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Richard Carrier defying reality, does ethics to be magically discovered by science

 
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Old 06-Mar-2010, 06:07 AM (06:07)     1        37879
Gurdur
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Default Richard Carrier defying reality, does ethics to be magically discovered by science

I came across
this post on FRDB
. It sparked me off into making a reply there which I reproduce below. Please criticise my reasoning harshly, since I want to dress this all up a bit more and a bit better, then make a big blog post out of it.
_______

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tammuz
What do you think of Richard Carrier's method of discovering ethics scientifically?
I think he is guilty of:
  1. stupidly ignoring Hume, as well as modern philosophers such as Putnam, Quine, Habermas and Thomas Nagel;
    .
  2. ignoring psychiatry;
    .
  3. ignoring cognitive psychology;
    .
  4. ignoring developmental psychology and developmental philosophy;
    .
  5. ignoring game theory evolutionary biology;
    .
  6. conflating ends with means, a massive fallacy;
    .
  7. scientism;
    .
  8. and wishful thinking.

A) Carrier ignoring Hume. Bad, bad, and silly. And as we shall see, he does it right through all his work here.

B) Carrier ignoring psychiatry:
psychiatry shows how some people are simply sociopathic. They may be born that way, or made that way through abuse in early years, or they may neurologically lack an amount of mirror neurons, but the important thing is, they are sociopathic -- they simply cannot genuinely feel empathy. They know what empathy is, via observation, but they lack it themselves. They are not mad, they are not psychotics, they simply lack genuine empathy.

So if you have a group of people who all lack one of the most important pre-conditions for morality, empathy, are you going to conclude from that group that sociopathy rules OK and that we should all be sociopathic?

C) Carrier ignoring cognitive psychology:
cog psych shows people can change their values, their ethics, and therefore their behaviour, if they really want to. Many people are simply programmed in chidlhood, whether by parents or peer group; most people function on that basis for the rest of their lives. Some are forced to change because their programming resulted in self-destructive behaviour, and these people have to confront and change many of their values, so as to be able to change their behaviour, and values are planted very deeply in the human psyche, so it is one hell of a lot of hard work.

If people can change their values, which they can if they really work at it, what is Carrier supposed to conclude from observing groups of people and their values/ethics? Will he conclude they have the "right" ethics, even though they could change them?

D) Carrier ignoring developmental psychology and developmental philosophy:

becoming a real person does involve a lot of work and time. As said before, many people can simply coast along on whatever was taught to them by parents or peers in childhood, and by what society says later on. But others do develop, and go on to develop higher levels of genuine, self-chosen ethics, once again changing their values, their ethics, and their behaviour along the way. Just how is Carrier going to be able to handle that?

E) Carrier ignoring game theory and evolutionary biology:

in any deeper evolutionary biological view of behaviours in a species population, there is a range of behaviours observable. This gives a Evolutionary Stable State, a mixture of strategies proportioned in a stable ratio.

So what will Carrier do when he discovers that there are certain mixtures of behaviours in humans that are stable over time and over cultures? Say the mixture is what we should do, or will he pick one behaviour out of it all and proclaim that as the new model?

G) Carrier very obviously is committing the fallacy of scientism overall.

H) Carrier is simply guilty of wishful thinking, the thinking that somehow science can magically tell us how to behave. It can't. It can only tell us consequences, but it cannot tell us what consequences we should prefer.


Quote:
This is Carrier's recipe for discovering morality:

1. Empirically discover (with psychology, anthropology, sociobiology, etc.) what it is that people want more than anything.
Confusing and conflating what is with what should be. See [A].

Quote:
2. Analyze what it really is that they want and determine in what ways it can be achieved.
F) Confusing and conflating ends with means.

Quote:
3. Empirically discover which behaviors and lifestyles have a statistically greater chance of achieving that supreme goal.
Ends with means, "is" with "should". *sigh*

Really. Ignoring Hume is such a bad idea.

Quote:
Here is a video where he details it. It is a part of a series, but the earlier videos are mostly about debunking the Christian view.

Richard Carrier's view is that this supreme goal is happiness, in the Aristotelian sense of the word. He maintains that while people differ on how to achieve happiness, it is really happiness that they want in the end.

Do you think that this is a valid way of ethical philosophy? Does ethical naturalism follow from metaphysical naturalism (the view that nature is all there is)? Is Carrier's conclusion about the highest good for human beings correct?
Carrier is setting himself up for failure.

Last edited by Gurdur; 06-Mar-2010 at 10:28 AM (10:28).
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Old 07-Mar-2010, 10:22 PM (22:22)     2        37920
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It does presents a real danger of ignoring the outliers and seeming to trend everyone to one homogenous group. Since when does getting what they want make people happy anyway? We feel unhappy through all this chasing after crap we think we want and then even if we get it maybe realize it wasn't such a prize, so we switch to wanting something else. Many philosophical and religious leaders and traditions some insight into that, but here Carrier has an assumption that happiness is about getting crap rather than a state of mind. Cognitive psychology has shown that people who have an internal locus of control (those feel they have the ability to shape their own destiny) are happier across the board, regardless of what they actually have. So would the trend of scientism (this popular belief that an external factor- that is experts and studies- can give answers and results) feed into an external locus of control and actually make people less happy? Oh, if only we had the right study we could scientifically determine the way for everyone to be happy- yeah that's sounds dumb. Maybe when Carrier fails, it will be a character building experience for him, that failure might be a great opportunity for him to reconsider his values so he can then go on to be more content and happy himself.
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Old 08-Mar-2010, 12:46 AM (00:46)     3        37927
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alicat View Post
.... So would the trend of scientism (this popular belief that an external factor- that is experts and studies- can give answers and results) feed into an external locus of control and actually make people less happy? ...
Very big, relevant and important question. I'm gonna be blogging precisely on that question quite a lot now going onwards.

Quote:
Oh, if only we had the right study we could scientifically determine the way for everyone to be happy- yeah that's sounds dumb.
Soma from Brave New World, electrodes (only a couple needed) direct in brain, it's all quite easy ---- and utterly dehumanizing.

I'ld personally rather be human and myself (literally, and figuratively) than be a happy robotically-controlled vegetable.

Quote:
Maybe when Carrier fails, it will be a character building experience for him, that failure might be a great opportunity for him to reconsider his values so he can then go on to be more content and happy himself.
Maybe, but from what I see and know, I reckon he will just keep on down that road.

I'm going to probably invite James Still and Jim Lippard to savagely criticise my planned blog entry on this subject of Carrier's; both are highly intelligent people, and personally know Richard Carrier and his directions, and share in his aims to a little extent at least. Maybe I will invite Richard Carrier as well, though he tends to ignore such invitations AFAIK.
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Old 08-Mar-2010, 01:36 AM (01:36)     4        37931
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I was being facetious with the last bit, he may of course keep on following the same broken programming. The ironic thing is working through or around the challenges of not getting what we want can be a lot more fulfilling than a fool proof recipe for a predetermined outcome.
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Old 08-Mar-2010, 01:38 AM (01:38)     5        37933
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alicat View Post
.... The ironic thing is working through or around the challenges of not getting what we want can be a lot more fulfilling than a fool proof recipe for a predetermined outcome.
Bingo, bingo, bingo! Yes, I fully agree.
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Old 11-Mar-2010, 03:20 PM (15:20)     6        38142
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I think one problem is this assumption is happiness is some be all end all we want. Sometimes I do want to be happy, but in some circumstances I don't even want to be happy. When my dog dies I want to mourn, not to be cheered up. Eventually the mourning ends but its still an important experience I do not want to deny.

