Do you have adblock enabled?
 
If you can read this, either the style sheet didn't load or you have an older browser that doesn't support style sheets. Try clearing your browser cache and refreshing the page.

(The Atlantic)   Listen up religion and philosophy - you know that monopoly you've had on values and morality for all of human history? Well science is coming to get you, so watch out   ( andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com) divider line
    More: Cool, human history, Keepers, monopoly, principles, right and wrong, morality, philosophy  
•       •       •

6222 clicks; posted to Geek » on 23 Mar 2010 at 5:21 PM (7 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



576 Comments     (+0 »)
 


Oldest | « | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | » | Newest | Show all

 
2010-03-23 07:17:23 PM  
Happiness is fleeting, setting that as a goal is pointless and self destructive.
 
2010-03-23 07:17:40 PM  

DamnYankees: Kirkenhegelstein: We've been thinking about this for 2500 years, and some dude with a BA in phil, and PhD in neuro, who wrote a book about atheism (Yay!) using woefully crude epistemic principles (BOO!) purports to have solved all moral philosophy?

You cannot be serious with this argument. I mean, please. I guess we should go back to the epicycles - how dare Kepler use this thing called "science" to overturn thousands of years of established philosophy!


Kepler was a good philosopher. He used sound reasoning and observation (what you might call quantitative metaphysics) to overthrow the old-school Aristotelian qualitative metaphysics.

The difference between Kepler and Harris is that Kepler's phenomena aren't normative and are readily amenable to observation. Moral/ethical theories are just of a different type. So I can be totally serious.
 
2010-03-23 07:18:03 PM  

Kirkenhegelstein: False. See any non-teleological moral philosophy.

Such as?

Deontological theories. Aristotelian virtue ethics. Pluralist or intuitionist theories of morality.


Aristotelian virtue ethics is teleological. See MacIntyre (new window), who described the Aristotelian approach as discussion of how to move humans from their current untutored state toward human-nature-as-it-would-be-if-it-realized-its-telos.
 
2010-03-23 07:18:30 PM  

Kirkenhegelstein: It seems like you want to know the source of normativity. In other words, what generates 'ought' or feeling that we must do some act x. I get to, here, refer back to my original post. Sam is a blunt utilitarian, which is a kind of teleological moral theory; these kinds of folks want to cash moral value out in terms of non-moral value. So the right act is the one that brings about the most happiness for the most people. The only good things out there is happiness/pleasure/rational preference satisfaction.


But keep in mind what Harris is saying - he is not advocating a philosophy in this speech. Rather, he is presenting a scientific hypothesis. He's not saying "everyone should be a utilitarian"; he doesn't even use the word. What he does is make the empirical claim that all morality, in every culture, fundamentally has a connection to consciousness. One is a function of the other. This is why we have moral obligations towards apes but not rocks; one has a consciousness and one doesn't. Similarly, the reason people want to go to heaven and not hell is because they know they will be conscious of those things and do not want to suffer.

So what he is saying is that the better we get at scientifically understanding consciousness, the better we will get - objectively - at figuring out morality. When we can scan a brain and know how a certain type of lifestyle affects the way consciousness operates, the more scientifically we can analyze a moral claim.

This is not a "philosophy". This is a scientific idea. That's what I'm trying to say.
 
2010-03-23 07:19:39 PM  

poundgrayly: DamnYankees: Kirkenhegelstein: That just doesn't matter. Just because we have positive feelings is no proof that we ought to do those things that bring about those positive feelings.

I just asked this, but you only have to answer once:

What does "ought" mean?

What the dictionary says it means, "a desirable state". The problem is that "ought" is a function of the creative power of minds that are capable of imagination; as such, there is no bound on what it can be. As someone once said, "Thoughts are free and are subject to no rule. On them rests the freedom of man, and they tower above the light of nature." That's why science can never bridge the is/ought gulf.


This is interesting. Not far from the thinking that post-Enlightenment philosophers engaged in. And Sartre. Crazy, wall-eyed bastard that he was, he got that right: WE create values.
 
2010-03-23 07:20:31 PM  

Kirkenhegelstein: To be sure, explaining 'ought' on this type of theory requires some long-winded explanation that will bore the shiat out of everyone.


