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Kevin Bonham
03-09-2004, 09:37 PM
From C/S thread:


Now a question: is there free will?

No. To the extent (if any) that events are not determined, they are random, although random outcomes may be loaded. We feel like we "control" decisions yet "could have" chosen otherwise only because we lack the full knowledge of all physical factors (internal and external) affecting our decisions. With that knowledge either our control over the decision or our possibility to make a different one would disappear.

Or to put it simply, what is willed has been controlled hence is not free, what is free is not controlled hence is not willed. File under bleedin' obvious - at least, I do.

Some people believe in a thing called "mind". This too is most likely a mistake based on inadequate knowledge but even if it is real, this changes nothing regarding the above - the everyday concept of "free will" is logically incoherent no matter what universe you live in.

Goughfather
03-09-2004, 09:53 PM
I guess, for the most part I'd pretty much agree with the post above. I simply wish to ask what Kevin considers the nature of "randomness" to be. Along which principles does "randomness" operate? Not starting an argument here - I'm genuinely interested as to what others think.

I guess I see the principles of causation at work in the world. At what point "randomness" comes into the equation, I don't know.

Kevin Bonham
03-09-2004, 10:59 PM
I guess, for the most part I'd pretty much agree with the post above. I simply wish to ask what Kevin considers the nature of "randomness" to be. Along which principles does "randomness" operate? Not starting an argument here - I'm genuinely interested as to what others think.

I guess I see the principles of causation at work in the world. At what point "randomness" comes into the equation, I don't know.

A common interpretation of quantum mechanics claims that quantum events are, in some sense, random. This does not prevent the appearance of complete causation on a scale we can observe, because the events referred to are too small to make measurable impacts. Others dispute this interpretation and argue simply that quantum events appear probabilistic but may still be caused by unknown factors. My understanding of physics is insufficient to comment except that I understand this debate to still, in some sense, be alive, despite setbacks for Einstein's "God does not play dice with the universe" response.

The nature of a "random" event, if one existed, would be simply that - various outcomes are possible with the same or various probabilities, but nothing determines which probability actually happens - the events simply happen one way or another.

I have an open mind as to whether random events actually occur or not - my only point being that they are the only logically coherent alternative to events being fully determined.

PHAT
03-09-2004, 11:19 PM
This does not prevent the appearance of complete causation on a scale we can observe, because the events referred to are too small to make measurable impacts.

You gotta be kidding! Energetic alpha, beta, neutron or gamma ray emmitted from a totally random decay, causes a double strand break or T-T dimer et cetera.

These decays are totally random. To my knowledge, no decay experiment has ever shown any thing other than perfect half-life statistics. And I s'pose you never heard about how accurite atomic clocks are either.

Kevin Bonham
04-09-2004, 01:57 AM
You gotta be kidding! Energetic alpha, beta, neutron or gamma ray emmitted from a totally random decay, causes a double strand break or T-T dimer et cetera.

Point. I should have added a qualifier like "for most everyday events" and another one about the time scale from which "causation" is examined.


These decays are totally random. To my knowledge, no decay experiment has ever shown any thing other than perfect half-life statistics. And I s'pose you never heard about how accurite atomic clocks are either.

Resolving, or even commenting usefully on, the debate between different QM mechanics interpretations is way beyond me but I understand that both the many-worlds interpretation and the Bohm interpretation allow for determinism in an apparently utterly "random" quantum universe - at the cost of assuming unproven multiple universes and unmeasurable hidden variables respectively.

Alan Shore
05-09-2004, 02:56 PM
This is a topic I've studied so much in philosophy but it's also quite possibly the topic I hate the most too. Despite the multitude of theories including the contest between the traditional rational world view of determinism and the new radical quantum scientific version of coincidence it's really a topic that taxes the mind unnecessarily I believe. Under the umbrella of Determinsim, humans still maintain 'perceived' free will (if one accepts this view in the absolutist sense) and they certainly do under a QM interpretation so for my mind it doesn't bear thinking about.

eclectic
05-09-2004, 04:41 PM
This is a topic I've studied so much in philosophy but it's also quite possibly the topic I hate the most too. Despite the multitude of theories including the contest between the traditional rational world view of determinism and the new radical quantum scientific version of coincidence it's really a topic that taxes the mind unnecessarily I believe. Under the umbrella of Determinsim, humans still maintain 'perceived' free will (if one accepts this view in the absolutist sense) and they certainly do under a QM interpretation so for my mind it doesn't bear thinking about.

thinking about it too much would make me a candidate for the asylum

(cf georg cantor ... set theory ... uncountable numbers)

:hmm: :hand:

eclectic

paulb
05-09-2004, 10:18 PM
I agree with Bonham to this extent on free will: no coherent explanation of a genuinely free will has been put forward. Also agree that randomness doesn't make matters any easier. Unlike KB, though, I think this is a major crisis.

Free will is one philosophical problem that really does matter, since around the world people are punished for supposed evil - some are locked in jail, others are shunned, others are killed or hurt etc.

If we consider jail there are various rationales for this punishment: deterence, exclusion from the community/protection of the community, and reform/behavioural modification. But there's also the rationale of just desserts - the idea that a person *deserves* to be punished. And if there's no such thing as free will, then surely there's no such thing as just desserts/personal-moral-blameworthiness (without free will, we might still have some notion of "good behaviour" which we encourage while accepting that on the personal level we're not responsible for our behaviour).

So it's very likely that, eg, jail sentences determined, or substantially determined, on the basis of "just desserts" are quite unfair.

If the primary function of jails is not to be "just punishment", we'll need to reconsider our sentencing in light of the other rationales. Eg

If the sole aim is exclusion/protection of the community, then dangerous criminals should be held for longer, but their conditions in jail should be much better.

If the aim is reform, then perhaps similar considerations apply. And if it's deterence, then the punishment should be determined by some proper scientific inquiry into what does or does not deter people.

For some crimes with notoriously high recidivism rates, eg paedophilia, we might need to detain indefinitely.

For other crimes, eg crime-of-passion murder, we might take the view that a) it is unlikely to be repeated; b) it is not "reformable" or "deterable"; and c) that the community is not in further danger ... therefore, no punishment at all?

These suggestions are all debatable, of course, but I think it's pretty clear that the whole system of punishment needs a major rethink if there's no free will.

It also applies on the personal level - how we behave towards someone who has "behaved badly".

Kevin Bonham
05-09-2004, 10:48 PM
Under the umbrella of Determinsim, humans still maintain 'perceived' free will (if one accepts this view in the absolutist sense) and they certainly do under a QM interpretation so for my mind it doesn't bear thinking about.

Yep. The word "perceived" is very important here.

PHAT
05-09-2004, 10:57 PM
Of course there is no "free will". Our behaviours are the products of our genetic propencities and our environment. FW is just a myth promelgated by those who would use the emotion of guilt as a tool to manipulate us. Guilt is a necessary emotion for social animal to have. But just like the emotion of fear, it can be used to "persuade" people.

Back to FW - it is an illusion. If FW was real, then why would we ever ask ourselves the question "why the phk did I do that?" I guess that it wasn't my "free will," it must have been my "just do."

Bill Gletsos
05-09-2004, 11:06 PM
If FW was real, then why would we ever ask ourselves the question "why the phk did I do that?"
In your case the reason "why the phk did I do that is because you are a phking idiot.

Alan Shore
05-09-2004, 11:08 PM
In your case the reason "why the phk did I do that is because you are a phking idiot.

Get out of this thread.

PHAT
05-09-2004, 11:09 PM
In your case the reason "why the phk did I do that is because you are a phking idiot.

Aha! Genetic intelectual disability! Give me a hard time, phkr, and you are in breach of the antidiscrimination act.

Bill Gletsos
05-09-2004, 11:12 PM
Get out of this thread.
I can post where I like.
Its not even your thread.

Cat
06-09-2004, 12:15 AM
I can post where I like.
Its not even your thread.

Yes in you can we can definitely see no sign of free will.

Bill Gletsos
06-09-2004, 12:18 AM
Yes in you can we can definitely see no sign of free will.
You are as big a fool as Sweeney.
You and he demonstrate it in virtually all your posts.

I do note that you finally seem to have learned to quote correctly.
Its only taken you 8mths.

Cat
06-09-2004, 12:25 AM
These suggestions are all debatable, of course, but I think it's pretty clear that the whole system of punishment needs a major rethink if there's no free will.

It also applies on the personal level - how we behave towards someone who has "behaved badly".

Yes, a large proportion of 'criminals' suffer mental illness. Most crime is committed by males aged 12-30, co-inciding with peak testosterone production. Schizophrenics, the mentally retarded and the XYY man represent a large proportion of the prison population.

Since the 1970's there's been a shift of the mentally ill from mental institutions into the community. In part, this was justified on the basis that better drug therapy permitted greater social intergration. There was also a popular back-lash against the concept of 'the asylum', epitomised in the film 'One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest'.

However, little funding has been provided to support these patients in the community, and many have drifted into crime. Quite simply, the prison cell has replaced the asylum, the mentally ill have become criminals, prospects have changed little, and the community is a less safe place.