Now, of course the Aristolean definition of happiness that Carrier uses means basically fulfilment so this could potentially accept other emotions than happiness, but these emotions are all supposed to lead to the emotion of happiness. Maybe I want to experience other emotions not for the happiness they can eventually bring, but simply as part of experiecing life.

Happiness is great and all, but so are the other emotions. To deny them it to deny vital aspects of life. I personally think life is more than the sum of our happy experiences.
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Old 11-Mar-2010, 04:06 PM (16:06)     7        38143
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Originally Posted by Civil1z@tion View Post
I think one problem is this assumption is happiness is some be all end all we want. Sometimes I do want to be happy, but in some circumstances I don't even want to be happy. When my dog dies I want to mourn, not to be cheered up. Eventually the mourning ends but its still an important experience I do not want to deny. ...
Yup! In that context, perhaps you know Ursula k. Le Guin's short story, The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas. I will cite that short story -- which is all about that point you make and more so -- when I do my blog post on this.
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Old 26-Mar-2010, 04:04 PM (16:04)     9        38513
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Default Re: "Please criticise my reasoning harshly"

Gurdur,

It seems you want some feedback. Your primary problem seems to be that you are interpreting Carrier's moral theory way too rigidly.

Quote:
So if you have a group of people who all lack one of the most important pre-conditions for morality, empathy, are you going to conclude from that group that sociopathy rules OK and that we should all be sociopathic?
Only an idiot tries to pitch a moral theory to a sociopath. Similarly only an idiot thinks a moral paradigm dies because it cannot be pitched to sociopaths...or rocks, trees, stars, etc. I'm assuming you're not an idiot.

Quote:
If people can change their values, which they can if they really work at it, what is Carrier supposed to conclude from observing groups of people and their values/ethics?
Your question addresses the issue of the change in values uncritically. WHY are they changing them? What did they think was wrong with the previous values? If you don't think anything can be learned from a critical analysis of many such examples from different cultures and philosophies, I don't know what to tell you. I'm sure you know better than that.

Quote:
So what will Carrier do when he discovers that there are certain mixtures of behaviours in humans that are stable over time and over cultures?
There can be different (yet still objective) definitions of happiness. Homosexuals will probably always be a part of our population. Do you honestly think there is no objective way to tell them how to better live their lives or that Carrier's theory requires they marry straight people?

Quote:
Carrier is simply guilty of wishful thinking, the thinking that somehow science can magically tell us how to behave. It can't. It can only tell us consequences, but it cannot tell us what consequences we should prefer.
Science can tell us what we as a species actually do prefer (in general) at deeply satisfying levels. And likely it can do this better than our own self reporting. We already do this kind of thing in the field of psychology. It's why the psychologist can give you good advice that you should follow if you are not a moron who thinks self-destructive behaviors will result in getting what you want. People get confused. They don't necessarily know how best to run themselves. Carrier's point is that we can turn morality into a science and do this kind of thing a lot better.

Quote:
Confusing and conflating what is with what should be.
No moral system will have any meaning if it cannot connect to a human being's actual desires. It's the only place to get our should's from, otherwise there's always an infallible excuse to blow off the system of pure meaningless assertions.

Quote:
Ignoring Hume is such a bad idea.
I don't see how you could watch the video linked to in the text you quoted (if you did) and conclude that Hume has been ignored. Rather, you've ignored what Carrier has said about Hume.

Alicat,

Quote:
Carrier has an assumption that happiness is about getting crap rather than a state of mind.
I don't know where you got that idea from. Carrier advocates the opposite of what you are saying. The definition of genuine happiness you appear to be advocating is basically exactly what Carrier is advocating.

Ben
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Old 26-Mar-2010, 05:51 PM (17:51)     10        38514
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Welcome to the Hub, WAR_ON_ERROR!

Quote:
Originally Posted by WAR_ON_ERROR View Post
.... Only an idiot tries to pitch a moral theory to a sociopath.
You seem to have missed that Carrier's theory does not account for sociopaths, and that it should.

Quote:
Similarly only an idiot thinks a moral paradigm dies because it cannot be pitched to sociopaths...or rocks, trees, stars, etc.
I think it would be best if you explained just what you mean, since your sentence here is very vague.

Quote:
I'm assuming you're not an idiot.
That would be very nice. Now why do you include such a sentence as this?


Quote:
...Your question addresses the issue of the change in values uncritically. WHY are they changing them? What did they think was wrong with the previous values? If you don't think anything can be learned from a critical analysis of many such examples from different cultures and philosophies, I don't know what to tell you.
You missed the point that Carrier's theories do not account for the ability to change in people, and the fact that they can change their own ethics means that Carrier cannot discover "true" ethics just from observing people, since he can only posit arbiterary criteria for judging what is a true ethic and what is not.

Quote:
I'm sure you know better than that.
Let's see what your answers to my reply here.

Quote:
... homosexuals ..... Do you honestly think there is no objective way to tell them how to better live their lives
No, I don't think there is any objective way. Just how do you define "objective", and if you think there is an objective way, please describe it in detail.


Quote:
... homosexuals ..... or that Carrier's theory requires they marry straight people?
whut?

Quote:
Science can tell us what we as a species actually do prefer (in general) at deeply satisfying levels.
Since what we desire differs greatly from individual to individual, and to some extent from class to class and from culture to culture, just how is science going to "judge" between different preferences?

Quote:
And likely it can do this better than our own self reporting
Just how?

Quote:
We already do this kind of thing in the field of psychology. It's why the psychologist can give you good advice that you should follow if you are not a moron who thinks self-destructive behaviors will result in getting what you want.
I'll give you one guess as to what was part of my career. Or IOW, would you like my professional opinion?

Quote:
People get confused. They don't necessarily know how best to run themselves. Carrier's point is that we can turn morality into a science and do this kind of thing a lot better.
You mean ordering people what to do and what to want despite their own preferences? That's been tried. It didn't really work.

Quote:
No moral system will have any meaning if it cannot connect to a human being's actual desires.
But you just advocated ignoring peoples' desires just above, in favour of telling them what to want.

How do you handle the contradiction?

Quote:
It's the only place to get our should's from, otherwise there's always an infallible excuse to blow off the system of pure meaningless assertions.
How do you get from an "is" to a "should", logically?

Jeffrey Dahmer desires killing and eating young men. He desires that deeply. Does that make it a should?

How about heroin? Crack? Cocaine? Addicts and addiction?