They saw the thread topic. They knew that where getting into. I say, let'em bore.
 
2010-03-23 07:20:54 PM  

Kirkenhegelstein: Moral/ethical theories are just of a different type.


Ahhh - but they aren't. And this is where we do truly have to break out minds past our normal philosophy classes.

Remember, back in the day it was common knowledge that the celestial realm operated on totally different rules than the earthly realm. That's why people never though to apply their everyday physics to the stars and the sun. But then after thousands of year we sort of realized "hey, you know what? This is an artificial distinction. These two things actually are basically the same!"

That's what happening with the is-ought divide, IMO.
 
2010-03-23 07:22:24 PM  

Son of Thunder: Kirkenhegelstein: False. See any non-teleological moral philosophy.

Such as?

Deontological theories. Aristotelian virtue ethics. Pluralist or intuitionist theories of morality.

Aristotelian virtue ethics is teleological. See MacIntyre (new window), who described the Aristotelian approach as discussion of how to move humans from their current untutored state toward human-nature-as-it-would-be-if-it-realized-its-telos.


You're not wrong; I was sloppy in my description earlier. Apologies But the happiness of Aristotle (eudaimonia) is different than the happiness of the other teleological thinkers. Recall from the Nicomachean Ethics where Aristotle argues that pleasure is the sign of a happy life, not that a happy life is the result of a life of pleasure. I forget the exact reference.

Anyway, yeah, correct. Oops.
 
2010-03-23 07:22:28 PM  

DamnYankees: poundgrayly: What we do and why we may, or may not, do it is not what we ought to do or why we ought to do it.

Actually it is. That's the argument. Harris' talk is about knocking down the is-ought barrier. You can't rebut him by merely repeating the premise.


The is-ought barrier is not a premise -- it is a conclusion based on how our mental machinery works. As I wrote in my previous post, "ought" is a function of the imagination of minds that have creative power. As such, it is unbound and science cannot bind it.

What Harris is doing is sneaking in an "ought" and then proving that this is what we ought to do under the mantle of "science". The supposed imprimatur of science is blinding some people to his circular argument.
 
2010-03-23 07:23:53 PM  

poundgrayly: The is-ought barrier is not a premise -- it is a conclusion based on how our mental machinery works. As I wrote in my previous post, "ought" is a function of the imagination of minds that have creative power. As such, it is unbound and science cannot bind it.


"Ought" is a word. What you have here is a classic problem of the philosophy of language.
 
2010-03-23 07:24:34 PM  

DamnYankees: No, re-write that sentence without the word "ought" or any of its synonyms (eg should). What I'm concerned about here is that you've taken a word devoid of any specific meaning, and you are now stuck in a circle. The claim Harris makes is that "ought" actually does mean "do this in order to increase happiness/contentment/satisfaction". When you plug in Harris' definition of the word "ought", your objection becomes rather non-sensical. The only way your objection can sustain itself is to simply not define the word.


What Harris isn't telling us is that he's making an implicit assumption that good is whatever increases utility. Fair enough, that's a pretty common position. If you accept that then you can speculate that science will be able to map your utility function and help you increase happiness. But that rests on some prior assumptions about morality which not everyone may agree with. He's basically hiding his normative claims by taking them as a given.
 
2010-03-23 07:26:03 PM  

Bad_Seed: What Harris isn't telling us is that he's making an implicit assumption that good is whatever increases utility.


He's not making that assumption. He's making it as a scientific claim; it might be proven false, but you can't really knock it down philosophically.
 
2010-03-23 07:28:37 PM  

DamnYankees: Kirkenhegelstein: Moral/ethical theories are just of a different type.

Ahhh - but they aren't. And this is where we do truly have to break out minds past our normal philosophy classes.

Remember, back in the day it was common knowledge that the celestial realm operated on totally different rules than the earthly realm. That's why people never though to apply their everyday physics to the stars and the sun. But then after thousands of year we sort of realized "hey, you know what? This is an artificial distinction. These two things actually are basically the same!"

That's what happening with the is-ought divide, IMO.


