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The Disturbing Trend


Razor

  

28 members have voted

  1. 1. What moral system do you subscribe to?

    • Divine Command
      0
    • Deontology
      3
    • Utilitarianism
      7
    • Relativism
      5
    • Any form of Moral Nihilism
      2
    • Other
      11


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So there's a poll attached to this, and I gave a few major choices that I know of as far as moral systems go. Most people will fit into one or the other, even if with a few modifications, so choose "other" sparingly and be prepared to explain.

 

Divine Command=it's right because God said so

Pros: Really clear, stated plainly

Cons: Differs by religion, makes all moral decisions arbitrary because there's no reason other than God said so

 

Deontology=it's right because the agent acted according to two principles (I'm going with the Kantian version, even though he's a gigantic dufus in my opinion): first, the person acted according to a maxim which they could will as being a universal law, and second, the person acted on the basis of respecting a person as a rational agent, and not just a means to an end.

Pros: Pretty easy to figure out, yields good results in lots of cases

Cons: Does not allow for the CONSEQUENCES of an action to be taken into account, only the INTENTION (example: can't never lie cause that's bad according to both of those principles, but lying to save someone's life is obviously a good thing, so.... wtf?)

 

Utilitarianism=it's right 'cause it makes people happy more than it makes them sad

Pros: Pretty flexible, makes sense, allows consequences to be taken into account

Cons: Doesn't allow for intentions to be taken into account, at least not directly (example: went to mom's house cause I need money, turns out it's her b-day but I forgot about it so I didn't come home on purpose, but it makes her happy and I get my money so I'm happy; did I do something good or bad?), and happiness cannot be measured quantitatively

 

Relativism (individual or cultural)= it's right or wrong because a culture or person believes it's right or wrong

Pros: Flexible, kinda makes some sense

Cons: What if I come from a culture where it's okay to "steal" because they don't have a concept of ownership? Bet ya wouldn't like that.

 

Moral Nihilism= there are no morals because there are no moral truths

A subset of this would be non-cognitivism, which asserts that the cognitivist claim is false, and that moral truths cannot be known and therefore have no truth value, and thus moral knowledge is basically an oxymoron. Yeah, that's a REALLY rough definition but it's something that I'd need to give many examples for. Basically think of saying that murder is wrong as saying that peas taste good, kinda like it's personal taste (though that's not exactly right either).

Pros: Not many, lol, but I guess it's kinda sensible to look at the conflicts between all systems and think that possibly the issue is an epistemological one, not an ethical one.

Cons: No room for an objective, concrete moral value system

 

Leonardo DiCaprioism=it's right because Leonardo DiCaprio is involved, my own personal moral system created to fill the need for a good one

Pros: ALL! Leo is hawt!

Cons: NONE! Leo is hawt!

 

Yeah that last one was a joke but you gotta admit it'd be pretty kickass.

 

 

 

 

The reason for this thread is that it seems that a lot of people are picking things that do not work in practice, or do not uphold a principle of law, or do not allow for a protection of personal freedom. I've seen a great migration of people toward moral nihilism, or even worse, relativism. Personally, I'm a mix of utilitarianism and deontology. Kant's a dorkwad, so I reject him because his moral theory is incomplete and impractical. Happiness is the ultimate human goal, the psychological currency we trade, so utilizing utilitarianism with a dash of deontology seems to be most practical.

 

Zach (the boyfriend) is a non-cognitivist. Don't worry, I'll fix him, but it's amazing to me how someone so intelligent can pick something like that, so I was thinking that intelligence can't be the only factor. I'm thinking that people are losing out on developing empathy. Something is wrong because it does someone else harm, right? Evidently philosophers beg to differ. :P

 

Well, I'm curious. Now, pick and explain, cause I wanna know what you guys think.

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Moral, specifically Nietzschean, nihilism for me. While I embrace the non-cognitivist assertion that there are no moral truths, I think that because of the society we have constructed, there is a certain moral code that has to be followed. So murder isn't wrong inherently, but as I have chosen to participate in society, I have to consider it as wrong or, at the very least, consider it as unacceptable. In the end, all actions are equally meaningless but I take the Randian view that the pursuit of one's own happiness is paramount, and while that claim can't be shown to be true, the pragmatic action is to assume it is, and from there decide on the moral code you will live your life by.

