: I think it is a reduction of reality...
[13:55] Apmel Ibbetson: no..i just don´t think that hermans scheme can be defended
[13:56] herman Bergson: a lot of statements arent mathematical but factual
[13:56] Repose Lionheart: truth is partial and partially known -- perhaps
[13:56] Apmel Ibbetson: facts are a whole other game herman
[13:56] herman Bergson: the truth of such statements is based on agreed methods of confirmation or refutation
13:57] herman Bergson: And such statements are not just opinions
[13:57] Apmel Ibbetson: that is science..and science never claim to be true
[13:57] itsme Frederix: practical truth and holy truth
[13:57] Ninoo Vita ist online
[13:57] Apmel Ibbetson: just workable
[13:57] herman Bergson: Sience never claims to be false, you mean
[13:57] itsme Frederix: pragmatism and idealism
[13:57] herman Bergson: Science claims to be (highly) probable at least
[13:57] Apmel Ibbetson: well it works
[13:58] itsme Frederix: I quit, interesting but bedtime for me
[13:58] itsme Frederix: Greetings
[13:58] Daruma Boa: bye
[13:58] herman Bergson: Night Itsme
[13:58] Lovey Dayafter: nite
[13:58] Repose Lionheart: there is what science claims to do and what scientists do...
[13:58] Apmel Ibbetson: NN
[13:58] Abraxas Nagy: c ya Its
[13:58] Gemma Cleanslate: ye slol
[13:58] Abraxas Nagy: poof
[13:58] Gemma Cleanslate: and i have to go now too
[13:58] Cailleach Shan: Herman... it seems to me if you leave out the "subjective/objective dichotomy... there is nothing left.... to me all moral judgments are based on enculturated data.
[13:58] Daruma Boa: bye gemma
[13:59] Repose Lionheart: alas, me, too
[13:59] Sexyleggs Beliveau ist online
[13:59] Abraxas Nagy: thanks for the amazing lecture
[13:59] Daruma Boa: bye abraxas
[13:59] herman Bergson: You should have a closer look at the metaphysical subjectivity and objectivity distinction of Searle, Cailleach
[13:59] Abraxas Nagy: c u all nexttime :D
[14:00] Apmel Ibbetson: searle is hopelessly confused
[14:00] Cailleach Shan: OK.... I'll give it a whilr.
[14:00] Cailleach Shan: whirl.
[14:00] oola Neruda: if napoleon was killed in a plane crash then napoleon is dead ... napoleon was not killed in a plan crash...therefore napoleon is not dead
[14:00] Apmel Ibbetson: in what world oola?
[14:00] Daruma Boa: ;_)
[14:00] Apmel Ibbetson: we live in a multiverse
[14:01] herman Bergson: I am sorry oola , but that is logically incorrect
[14:01] oola Neruda: my point being that it is still symantics
[14:01] Apmel Ibbetson: and logic has nothing to do with it
[14:01] herman Bergson: when the antecedence is false the consequence cant be true
[14:01] oola Neruda: and in some of the things being said today... i don't feel that the whole picture is being seen
[14:02] Apmel Ibbetson: read up on quantum mechanics herman.:)
[14:02] Cailleach Shan: Are you going to tell us where you are on the list Herman?
[14:02] oola Neruda: which can lead to error
[14:02] herman Bergson: About 3 and 2 and 1 Cailleach
[14:03] herman Bergson: in that order ㋡
[14:03] Cailleach Shan: mmmmm Cal thinks she will take the list and contemplate overnight!
[14:04] Daruma Boa: mh, must leave. bye and see you thursday
[14:04] herman Bergson: Ok, class dismissed ㋡

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