Goughfather
06-09-2004, 01:05 AM
If we consider jail there are various rationales for this punishment: deterence, exclusion from the community/protection of the community, and reform/behavioural modification. But there's also the rationale of just desserts - the idea that a person *deserves* to be punished.

A fairly impressive analysis, Paul. I'll raise a few points from my studies:

i) Deterence, generally speaking, has little effect. It is interesting to note that capital punishment has no effect whatsoever on the rate of crime in the US.

ii) Reform, or rehabilitation had its heyday in the 1960's on the wave of the inherent goodness of humankind posited by the emergent force of secular humanism. "Clockwork Orange" is a case in point. Rates of criminal recidivism suggest that rehabilitation is nothing but a pipe dream.

iii) There is one key rationale for punishment that you haven't mentioned - that of vengeance. To protect the framework of society, criminal law must make a systematic and emphatic statement that certain forms of behaviour are unacceptable. Thus, the role of punishment in this sense is largely symbolic, indicative of the moral consensus of the body corporate. Victims, and the community in general feel entitled to their "pound of flesh". When this pound of flesh is given citizens feel that they can sleep at night, knowing that anti-social behaviour will be punished effectively. Otherwise, faith in the legal system is undermined, eroding an inalienable element of the social fabric.

I feel that this last justification is a necessary evil that must be endured to placate the concerns of society. However, this rationale has the tendency of turning humans into means towards an end, rather than an end in him or herself.

Regards,
Goughfather

Kevin Bonham
06-09-2004, 01:24 AM
Unlike KB, though, I think this is a major crisis.

Actually when I said it was a no-brainer I was talking about how hard the question is, not the issue of dealing with its implications. I will now also argue that the consequences are not really such a major issue either but I want everyone to be very clear about the following: the issue of the consequences of free will for human social institutions like punishment is completely irrelevant to whether "free will" is true.

I am going to divide this into two issues - (i) whether the loss of "just desserts" as a justification for punishment would matter, (ii) whether not having "free will" in the conventional sense means losing "just desserts" as an argument for punishment.

(i)


If the primary function of jails is not to be "just punishment", we'll need to reconsider our sentencing in light of the other rationales. Eg

If the sole aim is exclusion/protection of the community, then dangerous criminals should be held for longer, but their conditions in jail should be much better.

If the aim is reform, then perhaps similar considerations apply. And if it's deterence, then the punishment should be determined by some proper scientific inquiry into what does or does not deter people.

The aim is only any one of these objectives to the exclusion of all others for a very rare doctrinal purist - most of us would agree that deterrence, rehabilitation and protection are all legitimate objectives. I therefore don't see why removing the "just desserts" argument from the list makes much difference to your typical "serious offence" sentence, because these other objectives work at cross purposes anyway. There is also a further objective you've omitted which is relevant - a good justice system cannot be inordinately expensive. So while conditions should be better from a protection of the community viewpoint, from a deterrence viewpoint that might be counterproductive, and it also costs $$$. Ditto for sentence length - from a community protection viewpoint you should lock them up and throw away the key, but that doesn't score very well for "reform" (or, again, cost.) So the loss of "just desserts" from the list isn't likely to make that much difference ... at least, not until there is an instant medical cure for criminal inclination (and no, I don't include execution.) If in the future it becomes as simple as giving a murderer a pill to take and being certain they will never kill again, then maybe the "just desserts" factor will become more important, or maybe community views will just adjust to considering crime as an unfortunate social accident. However, we're nowhere near there yet.


For some crimes with notoriously high recidivism rates, eg paedophilia, we might need to detain indefinitely.

How high are those recidivism rates though? I'd assume they are not 100%, and if there is some prospect for rehabilitation then that's already an argument against an indefinite sentence without needing to bring "just desserts" into it. But even if that argument proved too weak, we sometimes already indefinitely detain some kinds of criminally insane people (though this tendency is abating), even if they don't want to be detained and are capable of living on the outside, and few have problems with that if the patient is murderous enough, even though the detention is in no sense "deserved". So indefinite detention for "incurable criminals" of any kind is not necessarily a big deal.

Something else worth mentioning here is that too harsh a sentence can have a negative deterrence value - often comes up in the death penalty debate.


For other crimes, eg crime-of-passion murder, we might take the view that a) it is unlikely to be repeated; b) it is not "reformable" or "deterable"; and c) that the community is not in further danger ... therefore, no punishment at all?

You would need to be very very sure about (a) and (c). You would also need to be very sure that letting the victim go with a slap on the wrist would not result in a (-)ve deterrence effect for a broader class of the same defence. So I think there's plenty in the non-"just dessert" arguments to justify punishment in these cases.

On to (ii)


And if there's no such thing as free will, then surely there's no such thing as just desserts/personal-moral-blameworthiness (without free will, we might still have some notion of "good behaviour" which we encourage while accepting that on the personal level we're not responsible for our behaviour).

We can still maintain (and enforce) a subjective preference for punishment matching the former "just dessert" standard if we want to. Such a preference would be obviously an echo of the old "just dessert" standard, but that standard has no essential character anyway. For instance, execution was once considered "just desserts" for murder, but many would now disagree and say that a murderer does not "deserve" to be killed. Maintaining such a standard as a subjective preference might result in people sometimes getting lighter or harsher sentences than they would have got based on valid arguments, but that's the offender's problem (or fortune) - they did the crime, they face the consequence.

One thing that is easily ignored here is that if there is no such thing as "moral-blameworthiness" in a crime, there is equally no such thing as "moral-blameworthiness" in a sentence. So if someone can argue that a sentence is not quite optimal from the viewpoint of "rational" justifications, but the sentence is nonetheless in line with "community expectations", then what's the scandal? I think Barry's made a good point about this a few times - that the law isn't there to deliver perfect justice, it's there to maintain social order, and the way to do this is to deliver a close approximation of perfect justice.

Kevin Bonham
06-09-2004, 01:33 AM
iii) There is one key rationale for punishment that you haven't mentioned - that of vengeance. To protect the framework of society, criminal law must make a systematic and emphatic statement that certain forms of behaviour are unacceptable. Thus, the role of punishment in this sense is largely symbolic, indicative of the moral consensus of the body corporate. Victims, and the community in general feel entitled to their "pound of flesh". When this pound of flesh is given citizens feel that they can sleep at night, knowing that anti-social behaviour will be punished effectively. Otherwise, faith in the legal system is undermined, eroding an inalienable element of the social fabric.

Yes, this is yet another potential "justification" I didn't explicitly mention in my response to Paul. Because the perceptions of the public are misinformed to the extent that the "punished effectively" factor doesn't reduce to deterrence, the "faith in the legal system" argument is ultimately a practical one rather than primarily a justice one - but no government is going to appoint judges who push a system of punishment that gets it thrown out of office.

A common error made in discussing the consequences of beliefs is to discuss the consequences of everyone believing it. I often find people making this error in the moral skepticism debate, and the "free will" debate is similar - any disproof of free will is not going to cause belief in free will in the general community to disappear, at least not in a hurry.

paulb
07-09-2004, 09:28 PM
I agree with pretty much all the points about sentencing practice, competing principles etc, and the "vengeance" point, but I think my point stands, even so:

1. The supposed "moral blameworthiness" of a crime is an important factor - perhaps the most important factor - in community expectations of an appropriate sentence/punishment.

2. Judges do sentence in line with community expectations, among other things. (Cf the outrage over Pauline Hanson's supposedly excessive sentence etc)

3. If there is no free will, there is no moral blameworthiness, so sentencing and punishment generally is seriously skewed.

4. By persisting in maintaining a just desserts principle in sentencing, we're doing a serious injustice.

The other points apply equally to non-legal punishments, like shunning, ridicule etc, that we employ in ordinary encounters.

XXX

I agree that there are big problems with deterence and reform ... these generally don't happen. Similarly "exclusion from community/protection of community" is, fairly obviously, rarely the real rationale for sentencing (except for life sentences) ... the point is, as judges well understand, jail tends to make people worse and more dangerous.

All this magnifies the role of "just desserts", which is far more important in practice, I think, than KB suggests.

xxx

In general, too, I think there's a failure to appreciate that if there is no free will, we and our courts are regularly doing *serious* injustices to people. I think that while we like to think jails reform and deter etc, the thing that makes most people cool about restricting liberty in this way is the (false?) belief that the punishment is deserved, rather than merely useful for some end. It's a more serious matter than the tone of some of the posts above would suggest, I suggest.

Incidentally, even though I think no coherent explanation of free will has been put forward, I really hope there is one :)

Kevin Bonham
08-09-2004, 01:10 AM
1. The supposed "moral blameworthiness" of a crime is an important factor - perhaps the most important factor - in community expectations of an appropriate sentence/punishment.

2. Judges do sentence in line with community expectations, among other things. (Cf the outrage over Pauline Hanson's supposedly excessive sentence etc)

That's all fine. If the masses become aware that free will is logically bunkum and change their sentencing expectations (neither of which is likely to happen in a hurry anyway) then judges can observe this change and adjust their sentences accordingly as it happens - so what's the problem?


