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Kjata
2009-05-15, 02:14 AM
If you were asked whether it is morally wrong to break the law, what would your response be? For example, is doing drugs morally wrong, not just illegal? What about dealing? Or uploading/downloading illegal torrents? Consorting with prostitutes?

On the flipside, if something is legal, do you feel it is morally acceptable? Is getting drunk right? Looking at pornographic materials? Going to strip clubs?
Being a stripper?

Icewalker
2009-05-15, 02:22 AM
First off, I just want to state my worry that this thread will get out of hand rather quickly.

But, as to the question, I'd like to quote Thomas Paine's Common Sense about the purpose of laws in society:

(note: these are interesting and well provided views, not actually ones I necessarily agree with)


...society, the reciprocal blessings of which would supersede, and render the obligations of law and government unnecessary while they remained perfectly just to each other; but as nothing but Heaven is impregnable to vice, it will unavoidably happen that in proportion as they surmount the first difficulties of emigration, which bound them together in a common cause, they will begin to relax in their duty and attachment to each other: and this remissness will point out the necessity of establishing some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue.

Basically, the law exists because people can't be assumed to be perfectly moral, and as such law is a necessary evil to hold people to morality.

In general, the purpose of law is to ensure that people who wouldn't be moral must abide by the morals of the majority (in a democracy, that is). Whether or not any individual law is moral in one's eyes is entirely up to them. Law is really just an enforced extension of the morals of the government.

LurkerInPlayground
2009-05-15, 02:22 AM
If you were asked whether it is morally wrong to break the law, what would your response be? For example, is doing drugs morally wrong, not just illegal? What about dealing? Or uploading/downloading illegal torrents? Consorting with prostitutes?

On the flipside, if something is legal, do you feel it is morally acceptable? Is getting drunk right? Looking at pornographic materials? Going to strip clubs?
Being a stripper?
Slavery was once legal. That doesn't make it moral at the time it was practiced. I'd go so far as to claim that it is always immoral to enslave a human.

No, that's not a claim to "moral absolutism" -- that's a buzz phrase that's utterly nonsensical and contradictory. Morals are subjective evaluations of what ought to be done. But it is possible to have a objective basis for those evaluations and to hold those values in agreement with a wider society.

We just have better knowledge now and can make better decisions based on more accurate facts. Most of those facts generally destroy the various rationalizations people use to justify slavery (i.e. so-and-so people are a different species).

KuReshtin
2009-05-15, 02:36 AM
Morally wrong to break the law?
Totally depends on the circumstances.
In certain circumstances the morally right thing to do would be to break the law.

For instance, it might be morally right to break into a house to prevent a fire to spread, but the act of breaking into the house is in itself illegal.


On the other hand there are times when the morally wrong thing to do is legal.

The best example I have of that is the current hoo-haw about the politicians in the UK right now, who have been claiming thousands (maybe millions) of pounds on their expense accounts, totally legal and according to the rules sset out, but for stuff that any normal person would find is morally wrong. I mean, who in their right mind would claim horse manure for the garden on their work expence account, even if it said in the rules they could?

Kjata
2009-05-15, 02:38 AM
First off, I just want to state my worry that this thread will get out of hand rather quickly.

Unfortunately, that is how I feel too. So people, please do not comment on each others thoughts in a disrespectful way.

And the point of this thread is basically how do YOU feel about laws and morality? If you could answer the questions in the origanal post, that would be nice, but you don't have to.

Coidzor
2009-05-15, 03:08 AM
It is not morally wrong in and of itself to not be in accordance with a law. The specific actions forbade by law can definitely be morally wrong, as can the reasons that one would choose to break said law, but the laws themselves are not the determinant factor of morality, or else one would be obligated to say that murder is not morally wrong in lawless areas.

Laws can be made as a reflection of the morality of the people making them such that various things they deem immoral are outlawed, but that still does not make the violating law part of them morally wrong, it just helps to codify and perhaps enforce the preexisting morality, more rarely to try to influence and change existing morality.

bosssmiley
2009-05-15, 03:14 AM
Morality is what people in power tell you you should do when they aren't around to watch you. (What? You thought all those "Thou shalt nots..." were for your benefit?)
Law is someone else's morality imposed on you with the threat of (legal) violence to back it up.

What was the question again? :smallwink:

potatocubed
2009-05-15, 03:20 AM
Well, this is an easy one. No, laws and morals have very little to do with one another - and any lawyer will tell you the same thing.*

Morality is about telling the difference between good and evil (and indifferent, if your theory has room for it). Laws are a set of rules laid down in a more or less arbitrary fashion by the ruling power. If they follow moral lines then that is, to borrow a phrase, "a happy accident".

In theory, laws should promote morality (or punish/discourage immorality) and I believe that most legal systems originated from this desire - but the practical problems involved in organising a legal system and arbitrating disputes lead to their swift departure from the purely theoretical concerns of morality.

*Not a stab at lawyers. Several have told me that very fact, in one form or another.

dish
2009-05-15, 03:36 AM
As Icewalker said, in a democracy, the laws enforce the morals of the majority upon each citizen.

That does not necessarily mean that everyone in a particular society will agree morally with that society's laws. Individuals, and even significant minorities, may have completely different systems of moral values than their governments.

In such cases the individuals and minority groups have a choice.
- They can choose to obey society's laws out of respect for the government / law and order systems, while still disagreeing with them morally.
- They can choose to campaign to have those laws changed to reflect their own moral value systems. (As the abolitionists did in the late 18th and early 19th century.)
- They can choose to deliberately break the laws, and thus do things that are illegal, but which are - in their eyes - moral.

Of course, there are different kinds of laws. The laws which permit something (or at least don't prohibit it) - such as slavery, and the laws which enforce something - such as the payment of taxes.

At no time was any abolitionist forced to keep slaves. Some of them chose to make their moral stance known legally through the courts, parliament, petitions, product boycotts (British abolitionists boycotted Caribean plantation sugar), etc. Others chose to break the law in order to aid the escape of others' 'property'. Both groups saw what they were doing as completely moral.

A pacifist may feel that it is morally wrong for their government to use tax money in the purchase of weapons. Such a person could choose to break the law by refusing to pay their taxes. Again, in that person's moral system, they are acting morally.

Tequila Sunrise
2009-05-15, 05:07 AM
Laws and morals are only tangentially related. When I see conflict between the two, it's usually because I think a morally acceptable practice is illegal for no good reason. For example, prostitution, marijuana and abortion, off the top of my head.

Though a guy I went to college with once claimed that it is perfectly legal for a man to rape his wife. Not sure if that's true, but if it is, it should be. [Although to be fair, that's a hard law to enforce.]

Yarram
2009-05-15, 05:12 AM
First off, I just want to state my worry that this thread will get out of hand rather quickly.

But, as to the question, I'd like to quote Thomas Paine's Common Sense about the purpose of laws in society:

(note: these are interesting and well provided views, not actually ones I necessarily agree with)

Basically, the law exists because people can't be assumed to be perfectly moral, and as such law is a necessary evil to hold people to morality.

In general, the purpose of law is to ensure that people who wouldn't be moral must abide by the morals of the majority (in a democracy, that is). Whether or not any individual law is moral in one's eyes is entirely up to them. Law is really just an enforced extension of the morals of the government.

I'm afraid I have to disagree with you on that point. While it is valid, and laws do help uphold morales, their purpose is rather to protect the people that obey them. Law's assume that people are corrupt and are made to compensate. For example, the reason drugs are illegal is because they cause people's behavior to change, sometimes irrationally and violently, putting others at risk. That's why drugs are illegal and cigarettes aren't, because cigarettes don't change behavior to the point where people around the user are at risk. (Excepting through second hand smoke, and that's why there are anti-smoking laws in public places).
So yeah, while laws do uphold morality, their main and original purpose is the protection of those who follow them.

KuReshtin
2009-05-15, 05:46 AM
For example, the reason drugs are illegal is because they cause people's behavior to change, sometimes irrationally and violently, putting others at risk. That's why drugs are illegal and cigarettes aren't, because cigarettes don't change behavior to the point where people around the user are at risk. (Excepting through second hand smoke, and that's why there are anti-smoking laws in public places).

Alcohol?
It's a drug.
It alters people's behaviours, sometimes irrationally and violently.
It's still legal.

InaVegt
2009-05-15, 05:51 AM
Alcohol?
It's a drug.
It alters people's behaviours, sometimes irrationally and violently.
It's still legal.

By extension, it's behavior altering effects are worse than some prohibited -- in most of the world -- substances, and it's more addictive than some of those as well.

Haruki-kun
2009-05-15, 07:03 AM
By extension, it's behavior altering effects are worse than some prohibited -- in most of the world -- substances, and it's more addictive than some of those as well.

One can't help wondering if this would still be the case if it wasn't viewed as morally acceptable by most of society.

Graymayre
2009-05-15, 07:33 AM
Morality is based on perspective. Laws are generally not. Good laws aren't even based on morality to begin with. They are simply made to keep a civilization from breaking apart. After all, a country can't really be very effective on the global field if murder or addictive substances were allowed and prominent. Millions of tiny nations can attest to this.

Is it morally wrong to break the law? I'll say yes and no. Since the morality spectrum encompasses every viewpoint and idea, then every law is both moral and immoral at the same time.

GoC
2009-05-15, 08:14 AM
If you were asked whether it is morally wrong to break the law, what would your response be? For example, is doing drugs morally wrong, not just illegal? What about dealing? Or uploading/downloading illegal torrents? Consorting with prostitutes?

On the flipside, if something is legal, do you feel it is morally acceptable? Is getting drunk right? Looking at pornographic materials? Going to strip clubs?
Being a stripper?
No. Depends on if it substantially harms the people around you. Only if you are being completely honest. Depends a lot on the situation, sometimes there's no harm done other times it's just selfishness (generally no harm done though). I don't know about this one, first instinct is to say it's morally ok.

No. Depends. It's your life. Same answer as "Consorting with prostitutes?". Again, don't know but will tentatively say yes.

I believe bosssmiley's definition's apply.


As Icewalker said, in a democracy, the laws enforce the morals of the majority upon each citizen.
Illegal downloading being a criminal offense. No majority vote going on there...

KuReshtin
2009-05-15, 08:26 AM
One can't help wondering if this would still be the case if it wasn't viewed as morally acceptable by most of society.

They have at various times, and in various countries, made it illegal to manufacture, distribute and consume alcoholic beverages. The problem is that for alcohol consumption to be deemed immoral in most western countries, there needs to be a massive change of thinking from a LOT of people.

INvoking a prohibition law, such as they did with the 18th ammendment in the US in the 20s will not work, as there are not enough people to enforce it, and since the large majority of the adult population find it acceptable to consume alcohol, such a law would instead create even more problems, with organized smuggling and the like, which could cause a whole lot of other problems as a result.

We see problems with people going to resorts in middle-eastern countries where it is illegal to produce, import, sell or consume alcohol and thinking that because it's not illegal to drink in their home country, that they should be able to do so at their holiday resort. And because they don't follow the laws of those countries, they could face jail sentences because of it.

Thois cases are examples of where moral values and laws clash because of cultural upbringing and societal values.

Silence
2009-05-15, 08:34 AM
Ok, so I'm going to try to avoid talking about religion here, but I'm going to have to say one thing:

I don't believe in morals. I believe in the net happiness of humanity. Whatever increases this is good, whatever destroys this is evil.

That's the oversimplified version. Just take that concept and apply.

Telonius
2009-05-15, 08:57 AM
Theoretically, it's supposed to work like this (at least in a representative democracy). People have their own private moral systems. They elect legislators, who presumably have similar moral systems, to make laws. Those laws are going to reflect the morals of the legislators who crafted them, and the people who elected those legislators.

The catch is when your own moral system is in the minority (or, if you're in a non-democratic society, you happen to have a different morality than your rulers). For example, if you're a Greek philosopher and believe that it's your right to criticize the powerful people in town, but those people have the majority, you might end your day with a hemlock cocktail. On the other hand, if your moral system allows you to be a pirate on the high seas, you might end up at the end of a rope if the navy catches you.

I think the real question is whether or not the moral system to which the majority subscribes, is a correct moral system. And that question will quickly lead to forum rules violations. :smalltongue:

Kaelaroth
2009-05-15, 10:56 AM
Alcohol?
It's a drug.
It alters people's behaviours, sometimes irrationally and violently.
It's still legal.

And it's still legal, someone knowledgable told me (at least in my country), because:
a) It's completely ingrained in our culture.
b) The alcohol industry makes a lot of dosh.

Syka
2009-05-15, 11:23 AM
And it's still legal, someone knowledgable told me (at least in my country), because:
a) It's completely ingrained in our culture.
b) The alcohol industry makes a lot of dosh.

As I told my mom, pot is having trouble getting legalized because it's not ingrained in our culture and most people just don't care (or if they do care, it seems to usually be more against than for in my experience). Meanwhile, prohibition totally failed for the same reason- it's totally ingrained, from the time when the laws of the US were first being laid to today.

Contradictions in laws are win.

That said, morals and laws are not synonymous. That pretty much sums up my views.

ghost_warlock
2009-05-15, 12:03 PM
Laws and morals don't necessarily have anything to do with one another.

Something can be either moral, amoral, or immoral and still be illegal.

Morality is concerned with proper action and the rights of individuals and groups. Laws are concerned with society running smoothly. Obviously, immoral actions are frequently prohibited by law, but this is because they inhibit the peaceful functioning of civilization.

As an example, pretty much everyone will agree that murder is immoral. It is also illegal in virtually all places; but this is because a society that allows this sort of action is easily disrupted by runaway personal retribution after the death of loved one(s).

Likewise, most people would say that helping an injured person is a morally-right thing to do. However, because of various suits and maltreatment of injured individuals, consent is usually required before treatment can be administered legally. However, many places have "good Samaritan laws" or some-such to protect people who are honestly trying to help someone else when consent can't be given for some reason.

The legal system, and officials associated with it, serve as impartial mediators for disputes; thereby facilitating order.

The use of drugs is likely amoral, so long as the process of use does not lead the user to the injury of someone else (hence, "victimless crime"). However, this is often a difficult and vague situation if you take into account lost productivity at the work place or endangering coworkers when using drugs in the work place (or not showing up on time to relieve a coworker at the end of their shift with the excuse that the drug user was too out-of-sorts to make it to work). Some drugs are made illegal because they cause significant health risks to the user or those around them. Some drugs can cause irrational, even violent, behavior on the part of the user. Also, when someone overdoses and are rushed to the hospital, the medical bills have to be paid somehow (i.e., medical staff have to be compensated for their efforts and medicine has to be restocked).

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-15, 12:32 PM
If you were asked whether it is morally wrong to break the law, what would your response be?
"Sometimes, but not always. It depends on what the law says, and maybe on how it's broken."

Almost everyone seems to agree with that answer.

Similarly, I'm guessing that very few people think that nothing legal is immoral.


It is not morally wrong in and of itself to not be in accordance with a law. The specific actions forbade by law can definitely be morally wrong, as can the reasons that one would choose to break said law, but the laws themselves are not the determinant factor of morality, or else one would be obligated to say that murder is not morally wrong in lawless areas.

Laws can be made as a reflection of the morality of the people making them such that various things they deem immoral are outlawed, but that still does not make the violating law part of them morally wrong, it just helps to codify and perhaps enforce the preexisting morality, more rarely to try to influence and change existing morality.
All of that. Except that legal murder is arguably a contradiction in terms.

(One can, if one absolutely insists, use "murder" to mean "immoral killing" instead of "illegal killing". But one shouldn't then go ahead and disingenuously say things like "Murder is wrong" or "Killing is only evil if it's murder" as if they weren't vacuous tautologies* and actually told us in which cases killing is morally wrong. That's why I don't like that definition of "murder": Too many people seem to equivocate with it in precisely that fashion.)

*Like "Only bachelors are unmarried men."


laws and morals have very little to do with one another
That might be a bit of an exaggeration. Even if they're far from mirroring each other, there's clearly a significant relationship between them.

Note, however, that the immorality of some act does not a priori imply that criminalizing it is not also immoral. For example, assuming that alcohol causes more harm than good, that doesn't mean that illegalizing alcohol doesn't also cause more harm than good.

Similarly, forcing a form of active moral behavior on a person may be wrong.

On the flip side, there may be cases where it is arguably wrong to break an unjust law.


drugs are illegal and cigarettes aren't
Your phrasing implies that cigarettes don't contain a drug, which is incorrect.


I think the real question is whether or not the moral system to which the majority subscribes, is a correct moral system.
It's not clear what it would mean for a moral system to be "correct". Moral conclusions seem to be inherently reliant on moral assumptions, and it would be an odd morality that does not hold itself to be best.

hamishspence
2009-05-15, 12:49 PM
"Legal murder"- maybe "killing thats legal in country X but would be murder in virtually every other country" counts. If a country has, to all intents and purposes "legalized murder" then everyone outside that country would probably still consider it murder for moral purposes.

Telonius
2009-05-15, 02:57 PM
It's not clear what it would mean for a moral system to be "correct". Moral conclusions seem to be inherently reliant on moral assumptions, and it would be an odd morality that does not hold itself to be best.

A moral system would be "correct" if all of its assumptions are correct. (Deity X really does exist and wants us to do a, b, and c//morality really does depend on the greatest good for the greatest number, and the correct weights to determine that can be found by system Y//morality really is about power, might makes right, so basically do whatever//etc). And that's about all I have to say about that. :smallbiggrin:

hamishspence
2009-05-15, 03:09 PM
there are others besides "Greatest Good of Greatest number" and "might makes right"

The view that individual rights- the right to property, the right to life- are fundemental and initiating violations of these, even in the cause of "the good of the many" is morally wrong, for example.

According to most of the books I've read, people do tend toward this- that 90% of people won't push 1 man in front of a train to save 5 people, or attack and chop up 1 healthy man to get the blood and organs to save 5 sick people. Pure "greater good" utilitarianism.

DamnedIrishman
2009-05-15, 03:27 PM
Kohlberg's model of moral development actually claims that being guided by one's own moral principles irrespective of the law of the land or any ideas of a social contract is the highest form of morality.

He also believed that most never reached this stage, and instead were stuck two steps below: guided by law and order only.

DamnedIrishman
2009-05-15, 03:29 PM
Your phrasing implies that cigarettes don't contain a drug, which is incorrect.


Furthermore, drugs aren't illegal. Certain drugs are illegal. A huge number are perfectly legal, like nicotine, alcohol and paracetamol.

Telonius
2009-05-15, 03:31 PM
Yeah, that's what the "etc" is for. And that's not even getting into things like nihilism, Rand, Nietzsche, positivism, act vs. rule utilitarianism... yeah, I had to take far too many ethics classes back in high school and college.

Coidzor
2009-05-15, 03:47 PM
Alcohol: The Grandfather clause as applied to drugs.

Renegade Paladin
2009-05-15, 03:55 PM
The law exists for the purpose of maintaining an ordered society for the safety of the members thereof. When laws supersede their purpose, they have no moral force. The law is not morality in and of itself; it exists to encourage morality. Therefore, breaking the law is not in itself an immoral act, since morality is determined independent of law. Breaking the law is often, in fact I daresay almost always, immoral, but that's because laws are supposed to be made against immoral things; not because law in and of itself determines morality. When the law is twisted to a purpose other than enforcing reasonable order, breaking it no longer becomes immoral; when the law requires immoral behavior, then breaking it becomes a moral imperative. Law, in essence, cannot determine morality, since it does not exist for its own purposes.

I recommend John Stuart Mill's essays On Liberty and On Representative Government for reading on this subject, as well as Frédéric Bastiat's essay The Law.

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-15, 05:57 PM
A moral system would be "correct" if all of its assumptions are correct.
Again: It's unclear what "correct" means in this context. Or, if you prefer, the truth of moral statements depends entirely on the context of the definitions of "moral", "right", "good", etc. being used.

Could a world exist which is exactly like this one except that all moral acts in this world are immoral in that one and vice versa? What would, or couldn't, be different? What does it mean to call something "morally right"?

Might different people mean different things by this phrase?


According to most of the books I've read, people do tend toward this- that 90% of people won't push 1 man in front of a train to save 5 people, or attack and chop up 1 healthy man to get the blood and organs to save 5 sick people. Pure "greater good" utilitarianism.
You should read Eliezer Yudkowsky's writing on the teleological justification for deontological ethics (http://www.overcomingbias.com/2008/10/ends-dont-justi.html). Basically, you wind up with rule consequentialism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consequentialism#Rule_consequentialism): "I'm not going to trick myself into thinking that I can foresee all the results of my actions, because operating on that assumption would cause more harm than good."

But saying "I shouldn't torture one person to attempt to save others, because I have no way of even knowing what trade-off I'm actually making," is different from having "Never torture anyone for any reason" as a starting assumption. The meta-ethics are different even though the ethics are the same.

And that's an important consideration, because if you want to use some meta-ethics to derive more ethics, it's probably a good idea not to e.g. just pick the first meta-ethical schema you hit on that could conceivably be used to justify most of the ethics you have so far.

hamishspence
2009-05-15, 06:16 PM
the usual base value in this kind of libertarian theory is non-aggression principle- killing someone who, as far as you know, has done no harm nor poses a threat to others, is an immoral act in this theory- whether the motivation is saving lives or not.

whether non-aggression works as a base value is a difficult question.

pendell
2009-05-15, 06:40 PM
If you were asked whether it is morally wrong to break the law, what would your response be? For example, is doing drugs morally wrong, not just illegal? What about dealing? Or uploading/downloading illegal torrents? Consorting with prostitutes?


I would say that immoral is not the same as illegal. Slavery used to be legal, remember.

In a perfect world, laws exist to protect society and make it a safer, better place to live. And for the most part, they do. Doing drugs to excess can result in addiction and suicide. Dealing drugs is bringing that sickness to other people. Downloading movies you didn't pay for is taking the effort that people put in to make those movies and not giving them anything in return. Artists have to eat too, you know, and if no one pays for their work they have to work at Taco Bell like the rest of us. Sleeping with prostitutes increases the risk of disease to you and to them .. and not all prostitutes are in it voluntarily. Some are forced into it by pimps, beaten for disobedience and kept addicted to drugs to prevent their leaving. I don't want any part of that.

So in a perfect world, there wouldn't be any laws at all. Because people would do the right thing without being told. The reason laws exist is because there are people in the world who won't do the right thing because it's the right thing ... they will do the wrong thing unless they are forced to do the right thing out of fear of punishment. Sad, but no human society ha s ever been able to get by without rules and punishment. There's always some strong-willed person who tests the limits and does something so horrifying that the rest of the community has to make an example of them, so that other people won't imitate them.

But human laws aren't perfect. Sometimes we outlaw things that we shouldn't outlaw (such as trans fats, or knives, or shirts with a particular message) and sometimes we legalize things that we shouldn't (slavery).

Then again, there are times when something is immoral but should not be illegal. For example, getting drunk and getting behind the wheel of a car is irresponsible and gets people killed. But alcohol is fundamental to the human condition and can no more be outlawed than eating or sex can. It's been tried. It made things worse.

So illegal is not the same thing as immoral. Not at all. There are some things that are immoral that it's not worth society's time to make illegal. Making it illegal causes more trouble than if we'd left it legal in the first place. Marijuana or alcohol abuse might be one example. Or another would be harsh language. We could make it illegal for one person to insult another. And if we did, we'd fill our prisons and our court systems and people would still be as rude as ever.

Then again, there are some things that are illegal that shouldn't be. Trans fats again. IMO, a law which outlaws something which isn't actually harmful -- or a law that prescribes an evil deed, such as demanding we inform on our neighbors to the government -- is an unjust law, an immoral law. It is a law that must be confronted in some manner. Sometimes it means working to get it changed legally, sometimes it means civil disobedience, sometimes it means simply ignoring the law (e.g, laws that cars need people in front of them with lanterns) and sometimes it means armed insurrection. That last is an extreme case and should be reserved for Warsaw Ghetto-type situations.



On the flipside, if something is legal, do you feel it is morally acceptable? Is getting drunk right? Looking at pornographic materials? Going to strip clubs?
Being a stripper?

As said above, things can be legal but can be immoral. It is perfectly legal to give a person a credit card with 18% interest and allow them to put themselves in a debt to you that their children will be repaying long after they are dead ... but that doesn't make it right.

