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Can we trust our Moral Intuitions?
#11
RE: Can we trust our Moral Intuitions?
You may want to withhold judgement of my capacity for this stuff; my confidence level is not so great. I've read and debated about it a bit but not in a while and the subject just always seems rife with potholes. One thing I'll say about Stich's diagram is that it seems complicated, though I couldn't argue for eliminating any of its elements. I found the tribal examples very digestible and relatable. The one thing I find most interesting is the emotional element. Why on earth do our moral judgements have to be filtered through emotions? Likely this is evolutionary, but it seems quite counter intuitive. Logic and reason are the only filters that seem relevant, so why do emotions have to butt into the party?

My overall reaction here is that I see nothing to disagree with. This all seems to jive with my knowledge and experiences and certainly there are historical references that support such assertions. I'm a fan of Roman history and the prevailing consensus on morality or ethics of the Romans suggests that they had quite different values than modern people, to the extent that many of us wouldn't be able to relate.
Why is it so?
~Julius Sumner Miller
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#12
RE: Can we trust our Moral Intuitions?
I'm not comfortable with the question. Usually, when we talk about trusting intuitions, it is in reference to whether and to what extent they conform to objective reality. When I analyze my intuition about whether someone is trustworthy based on very limited information, it is in reference to whether they are actually trustworthy and whether given more information and opportunity for analysis I would reach the same conclusion. That question presupposes an objectively "right" answer. And my sense is that our intuitions are better at approximating right answers in rough proportion to how often our ancestors encountered similar situations throughout our evolutionary history and how important those developing intuitions were to survival. "This doesn't taste right" is more highly correlated with "this will harm me" than "the volume of that lake seems like 100K liters" is correlated to the actual volume.

But before you can justify such a question about morality you must assume there is a right answer and therefore an objective morality that would be independent of what any sentient creature thought. And this is something that has never been demonstrated. I tend to agree that morality is subjective and dependent on the existence of sentient beings. What would morality even mean in a lifeless universe?
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#13
RE: Can we trust our Moral Intuitions?
Of course.
I am superior in every way, therefore, my morals, shall be all morals.

Problem solved.
You are welcome.
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#14
RE: Can we trust our Moral Intuitions?
(October 4, 2021 at 11:36 am)Soberman921 Wrote: But before you can justify such a question about morality you must assume there is a right answer and therefore an objective morality that would be independent of what any sentient creature thought. And this is something that has never been demonstrated. I tend to agree that morality is subjective and dependent on the existence of sentient beings. What would morality even mean in a lifeless universe?

In an objectivist view, the same thing it does in a universe bursting with life in principle.  Things don't have to be alive for us to feel as though defacing them is an issue of moral import, though we do tend to limit moral responsibility to those agents we deem competent, all of which, so far as we know...are alive.  

Conceptually, defacing a mountain isn't not-bad because it's just lifeless rock, and we might hold a person accountable where we don't hold a flash flood..though we may also believe people to have been negligent if some preventable natural disaster effects the same outcome.

That we are here to apprehend all of this is a given - but, again in an objectivist view, even without any witness, nothing about an act itself changes.  This is what's meant by objective morality.  That the bad making properties of x are properties of x...rather than properties of the observer y.  Saying that people apprehend good and bad and sentient creatures must be present to apprehend at all - full stop, is not equivalent to saying that the bad of x is due to those creatures' y(s) apprehensions.

Or, tldr version..it's not because I saw it that curbstomping an infant is bad, or anything about me at all. Moore would contend....in the same context, however, that any competent moral agent y who did see an infant curbstomped would notice the bad of that x. This is moral intuition, as described. What sorts of things do you reference when you want to assert that a given x is bad? Your personal opinions, your taste or appetite for x? Is there anything that you think is so bad..rather than explain it to a person questioning or skeptical, you'd just say "let's take a walk, I'll show you, and you tell me what you think"?
I am the Infantry. I am my country’s strength in war, her deterrent in peace. I am the heart of the fight… wherever, whenever. I carry America’s faith and honor against her enemies. I am the Queen of Battle. I am what my country expects me to be, the best trained Soldier in the world. In the race for victory, I am swift, determined, and courageous, armed with a fierce will to win. Never will I fail my country’s trust. Always I fight on…through the foe, to the objective, to triumph overall. If necessary, I will fight to my death. By my steadfast courage, I have won more than 200 years of freedom. I yield not to weakness, to hunger, to cowardice, to fatigue, to superior odds, For I am mentally tough, physically strong, and morally straight. I forsake not, my country, my mission, my comrades, my sacred duty. I am relentless. I am always there, now and forever. I AM THE INFANTRY! FOLLOW ME!
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#15
RE: Can we trust our Moral Intuitions?
(October 4, 2021 at 11:11 am)Spongebob Wrote: You may want to withhold judgement of my capacity for this stuff; my confidence level is not so great.