 

I went through a period where I embraced nihilism in its purest form, but I think that nihilism, while 'true' (in as much as anything can be true), cannot be the ending point of any philosophy. Humans, by nature, prefer life to death and because of that, they seek a moral code to live by. Nihilism cannot, almost by definition, fulfill that need, and so they construct alternate systems of morality. At the most basic level, I am a nihilist, but the moral code I live my life by is closest to rational egoism.

 

Ayn Rand once called Kant a monster and though I think that's extreme, the very notion of his categorical imperative is enough to start a rant from me. His rejection of the self in favour of some universal maxim is simply unacceptable to me. Utilitarianism suffers, also, from a rejection of the self as paramount and also is, in my view, unable to overcome the problem of basic rights. Divine command presupposes the existence of divinity, and relativism is moral and epistemological cowardice.

 

Menzo (who hopes he was clear...)

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I chose Other (Consequentialism). I chose Consequentialism, because I believe the best decisions are made through extenstive aforethought with consideration of the negative effects. "A morally right action is one that produces a good outcome, or consequence."

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I would have to go with "other" because I'm a good mix of utilitarianism and relativism. I often use a cold, hard logic that would benefit more people. Example, if the situation were a potential nuclear meltdown that would incinerate millions of people and the only way to stop that from happening would be to send a group of nuclear scientists (all who are about to have the worlds first stable fusion reaction) to their doom to fix the problem, I would do it. Doing has the result of saving millions of lives and setting humanity back an undetermined amount of time in terms of the creme de la creme of renewable energy.

 

It's also a mix of relativism because I often do things according to how morals go in my area. Example, in NJ it's not ok to do 65 MPH on the parkway and various interstates... so I normally do at least 70, usually 75-80. Someone in Chine would do the exact opposite and do 35 MPH with their blinker on... but I digress.

 

Intent is always a driving force for me, but consequences are heavily considered before any actions are taken (hence the many months it took me to pick a school, to pick computer parts, to pick a major, and why I've yet to come out). Perhaps that would be Consequentialism, who knows.

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I'm not sure I'll vote because I've never tried to "define" my moral code.

 

Like Robbie, I believe I'm a mixture of utilitarianism and relativism, though with a light seasoning of divine command. The later is because I recognise that the moral code of the society I live in is heavily influenced by the Judea-Christian ethos, and hence the commands "Thou Shalt Not Murder" and "Thou Shalt Not Steal" are a grey area as to relativism or divine command.

 

Intents and consequences both need to be balanced when considering a course of action. Doing the greatest good is also important. I personally find the saying "The means justifies the end" to be false. Both the means and the end are important and need to be considered when trying to determine the morality of an action.

 

A great thread, Razor :great:

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My philosophy is a blend of Utilitarianism and Deontology. By that, I mean that I consider what actions I take based on my obligations, while considering if the consequences of those actions are right or wrong, how they impact others, and if I can be comfortable with that the ends will justify the means: "Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints."

 

Colin : B)

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Same as Colin and a little bit of relativism (just a little tiny bit)

 

I chose deontology though, since you can't always predict consequences. Of course you try as hard as you can to make the consequences fit with the intentions, but that doesn't always turn out the way you want it to. A bad consequence out of a good intention is better than a good consequence out of a bad intention, methinks.

 

BTW, isn't consequentialism the same as utilitarianism?

 

I don't agree much with objectivism/hedonism/machiavellan stuff. I think I can pretty much sacrifice my own happiness for that of others. Though I can understand where that's coming from.

 

So... I agree in some or most areas of all the moral systems in here (including Leonardo diCaprioism), but I don't subscribe to one completely. EXCEPT Divine Command. Coz I think it's a bunch of lies. :P

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well, I had to pick 'other'

 

two main reasons....the first, even with the definitions, I am totally lost :lol:

 

the second...some of the bible sounds good, but it wasn't written by God himself...the only part that is said God wrote was the ten comandments and even those were translated by man, so I don't really feel it's as "devine" as people make it out. Basicly, I use the 'big ten' more as guidlines than comands...and I let my consciece do the rest :blink:

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I'm not sure I'll vote because I've never tried to "define" my moral code.

Like Robbie, I believe I'm a mixture of utilitarianism and relativism, though with a light seasoning of divine command. The later is because I recognise that the moral code of the society I live in is heavily influenced by the Judea-Christian ethos, and hence the commands "Thou Shalt Not Murder" and "Thou Shalt Not Steal" are a grey area as to relativism or divine command.