Human laws are not the same thing as Law. I believe that Law (big L) is what legal scholars call 'natural law' -- the law that all human laws strive to attain, but never quite reach.

Respectfully,

Brian P.

InaVegt
2009-05-15, 08:16 PM
As said above, things can be legal but can be immoral. It is perfectly legal to give a person a credit card with 18% interest and allow them to put themselves in a debt to you that their children will be repaying long after they are dead ... but that doesn't make it right.

Depens on locality whether that is legal, actually.

Purple Rose
2009-05-15, 08:49 PM
Of course, one could raise the question of whether terms of legality even fit the precepts of morality. That is, do issues of legality not fall under moral or immoral, but amoral? Clearly morality has to be considered with laws, as they are made and put into affect by human beings who are driven by morals, but couldn't it be said that when it comes to laws and regulations, morality does not necessarily apply? For that matter, should morality play a role in lawmaking? I don't mean to say that right and wrong should be left out of the law making process, but at the same time there are plenty of laws which are morally correct by the standards of those that passed them, but are by no means necessary or, in some cases, wanted. Should issues of legality be considered in an amoral vacuum?

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-15, 09:00 PM
Well, Purple Prose, lawmakers should pass the laws that are morally right to pass. That's pretty much a tautology. Saying that you should do something means that it's morally right. That's, like, literally the meaning of the word "should".

But just because something is immoral doesn't mean that a law against it isn't also immoral. And just because something is moral doesn't mean that a law mandating it is moral.

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-15, 09:27 PM
the usual base value in this kind of libertarian theory is non-aggression principle- killing someone who, as far as you know, has done no harm nor poses a threat to others, is an immoral act in this theory- whether the motivation is saving lives or not.
Oh, sure. But I think that most people don't believe in, or at least don't support, the libertarian principle of non-coercion. They wouldn't want to ban taxation, for example.

It's also a slippery concept. "People should be able to do what they want as long as they don't harm others" sounds great until you get down to the specifics, but the devil is in the details. You can define "harm" so broadly that it includes anything that anyone dislikes, or you can define it so narrowly that you can plainly severely screw people over without "harming" them.

I once saw someone opining that, under a strict interpretation of libertarian ethics, you really do need to get the permission of everyone in the world to start one fire. All well and principled, but that does not seem like a viable approach to the issue of pollution.

Most people almost certainly favor approaching the issue of pollution in a way that allows for some innocent people to be actively harmed. And they favor that because of all the benefit it means for people, probably including them.

It's socially and morally acceptable in a way that cutting a guy up for his organs isn't, and it isn't because it doesn't harm innocents.


whether non-aggression works as a base value is a difficult question.
"Works" in what sense? Are you wondering whether a functional society can be formed around that value in practice? It might depend on what one considers functional, if so.


In a perfect world, laws exist to protect society and make it a safer, better place to live. And for the most part, they do. Doing drugs to excess can result in addiction and suicide. Dealing drugs is bringing that sickness to other people. Downloading movies you didn't pay for is taking the effort that people put in to make those movies and not giving them anything in return. Artists have to eat too, you know, and if no one pays for their work they have to work at Taco Bell like the rest of us. Sleeping with prostitutes increases the risk of disease to you and to them .. and not all prostitutes are in it voluntarily. Some are forced into it by pimps, beaten for disobedience and kept addicted to drugs to prevent their leaving. I don't want any part of that.
pendell, driving kills. Do you know how many people die in automobile accidents in a year? Those aren't all caused by drunks.

And yet, driving cars saves people a lot of time. That's why they do it.

One action can have both positive and negative consequences. Other times, it may not be clear why the consequences of an action are positive or negative.

This is why anything is ever controversial. If something clearly has positive consequences for everyone, everyone would favor it. If something clearly has negative consequences for everyone, everyone is against it. But in a whole crapload of cases, people have different estimations of what the consequences will be, or different priorities.

So, for starters, "the right thing" is completely ambiguous. And even if it weren't, it's not clear how to reach it. Different people have different ideas about things. What makes you so confident that trans fats are harmless, for example?

In conclusion: It's not just a matter of people choosing to do wrong even though they know what's right. You seem to write as though you haven't clued in to this yet, but it is not self-evident to everyone that your personal moral views are correct.

GoC
2009-05-15, 10:03 PM
The catch is when your own moral system is in the minority (or, if you're in a non-democratic society, you happen to have a different morality than your rulers). For example, if you're a Greek philosopher and believe that it's your right to criticize the powerful people in town, but those people have the majority, you might end your day with a hemlock cocktail. On the other hand, if your moral system allows you to be a pirate on the high seas, you might end up at the end of a rope if the navy catches you.
A better catch: Only your most important morals (such as your stance on abortion) get implemented while the lesser ones (such as copyright reform) get ignored. Though in the case of copyright reform it's got more to do with the hundreds of billions of dollars being thrown around...


Downloading movies you didn't pay for is taking the effort that people put in to make those movies and not giving them anything in return.
Depends wether or not you can give them anything. The mechanics behind the right and wrong of illegal downloading are very involved (assuming utilitarian ethics).

Quick question: Who here believes that the right to free speach and freedom of information overrules the right of us to enjoy high quality propriety media (and instead having to settle for free or donation based media)?

Devils_Advocate: You have an interesting point. If lives really were priceless then we wouldn't drive. A life does have a price. How large is it?

Syka
2009-05-15, 10:59 PM
Pendall, I'm curious why you think alcohol to be fundamental to the human condition, as food and sex are? I remember nothing that says humans need alcohol to sustain their lives and/or happiness, in the same way that they need food, water, sex, and shelter for happiness and life sustenance. I agree it's ingrained in the culture but the failure of prohibition in those cultures where it was a staple does not mean it's a requirement for human life.

(I'll note I, my boyfriend, my sister, and numerous friends are all teetotalers and lead perfectly happy functional lives in the absence of alcohol or other narcotics (excepting medicinal drugs), which according to your comment would be impossible. I am not passing judgment on those who do indulge, just saying it's not a necessity for a happy and/or healthy human existence.)

KnightDisciple
2009-05-15, 11:04 PM
Really, you only need food, water, and shelter. I know a fair number of single celibate people who are also pretty happy.

Syka
2009-05-16, 12:03 AM
Sex is technically considered a basic survival need. Sex itself isn't necessary for individual survival but it is for humanities, hence it being considered a 'basic need'. That's technically though, I agree it's not necessary for individual happiness.

I was going off this pyramid thingy...Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs I think it's called.

Correction (since I actually looked it up), it's considered a physiological necessity. See link below.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs

Yarram
2009-05-16, 02:13 AM
Alcohol?
It's a drug.
It alters people's behaviours, sometimes irrationally and violently.
It's still legal.

Remembering that humans are imperfect and leaving room for human error, but still, unlike say, ecstasy, alcohol is healthy for us in small quantities, even if we take it regularly.
Before anyone says, cannabis is also healthy in small quantities, but using it regularly, even in small amounts affects the psyche far more than consumption of alcohol does.

hamishspence
2009-05-16, 04:13 AM
Driving comes under accident- negligence- etc- a person who does injure another can be arrested or sued. However it is arguably unjust to penalize all those reliable drivers for the failures of a few.

Pollution is a bit trickier- may come under "acceptable level of risk" And when a form of pollution is shown to be a major international health hazard (CFCs), it gets banned.

the problem with the "save lives at the cost of destroying lives" theroy is that it tends to weigh them equally- that it makes the assumption that knowingly failing to save somebody is morally equivalent to killing them- that its "5 murders vs 1 murder" And that isn't necessarily so.

The counterview is that there is no moral obligation to help people- that its a benevolent act that you may do, rather than a duty that you must do- whereas murder is something you do have a duty Not to commit- its a punishable crime.

GoC
2009-05-16, 09:33 AM
Remembering that humans are imperfect and leaving room for human error, but still, unlike say, ecstasy, alcohol is healthy for us in small quantities, even if we take it regularly.
Can I have a sitation on that? Everything I've heard says that alcohol is very unhealthy in the long term.


Before anyone says, cannabis is also healthy in small quantities, but using it regularly, even in small amounts affects the psyche far more than consumption of alcohol does.
But unlike with alcohol the psyche effect is very unlikely to harm others nor will it have any lasting effects (according to the people I know who take it occasionally).


"acceptable level of risk"
Different cultures have varied acceptable levels of risks. Where I grew up people often don't wear seatbelts and there are games that involve throwing firecrackers at eachother.


The counterview is that there is no moral obligation to help people- that its a benevolent act that you may do, rather than a duty that you must do- whereas murder is something you do have a duty Not to commit- its a punishable crime.
Many (such as myself) would find this view abhorrent. If you can save someone easily and with no risk or cost to yourself and do not do so, I would consider you a murderer.
Would you like examples? Say... your 8 year old daughter being raped/tortured by a serial killer? But you happen to be late for work and are under no obligation to help (despite your blackbelt, SAS training and concealed-carry license) so you haven't done anything wrong.:smallannoyed:

hamishspence
2009-05-16, 12:18 PM
The difference between crimes of omission and crimes of commission is subtle- but it is there.

alos, saving someone from a crime may count slightly differently from saving them from an accident- if you spot a person being mugged- are you a criminal if you fail to intervene?

How about if you spot a person walking obliviously into a hazardous situation- traffic, looking wrong way- you perceive people are about to be injured- are you obliged to prevent it, and committing an evil act if you don't?

Duty to dependants is a slightly different thing- a parent is to children their source of food, shelter, protection, etc. So a parent who lets their child die through negligence, of any kind, is in trouble.

But extrapolating from that, that people are obliged to treat strangers exactly the same way is a big jump.

or you might join an organization that confers that kind of duty- a police officer has a duty to protect citizens- a soldier has a duty to protect fellow soldiers and the people of his country.

But an ordinary citizen?

Traditionally in media, fictional and legendary, people who think its OK to sacrifice the few, without their consent, to save the many, are seen as in the wrong-

whether its feeding damsels to the dragon to prevent it from devouring the town, or selling members of your own population into slavery to prevent The Empire from destroying you. A case of "the good of the many is not enough"

GoC
2009-05-16, 01:28 PM
The difference between crimes of omission and crimes of commission is subtle- but it is there.

alos, saving someone from a crime may count slightly differently from saving them from an accident- if you spot a person being mugged- are you a criminal if you fail to intervene?

How about if you spot a person walking obliviously into a hazardous situation- traffic, looking wrong way- you perceive people are about to be injured- are you obliged to prevent it, and committing an evil act if you don't?

Duty to dependants is a slightly different thing- a parent is to children their source of food, shelter, protection, etc. So a parent who lets their child die through negligence, of any kind, is in trouble.

But extrapolating from that, that people are obliged to treat strangers exactly the same way is a big jump.

or you might join an organization that confers that kind of duty- a police officer has a duty to protect citizens- a soldier has a duty to protect fellow soldiers and the people of his country.

But an ordinary citizen?
So you don't believe in a consistent moral standard where the value of people's lives does not depend on their utility to you?
The minute we determine that the lives of those people "far away of which we know nothing"* are worth less than our own convenience we have become exactly like the german people during Hitler's reign. Letting atrocities happen as we stand by because it "isn't our responsibility".


Traditionally in media, fictional and legendary, people who think its OK to sacrifice the few, without their consent, to save the many, are seen as in the wrong-

whether its feeding damsels to the dragon to prevent it from devouring the town, or selling members of your own population into slavery to prevent The Empire from destroying you. A case of "the good of the many is not enough"
Yes we all know the media is unbelievably stupid. Why is this relevant?

*Yes, I know that quote isn't from Hitler.

InaVegt
2009-05-16, 01:44 PM
So you don't believe in a consistent moral standard where the value of people's lives does not depend on their utility to you?
The minute we determine that the lives of those people "far away of which we know nothing"* are worth less than our own convenience we have become exactly like the german people during Hitler's reign. Letting atrocities happen as we stand by because it "isn't our responsibility".

Godwin's Law has been invoked.

This thread is over, folks.

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-16, 02:01 PM
Oh noes! Comparisons to Hitler and Nazis have been made! Further discussion is no longer allowed!

Except, wait! I think I can maintain this discussion... by not giving a rat's ass about that!


Quick question: Who here believes that the right to free speach and freedom of information overrules the right of us to enjoy high quality propriety media (and instead having to settle for free or donation based media)?
GoC, it's just not that simple.

Imagine that you write a book, and sell copies of it to people, on the condition that they not give, sell, or trade them to anyone else. That doesn't infringe on individual liberty, does it? People are free not to buy the book if they're not willing to accept your terms.

Given this, should someone be able to easily eliminate your monopoly on your book by breaking their deal with you? Or is it OK to criminalize the sharing and acquisition of information that was illegally acquired in the first place, by breaking a contract?

Intellectual property is like that, except that an artist is assumed by default to retain ownership of information he produced instead of being assumed to share it. That prevents the need for having to sign an official document every time you buy a song, book, movie, or etc.

So, basically, the right to intellectual property is a natural outgrowth of the right to privacy (which allows you to keep information hidden) and the right not to have people break their contracts with you.

Now, you could argue that you shouldn't be able to willingly give up some rights. You could say that there shouldn't be legally enforceable non-disclosure agreements, for example.

That's a tricky issue; restricting people from bargaining away their rights restricts their current options, but preserves future liberty. A particularly relevant question: In what senses can you meaningfully be considered the same person as "you" were ten years ago? Can you ever justly restrict the liberty of your future "self", or can that meaningfully be considered infringing on another's liberty?


Devils_Advocate: You have an interesting point. If lives really were priceless then we wouldn't drive. A life does have a price. How large is it?
I don't have that number on hand, but I do know that people have done the math (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Value_of_life). Not all lives are equally valued by everyone, of course. (Interestingly, people who say "You can't put a price tag on a life" generally do not seem to support paying whatever it takes to save as many lives as possible. It seems that, in practice, this usually means not "I'll pay anything to save a life", but more like "I won't pay to save lives.")

Nor should all "lives" be equally valued, incidentally. Assuming that everyone is going to die eventually, "saving a life" just extends it, and not everyone is going to live equally long if saved. And buying someone an expected 40 years more life is way better than keeping someone alive ten more minutes, isn't it?

"A life" should only be considered to be infinitely more valuable than anything else if one second of life is to be regarded as being on an entirely different plane of value. Because a lifespan is composed entirely of seconds of life; there are just a lot of them, that's all. And anyway, money and other things can be used to buy increases in life, so that gives them comparable value. But I for one don't think that resources should be allocated purely in order to buy anyone the maximum number of seconds. If anything, I'd shoot for average quality of experience times quantity. Definitely not just quantity.


Sex is technically considered a basic survival need. Sex itself isn't necessary for individual survival but it is for humanities, hence it being considered a 'basic need'. That's technically though, I agree it's not necessary for individual happiness.
Woah, there, missy! According to you, pendell's comment that alcohol is fundamental to the human condition implies that it's impossible to lead a happy, functional life without it; your individual experience is taken to contradict him. Yet your classification of sex as a need doesn't imply that it's essential to an individual's life, only that it's essential to humanity as a whole?

SHENANIGANS!

The charitable, reasonable interpretation of pendell's assertion is, basically, "Humanity isn't going to go on without alcohol", equivalent to "Humanity isn't going to go on without sex".

Yeah, theoretically we could eliminate alcohol consumption completely without eliminating the human race. But it's probably not going to happen any time soon. And exactly the same thing could be said about sex, now that we've learned how to make babies via in vitro fertilization.


Correction (since I actually looked it up), it's considered a physiological necessity. See link below.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs
Assuming that a "necessity" is what's required for survival, there's clearly a difference between "is considered" and "actually is", then.

According to that article, without clothing and shelter, "the human body simply cannot continue to function". Correct me if I'm missing something, but in the right environment, that ain't so.


Before anyone says, cannabis is also healthy in small quantities, but using it regularly, even in small amounts affects the psyche far more than consumption of alcohol does.
But does it provably have a negative effect, and is its effect worse than alcohol's? Those would seem to be the relevant questions. Obviously, being of greater magnitude doesn't necessarily make something worse than a smaller thing.


Driving comes under accident- negligence- etc- a person who does injure another can be arrested or sued. However it is arguably unjust to penalize all those reliable drivers for the failures of a few.
"Reliable" is a relative term. How likely do you think it is that you'll hurt someone when you go for a drive? Do you honestly think that the probability is zero?


Pollution is a bit trickier- may come under "acceptable level of risk" And when a form of pollution is shown to be a major international health hazard (CFCs), it gets banned.
Exactly. "Acceptable" and "major" are also relative terms. This gets to my point: Ethical issues tend to be actually resolved based on arbitrary lines drawn in the sand, not on absolutes that forbid particular things in any quantity. When a particular thing is absolutely forbidden, the actual justification is often that it allows too high a quantity of something permissible in lesser amounts.

Subjecting a billion people to a one in a million chance of death results in roughly a thousand deaths. You may not know in advance who will get killed, but this doesn't make them any less dead. Are they less wronged because "the risk was shared"? Under libertarian ethics, don't they have to have chosen to share the risk in order to not be wronged?


the problem with the "save lives at the cost of destroying lives" theroy is that it tends to weigh them equally
That's, um, the opposite of a problem. Were I choosing policies from behind a Rawlsian veil of ignorance (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veil_of_ignorance), I would choose, all else being equal, the ones that minimized death. The problem with the "you can't just trade one life against another" theory is that it can result in more people dying.


it makes the assumption that knowingly failing to save somebody is morally equivalent to killing them- that its "5 murders vs 1 murder" And that isn't necessarily so.
That's not so much an assumption as a conclusion, the assumption being more like "By default, all deaths are equally bad".


The counterview is that there is no moral obligation to help people
I don't think that consequentialist ethics are about deriving obligations so much as ordering possible courses of actions from most moral to least moral. The more moral options are held to be better, but I don't think that being "obligated" to pick any of them is part of the system. (But maybe I'm wrong.)


Say... your 8 year old daughter being raped/tortured by a serial killer? But you happen to be late for work and are under no obligation to help (despite your blackbelt, SAS training and concealed-carry license) so you haven't done anything wrong.:smallannoyed:
That's a poorly chosen example. You're probably aware that hamishspence likely meant to refer to the view that we have no general obligation to help others, even though this was phrased incorrectly.

After all, you're responsible for your daughter's vulnerability; if nothing else, she wouldn't be vulnerable if you hadn't produced her in the first place. So she'd be coming to harm as a result of your actions. Thus you'd be obligated to protect her because you're obligated not to harm others, not in spite of only being so obligated.

Hadrian_Emrys
2009-05-16, 02:12 PM
Morals are a personal code of conduct, whereas laws are a system for maintaining control over the population. Morality only comes into the picture when illegal act itself is looked at. Jay walking, for example, is only potentially dangerous based upon situational criteria. Crossing a barren street and crossing a busy one are both equally illegal despite one being a harmless act. Drinking is potentially more harmful to your health than weed, yet the former is legal, and the latter is not.

I, personally, have little respect for the law simply because it's a stanardised system. Though, much like my view on religion, I appreciate how it helps keep the typically selfish, self-centered, and primarily short sighted masses in line. However, any and all of my actions that move along "approved" lines are purely co-incidental occurances. I have always acted, and will continue to act, in a manner that serves that which I believe to be for the greater good of those around me... -with, or against, the law.

hamishspence
2009-05-16, 02:13 PM
I think its a case of "Some prices are just too high" Its a long standing tradition, in fiction, and philosophy, that its just not OK to do that sort of thing- to buy the lives of the many with the murder of the few- and calling it "unbelievably stupid" is not entirely fair.

to invoke Godwin further:

Imagine You Know Who was told, by someone from the future, that to save the human species from devolving into barbarism, he must do what he does, get defeated, and so ensure humanity's progress to a more civilized group.

By that principle, genocide in order to save the species is a moral act. Except- seems utterly twisted.

I think the problem is, the assumption that, when lives are saved by actions, especially in large proportion, the methods don't matter- the believe that "to save the world, nothing counts as an atrocity- all acts are justified."

Or, on the smaller scale "to save the many, if we have to torture/murder/sell into slavery people who don't deserve it and didn't/couldn't consent, its still not evil"

GoC
2009-05-16, 02:22 PM
Godwin's Law has been invoked.

This thread is over, folks.
Godwin's law does not apply in this sort of discussion. Especially when the comparison is valid and no other examples are readily at hand (or as famous).


GoC, it's just not that simple.
I know. It was indeed just a question and I don't necessarily support that view.


Imagine that you write a book, and sell copies of it to people, on the condition that they not give, sell, or trade them to anyone else.
I was merely imagining an alternate universe were intellectual property cannot be owned so this would not apply.


Given this, should someone be able to easily eliminate your monopoly on your book by breaking their deal with you?
Careful. Look at the question again. It is loaded.
Same with the next question.
NEVER use a loaded question in a debate.


So, basically, the right to intellectual property is a natural outgrowth of the right to privacy (which allows you to keep information hidden) and the right not to have people break their contracts with you.
No. The right to privacy allows you to keep information about yourself hidden.
And it is not an absolute right. By the very act of walking down the street you are giving up some expectations of privacy. What matters are the expectations of society. How much is the maximum society allows you to distribute this information.
This is a difficult question because a single country may contain numerous cultures (a society in it's own right) with different expectations and allowances.


In what senses can you meaningfully be considered the same person as "you" were ten years ago? Can you ever justly restrict the liberty of your future "self", or can that meaningfully be considered infringing on another's liberty?
I had a "going forwards in time and killing yourself" thread very recently. It's a very complicated issue.


I think its a case of "Some prices are just too high" Its a long standing tradition, in fiction, and philosophy, that its just not OK to do that sort of thing- to buy the lives of the many with the murder of the few- and calling it "unbelievably stupid" is not entirely fair.
So your argument is "it's traditional"?:smallconfused:
So...
If some incredibly advanced aliens come and insist that we be subservient to them or die and as a token of that they'll need 10 virgin maidens you'd be for the death of all mankind?:smallconfused:
That is stupid. Unbelievably so.
Just so we're clear: The definition I'm using of "good" is "that which should be done" because it is a useful definition.
If your definition is different then state it.


Imagine You Know Who was told, by someone from the future, that to save the human species from devolving into barbarism, he must do what he does, get defeated, and so ensure humanity's progress to a more civilized group.

By that principle, genocide in order to save the species is a moral act. Except- seems utterly twisted.
Then he would have been a fool to believe this unkown person.


I think the problem is, the assumption that, when lives are saved by actions, especially in large proportion, the methods don't matter- the believe that "to save the world, nothing counts as an atrocity- all acts are justified."
Here's the problem with that: You can never be 100% certain that the world is indeed doomed OR that your method will save it. And that 1% chance (more like 50%) that you're wrong may well mean that it isn't worth the killing and the raping and the maiming.


Or, on the smaller scale "to save the many, if we have to torture/murder/sell into slavery people who don't deserve it and didn't/couldn't consent, its still not evil"
From a utilitarian perspective that would depend on the number of people saved and the number sold into slavery and numerous other factors.
And with all these factors things start to get imprecise until you've got a complicated, fuzzy, series of probability curves that make it extremely difficult to calculate what will be the right choice. Humans being creatures that love putting off hard decisions they'll go down whichever route allows them to delay the choice the longest (generally the one that doesn't involve killing the few).

InaVegt
2009-05-16, 02:31 PM
Godwin's law does not apply in this sort of discussion. Especially when the comparison is valid and no other examples are readily at hand (or as famous).

The leap from "I don't have to kill one person to supposedly save five, if it ever comes up" to "You would let vote for Hitler and knowingly let him kill all those Jews" is very much an invocation of Godwins law.

hamishspence
2009-05-16, 02:32 PM
Going backward in time and trying to kill yourself, however, is done in fiction- Two of Dan Abnett's comics have it happen: Durham Red and Malus Darkblade It doesn't work though.

when the trope is: "The Ends Justify The Means" and when the end is Utopia, survival of the species, survival of the country/city/self-

is it fair to say that there are some Means that cause revulsion/moral outrage in a large proportion of people?

the irony of the Godwin comment is- the claim that "if atrocity is required to save the species/ save a much bigger group than the one the atrocities are being committed against, you are morally obliged to commit them" - sounds like the credo of many dictatorships fictional and otherwise.