I'm not so sure. I'm totally on board with the urge to naturalize, since science is one of the pinnacle of human activities. My position is completely compatible with a naturalized world view, but instead of being strongly reductivist ("Morality just is brain state B,") I'm a fan of a slightly weaker version that says "In things like us, with the kind of neuronal set up we have, we have the capacity to be moral." This is what we call token materialism (as opposed to the type materialism).

In any event, I'm not sure what would count as evidence against the is/ought distinction. appealing to neuroscience is the wrong kind of reason, though.
 
2010-03-23 07:30:01 PM  

Kirkenhegelstein: You're not wrong; I was sloppy in my description earlier. Apologies But the happiness of Aristotle (eudaimonia) is different than the happiness of the other teleological thinkers. Recall from the Nicomachean Ethics where Aristotle argues that pleasure is the sign of a happy life, not that a happy life is the result of a life of pleasure. I forget the exact reference.


No problem. I do some work involving connections between virtue ethics (especially MacIntyre) and the positive psychology movement, but I'm a psychologist rather than a philosopher, so there's always the possibility that my grasp of the philosophical end of the discussion might be shakier than my grasp of the psychological end.

Speaking of which, farkers who like the idea of a scientific approach to morality and eudaimonic happiness should check out the work of psychologists like Jon Haidt (new window) (who also has a TED talk (new window)
 
2010-03-23 07:30:14 PM  

poundgrayly: As I wrote in my previous post, "ought" is a function of the imagination of minds that have creative power. As such, it is unbound and science cannot bind it.


"Ought" may be unbound in theory, but it's not unbound in practice. One could say we ought spend all day spinning around in circles and throwing up, but that doesn't mean it is actually preferable. One could come up with any ought, as you say, but some oughts aren't useful. I don't think there is a fundamental reason why science cannot limit the scope of ought just the same way other approaches have limited the scope.
 
2010-03-23 07:30:37 PM  
It's breaking news from the Enlightenment!
 
2010-03-23 07:30:43 PM  

DamnYankees: That's what happening with the is-ought divide, IMO.


Wishful thinking on your part. Just do a simple thought experiment and test your theory at a boundary condition. Suppose you and I are the only two people in existence. Further suppose that action A makes me happy but makes you miserable; and action B makes you happy but me miserable. Either I do A, and I'm happy at your expense, or you do B, and you're happy at my expense, or we do neither, and we are both unhappy. What is the moral thing to do?
 
2010-03-23 07:32:04 PM  

Kirkenhegelstein: My position is completely compatible with a naturalized world view, but instead of being strongly reductivist ("Morality just is brain state B,") I'm a fan of a slightly weaker version that says "In things like us, with the kind of neuronal set up we have, we have the capacity to be moral."


I'm not really sure the the real difference is between these two statement, seeing as "brain states" are a function of being "things like us".

Kirkenhegelstein: In any event, I'm not sure what would count as evidence against the is/ought distinction. appealing to neuroscience is the wrong kind of reason, though.


I don't think you need evidence against it. Rather, you just need a new model to arise which has more explanatory power. I mean, there's still no evidence that the celestial realm doesn't have it's own set of physics. It's just that the other theory is really good at explaining the world we experience.
 
2010-03-23 07:34:07 PM  

poundgrayly: Wishful thinking on your part. Just do a simple thought experiment and test your theory at a boundary condition. Suppose you and I are the only two people in existence. Further suppose that action A makes me happy but makes you miserable; and action B makes you happy but me miserable. Either I do A, and I'm happy at your expense, or you do B, and you're happy at my expense, or we do neither, and we are both unhappy. What is the moral thing to do?


You are making a logical error. I never said "that which makes us happy is that which is moral". I said "that which is moral is that which makes us happy" (though that's an oversimplified way of saying it. You've flipped the direction of the reduction. Your hypo doesn't really make any sense.
 
2010-03-23 07:35:14 PM  

poundgrayly: DamnYankees: That's what happening with the is-ought divide, IMO.

Wishful thinking on your part. Just do a simple thought experiment and test your theory at a boundary condition. Suppose you and I are the only two people in existence. Further suppose that action A makes me happy but makes you miserable; and action B makes you happy but me miserable. Either I do A, and I'm happy at your expense, or you do B, and you're happy at my expense, or we do neither, and we are both unhappy. What is the moral thing to do?