3. If there is no free will, there is no moral blameworthiness, so sentencing and punishment generally is seriously skewed.

But where does this "seriously skewed" come from? It sounds a lot like a moral condemnation, but if there is no moral blameworthiness as a result of there being no free will, then neither a crime nor its punishment is morally blameworthy. Then we come back to the point that the law is there to ensure civil order through the use of broad impersonal approximate standards - through a veneer of "justice" - and not to enforce anyone's particular conception of "justice" in an absolute and pure sense.

(I would, of course, argue that there is no moral blameworthiness in any objective sense whether there is free will or not.)


4. By persisting in maintaining a just desserts principle in sentencing, we're doing a serious injustice.

Same problem again. If a crime cannot be "unjust" how can a punishment be "unjust" or how is the concept of "injustice" coherent at all except as defined by reference to personal opinion or legal institution?

If what you're saying is that we can end up with punishments that aren't defensible in terms of the remaining aims of punishment, and can show that, then that's fine if you can show that the loss of free will extinguishes "dessert" as a legitimate reason to punish. I still don't believe that it does - a person can jstill have a personal preference for "fairness" or "consistency" that isn't tied to whether they believe in free will or not. I like to see people treated "fairly" even though I am as certain as I can be of anything that any "free will" concept that goes beyond some combination of determinism and/or randomness, is nonsense.


The other points apply equally to non-legal punishments, like shunning, ridicule etc, that we employ in ordinary encounters.

Again the same. If it is not unjust to troll on a bulletin board, it cannot be unjust to flame the troll. :P


I agree that there are big problems with deterence and reform ... these generally don't happen.

I disagree regarding deterrence. You only have to look at the increases in lawless behaviour by "ordinary" people in many situations where the police are unable to do their jobs (eg looting during riots and natural disasters) to see that the fear of prosecution has a massive everyday effect in keeping nearly all of us inside the ropes. The debate about deterrence in the case of capital punishment is largely about whether it deters any better than prison (apparently, it doesn't, FWIW.)

As for reform, this is actually one reason why lenient sentences and mediation (even where these lenient sentences offend against community expectation) are being increasingly preferred over chucking people in jail for first offences.


Similarly "exclusion from community/protection of community" is, fairly obviously, rarely the real rationale for sentencing (except for life sentences) ... the point is, as judges well understand, jail tends to make people worse and more dangerous.

I think Goughfather was on the money when he referred to the sleep-at-night factor. The community expectation of security might lead to people being thrown in jail in counterproductive cases like the one above anyway, irrespective of the "just desserts" factor.

The conventional philosophical formulation of "just desserts" came from good old Immanuel Kant with his categorical imperative rubbish and his eye-for-an-eye retributivism. There is barely one single trace of that left in our present justice system in Australia. How can you say what sort of prison term a murderer "deserves" using reason alone, for instance?

firegoat7
09-09-2004, 09:55 PM
Free will is one philosophical problem that really does matter, since around the world people are punished for supposed evil - some are locked in jail, others are shunned, others are killed or hurt etc.
If we consider jail there are various rationales for this punishment: deterence, exclusion from the community/protection of the community, and reform/behavioural modification. But there's also the rationale of just desserts - the idea that a person *deserves* to be punished. And if there's no such thing as free will, then surely there's no such thing as just desserts/personal-moral-blameworthiness (without free will, we might still have some notion of "good behaviour" which we encourage while accepting that on the personal level we're not responsible for our behaviour).

So it's very likely that, eg, jail sentences determined, or substantially determined, on the basis of "just desserts" are quite unfair.

If the primary function of jails is not to be "just punishment", we'll need to reconsider our sentencing in light of the other rationales. Eg

If the sole aim is exclusion/protection of the community, then dangerous criminals should be held for longer, but their conditions in jail should be much better.

If the aim is reform, then perhaps similar considerations apply. And if it's deterence, then the punishment should be determined by some proper scientific inquiry into what does or does not deter people.

For some crimes with notoriously high recidivism rates, eg paedophilia, we might need to detain indefinitely.

For other crimes, eg crime-of-passion murder, we might take the view that a) it is unlikely to be repeated; b) it is not "reformable" or "deterable"; and c) that the community is not in further danger ... therefore, no punishment at all?

These suggestions are all debatable, of course, but I think it's pretty clear that the whole system of punishment needs a major rethink if there's no free will.

It also applies on the personal level - how we behave towards someone who has "behaved badly".

What does this post have to do with determinism vs free will? I struggle to find the connection. Surely it matters little if either is true when dealing with moral debates about who should and should not be excluded/included within society.

firegoat7
09-09-2004, 10:24 PM
Actually when I said it was a no-brainer I was talking about how hard the question is, not the issue of dealing with its implications. I will now also argue that the consequences are not really such a major issue either but I want everyone to be very clear about the following: the issue of the consequences of free will for human social institutions like punishment is completely irrelevant to whether "free will" is true.

I am going to divide this into two issues - (i) whether the loss of "just desserts" as a justification for punishment would matter, (ii) whether not having "free will" in the conventional sense means losing "just desserts" as an argument for punishment. So why engage in PaulBs redirection in this thread? and then why not create a new thread rather then agree with the hijacking, could it be this is a hobby horse you like (most probably), or is it you just don't want to criticise PaulB in anyway.


I think Barry's made a good point about this a few times - that the law isn't there to deliver perfect justice, it's there to maintain social order, and the way to do this is to deliver a close approximation of perfect justice. Of course birds of a feather flock together. Typical bougeoisie, talk as if social order is maintained by the law, when in reality the law maintains social disorder. Perfect justice?? give me a break, I know news travels slowly to Tasmania, but I didn't realise it was stuck in the 1950's. But hey! there are no legal indigenous people in the state Tasmania are there?

Cheers FG7

Rincewind
09-09-2004, 10:43 PM
Of course birds of a feather flock together. Typical bougeoisie, talk as if social order is maintained by the law, when in reality the law maintains social disorder. Perfect justice?? give me a break, I know news travels slowly to Tasmania, but I didn't realise it was stuck in the 1950's. But hey! there are no legal indigenous people in the state Tasmania are there?

Typical post from our socialist in residence. However, you should try to avoid throwing around words you don't understand and can't spell. Or have you had a little too much champagne tonight? ;)

Kevin Bonham
09-09-2004, 11:10 PM
So why engage in PaulBs redirection in this thread? and then why not create a new thread rather then agree with the hijacking, could it be this is a hobby horse you like (most probably), or is it you just don't want to criticise PaulB in anyway.

It was reasonably close to the original topic and more interesting than it because the original topic is a no-brainer. Just normal thread-drift really.


Of course birds of a feather flock together. Typical bougeoisie, talk as if social order is maintained by the law, when in reality the law maintains social disorder.

This is the problem I have with anarchists (I'm not sure if you are one or not). They cannot understand what to me is bleeding obvious - if you abolish the State it comes back. The State is simply like a company (for right-wing anarchists) or dodgy collective (for the left version) that has a near-monopoly on the use of force.

Empirically I'd suggest your statement above is false, but feel free to convince me otherwise. Probably the word you are looking for to make it work is not "disorder" but something totally different.


Perfect justice?? give me a break,

I did. I explicitly ruled it out. :lol:


I know news travels slowly to Tasmania, but I didn't realise it was stuck in the 1950's. But hey! there are no legal indigenous people in the state Tasmania are there?

Utter nonsense, there are thousands - but none of them are full-blood, except those from mainland stock.

firegoat7
10-09-2004, 10:38 AM
Typical post from our socialist in residence. However, you should try to avoid throwing around words you don't understand and can't spell. Or have you had a little too much champagne tonight? ;)

Yes I don't use a spell checker.
No I am not your resident socialist, although pigs like u often like to define 'others'.
Yes I should try to avoid mis-spelling words.
I often mispell words like , bourgeois, perhaps, and consciousness.
Spelling a word wrong does not mean you misunderstand/understand it.
Derrida shows that language is a tool of the boo-gwa-zee.
Derrida also shows that 2 understand a word, an individual is not bound by tyranny of text rules.
You understood what 'bougeoisie' meant- so what is the claim of your pathetic arguement?
I don't drink champagne
You still understand little about the boo-gwa-zee if you equate personal drink choices to its implications.
It seems you still haven't progressed past the wiggles musically, and you havent progressed past spelling and meaning differentials intellectually.

Cheers FG7

P.S your class analysis is a joke!

Rincewind
10-09-2004, 12:12 PM
Yes I don't use a spell checker.
No I am not your resident socialist, although pigs like u often like to define 'others'.
Yes I should try to avoid mis-spelling words.
I often mispell words like , bourgeois, perhaps, and consciousness.
Spelling a word wrong does not mean you misunderstand/understand it.
Derrida shows that language is a tool of the boo-gwa-zee.
Derrida also shows that 2 understand a word, an individual is not bound by tyranny of text rules.
You understood what 'bougeoisie' meant- so what is the claim of your pathetic arguement?
I don't drink champagne
You still understand little about the boo-gwa-zee if you equate personal drink choices to its implications.
It seems you still haven't progressed past the wiggles musically, and you havent progressed past spelling and meaning differentials intellectually.