Intents and consequences both need to be balanced when considering a course of action. Doing the greatest good is also important. I personally find the saying "The means justifies the end" to be false. Both the means and the end are important and need to be considered when trying to determine the morality of an action.

A great thread, Razor :great:

I agree 100 % with Graeme. When I consider the different periods of my life. childhood, college, first years as engineer, businessman, father of 4 children, military service, political engagement, industrial and HR-consultant and now retired, and research the reasons of all the important decisions I had to take, I tried to be faithful to my words, to be honest to myself, and always to be able to look my face in a mirror without trembling.

 

My moral code changed a lot in the last 75 years (mixture of utilitarianism and relativism, though with a light seasoning of divine command) but I always tried to follow my conscience, even when I had to fight, fight to destroy my enemies. I remember a poem from Rudyard Kipling ("if").It resumes very well my position. Let me give it here to you :



IF you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,

Or being hated, don't give way to hating,

And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

 

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;

If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,

if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,

And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Sometimes, I had to show having one moral code and handle without one, but that's life and today I can't remember a decision which I would regret. So I voted "other". And God should forgive me for the wrong consequences of my choices. I stand for them :great: .

Edited by old bob
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I think my philosophy can best be summed up as a pragmatist.

 

The dictionary definition of pragmatism is: the doctrine that practical consequences are the criteria of knowledge and meaning and value. To be pragmatic is defined as: the attribute of accepting the facts of life and favoring practicality and literal truth.

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Ummm, even the definition was borderline to loose me,, :P I'm not sure that I can categorize my moral in just one. I'll say that what I do and the way I'll make my decision will be variable on the case. I do tend to make the best decision as the one that will have the least negative impact (Consequentialism), when it's, mainly, only me that the decision will impact. When it will affect others, I do think about what decision that will make me happy while still be good for the others.

 

Finally on some aspect of my moral, I'll be more rational (Deontology).

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Even though I should probably think more when I make important decisions, they usually come from somewhere almost subconscious. So these moral frameworks don't feel very immediate to me. In any case, I'm wary of any sort of extreme or total belief in one doctrine or another -- as much as I try to quantify positive and negative outcomes and make a utilitarian choice, I still consider deontological factors. The paradigm that least applies to me would be divine command, since that wasn't a part of my upbringing, but I think it does exist in my thoughts, but more as a form of Keats's negative capability.

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**sigh**

 

This is gonna be long...

 

I've seen a great migration of people toward moral nihilism, or even worse, relativism.
and relativism is moral and epistemological cowardice.

**enter the relativist**

 

Well, despite the fact that I usually tend to agree with Jamie and Menzo, I'm going to have to vehemently disagree in this case. I am a relativist in all things, not just morality but it's certainly a big one. Personally, to me, anything less than relativism strikes me as intellectual laziness and quite probably closed-minded, judgmentalism.

 

I can imagine very few things I think have an absolute right or wrong, and even the ones I can imagine I'm more tempted to ascribe to a lack of imagination on my part rather than an actual always right or wrong thing.

 

Don't get me wrong though, I think a certain action can most definitely be right or wrong in a certain situation, it's just it all depends on the situation and not the action. For example Robbie (whose post I agree with the most thus far) said:

 

if the situation were a potential nuclear meltdown that would incinerate millions of people and the only way to stop that from happening would be to send a group of nuclear scientists (all who are about to have the worlds first stable fusion reaction) to their doom to fix the problem, I would do it.

 

And I would definitely agree with him. The action - sending the scientists to their certain death - isn't what makes the scenario right or wrong; it's the reason and the consequence, and in general other things inherent to the situation. Sending someone to their certain demise is usually wrong; however, in this instance I would say that it's right. Thus sending someone to their certain death isn't always wrong (only usually).

 

If someone would care to argue that sending them to their certain death is wrong, then that's fine and that's your prerogative, but the way I would look at it they're going to be dead either way, so why not save the rest of humanity? Indeed, I would gamely go along with this reasoning if I were one of the scientists myself.

 

One could argue then that really this does embody a great deal of utilitarianism and indeed I cannot really fault that approach insomuch as it manages to actually be a moral code. However, to me, it would be an incomplete moral code. Also, IMO, the moral codes described above all reduce to either a relativist frame of reference or an absolutist frame of reference, at least in general.