GoC
2009-05-16, 02:38 PM
The leap from "I don't have to kill one person to supposedly save five, if it ever comes up" to "You would let vote for Hitler and knowingly let him kill all those Jews" is very much an invocation of Godwins law.
What? Those were niether my points nor his so either state what we actually said or be ignored for misquoting.


is it fair to say that there are some Means that cause revulsion/moral outrage in a large proportion of people?
That depends on the ends.
100% chance of saving humanity? Will never come up.
99% chance of saving humanity? Might come up and most would agree is worth a lot of suffering.

hamishspence
2009-05-16, 02:42 PM
So you don't believe in a consistent moral standard where the value of people's lives does not depend on their utility to you?
The minute we determine that the lives of those people "far away of which we know nothing"* are worth less than our own convenience we have become exactly like the german people during Hitler's reign. Letting atrocities happen as we stand by because it "isn't our responsibility".




But the thrust of the earlier comments is, if the situation demands it "the needs of the many", then you are morally required to commit atrocities.

and with


If you can save someone easily and with no risk or cost to yourself and do not do so, I would consider you a murderer.



then you end up being called a murderer for not committing atrocities.

InaVegt
2009-05-16, 02:48 PM
What? Those were niether my points nor his so either state what we actually said or be ignored for misquoting.

It's exactly what you were implying.


So you don't believe in a consistent moral standard where the value of people's lives does not depend on their utility to you?
Your rephrasal of the problem.


The minute we determine that the lives of those people "far away of which we know nothing"* are worth less than our own convenience we have become exactly like the german people during Hitler's reign. Letting atrocities happen as we stand by because it "isn't our responsibility".

Your response.

The only difference is that in my rephrasal I pulled out what you were obviously implying and called you on it.

hamishspence
2009-05-16, 03:02 PM
To quote Batman Begins "I won't kill you, but I don't have to save you"

Comments seem to be that Not Saving Person is exactly the same as Murdering Person.

But most people don't see it as quite that same thing.

take Star Trek: City on the Edge of Forever. If Edith Keeler doesn't die, humanity will go exist.

She gets into a car accident- by that argument it would be exactly the same if Kirk had pushed her in front of a car.

But I think people would have reacted slightly differently if Kirk had done that.

EDIT:
Technically- here are three levels:
Kill Person
Not Save Person
Stop McCoy Saving Person

Are they morally equal?

GoC
2009-05-16, 03:12 PM
It's exactly what you were implying.


Your rephrasal of the problem.



Your response.

The only difference is that in my rephrasal I pulled out what you were obviously implying and called you on it.
I am implying that a lack of concern for lives that are unrelated to yours (implied by post #46) can lead to problems such as the holocaust (an example used because it was a case where people ignored what was happening to others they couldn't see).

"I don't have to kill one person to supposedly save five, if it ever comes up" is not what he said. He said that even if killing one person would save five it is immoral to do so.
"You would let vote for Hitler and knowingly let him kill all those Jews" is not what I said. I said that the type of moral framework related to post #46 (completely unrelated to the kill 1 to save 5 post) leads to problems.
The two sentences were not connected in any way.

Note: It appears I misread post #46 and he was not implying a self-centered moral framework. Merely that once a contract of care for one person (your child) has been established it is your duty to protect them above that of an ordinary stranger, whose life is worth less than yours.
The problem of course is that these contracts aren't explicitely stated, they are implied. Hence you also have a similar social contract (of varying strength depending on culture) with your siblings/parents/nieghbors/ect.
See where this is going? Yep. The lives (and by extension, comfort, because lives=money=comfort as established earlier on in this thread by Devils_Advocate) of "group A of which I am a part of and who have value to me" are of greater value than "group B of which I am not a part of and who I have never seen and are of no use to me". This is exactly the situation that led to the holocaust.
It is unlikely tha hammishpence would support anything remotely similar to the holocaust but that still doesn't change the fact that his moral standing is untenable.


But the thrust of the earlier comments is, if the situation demands it "the needs of the many", then you are morally required to commit atrocities.
Yes, but then they are no longer atrocities (from the defintion of an attrocity as a very evil action on a large scale) due to the fact they are now the correct thing to do.

EDIT:

She gets into a car accident- by that argument it would be exactly the same if Kirk had pushed her in front of a car.

But I think people would have reacted slightly differently if Kirk had done that.
Most humans are emotional creatures. They get blinded by emotions and reacted using that instead of a bit of logic. The media doesn't like showing difficult decisions because the viewers get conflicted (and thus unhappy) over them. This makes the show unpopular. So instead they will magically resolve the issue so that the difficult decision does not have to made. I'm generalizing obviously.
If she must die so humanity survives then so be it.


Technically- here are three levels:
Kill Person
Not Save Person
Stop McCoy Saving Person

Are they morally equal?
Fromt the utilitarian perspective: yes.

hamishspence
2009-05-16, 03:24 PM
If "the correct thing to do" happens to be "torture, rape, and murder of innocent people, even if it saves a lot of peoples lives, thats a pretty nasty definition of correct.

Atrocity- serious crimes against people. Motivation for crime might be "I want to save many lives" doesn't change the fact that act is still, well, atrocious.

If Sufficiently Advanced Entities in a fictional setting truthfully assure the people of the world that The Apocalypse will be averted by the torture and killing of 10000 infants, do we say

"To save the world, this mass torture and killing is a good act"

Or do we say

"No matter what, I am not going to order 10000 infants tortured and killed."

most people, even if they might say it is a semi-good thing, would baulk from saying "I would personally do every act myself- and consider the cause sufficient to make every act righteous."

EDIT: and thats why utilitarian principle is so distrusted- because it contradicts moral beliefs of such a high proportion of the population.

Typically, the number is 90-97% of people would not "murder" 1 to save 5.

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-16, 03:42 PM
The leap from "I don't have to kill one person to supposedly save five, if it ever comes up" to "You would let vote for Hitler and knowingly let him kill all those Jews" is very much an invocation of Godwins law.
InaVegt, GoC WAS NOT REPLYING to the notion that one is not obligated to harm the few to save the many. He was replying to the notion that we have no general obligation to help others. Those ARE NOT THE SAME THING.


If Sufficiently Advanced Entities in a fictional setting truthfully assure the people of the world that The Apocalypse will be averted by the torture and killing of 10000 infants, do we say

"To save the world, this mass torture and killing is a good act"

Or do we say

"No matter what, I am not going to order 10000 infants tortured and killed."
Why not "How do we know you're telling the truth?"

hamishspence, what do you say to the notion that I advanced earlier, and that GoC touches on: That the real, meta-ethics level rule isn't "The ends don't justify the means", it's "Don't pretend that you know in advance all of the consequences your actions will have, because you don't."


when the trope is: "The Ends Justify The Means" and when the end is Utopia, survival of the species, survival of the country/city/self-

is it fair to say that there are some Means that cause revulsion/moral outrage in a large proportion of people?
Is it also fair to say that whether something causes revulsion or outrage isn't a good indication of whether it's harmful, unjust, or anything else?

In those times and places when and where consensual sodomy was considered more evil than slavery, was it actually worse?


I think the problem is, the assumption that, when lives are saved by actions, especially in large proportion, the methods don't matter- the believe that "to save the world, nothing counts as an atrocity- all acts are justified."
No, that's not even how consequentialism works. Saving the world has to be more good than the other consequences of one's actions are bad. Which, in extreme cases, it might not be.


Or, on the smaller scale "to save the many, if we have to torture/murder/sell into slavery people who don't deserve it and didn't/couldn't consent, its still not evil"
Humans do things like that all the time, though. They'll be cruel to animals, bomb foreigners, tyrannize children, whatever. They'll subject unconsenting people to small risks that add up to certain meaningful harm on a large scale. Et cetera. There doesn't seem to actually be a broad general consensus against ever harming or controlling innocents. So if an argument relies on painting things as if there is such a consensus, it's going to fall flat, so far as I can see.


I was merely imagining an alternate universe were intellectual property cannot be owned so this would not apply.
Ah, so you agree that such a universe is one in which non-disclosure contracts are non-enforcable?


No. The right to privacy allows you to keep information about yourself hidden.
OK, then. Let's say instead that the right to intellectual property is an extension of the right to have non-disclosure contracts enforced and the right to physical property. After all, if a book is yours, no one gets to open it and read it without your permission.

Agree?


Technically- here are three levels:
Kill Person
Not Save Person
Stop McCoy Saving Person

Are they morally equal?
Huh? How is preventing someone from being saved not a form of killing? Killing is causing death.

When we say that A caused B, we're implicitly speaking counterfactually: We mean that if A hadn't happened, B wouldn't have happened.

If you hadn't prevented someone's life from being saved, she wouldn't have died. Hence, your preventing her from being saved caused her death. Hence, you killed her.

What you're suggesting sounds like saying that trapping someone in a cell and letting him starve to death isn't really killing, merely allowing someone to die, which is acceptable That is some seriously evil ****.

If you deliberately act to "merely allow" something to happen, you're not "merely allowing" it at all.

Now, I agree with you that inaction isn't the same thing as action. (Whether they're morally equivalent is another matter.)

hamishspence
2009-05-16, 03:52 PM
I was thinking more along the lines of the Kirk problem. If you put someone in a position where they will die, thats not quite the same as failing to rescue someone when they have put themselves in that position, accidentally or otherwise.

Stopping someone else from doing so- trickier. Say a man is going to die if not treated- you are a doctor- you order another doctor not to treat him- because other people need the doctor more. Triage. Not saving someone- not the same as killing them.

What constitutes Neglect? If you see strangers behaving in a way that puts themselves at risk, are you obliged to stop them?

DamnedIrishman
2009-05-16, 03:56 PM
Godwin's law does not apply in this sort of discussion.

Godwin's Law is so passe. That's why I always invoke the spirit of McCarthy instead.

"That's just what Stalin would think... comrade!"


EDIT: Also, you can't invoke Godwin's Law. Godwin's Law states that eventually every internet discussion will involve comparisons with nazis. The term you are looking for is reductio ad hitlerum.

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-16, 04:02 PM
I was thinking more along the lines of the Kirk problem. If you put someone in a position where they will die, thats not quite the same as failing to rescue someone when they have put themselves in that position, accidentally or otherwise.
Agreed. Arguably morally equivalent, but two different things.


Stopping someone else from doing so- trickier. Say a man is going to die if not treated- you are a doctor- you order another doctor not to treat him- because other people need the doctor more. Triage. Not saving someone- not the same as killing them.
You actively cause the man's death through your actions. He would have lived, but now, because of you, he's going to die. How is this not killing?

Preventing X from saving Y is not the same thing as merely not saving Y yourself. The former is active, the latter is passive.

InaVegt
2009-05-16, 04:05 PM
What you're suggesting sounds like saying that trapping someone in a cell and letting him starve to death isn't really killing, merely allowing someone to die, which is acceptable That is some seriously evil ****.

This is different from not saving someone. This is killing someone with the weapon of starvation. The guy who does this has made an active decision to cause a death.

My (very rough) scale:

Cause a death, morally 'evil' in most circumstances, should be avoided if at all possible.
Neglect to prevent a death, this depends on the circumstances, generally, one must take the ability of the person who died into account, as well as what s/he has done in the past.
Save a life, morally 'good' in many circumstances, should be promoted.

Now, generally, you should do 'good' actions and avoid 'evil' actions, however, there is always incomplete information.

In the 1 vs. 5 situation -- ignoring for the moment the artificial nature of this dilemma --, we are told nothing about the people the situation is about, which means I cannot make a judgement. What if the single person was a scientific genius who's known to be working on some great new theory while 5 people are convicted repeat criminals?

Those five have done nothing to little for our society, while the single one has done quite a bit for humanity, and is expected to do much more. The death of the scientists would have a potential major detriment -- by virtue of not getting a major boost -- on society, unlike the deaths of those criminals.

You need to know what the people are like before you make decisions like this, try to find out as much as possible before time runs out. Blank numbers mean nothing.

hamishspence
2009-05-16, 04:05 PM
true- its the midway point, the missing link between the two categories.

Comparable to blocking an anti-pollution law which will save lives, or an aid shipment from going through- Stopping People From Helping Others- nastier than Not Helping Others but not quite all the way into Killing Others.

The Dark Knight movie has the classic example of the above- boat full of criminal- boat full of ordinary civilians. They know who's on the other boat. By the "criminal lives are worth less than civilian ones" principle- the civilian boat should immediately detonate the criminal one without a moments lost sleep over it.

Except- they don't.

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-16, 04:07 PM
How is it not killing?

hamishspence
2009-05-16, 04:09 PM
Because the person is dying anyway- and not of a condition induced by said doctors.

Or try example of a suicide- person is walking toward a cliff- friend A tries to stop them- Friend B stops friend A. Is Friend B a murderer, or just complicit in a suicide?

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-16, 04:17 PM
How does that make it not killing?

Are not all non-immortals progressing towards death? If that's not what you mean by "dying", what is?

We're all starving to death, in the sense that we'll die if we don't get food in the future. That's a non-induced condition. Does that make it OK to keep someone from food?

Edit: I'm talking about whether something is killing, not whether it's "murder".

Edit 2: To clarify: I'm talking about causal responsibility for death. Moral responsibility is a separate but related issue.

Moral responsibility may be ambiguous, but I think that causal responsibility is relatively clear-cut.

hamishspence
2009-05-16, 04:21 PM
slightly different thing. Food is like air- you need it to live. forcibly depriving someone of it in that kind of way is murder.

Similarly, if you were the cause of the "Dying but saveable" condition- failure to intervene is murder.

But if not, it isn't. Might be negligence, if you do consider people to have a certain minimum duty to others, though. The proverbial Good Samaritan- had he not come along, would those who "walked on by" be actual murderers, or not?

And if we skip over murder- one might say Killing requires force- even if the force simply involves keeping person in locked room- if there is no force of any kind- can there be killing?

EDIT:
"Aiding and abetting an act" is usually considered less culpable than committing the act. Which is not to say that they are non-culpable- only that the moral wrong is less serious.

Person discover a vigilante is killing people- person sympathises, so they divert everyone who's trying to stop the vigilante's actions. Are they morally equivalent- should they get the same sentence as the vigilante does when finally arrested?

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-16, 04:38 PM
Once again, I'm talking about causal responsibility. I'm not talking about whether anyone should be blamed or punished for anything, nor how much.


slightly different thing. Food is like air- you need it to live. forcibly depriving someone of it in that kind of way is murder.
So, do you agree that if someone needs medical attention to live, forcibly depriving him of it is murder?

What counts as "forcible"? Is non-forcibly depriving someone of something he needs to live murder? Is it still killing, even if it isn't murder?

I say "yes" to that last question. It would seem to require a rather convoluted definition of "killing" to answer "no".

How are you defining "kill"? I take "X killed Y" to mean "X caused Y's death."


Similarly, if you were the cause of the "Dying but saveable" condition- failure to intervene is murder.
Well, I'd say that causing the condition might become murder when the person dies, and that failure to intervene simply allows your initial act to become murder. But the upshot is the same, in that case -- you murdered if you didn't save the person, but didn't murder if you did save the person.


But if not, it isn't. Might be negligence, if you do consider people to have a certain minimum duty to others, though. The proverbial Good Samaritan- had he not come along, would those who "walked on by" be actual murderers, or not?
They wouldn't. But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about stopping one person from saving another.


And if we skip over murder- one might say Killing requires force- even if the force simply involves keeping person in locked room- if there is no force of any kind- can there be killing?
If you take out a hit on someone, you're just talking to an assassin and maybe handing him money. No more forceful than forbidding a doctor to give someone treatment. In both cases, I'd say that you're causing someone's death. Therefore, I'd say that you're killing in both cases, as I take "killing" to mean causing someone's death.

hamishspence
2009-05-16, 04:46 PM
its a tricky one- but medical aid is something that may be given.

How about if the Good Samaritan type had a superior officer walking with him who gave him an order- Don't save that man? Can we reasonably say the officer has caused his death- has killed him?

Paying for an act to be committed is morally the same- howver legally charaged might be different- assasin would be changed with murder- paymaster- with Conspiracy to commit murder.

"I killed these people" is a slightly different statement from "I refused to allow the rescue of these people"

now handing people over to an unknown fate, in the hands of others, which turns out to involve killing? trickier. James Bond Goldeneye example: the British Government were involved in the deaths of Alec Trevalyan's people by handing them over- did they kill them though?

GoC
2009-05-16, 05:04 PM
If "the correct thing to do" happens to be "torture, rape, and murder of innocent people, even if it saves a lot of peoples lives, thats a pretty nasty definition of correct.
Context. If the correct thing to do is these things then the alternative must be really really horrific.


Atrocity- serious crimes against people. Motivation for crime might be "I want to save many lives" doesn't change the fact that act is still, well, atrocious.
An atrocity is not a serious crime. It is an "Appalling or atrocious condition, quality, or behavior; monstrousness." Hence different people will call different things atrocities because we are appalled at different things. If you wish to use the other definiton: "An appalling or atrocious act, situation, or object, especially an act of unusual or illegal cruelty inflicted by an armed force on civilians or prisoners." Once again different people will call different things atrocities.
A particularily like this quote:
"Is it also fair to say that whether something causes revulsion or outrage isn't a good indication of whether it's harmful, unjust, or anything else?"


If Sufficiently Advanced Entities in a fictional setting truthfully assure the people of the world that The Apocalypse will be averted by the torture and killing of 10000 infants, do we say

"To save the world, this mass torture and killing is a good act"

Or do we say

"No matter what, I am not going to order 10000 infants tortured and killed."

most people, even if they might say it is a semi-good thing, would baulk from saying "I would personally do every act myself- and consider the cause sufficient to make every act righteous."
Of course not. Because doing it personally would screw you (or anyone) up. You'd want someone else to do the dirty work.
I'd answer the first by the way. It might make you sick in the stomache but it is for the best.

Of course, these situations never come up as stated because as Devils_Advocate has pointed out nothing in the real world is certain. The chances that these omnipotent beings are telling the truth is remote, more likely it's some sort of test.


EDIT: and thats why utilitarian principle is so distrusted- because it contradicts moral beliefs of such a high proportion of the population.

Typically, the number is 90-97% of people would not "murder" 1 to save 5.
I'm going to need a source on that one.


Ah, so you agree that such a universe is one in which non-disclosure contracts are non-enforcable?
Indeed. Provided we're talking about corporate contracts. Governmentlaws may be a different matter.


OK, then. Let's say instead that the right to intellectual property is an extension of the right to have non-disclosure contracts enforced and the right to physical property. After all, if a book is yours, no one gets to open it and read it without your permission.

Agree?
Hmm...
I do not understand why you added "and the right to physical property."
Intellectual property as an extension of non-disclosure contracts seems sound though.


If you put someone in a position where they will die, thats not quite the same as failing to rescue someone when they have put themselves in that position, accidentally or otherwise.
Rescuing someone in the latter case is slightly different because you could be doing harm to society as people get used to the fact that they can be irresponsible and still be rescued. So yes it is slightly different but not enough.


Stopping someone else from doing so- trickier. Say a man is going to die if not treated- you are a doctor- you order another doctor not to treat him- because other people need the doctor more. Triage. Not saving someone- not the same as killing them.
In this case you are sacrificing one to save another. A tragedy but not an evil.


What constitutes Neglect? If you see strangers behaving in a way that puts themselves at risk, are you obliged to stop them?
Would doing so help them? Would it help society?


The Dark Knight movie has the classic example of the above- boat full of criminal- boat full of ordinary civilians. They know who's on the other boat. By the "criminal lives are worth less than civilian ones" principle- the civilian boat should immediately detonate the criminal one without a moments lost sleep over it.

Except- they don't.
You really need to stop citing movies as where you get your moral values from...
Anyway, this has been addressed by Devils_Advocate. Imperfect information. They couldn't know:
A. That the detonator wouldn't blow up their boat or somewhere else.
B. That everything really would detonate at midnight.
C. That the explosives cannot be disarmed.
D. That the convicts/civilians can't be rescued.


Cause a death
There's your problem. Causal relationship in never straitforward. Ususually there are a thousand (more likely a billion) different people who are the cause of something.
I think you mean intent. Was it your intent that X die? By not going out of your way to save him?


In the 1 vs. 5 situation -- ignoring for the moment the artificial nature of this dilemma --, we are told nothing about the people the situation is about, which means I cannot make a judgement. What if the single person was a scientific genius who's known to be working on some great new theory while 5 people are convicted repeat criminals?

Those five have done nothing to little for our society, while the single one has done quite a bit for humanity, and is expected to do much more. The death of the scientists would have a potential major detriment -- by virtue of not getting a major boost -- on society, unlike the deaths of those criminals.

You need to know what the people are like before you make decisions like this, try to find out as much as possible before time runs out. Blank numbers mean nothing.
However in 99% of cases the 5 are worth more than the one. There's also the fact that you cannot make value judgements on the worth of a person's life. The only objective thing is whether or not that person is alive.

Also, what if no information can be found out?
I think this page should be relevant: http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4954856.stm
Case 1 is very interesting as you are performing an action (disconnecting yourself) that causes his death. But like most you probably believe your 9 months of time are worth more than the life of the violinist.

I also think it's very important that we clearly seperate actions from intent. An action can be evil while the intent may not be.


EDIT: I find these discussions very useful. 90% of society doesn't really think about morality for more than five minutes (most not even that) and just go with their gut. A good 10 hours of contemplation should be mandatory I feel.:smallamused:

hamishspence
2009-05-16, 05:13 PM
Source: Richard Dawkins The God Delusion. A book on The Philospohy of Superheroes also raised it- saying 90% of people would not push a fat man in front of a train to save 5 people trapped on a siding.

Movies don't always reflect real-world people's views of morality, but more often than not- whats described as a Crowning Moment Of Heartwarming in a movie is likely to be this sort of thing. Honor Over Reason, only, portrayed as The Right Thing.

GoC
2009-05-16, 05:20 PM
Source: Richard Dawkins The God Delusion. A book on The Philospohy of Superheroes also raised it- saying 90% of people would not push a fat man in front of a train to save 5 people trapped on a siding.

Movies don't always reflect real-world people's views of morality, but more often than not- whats described as a Crowning Moment Of Heartwarming in a movie is likely to be this sort of thing. Honor Over Reason, only, portrayed as The Right Thing.

And naturally they never show the case when the hero tries to Take the Third Option and fails. Dooming everyone.
In fact in the 5 people trapped in the siding case there's always some deus ex machina that saves them. This indirectly leads people to believe that this will be the case in real life as well. That if they just trust their instincts everything will go fine and everybody will get a happy ending.
Sorry, life doesn't work like that.:smallannoyed:

btw: You'll also note that 77% would flip the switch. So your theory that most would not kill 1 to save 5 is wrong. And my theory that over 50% of people are guided purely by emotions (and most of the remainder with maybe a little bit of thinking) is likely to be correct.

hamishspence
2009-05-16, 05:26 PM
Flip the switch and Push The Fat Man are two different things.

in the first the person is collateral damage.

in the second, their death is the means of saving the others.

so, its not the same thing. in the first, the death of the 1 is unfortunate accident- they happen to be in the way when train is diverted away from the five- a sacrifice.

In the second- person is being drawn into the situation without their consent- force is being used on them- a murder.

Jack Squat
2009-05-16, 05:27 PM
Can I have a sitation on that? Everything I've heard says that alcohol is very unhealthy in the long term.

It (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/12/051205075940.htm) lowers the chances of obesity in small amounts[/url] It's also Good for the heart, and improves insulin prodution (http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-research/summaries/lapidus-alcohol-diabetes.jsp).

Of course, it'll take it's toll on the liver in the long run, although I imagine strict moderation helps alleviate that some.

InaVegt
2009-05-16, 05:27 PM
There's also human failure to consider, would I be trapped in said completely unrealistic situation, I'd quite likely be paralised by indecision. It would entirely be possible for me to not know what to do until it was too late, and I'm pretty sure I'm not unique in this.

hamishspence
2009-05-16, 05:30 PM
In that case- why would survey show consistant results across a huge range of cultures? Is it the emotional response, or the long-standing moral teachings, reflected in the legends of all those cultures?

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-16, 05:34 PM
hamishspence, I'm still unsure of your positions on some things. Could you clarify the senses in which you're using a few words?