Quote:
don't see how you could watch the video linked to in the text you quoted (if you did) and conclude that Hume has been ignored. Rather, you've ignored what Carrier has said about Hume.
Oh, I will be getting into it much deeper in quite a number of future blog posts.

Last edited by Gurdur; 26-Mar-2010 at 06:17 PM (18:17).
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Old 26-Mar-2010, 09:07 PM (21:07)     11        38515
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Different people find different levels of satisfaction in different things, War On Error. I am perfectly happy if the bills are paid, I have a good roof over my head, food on the table, and videogames. That's actually about my situation right now and I'll tell you, I don't think I could be much happier.

So what about people who -desire- a family, a large circle of friends, and don't really care about gaming or having a great deal of time alone? To them, my life would seem hellish. To me, their life with all those people to intrude on the private time I need so badly, and a family life that to me looks like nothing but being chained down to people I don't want or need in my life, would seem equally hellish.

Self reporting FTW. We don't need science to tell us what makes us happy, just a little introspection and some judgments to be made on each person's values. Most people, given the chance, are willing to sit and do some work to discover what needs must be met to keep them happy.
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Old 26-Mar-2010, 10:53 PM (22:53)     12        38516
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If it is objective, then it remains the same whether you are a sociopath or a rock or a tree or a star, reality does not change depending on the audience.
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Old 26-Mar-2010, 10:58 PM (22:58)     13        38517
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1. Empirically discover (with psychology, anthropology, sociobiology, etc.) what it is that people want more than anything.

2. Analyze what it really is that they want and determine in what ways it can be achieved.

3. Empirically discover which behaviors and lifestyles have a statistically greater chance of achieving that supreme goal.

from his system- things people want, acheivements, behaviors and lifestyles are all the "crap" I spoke of- garbage in, garbage out.
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Old 26-Mar-2010, 10:59 PM (22:59)     14        38518
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Of course supreme goals are crap too, what a narcissist! (I mean Carrier).
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Old 26-Mar-2010, 11:10 PM (23:10)     15        38519
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Now in the old days, the leaders used the concept of rules sent from god above to his chosen clerics, to attempt to establish a universal standard so the people would live in happiness and harmony, this easily generated to tyranny and oppression. Do we think the a new variation in the old protocol using standards from research and "scientific experts" is really so different?
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Old 27-Mar-2010, 10:30 AM (10:30)     16        38522
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Default Morality for Sociopaths

Hey Gurdur,

Thanks for having me. We'll take one issue at a time here and see how that goes.

Quote:
You seem to have missed that Carrier's theory does not account for sociopaths, and that it should.
I totally understood that you believe that is the case. I'm assuming I'm allowed to not miss that and directly disagree, right? Why do you think any moral theory *should* account for sociopaths? Where does this prescription for moral theorizing come from? Why should we listen to it?

Makbawehuh,

Quote:
We don't need science to tell us what makes us happy
hehe, oh no! The scientific takeover of morality! Down with Carrier-Care! Death panels for everyone who science declares is immoral! Where's Carrier's birth certificate!?!!

I'm just teasing. You seem like a sensible enough guy and not a Glenn Beck fan.

Presumably a science of morality would generate a moral manual that would likely correspond very well to what you already know and approve of. I'm sure you can count really well, too, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have math textbooks. Somehow you seemed to get the message, "you obviously aren't a happy person." I don't think that was advocated anywhere. And for whatever reason you seem to think there couldn't be any underlying universal principles for happiness that don't have to square up to such rigid subjective levels of video game playing enjoyment. Call me crazy, but I'm sure you are wrong. And I think you could probably use some of that common sense observation and introspection stuff and see that, too.

Whatever your inhibitions are (to whatever extent they are justified) about science and morality getting in bed together should actually translate nicely into prescriptions for how science can go about the task more sensibly rather than just not doing it at all because person x in location y is content with his life. I realize I'm ignoring the fact we live in a world full of moral experts who always agree with each other and sing kumbaya all the time [/sarcasm], but maybe in addition to addressing the needs of those who aren't getting morality right (or those who think they are, but are actually hurting themselves and those around them), and those who perhaps could use some reinforcement and slight corrections (and even better perspective--GASP!), that there are also some larger social issues that the world needs to get on top of in a more systematic and mutually accountable way. We don't have better tools for doing that than the rigorous methodologies we apply in science.

Alicat,

Quote:
If it is objective, then it remains the same whether you are a sociopath or a rock or a tree or a star, reality does not change depending on the audience.
And all sociopaths, rocks, trees, and stars who have the capacity for empathy is the objective reality Carrier's theory applies to.

To everyone,

Richard Carrier gives his presentation
and Sam Harris recently made a very similar case
at the Ted.com conference.

Ben
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Old 27-Mar-2010, 11:15 AM (11:15)     17        38523
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WAR_ON_ERROR View Post
... I totally understood that you believe that is the case. I'm assuming I'm allowed to not miss that and directly disagree, right?
A fair enough comment.

Quote:
Why do you think any moral theory *should* account for sociopaths? Where does this prescription for moral theorizing come from? Why should we listen to it?
Because Carrier, like others, would like to "scientifically discover" ethics from observing human behaviour.

But what happens if the humans observed include sociopaths? They simply have nothig like ethics.

Quote:
... Presumably a science of morality would generate a moral manual that would likely correspond very well to what you already know and approve of.
Which raises the question, what use would it be? Just as some (pseudo-)legitimization?

You know science has been abused in the past for pseudo-legitimizations in the past; what makes this attempt of Carrier's different from those in the past?

Quote:
..... Whatever your inhibitions are (to whatever extent they are justified) about science and morality getting in bed together should actually translate nicely into prescriptions for how science can go about the task more sensibly ...
Which would again invalidate Carrier's argument, since it would place ethics above and prior to science, rather than being discovered by science.

BTW, in my planned blog posts, I will be dealing with the TED/Sam Harris talk as well.

Quick question for you, WAR_ON_ERROR; out of interest, how do you feel about Sam Harris' notorious remark concerning his relative judgment on rape and religion? I don't want to derail things here, but I would be quite interested in your opinion on that one.
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Old 27-Mar-2010, 11:19 AM (11:19)     18        38525
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WAR_ON_ERROR View Post
Hey Gurdur,

Thanks for having me. ...
BTW, how about we do a proper intro thread for you?
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Old 27-Mar-2010, 05:10 PM (17:10)     19        38534
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WAR_ON_ERROR View Post
Makbawehuh,

Quote:
We don't need science to tell us what makes us happy
hehe, oh no! The scientific takeover of morality! Down with Carrier-Care! Death panels for everyone who science declares is immoral! Where's Carrier's birth certificate!?!!

I'm just teasing. You seem like a sensible enough guy and not a Glenn Beck fan.
Wow, I should hand you my Troll-hat. That pissed me off just a little bit. Congratulations, for whatever it's worth. I haven't had my first cup of coffee yet, so it could be that my temper is still first-thing-in-the-morning hair-triggered.

Quote:
Somehow you seemed to get the message, "you obviously aren't a happy person."
lolwut? Expound.