 

To me relativism is infinitely appealing because for the most part I reject the concrete and embrace the abstract. Thus, science and facts (facts devoid of a story that is), are usually not things with which I want to occupy my mind. Occasionally, actually usually, I'll find a scientific fact fascinating, and I'll be glad I've learned it, but I'd never want to devote much of my intellectual time to them. Instead I prefer to ponder more abstract matters, to examine complex social/situational/contextual interactions and to speculate on their eventual consequences. In school I was always more than adequate at the sciences and maths (indeed I excelled), but they largely disinterested me; it's always been the humanities, especially the social sciences that captivate me.

 

Anyway, philosophically I find much of Kant, Nietzsch, Russell, and the rest of the gang to be utterly fascinating and to hold a great deal of merit. Though I don't necessary think they're "right", but then my whole concept of what is "right" (not morally, but in general), is pretty...well relative. To me two people who hold seemingly mutually exclusive views can be simultaneously and equally correct. Indeed:

 

Divine Command=it's right because God said so

Pros: Really clear, stated plainly

Cons: Differs by religion, makes all moral decisions arbitrary because there's no reason other than God said so

while I consider myself a very spiritually person and to a large extent religious even (I'm a Christian), my view point on the world's religions (which I sat down and hashed out when I was about 12 or so) is that due to God's omnipotence/omniscience/general "omni" nature :P pretty much all religions can be equally and simultaneously correct, as long as they hold moral merit and the practitioner firmly believes them. And I'm not exactly saying that's just with regards to general ethics and morality (and thus God/the gods would ultimately say "Well, you were a little bit off, but that's okay), I actually mean they are right insofar as they have their own facts. In other words, in simple terms, my belief is that God can be the Christian trinity prototype AND the Jewish God, and the Wiccan Spirts, and...well you get the point. However, I don't think that means that I could just randomly decide to be a Jew or a Hindu, or a Muslim. I think Christianity is the correct religion for me, and thus may indeed be the only correct religion with regards to me. I think converting can be "right", but only if you're convinced your previous religion was lacking something (or had something bad) that the new religion makes up for, and only if you sincerely believe the new religion is the "correct" one (which I would qualify "from your current frame of reference").

 

Anyway, Divine Command would never work for me, because I've always rejected religion as a grounds for deciding what's right and wrong. I think religion might play into the decision, it might be a good idea to look to the Bible or the Torah or any other religious document, but I think it's a huge mistake to pluck something out of these documents and say "ahh, you see, it's right in here! That's how we'll know". I think it's always a massive mistake to not take the context and culture of the times into consideration. YES, I agree that eating shellfish was wrong in the time of the ancient Jews, but it's no longer wrong in today's society. God had a reason for saying it was wrong back then (in this case I would theorize it had to do with sanitation and the likelihood of getting sick, but that's just my guess), but that doesn't mean the same thing is still wrong. I think morality should always be under constant review.

 

Thus, I similarly disagree with the concept of mandatory sentencing. I think crimes are never identical so neither should the sentencing be. For example some assaults might warrant three years in prison, but some might warrant considerable more, and some might warrant considerably less, and I realize that generally the goal is just to set a minimum sentence and that this generally applies to repeat offenders, but I think even that is too constraining. IMO, the judges AND juries should have almost full discretion and the important thing is to choose competent judges and juries (and I know that often times they suck, but IMO we're trying to fix the wrong thing with mandatory sentencing).

 

As for:

 

Deontology=it's right because the agent acted according to two principles (I'm going with the Kantian version, even though he's a gigantic dufus in my opinion): first, the person acted according to a maxim which they could will as being a universal law, and second, the person acted on the basis of respecting a person as a rational agent, and not just a means to an end.

This is far too scientific and impersonal to ever be something that would hold much appeal to me directly. As I've said I have enough trouble believing that there are universal laws in general, and certainly not with regards to principles or morality.

 

As yet another tangent, I do very much believe in basic laws from a simplistic point of view. 1+1=2 in the most general, simplest terms, but really 1 and 2 are abstract concepts and can exist as sub or super groups of anything else. Thus I would agree that a stapler and a pair of scissors are two objects, and I wouldn't dispute that fact, but it would lack the intellectual significance necessary to know much about the situation and people involved (which to me is much more important).