- How do you define "kill"?
- What constitutes "force"?
- What do you mean when you call something "murder"?

I don't think that whether you killed someone is a legal or moral issue at all. It's an issue of cause and effect.

It occurs to me that one might only consider a fairly immediate cause of death to "kill". So "it's not the fall that kills you, it's the sudden stop at the end." Is this the sense in which you are using the term?

If so, it doesn't make sense to me that that would impact moral responsibility. Setting a death trap (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DeathTrap) up days in advance doesn't really seem less wrong than just shooting someone (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ptitle8gti69rvj2oq?from=Main.WhyDontYaJustShootHim ). Well, admittedly, death traps do seem to give plucky heroes a sporting chance of survival, so there's that.


Can we reasonably say the officer has caused his death- has killed him?
Yes. Upon reflection, maybe my definition of "kill" doesn't fit the standard usage most closely, but I'd hardly call it an unreasonable one.


now handing people over to an unknown fate, in the hands of others, which turns out to involve killing? trickier. James Bond Goldeneye example: the British Government were involved in the deaths of Alec Trevalyan's people by handing them over- did they kill them though?
Yes, they did, but probably not deliberately. I'm sure we agree that inadvertent killing is morally different from intentional killing.


I do not understand why you added "and the right to physical property."
Without that, someone can just take a copy of your book from you without your permission and copy it. How are you going to get them to agree not to?

(Also, why would intellectual property ever be established, without physical property? Would people leverage their control over information to gain control over more information, instead of physical wealth? I guess I can sort of imagine a post-scarcity sci-fi economy that would work like that.

Actually, I seem to remember it working that way in some of Asimov's books: The spacers all have plenty of stuff, but they can still earn valuable knowledge and horde it to themselves. Unsurprisingly, this is not good for scientific progress. Of course, as I recall, they did horde, instead of trade.)

hamishspence
2009-05-16, 05:43 PM
on Alec- I figued they at least suspected. Hand people over to incredibly nasty group- what did they think was going to happen?

forseeability might come into play. A booby trap shows intention to kill- even if no-one ever triggers it. A person who booby-traps his front door and windows to kill anyone who tries to force them. Random would-be burglar comes- tries it- dies. The trapper killed them, even if they weren't actively trying to kill a specific person.

Force is always hard to define though. But if you sneakily slam and lock a door to a room that a person voluntarily walks into, and they die there of thirst, you've kept them there by force even if you never laid a hand on them.

Language always has grey areas- caused might be one "Cause an event" as opposed to "Prevent people from preventing an event that would otherwise happen"- should they be considered the same?

GoC
2009-05-16, 05:50 PM
Flip the switch and Push The Fat Man are two different things.

in the first the person is collateral damage.

in the second, their death is the means of saving the others.

so, its not the same thing. in the first, the death of the 1 is unfortunate accident- they happen to be in the way when train is diverted away from the five- a sacrifice.

In the second- person is being drawn into the situation without their consent- force is being used on them- a murder.
...
In both cases the death is a means of saving others. In both cases the person in question is collateral damage.
In the both cases the death was not an accident. You intentionally flip the switch. You intentionally push the fat man.
In both cases a person is being drawn into a situation without their consent and force is being used on them. In one case it's a push. In another it's the flipping of a switch (unless you say that the german flipping the switch on those gas chambers wasn't using force and commiting murder).


Language always has grey areas- caused might be one "Cause an event" as opposed to "Prevent people from preventing an event that would otherwise happen"- should they be considered the same?
Yes. They both share a causal relationship.
"Cause" in human terms denotes intent. "Cause" in physics denotes forces interacting over time and what changes removing one of those interactions would have.


Without that, someone can just take a copy of your book from you without your permission and copy it. How are you going to get them to agree not to?
Ok. Go on.

hamishspence
2009-05-16, 05:54 PM
then why do every book that presents the two situations categorise them differently?

GoC
2009-05-16, 06:00 PM
then why do every book that presents the two situations categorise them differently?

Probably to test the theory that morals in many people are purely emotional responses with no logic involved?

As advanced monkeys the primitive emotional/insinctual/ect parts of our brains haven't evolved to be used to trolley situations where you can kill someone purely by inaction or kill someone with a switch. They simply cannot deal with that situation. Our brains need to use the non-monkey part (logical thinking) in order to correctly assess the situation.

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-16, 06:11 PM
Flip the switch and Push The Fat Man are two different things.

in the first the person is collateral damage.

in the second, their death is the means of saving the others.

so, its not the same thing. in the first, the death of the 1 is unfortunate accident- they happen to be in the way when train is diverted away from the five- a sacrifice.

In the second- person is being drawn into the situation without their consent- force is being used on them- a murder.
Bunk. Pushing the guy onto the tracks is the means of saving others; this just happens to unfortunately lead to his death, just like flipping the switch unfortunately leads to someone's death.

And when a train is suddenly, unexpectedly bearing down on you, you've damn well been thrust into that situation without your consent.

If the big fat guy was some sort of invincible alien or demigod or something, he wouldn't fail to stop the train because he didn't die. Yet we know he'll die, just like the one person on the tracks.

The hypothetical of the one person not being on the tracks is more intuitive than the hypothetical of the fat guy being invincible... although he theoretically could be, if he had some sort of super nanotechnological suit or something. So the notion that you could have diverted the train without killing someone is more intuitive than the notion that you could have pushed a guy in front of it without killing him.

But in each scenario, you have to kill one person to save five. The relative validity of different hypotheticals aside, should the fact that you hypothetically could do something without killing someone be given so much moral weight, next to whether doing it actually does kill someone? I'd say that you should be concerned with whether you actually do kill someone, instead of being concerned with what impact your choices would have in a hypothetical scenario that is not, in fact, occurring, such that said impact will not actually be felt. Call me crazy.

You could say that the right answer is how an overwhelming majority feels, but in that case morality is definitely relative, varying from time to time and place to place.


then why do every book that presents the two situations categorise them differently?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotivism


Language always has grey areas
Hence why I ask you to clarify what you mean by various things. :smallsmile:


caused might be one "Cause an event" as opposed to "Prevent people from preventing an event that would otherwise happen"- should they be considered the same?
You haven't distinguished how the latter isn't a subset of the former. In what sense does preventing something from being prevented not cause it? Is it an issue of immediacy, as I said? Is the cause not prevented taken to be "the" cause because it directly precedes the effect?


Ok. Go on.
... That's it. Intellectual property is an outgrowth of physical property because you can stop people from copying things you own.

GoC
2009-05-16, 06:14 PM
... That's it. Intellectual property is an outgrowth of physical property because you can stop people from copying things you own.

No. You said intellectual property is an outgrowth of physical property AND non-disclosure contracts.
If a group do not agree with non-disclosure contracts then a land without intellectual property could still function without contradicting itself.

Anyway the whole point was to throw an idea out there and see what potential reprecussions it would have.

cody.burton
2009-05-16, 06:22 PM
Probably to test the theory that morals in many people are purely emotional responses with no logic involved?

As advanced monkeys the primitive emotional/insinctual/ect parts of our brains haven't evolved to be used to trolley situations where you can kill someone purely by inaction or kill someone with a switch. They simply cannot deal with that situation. Our brains need to use the non-monkey part (logical thinking) in order to correctly assess the situation.

You seem to be implying here that consequentialism is a pre-requisite for logical ethics. This is not true. Whether a system is logical or not is a property of the system, not the assumptions. Deontological, list-based ethics is still logical and self-consistent - it is just based on assumptions that you disagree with.

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-16, 06:24 PM
No. You said intellectual property is an outgrowth of physical property AND non-disclosure contracts.
:smallsigh: Yes, I did.

(1) However, the right to physical property is sufficient for a limited sort of intellectual property: You can keep people from copying your works by never giving anyone any copies.

(2) I didn't say, above, that intellectual property is an outgrowth of physical property regardless of context. I didn't claim there that physical property is itself sufficient for intellectual property; that intellectual property is a necessary consequence of physical property.

I wasn't trying to say "If you allow people to have belongings at all, you HAVE to allow for IP!" If you took my comment that way, you misinterpreted. I was just trying to lay out how the concepts are related to each other.

Mr. Mud
2009-05-16, 06:27 PM
Scenarios being fairly similar, most people make the first morally "correct" choice that hits their mind; Kill 1 and save the 5. But the controversy lies, at least it would for me, in the aftermath. Truly playground we do not choose to save the 5 people instead of 1 because it minimizes humanity's loses. We do it because it compromises our delicate human psyches 4/5 less than it would with the opposite choice. It would be emotionally easier to bear the death of one person, knowing 5 were saved, than one's choices had he chosen the other path. That being said, when it comes down to it, we don't really care for other people, albeit complete strangers, more than we care for ourselves. :smallfrown:.

GoC
2009-05-16, 06:30 PM
I just realized that this has rather profound consequences for the idea of democracy:

And my theory that over 50% of people are guided purely by emotions (and most of the remainder with maybe a little bit of thinking) is likely to be correct.


You seem to be implying here that consequentialism is a pre-requisite for logical ethics. This is not true. Whether a system is logical or not is a property of the system, not the assumptions. Deontological, list-based ethics is still logical and self-consistent - it is just based on assumptions that you disagree with.
Do deontologists also define good as "that which should be done"?
If I'm reading this right then deontologists only consider the past when determining the rightness of an action not the future consequences that action could have. For example in this framework unprotected sex is good because future consequences are irrelevant.
If deontologists say that context matters then they have to define how broad a context an action should have. Everything in the event's light-cone is context. Thus in general the state of the universe at the time of the action is context. But the state of the universe is a consequence of past events and a cause of future ones! Hence you end up arbitrarily asigning a good/bad value to each state of the universe or you must base deontology on some other system.
More reading has been done.
I'll just quote these:
"essentially a dressed-up version of popular morality"
"deontologists usually fail to specify which principles should take priority"

They have to create an arbitrarily large number of arbitrary rules (if they're not arbitrary then these rules must in turn be based on another ethical system). Definitely a sane system.:smallwink:

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-16, 06:49 PM
Ooh! I just remembered a good illustrative scenario to consider:

If torturing a puppy would permanently eliminate and prevent all bizarre hypothetical moral dilemmas, would you do it?

Assume the puppy to be both innocent and adorable.

GoC
2009-05-16, 06:51 PM
Define "bizarre".:smallwink:

Mr. Mud
2009-05-16, 06:52 PM
Ooh! I just remembered a good illustrative scenario to consider:

If torturing a puppy would permanently eliminate and prevent all bizarre hypothetical moral dilemmas, would you do it?

Assume the puppy to be both innocent and adorable.

I'm not sure if I would or not. I mean maybe I'd poke him with a stick or something, but I would definitely not harm him/her too bad... What's life without moral loopholes and ethical problems... And puppies?

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-16, 07:05 PM
By the way, GoC, do you realize that defining "good" as "that which should be done", doesn't really tell us what your moral beliefs are at all, since "should" is just as vague as "good"? It's standard for those two words to relate to each other in that way. But explaining that you're using them in that standard fashion really doesn't illustrate what you mean by either.

If you actually want to clarify your moral beliefs, try playing Rationalist Taboo (http://www.overcomingbias.com/2008/02/replace-symbol.html): describe your morality in non-moral terms, instead of using words like "should", "good", "just", "right", "moral", "ethical", etc. and their antonyms.

Rutskarn
2009-05-16, 07:08 PM
Tricky question.

Laws, as an authority imposed by a ruling body, are part of our societal contract--to an extent. It is my personal view that human beings possess certain unalienable rights which cannot, in good conscience, be entirely obliterated--unless in a time of great need.

It is the responsibility of citizens, belonging voluntarily to a society, to obey that society's laws, but only in a manner secondary to the preservation of their universal rights and the universal rights of others.

MethosH
2009-05-16, 07:08 PM
Ooh! I just remembered a good illustrative scenario to consider:

If torturing a puppy would permanently eliminate and prevent all bizarre hypothetical moral dilemmas, would you do it?

Assume the puppy to be both innocent and adorable.

Does this puppy enjoy bdsm?

cody.burton
2009-05-16, 07:13 PM
I'll just quote these:
"essentially a dressed-up version of popular morality"
"deontologists usually fail to specify which principles should take priority"


Can you source these quotes? I know that in my bioethics class we discussed both deontological and consequentialist systems and treated both as potentially valid.


They have to create an arbitrarily large number of arbitrary rules (if they're not arbitrary then these rules must in turn be based on another ethical system). Definitely a sane system.:smallwink:

As for the arbitrarily large number, no they don't. A system that states personal autonomy should only be negated when someone else's autonomy has only one rule.

As for the rules being arbitrary, all systems (even math and logic :smalltongue:) must boil down to arbitrary rules. Utilitarianism's is that something is good if it increases the total wellbeing in the world. Of course, if you have a reason for this, then it's not arbitrary, but that reason would be. :smallwink:

GoC
2009-05-16, 07:42 PM
By the way, GoC, do you realize that defining "good" as "that which should be done", doesn't really tell us what your moral beliefs are at all, since "should" is just as vague as "good"? It's standard for those two words to relate to each other in that way. But explaining that you're using them in that standard fashion really doesn't illustrate what you mean by either.

If you actually want to clarify your moral beliefs, try playing Rationalist Taboo (http://www.overcomingbias.com/2008/02/replace-symbol.html): describe your morality in non-moral terms, instead of using words like "should", "good", "just", "right", "moral", "ethical", etc. and their antonyms.

Thanks, but the problem is that there are sets of words that can only be defined in terms of one another. This is one such set. If I define good as "what creates the greatest happiness for humanity" then all I've done is state the premise of utilitarianism. Perhaps I could define it as something like "what I would recommend others do" but that's also problematic.


Can you source these quotes? I know that in my bioethics class we discussed both deontological and consequentialist systems and treated both as potentially valid.
Oh, I was just stating my opinion not trying an apeal to authority. Those quotes are from the wiki article.


As for the arbitrarily large number, no they don't. A system that states personal autonomy should only be negated when someone else's autonomy has only one rule.
Hmm...
Must have missed that bit.
Define personal autonomy for me please.


As for the rules being arbitrary, all systems (even math and logic :smalltongue:) must boil down to arbitrary rules.
True.

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-16, 08:07 PM
Thanks, but the problem is that there are sets of words that can only be defined in terms of one another. This is one such set. If I define good as "what creates the greatest happiness for humanity" then all I've done is state the premise of utilitarianism.
Ah, so you were just explaining how you think moral terms should be (or generally are) used in relation to each other, and didn't mean to expound upon your personal moral beliefs. OK, then. I just wasn't sure if that was your intent.


Define personal autonomy for me please.
While he does that, tell me how to quantify happiness. :smallamused:

Generally speaking, just being able to summarize a moral system in one sentence doesn't mean that it isn't internally complicated. It's a good tentative indicator that unrelated things haven't been grouped together haphazardly, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's simple. It's probably very complicated in practice if not in theory.

GoC
2009-05-16, 08:16 PM
Ah, so you were just explaining how you think moral terms should be (or generally are) used in relation to each other, and didn't mean to expound upon your personal moral beliefs. OK, then. I just wasn't sure if that was your intent.
:smalltongue:
Actually I was just checking to make sure hamish had all the moral terms correctly associated.:smallbiggrin:


While he does that, tell me how to quantify happiness. :smallamused:
Damn you and your wicked ways... >_>


Generally speaking, just being able to summarize a moral system in one sentence doesn't mean that it isn't internally complicated. It's a good tentative indicator that unrelated things haven't been grouped together haphazardly, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's simple. It's probably very complicated in practice if not in theory.
That's why ethics isn't a single lecture...

cody.burton
2009-05-16, 09:30 PM
Define personal autonomy for me please.


Personal autonomy is the concept that someone can do whatever they want with themselves and their possessions. Most systems balance autonomy with other considerations. e.g. Suicide, while it is the expression of one's autonomy over life, is often considered wrong because these systems hold life as a higher moral imperative than autonomy.

Speaking back to the original topic, I make a distinction between illicit and immoral. Immoral acts are things that should not be done, while illicit acts are things that others have a right to stop. All illicit things are immoral, but not all immoral things are illicit. Illicit actions are the subset of immoral actions that cause real harm to others. For example, someone that hurts themselves is doing something immoral in my book. However, they are not harming anyone else, so it is not illicit, so we have no right to stop, so it should not be illegal.

GoC
2009-05-16, 11:32 PM
Personal autonomy is the concept that someone can do whatever they want with themselves and their possessions. Most systems balance autonomy with other considerations. e.g. Suicide, while it is the expression of one's autonomy over life, is often considered wrong because these systems hold life as a higher moral imperative than autonomy.
This one's easy to break:
Personal property depends on a system of law. Impose 50% property tax or use a forced-nationalization of several companies. Laugh evilly as everyone get's really pissed but can't do anything about it because the property is now legally yours.:smallamused:

btw: Is Robin Hood the villain in Deontological stories?

Yarram
2009-05-17, 01:29 AM
It has come to my attention that discussion has been about a hypothetical situation without intellectual rights. There is an issue with this, and that is that no one would ever invent anything new, because everyone would just steal it from them, so it wouldn't be economical.
For example, what's the point of me writing a book if my publishing company is just going to steal my book and sell it without giving me any profit?

hamishspence
2009-05-17, 02:57 AM
The Flip the switch thing is different because its a case of- uncontrollable juggernaut heading toward innocent lives- if it can't be stopped but only diverted, you divert it in the direction of the minimum number of people.

But the people themselves are not Being Used.


People being used as a means, is slightly different from Collateral damage.

thubby
2009-05-17, 03:05 AM
you can break the law and be morally right

you can act within the law and be immoral

the 2 are independent, but not entirely unrelated.

cody.burton
2009-05-17, 08:28 AM
This one's easy to break:
Personal property depends on a system of law. Impose 50% property tax or use a forced-nationalization of several companies. Laugh evilly as everyone get's really pissed but can't do anything about it because the property is now legally yours.:smallamused:

btw: Is Robin Hood the villain in Deontological stories?

I agree that the simple deontological system I outlined is easy to break - any system with only one axiom is. Utilitarianism on the other side has the utility monster. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utility_monster)



In the thought experiment, the idea of a monster is proposed who can turn resources into his own utility far more effectively than anyone else. If one unit of resource brings "me" one unit of pleasure, one unit of resource brings the utility monster 100 units of pleasure.

If the utility monster can get so much pleasure from each unit of resources, it follows from utilitarianism that the distribution of resources should acknowledge this. If the utility monster existed, it would justify the mistreatment and perhaps annihilation of everyone else, according to the doctrine of utilitarianism.

Deontology isn't a system of ethics, but rather a type of ethical systems. For a system to be deontological, it must say that actions are moral or immoral on their own merit, not based on their consequences. All deontological systems say, "the ends do not justify the means" and all consequentialist systems say, "the means are only justified by the ends." Each category can have myriad systems that fit into it.

GoC
2009-05-17, 10:42 AM
It has come to my attention that discussion has been about a hypothetical situation without intellectual rights. There is an issue with this, and that is that no one would ever invent anything new, because everyone would just steal it from them, so it wouldn't be economical.
For example, what's the point of me writing a book if my publishing company is just going to steal my book and sell it without giving me any profit?

Untrue. People discover things for fun. Or with government sponsorship. Or with donations from people.
No intellectual rights meaning no invention is a myth (Spread by corporate fatcats?:smallwink:).


I agree that the simple deontological system I outlined is easy to break - any system with only one axiom is. Utilitarianism on the other side has the utility monster. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utility_monster)
In which case the Monster should get all the resources, HOWEVER, there is a limit to happyness levels or at the very minimum a dramatic tapering off (ln(x) style) so I contend this monster cannot exist.


Deontology isn't a system of ethics, but rather a type of ethical systems. For a system to be deontological, it must say that actions are moral or immoral on their own merit, not based on their consequences.
I'm still not getting this. Is the act unprotected sex good or bad?
It appears to me that deontology basically ignores consequences and context. Which makes it breakable.

hamishspence: What were your answers to the four BBC questions?
You believe it is wrong to use a person's body against their will no matter what the cause? Does this extend to their other property?

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-17, 03:45 PM
Personal autonomy is the concept that someone can do whatever they want with themselves and their possessions.
Hmmm. You're sure it's not that you can't just do whatever you want with other people and their possessions?


It has come to my attention that discussion has been about a hypothetical situation without intellectual rights. There is an issue with this, and that is that no one would ever invent anything new, because everyone would just steal it from them, so it wouldn't be economical.
For example, what's the point of me writing a book if my publishing company is just going to steal my book and sell it without giving me any profit?
Copying someone else's works being "theft" presupposes intellectual property, so that's begging the question.

Also, you're wrong. Various people choose to make their works freely available now, when copyrighting them is an option. Some of them may not care about making money, but still, providing free content can be economical. R. K. Milholland, creator of the webcomic Something Positive (http://www.somethingpositive.net/), was able to quit his day job after he basically dared his readers to pay his salary, and they went ahead and did it. This is not an isolated incident. There are several artists who put their works up online without the expectation that they'd earn their livings off them, and eventually started pulling in enough donations that they could.

There's free comics, free books, free music, free software. Some of it allows its producers to make money, and is produced with that in mind. Some of it is produced for fun, or as a gift. Anyway, surely there's no reason to think that people would stop producing information for free if they couldn't sell it!

So go ahead and argue, if you want to, that people have a moral right to control the works that they produce. Go ahead and argue that eliminating legal enforcement of such control would significantly reduce what's being produced, because lots of people do make things so they can make money through copyright. Argue that it would cause a decline in quality, because you often get what you pay for. Whatever.

But don't make an absolute statement that eliminating legal control over intellectual works would completely eliminate creativity, when that's just blatantly false.


The Flip the switch thing is different because its a case of- uncontrollable juggernaut heading toward innocent lives- if it can't be stopped but only diverted, you divert it in the direction of the minimum number of people.

But the people themselves are not Being Used.


People being used as a means, is slightly different from Collateral damage.
So... according to you, in the scenario where the fat guy is invincible, pushing him in front of the train is still more objectionable than redirecting it at someone, because Using someone is worse than killing?

I suspect that most people would disagree with that.

hamishspence
2009-05-17, 04:36 PM
How bad using a person as a means of saving others is, depends on how serious the consequences to them are.

If the person was indeed invincible- the wrong done against them would merely be assault.

By "saving lives is more important than individual rights" theory- kidney theft is a moral act- because 1 person's life (dying with 2 kidneys failed) is more important than 1 person's property- their own organs.

Yet, most people would disagree- maybe because it sets a dangerous precedent.

Also: what were the BBC questions?

GoC
2009-05-17, 04:58 PM
How bad using a person as a means of saving others is, depends on how serious the consequences to them are.

If the person was indeed invincible- the wrong done against them would merely be assault.

By "saving lives is more important than individual rights" theory- kidney theft is a moral act- because 1 person's life (dying with 2 kidneys failed) is more important than 1 person's property- their own organs.

Yet, most people would disagree- maybe because it sets a dangerous precedent.
Exactly! Because it sets a dangerous precedent that would cause more harm than good!
I don't have a "saving lives is more important than individual rights" theory. I have the theory of utilitarianism that says "the greatest average happiness in humanity is the best situation".


Also: what were the BBC questions?
http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4954856.stm

Also:

You believe it is wrong to use a person's body against their will no matter what the cause? Does this extend to their other property?

cody.burton
2009-05-17, 07:48 PM
In which case the Monster should get all the resources, HOWEVER, there is a limit to happyness levels or at the very minimum a dramatic tapering off (ln(x) style) so I contend this monster cannot exist.


Good, you're a very consistent utilitarian. But most people would have a moral problem with this if the monster were to exist, so most people want a more nuanced system than pure utlitarianism.



I'm still not getting this. Is the act unprotected sex good or bad?
It appears to me that deontology basically ignores consequences and context. Which makes it breakable.


Whether the act is good or bad depends on the system.

For example, you could have a deonotlogical system that stated that sex was a morally neutral act but that behaviors risky to your health are immoral. Then, you look at the act of unprotected sex and compare it to this rule. If this instance is in fact risky, then the above stated rule would say that it is bad. If it is not risky (e.g. in a monogamous marriage or some other situation that removes much of the risk), then the rule would say that it is a morally neutral act.