Quote:
And for whatever reason you seem to think there couldn't be any underlying universal principles for happiness that don't have to square up to such rigid subjective levels of video game playing enjoyment. Call me crazy, but I'm sure you are wrong. And I think you could probably use some of that common sense observation and introspection stuff and see that, too.
Call me crazy, but I think my point was that happiness -is- subjective. What makes one person happy could be absolute hell to someone else, and vice versa. *watches her point get missed by a mile*

That everyone needs certain basic needs (food, clothing, shelter) to be met has been established for a long time, and is not in any way news. Whether someone is -happy- at the level of those needs being met is going to be up to the individual person.

Quote:
I realize I'm ignoring the fact we live in a world full of moral experts who always agree with each other and sing kumbaya all the time [/sarcasm], but maybe in addition to addressing the needs of those who aren't getting morality right (or those who think they are, but are actually hurting themselves and those around them), and those who perhaps could use some reinforcement and slight corrections (and even better perspective--GASP!), that there are also some larger social issues that the world needs to get on top of in a more systematic and mutually accountable way. We don't have better tools for doing that than the rigorous methodologies we apply in science.
Except that when you start telling people what they *should* be doing they tend to not like it very much. As Gurdur pointed out, it's been tried already.
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Old 28-Mar-2010, 04:56 PM (16:56)     20        38557
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WAR_ON_ERROR View Post
Quote:
You seem to have missed that Carrier's theory does not account for sociopaths, and that it should.
I totally understood that you believe that is the case. I'm assuming I'm allowed to not miss that and directly disagree, right? Why do you think any moral theory *should* account for sociopaths? Where does this prescription for moral theorizing come from? Why should we listen to it?
Moral theories are meant to determine the proper actions humans should take in their lives, particularly regarding the treatment of other humans though they can go beyond that. Thus at a minimum any comprehensive and objective moral system, as Carrier's system claims to be, must include all humans. Unless you want to argue that sociopaths are not in fact human then any moral system like Carrier's must include sociopaths.

Furthermore, if the basis of you moral system is science, then the definition of human should be scientific. I know of no scientific definition of human that would exclude sociopaths from being human. They can interbred with humans and thus on a biological definition they are the same species. They have the capacity for reasoning and intelligence as the rest of the population. The only thing which sets a sociopath apart from the rest of humanity is their differing moral preferences. So to exclude sociopaths is essentially an admission of defeat on an attempt to define objective moral rules. It says that my set of moral rules works for everyone except those who dislike my set of moral rules.
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Old 29-Mar-2010, 02:12 PM (14:12)     21        38575
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Empathy is a virtue, it is subjective, it is about compassion and feelings.
If something is objective, it is free from personal opinions, perceptions and feelings.

re. Carrier's presentation-
Ethics is pursuit of happiness?
Politics is regulation of power over people?
Watch Carrier's body language, he really can't see what he's getting at.

Sam Harris was better, but much of his presentation was based on criticizing religion being used to oppress people and he may seem to make good point with these examples. So atheism and systems to acheive an ideal society? Like Stalin's Russia and Khmer Rouge?
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Old 02-Apr-2010, 11:48 AM (11:48)     23        38669
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Hey Gurdur,

Thanks again for the welcome.

Quote:
Because Carrier, like others, would like to "scientifically discover" ethics from observing human behaviour. But what happens if the humans observed include sociopaths? They simply have nothig like ethics.
Well, and one of the things that can be observed is that human beings who have damage to their brains are incapable of certain kinds of feelings and behaviors. To use Sam Harris' nutrition example, the entire scientific study of what constitutes good nutrition is not nullified by the occasional person who is allergic to peanuts.

And on the same topic, Civil1z@tion says:

Quote:
The only thing which sets a sociopath apart from the rest of humanity is their differing moral preferences.
Um no, something is actually physically wrong with their brains (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychopathy).

Gurdur continues:

Quote:
Which raises the question, what use would it be? Just as some (pseudo-)legitimization?
Um, your objection here is a fallacious argument to the future. "Since they are going to do it wrong, it won't work." How do you know they are going to do it wrong? If none of your specific objections mean anything then it appears that you just don't "get it." That doesn't mean other people are equally confused.

Another unnecessary presupposition of yours appears to be that I'm saying science would only justify what we already know and is therefore worthless. This is a horrible, horrible caricature. It is as though:

A: ...the idea that humans might already have an idea of what is correct is completely implausible.

B: ...those same humans would never allow themselves to be corrected in the event the evidence turned against some conviction of theirs.

C: ...science couldn't possibly refine, double check, and extend into morally difficult territory that is beyond the purview of an individual assessment.

Quote:
Which would again invalidate Carrier's argument, since it would place ethics above and prior to science, rather than being discovered by science.
Science is not supposed to invent morality any more than it invented nutrition. It really seems like you aren't even TRYING to apply Harris' reasoning (or Carrier's) to any of this. People already knew what poison was before science refined our understanding of nutrition. And I'm sure science has informed us many things that we thought were good for us, but turned out not to be as good as we thought. Etc. The science of psychology is already doing a lot of this already. But it isn't really taking it to the level of telling us which cultures and ideologies are objectively capturing human happiness better. Perhaps a good question for Harris (and Carrier) would be: How exactly would your research program differ from what has already been pioneered in the field of psychology? I think I can come up with some answers, but I'd like to know what they have to say. Perhaps the main issue is that we have a lot of information, but not a structured moral theory from it. One that says, "this one is most likely correct (taking into consideration the subjective latitudes already discussed) and these others (from religion for example) are definitively falsified."

The vast majority of humanity in principle wants to get away from things that make us miserable, lonely, self-loathing, things which create bad friendships, fear/paranoia, discontentment, anxiety/stress, neurosis/depression, self-destructive behavior, purposelessness/worthlessness, and negative social climates. And instead, what they do tend to want is to adopt life strategies that engage joy, love, self respect, good friendships, security/trust, contentment, peace/tranquility, sanity/positivity, self-improving behavior, sense of purpose/self-worth, and positive social climates.

So, I don't think anyone who is actually interested in moral questions can successfully disown this basic moral compass, nor fail to see how it is completely reality based and subject to scientific inspection and improvement with further prescriptions for getting more bang out of life for our buck. Even if we drop the term "morality" or any other stumbling block to going all the way with a science of morality, who wouldn't want to sit down and read that manual? A sociopath? A rock? Sure, I wouldn't expect them to. But everyone else? I don't think people here are being very realistic.

Quote:
how do you feel about Sam Harris' notorious remark concerning his relative judgment on rape and religion? I don't want to derail things here, but I would be quite interested in your opinion on that one.
I didn't see it. Harris has said lots of things I've disagreed with. That's what other scientists are for (peer review). We can't all get everything right.

I disagree with Harris for instance that we won't ever be able to ask a supercomputer moral questions. I think that's exactly what people will be able to do. If we have a science of morality and in addition to that we have A. I., and they are programmed with absolutely everything we know about the topic...duh. We ask our elders for advice. Our parents. Our ministers. Our friends. Why wouldn't we ask the most qualified thinking machine on earth? Stupid. I'm betting Harris dropped it because he didn't want people to freak out, but surprise, surprise they still managed to in so many ways. Might as well be honest.