There is no denying the impact of language: the carefully selected phrase; the metaphor which nails the argument; the impressive word which makes it sound like you know what you're talking about. I was simply pointing out that this impact is lessened considerably when the delivery is sloppy.

Still, chin up, there is room for improvement - in your case, lots of room. So have another sip of champagne and once more into the breech!

However, my advice is stick to what you know. The Aust Masters tournament this year was, by most accounts, admirably run. :clap:

(PS I'm not obsessed with spelling nor do I regularly use a spell checker as an analysis of my posts will reveal.)

PHAT
10-09-2004, 12:25 PM
I was simply pointing out that this impact is lessened considerably when the delivery is sloppy.

What will my rating be if a stick out my little pinky when I pick-up and place my pieces?

Rincewind
10-09-2004, 12:36 PM
What will my rating be if a stick out my little pinky when I pick-up and place my pieces?

It's not the way that you hold the pieces that matters, it's the squares that you are placing them on.

If in the case of Dave, he is placing his pieces so that they straddle several squares. This is a common tactic of Blitz wizards. I'm just politely asking him to correct the board - on his time. ;)

arosar
10-09-2004, 01:00 PM
Derrida shows that language is a tool of the boo-gwa-zee.
Derrida also shows that 2 understand a word, an individual is not bound by tyranny of text rules.

Wow! You read Derrida?

In the French or in the impenetrable English?

AR

paulb
13-09-2004, 12:59 PM
That's all fine. If the masses become aware that free will is logically bunkum and change their sentencing expectations (neither of which is likely to happen in a hurry anyway) then judges can observe this change and adjust their sentences accordingly as it happens - so what's the problem?



But where does this "seriously skewed" come from? It sounds a lot like a moral condemnation, but if there is no moral blameworthiness as a result of there being no free will, then neither a crime nor its punishment is morally blameworthy. Then we come back to the point that the law is there to ensure civil order through the use of broad impersonal approximate standards - through a veneer of "justice" - and not to enforce anyone's particular conception of "justice" in an absolute and pure sense.

(I would, of course, argue that there is no moral blameworthiness in any objective sense whether there is free will or not.)



Same problem again. If a crime cannot be "unjust" how can a punishment be "unjust" or how is the concept of "injustice" coherent at all except as defined by reference to personal opinion or legal institution?

If what you're saying is that we can end up with punishments that aren't defensible in terms of the remaining aims of punishment, and can show that, then that's fine if you can show that the loss of free will extinguishes "dessert" as a legitimate reason to punish. I still don't believe that it does - a person can jstill have a personal preference for "fairness" or "consistency" that isn't tied to whether they believe in free will or not. I like to see people treated "fairly" even though I am as certain as I can be of anything that any "free will" concept that goes beyond some combination of determinism and/or randomness, is nonsense.



Again the same. If it is not unjust to troll on a bulletin board, it cannot be unjust to flame the troll. :P



I disagree regarding deterrence. You only have to look at the increases in lawless behaviour by "ordinary" people in many situations where the police are unable to do their jobs (eg looting during riots and natural disasters) to see that the fear of prosecution has a massive everyday effect in keeping nearly all of us inside the ropes. The debate about deterrence in the case of capital punishment is largely about whether it deters any better than prison (apparently, it doesn't, FWIW.)

As for reform, this is actually one reason why lenient sentences and mediation (even where these lenient sentences offend against community expectation) are being increasingly preferred over chucking people in jail for first offences.



I think Goughfather was on the money when he referred to the sleep-at-night factor. The community expectation of security might lead to people being thrown in jail in counterproductive cases like the one above anyway, irrespective of the "just desserts" factor.

The conventional philosophical formulation of "just desserts" came from good old Immanuel Kant with his categorical imperative rubbish and his eye-for-an-eye retributivism. There is barely one single trace of that left in our present justice system in Australia. How can you say what sort of prison term a murderer "deserves" using reason alone, for instance?

xxx

There's a major misunderstanding in all this (in, eg, " if there is no moral blameworthiness as a result of there being no free will, then neither a crime nor its punishment is morally blameworthy" ... or ... "so what's the problem?").

Even if *people* are not responsible for their actions, it does not follow that *actions* themselves are neither right nor wrong, nor that *outcomes* are not better or worse. I can well believe (as I do) that the basic, universal moral imperative is the alleviation of unnecessary suffering - that it is good to reduce suffering - yet also believe that people are mechanistic in the relevant sense. it remains true that to lock someone up for 20 years *in appalling conditions* in jail, when they were unable to act otherwise (in the critical sense), is morally wrong.

(note that my point is that even if we are abandoning the "just desserts" principle, if we lock someone up for reasons other than punishment/just desserts - eg, to protect the community - then we would need to change the conditions of detention from "punitive" to "comfortable". this is an example of how the justice system is at odds with morality if free will/responsibility does not exist).

(It's interesting to note also that even if free will is false, for most people the belief that "X is good/right" has a tendency - other things being equal - to encourage X-type behaviour. Purely deterministically, perhaps, of course. The absence of free will does not preclude or discourage moral debate/education etc)

xxx

I think your "amoralism" (choose your preferred term ... your position does not seem to be relativist or subjectivist) is surfacing here. It's not simply a matter of judges lining up with community expectations. It's not just a game of arbitrary rules.

eg

"if you can show that the loss of free will extinguishes "dessert" as a legitimate reason to punish"

is outrageous to my ears.

Again, I don't see this as a matter of arbitrary rules ... I don't think the fact
someone "likes" fairness as having anything to do with morality. (just as the fact that KB might "like" unfairness is irrelevant).

I find your tendency to engage in "moral" debate when you regard moral principles as _ what? arbitrary? a matter of personal preference? a matter of convention? _ bizarre at best, and perverse, deceptive and dishonest at worst.

(It's a bit like one player (moralist) sitting down to what he thinks is a serious game of chess against another (amoralist) who is playing a type of (eg) suicide chess. They're both making "legal" moves, but they're not playing the same game! More to the point, of course, morality is not a game. Locking up someone for 20 years is not a game.)

xxx

On Kant: I'm not relying on any Kantian notion of just desserts. I'm relying on the ordinary notions of "bad people deserving punishment".

xxx

On deterrence:

"the fear of prosecution has a massive everyday effect in keeping nearly all of us inside the ropes" ... I actually strongly agree with this, and was going to make much the same point in another context myself. The system of law and jails and punishment does tend to produce law-abiding citizens. However, it seems not to have much effect on "existing offenders" ... those (usually poor) people who already break laws are not much deterred by the threat of jail.

PHAT
13-09-2004, 04:21 PM
I find your [KB] tendency to engage in "moral" debate when you regard moral principles as _ what? arbitrary? a matter of personal preference? a matter of convention? _ bizarre at best, and perverse, deceptive and dishonest at worst.


:lol: I have been on about KB's "stance" in many a flame war. I think he picks an ethos according to his behaviour rather than molding his behaviour to fit an ethos. He appears to you PB, as amoral, because he actually is amoral. My advice, don't trust the bastard in any discussion - he shifts the goal posts to where ever he has kicked the ball.

Kevin Bonham
13-09-2004, 11:00 PM
There's a major misunderstanding in all this (in, eg, " if there is no moral blameworthiness as a result of there being no free will, then neither a crime nor its punishment is morally blameworthy" ... or ... "so what's the problem?").

Even if *people* are not responsible for their actions, it does not follow that *actions* themselves are neither right nor wrong, nor that *outcomes* are not better or worse. I can well believe (as I do) that the basic, universal moral imperative is the alleviation of unnecessary suffering - that it is good to reduce suffering - yet also believe that people are mechanistic in the relevant sense. it remains true that to lock someone up for 20 years *in appalling conditions* in jail, when they were unable to act otherwise (in the critical sense), is morally wrong.

Of course I don't agree that there is a basic, universal moral imperative, let alone that you have found it, and if there was one I don't believe it would be the "alleviation of unnecessary suffering" anyway. Maybe we should explore that on a different thread because it's hard for me to comment without knowing what suffering you consider "necessary".

That aside, I have no problem with the above.


(note that my point is that even if we are abandoning the "just desserts" principle, if we lock someone up for reasons other than punishment/just desserts - eg, to protect the community - then we would need to change the conditions of detention from "punitive" to "comfortable". this is an example of how the justice system is at odds with morality if free will/responsibility does not exist).

I thought we'd been through this before. Some of the other reasons for locking people up point to more comfortable conditions, others do not. For instance it would surprise me if more comfortable conditions were more effective deterrents against repeat offence than more punitive ones - do you have any evidence that this is so?