However, that example is only one system. Another deontological system could state that sex outside of marriage is immoral, and that would change the morality of it. Or a system could even state that it is morally good to do things that increase the population, in which case it would be your moral imperative.

Deontology doesn't make moral proscriptions. It is a large group of different moral systems that do make these judgements.

In a similar way, consequentialism doesn't make any judgements. Rather, it includes both utilitarianism and egalitarianism, which do make those judgements.



Hmmm. You're sure it's not that you can't just do whatever you want with other people and their possessions?


You're right. It can be either of those definitions, depending on your opinion of positive rights. For example, if you think that a medical patient has a positive right to elective treatment, but no doctor is willing to perform that treatment, you would say that the doctors are violating the patient's medical autonomy. Of course, if you don't believe that a patient has a positive right to this treatment, then there is no violation of autonomy.



So go ahead and argue, if you want to, that people have a moral right to control the works that they produce.


I think I will. :smalltongue:

Basically, my argument for this rests on the non-disclosure agreements as mentioned above.

I assume:

We have a right to free speech.
We have a right to property.
1 and 2 have the same moral standing.
Contracts of the form "I will pay you $X after you do Y" are valid and should be enforceable.


Contracts as listed in assumption 4 involve one party voluntarily giving up his/her future right to some amount of property, as listed in the contract. Therefore, in order to be consistent with assumption 2, we must conclude that we have a right to restrict our future rights, or at least our rights that are of the class of property rights. By assumption 3, our right to free speech is in this class. Therefore, we have a right to voluntarily restrict this right. Therefore, contracts that say, "I will not reproduce and distribute work Z if you allow me to read it" or similar contracts must also be valid and enforceable.

I am fairly sure that this argument is logically sound, so if you disagree with my conclusion, you must also disagree with one of my assumptions. Now, I think that these are reasonable assumptions. Obviously, if your assumptions are different, I can't convince you to change yours, nor can you convince me to change mine.

Also note that this only speaks to intellectual property as written out specifically in contracts. It says nothing about the system that we have now where the default is restricted speech and you need to go out of your way to have the IP open.

GoC
2009-05-17, 08:17 PM
Good, you're a very consistent utilitarian.
:smallredface:


Whether the act is good or bad depends on the system.

For example, you could have a deonotlogical system that stated that sex was a morally neutral act but that behaviors risky to your health are immoral. Then, you look at the act of unprotected sex and compare it to this rule. If this instance is in fact risky, then the above stated rule would say that it is bad. If it is not risky (e.g. in a monogamous marriage or some other situation that removes much of the risk), then the rule would say that it is a morally neutral act.
Something is risky iff it has negative consequences. So isn't this just another form of consequentialism?:smallconfused:


By assumption 3, our right to free speech is in this class.
Here's your mistake. Saying {{{free speech} and {property rights} both posses property {X moral standing}} for some X} does not mean {{free speech} is a member of {the class of property rights}}.
Depending on your definition of {the class of property rights} the sentence just before this one may also be poor logic.

cody.burton
2009-05-17, 08:33 PM
Something is risky iff it has negative consequences. So isn't this just another form of consequentialism?:smallconfused:


A deontological system can have consequentialist pieces. However, it does not have to, as my other two potential deontological systems show.



However, that example is only one system. Another deontological system could state that sex outside of marriage is immoral, and that would change the morality of it. Or a system could even state that it is morally good to do things that increase the population, in which case it would be your moral imperative.




Here's your mistake. Saying {{{free speech} and {property rights} both posses property {X moral standing}} for some X} does not mean {{free speech} is a member of {the class of property rights}}.
Depending on your definition of {the class of property rights} the sentence just before this one may also be poor logic.

Sorry if I wasn't clear here. I meant for my assumption 3 to state that the rights to free speech and property are in the same meta-ethical class, and that if you are able to manipulate or restrict one of them, you should be able to do the same for the other. I think that this new/clarified assumption should fix the logical hole.

Thanks for pointing this stuff out! Like I said before, I don't think that I'm going to convince you to stop being utilitarian and you're not likely to convince me to give up my rights based system, but this discussion is really fun! :smallbiggrin:

GoC
2009-05-17, 08:39 PM
A deontological system can have consequentialist pieces. However, it does not have to, as my other two potential deontological systems show.
Which were both flawed.


Sorry if I wasn't clear here. I meant for my assumption 3 to state that the rights to free speech and property are in the same meta-ethical class, and that if you are able to manipulate or restrict one of them, you should be able to do the same for the other. I think that this new/clarified assumption should fix the logical hole.
In which case I disagree with assumption 3.:smallamused:


Thanks for pointing this stuff out! Like I said before, I don't think that I'm going to convince you to stop being utilitarian and you're not likely to convince me to give up my rights based system, but this discussion is really fun! :smallbiggrin:
You have a rights based system instead of a duty based one?:smallconfused:
I thought the duty based system is considered far less messy and more useful?
How does your system work? Does it stay constant or does it need changing with time and new rules need to be added?

Fun indeed.:smallcool:

cody.burton
2009-05-17, 09:04 PM
Well I disagree with your disagreeing with assumption three. So there. :smalltongue:

As for my system, as I hinted at earlier, I actually have a sort of two-tier system.

I have a rights-based system for determining when something is illicit and I am justified in intervening. I also have a duty-based system that encompasses the rights-based system and also speaks to whether something is moral or not.

Because both my rights and duties are rather general (i.e. freedom of speech rather than freedom to write a book), new technologies fit easily into my system.

In general, I believe in most of the basic negative rights, like speech, life, property, etc. I don't believe that positive rights exist. I believe that we have duties to help others live the best life possible (with best being defined as most moral) and to respect both ourselves and others.

I'd go into more detail, but many of the specific duties are fairly closely tied to my religion, not in that they are inherently religious duties, but rather that I believe they are important because of my religion. Anyway, I consider it my duty to respect Rich's wishes on this board. :smallwink:

Calinero
2009-05-17, 09:12 PM
My two cents:

Legality and morality are two separate entities, neither mutually exclusive or inclusive. Ideally, the laws of a society would be moral and vice versa. However, when there is conflict, it is generally preferred to take the moral route over the legal one. Civil disobedience, Ghandi, ect.

Faulty
2009-05-17, 09:15 PM
I'm an Anarchist, so I'll let you figure that out. :smallwink:

GoC
2009-05-17, 09:36 PM
Well I disagree with your disagreeing with assumption three. So there. :smalltongue:
We could argue about what basis you have for assumption 3. Perhaps examining how you came to believe assumption 3.


In general, I believe in most of the basic negative rights, like speech, life, property, etc. I don't believe that positive rights exist. I believe that we have duties to help others live the best life possible (with best being defined as most moral) and to respect both ourselves and others.
What do you do when the various rights and duties conflict?
Do you agree that utilitarianism is the simplest functional system?

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-17, 09:51 PM
How bad using a person as a means of saving others is, depends on how serious the consequences to them are.
Ah, so consequences for a person you're using matter more than consequences to a person you're not using?

(A) Why?
(B) How much more do they matter?
(C) Is there even a non-arbitrary way of answering (B)?
(D) Even if pulling something that "feels right" out of your ass isn't technically "arbitrary", is it any better as a means of resolving moral dilemmas? If not, why not respond to every dilemma with "Eh, I'd do whatever felt right at the time"?


If the person was indeed invincible- the wrong done against them would merely be assault.
Do you seriously think that having a train redirected at you isn't a more serious wrong?

Suppose that there's only one guy on track B, and no one on track A. If you redirect the train to track B, so it runs him down, aren't you severely wronging the guy on track B? Isn't that at least as forceful as locking someone in a room?

Is the guy any less wronged when there are five people on track A? He's certainly not any less screwed. And his circumstances are just as much the predictable result of your deliberate action.


By "saving lives is more important than individual rights" theory- kidney theft is a moral act- because 1 person's life (dying with 2 kidneys failed) is more important than 1 person's property- their own organs.
Um, only under the ridiculous assumption that saving a life is the only consequence there.


Yet, most people would disagree- maybe because it sets a dangerous precedent.
Hey, wait a minute. That's a consequentialist reason! In cases where violating individual rights may do more total long-term harm than good, respecting them is consistent with maximizing individual welfare. As GoC and I keep touching upon.


You're right. It can be either of those definitions, depending on your opinion of positive rights.
I doubt that many people actually endorse that "someone can do whatever they want with themselves and their possessions", as that includes using oneself and one's possessions to restrict what others can do with themselves and their possessions.

Unless by someone you're actually referring only to a single individual instead of each individual, that sort of anarchical position is inherently self-contradictory. If Ben is to be allowed to do what he wants, I am disallowed from stopping him. So I'm not allowed to do whatever I want, if I want to stop Ben. And if Ben is also forbidden from stopping others, he isn't necessarily allowed to do whatever he wants.

To put it more simply: Someone may want to rape, torture, and kill. Does preserving personal autonomy mean not stopping him?

But more than a few people may phrase their views inaccurately, saying "anything" when that's not really what they mean at all.


Something is risky iff it has negative consequences. So isn't this just another form of consequentialism?:smallconfused:
I think the idea is that you take some consequences to absolutely prohibit things regardless of other consequences. Like, even if it could somehow win you a million dollars, it's still not OK to smoke one cigarette.

I think the technical term for this sort of position is "Lawful Stupid".


Well I disagree with your disagreeing with assumption three. So there. :smalltongue:
"Well, it looks like we'll have to agree to disagree."
"I don't agree to that!"
"Neither do I!"

Phae Nymna
2009-05-17, 10:06 PM
My ideas on the matter of laws and morals are quite conflicted.

I believe laws should be based solely on logic.
I believe morals should be based solely on logic.

At some point down the road, I realize things wouldn't work quite right.
As in, some things which are moral and illogical would be left out which would naturally cause unrest in humans.

But, if morals were based solely on logic, I'm sure some things wouldn't work out quite right either. For instance, if it is logical to kill something that can no longer contribute to society in any useful way, whether it be sentient or not, it would be an invitation to kill it. But what if it fears death? Or if it fears pain? Then, logically, its fears would be assuaded so it could function normally. Do you see how this is circular? Unless logic told people not to fear death or pain, this dilemna can't be avoided.

In my ideal model for social change, we'd all be Vulcans.

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-17, 10:46 PM
Admiral Walrus, only tautologies, like "A is A", are based solely on logic itself. You can also use logic to reason from premises, like e.g. "Suffering is bad", but in those cases what conclusions you wind up with depend on what assumptions you make.

I'd say that when presenting your moral reasoning, it's best to clearly state your axioms and then explain how your conclusions follow from them, but I don't see how to get any conclusions about what to do without axioms.

Yarram
2009-05-18, 04:53 AM
Hmmm. You're sure it's not that you can't just do whatever you want with other people and their possessions?


Copying someone else's works being "theft" presupposes intellectual property, so that's begging the question.

Saying that wasn't really relevant. Neither is this really. We don't need to pick on word choice do we? Especially when "theft" was an emotively correct way of describing the loss of benefit of creativity.


Also, you're wrong. Various people choose to make their works freely available now, when copyrighting them is an option. Some of them may not care about making money, but still, providing free content can be economical. R. K. Milholland, creator of the webcomic Something Positive (http://www.somethingpositive.net/), was able to quit his day job after he basically dared his readers to pay his salary, and they went ahead and did it. This is not an isolated incident. There are several artists who put their works up online without the expectation that they'd earn their livings off them, and eventually started pulling in enough donations that they could.

Let's assume that the whole world is a generous and wonderful place where every good artist will be given money by the public to continue making his/her art.
I'm sorry, it felt a little bit scathing when I wrote that. It might just be me, but I don't think it likely that everyone that create's things would be supported by the general public. Also make note, that these guy's are comic writer's who publish several times a week. There are also the other guys, story-writer's, software designers, etc. Who CAN'T create the amount of material a comic artist creates in the same period of time. Especially the quality of book's though would diminish. Note that all of the famous and good quality author's all do it for a living? Thing's like fanfiction.net would completely strip their book's of value.


There's free comics, free books, free music, free software. Some of it allows its producers to make money, and is produced with that in mind. Some of it is produced for fun, or as a gift. Anyway, surely there's no reason to think that people would stop producing information for free if they couldn't sell it!
Yes, creation of new things would continue, but at a far slower rate and at a lower standard, due to there being no motivation to do so other than creative interest.

So go ahead and argue, if you want to, that people have a moral right to control the works that they produce. Go ahead and argue that eliminating legal enforcement of such control would significantly reduce what's being produced, because lots of people do make things so they can make money through copyright. Argue that it would cause a decline in quality, because you often get what you pay for. Whatever.
I'm not sure you get your point here. That's exactly my argument, and saying, "whatever" doesn't diminish the derogatory effects of disallowing those that create new things for the world to survive off their inventions.


But don't make an absolute statement that eliminating legal control over intellectual works would completely eliminate creativity, when that's just blatantly false.

I'm not saying it would completely eliminate creativity. What would happen is that people couldn't make a lively-hood from it, therefore there would be much smaller interest in taking anything to professional level. There is no reason to say, have your company make a new, professional level music program when it's just going to be taken from you free, and distributed world-wide in a week.
One of the other problems with no intellectual properties would be that creative people, who made things that helped the whole world, would technically live their lives in squalor, unable to afford anything unless they had another job, which detracts from the benefit they can give the world.


So... according to you, in the scenario where the fat guy is invincible, pushing him in front of the train is still more objectionable than redirecting it at someone, because Using someone is worse than killing?

I suspect that most people would disagree with that.
I never said anything of the sort. I'm not taking either side on that debate, and likely never will, due to it being about a catch 22 hypothetical situation that would never occur in real life anyway. I have no idea where that came from really. =P You can't honestly compare the intellectual property rights to a situation like that... It's kinda absurd.

I'm sorry if I sounded a bit cranky. I get frustrated when ranted at =P.

GoC
2009-05-18, 06:22 AM
Let's assume that the whole world is a generous and wonderful place where every good artist will be given money by the public to continue making his/her art.
I'm sorry, it felt a little bit scathing when I wrote that. It might just be me, but I don't think it likely that everyone that create's things would be supported by the general public. Also make note, that these guy's are comic writer's who publish several times a week. There are also the other guys, story-writer's, software designers, etc. Who CAN'T create the amount of material a comic artist creates in the same period of time. Especially the quality of book's though would diminish. Note that all of the famous and good quality author's all do it for a living? Thing's like fanfiction.net would completely strip their book's of value.
A reduced amount of content will only have a small effect unless the reduction is really really huge. You probably consume less than 0.01% of the propriety media out there. The question is if the diminished quantity of media* is off-set by the fact that now everyone has access to that media.

And there's always the third option which you neglected: Government patrons. Useful for things that can't be produced by small amounts of capital such as blockbuster videos. Even using only small capital amounts, that just means that special effects get set back a couple of decades for movies with a small set-back for video games too.
There's also the fact that humans want fame, praise and adulation. Fame can often be converted into cash through sponsorship (advertisement) deals.
There's yet another factor: We are close to living in a post-scarcity society where money is no longer as important a factor in deciding which job you want. People are no longer at risk of starving should they decide they want to devote all their time to writing a new book.

* The really high quality bookwriters and musicians can live entirely off donations so quality reduction is less of an issue. And while less quantity means you might not find something as perfectly suited to your specific tastes we can't do that now anyway (the assumption of perfect information in capitalism is always wrong). Do you know how much music there is on the market? I feel we've reached a point of diminishing returns with regards to quantity for that particular industry.


I'm not sure you get your point here. That's exactly my argument, and saying, "whatever" doesn't diminish the derogatory effects of disallowing those that create new things for the world to survive off their inventions.
What about a compromise? A limited form of IP where people can use that IP for commercial purposes only with your permission?
This keeps physical research going at the same rate but non-physical stuff (music, books, games) must try and go it on their own.

Or just go with raising taxes a bit and giving out more research grants. Less efficient but not cripplingly so.

EDIT: Also, writers and others will not starve. Developed countries will (at a minimum) supply the food of a jobless person.
Some governments (such as the UK) also supply housing and a small stipend. If noone is giving you any money at all for your work then it's probably rather poor quality.

hamishspence
2009-05-18, 01:25 PM
Having read the questions- I'd probably say:

Violinist- No obligation to not leave- indeed, by staying one is arguably lending sanction to the notion that kidnapping me was a moral act- BUT- would stay anyway- out of benevolence toward the unlucky violinist rather than a sense of obligation. When released, would press kidnapping charges against the others.

Switch- Would probably flip it- with extreme reluctance

Fat man- would not push him

Stuck in cave- wouldn't dynamite have an unaccceptably high risk of collapsing whole thing on everyone? If not, would probably, very very reluctantly, not set it off- its borderline between The Switch and The Fat Man.

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-18, 01:29 PM
We don't need to pick on word choice do we?
I do. I don't see it as just a matter of being picky, either. I feel that discussions tend to proceed far more smoothly if people just say what they really mean.

As I once saw it put somewhere, maybe 50% of philosophical debates boil down to semantic disputes, with the participants acknowledging that that's what they're really arguing about maybe 10% of the time.


Especially when "theft" was an emotively correct way of describing the loss of benefit of creativity.
OK, so you're presupposing a cultural environment in which copying an artist's works is considered equivalent to theft, even if this isn't enforced. I suppose that that may be a legitimate presupposition.


Let's assume that the whole world is a generous and wonderful place where every good artist will be given money by the public to continue making his/her art.
No, let's not. I'm certainly not assuming that.

I also don't assume that every good artist can successfully make a living selling his or her works. Do you?


Yes, creation of new things would continue, but at a far slower rate and at a lower standard, due to there being no motivation to do so other than creative interest.
No, some people would -- some people do -- create free content at least in part in order to make money.


I'm not saying it would completely eliminate creativity.

It has come to my attention that discussion has been about a hypothetical situation without intellectual rights. There is an issue with this, and that is that no one would ever invent anything new, because everyone would just steal it from them, so it wouldn't be economical.
For example, what's the point of me writing a book if my publishing company is just going to steal my book and sell it without giving me any profit?
Emphasis mine.

See, I didn't make an absolute statement at all. I didn't say that "everyone that create's (http://www.angryflower.com/bobsqu.gif) things would be supported by the general public". Yet you deny this claim I didn't make as if, in doing so, you are taking up a contrary position. You, on the other hand, did make an absolute statement, and now you're acting as if you hadn't.

Again, I feel that these discussions can proceed far more smoothly if everyone can assume that everyone is saying what they really mean. I find it far easier to be able to look at what people say and just assume that they mean it, instead of having to decode their true intent.

You can generally assume that I really do mean what I say. (My sarcasm is usually phrased as rhetorical questions, not statements.) I may not personally believe in the position I'm putting forward -- 'cuz, hey, Devil's Advocate -- but I am generally putting forward what I literally say.

On the other hand, you shouldn't assume that I mean things that I don't say. (For example, when I ask a question, it's not in order to imply the truth of anything, I really am just seeking an answer to it.) You really shouldn't do that with anyone. That's a good way to set up a Straw Man argument, i.e. to attack a position that your opponent neither advanced nor holds.


There is no reason to say, have your company make a new, professional level music program when it's just going to be taken from you free, and distributed world-wide in a week.
What if someone pays you to make it, because the presently available music programs are insufficient to meet their current needs? Mightn't your company take on such a project then?

On the other hand, if existing musics programs meet everyone's needs, there's no reason to develop a new one without IP. Because people don't have to deal with the current ones being too expensive, or unavailable to translate to work on a different operating system, or otherwise hard to obtain and use because they're proprietary. So there's a lot less reinventing of the proverbial wheel.


One of the other problems with no intellectual properties would be that creative people, who made things that helped the whole world, would technically live their lives in squalor, unable to afford anything unless they had another job, which detracts from the benefit they can give the world.
That happens to many but not all creative people now -- the proverbial starving artist -- and would also happen to many but not all creative people were intellectual property eliminated. The numbers involved might change, but the basic nature of the situation would remain the same.

Or are you suggesting that everyone whose creative works truly benefit the world can make a living off of them under current law?


I never said anything of the sort.
I am aware of that. I was responding to hamishspence there, not you. Hence why my comment followed a relevant quote from him: Because that quote was what I was responding to.


I'm sorry if I sounded a bit cranky. I get frustrated when ranted at =P.
I often like to patiently deconstruct other people's nonsense when I'm ranted at. I find it rewarding. It's like a puzzle! :smallcool:

Anyway, what you probably should have said is that some creative works would no longer be produced if they did not remain their creator's intellectual property, because not all of them would be given sufficient incentive to produce under different models.

That's almost certainly true. Some people might make the idealistic assertion that forcing creators into new models would not hurt their output, but this seem highly dubious. On the other hand, while wholly original works might suffer, people would have far more freedom to create derivative works. So whether the total value of creative works produced would decline might depend on just how much one values originality.

Perhaps one could take the position that (nearly) all works are derivative anyway and there are (almost) no more truly original ideas, and that merely borrowing elements from others' works should therefore always be allowed.

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-18, 01:49 PM
Switch- Would probably flip it- with extreme reluctance

Fat man- would not push him

Stuck in cave- wouldn't dynamite have an unaccceptably high risk of collapsing whole thing on everyone? If not, would probably, very very reluctantly, not set it off- its borderline between The Switch and The Fat Man.
But in each case, you have the option of taking one life but saving five. What do you see as the moral difference? Refer to my question in post #119.

To clarify what I'm getting at: Do you think that redirecting a train at someone is just a less evil way of getting someone hit by a train than pushing him in front of it? Is the former a more moral means of murder, if you're going to murder someone? If so, why?

Or is redirecting the train only more moral than pushing someone in front of it when you're doing it do save others? If so, why?

In particular, do you see a moral difference between #3 (the fat man and the trolley car) and #4 (the cave explorers)? Are you more reluctant not to blow a dude up than you are not to push one in front of a train? If so, is it simply because one of the lives in danger in case #4 is your own, or is there a moral reason?

GoC
2009-05-18, 01:56 PM
hamishpence: Let's modify these scenarios:
1. Increase the numbers. It's now the entire country of Australia whose doom will come should you choose against killing the Fat Man. Do you still choose the same options?
2. The Fat Man is falling over into the path of the train. Do you save him?
3. I have pushed the Fat Man. Do you save him?
4. I am going to push the Fat Man. Do you stop me?
5. Stopping me pushing the fat man would likely result in your death. Do you try anyway?
6. Stopping me pushing the fat man would result in my death. Do stop me?
7. Stopping me pushing the fat man would result in the death of a bystander. Do you do it?

hamishspence
2009-05-18, 02:01 PM
possibly because of that- but also- because the Hole Plugger can appear as the obstacle- the indirect cause of death. A bit like the Typhoid Mary- if person who is highly contagious but immune to dying from the disease is approaching you- is it OK to shoot in your own self-defense?

By contrast- in the Fat Man example- he's not a threat to the 5.

as for the switch dilemma- its partly from the assumption that, if you were the employee of the train company in that position- you are morally obliged to deflect hazards to lives. If said deflection ends up killing somebody- thats the cost of saving people.

on the modified examples- probably not stop The Fat Man being pushed if by doing so that would endanger others. If The Fat Man is falling over naturally- there is no obligation to save him.

If the number is increased to ridiculously high levels- a little harder. Most questions become harder if weighted sufficiently.

GoC
2009-05-18, 02:05 PM
as for the switch dilemma- its partly from the assumption that, if you were the employee of the train company in that position- you are morally obliged to deflect hazards to lives. If said deflection ends up killing somebody- thats the cost of saving people.

So if you are NOT an employee then you shouldn't flip the switch?
Also, could you answer my questions?

hamishspence
2009-05-18, 02:24 PM
7: Definitely not- even as a cop- cops cannot shoot criminals if by doing so they would shoot bystanders- constitutes recklessness

6 to 2: Probably not- unless as a cop- who has duty to protect others, with citizens don't

1: Would- but primarily if I am governor of country in question- based on Machivellian "needs of people come above morality" And would plead guilty to charges. Because morality still exists, its just a ruler might have to make decision to do something immoral to protect people.

Trog
2009-05-18, 02:24 PM
Well Laws and Morals cross paths a little. Mainly in the area of not killing your fellow citizen and not stealing another citizen's possessions. This is pretty much done for everyone's good. It enforces punishments for things nearly everyone wouldn't want to have done to them (i.e. getting killed and getting your stuff taken away).