Makbawehuh,

Quote:
Call me crazy, but I think my point was that happiness -is- subjective. What makes one person happy could be absolute hell to someone else, and vice versa. *watches her point get missed by a mile*
Duh. My point is that happiness is not COMPLETELY subjective. Even Harris has his landscape of various subjective peeks of happiness. And you even admit this isn't the whole story yourself:

Quote:
That everyone needs certain basic needs (food, clothing, shelter) to be met has been established for a long time, and is not in any way news.
Still, the problem is that your appraisal is simplistic. People spend their entire lives refining the art of their own happiness, self-discovery after self-discovery. Learning from books, magazines, friends, and the other people around them. Is it SO inconceivable that MAYBE, just maybe, science could evaluate in a comprehensive way the art of human happiness to give people coming up in the ranks a heads up? Do you HONESTLY live in a world where no one ever gives young people advice? Do we never give each other advice? Do we never see anyone we know that just isn't getting it right (like they are in an abusive relationship) but they don't seem to be figuring it out on their own? Is it possible that maybe you don't know something about human happiness that you might discover 5 years from now that would have been splendid to know 5 years ago? You must live in this perfect RPG world where ever single step of the way is perfect and you are always incidentally informed of everything you need to know baby step by baby step. And one day just when you've leveled up enough you'll fight the ultimate end boss and win, right? Or do you maybe live in reality with the rest of us where there is a vast landscape of confusion and potential for early education?

Quote:
Except that when you start telling people what they *should* be doing they tend to not like it very much.
Well, we already have modest ways of doing that. You go to a psychologist to tell them your mental problems and they don't come down from Mt. Sinai with 10 commandments chiseled in stone typically. Maybe they do in your world, I don't know.

alicat says:

Quote:
Sam Harris was better, but much of his presentation was based on criticizing religion being used to oppress people and he may seem to make good point with these examples. So atheism and systems to acheive an ideal society?
I think Sam Harris (as well as Carrier) are actually pushing for just a science of morality on its own terms regardless of its utility in fighting the evils of religion. Religion is obviously going to come up a lot since that is the frame that morality is most often seen in, but I think both of them would whole-heartedly agree that if religion dropped off the face of the planet tomorrow, a science of morality would be just as important a pursuit for helping to address life's most important questions with humanity's best methods of discernment.

Further, both would probably agree that moral education should be a part of the school system. Students should be aware of what is good for their bodies (in terms of nutrition, to use Harris' example) and also what is good for their minds. And I'm glad to see the progress bar is not as far behind as this conversation might imply. See CNN's report on teaching kids about emotional intelligence (http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/Careers/0...ons/index.html). Would any of you guys say no to that because you may have your happiness figured out?

Civil1z@tion added:

Quote:
Harris' presentation of the issue was far superior especially considering his view of the potential for multiple "peaks" or optimum positions. It was still fundamentally flawed, but I'd rather live in Harris' construction than Carrier's.
Carrier's presentation was much more philosophically articulate and hence had its own strengths. For example, if you read Harris' response to his critics one of the things that came up a bunch was Hume's guillotine. Well Carrier actually explained why his theory still works. Carrier and Harris are on the same page in terms of their being multiple peeks of happiness. I see no difference in substance between their respective positions. Though I'm more familiar with their writings in general.

To everyone:

If the science of morality was a house that Sam Harris told you to break into, you guys would have to come back and report that the security system is just too tight. There was a paper clip on the driveway someone tripped on and broke their hip. The small stones surrounding the garden were in your way. You just couldn't figure out the timing on the sprinkler in order to not get wet. And it was just unfathomable to walk around it. And Sam Harris just has to *facepalm* at your report of failure. He points out that all your belongings are already inside. That the front door is wide open. Marks suspiciously resembling your footprints are already all throughout most of the house. He points out that he didn't even have to give you building schematics since you are strangely already familiar with many of the rooms in the house (though not all of them and not completely). And Harris is completely baffled that you were unable to walk from the street across your own lawn and into your own house and sit down to make yourself at home, while he is busy making plans to rigorously appraise every room, board, nail, and screw (and maybe do some renovating). Sam Harris as Xzibit: "Yo dawg. We put some science in your morality so you can be right about being right while you're still alright."

It would be truly a shame if even the secular world couldn't get on relatively the same page as far as moral objectivity goes. But I guess it just goes to show how necessary moral education really is, doesn't it? Bring on the next round!

Ben
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Old 02-Apr-2010, 12:49 PM (12:49)     24        38671
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Originally Posted by WAR_ON_ERROR View Post
Quote:
Because Carrier, like others, would like to "scientifically discover" ethics from observing human behaviour. But what happens if the humans observed include sociopaths? They simply have nothig like ethics.
Well, and one of the things that can be observed is that human beings who have damage to their brains are incapable of certain kinds of feelings and behaviors.
Problem with that is, sociopaths do not at all necessarily have any observable damage to their brains, or neurological abnormalities, whatsoever. What are you going to do then?

Quote:
To use Sam Harris' nutrition example, the entire scientific study of what constitutes good nutrition is not nullified by the occasional person who is allergic to peanuts.
Then you (or Sam Harris, or whomever) would be making value judgments about what evidence to exclude right at the beginning of your observations, observations claimed to be about discovering such values somehow.

Begin to see the problem?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Civil1z@tion
The only thing which sets a sociopath apart from the rest of humanity is their differing moral preferences.
Quote:
Originally Posted by WAR_ON_ERROR View Post
]Um no, something is actually physically wrong with their brains (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychopathy).
No, pardon me, but that's wrong. First off, quoting from your Wikipedia link:
Quote:
There is DT-MRI evidence of breakdowns in the white matter connections between these two important areas in a small British study of 9 criminal psychopaths. This evidence suggests that the degree of abnormality was significantly related to the degree of psychopathy and may explain the offending behaviors.

A 2008 review found various abnormalities (based on group differences from average) reported in the literature, centred on a prefrontal-temporo-limbic circuit - regions that are involved in emotional and learning processes, as well as many other processes. However, the authors report that the people classed as "psychopathic" cannot in fact be seen as a homogeneous group (i.e. as all having the same characteristics), and that the associations between structural changes and psychopathic characteristics do not enable causal conclusions to be drawn. ....
So, first, only one tiny study (small-sample error) of only nine psychopaths who had committed criminal actions and had been caught for them, which is a very important distinction (since quite a few psychiatrists and psychologists suggest sociopathy is quite relatively common, and that most sociopaths will not commit psychopathic crimes and/or be caught for them), and had been classed as psychopathic for that and subsequent criteria; and then from one other small study that showed putative abnormalities in a selected group.

That is not convincing evidence at all, and I speak professionally on that score; while thankfully I never had to do with sociopaths as such, or what are called psychopaths here, in the course of my work, brain abnormalities and neuro are something in my field.