(It's interesting to note also that even if free will is false, for most people the belief that "X is good/right" has a tendency - other things being equal - to encourage X-type behaviour. Purely deterministically, perhaps, of course. The absence of free will does not preclude or discourage moral debate/education etc)

Agreed - indeed the absence of objective morality doesn't preclude it either.


I think your "amoralism" (choose your preferred term ... your position does not seem to be relativist or subjectivist) is surfacing here.

My position certainly isn't relativist but why doesn't it seem subjectivist? In this case my motive wasn't to express a personal preference for or against judges carrying out sentences based on "just dessert"; indeed my personal preference is that they not do this, all other things being equal, I would like to see a more rational system of punishments rather than an inefficient one that goes chasing philosophical ghosts.

Rather, my reason for debating it was simply that I have a comfortable attitude to these so-called philosophical crises and enjoy attempting to show that for practical purposes their impact is easily overstated.


It's not simply a matter of judges lining up with community expectations. It's not just a game of arbitrary rules.

Read Goughfather's post again - it looks to me like you totally missed his point. He was arguing that sometimes the system has to line up with expectations to maintain the public confidence that system needs to survive in the real political world.


eg

"if you can show that the loss of free will extinguishes "dessert" as a legitimate reason to punish"

is outrageous to my ears.

Can't see why. If you want to convince me that free will/"dessert" is a major philosophical problem then that's a logical barrier you have to get over and it's perfectly reasonable for me to say that. I actually think your top para goes a fair way towards doing that - however it does it from a moral perspective I don't share. Whereas you would say that punishment based on "dessert" is "wrong", I would say that it is arbitrary and unnecessary, all other things being equal, and that I'd prefer it be avoided.


Again, I don't see this as a matter of arbitrary rules ... I don't think the fact someone "likes" fairness as having anything to do with morality. (just as the fact that KB might "like" unfairness is irrelevant).

Now you're missing my point. We were discussing whether the loss of free will is a major crisis in punishment. Now, to me, the philosophical issue is a no-brainer (it's not, because there are no objective morals either way, therefore it makes no difference) but it is interesting as an empirical issue, eg what are the consequences for society of this belief becoming known?. That was the perspective from which many of my comments came.


I find your tendency to engage in "moral" debate when you regard moral principles as _ what? arbitrary? a matter of personal preference? a matter of convention? _ bizarre at best, and perverse, deceptive and dishonest at worst.

We've been through this before, but this view is logically ridiculous. To show you how ridiculous it is, let's imagine we were talking about music:


I find your tendency to discuss your musical preferences when you regard musical taste as _ what? arbitrary? a matter of personal preference? a matter of convention? _ bizarre at best, and perverse, deceptive and dishonest at worst

What you're saying is that if I don't believe morality is objective, then I cannot credibly say what actions I do or do not prefer, I cannot credibly comment on the logical consequences of different moral arguments, and I should in fact say nothing on any moral issue. This is really a complete joke because the one who is struggling for credibility is the objectivist, clinging to a principle that has been gasping for philosophical air for 230 years, while numerous famous philosophers of the 20th C pursued all kinds of social action and justice campaigns alongside their expression of essentially subjectivist positions.

(The correct answer is both "arbitrary" and "a matter of personal preference", by the way, although those preferences are often matters of convention too.)


(It's a bit like one player (moralist) sitting down to what he thinks is a serious game of chess against another (amoralist) who is playing a type of (eg) suicide chess. They're both making "legal" moves, but they're not playing the same game! More to the point, of course, morality is not a game. Locking up someone for 20 years is not a game.)

Actually a more accurate analogy would be that both players are playing the same game but the objectivist read too much Staunton and thinks Nimzowitch was an evil anti-chess patzer while Watson's "rule independence" isn't even chess. The game is public commentary about human action. It can be done from objective and subjective positions. The subjectivist has to eventually take a "take it or leave it" approach, the objectivst tries for more but does so using arguments that are fatally flawed.

Also see my comments above about how I am also addressing the empirical question of the impact of the idea in my comments.


On Kant: I'm not relying on any Kantian notion of just desserts. I'm relying on the ordinary notions of "bad people deserving punishment".

Which come from where? Why do people believe this? Or, more pertinently, why do people believe that bad people deserve specific punishments - why is it no longer "an eye for an eye"?

Kevin Bonham
13-09-2004, 11:01 PM
:lol: I have been on about KB's "stance" in many a flame war. I think he picks an ethos according to his behaviour rather than molding his behaviour to fit an ethos. He appears to you PB, as amoral, because he actually is amoral. My advice, don't trust the bastard in any discussion - he shifts the goal posts to where ever he has kicked the ball.

This is an obvious attempt to bait me into a typical MS/KB flamewar to wreck the thread. If you want me to take your pathetic little previously refuted bait, then post it somewhere else. :hand:

PHAT
13-09-2004, 11:32 PM
Rather, my reason for debating it was simply that I have a comfortable attitude to these so-called philosophical crises and enjoy attempting to show that for practical purposes their impact is easily overstated. [bold by MS]


You let that slip out, eh.

This whole thread is just a game to you. You realy don't care about concencus and the progress that agreement lubricates. When you decide to find a solution, rather than find problems of definitions that produce problems of definitions that uncover problems in definitions ... then you will be worth talking to. Until then, practical people would do well to avoid your never endering convoluted word games.

For once I would like to see you declare yourself as pro or anti XYZ and defend the position. But you cannot, because all your arguments come back to your prefences and not your person standards - because you have no standards, you are amoral.

PHAT
13-09-2004, 11:47 PM
The game is public commentary about human action. It can be done from objective and subjective positions. The subjectivist has to eventually take a "take it or leave it" approach, the objectivst tries for more but does so using arguments that are fatally flawed.

Fatally flawed? Surely you jest. An objectivist may try to make decissions on what is logically insufficient information. In doing so, he at least makes a decission and moves forward. That is not being "fatally flawed. " in fact, it is called being viable.

Un fortunately for you, you cannot take an objective position because all your positions are based on something utterly subjective - you personal preference.

Try this: A "life sentence" should/should not be until death.

There. A nice simple question. Have a go. Let's see if you [can] make a decission and argue it. :cool:

Kevin Bonham
14-09-2004, 04:15 AM
You let that slip out, eh.

This whole thread is just a game to you.

Incorrect, although I do enjoy the debate as well.

I genuinely do believe that the harmful consequences of different philosophical views have often been exaggerated through the ages. This causes pointless alarm to which I am opposed.


You realy don't care about concencus and the progress that agreement lubricates.

Consensus for its own sake has no benefit and is probably harmful. Consensus around a position that has been clearly established as correct is a good thing - arguing an indefensible case for the point of disagreeing is stupid.


When you decide to find a solution

To what?


, rather than find problems of definitions that produce problems of definitions that uncover problems in definitions ... then you will be worth talking to. Until then, practical people would do well to avoid your never endering convoluted word games.

Ironic you should make that up, given that in the debate with Paul, I've been the one whose discussion has been most empirically focused.


For once I would like to see you declare yourself as pro or anti XYZ and defend the position. But you cannot, because all your arguments come back to your prefences and not your person standards - because you have no standards, you are amoral.

I declared myself opposed to the idea of free will at the start of this thread and defended that position.

A standard (in the context of my views and probably any other non-objective views as well) is nothing more than a consistent preference that exists within a coherent system and contains no arbitrary discriminations, so the rest of your quote above is nonsense.

If you want me to defend my position using objective morality style arguments but cannot prove that morality is objective then you are committing a category error.


Fatally flawed? Surely you jest. An objectivist may try to make decissions on what is logically insufficient information.

It is only "logically insufficient information" if you swallow the objectivist premise that there is a single objective standard to begin with. There is no logical reason to do this.


In doing so, he at least makes a decission and moves forward. That is not being "fatally flawed. " in fact, it is called being viable.

Only by you. Subjectivism poses no barriers to taking positions on real world issues and acting on them, if an individual is inclined to do so, as many are.

(Please don't fall into the obvious trap here.)

paulb
15-09-2004, 12:49 PM
Of course I don't agree that there is a basic, universal moral imperative, let alone that you have found it, and if there was one I don't believe it would be the "alleviation of unnecessary suffering" anyway. Maybe we should explore that on a different thread because it's hard for me to comment without knowing what suffering you consider "necessary".

That aside, I have no problem with the above.



I thought we'd been through this before. Some of the other reasons for locking people up point to more comfortable conditions, others do not. For instance it would surprise me if more comfortable conditions were more effective deterrents against repeat offence than more punitive ones - do you have any evidence that this is so?



Agreed - indeed the absence of objective morality doesn't preclude it either.



My position certainly isn't relativist but why doesn't it seem subjectivist? In this case my motive wasn't to express a personal preference for or against judges carrying out sentences based on "just dessert"; indeed my personal preference is that they not do this, all other things being equal, I would like to see a more rational system of punishments rather than an inefficient one that goes chasing philosophical ghosts.

Rather, my reason for debating it was simply that I have a comfortable attitude to these so-called philosophical crises and enjoy attempting to show that for practical purposes their impact is easily overstated.