Nah. I can tell you're good for a conversation about metaethics. You're able to stand back and look objectively at things and that's the major requirement for this discussion. An interest in the subject matter is also (pretty much) required. Otherwise, it's boring.

Quote:Logic and reason are the only filters that seem relevant, so why do emotions have to butt into the party?

I tend to agree with this assessment. I want to object to Stich's diagram in effect to say, "We can temporarily suppress or disregard the influence of emotions when we make moral judgments, and when we have accurate information (true premises) and are less influenced by emotion, our intuitions can work properly." Traditionally, philosophers have thought that all you need are correct beliefs, logic, and a good moral principle(s) to make accurate moral determinations. Stich is not only a philosopher, but a cognitive scientist. And he's using empirical findings in cognitive science to cast doubt on the aforementioned model (beliefs, logic, moral principle).

Quote:I'm a fan of Roman history and the prevailing consensus on morality or ethics of the Romans suggests that they had quite different values than modern people, to the extent that many of us wouldn't be able to relate.

Yep, and that plays right into Stich's point. Some Roman philosophers (like Seneca) thought deeply about ethics. And yet they ended up NOT being die-hard abolitionists. Why not? Stich would say that it boils down to proximal environmental cues. Slavery was a normal, everyday thing they had become accustomed to as a fact of life. Day after day. Slaves, slaves, slaves. Therefore, it didn't arouse their emotions to see a person in bondage.

Same goes for Northerners and Southerners. Northerners were not accustomed to seeing slaves day after day. Therefore, "slavery is okay" never made it into their norm box. But it DID make it into the norm box of Southerners. I would argue (contra Stich) that even Seneca realized there was something wrong with slavery. Even Southern slave owners knew they didn't want to be slaves. No intuition problem there, it seems.

I want to say that, in some ways, Stich is only reinforcing the notion that many philosophers have that emotion impairs moral judgment. His studies and causal links may be question begging. If moral reflection is something that you do to possibly decide against what you'd do without moral reflection, then "normal human behavior" is hardly a metric to use to determine the efficacy of moral reflection.

That being said, I think Stich would probably have a good reply to that objection, and many of his arguments are unphased by it.

(October 4, 2021 at 11:36 am)Soberman921 Wrote: But before you can justify such a question about morality you must assume there is a right answer and therefore an objective morality that would be independent of what any sentient creature thought. And this is something that has never been demonstrated. I tend to agree that morality is subjective and dependent on the existence of sentient beings. What would morality even mean in a lifeless universe?

What would math mean in a lifeless universe? What would science mean? There would be no math or science in a lifeless universe. Remove all life from the universe and you wouldn't have things like math or science. That doesn't mean those enterprises aren't objective.

As it turns out, morality is often (if not always) concerned with the welfare of living beings. If you remove all living beings, then you remove the object for moral concern. Think about it like this: if you removed all gravitational bodies from the universe, would that mean there is no gravity? Gravity as we understand it currently has to do with distortion of spacetime as it interacts with massive objects. That property may be a property of space.

I see where you're coming from... just giving a counter argument.