Now, additionally, sociopathy/psychopathy is an overall label which contains at the very least 2 conflated categories, IMvHO, and in all likelihood several more categories, all conflated into one confused label.

Moreover, DSM-III, DSM-IV and the outcoming DSM-V are all in conflict with each other about that label, and in conflict with other diagnostic criteria & classificational systems used in psychology and psychiatry.

This is something I will be blogging on anyway, since I find it all quite fascinating.

But the conclusion for the moment is:

If sociopathy is defined as it is as having once central characteristic, lack of any genuine, felt empathy for others, then there is no evidence whatsover as yet that any brain damage or observable neurological abnormalities are to blame for sociopathy overall, or that sociopathy itself can be predicted from neurological observations for each and every case.


Quote:
Originally Posted by WAR_ON_ERROR View Post
Um, your objection here is a fallacious argument to the future. "Since they are going to do it wrong, it won't work." How do you know they are going to do it wrong?
There's the presupposing of values before they even set up the studies to "discover" the values, as I pointed out above, in the selection of whom to observe and whom not to;

and then there's that central logic disconnect between "is" and "should", which still remains to be tackled in any convincing way;

then there's comparative work in trying to discover meaningful and significant human universals in fields like anthropology, linguistics (as with "Universal Grammar". and so on; the experience of failures in these fields with directly similar approaches is very pertinent to such an attempt with ethics.

Those factors, and more, lead me to conclude neither Carrier nor Harris have a ghost of a chance.

Quote:
If none of your specific objections mean anything then it appears that you just don't "get it." That doesn't mean other people are equally confused.
And it may well be you simply don't get the objections yet, but those objections are still valid. Equally a possibility, eh?

In any case, I very much hope you will continue to argue this case, and to argue it thoroughly and at length, since as said I will blogging on each and every aspect at length (and I very much hope others will blog and post on threads here about each and every aspect too), since your own arguments are helpful in slowly building here an overall structure tackling the whole question in depth, and it will all provide a useful guide to others in the future, whatever their own stance.

More later, in reply to the rest of your post, and please do not let my lack of reply to the rest of your post stop you in developing your themes here. I will blog very soon about sociopathy/psychopathy as part of this all.

Last edited by Gurdur; 02-Apr-2010 at 01:00 PM (13:00).
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Old 02-Apr-2010, 03:58 PM (15:58)     25        38682
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Gurdur,

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Problem with that is, sociopaths do not at all necessarily have any observable damage to their brains, or neurological abnormalities, whatsoever. What are you going to do then?
Well, let's set aside any physical differences and pretend for the sake of argument that there isn't anything in the brain in particular that correlates with what we label sociopathic. If people are made to be sociopaths by their environment or personal history, their harsh experiences in the world, Carrier's theory directly addresses this even in the videos. It is just a hypothesis but it is still possible that these people (though they have their preferences) do not know what they do not know. And even in a more limited sense, this applies to people who simply have some very bad habits and profess to "enjoy" them.

The Aristotelian hypothesis is that if these people only knew what they were missing in what we might classify as a more moral lifestyle where other people's interests were valued, they would change their minds and seek out a different lifestyle. It's a falsifiable hypothesis. Maybe they wouldn't. But many "bad people" who are turned that way in their younger years manage to have some kind of life altering moment where their moral paradigm flips over and they take new steps out into more healthy lifestyle habits as a result. We are all capable of creating our inner hells, and sometimes whatever perks there might be to that are only short-lived.

Quote:
Then you (or Sam Harris, or whomever) would be making value judgments about what evidence to exclude right at the beginning of your observations, observations claimed to be about discovering such values somehow. Begin to see the problem?
I've always understood what you are trying to say, but I've always had tools for discerning what to do with the information. For instance, you seem to think it is "arbitrary" to throw rocks out of the equation. But rocks don't have the characteristics that even make morality meaningful at all. It's not so much a value judgment as it is a factual assessment. To the extent people meaningful differ is to the extent terms shift. And to whatever extent it is arbitrary is to whatever extent it is arbitrary. That's just how it is. I never understood "universal" conventions, I only understand practical conventions. We have to deal with whatever the world throws at us regardless of whether it fits our neat little picture. I don't have a neat little picture. I have a very complicated set of procedures for dealing with the scaling variables and every case simply has to be worked out on its own terms.

Quote:
But the conclusion for the moment is:

If sociopathy is defined as it is as having once central characteristic, lack of any genuine, felt empathy for others, then there is no evidence whatsover as yet that any brain damage or observable neurological abnormalities are to blame for sociopathy overall, or that sociopathy itself can be predicted from neurological observations for each and every case.
Yeah, to quote the science the wiki referenced:

Quote:
The associations between structural changes and psychopathic characteristics do not enable causal conclusions to be drawn, but point rather to the important role of biological brain abnormalities in psychopathy. To gain a comprehensive understanding of this, psychopathy must be viewed as a multifactorial process involving neurobiological, genetic, epidemiological and sociobiographical factors.
So the reference says that the picture is complicated, not that physical abnormalities are completely unrelated. I see I deleted my references to the likely spectrum of sociopaths in my previous reply. I should have left those in. Anyway, to the extent brain damage (or abnormalities) apply, is to the extent it applies. To the extent the behaviors are memetic is the extent they are memetic. Obviously we can only ask so much of the hardware, but that doesn't mean that the hardware in our brains as far as most people go can't be evaluated for whatever produces the most objective happiness. It is not arbitrary at all to investigate that question. Focus should not be conflated with arbitrary exclusion. To whatever extent sociopathic behaviors are "software" means that these individuals can be mistaken about what constitutes the good life as I pointed out above (and as Carrier already pointed out in the videos).

There's no magic bullet to make everything work out perfectly with on single principle that solves absolutely every issue. Many complicated criteria can apply and still produce an objective picture. We have to deal with reality don't we? That shouldn't hold up anything at all since everything science deals with is complicated. How to deal with the spectrum of the population that can be classified as sociopaths is just a different wing of morality on their own terms. Doesn't mean science won't have anything to say about it that will be helpful, but I doubt that needs to be the focus on our definitive moral manual for human happiness.

Quote:
Those factors, and more, lead me to conclude neither Carrier nor Harris have a ghost of a chance.
Even if they try and fail, won't that at least answer the question definitively in the negative? That would still be informative. If science could absolutely prove that morality is totally subjective and that you just have to figure out whatever you want to do on your own...that would answer some important questions, right?

Quote:
And it may well be you simply don't get the objections yet, but those objections are still valid. Equally a possibility, eh?
Sure.

Ben
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Old 02-Apr-2010, 08:10 PM (20:10)     26        38699
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Originally Posted by WAR_ON_ERROR View Post
Duh. My point is that happiness is not COMPLETELY subjective. Even Harris has his landscape of various subjective peeks of happiness. And you even admit this isn't the whole story yourself...
I also pointed out that the basic needs for happiness are already known. Once those basic needs are met, it -is- an individual endeavor, because everyone is going to have different values.