You do A. He does B. And you are both so-so
 
2010-03-23 07:36:48 PM  

DamnYankees: I never said "that which makes us happy is that which is moral". I said "that which is moral is that which makes us happy"


Viktor Frankl nods sagely from beyond the grave.
 
2010-03-23 07:41:37 PM  

DamnYankees: He's not making that assumption. He's making it as a scientific claim; it might be proven false, but you can't really knock it down philosophically.


The scientific claim is that you can quantify the desirability of different states and rank them accordingly. Not that the maximisation of happiness is the right system of morality.

That's why some many people in the thread have basically said that this is straight up utilitarianism.
 
2010-03-23 07:45:13 PM  

Baryogenesis: poundgrayly: As I wrote in my previous post, "ought" is a function of the imagination of minds that have creative power. As such, it is unbound and science cannot bind it.

"Ought" may be unbound in theory, but it's not unbound in practice. One could say we ought spend all day spinning around in circles and throwing up, but that doesn't mean it is actually preferable.


Preferable to whom? It might be what makes the spinning regurgitator happy.

One could come up with any ought, as you say, but some oughts aren't useful.

So? I don't subscribe to utilitarianism. Are you now going to impose your morality on me since you don't like spinning regurgitation?

I don't think there is a fundamental reason why science cannot limit the scope of ought just the same way other approaches have limited the scope.

I do. I'm likely to find any so-called scientific approach to morality to be tyranny by another name.
 
2010-03-23 07:45:14 PM  

Bad_Seed: Not that the maximisation of happiness is the right system of morality.


What does "right system" mean? Harris is merely claiming that this is the morality people in real life choose. It's what we take morality to mean. In the moral function of life, we choose the outcome which is most conducive to a pleasant human brainstate.

Now, we can test how true that is. But it's not a moral claim. It's not utilitarianism. It's a scientific claim about well how brain states map on to moral choices.

He then goes one step farther and says that once we really understand this, it will change the way we think about morality. That's just speculation, of course. But he's free to speculate.
 
2010-03-23 07:47:02 PM  

Gunny Highway: You do A. He does B. And you are both so-so


That's "is". Is that what ought to be?
 
2010-03-23 07:50:05 PM  
Clearly the only thing keeping Bevets from committing murder, rape and a host of other equally heinous crimes is the fear that big sky daddy will spank him for all eternity.

The bible is like the paper diaper he wears to keep God from tanning his hide for all those impure thoughts.

/glares
 
2010-03-23 07:50:24 PM  

Son of Thunder: Kirkenhegelstein: You're not wrong; I was sloppy in my description earlier. Apologies But the happiness of Aristotle (eudaimonia) is different than the happiness of the other teleological thinkers. Recall from the Nicomachean Ethics where Aristotle argues that pleasure is the sign of a happy life, not that a happy life is the result of a life of pleasure. I forget the exact reference.

No problem. I do some work involving connections between virtue ethics (especially MacIntyre) and the positive psychology movement, but I'm a psychologist rather than a philosopher, so there's always the possibility that my grasp of the philosophical end of the discussion might be shakier than my grasp of the psychological end.

Speaking of which, farkers who like the idea of a scientific approach to morality and eudaimonic happiness should check out the work of psychologists like Jon Haidt (new window) (who also has a TED talk (new window)


There's some really rich material to mine there in Aristotle. I don't agree with all of what he says, but he was a keen observer of human beings, and in many respects his observations about what makes the good life are as true now as they were 2000 years ago.

You're pursuing some kind of studies in psych/phil? There's a growing market in phil for moral psychology. The university I'm at just had a new hire we specifically courted because he did moral psych.

If you're interested in VE, there's completely unrelated but still psychologically interesting set of theories called projectivism. It's more metaethcial (e.g., what makes "the good" good?), but it's pretty psychologically oriented.
 
2010-03-23 07:52:22 PM  

DamnYankees: Harris is merely claiming that this is the morality people in real life choose. It's what we take morality to mean. In the moral function of life, we choose the outcome which is most conducive to a pleasant human brainstate.