In philosophy, most ethical theories strive to be objective. In hedonistic utilitarianism, you have an objective (even empirical) approach to what right and wrong are. The question is: is hedonism a correct moral theory? And how do you determine if it's correct or not? It's hard to come up with a moral theory that can survive rigorous scrutiny. But the reason I like to argue for moral objectivism is that the competing theories, moral nihilism and moral subjectivism, also begin to crack and fail when subjected to rigorous scrutiny.
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#16
RE: Can we trust our Moral Intuitions?
To quote Reagan, "Trust, but verify." Animal insticts allowed us to get this far, so some deference to intuitions that come from our evolutionary hostory seems warranted. Personally, I favor a kind of natural law virtue ethics. This allows for degrees of right action. What matters ethically is adequate due diligence and using sufficient critical thinking.
<insert profound quote here>
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#17
RE: Can we trust our Moral Intuitions?
Quote:vulcanlogician

Yep, and that plays right into Stich's point. Some Roman philosophers (like Seneca) thought deeply about ethics. And yet they ended up NOT being die-hard abolitionists. Why not? Stich would say that it boils down to proximal environmental cues. Slavery was a normal, everyday thing they had become accustomed to as a fact of life. Day after day. Slaves, slaves, slaves. Therefore, it didn't arouse their emotions to see a person in bondage.
It wasn't just slavery, as you probably already know.  The part that seems so alien to me is that a happy, comfortable life was simply not part of their way of thinking.  Depending on your class, such as being a soldier, you could be expected to embrace the hard life of war and an honorable death as the greatest objective in life.

Quote:Same goes for Northerners and Southerners. Northerners were not accustomed to seeing slaves day after day. Therefore, "slavery is okay" never made it into their norm box. But it DID make it into the norm box of Southerners. I would argue (contra Stich) that even Seneca realized there was something wrong with slavery. Even Southern slave owners knew they didn't want to be slaves. No intuition problem there, it seems.
Good reference because this is where it gets wonky.  What tool can explain Abraham Lincoln and others like him?  Lincoln grew up of meager means in Kentucky.  His family didn't own slaves but he was exposed to them and grew to despise the practice despite living among a culture that considered it acceptable.  He was said to have always despised slavery.  His family attended a Baptist church that opposed slavery and this could have been the source of his moral attitude, but then where did the church get this from?  Perhaps the minister was from a part of the country that opposed slavery; I've never read anything to explain this.  I feel that logic and reason could easily account for the determination that slavery is an abominable practice except for the fact that even long after the enlightenment we still have the slave trade going strong.
Why is it so?
~Julius Sumner Miller
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#18
RE: Can we trust our Moral Intuitions?
Quote:In an objectivist view, the same thing it does in a universe bursting with life in principle.  Things don't have to be alive for us to feel as though defacing them is an issue of moral import, though we do tend to limit moral responsibility to those agents we deem competent, all of which, so far as we know...are alive.  

Conceptually, defacing a mountain isn't not-bad because it's just lifeless rock, and we might hold a person accountable where we don't hold a flash flood..though we may also believe people to have been negligent if some preventable natural disaster effects the same outcome.

That we are here to apprehend all of this is a given - but, again in an objectivist view, even without any witness, nothing about an act itself changes.  This is what's meant by objective morality.  That the bad making properties of x are properties of x...rather than properties of the observer y.  Saying that people apprehend good and bad and sentient creatures must be present to apprehend at all - full stop, is not equivalent to saying that the bad of x is due to those creatures' y(s) apprehensions.

Or, tldr version..it's not because I saw it that curbstomping an infant is bad, or anything about me at all.  Moore would contend....in the same context, however, that any competent moral agent y who did see an infant curbstomped would notice the bad of that x.  This is moral intuition, as described.  What sorts of things do you reference when you want to assert that a given x is bad?  Your personal opinions, your taste or appetite for x?  Is there anything that you think is so bad..rather than explain it to a person questioning or skeptical, you'd just say  "let's take a walk, I'll show you, and you tell me what you think"?

The issue I raise isn't that morality requires sentient observers. It's that morality requires actions by sentient agents in a universe in which their actions can affect other sentient agents. It is not surprising that the example you give on which you can expect moral agreement, the curbstomping of babies, involves a sentient agent and sentient target. Your example of rock defacement requires at least a sentient agent, as you acknowledge we don't attach moral import where this occurs through natural processes. Give me an example of something you find intuitively "bad" from a lifeless universe. If you can't, you should agree that morality requires subjects.