Quote:
Still, the problem is that your appraisal is simplistic.
On the whole, I've discovered that for all the mental masturbation we do, people are essentially simple creatures, and our -basic needs- are quite simple. Basic needs, as opposed to *happiness*. Not everyone is happy just having the basic things being met.

Quote:
People spend their entire lives refining the art of their own happiness, self-discovery after self-discovery. Learning from books, magazines, friends, and the other people around them. Is it SO inconceivable that MAYBE, just maybe, science could evaluate in a comprehensive way the art of human happiness to give people coming up in the ranks a heads up? Do you HONESTLY live in a world where no one ever gives young people advice? Do we never give each other advice?
I live in a world where people offer advice all the time, and people discount said advice for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it works out, sometimes not. Sometimes that advice is full of shit, and sometimes it's not. You ask those questions like offering- and taking- the advice of others is entirely a good thing.

And yes, I do think it's inconceivable that science could tell what would make every person on the face of this earth what they need to be happy, because that science would need to track down and be applied to individuals. You can't take an "overall something" and apply it to everyone and tell them it's going to make them happy. It doesn't work that way. Have you ever worked with people at all? You seriously speak like someone who hasn't.

Quote:
Do we never see anyone we know that just isn't getting it right (like they are in an abusive relationship) but they don't seem to be figuring it out on their own? Is it possible that maybe you don't know something about human happiness that you might discover 5 years from now that would have been splendid to know 5 years ago?
Oh, I see it all the time. And I know this from the experience of working with people, and it's something you don't seem to understand yourself- You can tell someone that they're in an abusive relationship, that what they're doing isn't good for them, that they're unhappy for X reasons all you want... And unless you can bring them around to the understanding on their own, it's pointless. They -must- figure it out on their own. If they do not figure it out on their own it means nothing to them.

Like I said, you speak like someone whose never worked with people.

Quote:
You must live in this perfect RPG world where ever single step of the way is perfect and you are always incidentally informed of everything you need to know baby step by baby step. And one day just when you've leveled up enough you'll fight the ultimate end boss and win, right? Or do you maybe live in reality with the rest of us where there is a vast landscape of confusion and potential for early education?
No perfect RPG world here, just the real one in which I've worked with people and learned that simply telling them something, when it relates to their own internal workings, doesn't work. Stalin tried it, my father has tried it, and now you and Carrier seem to be convince you can do the same thing and make it work. It makes me lol, seriously. I wish you luck on it, I do, but even if you -could- discover such a thing (which I don't believe you can) it would be impossible to implement.

Quote:
Well, we already have modest ways of doing that. You go to a psychologist to tell them your mental problems and they don't come down from Mt. Sinai with 10 commandments chiseled in stone typically. Maybe they do in your world, I don't know.
No they do not. Even if they know -exactly- what is going on, they know (if they are any good) that they have to help you make those realizations on your own. If they came down with the ten commandments, it'd be a rare person who'd listen to them.

You know, you keep wanting to insist that I'm not living in the real world, and that I spend all my time gaming, and you keep focusing on my lack of a social life like it's some sort of an insult. Well you know what? I'm a gamer in my spare time... Is that supposed to be sad? Is it abormal? Am I supposed to be ashamed of this? Do you think I'm detached from reality because I choose to not spend time with people, because after working all day long WITH PEOPLE, I'm not overly in the mood to deal with them? Is -that- why you keep ragging on it?

Does that bother you?

If that made you uncomfortable, then I just don't know what to say, because I won't apologize for it.

Now I will say this- Although I have no social life per se, I am actually -very- good with people in a work environment. I spent several years working in the mental health field, and while I don't know that I did it as long as Gudur, and I certainly didn't do it in the same situation, I know a thing or two about what I'm talking about here.

If anyone here is living in a fantasy world, it seems to be you. Not because you game (obviously you don't, since it seems to be beyond you that someone might not be ashamed of deriving pleasure from doing so), but because you act like you've never actually worked with people in a theraputic setting, where the things that bother them and issues of happiness -are- the issues you're dealing with.

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Old 02-Apr-2010, 08:49 PM (20:49)     27        38702
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Originally Posted by WAR_ON_ERROR View Post
To everyone:

If the science of morality was a house that Sam Harris told you to break into, you guys would have to come back and report that the security system is just too tight. There was a paper clip on the driveway someone tripped on and broke their hip. The small stones surrounding the garden were in your way. You just couldn't figure out the timing on the sprinkler in order to not get wet. And it was just unfathomable to walk around it. And Sam Harris just has to *facepalm* at your report of failure.
On the contrary, we all seem to be telling you why it's flawed, for a variety of reasons. Who isn't living in reality, again? It's sounding less like me as time goes on, here. And Eris Bless, you're condescending.

Quote:
He points out that all your belongings are already inside. That the front door is wide open. Marks suspiciously resembling your footprints are already all throughout most of the house. He points out that he didn't even have to give you building schematics since you are strangely already familiar with many of the rooms in the house (though not all of them and not completely). And Harris is completely baffled that you were unable to walk from the street across your own lawn and into your own house and sit down to make yourself at home, while he is busy making plans to rigorously appraise every room, board, nail, and screw (and maybe do some renovating). Sam Harris as Xzibit: "Yo dawg. We put some science in your morality so you can be right about being right while you're still alright."
He is? Are you him? Or are you just busy being condescending and arrogant again?

Quote:
It would be truly a shame if even the secular world couldn't get on relatively the same page as far as moral objectivity goes. But I guess it just goes to show how necessary moral education really is, doesn't it? Bring on the next round!
Uh... The secular world? The religious world can't even agree on what's morally right and never has been able to, for the same reasons that the secular world hasn't. Namely, that different people hold different things to be important.

Moral education? That sounds suspiciously like Catechism. Thank you, I'd like to not attend classes to tell me things that I don't agree with. Did that once, don't want to do it again.

Question though- How would you react if someone decided it was scientifically morally correct to do something you don't agree with? Would that make you happy?

I don't think so.

There's no workable "one right way" for everyone. There never is. Every experience in dealing with people, for all that their defense mechanisms and idiosyncrasies may be similar, is an experience in learning and carving new paths for yourself, too.

But then, if you'd ever done any therapy you'd know that.
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Old 03-Apr-2010, 11:57 AM (11:57)     28        38707
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Am I right in thinking that the argument here is between believers in an absolute system of morality discoverable by science ( or religion, etc ), and those who believe that systems of morality are always subjective, their value depending on context, ( time, place, etc ), their nature necessarily changing/open to change?

ie. Is Carrier's argument that it is possible to discover an absolute ( if very complex/sophisticated ), system of morality, one which would apply to everyone, everywhere, forever; having supposedly identified a "motor", a unifying principle for moral behaviour, and proposed a sufficiently complex approach to it to cover everything, even if the "quotients" for calculating "good" behaviour at any given moment remain obscure, in fact impossible to determine at the moment?

I don't understand in what way it is supposed to improve on previous ideas, eg. utilitarianism. It sounds as unworkable as any other "absolute system of morality", and its "credibility" seems to depend almost entirely on faith in the secular god/social construct "science" ( eg. some sort of central AI able to juggle billions of bits of data like in many sci-fi stories ) to somehow determine the "values" involved.