Read Goughfather's post again - it looks to me like you totally missed his point. He was arguing that sometimes the system has to line up with expectations to maintain the public confidence that system needs to survive in the real political world.



Can't see why. If you want to convince me that free will/"dessert" is a major philosophical problem then that's a logical barrier you have to get over and it's perfectly reasonable for me to say that. I actually think your top para goes a fair way towards doing that - however it does it from a moral perspective I don't share. Whereas you would say that punishment based on "dessert" is "wrong", I would say that it is arbitrary and unnecessary, all other things being equal, and that I'd prefer it be avoided.



Now you're missing my point. We were discussing whether the loss of free will is a major crisis in punishment. Now, to me, the philosophical issue is a no-brainer (it's not, because there are no objective morals either way, therefore it makes no difference) but it is interesting as an empirical issue, eg what are the consequences for society of this belief becoming known?. That was the perspective from which many of my comments came.



We've been through this before, but this view is logically ridiculous. To show you how ridiculous it is, let's imagine we were talking about music:



What you're saying is that if I don't believe morality is objective, then I cannot credibly say what actions I do or do not prefer, I cannot credibly comment on the logical consequences of different moral arguments, and I should in fact say nothing on any moral issue. This is really a complete joke because the one who is struggling for credibility is the objectivist, clinging to a principle that has been gasping for philosophical air for 230 years, while numerous famous philosophers of the 20th C pursued all kinds of social action and justice campaigns alongside their expression of essentially subjectivist positions.

(The correct answer is both "arbitrary" and "a matter of personal preference", by the way, although those preferences are often matters of convention too.)



Actually a more accurate analogy would be that both players are playing the same game but the objectivist read too much Staunton and thinks Nimzowitch was an evil anti-chess patzer while Watson's "rule independence" isn't even chess. The game is public commentary about human action. It can be done from objective and subjective positions. The subjectivist has to eventually take a "take it or leave it" approach, the objectivst tries for more but does so using arguments that are fatally flawed.

Also see my comments above about how I am also addressing the empirical question of the impact of the idea in my comments.



Which come from where? Why do people believe this? Or, more pertinently, why do people believe that bad people deserve specific punishments - why is it no longer "an eye for an eye"?

KB: "What you're saying is that if I don't believe morality is objective, then I cannot credibly say what actions I do or do not prefer, I cannot credibly comment on the logical consequences of different moral arguments, and I should in fact say nothing on any moral issue..."

Of course you can say what you prefer; you can comment on logical consequences (and thereby merely reveal your preference for logical consistency); but - no - you should not say anything about a "moral" issue without making it explicit that you're playing a different game to the rest of us.

Most people who debate "moral" issues do so because they believe there is a correct answer (or, perhaps, better/worse answers); they believe there is a fact of the matter about what is the right/best way to behave in a given situation; that it's important to know this; and that's why they passionately debate these issues.

They do not regard such questions as matters of taste. The fact that I prefer chocolate to vanilla, or like wearing brown suits, or prefer mass-slaughter to peaceful co-existence, is all very interesting ... but what has it got to do with morality?

My point is that if you really believe that morality is just a matter of opinion, like preferring chocolate to vanilla, then why bother telling us your opinion? Or, better: why do you think it's so important to tell us your tastes in morality, and not your tastes in food?

And if morality is just a matter of opinion, why should we be interested in KB's opinions on this, rather than, say, Charles Manson's or Hitler's? By your lights, all such opinions - in fact, all moral remarks - are on the same, utterly idiosyncratic, utterly trivial level.

xxxxx

KB: "This is really a complete joke because the one who is struggling for credibility is the objectivist, clinging to a principle that has been gasping for philosophical air for 230 years, while numerous famous philosophers of the 20th C pursued all kinds of social action and justice campaigns alongside their expression of essentially subjectivist positions."

Which philosophers are these? The only explicitly subjectivist philosophers who engaged in political campaigns in the 20th Century, that I'm aware of, were the existentialists like Sartre - and a great deal of his writing concerns the existential "angst" over the very fact that there was such an obvious contradiction between a) believing that your moral views are not grounded in anything other than personal taste; and b) having the temerity to propogate and promote those utterly idiosyncratic views. (To put the matter in absurd relief, we'd think it strange to encounter someone who went around trying to convince us that we should prefer chocolate to vanilla, simply because he or she liked chocolate).

On the other hand, activist "philosophers" like Ghandi or Martin Luther King clearly were not subjectivists. Did Ghandi believe that the oppressive caste system, or oppressive British rule in India, were simply matters of taste? Did he construe his campaign as simply an attempt to impose his idiosyncratic tastes on a country? Did Ghandi or King think that "whether people should be treated equally or not" was the sort of question that reasonable people might have different opinions about? I don't think so.

xxx

I take it that your overall argument is that different considerations pull in different directions regarding sentencing, so the falsity of one consideration - that people are free agents and deserve to be punished for wrongdoing - does not necessarily show that we won't arrive at similar sentencing decisions once we abandon that principle.

I think that's unlikely to be true overall, though it may be in particular cases. And even if it were generally true, it would not avert the crisis I refer to: I think most people would find it deeply disuieting to think we're locking blameless people up in appalling conditions for extended periods, even if
considerations of assuaging the public's need for vengeance, or protecting the community, etc, support the decision. The notion of just desserts plays a bigger role in the moral justification of detention (and, more generally, in the justification of social punishments such as shunning) than the others do, because it renders the punishments "just" rather than merely convenient.

Please don't accuse me of having a justice fetish here. I'm not by nature a "punisher"; I'm a turn-the-other-cheek kinda guy, and I'm perfectly happy for crimes to go unpunished in general if serious problems are not thereby created. (Likewise, my usually-misinterpreted insistence that Palestinians deserve justice - rather than an unjust peace - is likewise not some sort of eye-for-an-eye fetish; it's rather an attempt to combat persistent attempts by sleepy conservatives to deny or diminish or ignore the extent of the Palestinian suffering).

... As I say, the issue - the crisis - is not about a lack of justice in some eye-for-an-eye sense, but rather the fact that we're inflicting almighty suffering (unjustly ... and perhaps unnecessarily) ... some poor bugger's rotting away in jail for god knows how long even though they are not to blame for the crime ... that's the crisis.

xxxxx

Your remarks - and your overall project to deny that there's any real problem here and elsewhere - seem to indicate an indifference to this suffering. I suspect that connects with your subjectivism/amoralism, which is why I'm at such pains to denounce it. Moral issues are a matter of feeling as well as thinking ... and it seems to me your subjectivism/amoralism, your overall conservative bent, and perhaps your unemotional scientific training, blind you to this.

Kevin Bonham
15-09-2004, 06:33 PM
Of course you can say what you prefer; you can comment on logical consequences (and thereby merely reveal your preference for logical consistency);

Actually although that follows in my case, it doesn't necessarily follow - a subjectivist who comments on logical consequences could be doing it for any reason; it doesn't mean that subjectivist espouses "consistency" in personal actions.


but - no - you should not say anything about a "moral" issue without making it explicit that you're playing a different game to the rest of us.

What's the problem then - I've made it explicit on this board numerous times before. If you want me to do it every single time I'll put it in my .sig file if I have to. :rolleyes: Obviously I'm not going to do it in things like letters to the editor where to do so would severely disadvantage my chances of being heard - if people are silly enough to throw moral language around without knowing a thing about moral philosophy then that's their problem.


Most people who debate "moral" issues do so because they believe there is a correct answer (or, perhaps, better/worse answers); they believe there is a fact of the matter about what is the right/best way to behave in a given situation; that it's important to know this; and that's why they passionately debate these issues.

However that view is out of step with much of moral philosophy for at least the last century (note here that I am including the Continental tradition in which objectivism is very close to stone cold dead), so they may as well get used to the fact that not everyone goes about it in that way. I'm not going to bow and scrape to the conventions and assumptions of beliefs that I consider bogus.


They do not regard such questions as matters of taste. The fact that I prefer chocolate to vanilla, or like wearing brown suits, or prefer mass-slaughter to peaceful co-existence, is all very interesting ... but what has it got to do with morality?

That question assumes that you are right. Of course from my perspective they are all instances of preference, but some are stronger than others.


My point is that if you really believe that morality is just a matter of opinion, like preferring chocolate to vanilla, then why bother telling us your opinion?Or, better: why do you think it's so important to tell us your tastes in morality, and not your tastes in food?

No one's started a food thread. :lol:
To me, politics is rather more subjectively important than music or food, and moral discussions frequently have political implications. However, there are others for whom music would be more important than morality (perhaps Nietzsche would be an example.) You can't assume that just because most people feel more strongly about one issue than another that that issue is any more "objective".


And if morality is just a matter of opinion, why should we be interested in KB's opinions on this, rather than, say, Charles Manson's or Hitler's? By your lights, all such opinions - in fact, all moral remarks - are on the same, utterly idiosyncratic, utterly trivial level.