 

For example maybe you need a stapler, a pair of scissors, and a tape dispenser. In which case, to me, it's fine to say 1+1=-1, because you're lacking one of the things you need. Obviously mathematically one is supposed to set the equation up more like 1 (a needed object) + 1 (another needed object) - 3 (how many objects you need) = -1 (how many objects you're short). And of course math is useful in this way, and it's perfectly correct to look at it that way. But it's impersonal and doesn't get at the major issue with enough passion. The point is you have these two objects, but you're lacking a third, and if everything hinges on having the third object then 1 + 1 will always equal -1 (one object short on what you need).

 

And that's sorta how I think about all scientific and mathematical facts. They make sense to me, I won't dispute them, but I'll always seek to make them slaves of whatever applicable value they have on the situation at hand, and I think they have little independent value on their own (actually I think any form of knowledge is always valuable in its own right, but I'm operating under two different concepts and definitions for "value" at the same time...which I can do because I'm comfortable breaking the normal scientific AND rhetorical (as well as "duh") rules that say a concept or thing can only have one meaning or definition at any given time).

 

Similarly I can comfortably state that light gray is white and dark blue is black if, for whatever reason, I'm only interested in defining things in terms of either black or white (which obviously I'm never actually interested in doing when it comes to moral or intellectual matters, but "black and white" can have other merit independent of these).

 

As for:

Utilitarianism=it's right 'cause it makes people happy more than it makes them sad

Sure, like I said I won't dispute this one at all, but it doesn't give the full story and since I think "happy" and "sad" are completely relative anyway this is just a subset of relativism to me.

 

Relativism (individual or cultural)= it's right or wrong because a culture or person believes it's right or wrong

I disagree with the definition you used. It's correct, but it doesn't tell the whole story, and it certainly isn't the extent of what I mean by "relativism". I do take individual cultures into account when deciding what's morally right for one person over another, but my overwhelming, guiding light, is what is right in the situation. Cultural aspects and individual histories play a role in this, but they certainly don't tell the whole story.

 

Moral Nihilism= there are no morals because there are no moral truths

A subset of this would be non-cognitivism, which asserts that the cognitivist claim is false, and that moral truths cannot be known and therefore have no truth value, and thus moral knowledge is basically an oxymoron. Yeah, that's a REALLY rough definition but it's something that I'd need to give many examples for. Basically think of saying that murder is wrong as saying that peas taste good, kinda like it's personal taste (though that's not exactly right either).

I disagree because I believe that there are "moral truths", I just don't believe that there are universal moral truths.

 

 

...and that's what I think.

 

-Kevin

Edited by AFriendlyFace
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Kevvers has a version of relativism which is not philosophical ethical relativism.

 

Objectivism would mean that there are truths which are true in all situations and cases and some things are always morally good and some always morally bad, that there is some system or frame which places actions in a good or bad standing.

 

Subjectivism would be the set including relativism, meaning that each action is wrong or right according to the person judging it. Relativism in ethics means that the person/culture/criteria are what make the action bad or good, not the action in and of itself.

 

 

 

Kevvers, you seem to be more using a modified version of utilitarianism. Deontology is actually much simpler than it seems. Kant developed the categorical imperative because he thought that those things made it clear how one could develop a sturdy moral system. If you say "it's okay to lie", that's not gonna work because you wouldn't want other people lying; therefore it couldn't work as a universal maxim, and so you couldn't use it to justify your own lying. The other is pretty simple. You can't use people, or treat them as means to an end, only as ends in themselves. These are nice, but they have too many problems for me to like them.

 

Unlike Menzo, I don't reject them out of the fact that they disregard any recognition of the self. I think they promote a selflessness on the surface, but actually promote selfishness MUCH more than they do selflessness because they're based in making a system that would allow you to create personal laws which are infallible and not susceptible to changes in real world situations. You could introduce the concept of exceptions to maxims, willed as a maxim themselves, but this is still incomplete. If you combine utilitarianism with a light version of this, you get both motivation and flexibility. It's practical, and sensible.

 

Moral nihilism makes me want to vomit. It is the culmination of laziness, of hatred, of negativity, of every terrible thing the human race has ever produced. It reduces us all to insignificance, destorys the greatest works of the most admirable people, and seduces the minds of those intelligent enough to understand it but too shortsighted to realize they must rise above it.