Riiight. The problem is that people don't universally choose the same things. We think that some things that make us happy ("a conducive pleasant brainstate") makes others miserable. Husband: "Honey! I'm going to the strip club. I need my weekly fill of giggly bits of different women." Wife: "Where's my 9mm?"
 
2010-03-23 07:53:46 PM  

poundgrayly: Riiight. The problem is that people don't universally choose the same things. We think that some things that make us happy ("a conducive pleasant brainstate") makes others miserable. Husband: "Honey! I'm going to the strip club. I need my weekly fill of giggly bits of different women." Wife: "Where's my 9mm?"


I honestly don't know if this is supposed to be a serious argument. I'm gonna assume it's not, and let other people deal with it if they like.
 
2010-03-23 07:54:56 PM  

poundgrayly: Baryogenesis: poundgrayly: As I wrote in my previous post, "ought" is a function of the imagination of minds that have creative power. As such, it is unbound and science cannot bind it.

"Ought" may be unbound in theory, but it's not unbound in practice. One could say we ought spend all day spinning around in circles and throwing up, but that doesn't mean it is actually preferable.

Preferable to whom? It might be what makes the spinning regurgitator happy.


What I'm getting at is that it's possible to imagine an ought which no one would actually use as the basis for morality. Merely because we can think it up doesn't mean it's good or preferable to something else.

poundgrayly: One could come up with any ought, as you say, but some oughts aren't useful.

So? I don't subscribe to utilitarianism. Are you now going to impose your morality on me since you don't like spinning regurgitation?


I fail to see where I'm trying to impose anything. Do you disagree with the statement "some oughts aren't useful"? Most moral philosophies place constraints on what we ought to do. Are you advocating for hedonism?

poundgrayly: I don't think there is a fundamental reason why science cannot limit the scope of ought just the same way other approaches have limited the scope.

I do. I'm likely to find any so-called scientific approach to morality to be tyranny by another name.


Why do you think a scientific approach is inherently tyrannical? As I said above, most moral philosophies put constraints on what we ought to do.
 
2010-03-23 07:55:52 PM  

poundgrayly: Gunny Highway: You do A. He does B. And you are both so-so

That's "is". Is that what ought to be?


I dont know anything about philosophy so I cant give you a good academic answer. The distinction between is/ought has never occurred to me before. This is a very interesting thread and I am learning alot.

Short answer: Eek I dont know!

/fun thread though
 
2010-03-23 07:57:22 PM  

DamnYankees: poundgrayly: Wishful thinking on your part. Just do a simple thought experiment and test your theory at a boundary condition. Suppose you and I are the only two people in existence. Further suppose that action A makes me happy but makes you miserable; and action B makes you happy but me miserable. Either I do A, and I'm happy at your expense, or you do B, and you're happy at my expense, or we do neither, and we are both unhappy. What is the moral thing to do?

You are making a logical error. I never said "that which makes us happy is that which is moral". I said "that which is moral is that which makes us happy" (though that's an oversimplified way of saying it. You've flipped the direction of the reduction. Your hypo doesn't really make any sense.


I used your definition: that which is moral is that which makes us happy. I basically asked you: is A moral if it makes me happy, but makes you miserable? Is B moral if it results in your happiness, but my misery? The problem with your definition is that "us" eventually has to reduce to "you" and "I". You haven't shown how to do that.
 
2010-03-23 07:59:24 PM  

poundgrayly: I basically asked you: is A moral if it makes me happy, but makes you miserable? Is B moral if it results in your happiness, but my misery? The problem with your definition is that "us" eventually has to reduce to "you" and "I". You haven't shown how to do that.


This oversimplifies to the point of uselessness, because making another person unhappy is likely to have a negative moral impact. There's no way to answer this in the abstract.
 
2010-03-23 08:00:39 PM  

poundgrayly: Gunny Highway: You do A. He does B. And you are both so-so

That's "is". Is that what ought to be?


Depends on what your definition of "is" is.
 
2010-03-23 08:02:17 PM  

DamnYankees: poundgrayly: Riiight. The problem is that people don't universally choose the same things. We think that some things that make us happy ("a conducive pleasant brainstate") makes others miserable. Husband: "Honey! I'm going to the strip club. I need my weekly fill of giggly bits of different women." Wife: "Where's my 9mm?"