Beyond those two basic things you delve into a lot of grey areas. And heck even those two basic things are grey areas themselves when you start talking about war. Start getting beyond the basics and you begin to delve into belief systems and, naturally, you'll get a lot of arguing.

Funny thing is that no one is truly right about these things but a hell of a lot of people think they are. Mainly because there exists no definite litmus for determining right and wrong. I try and stay out of those sorts of arguments if I can. Hence my pretty generic reply here I guess.

hamishspence
2009-05-18, 02:35 PM
Some people have jobs that oblige them to make these kind of life and death decisions- cop, soldier, doctor, political leader. In the sense that they cannot opt out, and can be punished for choosing wrongly.

Opting out is easier for the individual- unless the problem actually puts them in it. What if, for example, you're the Fat Man being pushed toward edge, without warning- is it moral to resist being murdered?

the logical converse of "Its morally OK to murder For The Greater Good" is
"Its morally wrong to resist being murdered FTGG" Which seems like a very suspect idea to me.

GoC
2009-05-18, 02:48 PM
Some people have jobs that oblige them to make these kind of life and death decisions- cop, soldier, doctor, political leader. In the sense that they cannot opt out, and can be punished for choosing wrongly.
So if you were a member of a country with a ruler who would punish you if you did not push the fat man then you would push him?


Opting out is easier for the individual- unless the problem actually puts them in it. What if, for example, you're the Fat Man being pushed toward edge, without warning- is it moral to resist being murdered?

the logical converse of "Its morally OK to murder For The Greater Good" is
"Its morally wrong to resist being murdered FTGG" Which seems like a very suspect idea to me.
You're using the wrong word. Use kill not murder.
Also that converse is only true with an objective system of morality. Something I believe in while you seem not to. You say that a promise can superseed other moral considerations. Turning a "bad" into a "good". Elaborate on this please.
"Its morally OK to kill For The Greater Good." <- You agreed with this. You said you would kill that poor person on the other track so that the five may live.


Mainly because there exists no definite litmus for determining right and wrong.
Utilitarianism.

KnightDisciple
2009-05-18, 02:56 PM
That's not definite in the senses of a.)being accepted as the proper ethical model by everyone, and b.)still giving unsatisfactory answers much of the time.

GoC
2009-05-18, 03:07 PM
Which answers do you find unsatisfactory?

KnightDisciple
2009-05-18, 03:10 PM
Which answers do you find unsatisfactory?

That killing swaths of people who have committed no crime could ever actually be "good". Among other ideas.

GoC
2009-05-18, 03:26 PM
That killing swaths of people who have committed no crime could ever actually be "good". Among other ideas.

Well what other option is there?
Choice A. Kill 100 people.
Choice B. Kill 100000 people.

Which is the better choice?

KnightDisciple
2009-05-18, 03:27 PM
Well what other option is there?
Choice A. Kill 100 people.
Choice B. Kill 100000 people.

Which is the better choice?

Neither.

The better choice is Choice C. Kill 0 people.

Humanity is more than numbers and sums. And I've yet to see a plausible scenario that has a choice like what you just stated.

GoC
2009-05-18, 03:31 PM
Neither.

The better choice is Choice C. Kill 0 people.
Choice C does not exist.
And the definition of good is "that which should be done".
So... choice A or choice B?


Humanity is more than numbers and sums. And I've yet to see a plausible scenario that has a choice like what you just stated.
Random mad dictator.
Or go with the train and switch scenario.

EDIT: Or is it that you simply don't believe in a no-win scenario?
It feels nice but there ARE no-win scenarios. Where no matter what you do someone is going to be worse off for it.

KnightDisciple
2009-05-18, 03:37 PM
Choice C does not exist.
And the definition of good is "that which should be done".
So... choice A or choice B?
...That's not the definition of good that I ascribe to, at least not the totality of it.
But even going with just "that which should be done", neither A or B should be done.



Random mad dictator.
Or go with the train and switch scenario.
What about a random mad dictator?
The train and switch? Decide who the train hits? I jump down and either push whoever's in the way out of the way, if not pulling them out of the way.



EDIT: Or is it that you simply don't believe in a no-win scenario?
It feels nice but there ARE no-win scenarios. Where no matter what you do someone is going to be worse off for it.
Well, to a degree, there's that. But I believe that when choices get down to "how many humans should I kill", it's better to not make a choice.

Now mind, I'm not some total pacifist. I believe that defense of self and others is viable.
I've been taking the "kill 100 people" stuff as picking random people off the streets, who have violated no laws, threatened no people, etc., and then just up and killing them.
Which is murder in my book, law, dictator, or whatever be ******.

Mr. Mud
2009-05-18, 03:44 PM
...That's not the definition of good that I ascribe to, at least not the totality of it.
But even going with just "that which should be done", neither A or B should be done.

Agreed, but if one must choose, which would me more morally correct? Not that either would be, but one is obviously more correct than the other.

SIDE NOTE: This has been one of the best debates on GitP I've seen in a while :smallredface:

GoC
2009-05-18, 03:45 PM
...That's not the definition of good that I ascribe to, at least not the totality of it.
But even going with just "that which should be done", neither A or B should be done.
Then what should be done?
Morality is supposed to guide your actions. You should only take good actions. What other definition of good can there be?


What about a random mad dictator?
The train and switch? Decide who the train hits? I jump down and either push whoever's in the way out of the way, if not pulling them out of the way.
An insane dictor has brought you before him. On the other side of a bulletproof window. In a seperate room he has placed one person and in another he has put five people. He likes cruelty and has thus said that he will let you decide which to kill. If you do not decide within 60 seconds he will kill everyone.
You are beside the train not anywhere near the people.


Well, to a degree, there's that. But I believe that when choices get down to "how many humans should I kill", it's better to not make a choice.
So in order to satisfy your need not to have responsibility or guilt you are willing to let an indefinite amount of people suffer and die? A very human response...

KnightDisciple
2009-05-18, 03:46 PM
Agreed, but if one must choose, which would me more morally correct? Not that either would be, but one is obviously more correct than the other.

SIDE NOTE: This has been one of the best debates on GitP I've seen in a while :smallredface:

I believe that they're both essentially at the same level of moral reprehensibility. It's just that one involves more people. And I don't believe that "it kills fewer people" makes some "more morally correct". It just has a lower casualty rate.

KnightDisciple
2009-05-18, 03:52 PM
Then what should be done?
Morality is supposed to guide your actions. You should only take good actions. What other definition of good can there be?
Don't kill anyone! That's what should be done.
My definition of good is hinged upon my worldview, which is religious. In respect to forum rules, I'm trying to skirt things in my explanations.


An insane dictor has brought you before him. On the other side of a bulletproof window. In a seperate room he has placed one person and in another he has put five people. He likes cruelty and has thus said that he will let you decide which to kill. If you do not decide within 60 seconds he will kill everyone.
Since he's insane, how do I know he won't kill everyone anyways? This is like that dilemma the Joker came up with in The Dark Knight. I tell him I protest his cruelty, and will not make a choice that actively condemns an innocent to death.
Again, since he's insane, he's halfway likely to kill everyone anyways.



You are beside the train not anywhere near the people.
...So, what, I'm in the switching room or something? I redirect the train further back, signal them to hit the brakes, tell people to get off the tracks/help them over the loudspeaker, something.


So in order to satisfy your need not to have responsibility or guilt you are willing to let an indefinite amount of people suffer and die? A very human response...
It's not to "satisfy your need not to have responsibility or guilt", it's to not choose to kill innocents. Besides, all of these "choose to kill this many people" situations are frankly all vague and silly.
And you say "human" like it's a negative thing.:smallconfused:

Mr. Mud
2009-05-18, 03:53 PM
I believe that they're both essentially at the same level of moral reprehensibility. It's just that one involves more people. And I don't believe that "it kills fewer people" makes some "more morally correct". It just has a lower casualty rate.

So by that logic, the arbitrary killing of 5 is equal to the arbitrary killing of millions? A murder is equal to a war? A war equal to genocide? Humanity is more than sums and numbers, I agree fully, but I'm sure we would all rather have 10 troops die in the middle opposed to 10,000.

KnightDisciple
2009-05-18, 04:00 PM
So by that logic, the arbitrary killing of 5 is equal to the arbitrary killing of millions?
Pretty much. Both are arbitrary killings. I mean, yes, the larger numbers make it worse in some ways, but I think something being worse, doesn't truly make the other choice "better".


A murder is equal to a war?
Which side of the war? Assuming, of course, that we have a war in which one side is pretty obviously the "bad guys", and one side is the "good guys"


A war equal to genocide?
The effects are similar, though not as concentrated. Though again, I ask "what side of the war"?


Humanity is more than sums and numbers, I agree fully, but I'm sure we would all rather have 10 troops die in the middle opposed to 10,000.
This kind of goes back to the subtle difference of saying that 10k is worse than 10, but 10's not so much of a "better".

Maybe I'm playing semantics, though. :smalltongue:

Mr. Mud
2009-05-18, 04:07 PM
Pretty much. Both are arbitrary killings. I mean, yes, the larger numbers make it worse in some ways, but I think something being worse, doesn't truly make the other choice "better".

This kind of goes back to the subtle difference of saying that 10k is worse than 10, but 10's not so much of a "better".

Maybe I'm playing semantics, though. :smalltongue:


I agree with you KD, no choice is good, but one is better... millions of families aren't ruined. Millions of sons and daughters aren't dead. It's tragic for the ones that did die, but every life counts... which is why 10 is "better" than 10.


Which side of the war? Assuming, of course, that we have a war in which one side is pretty obviously the "bad guys", and one side is the "good guys"


The effects are similar, though not as concentrated. Though again, I ask "what side of the war"?

Lets assume its Nation A & Nation B are fighting. We are nation(s) C(through Z). I mean war isn't so black and white... but lets say we aren't affected by their war... at least politically and economically. Most definitely emotionally and/or morally.

GoC
2009-05-18, 04:07 PM
Don't kill anyone! That's what should be done.
:smallconfused:
That's like saying "What should be done is that I click my heels together and the world becomes a utopia!". It's not really feasable...
Perhaps you have a different definition of "should"?
When I say "should" I mean the signals you can send to your body that would have the best outcome.


My definition of good is hinged upon my worldview, which is religious. In respect to forum rules, I'm trying to skirt things in my explanations.
Defining the word "good" is not going to break the forum rules.:smallconfused:
If you are sure it would then just PM it.


Since he's insane, how do I know he won't kill everyone anyways? This is like that dilemma the Joker came up with in The Dark Knight. I tell him I protest his cruelty, and will not make a choice that actively condemns an innocent to death.
Again, since he's insane, he's halfway likely to kill everyone anyways.
No. There are many types of insanity. Just because he's insane doesn't mean he's random.
This dictator has done things like this before. He is famous for always keeping his word (what better way to leave the victims feeling guilty?).


...So, what, I'm in the switching room or something? I redirect the train further back, signal them to hit the brakes, tell people to get off the tracks/help them over the loudspeaker, something.
:smallconfused:
So you don't believe in a no-win?
It's an old-fashioned mechanical switch. You are beside it. There are no loudspeakers and the signals are broken.
You do realize that the best test of a system of morality is to stretch it and see if it breaks? That is the whole point of the excercise.


It's not to "satisfy your need not to have responsibility or guilt", it's to not choose to kill innocents.
That is not a choice you can make. Innocents will die. Your choice of what to do will kill either one group or another. Even doing nothing will also kill some.


Besides, all of these "choose to kill this many people" situations are frankly all vague and silly.
They are morality tests. Testing whether your moral system is consistent. They are exagerated versions of real world situations. Deaths can be switched for other negative outcomes.


I think something being worse, doesn't truly make the other choice "better".
By definition it does.


but lets say we aren't affected by their war... at least politically and economically. Most definitely emotionally and/or morally.
You have wept for every dead Sudanese and Sri Lankan?:smallconfused:

Trog
2009-05-18, 04:08 PM
Utilitarianism.
Utilitarianism says that the moral worth of an action is determined solely by its contribution to happiness or pleasure as summed among all people. Nothing in there about right versus wrong I'm afraid - only about the degree of pleasure an action brings. So again I say there exists no definite litmus for determining right and wrong.

GoC
2009-05-18, 04:21 PM
Utilitarianism says that the moral worth of an action is determined solely by its contribution to happiness or pleasure as summed among all people. Nothing in there about right versus wrong I'm afraid - only about the degree of pleasure an action brings. So again I say there exists no definite litmus for determining right and wrong.

You are good when you do what you think brings the greatest total happiness to humanity. This might not be a good action but you are still a good person.

KnightDisciple
2009-05-18, 04:23 PM
:smallconfused:
That's like saying "What should be done is that I click my heels together and the world becomes a utopia!". It's not really feasable...
Perhaps you have a different definition of "should"?
When I say "should" I mean the signals you can send to your body that would have the best outcome.
This is even sillier an answer than below, because you're just saying "kil x or kill y", where x is less than y. There's no context or anything, so I'm going to keep saying the good thing to do is not kill anyone.



Defining the word "good" is not going to break the forum rules.:smallconfused:
If you are sure it would then just PM it.
Suffice to say it includes the default idea of helping people, and I mean actually helping, not just "killing x number so y number aren't killed" or some such. It means refusing to let numbers change the morality of an action.



No. There are many types of insanity. Just because he's insane doesn't mean he's random.
This dictator has done things like this before. He is famous for always keeping his word (what better way to leave the victims feeling guilty?).
So he's "insane", but only so far as it perfectly fits this scenario? I still tell him to stuff it. Shoot, I try to break free and free the people. It won't work, but it's better than being confined to the rules of an insane murderer.


:smallconfused:
So you don't believe in a no-win?
It's an old-fashioned mechanical switch. You are beside it. There are no loudspeakers and the signals are broken.
You do realize that the best test of a system of morality is to stretch it and see if it breaks? That is the whole point of the excercise.
Then I stick it such that while the train jumps the tracks, it doesn't hit anyone. Because this sounds an awful lot like we're in some sort of train station, so the train's not likely to be going full speed anyways.



That is not a choice you can make. Innocents will die. Your choice of what to do will kill either one group or another. Even doing nothing will also kill some.
I try to do something to save the innocents. I refuse to accept that I'm truly powerless in this scenario, if I'm being given a choice in the targets of death. If it's some sick game like above, I refuse to try making choices when there's obviously someone in a position of power anyways. Again, I try anything I can to prevent the deaths.


They are morality tests. Testing whether your moral system is consistent. They are exagerated versions of real world situations. Deaths can be switched for other negative outcomes.
It seems all artificially constructed to produce a "gotcha!" situation out of a non-realistic scenario. But nonetheless, I refuse to just sit back and accept binary "x or y deaths" type choices, inasmuch as what I'd do, given the scenario.


By definition it does.
Like I said, that was mostly me playing semantics. I suppose "better" works in the most marginal of senses.


You have wept for every dead Sudanese and Sri Lankan?:smallconfused:
Been angered or saddened by the deaths? Sure. Maybe not full-on wept, but still.

mangosta71
2009-05-18, 04:26 PM
alcohol is healthy for us in small quantities, even if we take it regularly.
cannabis is also healthy in small quantities

Wrong on both counts. I assume for the first you're referencing the "French Paradox." In actuality, alcohol is hepatotoxic when consumed in any quantity. The health benefit that I'm assuming you're citing is actually derived from a chemical that is incidental to the wine, and is contained in the grapes themselves. You would get the same beneficial effect from eating a handful of red grapes without the detrimental health effect. Worthy of note is the fact that alcohol is never prescribed for any medical condition.

For the second, even minimal use of marijuana has been scientifically proven to cause permanent brain damage in rats and mice. Yes, it is occasionally prescribed in treatment of some medical conditions, but only when the damage resulting from the use of the prescribed amount is considered less significant than the damage of allowing the condition to continue to develop, and only when other (or less damaging) treatment is not possible.

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-18, 04:34 PM
as for the switch dilemma- its partly from the assumption that, if you were the employee of the train company in that position- you are morally obliged to deflect hazards to lives. If said deflection ends up killing somebody- thats the cost of saving people.
But pushing the fat man in front of the train also changes its path. And isn't the major cost of doing so a human life in both cases? How then is one means objectionable while the other is acceptable?


1: Would- but primarily if I am governor of country in question- based on Machivellian "needs of people come above morality" And would plead guilty to charges. Because morality still exists, its just a ruler might have to make decision to do something immoral to protect people.
"Have to" in what sense? Is it impossible for him to make the other decision?

Is this a case where it's good (as opposed to bad) to make the evil choice? Is immorality sometimes good, and morality sometimes bad?

I think you may need to answer GoC's question of whether you think morally good behavior is that which should be done.


Utilitarianism.
Utilitarianism doesn't produce clear answers in cases where there's no clear basis to assign probabilities, nor in cases in which there's no clear basis on which to quantify, measure, nor compare pleasure and suffering.

Pretty much any real scenario, in other words. Yeah, you can try to make reasonable assumptions, but how do you show that yours are any more reasonable than the next guy's? If it all comes down to intuition, how is that better than deciding each moral issue with your gut?


Choice C does not exist.
Yes, it does. Not killing is totally an option. I'm doing it right now.

"Saving lives doesn't actually require taking innocent lives" strikes me as a valid response to questions about taking innocent lives to save other lives.

Can you actually demonstrate that saving lives does require taking innocent lives?

"Try to save people without killing anyone" strikes me as a fairly moral heuristic.


Agreed, but if one must choose
See, this is the problem. One can legitimately reject a hypothetical. "Hypothetically speaking, if one plus one equals three..." Well, no. It just doesn't.


An insane dictor has brought you before him.
Problem: No, he hasn't. I'm sitting here in front of my computer, carrying on an online discussion with you.

Here's the thing: You can't use hypothetical scenarios that will never occur in real life as counterexamples to statements about how we ought to behave in real life. You need to come up with a scenario that actually occurs if you want to overturn normative claims in this fashion.

Anyway, as KnightDisciple points out, even within the hypothetical, you have no reason to trust what he says.


Pretty much. Both are arbitrary killings. I mean, yes, the larger numbers make it worse in some ways, but I think something being worse, doesn't truly make the other choice "better".
If A is worse than B, B is better than A, and vice versa. Both statements describe the same preference ordering.


Assuming, of course, that we have a war in which one side is pretty obviously the "bad guys", and one side is the "good guys"
Isn't it more reasonable these days to assume that each side kills at least some civilians in some fashion or other?


So you don't believe in a no-win?
There's a difference between disbelieving that no-win scenarios exist and believing that you've yet described one.

Do you disagree with the principle that you should look for ways to save everyone first, and only endanger lives when all means to do so have been exhausted?

Wouldn't it be immoral to immediately accept that you must sacrifice lives if you don't in fact know that for certain?

Trog
2009-05-18, 04:34 PM
You are good when you do what you think brings the greatest total happiness to humanity. This might not be a good action but you are still a good person.
I think in response I'll stick with this quote:
"there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
- Shakespeare

KnightDisciple
2009-05-18, 04:41 PM
If A is worse than B, B is better than A, and vice versa. Both statements describe the same preference ordering.
Blarg. :smalltongue:
In the strictest sense, I suppose "better" works. Doesn't mean I have to like it.:smalltongue:


Isn't it more reasonable these days to assume that each side kills at least some civilians in some fashion or other?
Ah, but are both sides doing everything possible to avoid said civilian casualties? Or is one side seeking them purposefully? Or both sides, even?
Beyond that, one can generally look at the desired end result of the two (or more) sides in the conflict and weight that into account.
For example, if everybody just wanted to kill the other dudes, there's no good guy.
But if one side (country A) wanted to instead free the people of country B from their insane dictator who poses silly moral quandaries, they'd generally be considered the "good guys". Unless they wantonly slaughtered their way around, showing lack of care for the end goal.
And so on, and so forth.

GoC
2009-05-18, 04:45 PM
This is even sillier an answer than below, because you're just saying "kil x or kill y", where x is less than y. There's no context or anything, so I'm going to keep saying the good thing to do is not kill anyone.
The response to this is the very text you quoted. I do not see how you have addressed it at all.


Suffice to say it includes the default idea of helping people, and I mean actually helping, not just "killing x number so y number aren't killed" or some such. It means refusing to let numbers change the morality of an action.
Can people change the morality of an action?
So your definition of a good action is one that makes others happy? What criteria are there?
Feel free to PM.


So he's "insane", but only so far as it perfectly fits this scenario? I still tell him to stuff it. Shoot, I try to break free and free the people. It won't work, but it's better than being confined to the rules of an insane murderer.
Insane is a very broad term. In this case I believe sadistic would be a better term.
So...
Given choice:
A. Be confined to the rules of a murderer.
B. Innocents die.

Your choice is A? Seems rather selfish...


Then I stick it such that while the train jumps the tracks, it doesn't hit anyone. Because this sounds an awful lot like we're in some sort of train station, so the train's not likely to be going full speed anyways.
:smallsigh:
This track has two states: Left and right.
You cannot change later than a second before the train arrives. Call it a safety feature.


If it's some sick game like above, I refuse to try making choices when there's obviously someone in a position of power anyways.
Why?


Again, I try anything I can to prevent the deaths.
The dictor suspends the clock for a few minutes while you struggle. After you realize that you cannot escape in any way he starts it up again.


But nonetheless, I refuse to just sit back and accept binary "x or y deaths" type choices, inasmuch as what I'd do, given the scenario.
So if that was real you would refuse to believe it? You'd believe that your eyes and ears are lieing? That perhaps we're all in a matrix? That it's all an illusion or a dream?:smallconfused:


Been angered or saddened by the deaths? Sure. Maybe not full-on wept, but still.
Is this each time one dies or a general "I feel sad for a minute for everyone who has died in the past week"?
Do you ever try and help? It seems you do not believe in a no-win situation and think there is always something you can do. Do you try and help the Sri Lankans/Zimbabweans/Sudanese/Iraqis/generic helpless peoples?
How much do you try and help? As much as possible? As much as is convenient?


Utilitarianism doesn't produce clear answers in cases where there's no clear basis to assign probabilities, nor in cases in which there's no clear basis on which to quantify, measure, nor compare pleasure and suffering.

Pretty much any real scenario, in other words. Yeah, you can try to make reasonable assumptions, but how do you show that yours are any more reasonable than the next guy's? If it all comes down to intuition, how is that better than deciding each moral issue with your gut?
True. It allows you to argue over facts instead of over morality systems. And it has the advantage of consistency and simple premises.


Yes, it does. Not killing is totally an option. I'm doing it right now.

"Saving lives doesn't actually require taking innocent lives" strikes me as a valid response to questions about taking innocent lives to save other lives.
It's a fairly well known fact that each of us have a finite amount of money. By choosing which charity (save the children in X country from starvation vs. vaccinate people in country Y) to donate to you are choosing you lives and who dies. Saving the lives in X will result in deaths in Y.


See, this is the problem. One can legitimately reject a hypothetical. "Hypothetically speaking, if one plus one equals three..." Well, no. It just doesn't.
You can reject that hypothetical because it is inconsistent with itself given the axioms of mathematics.
The hypotheticals I gave and the BBC gave were not inconsistent with themselves.


Here's the thing: You can't use hypothetical scenarios that will never occur in real life as counterexamples to statements about how we ought to behave in real life. You need to come up with a scenario that actually occurs if you want to overturn normative claims in this fashion.
These questions generally lead up to the question of resource allocation and human selfishness and in-group prioritization.


Wouldn't it be immoral to immediately accept that you must sacrifice lives if you don't in fact know that for certain?
It is implied in all such hypotheticals that there is no third choice with any likelyhood of success.
And don't just say "if it's possible then I'll try it!". Almost anything is possible given a sufficiently absurd probability.

Mr. Mud
2009-05-18, 04:48 PM
See, this is the problem. One can legitimately reject a hypothetical. "Hypothetically speaking, if one plus one equals three..." Well, no. It just doesn't.

But the whole basis of a a hypothetical situation is conditional... If one doesn't reject these conditions, the situation makes sense... If you HAD to choose for some unstated reason, that would not affect the choice other than forcing you to make it, would you [...]. Sure, one would most probably NEVER have to do anything close to this, but that's the whole notion of hypothetical scenarios.