That is like assuming musical taste is subjective and then saying that all musical opinion is utterly idiosyncratic and trivial and that the word of a critic who studies music all his life is no more significant than a 12 year old saying "I like Britney because all my friends do." The reality is that subjectivism is not a barrier to intelligent and weighty debate about the consequences and consistencies of different personal standards and political or judicial principles.

As for why you should be interested in my opinions, maybe you're not, but that question was disposed of by Habermas who referred to a concept of "intersubjectivity". The idea is that even if morality is subjective and different people have very different moral perspectives and standards, people can still convince each other by using arguments that happen to be based on a standard the other person happens to subjectively share. It is only when the standards and principles of two people have no points in common that communication between them about ethical issues becomes impossible. So the answer to your question is that despite our differences over whether morality is objective or subjective, your general framework for thinking about these issues probably has more points in common, through which dialogue can proceed, with mine than either of ours do with Hitler's or Charlie Manson's.


Which philosophers are these? The only explicitly subjectivist philosophers who engaged in political campaigns in the 20th Century, that I'm aware of, were the existentialists like Sartre

... and the so-called "postmodernists" as well, though I suspect you're not too much up to speed with Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze and all those guys. But more importantly, what about Bertrand Russell, who was very activist and wrote the following (in "The Problem Of Natural Evil"):

Question as to "values" - that is to say, as to what is good or bad on its own account, independently of its effects - lie outside the domain of science, as the defenders of religion emphatically assert. I think that in this they are right, but I draw the further conclusion, which they do not draw, that questions as to "values" lie wholly outside the domain of knowledge. That is to say, when we assert that this or that has "value," we are giving expression to our own emotions, not to a fact which would still be true if our personal feelings were different.

Much as Russell waffled about the issue, this leads inescapably to subjectivism. Indeed many of the whole log. pos. crowd were explicitly or implicitly subjectivist, yet you still react as if subjectivism is some kind of radical fringe view hardly anyone has heard of.


- and a great deal of his writing concerns the existential "angst" over the very fact that there was such an obvious contradiction between a) believing that your moral views are not grounded in anything other than personal taste; and b) having the temerity to propogate and promote those utterly idiosyncratic views.

Yes but just because JPS felt existential angst over it does not mean that anyone else has to, nor that this so-called "contradiction" actually exists.


(To put the matter in absurd relief, we'd think it strange to encounter someone who went around trying to convince us that we should prefer chocolate to vanilla, simply because he or she liked chocolate).

But in the area of musical taste, which was the other example I've been using, I frequently do encounter people who try to argue that musical taste is objective. I suspect there would also be food critics who would try to argue that a $70 a plate dish in a suitably fancy restaurant simply is better food than fish and chips from the corner store, and that anyone who disagreed was simply wrong. It is a function of level of care; when people care enough about something subjective they will often try to convince others that it is the only way to go. Few people care that much about the difference between chocolate and vanilla.


On the other hand, activist "philosophers" like Ghandi or Martin Luther King clearly were not subjectivists. Did Ghandi believe that the oppressive caste system, or oppressive British rule in India, were simply matters of taste? Did he construe his campaign as simply an attempt to impose his idiosyncratic tastes on a country? Did Ghandi or King think that "whether people should be treated equally or not" was the sort of question that reasonable people might have different opinions about? I don't think so.

But these guys were not philosophers who dabbled as activists, they were activists who dabbled as philosophers. You'd be better off using, say, Peter Singer, as your example. And I'm not keen on your use of "idiosyncratic" - it's a word that also carries connotations of eccentricity, uniqueness, oddness ... when the reality is that many subjectivists have very unremarkable ethical beliefs but just happen to consider these beliefs subjective and not objective.


I take it that your overall argument is that different considerations pull in different directions regarding sentencing, so the falsity of one consideration - that people are free agents and deserve to be punished for wrongdoing - does not necessarily show that we won't arrive at similar sentencing decisions once we abandon that principle.

Correct. I await any evidence to the contrary.


I think that's unlikely to be true overall, though it may be in particular cases. And even if it were generally true, it would not avert the crisis I refer to: I think most people would find it deeply disuieting to think we're locking blameless people up in appalling conditions for extended periods, even if
considerations of assuaging the public's need for vengeance, or protecting the community, etc, support the decision.

I greatly doubt that most of them would lose a moment's sleep over it. For instance, in this country, most people vote for political parties that see nothing wrong with locking another sort of blameless people (refugees) up in appalling conditions for extended periods even where the considerations mentioned above are far, far weaker.

In any case, you still have to convince me that "most people" will ever consider that "just desserts" is dead, even if it is dead philosophically. Most people in Australia still believe that the all-powerful all-knowing all-good Christian God is alive and kicking, and he's not been seen intact in philosophy or science for a long, long time.


The notion of just desserts plays a bigger role in the moral justification of detention (and, more generally, in the justification of social punishments such as shunning) than the others do, because it renders the punishments "just" rather than merely convenient.

The point I was trying to explore in a few places above was whether people's beliefs about "just" punishment are themselves very prone to shift according to social convenience. Only raising it as a possibility, I don't have any actual evidence here, but it interests me that these beliefs shift so much over time.


Your remarks - and your overall project to deny that there's any real problem here and elsewhere - seem to indicate an indifference to this suffering. I suspect that connects with your subjectivism/amoralism, which is why I'm at such pains to denounce it.

This is just unqualified armchair psychology/deconstruction. My motive is to hose down alarmism, which I see as almost invariably socially harmful, whether in the form of environmental panics, reactionary panics about moral decay, or panics about the implications of philosophical issues. Although I enjoy refuting needless alarmism as an activity in itself, I also do have some kind of feeling that it is something the world can do without. People have enough real worries without being menaced by imaginary ones.

As for getting emotional about irrationally harsh imprisonment, your problem is that you have not yet convinced me there is anything to get emotional about, because you haven't shown me that the same kind of punishments would not occur (and be justified) anyway.


Moral issues are a matter of feeling as well as thinking ... and it seems to me your subjectivism/amoralism, your overall conservative bent, and perhaps your unemotional scientific training, blind you to this.

Actually you have just fallen into the standard leftist trap of mistaking a contrarian tendency (of sorts) for a conservative one. There are several issues (such as gay rights and separation of Church and State) on which I am very radical by community standards, and sometimes quite publicly active. I respect true conservative thought (as opposed to that of outright reactionaries like John Howard) but I am not a conservative, and do not consistently have a "conservative bent" just because I ask people to present evidence for their case.

Also, you should hire a better biographer. I became subjectivist while studying philosophy, which was my first degree; to that stage my "unemotional scientific training" had only been school level and I had not really thought about scientific method or thinking in any great detail. I considered a range of objectivist beliefs in my early years of philosophy and discarded or rejected them all, because all of them restricted me from doing things I wanted to do and I could never find a strong enough philosophical reason for this restriction. Lest anyone think this was a rebellion out of selfishness, one of the beliefs I rejected was the ethical-egoist self-interest objectivism of Ayn Rand - for the reason that I found being constrained not to be altruistic just as objectionable as being constrained to be.

I don't really think that trying to "diagnose" my opinions is helpful to this debate. You will only put me in the wrong box and make yourself look silly like everyone else who has attempted it over the years. It is better to stick to what the other person is saying, unless you really know why they are saying it.

arosar
15-09-2004, 07:07 PM
To me, politics is rather more subjectively important than music or food . . .

P.iss off!

Music, and certainly, food are definitely more important than politics.

Anyway, where in the world do youse blokes find the time to write essays? And tell your mates Bill and Matt to quit it. Those two are at it again.

While I've been trying to launch a website, they're just bloody muckin' around all day mate. Don't youse blokes go to work or something?

AR

eclectic
15-09-2004, 07:14 PM
P.iss off!

Music, and certainly, food are definitely more important than politics.

Anyway, where in the world do youse blokes find the time to write essays? And tell your mates Bill and Matt to quit it. Those two are at it again.

While I've been trying to launch a website, they're just bloody muckin' around all day mate. Don't youse blokes go to work or something?

AR

newsouthwelshish chess politics

pseudogurumexican politics

mtbullsch.it politics

rivallandofthelongwhitecloudtourney politics

be grateful you can exercise your free will and walk away from it all !!

;) :owned: :hand:

eclectic

Alan Shore
15-09-2004, 08:04 PM
be grateful you can exercise your free will and walk away from it all !!

Alas, arosar was led inexorably here and shall continue to frequent the site and there is nothing he can do about it!

paulb
15-09-2004, 10:59 PM
You can't assume that just because most people feel more strongly about one issue than another that that issue is any more "objective".
I don't.


That is like assuming musical taste is subjective
It's interesting to wonder whether it is. Don't know.



subjectivism is not a barrier to intelligent and weighty debate about the consequences and consistencies of different personal standards and political or judicial principles.
Agree.


Habermas who referred to a concept of "intersubjectivity". Habermas is interesting here, I agree.


despite our differences over whether morality is objective or subjective, your general framework for thinking about these issues probably has more points in common, through which dialogue can proceed, with mine than either of ours do with Hitler's or Charlie Manson's.
Agree. Bernard Williams makes the same point. Expanding on this, whole cultures can intelligently debate morality if enough values are shared.