I honestly don't know if this is supposed to be a serious argument. I'm gonna assume it's not, and let other people deal with it if they like.


It's a serious argument. If Harris is right, you ought to be able to deal with it. And it's just a variation of the question raised by the Star Trek movies. Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one? Or do the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many? Do my needs outweigh my wife's needs? Or do her needs outweigh mine?
 
2010-03-23 08:04:41 PM  

DamnYankees: Bad_Seed: Not that the maximisation of happiness is the right system of morality.

What does "right system" mean?


Well, that depends. Firstly, do you like your moral facts to be objective.... :)

It's too late for me to get into this discussion.

Harris is merely claiming that this is the morality people in real life choose. It's what we take morality to mean. In the moral function of life, we choose the outcome which is most conducive to a pleasant human brainstate.

Now, we can test how true that is. But it's not a moral claim. It's not utilitarianism. It's a scientific claim about well how brain states map on to moral choices.

He then goes one step farther and says that once we really understand this, it will change the way we think about morality. That's just speculation, of course. But he's free to speculate.


Ok, lets say that we can scientifically test whether humans are indeed happiness maximising machines - I'm not implying anything negative with the word machine, here. This still doesn't get you to a moral theory unless you presuppose that happiness is good and that maximising is the ultimate moral aim.
 
2010-03-23 08:05:43 PM  

DamnYankees: poundgrayly: I basically asked you: is A moral if it makes me happy, but makes you miserable? Is B moral if it results in your happiness, but my misery? The problem with your definition is that "us" eventually has to reduce to "you" and "I". You haven't shown how to do that.

This oversimplifies to the point of uselessness, because making another person unhappy is likely to have a negative moral impact. There's no way to answer this in the abstract.


But this is all about the abstract. And as an engineer, I know that things are likely to break at the boundary conditions. So that's where I'm going to test. How do we determine if something is moral? Harris puts up a nice sounding premise, but it can't handle real-life situations. If you can't answer this, then you're only kidding yourself if you think it can answer the "big" issues.
 
2010-03-23 08:06:09 PM  

Bad_Seed: This still doesn't get you to a moral theory unless you presuppose that happiness is good and that maximising is the ultimate moral aim.


Actually it does. If you can explain moral choices via brain states and happiness, then you have a moral theory. And it's the most powerful moral theory anyone has ever come up with.
 
2010-03-23 08:06:53 PM  

poundgrayly: How do we determine if something is moral?


Oh dear lord. Did you even watch the video?
 
2010-03-23 08:08:26 PM  

poundgrayly: And it's just a variation of the question raised by the Star Trek movies. Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one? Or do the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many? Do my needs outweigh my wife's needs? Or do her needs outweigh mine?


Yo mama's so fat, she outweighs the needs of the many.
 
2010-03-23 08:13:05 PM  

DamnYankees: Actually it does. If you can explain moral choices via brain states and happiness, then you have a moral theory. And it's the most powerful moral theory anyone has ever come up with.


Yeah, and it's called Utilitarianism. But you have to have that theory before you assign moral values to brain states. :P Bentham may not have had access to brain scans, but he still tried to come up with a system for quantifying happiness. Throwing more science at it might work.

But the question here isn't "why try to be happy?", but "why is being happy good?"
 
2010-03-23 08:13:25 PM  
I think the best way to understand this is to analogize it, like Harris does in the video, to eating.

When we are hungry, we have a certain feeling. And we don't always have a hunger for the exact same thing; sometimes we prefer soup, sometimes bread, sometimes Little Debbie's. And so, how do we decide what the right thing to eat is? Well, at the margins it might be a little difficult, but we can certainly set up some general rules based on our brains and biological makeup: grains are probably a good idea, molten tar notsomuch. Hunger is just a feeling we have, but it is explainable by biology, and it maps to brain states, and we can set up some pretty solid rules governing how it works.

Same thing with morality. It's a feeling we have, a desire to do one thing in favor of another. And it's a function of our biology and our brains. And just like we learn more about what a good nutritional choice is by studying the matter scientifically (tobacco isn't really that good, for example), we can do the same with moral choices. Just because some people disagree doesn't really mean anything; you can be an abberation who loves to eat dirt. We just recognize it as objectively irregular and damaging. Same with morality.
 