It's interesting that faith in objectivity/rational thought and its church, "science", seems to lead to the same sort of ideas as faith in a god with objective existence did/does.
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Old 05-Apr-2010, 03:38 AM (03:38)     29        38732
alicat
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Originally Posted by WAR_ON_ERROR View Post

I think Sam Harris (as well as Carrier) are actually pushing for just a science of morality on its own terms regardless of its utility in fighting the evils of religion. Religion is obviously going to come up a lot since that is the frame that morality is most often seen in, but I think both of them would whole-heartedly agree that if religion dropped off the face of the planet tomorrow, a science of morality would be just as important a pursuit for helping to address life's most important questions with humanity's best methods of discernment.
Here we see some blatant bias on the part of a supposed scientist, "evils of religion." Is it really? Sure Harris points out religious atrocities, yet there are also many religious and charitable organizations that go out and Do Good. People find comfort and hope in faith. Most religions at their core include some simple teachings about love that can change lives more effectively than cold hard facts. So is religion evil? It's all how you stir the pot. Of course Pol Pot and Stalin don't prove atheist regimes are inherntly evil either. Most religions have some teaching about how knowledge of good and evil or duality is the root of guilt and suffering. So would a more complicated system of defining and labelling even promote harmony in society, how does Harris know a system based on experts and complex rules for behavior would promote happiness, historically this hasn't worked too well.


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Originally Posted by WAR_ON_ERROR
If the science of morality was a house that Sam Harris told you to break into, you guys would have to come back and report that the security system is just too tight. There was a paper clip on the driveway someone tripped on and broke their hip. The small stones surrounding the garden were in your way. You just couldn't figure out the timing on the sprinkler in order to not get wet. And it was just unfathomable to walk around it. And Sam Harris just has to *facepalm* at your report of failure. He points out that all your belongings are already inside. That the front door is wide open. Marks suspiciously resembling your footprints are already all throughout most of the house. He points out that he didn't even have to give you building schematics since you are strangely already familiar with many of the rooms in the house (though not all of them and not completely). And Harris is completely baffled that you were unable to walk from the street across your own lawn and into your own house and sit down to make yourself at home, while he is busy making plans to rigorously appraise every room, board, nail, and screw (and maybe do some renovating). Sam Harris as Xzibit: "Yo dawg. We put some science in your morality so you can be right about being right while you're still alright."
If the science of morality was a house Harris told me to break into??
Why would I try to do that? Why should anyone do what Harris tells them? Quit worrying about rules and which leader to follow and which commands are the right ones, just go and live your own life with integrity and compassion.

Fixed quote tag - Never

Last edited by Never; 05-Apr-2010 at 05:52 PM (17:52). Reason: oh, can't get the quotes right, oh well
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Old 06-Apr-2010, 02:32 AM (02:32)     30        38775
Civil1z@tion
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Originally Posted by WAR_ON_ERROR View Post
And on the same topic, Civil1z@tion says:

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The only thing which sets a sociopath apart from the rest of humanity is their differing moral preferences.
Um no, something is actually physically wrong with their brains (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychopathy).
First off, that is psychopathy not sociopathy. The two are distinctly different mental conditions. Even if psychopathy is a brain malfunction (a point I'll cover later) it still doesn't relieve Carrier or Harris from dealing with sociopathy which still would present exceptions to the universality of their system.

[
Quote:
Originally Posted by WAR_ON_ERROR View Post
B]Civil1z@tion added:[/B]

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Harris' presentation of the issue was far superior especially considering his view of the potential for multiple "peaks" or optimum positions. It was still fundamentally flawed, but I'd rather live in Harris' construction than Carrier's.
Carrier's presentation was much more philosophically articulate and hence had its own strengths. For example, if you read Harris' response to his critics one of the things that came up a bunch was Hume's guillotine. Well Carrier actually explained why his theory still works. Carrier and Harris are on the same page in terms of their being multiple peeks of happiness. I see no difference in substance between their respective positions. Though I'm more familiar with their writings in general.
I missed the part where Carrier talked about the peaks thing but that's quite possibly my bad not his.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WAR_ON_ERROR View Post
If the science of morality was a house that Sam Harris told you to break into, you guys would have to come back and report that the security system is just too tight. There was a paper clip on the driveway someone tripped on and broke their hip. The small stones surrounding the garden were in your way. You just couldn't figure out the timing on the sprinkler in order to not get wet. And it was just unfathomable to walk around it. And Sam Harris just has to *facepalm* at your report of failure. He points out that all your belongings are already inside. That the front door is wide open. Marks suspiciously resembling your footprints are already all throughout most of the house. He points out that he didn't even have to give you building schematics since you are strangely already familiar with many of the rooms in the house (though not all of them and not completely). And Harris is completely baffled that you were unable to walk from the street across your own lawn and into your own house and sit down to make yourself at home, while he is busy making plans to rigorously appraise every room, board, nail, and screw (and maybe do some renovating). Sam Harris as Xzibit: "Yo dawg. We put some science in your morality so you can be right about being right while you're still alright."

It would be truly a shame if even the secular world couldn't get on relatively the same page as far as moral objectivity goes. But I guess it just goes to show how necessary moral education really is, doesn't it? Bring on the next round!

Ben
Harris and Carrier both still fail on the idea humans must value certain things, things that we just so happen to be raised to like such as happiness. You can potentially show that many people like these things but you cannot show that it is good to like these things. Majority does not imply correctness (or else we all better give up being atheists).

You haven't really countered the sociopathy argument (bringing in psychopathy is not a counter to sociopathy and even that argument fails for reasons I'll get into presently) so if a person can have sufficiently divergent values to be sociopathic then there is no necessary universal system of human morality. As for psychopathy, even if the brain structure is different that does not prove a psychopath is wrong to want what he/she does. Since dualism is bs anyways all people have somewhat different brain structures from each other. So if you look hard enough you'll find anyone who disagrees with you have some level (probably minor and only involving neuron connections but still existent) of brain differences from you. As for psychopathy's differences being more severe, that still doesn't mean they must be wrong. The only reason we call it a disorder is because it is different from the majority.

Take this example. A poster in another forum I visit argues that homosexuality is a mental disorder. He argues this on the basis that it is outside societal norms and leads to depression/suicide/etc. Now, the only reason that homosexuality would lead to mental problems is because the rest of society rejects homosexuals but this does not change his definition. The fact is homosexuals are in the minority and thus they must be the one with the disorder according to this poster. However, I think we can agree that he's full of crap, there is nothing wrong with homosexuality. On the other hand the argument to exclude psychopathy's values from a moral code even acknowledging brain differences (homosexual brains aren't precisely the same as heterosexual brains in the same way that my brain isn't the same as yours) ultimately comes down to no more than the majority must be right. Maybe the psychopaths are the ones who are right and the rest of us have mental disorders. Ultimately the only argument for excluding them is the same argument the homo-phobic poster I mention used. Just because they don't value other humans' lives doesn't me they must be wrong.
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