My view is that morality only makes sense in reference to certain goals that must be agreed upon. Humanity has a common interest in human flourishing and the avoidance of pain. If we can agree on those as goals, then we can discuss actions that objectively lead to those goals. Our moral intuitions generally align with those goals, which I attribute to millions of years of evolution in which those without such intuitions would have been at a survival disadvantage. If I am arguing for the morality of an action, I would either seek to obtain agreement to these goals or assume such agreement and argue how the act furthers them. Curb stomping babies furthers neither goal but in fact is contrary to both.

Quote:What would math mean in a lifeless universe? What would science mean? There would be no math or science in a lifeless universe. Remove all life from the universe and you wouldn't have things like math or science. That doesn't mean those enterprises aren't objective.

As it turns out, morality is often (if not always) concerned with the welfare of living beings. If you remove all living beings, then you remove the object for moral concern. Think about it like this: if you removed all gravitational bodies from the universe, would that mean there is no gravity? Gravity as we understand it currently has to do with distortion of spacetime as it interacts with massive objects. That property may be a property of space.

I see where you're coming from... just giving a counter argument.

In philosophy, most ethical theories strive to be objective. In hedonistic utilitarianism, you have an objective (even empirical) approach to what right and wrong are. The question is: is hedonism a correct moral theory? And how do you determine if it's correct or not? It's hard to come up with a moral theory that can survive rigorous scrutiny. But the reason I like to argue for moral objectivism is that the competing theories, moral nihilism and moral subjectivism, also begin to crack and fail when subjected to rigorous scrutiny.

Math and science would still exist in a lifeless universe because these are words we use to describe how matter and energy work, and wherever there is matter or energy, we can describe them with math and science. We may not be there to do so, but that in no way means they wouldn't apply. Morality is different because, as you acknowledge, sentient agents and subjects are required for morality. It makes no sense to speak of morality in their absence. The equivalent for gravity would be removing all spacetime, in which case I say that yes, there is no gravity since gravity is a function of spacetime. What are the cracks you see in a subjective view of morality as I describe it?
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#19
RE: Can we trust our Moral Intuitions?
(October 4, 2021 at 4:16 pm)Soberman921 Wrote: The issue I raise isn't that morality requires sentient observers. It's that morality requires actions by sentient agents in a universe in which their actions can affect other sentient agents. It is not surprising that the example you give on which you can expect moral agreement, the curbstomping of babies, involves a sentient agent and sentient target. Your example of rock defacement requires at least a sentient agent, as you acknowledge we don't attach moral import where this occurs through natural processes. Give me an example of something you find intuitively "bad" from a lifeless universe. If you can't, you should agree that morality requires subjects.
I do agree, but that's exactly the problem.  The apprehension of moral value requires subjects (of some kind, at least - living or non living, we might add that they need to be sentient creatures..even), but requiring sentient subjects to apprehend something isn't subjectivism.  You may have to be a sentient creature to notice that you got slapped in the face - but you don't have to be a sentient creature to get slapped in the face. So long as the bad-making property is a property of slapping, it's an objective proposition.

Quote:My view is that morality only makes sense in reference to certain goals that must be agreed upon. Humanity has a common interest in human flourishing and the avoidance of pain. If we can agree on those as goals, then we can discuss actions that objectively lead to those goals. Our moral intuitions generally align with those goals, which I attribute to millions of years of evolution in which those without such intuitions would have been at a survival disadvantage. If I am arguing for the morality of an action, I would either seek to obtain agreement to these goals or assume such agreement and argue how the act furthers them. Curb stomping babies furthers neither goal but in fact is contrary to both.
The above is a form of natural objectivism - not subjectivism.  Here, though, we could stop to consider whether this is a full description of our moral intuitions.  We may all agree on some goal, and curbstomping a kid may even further that goal - but many of us would not...then, say that it is morally correct, or even morally acceptable.  The child of my enemy may grow to become my enemy and I may have every reason to kill that child and my entire society may give me assent to kill that child...and yet...