 

People who defend it usually attempt to box you into it. I maintain, however, that the reason it is untrue is because I refuse to accept that everything must have no significance. Just because there is no God, because there is no lasting reason for what we do, because we will all eventually die and all our works be forgotten, does not change the fact that we may assign significance to things. The very fact that we give things importance, that we believe they are significant, that we see something as worthy of time and effort, destroys nihilism utterly; we are beings who, by our very nature in its simplest form, seek happiness. That is not something you can ask "why" to. It is because it is, it is a necessary statement, it explains itself simply in being. Thus, nihilism is a flawed and incomplete concept. While I do agree with some of the premises and ideas supporting it, I think that the real challenge lies in rising above it to create meaning in a meaningless world as opposed to being lazy and accepting that as an excuse and benzocaine for your conscience.

 

Plus I just plain think that philosophy is silly. Knowledge is a good thing, and it's wonderful, but ask any philosopher why they do what they do and they'll never give you a good answer. Sure, they'll run you into the ground with the knowledge for the sake of knowledge thing, but does that really help anyone? The important concepts of philosophy are learning to question yourself, learning that wisdom is realizing that you might not know what you think you know; the point is to use it in a constructive manner, and after a point philosophy abandons this.

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Kevvers has a version of relativism which is not philosophical ethical relativism.

Exactly, as I said I do not agree with the definition of relativism which you used. It may indeed be the most correct philosophical ethical version, but to me relativism rises far beyond simple ethics and philosophy. It is, in many ways, the core of my entire intellectual operating system. It colours the way I think about everything, not just ethics.

Subjectivism would be the set including relativism, meaning that each action is wrong or right according to the person judging it. Relativism in ethics means that the person/culture/criteria are what make the action bad or good, not the action in and of itself.

 

Kevvers, you seem to be more using a modified version of utilitarianism.

According to my personalized concept of relativism Subjectivism, and Utilitarianism are both sub-concepts of it. Also, as I said, I have absolutely no beef with Utilitarianism, I completely agree with it, I just go beyond it. To me it paints an incomplete picture. My expanded version of relativism includes all aspects of it as a general rule(at least all aspects that I can think of off the top my head); however, it also includes many other aspects and and allows for the deviating from Utilitarianism as necessary.

Deontology is actually much simpler than it seems. Kant developed the categorical imperative because he thought that those things made it clear how one could develop a sturdy moral system. If you say "it's okay to lie", that's not gonna work because you wouldn't want other people lying; therefore it couldn't work as a universal maxim, and so you couldn't use it to justify your own lying. The other is pretty simple. You can't use people, or treat them as means to an end, only as ends in themselves. These are nice, but they have too many problems for me to like them.

My problem with this is that, by its very nature (and one could argue - although I would disagree - that by the very nature of any ethical perspective except nihilism), it seeks to lay down "rules" or in this case "maxims" which as you stated, are universal. I see this as a huge mistake! I don't think life is such that it's ever always right or wrong to do or not do something, so having universal maxims of any kind, seems like a big blunder to me. I think it's good to have general rules, but it's important not to foreclose your decision based on these general rules, there ARE exceptions to every rule!

 

I have quite a few general rules for my own life, undoubtedly the same general rules most people have. I think it's wrong to kill, steal, cheat etc., however, these are only general statements. Obviously I've never killed someone for example, nor do I ever intend to, but should the extreme circumstance arise when I can confidently look at the situation and data available and conclude that it's the morally right decision to make, I wouldn't consider it "against my rule".

 

Moral nihilism ...

 

People who defend it usually attempt to box you into it. I maintain, however, that the reason it is untrue is because I refuse to accept that everything must have no significance. Just because there is no God, because there is no lasting reason for what we do, because we will all eventually die and all our works be forgotten, does not change the fact that we may assign significance to things. The very fact that we give things importance, that we believe they are significant, that we see something as worthy of time and effort, destroys nihilism utterly; we are beings who, by our very nature in its simplest form, seek happiness. That is not something you can ask "why" to. It is because it is, it is a necessary statement, it explains itself simply in being. Thus, nihilism is a flawed and incomplete concept. While I do agree with some of the premises and ideas supporting it, I think that the real challenge lies in rising above it to create meaning in a meaningless world as opposed to being lazy and accepting that as an excuse and benzocaine for your conscience.