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-18, 04:49 PM
Allow me to quote from something I linked to earlier: (http://www.overcomingbias.com/2008/10/ends-dont-justi.html)


So here's a reply to that philosopher's scenario, which I have yet to hear any philosopher's victim give:

"You stipulate that the only possible way to save five innocent lives is to murder one innocent person, and this murder will definitely save the five lives, and that these facts are known to me with effective certainty. But since I am running on corrupted hardware, I can't occupy the epistemological state you want me to imagine. Therefore I reply that, in a society of Artificial Intelligences worthy of personhood and lacking any inbuilt tendency to be corrupted by power, it would be right for the AI to murder the one innocent person to save five, and moreover all its peers would agree. However, I refuse to extend this reply to myself, because the epistemological state you ask me to imagine, can only exist among other kinds of people than human beings."


But any human legal system does embody some answer to the question "How many innocent people can we put in jail to get the guilty ones?", even if the number isn't written down.


Ah, but are both sides doing everything possible to avoid said civilian casualties?
Let's say that civilian casualties are a predictable consequence of the actions of both sides.

Can either side then be "good guys", even if they do what they do because they think it minimizes death? Isn't the right thing, according to you, to kill no one?

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-18, 04:55 PM
But the whole basis of a a hypothetical situation is conditional... If one doesn't reject these conditions, the situation makes sense... If you HAD to choose for some unstated reason, that would not affect the choice other than forcing you to make it, would you [...]. Sure, one would most probably NEVER have to do anything close to this, but that's the whole notion of hypothetical scenarios.
OK, here's the thing with that:

There might be some scenarios where, after having weighed all available data, one correctly decides that minimizing death means sacrificing lives.

However, the way that these scenarios are presented, the person answering is being asked to ignore data that they would have and skip to the conclusion that sacrificing lives is necessary.

But skipping to that conclusion is an immoral way of addressing such a dilemma, if you're faced with one. So, you're essentially asking people to respond in an immoral fashion.

GoC
2009-05-18, 04:58 PM
Post updated.

KnightDisciple
2009-05-18, 05:01 PM
Can people change the morality of an action?
No. An action is either moral, or it is immoral (with some amoral things, like "which color t-shirt should I wear" thrown into life).
People, numbers, whatever, don't change whether something is right or wrong. Instead, we need to do our best to do the right thing always.



Insane is a very broad term. In this case I believe sadistic would be a better term.
So...
Given choice:
A. Be confined to the rules of a murderer.
B. Innocents die.

Your choice is A? Seems rather selfish...
...:smallconfused:
You're not even making sense now. No matter what, innocents would die. I'm saying I'd reject the "rules" laid out by this murderer.



:smallsigh:
This track has two states: Left and right.
You cannot change later than a second before the train arrives. Call it a safety feature.
Then I stick it in the middle a second before. If I've got more than 5 seconds, or some such, I stick it one of the directions (whichever person is physically closer to myself) and go run to save the person. Otherwise, I wait for just the right moment.



Why?
Because quite honestly, my choice means nothing. I could say "group A", and he still kills group B. So rather than play into his sick hands, I try to save people. Or he kills me, knocks me unconscious, whatever.



The dictor suspends the clock for a few minutes while you struggle. After you realize that you cannot escape in any way he starts it up again.
Then I keep struggling forever. If he keeps the clock stopped (however the heck he's doing that) while I struggle, the people aren't being killed. So I struggle forever. Or until I drop dead or unconscious.


So if that was real you would refuse to believe it? You'd believe that your eyes and ears are lieing? That perhaps we're all in a matrix? That it's all an illusion or a dream?:smallconfused:
I believe that there's always something I can try besides just saying "kill those people, not these people".
Of course, considering the absurd nature of all these scenarios, yeah, I'd probably check if I was in an illusion.


Is this each time one dies or a general "I feel sad for a minute for everyone who has died in the past week"?
Do you ever try and help? It seems you do not believe in a no-win situation and think there is always something you can do. Do you try and help the Sri Lankans/Zimbabweans/Sudanese/Iraqis/generic helpless peoples?
How much do you try and help? As much as possible? As much as is convenient?
Anytime it's really brought to my attention (see a video, read a news story, etc.), it pretty much always gives me at least a moment's pause. These were human beings.
I'm pretty much utterly incapable of doing anything to affect someone half the world away right now. If and when I have the resources, I'm certainly going to try to find ways to help someone.
Even if I only can donate a dollar a month or something, it helps. And if others help too...
Of course, the people and organizations I would likely choose to donate to have additional ideas of what constitutes help than other groups. :smallwink:

Mr. Mud
2009-05-18, 05:06 PM
OK, here's the thing with that:

There might be some scenarios where, after having weighed all available data, one correctly decides that minimizing death means sacrificing lives.

However, the way that these scenarios are presented, the person answering is being asked to ignore data that they would have and skip to the conclusion that sacrificing lives is necessary.

But skipping to that conclusion is an immoral way of addressing such a dilemma, if you're faced with one. So, you're essentially asking people to respond in an immoral fashion.

I might misunderstand you here D_A, but are you essentially saying/implying that given all possible data that would help assess the situation (for example, If you had a detailed bio on each person, maybe a police record?) it might become morally sound to kill, or save one group of people :smallconfused:?

GoC
2009-05-18, 05:18 PM
No. An action is either moral, or it is immoral (with some amoral things, like "which color t-shirt should I wear" thrown into life).
People, numbers, whatever, don't change whether something is right or wrong. Instead, we need to do our best to do the right thing always.
What do you mean "an action"? Presumably context is required and as I've mentioned before almost the entire universe is context. So by that what you've said is essentailly: There is a right, wrong and neutral choice for every situation. A tautology.


...:smallconfused:
You're not even making sense now. No matter what, innocents would die. I'm saying I'd reject the "rules" laid out by this murderer.
Yes, I forgot to include the fact that a some more people die in both cases.


Then I stick it in the middle a second before.
I mentioned that the track has two states. Right and left.


If I've got more than 5 seconds, or some such, I stick it one of the directions (whichever person is physically closer to myself) and go run to save the person.
You are not going to be able to save that person(s). He/they is/are too far away.
Does it then come down to which group you save being completely arbitrary (whichever is farther away in this case)?


Because quite honestly, my choice means nothing. I could say "group A", and he still kills group B.
You could also say group A and he decides to let everyone live. Or quantum mechanical effects come into play and they are all instantly transported through the walls and to safety. If something is sufficiently unlikely (the dictator doing something that is completely against his known character) then it can be discounted.


So rather than play into his sick hands, I try to save people. Or he kills me, knocks me unconscious, whatever.
You can save more people by choosing.


Then I keep struggling forever. If he keeps the clock stopped (however the heck he's doing that) while I struggle, the people aren't being killed. So I struggle forever. Or until I drop dead or unconscious.
He's a good judge of character (you have to be to survive as dictator) and will figure out roughly when you realise you can't escape.


I believe that there's always something I can try besides just saying "kill those people, not these people".
And once those things have been tried and time is running out?


Of course, considering the absurd nature of all these scenarios, yeah, I'd probably check if I was in an illusion.
How do you plan on doing that?:smallsmile:


I'm pretty much utterly incapable of doing anything to affect someone half the world away right now.
Then you are also incapable of saving everyone aren't you? But you are certainly capable of saving someone.


If and when I have the resources, I'm certainly going to try to find ways to help someone.
You could start looking for a job or odd jobs. Earn money and give it to charities. Ask your parents/friends for money for you birthday/christmas and then give that away.
You believe there is always something you can do. Well there is. There are a series of railway tracks and you can run at a full sprint for a mile to get to a switch that will save a group of people somewhere. But sprinting is difficult.

btw: Am I sounding Anvilicious?:smallbiggrin:

KnightDisciple
2009-05-18, 05:25 PM
...No.
Honestly, you're sounding stupidly utilitarian.
And what makes you think I'm not looking for a job?

GoC
2009-05-18, 05:30 PM
...No.
Honestly, you're sounding stupidly utilitarian.
Calling utilitarians as a group stupid is not nice.


And what makes you think I'm not looking for a job?
Somehow I doubt you are really trying your hardest.:smallwink:
Even in an economic crisis there are ways to earn money.

How is it you can believe in a way to escape the dictator but not in a way to earn money?:smallconfused:

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-18, 05:41 PM
GoC, what even prevents the people from seeing the train coming and moving off the tracks? Some sort of ludicrously implausible tunnel setup, perhaps?


I might misunderstand you here D_A, but are you essentially saying/implying that given all possible data that would help assess the situation (for example, If you had a detailed bio on each person, maybe a police record?) it might become morally sound to kill, or save one group of people :smallconfused:?
Yes. It certainly seems conceivable. I definitely wouldn't want to rule the possibility out a priori. That seems overly hasty.

But it would depend on what the available information is, wouldn't it? So I need to know what information is available to know what I'd actually choose.

I mean, if you just say "Well, it's a case in which you'd conclude that you need to sacrifice 10 people to save a million", then I think you're sort of making the choices of most people a foregone conclusion.

But naturally, a lot of people will tend to respond in the responsible way to respond upon being told that lives need to be sacrificed: with skepticism.


It's a fairly well known fact that each of us have a finite amount of money. By choosing which charity (save the children in X country from starvation vs. vaccinate people in country Y) to donate to you are choosing you lives and who dies. Saving the lives in X will result in deaths in Y.
Well, yes, but allowing deaths is different from knowingly, actively killing people. We do the former all the time, in the sense that we could always be attempting to save lives that we aren't attempting to save. Seems pretty unavoidable. The latter, however, seems generally avoidable.


You can reject that hypothetical because it is inconsistent with itself given the axioms of mathematics.
Internal inconsistency isn't the only basis on which one can reject a hypothetical.

Evidence: KnightDisciple is rejecting your hypotheticals for other reasons. :smalltongue:


Calling utilitarians as a group stupid is not nice.
Good thing he didn't, then.

"Stupidly utilitarian" means "utilitarian in a stupid way", it doesn't imply that it's impossible to be utilitarian in a smart way.

Let me ask you this: How do you get from what you're saying to conclusions about how we should act in real life, outside of utterly implausible hypothetical scenarios?


How is it you can believe in a way to escape the dictator but not in a way to earn money?:smallconfused:
Just maybe KnightDisciple believes that he can earn the most money by getting a job and is therefore searching for one?

GoC
2009-05-18, 05:55 PM
GoC, what even prevents the people from seeing the train coming and moving off the tracks? Some sort of ludicrously implausible tunnel setup, perhaps?
I wasn't the person who made the scenario. I'm merely trying to make it plausable.


Well, yes, but allowing deaths is different from knowingly, actively killing people.
Remember your definition of killing? Causing a death? By taking any other action except helping you are causing a death. Hence they are logically equivalent.


We do the former all the time, in the sense that we could always be attempting to save lives that we aren't attempting to save. Seems pretty unavoidable.
It is avoidable. It merely requires effort that people simply aren't willing to put in.


Internal inconsistency isn't the only basis on which one can reject a hypothetical.
It is however the only sound basis. That's not a definition that is a proposition. You can give a counter.


Evidence: KnightDisciple is rejecting your hypotheticals for other reasons. :smalltongue:
Such as attempting to avoid having to reconsider his moral foundation?:smalltongue:
You know how much people hate doing that.


Good thing he didn't, then.

"Stupidly utilitarian" means "utilitarian in a stupid way", it doesn't imply that it's impossible to be utilitarian in a smart way.
Hmm...
True.
Still, calling someone's moral basis stupid is generally considered unhelpful.:smalltongue:


Let me ask you this: How do you get from what you're saying to conclusions about how we should act in real life, outside of utterly implausible hypothetical scenarios?
Well for a start I thought this whole thread was a thought excercise.:smallbiggrin:
Hypotheticals are useful for finding weaknesses in a moral system and finding out how people think and create these moral systems. You can then tinker with a hypothetical until it is possible in real life. A dictator-type situation is quite possible but it is highly improbable that KnightDisciple should ever be in one.
It's also highly unlikely he'll go to the moon but it's still fun to talk about.:smallbiggrin:


Just maybe KnightDisciple believes that he can earn the most money by getting a job and is therefore searching for one?
:smallconfused:
Shouldn't he be searching now then?

KnightDisciple
2009-05-18, 06:03 PM
Calling utilitarians as a group stupid is not nice.
Good thing I wasn't doing that.
Instead, as Devils_Advocate, I was basically saying that you were coming across as dogmatically and unthinkingly utilitarian. You seem obsessed with strange and impossible hypothetical situations, rather than the real world.



Somehow I doubt you are really trying your hardest.:smallwink:
Even in an economic crisis there are ways to earn money.

How is it you can believe in a way to escape the dictator but not in a way to earn money?:smallconfused:

...And this is where I cease bothering to respond to someone who's going to choose to be condescending, as well as naggier than my family.
Thank you, and good day sir!:smallannoyed:

GoC
2009-05-18, 06:11 PM
...And this is where I cease bothering to respond to someone who's going to choose to be condescending, as well as naggier than my family.
Thank you, and good day sir!:smallannoyed:
:smallfrown:
I wasn't being condescending. I just noted that given that A. People are terminally unsatisfied and lazy. B. You have free time. You could satisfy the laziness of people around you in exchange for (rather small) monetary gain.
It seemed rather sound.:smallconfused:
I didn't explicitly state it both because it takes time and because I wanted to see what ways you'd already tried searching to refine the argument.

The "naggy-ness" was because I was attempting to show an inconsistency between your stated moral structure and your actual implementation of it. And thus possibly exposing an inconsistency in the structure itself.
I am not a true utilitarian but hold that the utilitarian viewpoint is optimal for society while what is optimal for me is... well... optimal for me!:smallbiggrin:
I also currently believe this to be the case for all humans and wish to test to see if this is indeed true. Unfortunately asking outright may not get an accurate response.

If I have offended you then I apologize.:smallfrown:

Mr. Mud
2009-05-18, 06:28 PM
Yes. It certainly seems conceivable. I definitely wouldn't want to rule the possibility out a priori. That seems overly hasty.

But it would depend on what the available information is, wouldn't it? So I need to know what information is available to know what I'd actually choose.

I mean, if you just say "Well, it's a case in which you'd conclude that you need to sacrifice 10 people to save a million", then I think you're sort of making the choices of most people a foregone conclusion.

But naturally, a lot of people will tend to respond in the responsible way to respond upon being told that lives need to be sacrificed: with skepticism.



Agreed, but lets say 1 out of the 10 have committed murder. 1,000,000 out of the 10,000,000 have also committed murder. Point being, if people are picked arbitrarily, then one group shouldn't be any more morally "correct" than the other. Would this not make this sort of information void? In cases with smaller amounts of people, sure, information is the key to deciding, but once quantities hit the millions, information becomes relatively useless. Would you agree :smallconfused:?

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-18, 08:00 PM
Information about how representative the groups are of the general population remains relevant. Information that helps me to determine everyone's odds of survival given each choice I might make remains extremely relevant.

The point is that the given information may be accepted by someone evaluating the scenario only in the form it's presented in. So when you say "You can save ten million lives by sacrificing ten", that doesn't necessarily cause someone to assume that that is, within the hypothetical, a conclusion proven beyond a shadow of a doubt; they may just take it as if someone within the scenario said "You can save ten million lives by sacrificing ten", in which case skepticism is an appropriate response.

Say "It's proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that you can save ten million lives by sacrificing ten" and some people will just evaluate things assuming that someone within the scenario said that, in which case it's appropriate to respond with extreme skepticism, as such claims are so frequently overstatements.

They don't assume that 100% odds actually are proven because that's pretty much impossible to imagine. This is especially true for someone who holds to the belief that one should never be certain of anything.

It's sort of like how being asked how you'd trade billions of lives against paperclips (http://www.overcomingbias.com/2008/09/true-pd.html) could prompt a different response to the prisoner's dilemma, because it's hard for someone to empathize with a selfish viewpoint, but valuing billions of lives over paperclips is intuitive.

Well, GoC, it sounded like you were criticizing KnightDisciple for not practicing what he preaches, when by your own admission you don't either. Hopefully it's not hard to see how someone could take exception to that.


I wasn't the person who made the scenario. I'm merely trying to make it plausable.
The point here is that it takes a ridiculous amount of work to make this plausible, because there are a million reasons it wouldn't be as constrained as described.


Remember your definition of killing? Causing a death? By taking any other action except helping you are causing a death.
I suppose that you could say that not saving a life kills someone, yes. Hence why I explicitly used the qualifier "actively".

However, not doing something is only treated as though it were an action as a matter of semantic convenience. It's one of those "things" that's actually a lack of a thing: As darkness is to light and cold is to heat, so inaction is to action.


It is avoidable. It merely requires effort that people simply aren't willing to put in.

It's a fairly well known fact that each of us have a finite amount of money. By choosing which charity (save the children in X country from starvation vs. vaccinate people in country Y) to donate to you are choosing you lives and who dies. Saving the lives in X will result in deaths in Y.
We are but mortal beings of finite capability. It is not within my power to save every person that I could save individually. So no matter what, I'm allowing someone I could save to die.


It is however the only sound basis. That's not a definition that is a proposition. You can give a counter.
Well, what I'm saying is that someone can limit their moral statements to a specific domain, and say something like "I'm talking about how actual people should behave in real life, not how people should behave in contrived scenarios that will never happen."

Alternately: You haven't really established how someone could know the things that they're being assumed to know.


Such as attempting to avoid having to reconsider his moral foundation?:smalltongue:
It may be more that he was answering your questions based on his own moral foundations, not yours. That's what one is generally expected to do in these discussions, is it not? To illustrate one's moral principles by showing how they apply to a particular situation?


Still, calling someone's moral basis stupid is generally considered unhelpful.:smalltongue:
Admittedly, saying "your argument is stupid" contributes to a discussion about as much as does an ad hominem, even if it technically isn't one.

Mr. Mud
2009-05-18, 08:07 PM
<snipped for space>
So... by this logic, if it remains relevant, both groups will have roughly the same ratio of morally correct, to morally incorrect people. Thus it's like killing x:y... or 10x:10y. Or 1,000x:1,000y. Each choice will have the same consciquence, but on a larger or smaller scale.

GoC
2009-05-18, 08:27 PM
So when you say "You can save ten million lives by sacrificing ten", that doesn't necessarily cause someone to assume that that is, within the hypothetical, a conclusion proven beyond a shadow of a doubt; they may just take it as if someone within the scenario said "You can save ten million lives by sacrificing ten", in which case skepticism is an appropriate response.
Then this needs to be made explicit.

It's sort of like how being asked how you'd trade billions of lives against paperclips (http://www.overcomingbias.com/2008/09/true-pd.html) could prompt a different response to the prisoner's dilemma, because it's hard for someone to empathize with a selfish viewpoint, but valuing billions of lives over paperclips is intuitive.


Well, GoC, it sounded like you were criticizing KnightDisciple for not practicing what he preaches, when by your own admission you don't either. Hopefully it's not hard to see how someone could take exception to that.
Actually I believe in a two-tier system. There's what morals are optimal for society. Should these morals be breached by someone else then appropriate punishment should be meted out. However each of us have our own moral guidance which only cares about ourselves. Fortunately for society we have empathy (and stubbornness!) and the very though of hurting others hurts us.


The point here is that it takes a ridiculous amount of work to make this plausible, because there are a million reasons it wouldn't be as constrained as described.
I agree. The train situation may seem plausable at first glance but afterwards proves to be merely a thought excercise.


I suppose that you could say that not saving a life kills someone, yes. Hence why I explicitly used the qualifier "actively".
Why should the qualifier "actively" matter to the moral balance of the situation?


However, not doing something is only treated as though it were an action as a matter of semantic convenience.
Because "actively" is itself ambiguous when we get into this much detail.


We are but mortal beings of finite capability. It is not within my power to save every person that I could save individually. So no matter what, I'm allowing someone I could save to die.
Exactly. KnightDisciple was refusing to accept that some must die. This was a requirement for the hypothetical to match reality.


Well, what I'm saying is that someone can limit their moral statements to a specific domain, and say something like "I'm talking about how actual people should behave in real life, not how people should behave in contrived scenarios that will never happen."
The dictator scenario could happen. It is unlikely but possible.


Alternately: You haven't really established how someone could know the things that they're being assumed to know.
Because it's implied when you talk about hypotheticals of this type.


It may be more that he was answering your questions based on his own moral foundations, not yours. That's what one is generally expected to do in these discussions, is it not? To illustrate one's moral principles by showing how they apply to a particular situation?
His moral foundations rely on the non-existance of hypothetical situations of this type?:smallconfused:


I'm tired. I'll see tomorrow if what I wrote is coherent. Good night.

Coidzor
2009-05-19, 03:27 AM
Well, just as long as we all remember we're voices in the head of the Dread Solipsist and prattle on for his eternal amusement.

hamishspence
2009-05-19, 01:17 PM
Having answered a few questions already- I'd like some answers as to the following premises:

Letting people die through inaction is morally wrong- why? By this standard, no doctor can retire, because by doing so, people will die through his inaction.

Self-sacrifice is morally required when failure to do so would lead to death- again, why? by this standard, all rich people, however they got their money, are committing a wrong by not giving it all away- because failure to give it all away results in much more deaths.

Both of these strongly suggest that pure "Failure to act is morally wrong" morality leads to de facto slavery- because you are punished for failing to devote everything you have to others.

GoC
2009-05-19, 05:55 PM
Letting people die through inaction is morally wrong- why?
Because it makes others unhappy.


By this standard, no doctor can retire, because by doing so, people will die through his inaction.
No. It simply means that others will replace him.


Self-sacrifice is morally required when failure to do so would lead to death- again, why? by this standard, all rich people, however they got their money, are committing a wrong by not giving it all away- because failure to give it all away results in much more deaths.
Generally the case, yes.


Both of these strongly suggest that pure "Failure to act is morally wrong" morality leads to de facto slavery- because you are punished for failing to devote everything you have to others.
No. You can help yourself more easily than you can help others so if others cannot be helped more easily than you can help yourself then you should help yourself.
You see, you don't just care about others. You also care about yourself.

Phae Nymna
2009-05-19, 08:15 PM
Admiral Walrus, only tautologies, like "A is A", are based solely on logic itself. You can also use logic to reason from premises, like e.g. "Suffering is bad", but in those cases what conclusions you wind up with depend on what assumptions you make.

I'd say that when presenting your moral reasoning, it's best to clearly state your axioms and then explain how your conclusions follow from them, but I don't see how to get any conclusions about what to do without axioms.
Ooooh... I like you.

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-19, 09:11 PM
However each of us have our own moral guidance which only cares about ourselves.
What's your basis for this claim?

If it's introspection, I would like to caution you against hastily generalizing from a sample size of one.


Why should the qualifier "actively" matter to the moral balance of the situation?
Well, the basic reasoning is like this:

No matter what, I will allow others to come to harm. However, I may or may not actively harm others. So I can

(A) allow others to come to harm and actively harm others, or
(B) allow others to come to harm but not actively harm others.

The suggested heuristic is that one should assume that (A) is better than (B) unless given sufficient evidence to think otherwise.

So, for example, I shouldn't murder a bunch of people for their money just because people all over the place are dying anyway. Not even because I could theoretically help some of them.

I'm guessing that you embrace the principle that, even though you're not saving as many lives as you could, you're not going to go out and actively kill someone, because that would just make things worse.


Because "actively" is itself ambiguous when we get into this much detail.
How is it ambiguous?


KnightDisciple was refusing to accept that some must die.
I didn't see him saying that anyone is going to live forever or anything of the sort.

He did refuse to accept that people would die within the hypotheticals presented. But isn't refusing to immediately accept others' deaths a moral response? Should we not, be your own standards, work to save all we can? If so, is not job one trying to find a way to save everyone?


This was a requirement for the hypothetical to match reality.
The presented hypotheticals don't match reality.


The dictator scenario could happen. It is unlikely but possible.
It could happen, but it won't. It's possible, but sufficiently unlikely that I'm comfortable saying that it just won't happen.

I'm not one hundred percent certain of anything, but I'm certain enough of some things to honestly say that they're true.


Because it's implied when you talk about hypotheticals of this type.
It's taken for granted that you somehow know with certainty the information being presented. But one can reasonably challenge that assumption because it's never explained how you're supposed to even be able to know all of this stuff with a high degree of certainty.