2010-03-23 08:13:35 PM  

poundgrayly: I used your definition: that which is moral is that which makes us happy. I basically asked you: is A moral if it makes me happy, but makes you miserable? Is B moral if it results in your happiness, but my misery? The problem with your definition is that "us" eventually has to reduce to "you" and "I". You haven't shown how to do that.


Within utilitarianism - which this most certainly is or comes close to - the goal is to maximize happiness not just qualitatively but quantitatively.

If the the actions were talking about are say, "Buying a Hotdog" it might make you happy because its delicious but makeDamnYankees unhappy because it's not kosher. However the act of you eating the hotdog clearly provides you with more objective value; sustenance, nutrition, tastiness than harm is caused to DamnYankees.

In that case it is "better" for you to eat the hotdog.

More extremely if it would make you happy to live in his house and him unhappy to be killed so you could move in, different factors come into play and things become more complicated, with us looking at whole society, normative behavior, etc.
 
2010-03-23 08:14:27 PM  

Bad_Seed: "why is being happy good?"


Why does eating stop you from being hungry?

It's just a dumb question. It's how we are built. One is merely a function of the other.
 
2010-03-23 08:15:50 PM  

poundgrayly: whatshisname: poundgrayly: Sorry, but science cannot ever speak to this area. Science is about what is, morality is about what ought to be. You can't go from "is" to "ought" (cf. Hume's Guillotine).

We're chemical machines. Science can explain why we do a lot of things, and how we evolved to do so.

Which totally misses the point. What we do and why we may, or may not, do it is not what we ought to do or why we ought to do it.


Who or what decides what we ought to do, and how do they arrive at that decision? Hint: they use their brain, which is yet another chemical machine.
 
2010-03-23 08:16:12 PM  

Bad_Seed: but "why is being happy good?"


I love questions that sound deep but are essentially retarded. Trees still make noises when they fall in the woods and being happy is good because its the naturally preferred state of all known self-aware entities.
 
2010-03-23 08:18:08 PM  
Baryogenesis:
What I'm getting at is that it's possible to imagine an ought which no one would actually use as the basis for morality. Merely because we can think it up doesn't mean it's good or preferable to something else.

Sure. But it doesn't mean that it isn't good or preferable to something else. There's a fundamental problem here, which isn't going to be solved by science or philosophy.

I fail to see where I'm trying to impose anything. Do you disagree with the statement "some oughts aren't useful"?
No, I don't disagree, but I'm also going to change the word "useful" to "good". As I said, I'm not a utilitarian. In any case, the problem is what happens when I think an ought is good and you think it's bad?

Most moral philosophies place constraints on what we ought to do. Are you advocating for hedonism?
Not at all (even though that's more-or-less what Harris is advocating). I'm advocating for love (defined as the deliberate act of the will to put the welfare of others ahead of your own).

Why do you think a scientific approach is inherently tyrannical? As I said above, most moral philosophies put constraints on what we ought to do.Sure. The problem is "who gets to set the constraints?"

This example is purposely inflammatory, but it illustrates the point. Richard Dawkins equates religious education as child abuse. If he were to get his way, religious liberty would be a thing of the past. One man's good is another man's evil. Nothing is going to change that anytime soon.
 
2010-03-23 08:18:15 PM  
On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense (new window)

just leaving this here
 
2010-03-23 08:18:31 PM  
DamnYankees
I think the point Harris makes, and it's one i buy, is that fundamentally all human morality strives towards making people happy/contented.

In before self-interest vs. enlightened self-interest vs. altruism.
 
2010-03-23 08:18:53 PM  
Behold the Eleventh Commandment:

Everything is better with Tentacles.
 
Displayed 50 of 576 comments


Oldest | « | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | » | Newest | Show all



This thread is archived, and closed to new comments.

Continue Farking
Submit a Link »
On Twitter





Top Commented
Javascript is required to view headlines in widget.

In Other Media
  1. Links are submitted by members of the Fark community.

  2. When community members submit a link, they also write a custom headline for the story.

  3. Other Farkers comment on the links. This is the number of comments. Click here to read them.

  4. Click here to submit a link.

Report