It's interesting (though obviously not surprising given the discussion) that you mentioned God as a source of meaning. As a Christian you would think I would be into this. I'm really not. I won't say God doesn't add a level of meaning to my life; however my life would still have plenty of meaning, significance, and hope without God.

 

I was recently discussing this with a friend and he said that without God there would be no answer to the question "Why I am here?". Honestly, I don't think it ever would have crossed my mind to wonder that. It seems like a silly question to me. However, trying to indulge people I've considered it, and my answer would simply be that my life, activities, and social interactions inherently imbue my life with a meaning and significance. I am here to have this discussion with you. I am here to finish my glass of water. I am here for a million of reasons in my past and future. Why do I need to be here? Why does the universe dictate that someone must occupy this role and do these things at this time? I don't know, and I don't care, I'm perfectly content to do them, and even if the universe were a big cosmic accident it wouldn't matter to me. I'd still enjoy doing them and they'd still need doing, and they would still be significant to me and the people they impact.

 

I guess what I'm saying is that meaning and significance come from within. External factors don't particularly matter. Also, I'm firmly convinced that meaning and significance are completely relative and subjective. I think it's ludicrous to even consider assigning them an objective value. Indeed, I don't naturally tend to consider very many things from an objective, absolute value or position anyway, and the more complicated and important something is the less inclined I am to do it, and the more inclined I am to loudly object when others try to.

 

I've always found it amazing that the majority of people seem to find it comforting to think of things in concrete terms, to see things as black and white, to assume that they will and should be treated objectively...personally I can conceive of nothing scarier than those notions!

 

Plus I just plain think that philosophy is silly. Knowledge is a good thing, and it's wonderful, but ask any philosopher why they do what they do and they'll never give you a good answer. Sure, they'll run you into the ground with the knowledge for the sake of knowledge thing, but does that really help anyone? The important concepts of philosophy are learning to question yourself, learning that wisdom is realizing that you might not know what you think you know; the point is to use it in a constructive manner, and after a point philosophy abandons this.

Agreed

 

 

Wonderful conversation we're having :D

 

Take care all and have an awesome day!

-Kevin

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Existence does not confer meaning nor does it offer explanation. I disagree with you, Jamie, that the fact we give things meaning renders nihilism flawed. The fact that we bestow meaning on something, for the sake of our happiness, does not imply in any way that these things actually do, in the broader sense, have any meaning.

 

Most philosophers tend to ascribe to nihilists the trait of laziness and moral cowardice, but this is not a necessary consequence of nihilism. The fact that I recognize my existence, my actions and my moral code to be meaningless, does not preclude me from giving some structure to the way I live my life. I desire happiness, so the fact that my existence is meaningless doesn't change that I need to find some moral code by which to live my life in the society to which I was born. Yes, suicide is an equally viable (and meaningless option) but elementary evolution gives humans the tendency to seek life over death.

 

I agree that nihilism is incomplete, but not that it is flawed. It is the foundation for morality - or lack thereof - but not the complete construct. Nobody could possibly hope to live life with the meaningless of their own existence as the only guiding philosophy, because it would be fundamentally incompatible with the most basic human desires. Nihilism gives a deep - and frightening - understanding that moral truths are non-existent and that all actions are equally futile, but beyond that, because of human nature, we are compelled to construct moral codes to live our life by.

 

I wrote my undergrad 'thesis' on a highly obscure question of mathematical logic and one of my friends once asked me why. It was irrelevant to most mathematicians and only could have possibly interested logicians with a mathematical bent (or, in my case, mathematicians with a logical bent.) I think I gave something along the lines of 'knowledge for its own sake' but the more I think on it, the more I realize that philosophy, like any other pursuit, arises as a direct consequence of human selfishness. In short, these abstruse topics are researched and discoursed upon because it is of interest to a select number of people. I enjoy mathematics, and so I am doing a PhD in it. Will my work benefit mankind in any way? Most likely not, but that was never my intent.

 

Menzo

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Existence does not confer meaning nor does it offer explanation.

 

I think therefore I yam?

 

Objectivism would mean that there are truths which are true in all situations and cases and some things are always morally good and some always morally bad, that there is some system or frame which places actions in a good or bad standing.