His moral foundations rely on the non-existance of hypothetical situations of this type?:smallconfused:
Possibly. That's something that KnightDisciple would know, but it might be that his morality deals with the restricted domain of the real world.

But a big problem is that you haven't set up plausible scenarios in which things are as you say. You're asking people to just accept whatever assumptions you hand them. Don't you see a problem with that?

Would you be comfortable assuming, for the sake of argument, that the holocaust was justified? With no justification for this assumption given.

Or what about assuming that one and one is four? Would you be willing to consider that possibility, just to see where it led? If so, for how long would you be willing to consider it? How seriously would you consider it? Would you at the very least eventually ask someone asking you a lot of questions about that hypothetical to stop bothering you with ridiculous nonsense? Wouldn't you eventually get annoyed with the absurdity of it and say that you frankly want to move on to a non-stupid discussion?


by this standard, all rich people, however they got their money, are committing a wrong by not giving it all away- because failure to give it all away results in much more deaths.
No, handouts do not a priori maximize lifespan nor utility. You're dragging in economic assumptions that aren't a part of the moral framework.


Both of these strongly suggest that pure "Failure to act is morally wrong" morality leads to de facto slavery- because you are punished for failing to devote everything you have to others.
Again, no. Punishing people for failing to live up to inhuman standards of altruism is not necessarily the best way to get them as close as possible to those standards.

Also, as GoC points out, under utilitarianism you're supposed to be concerned with your own welfare; you're just supposed to be equally concerned with others'.

GoC
2009-05-19, 10:36 PM
What's your basis for this claim?

If it's introspection, I would like to caution you against hastily generalizing from a sample size of one.
It is from forming a theory and then seeing if it fits the evidence. So far it has fit perfectly. Better than any other theory I've found at least...
Alternates are of course welcome.:smallsmile:


Well, the basic reasoning is like this:

No matter what, I will allow others to come to harm. However, I may or may not actively harm others. So I can

(A) allow others to come to harm and actively harm others, or
(B) allow others to come to harm but not actively harm others.

The suggested heuristic is that one should assume that (A) is better than (B) unless given sufficient evidence to think otherwise.

So, for example, I shouldn't murder a bunch of people for their money just because people all over the place are dying anyway. Not even because I could theoretically help some of them.

I'm guessing that you embrace the principle that, even though you're not saving as many lives as you could, you're not going to go out and actively kill someone, because that would just make things worse.
Ah, I see.
I thought you had:
(A) actively harm others, or
(B) allow others to come to harm but not actively harm others.


How is it ambiguous?
Can you precisely define "actively hurting someone"? "Actively" could mean that person A decides that person B should die. "Actively" could mean that person A assaulted and killed person B. "Actively" could mean that person A deliberately set in motion events that would lead to person B's death.


He did refuse to accept that people would die within the hypotheticals presented. But isn't refusing to immediately accept others' deaths a moral response? Should we not, be your own standards, work to save all we can? If so, is not job one trying to find a way to save everyone?
Yes but he missed the whole point of the thing! When presented with such hypotheticals it is presumed that you've spent the equivalent of 1000000 years analyzing the situation and found no third option.


The presented hypotheticals don't match reality.
Sorry, be a metaphore for reality not match it. The resource allocation thing is a real world problem and these hypotheticals are supposed to be a metaphore for it.


It's taken for granted that you somehow know with certainty the information being presented. But one can reasonably challenge that assumption because it's never explained how you're supposed to even be able to know all of this stuff with a high degree of certainty.
Maybe, but it seems rather pedantic.


But a big problem is that you haven't set up plausible scenarios in which things are as you say. You're asking people to just accept whatever assumptions you hand them. Don't you see a problem with that?
No. Hypotheticals are the ethical equivalent of experiments. So no I don't see the problem. I'm saying "If X was true then what would you do in Y situation?"
Unless that sentence is self-contradictory then you cannot challenge the question.


Would you be comfortable assuming, for the sake of argument, that the holocaust was justified? With no justification for this assumption given.
More elaboration would be needed for it to be a worthwhile hypothetical (why the holocaust was justified is important as both the assumption and the question are about morality) but after that it's perfectly fine to explore alternate moral systems.


Or what about assuming that one and one is four?
That is an example of a self-contradictory question. Using the normal definitions of "1", "+", "=" and "4" the assumption "1+1=4" cannot be made.

Jack Squat
2009-05-19, 10:46 PM
Using the normal definitions of "1", "+", "=" and "4" the assumption "1+1=4" cannot be made.

True, but why can't it be made?

Suppose for a moment that 1 + 1 = 4

However, it's well known that 1 + 1 = 2, which is not equal to 4. Going from the other side (4 = 1 + 1), if you subtract 1 from each side, you are left with 3 = 1, which again is not true. therefore, 1 + 1 cannot equal 4. You're not assuming it's false, rather you're proving it.

I think that's what Devil's Advocate is saying; you shouldn't readily dismiss something based on what you know. Give anything a chance to tumble around in your mind some, no matter how ridiculous and try and see how it pieces together. As a wise man once said, "Assume nothing, question everything"

GoC
2009-05-19, 10:51 PM
True, but why can't it be made?

Suppose for a moment that 1 + 1 = 4

However, it's well known that 1 + 1 = 2, which is not equal to 4. Going from the other side (4 = 1 + 1), if you subtract 1 from each side, you are left with 3 = 1, which again is not true. therefore, 1 + 1 cannot equal 4. You're not assuming it's false, rather you're proving it.
However, such a proof is not possible with real world objects. In the real world anything is possible given a sufficiently absurd probability (purely based on the fact we could all be in a matrix!:smallwink:).


I think that's what Devil's Advocate is saying; you shouldn't readily dismiss something based on what you know.
The only things I dismiss are those that directly contradict logic such as "1+1=4". Nothing refering to the real world will do that.

Devils_Advocate
2009-05-20, 12:33 AM
"Actively" could mean that person A deliberately set in motion events that would lead to person B's death.
Well, I was thinking of that minus the "deliberately", but by that standard I probably actively kill people all the time, too, come to think. The Butterfly Effect and whatnot.

Good thing I also used the qualifier "knowingly". :smallamused:


Yes but he missed the whole point of the thing! When presented with such hypotheticals it is presumed that you've spent the equivalent of 1000000 years analyzing the situation and found no third option.
And you're missing his point: The responsible choice in a real-life situation is to not assume that there's no third option, because you haven't just analyzed the situation for a million years. And his answers were chosen to illustrate this view of what constitutes responsible, moral behavior.


Maybe, but it seems rather pedantic.
Do you seriously expect someone to just say "OK, for the sake of argument completely rejecting the assumptions on which I base my moral heuristics, I in turn reject my moral heuristics as well"?

It seems more reasonable to try to solicit a response of "OK, if you could convince me that my assumptions are wrong, I would conclude that my heuristics are inappropriate. But you haven't said anything yet to convince me that my assumptions are wrong."

I really don't think that that's an overly picky distinction.


No. Hypotheticals are the ethical equivalent of experiments. So no I don't see the problem. I'm saying "If X was true then what would you do in Y situation?"
Unless that sentence is self-contradictory then you cannot challenge the question.
That depends on what you mean by "challenge the question". But anyway, if my epistemology dictates that I never be certain of anything and you stipulate that I am certain, that is a contradiction. Someone who's certain isn't me. Maybe even a future version of me, but not me.

I'm not sure that this is KnightDisciple's objection, but it might be. Or something close to it.


More elaboration would be needed for it to be a worthwhile hypothetical (why the holocaust was justified is important as both the assumption and the question are about morality) but after that it's perfectly fine to explore alternate moral systems.
Well, let's assume that if you evaluated all of the available information about the holocaust for a million years, you would conclude that it was justified. No details on what information is available nor how it leads you to this conclusion, though...


That is an example of a self-contradictory question. Using the normal definitions of "1", "+", "=" and "4" the assumption "1+1=4" cannot be made.
Can you give a formal proof of that? Can you rigorously define all of those terms?

And are you willing to bother to? Or would you rather just say "Come on, we both know you're just talking nonsense"?

Jack Squat
2009-05-20, 09:05 AM
The only things I dismiss are those that directly contradict logic such as "1+1=4". Nothing refering to the real world will do that.

You're directly contradicting yourself.


In the real world anything is possible given a sufficiently absurd probability (purely based on the fact we could all be in a matrix!:smallwink:).

First you say that anything's possible, then you say everything in the real world can't contradict logic. If anything's possible, then there's a great many things that happen that contradict logic.

GoC
2009-05-20, 12:28 PM
First you say that anything's possible, then you say everything in the real world can't contradict logic. If anything's possible, then there's a great many things that happen that contradict logic.
Note that I restricted my domain to "The real world". Logic is not part of that domain as it interacts with the real world only through axioms about the real world.


Well, I was thinking of that minus the "deliberately", but by that standard I probably actively kill people all the time, too, come to think. The Butterfly Effect and whatnot.
I meant that the person A knew his actions would result in the death of B.


Do you seriously expect someone to just say "OK, for the sake of argument completely rejecting the assumptions on which I base my moral heuristics, I in turn reject my moral heuristics as well"?

His moral foundations rely on the non-existance of hypothetical situations of this type?:smallconfused:
So I'll take that as a yes. He relies on this sort of thing not appearing in the real world. Not a very sound moral system as anything can appear in this world.


It seems more reasonable to try to solicit a response of "OK, if you could convince me that my assumptions are wrong, I would conclude that my heuristics are inappropriate. But you haven't said anything yet to convince me that my assumptions are wrong."
But he didn't do that did he?
Interesting that we are arguing over the morality of a third person...


That depends on what you mean by "challenge the question". But anyway, if my epistemology dictates that I never be certain of anything and you stipulate that I am certain, that is a contradiction.
But it's not self-contradictory. It might contradict your axioms but it doesn't contradict it's own.


Well, let's assume that if you evaluated all of the available information about the holocaust for a million years, you would conclude that it was justified. No details on what information is available nor how it leads you to this conclusion, though...
Then we can't really reach any conclusions can we? And the assumption is useless. If I conclude that it was justified then that means that my moral system allows for the justification of the holocaust. If my moral system did not allow for such things then I must assume my moral system must be different for the purpose of this hypothetical. In order for any meaningful conclusion to be reached you must tell me what my new moral system is.


Can you give a formal proof of that? Can you rigorously define all of those terms?
Take a group (N,+).
Take any element from this group that is not the identity ("e") and call it "1".
Define "4" to be "1+1+1+1".
Let us assume: "1+1=4"
Then "1+1+1+1=4+1+1".
Then "4=4+1+1".
Use the inverse of "4" call it "-4": "-4+4=-4+4+1+1"
Then "e=1+1"
But the only element from a group that is it's own inverse is "e" by definition, so we have a contradiction and NOT("1+1=4") is true given the standard axioms.

Note: Some steps were omitted and (N,+) has other properties besides the ones shown.

As for a rigorous definition of addition:
Take a group (R,+) that has the property of commutativity. There. That's it. now you just have to define the numbers in a form similar to the one above.

hamishspence
2009-05-21, 12:00 PM
the Switch Siding example was, in the Richard Dawkins book, justified as "the person is not being used- the switch would work just as well without him. It is the siding that is being used and he has the bad luck to be standing on it."

"Save 5" Scenario might alternatively be described as follows:

You are piloting a lifeboat in a storm toward a sinking ship. You are on course toward one large man standing at the end of the boat. Just as you get close, you spot 5 small children standing at the other end. The boat has only enough room for 1 large man or 5 small children. Are you morally allowed to alter course, and Not Rescue the large man?

Conversely: Having just rescued the large man, who has promptly passed out from exhaustion on the deck, you spot the 5 children as you pull away from the wreck. Are you allowed to drop the man back in the sea to certain death (its a really bad storm) to save the five?

That is the difference between Not Rescuing someone and Murdering someone (since it fits most legal and moral definitions of murder)

And the Hole Plugger one could be reworded as "Person has accident in front of lifeboat just before launch- he's healthy but impossible to practiclaly move in the time limit. 5 people's lives are at stake. Do you launch the boat anyway, crushing him flat?

hamishspence
2009-05-21, 12:50 PM
Just to make it closer, the lifeboat is an autonomous robot which can be overridden- inaction will result in the robot picking up the lone guy.

GoC
2009-05-21, 01:49 PM
the Switch Siding example was, in the Richard Dawkins book, justified as "the person is not being used- the switch would work just as well without him. It is the siding that is being used and he has the bad luck to be standing on it."

"Save 5" Scenario might alternatively be described as follows:

You are piloting a lifeboat in a storm toward a sinking ship. You are on course toward one large man standing at the end of the boat. Just as you get close, you spot 5 small children standing at the other end. The boat has only enough room for 1 large man or 5 small children. Are you morally allowed to alter course, and Not Rescue the large man?

Conversely: Having just rescued the large man, who has promptly passed out from exhaustion on the deck, you spot the 5 children as you pull away from the wreck. Are you allowed to drop the man back in the sea to certain death (its a really bad storm) to save the five?

That is the difference between Not Rescuing someone and Murdering someone (since it fits most legal and moral definitions of murder)
You should drop the fat man on the nearest piece of wreckage and hope he survives. Also, if his clothes are well insulated and water proof you can tow him behind your raft. If I assume that saving all 6 is impossible and I know this (an impossibility but a 99% should suffice) then I would be morally correct in dumping the man overboard.
Explain how a judge would convict you of murder for dropping the man back in?
Also, provide backing for "most legal and moral definitions of murder".


And the Hole Plugger one could be reworded as "Person has accident in front of lifeboat just before launch- he's healthy but impossible to practiclaly move in the time limit. 5 people's lives are at stake. Do you launch the boat anyway, crushing him flat?
If you can be certain that the 5 will perish otherwise then yes. However you can swim or there are other lifeboats ect.


Just to make it closer, the lifeboat is an autonomous robot which can be overridden- inaction will result in the robot picking up the lone guy.
Why is this relevant?

KnightDisciple
2009-05-21, 01:50 PM
the Switch Siding example was, in the Richard Dawkins book, justified as "the person is not being used- the switch would work just as well without him. It is the siding that is being used and he has the bad luck to be standing on it."

"Save 5" Scenario might alternatively be described as follows:

You are piloting a lifeboat in a storm toward a sinking ship. You are on course toward one large man standing at the end of the boat. Just as you get close, you spot 5 small children standing at the other end. The boat has only enough room for 1 large man or 5 small children. Are you morally allowed to alter course, and Not Rescue the large man?

Conversely: Having just rescued the large man, who has promptly passed out from exhaustion on the deck, you spot the 5 children as you pull away from the wreck. Are you allowed to drop the man back in the sea to certain death (its a really bad storm) to save the five?

That is the difference between Not Rescuing someone and Murdering someone (since it fits most legal and moral definitions of murder)

And the Hole Plugger one could be reworded as "Person has accident in front of lifeboat just before launch- he's healthy but impossible to practiclaly move in the time limit. 5 people's lives are at stake. Do you launch the boat anyway, crushing him flat?

Could I put the 5 kids on board and then put myself in the water?

hamishspence
2009-05-21, 02:04 PM
its relavent because it makes it like the train example- a case where inaction will result in more deaths than action, but not the deaths of everyone.

Murder- Intentional killing, not in war, or self defense, or after severe enough provocation to make the balance of the mind disordered enough to claim temporary insanity- etc. No mitigating factors other than "to free up rescuing space"

We are assuming no Third Way Solution- all lifejackets have already been used, boat is not shedding useful floating wreckage, its impossible to drop large man off in time, etc. No easy ways out.

And with remote control boat- can't put self in water. Think lifeboat equivalent of one of those modern military robot boats.

GoC
2009-05-21, 02:23 PM
Murder- Intentional killing, not in war, or self defense, or after severe enough provocation to make the balance of the mind disordered enough to claim temporary insanity- etc. No mitigating factors other than "to free up rescuing space"

Murder, as defined in common law countries, is the unlawful killing of another human being with intent (or malice aforethought), and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide.

The requirement is a guilty mind. None is present here.

murˇder (műrdr)
n.
1. The unlawful killing of one human by another, especially with premeditated malice.
2. Slang Something that is very uncomfortable, difficult, or hazardous: The rush hour traffic is murder.
3. A flock of crows. See Synonyms at flock1.
v. murˇdered, murˇderˇing, murˇders
v.tr.
1. To kill (another human) unlawfully.
2. To kill brutally or inhumanly.
3. To put an end to; destroy: murdered their chances.
4. To spoil by ineptness; mutilate: a speech that murdered the English language.
5. Slang To defeat decisively; trounce.
v.intr.
To commit murder.

hamishspence
2009-05-21, 02:26 PM
Killing- unlawfully, intentionally- not necessarily with premeditation. Somewhere between 2nd degree murder and manslaughter depending on the judge. Same principle would apply to the organ theft version of the problem- both involve killing someone who is not otherwise in danger of death as current condition stands.

GoC
2009-05-21, 02:34 PM
No malice or guilty mind. Hence no murder.

hamishspence
2009-05-21, 02:38 PM
I'm not sure if those are absolute requirements- a person doesn't have to think they are doing murder to be found guilty. Similarly with malice- maybe manslaughter is closer. I wonder if there are any real world cases, and what the charges and verdicts were?

One would expect organ thieves to be charged with murder, even if they claim there was no malice in their actions, which were solely motivated by saving others.

(maybe in the aftermath of a Robin Cook type novel- so would you be saying that the writer Did Not Do The Research if he had the prosecution press murder changes and the jury hand down a Guilty verdict)?

GoC
2009-05-21, 02:41 PM
If they killed someone with no malice...
I dunno. Manslaughter probably.
The man would likely be praised as a hero for saving the five and no charges would be brought against him.

hamishspence
2009-05-21, 02:45 PM
in the siding case maybe. The Fat Man's family would probably press charges though. Are you saying the charge legally has to be manslaughter or less?

"You chopped my son up for organs/dropped him into the sea/dropped him into a forest fire/pushed him off a platform!" On purpose!"

"But it was to save lives!"

"Big hairy deal!"

(for forest fire example, replace robo-boat with robo-coptor, lifting person in container out of fire, heading out, and spots a crowd of much smaller people in container. And must drop the one to pick up the other- only time to lift container. Cannot carry more than 1. Do you override robot and drop man?)

GoC
2009-05-21, 02:55 PM
"You chopped my son up for organs/dropped him into the sea/dropped him into a forest fire/pushed him off a platform!" On purpose!"

"But it was to save lives!"

"Big hairy deal!"
See? Context is everything. The context includes a 100% certainty that there was no third option and the accused did not bear any malice towards the "victim".

hamishspence
2009-05-21, 02:58 PM
In which case, why do 90-97% of people, according to the Hauser/Singer survey, across a wide range of cultures, give a "no- Its morally wrong" answer to the question- "Should one do this or not?"

And manslaughter requires generally that the killing be unintential. Here the killing is definitely intended.

I checked and it requires intent, or malice, or malice aforethought. We have intent. And "to save other lives" is not necessarily enough to move it to Justifiable homicide.

GoC
2009-05-21, 03:19 PM
In which case, why do 90-97% of people, according to the Hauser/Singer survey, across a wide range of cultures, give a "no- Its morally wrong" answer to the question- "Should one do this or not?"
Never heard of it. Link?


And manslaughter requires generally that the killing be unintential. Here the killing is definitely intended.

I checked and it requires intent, or malice, or malice aforethought. We have intent. And "to save other lives" is not necessarily enough to move it to Justifiable homicide.
We need a judge or lawyer on this one.

hamishspence
2009-05-21, 03:23 PM
Couldn't find reference on Wikipedia, but The Psychology Of Superheroes and Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion both reference it- a survey done by Marc Hauser and Peter Singer, I think- like the BBC one. Predating it.

GoC
2009-05-21, 03:33 PM
Couldn't find reference on Wikipedia, but The Psychology Of Superheroes and Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion both reference it- a survey done by Marc Hauser and Peter Singer, I think- like the BBC one. Predating it.

I think I found it. And I mentioned the explanation before. People go with their emotions and gut instinct (a product of evolution and not designed for these situations). Hence why the equivalent situations 1, 3 and the BBC question 3 all get different probabilities.

hamishspence
2009-05-21, 03:40 PM
There is still a very strong bias for the one, and against the other.

Using 90% of people approving of Push The Switch, and 77% of people disapproving of the Push The Fat Man (and assuming none of the people who wouldn't Push The Switch would Push The Fat Man either)

thats roughly 67% of people agree with the first, and disagree with the second. Assuming the same group of people answered both questions.

I prefer the Dawkins answer- that in the first, the person on the siding wasn't being Used- the siding was being used- he just happens to be on it- the process would work just fine without him. Whereas in the second, he is.

Apparently the survey (not the BBC one) showed identical results among both atheists and non-atheists, as well as across cultures. I wonder if it showed same distribution among philosophers and moral theorists?

"Its just emotions" is not an entirely satifying answer.

GoC
2009-05-21, 03:48 PM
Using 77% of people approving of Push The Switch, and 75% of people disapproving of the Push The Fat Man (and assuming none of the people who wouldn't Push The Switch would Push The Fat Man either)
Corrected.


I prefer the Dawkins answer- that in the first, the person on the siding wasn't being Used- the siding was being used- he just happens to be on it- the process would work just fine without him. Whereas in the second, he is.

Interesting link: http://www.nysun.com/arts/putting-practice-into-ethics/69595/

hamishspence
2009-05-21, 03:52 PM
Dawkins one was 90%. And as much as 97% disapproval of Chop Up for Organs.

Theory looks interesting. Might not be entirely valid though. And how about ones where the "involve and kill innocent man who would not otherwise die" is phrased in a switch pressing way?

GoC
2009-05-21, 03:56 PM
Dawkins one was 90%. And as much as 97% disapproval of Chop Up for Organs.

Large variation isn't it?
It's interesting... I developed almost all my moral system on my own and had no idea about the popular moral systems until a month ago. It's nice to find out that my views are shared.:smallbiggrin:

Did you read the link?

hamishspence
2009-05-21, 03:58 PM
Maybe because "Push a man off a bridge" is a bit less gory, or creepy. People tend to be creeped out by the notion of people judged solely as objects that can be expended to save other people.

GoC
2009-05-21, 04:01 PM
Maybe because "Push a man off a bridge" is a bit less gory, or creepy. People tend to be creeped out by the notion of people judged solely as objects that can be expended to save other people.

See? "Creeped out". Emotions are hardly the basis for a sound and objective moral system. They can be the origin but they must not be the basis.

hamishspence
2009-05-21, 04:04 PM
Kant's "People may not be used purely as a means"

revulsion may increase the disapproval, but even phrased in the mildest terms, the majority disaprove of the basic notion of the sacrifice of this kind.

I wonder how long this has been the case?

GoC
2009-05-21, 04:08 PM
Kant's "People may not be used purely as a means"
And he is always right!:smallwink:


revulsion may increase the disapproval, but even phrased in the mildest terms, the majority disaprove of the basic notion of the sacrifice of this kind.
"Mildest terms" would have been a trapdoor and a switch and no personal contact (not even sight) with the fat man. Then we'd have accurate results. I bet the results would coincide almost exactly with the flipped switch case.


I wonder how long this has been the case?
Ever since we became social animals.

hamishspence
2009-05-21, 04:21 PM
and at the opposite end of the scale, Rand "no man may initate force against others" (taxation in this system would be voluntary)

People haven't always disliked sacrifice- the aztecs- thousands sacrificed to "keep the sun rising" and thus ensure survival of the many. Or were they all enemies?

GoC
2009-05-21, 04:25 PM
I wouldn't call taxing "initiating force".:smallconfused:
Rand was kindof insane IMHO.:smallbiggrin:

hamishspence
2009-05-21, 04:30 PM
In its older, medieval and earlier forms, there was a lot of force about it. to quote Terry Pratchett:

"Taxation is merely a sophisticated way of demanding money with menaces."

Possible bare minimum things to tax for, that citizens really need, are police/judiciary, army, and civil courts. The first 2 to protect citizens, the third to resolve disputes.

Its kind of funny that while Rand & Kant's views were opposite in many ways, one of the things they agreed on was morality as absolute rather than relative.