Quote:Math and science would still exist in a lifeless universe because these are words we use to describe how matter and energy work, and wherever there is matter or energy, we can describe them with math and science. We may not be there to do so, but that in no way means they wouldn't apply. Morality is different because, as you acknowledge, sentient agents and subjects are required for morality. It makes no sense to speak of morality in their absence. The equivalent for gravity would be removing all spacetime, in which case I say that yes, there is no gravity since gravity is a function of spacetime. What are the cracks you see in a subjective view of morality as I describe it?
It makes sense to speak of morality in the absence of subjects just as it makes sense to talk about sound when a tree in the forest falls with no one there to here it - or, at least, that's what objectivism implies. In fact, we do discuss and research morality in exactly these circumstances with presentation tests. Seeing how people moralize when supplied with partial details, and what might change when counterfactual information is presented. A series of claims that seem justifiable on their face but with every added detail become less and less so. Were these things moral before the subjects knew how shitty they were, or did they only become bad when the subjects were supplied with sufficient information?

Some of the cracks might be that you don't have, or at least haven't expressed, a subjective moral view. With respect to how our moral intuitions are formed, you may be right - but..if it were a product of a natural fact and reducible to natural facts - then, ofc, non natural realism would be incorrect.

@Spongebob
As for lincoln - he never considered himself an abolitionist and had alot of typically shitty views on the subject of racial equality. You may be wondering what accounts for the legend of lincoln..and that, might be our moral intuitions. Of imagining what the best version of the man was,..and, being generally well regarded, shifting him in memory closer to that picture of a better thing. Had the south won, would you believe him to have been a simple villain as a citizen of The Confederate States? Slave labor was detestable, but the sudden imposition of poverty and economic disruption was also intolerable - for many of the same reasons. It became a feature of his public speaking that he saw the whole thing as a shit sandwich and would do whatever was better for the country. It was the union he had in mind, not the immediate welfare of any of it's constituent groups...and, we're talking about a person who by consequence of his position made more than one abhorrent decision with vast and far reaching moral import. When we introduce the fact that not every situation has a morally acceptable outcome, we dispense with the binary thought attached to objectivism and the need to lionize our heroes to conform to that standard at the same time.
I am the Infantry. I am my country’s strength in war, her deterrent in peace. I am the heart of the fight… wherever, whenever. I carry America’s faith and honor against her enemies. I am the Queen of Battle. I am what my country expects me to be, the best trained Soldier in the world. In the race for victory, I am swift, determined, and courageous, armed with a fierce will to win. Never will I fail my country’s trust. Always I fight on…through the foe, to the objective, to triumph overall. If necessary, I will fight to my death. By my steadfast courage, I have won more than 200 years of freedom. I yield not to weakness, to hunger, to cowardice, to fatigue, to superior odds, For I am mentally tough, physically strong, and morally straight. I forsake not, my country, my mission, my comrades, my sacred duty. I am relentless. I am always there, now and forever. I AM THE INFANTRY! FOLLOW ME!
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#20
RE: Can we trust our Moral Intuitions?
Nudger, I'm going to skip quoting since it's beginning to get unwieldy. I don't think the sound analogy applies because, again my point isn't about a lack of sentient observers. Sound is what we describe as waves through a medium, so we know that sound exists when a tree falls regardless of whether there is anyone to hear it. There is no sound in space because there is no medium upon which it could act. That is how I see morality in a lifeless universe. It doesn't exist because there are no sentient agents and morality can only be meaningfully defined in terms of sentient agents. You don't have to have a third party observer to witness a slapping in the face, but you need a sentient agent to do the slapping for us assign moral significance to it. There also must be some notion in this universe that slapping is contrary to goals agreed on by more than one person. In a universe comprise solely of sado-masochists, slapping might be the moral thing to do.

As for agreement to goals, if we can't agree on at least some goals, then we're not going to make any progress debating morality. There may be situations in which killing a baby is the moral choice, though I suspect they would have to be quite contrived -- maybe the situation in the Omen for example. I can't ever see that causing unnecessary pain could be morally justified, however, so the immorality of "curb stomping," a loaded term if there ever was one, is something on which I think I could get pretty widespread moral agreement. And I'm not calling my view anything in particular. I'm just describing it.
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