 

Ah.. now we're getting somewhere. Rand has a better definition:

 

1) Reality exists as an objective absolute

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Randian objectivism isn't actually ethical objectivism, but a different critter. Quite frankly, I really liked that chick until she kept talking, hehe. :D Too bad Rand is especially unpopular in most philosophical instruction. And that might be for good reason, too. I really agree with her as far as Kant goes, but maybe I wouldn't call him a "monster", but he's damn sure incorrect about a lot of things. Rand also doesn't really acknowledge practicality so much.

 

And Kevvers, I think we're totally on the same page. That's my issue with deontology and utilitarianism both, that they're too constricted and deal in preset rules. Utilitarianism is more flexible than deontology, but I think that they sort of complete each other. Not in the sense that there's nothing else that should be added to them, but more that they actually compliment each other rather well if one is careful to develop criteria for selecting which one to use at a given time.

 

Menzo, I think we diverge at this point. "The fact that we bestow meaning on something, for the sake of our happiness, does not imply in any way that these things actually do, in the broader sense, have any meaning."

 

I believe sincerely that the fact that we bestow meaning on something makes it meaningful, and that the meaning we assign it is complete. I don't think there is any "greater" or "broader" meaning than that we may assign.

 

Oh and Bob, you totally get points for posting that poem. :D

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One of my favourite activities in my philosophy courses was to cite Rand at every opportunity. She comes closest to describing the code I live my life by, but it was always a source of great amusement to watch my liberal professors go into near apoplexy at the mention of her name.

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One of my favourite activities in my philosophy courses was to cite Rand at every opportunity. She comes closest to describing the code I live my life by, but it was always a source of great amusement to watch my liberal professors go into near apoplexy at the mention of her name.

I just check Ayn Rand in Wikipedia. Interesting !!

May I ask you why you choose her philosophy as a moral code (not just to annoy your professors ! :P ?) and why these reactions of them ?

BTW, I will try to find a translation in French or German of her works. Any idea where I could find it ?

Thanks in advance.

Old Bob

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I put other.

 

Pragmatic Idealism, sounds like an oxymoron doesn't it?

 

I also tend to take a strong cognitivist approach, mixed with a degree of virtue ethics, which tends to come out as something approaching ethical egoism.

 

Some day when I'm up to the task again, I'll write out a fuller ethical treatise explaining my positions. For now, I know what they are, and why they are, even if I can't write out the 300 page book explaining how it all connects together.

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I just check Ayn Rand in Wikipedia. Interesting !!

May I ask you why you choose her philosophy as a moral code (not just to annoy your professors ! :P ?) and why these reactions of them ?

BTW, I will try to find a translation in French or German of her works. Any idea where I could find it ?

Thanks in advance.

Old Bob

 

I would suggest reading Atlas Shrugged

 

Ayn Rand is a major proponent of the concept of ethical egoism.... where everyone is best suited to know their own needs and work toward achieving them. She's also very adamant when it comes to property rights and anti-communist, with her writings very damning of that particular economic system. She's also a major proponent of capitalism and within Atlas Shrugged is a very eloquently put defense of money, so to speak. You've probably heard at some point someone say that money is the root of all evil, or that the love of money is the root of all evil... she pretty well puts those persons to shame. She also seems to fall in line with Kantian cognitiivism, rejecting outright moral relativism and damning non-cognitivism.

 

I read Atlas shrugged for my philosophy class... I thought the ending was rather strange, because it also shows a major flaw in her philosophical system... the characters are larger than life, there is no room for a common man in her world.

 

Be forewarned though, there's a point where one of the major characters gives a radio address that goes on and on and on, and the message of the book kind of gets repetitive by that point.

 

Also... her conception of relationships is VERY skewed. Where she addresses matters of love, there are some fair points made - about it being ridiculous to love someone for their flaws instead of their virtues, but on other issues... loving committment isn't really considered a virtue in Rand's world... its almost a liability in fact.

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Atlas Shrugged is a titanic work that is a very heavy read, and can get repetitive. The Fountainhead presents objectivism in its developing stages, and while still a heavy read, it's much more accessible than Atlas Shrugged. My favorite book is actually her least well-known, We the Living. It's more narrative than philosophical, and it exposes a less...absolute side of Rand.

 

The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are both fairly important works of literature, Old Bob, so I imagine that you could find a German translation at any sizable library. The German title is 'Wer ist John Galt.' A quick search on google didn't reveal a French translation, but you might be able to find one.

 

Menzo

 

PS Atlas Shrugged is one of the longest novels ever written with a mammoth 645 000 words

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