ACTIVIST SUBJECTIVISTS: ... and the so-called "postmodernists" as well, though I suspect you're not too much up to speed with Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze and all those guys. But more importantly, what about Bertrand Russell, who was very activist and wrote the following (in "The Problem Of Natural Evil"):

Question as to "values" - that is to say, as to what is good or bad on its own account, independently of its effects - lie outside the domain of science, as the defenders of religion emphatically assert. I think that in this they are right, but I draw the further conclusion, which they do not draw, that questions as to "values" lie wholly outside the domain of knowledge. That is to say, when we assert that this or that has "value," we are giving expression to our own emotions, not to a fact which would still be true if our personal feelings were different.

Much as Russell waffled about the issue, this leads inescapably to subjectivism. Indeed many of the whole log. pos. crowd were explicitly or implicitly subjectivist, yet you still react as if subjectivism is some kind of radical fringe view hardly anyone has heard of.

A few points. Saying that moral remarks are expressions of emotion (emotivism) certainly sounds subjectivist; it's just possible, though, that needs/emotional reactions might be uniform enough (or with appropriate experience, might *become* uniform enough) among some non-arbitrarily defined group of "normal" people to supply the sort of universality we'd need for a quasi-objectivist view. (Note that I don't like "objectivism" as a term; what I'm after is a theory that gives morality some kind of validity, and the term "objectivist" in my mouth shouldn't have too much read into it beyond this). I'm thinking of something like Aristotle's notion of children needing to be educated to feel the right emotion at the right time/place and to the right extent, and of the good as that which promotes human "flourishing".

Regarding Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, I wasn't aware that any of these was an activist, though I concede your point that many in the contemporary French crowd are subjectivist and activist. I know Foucault's stuff reasonably well, and think he's an important philosopher; I don't know Deleuze very much; And I think Derrida's an imposter - not a serious philosopher. As for Singer, he's not interested in meta-ethics, and he reckons that the meta-ethical debate doesn't matter much anyway. He's an activist, sure, but it's not at all clear to me that he's subjectivist in your sense.


just because JPS felt existential angst over it does not mean that anyone else has to, nor that this so-called "contradiction" actually exists.
Actually I think the contradiction's fairly obvious, and await an argument that shows me it's illusory.


I greatly doubt that most of them would lose a moment's sleep over it. For instance, in this country, most people vote for political parties that see nothing wrong with locking another sort of blameless people (refugees) up in appalling conditions for extended periods even where the considerations mentioned above are far, far weaker.

In any case, you still have to convince me that "most people" will ever consider that "just desserts" is dead, even if it is dead philosophically. Most people in Australia still believe that the all-powerful all-knowing all-good Christian God is alive and kicking, and he's not been seen intact in philosophy or science for a long, long time.

I haven't expressed my point clearly here. I don't much care, really, what most people think about locking up a blameless person for 20 years, because most people don't think very hard about moral issues. (I *might* rely on a Piercean notion of what such people would think, if they were aware of the facts, and deliberated carefully etc ... an ideal end to inquiry notion).

As I said, I shouldn't have given the impression I was relying on mass opinion here, as opposed to *reasonable, considered* opinion. (Generally, though, in *other* contexts, I've been puzzled by your references to mass opinion, and changes in mass opinion; I don't see how those issues connect with the initial problem, though it may be that you're simply pursuing an interest of your own here)


My motive is to hose down alarmism, which I see as almost invariably socially harmful, whether in the form of environmental panics, reactionary panics about moral decay, or panics about the implications of philosophical issues. Although I enjoy refuting needless alarmism as an activity in itself, I also do have some kind of feeling that it is something the world can do without. People have enough real worries without being menaced by imaginary ones.

At the risk of getting personal, I think this view of yours - this tendency to see issues as alarmist - is a consequence of your own failure to appreciate the extent of suffering in certain situations. I accuse you of inappropriate detachment, and an overly intellectual approach.


As for getting emotional about irrationally harsh imprisonment, your problem is that you have not yet convinced me there is anything to get emotional about, because you haven't shown me that the same kind of punishments would not occur (and be justified) anyway.

I'll try again. Locking someone up in jail is a grave matter, a very serious imposition. It *may* be justified on moral terms if there is a legitimate need to punish a genuine morally-responsible wrongdoer (though even that's debatable, of course). But if there's no free will, there are no genuine morally-responsible wrongdoers. We're left with the other "justifications" for imprisonment, and these I think, don't stand up very well. "protecting the community" doesn't work, because most criminals come out worse than they went in; so reform's bullshit too; "deterrence" works only in relation to the already-subtantially-law-abiding community, not criminals, and that deterrent effect may well still exist with shorter sentences/better conditions; and satisfying community vengeance would be better addressed by community education and lesser sentences. At the very least, to the extent that any of these requirements are valid, conditions could be dramatically improved without doing violence to these themes. (Arguably real life sentences protect the community, but here again conditions should be radically improved).

Further, I'd make the point that even if we lock people up to satisfy one of these other (let us suppose justified) objectives, we should *still* feel uneasy about it, for the simple fact that we're inflicting serious harm on an innocent person. We might agree that it has to be done, but that doesn't mean we should be calm about it. The lesser of two evils, perhaps, but a great evil nonetheless.

Kevin Bonham
16-09-2004, 01:25 AM
A few points. Saying that moral remarks are expressions of emotion (emotivism) certainly sounds subjectivist; it's just possible, though, that needs/emotional reactions might be uniform enough (or with appropriate experience, might *become* uniform enough) among some non-arbitrarily defined group of "normal" people to supply the sort of universality we'd need for a quasi-objectivist view.

I have thought along these lines too, but I'm not impressed with the prospects. As soon as you make any kind of moral or value judgement in classifying your "normal" person you're assuming the result - so what other way of classifying people into "normal" and "not normal" are you going to choose? Even if you get a consensus that only proves agreement, not objectivity, and is just waiting to be disproved by a single dissenter. The standard for objectivity is merely a "rational person" - a person capable of thinking about the issue without making a logical error.


I'm thinking of something like Aristotle's notion of children needing to be educated to feel the right emotion at the right time/place and to the right extent, and of the good as that which promotes human "flourishing".

What about the flourishing of other critters, especially to the extent that it conflicts with our own?


Regarding Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, I wasn't aware that any of these was an activist, though I concede your point that many in the contemporary French crowd are subjectivist and activist. I know Foucault's stuff reasonably well, and think he's an important philosopher; I don't know Deleuze very much; And I think Derrida's an imposter - not a serious philosopher.

You are not alone in that belief. :lol:

Derrida has been active against apartheid, for the right of immigrants to vote in elections and against the death penalty; I think he has also dabbled in the Palestinian business too. Foucault was active on prison reform. Deleuze was also active on prison reform, as well as gay rights and Palestinian liberation.


As for Singer, he's not interested in meta-ethics, and he reckons that the meta-ethical debate doesn't matter much anyway. He's an activist, sure, but it's not at all clear to me that he's subjectivist in your sense.

Actually I was assuming him to be an objectivist, possibly incorrectly.


Actually I think the contradiction's fairly obvious, and await an argument that shows me it's illusory.

There are heaps of other things where believing that things are a matter of taste does not prevent people from expressing a viewpoint one way or another, often (as in the case of art) quite fervently.


As I said, I shouldn't have given the impression I was relying on mass opinion here, as opposed to *reasonable, considered* opinion. (Generally, though, in *other* contexts, I've been puzzled by your references to mass opinion, and changes in mass opinion; I don't see how those issues connect with the initial problem, though it may be that you're simply pursuing an interest of your own here)

Actually already dealt with this further up when I referred to the empirical dimension - I was simply dealing with whether the loss of free will was likely to cause a social crisis as a result of theory-of-punishment concerns.


At the risk of getting personal, I think this view of yours - this tendency to see issues as alarmist - is a consequence of your own failure to appreciate the extent of suffering in certain situations. I accuse you of inappropriate detachment, and an overly intellectual approach.

What - overly intellectual because I frequently notice that negative claims made in public life are weakly supported and often absolutely bogus? Inappropriately detached because I refuse to be intimidated by emotional blackmail into agreeing with someone's concerns and going along with their campaigns simply because they mean well and have sympathy - even though they are misguided or worried about something that isn't really a problem? I plead not guilty and sue for costs, expenses and boredom caused - if you're going to make psychological accusations then at least show some intellectual spine and produce evidence of the appropriate standard, instead of just throwing about unsubstantiated and unqualified psychobabble like the above. Leave that to the likes of Matt and Dave, it has no place in quality debate.

(Note here I'm not saying that imprisonment itself isn't all kinds of problems - I['m just saying that I'm not convinced the free will issue adds to them.)


We're left with the other "justifications" for imprisonment, and these I think, don't stand up very well. "protecting the community" doesn't work, because most criminals come out worse than they went in; so reform's bullshit too; "deterrence" works only in relation to the already-subtantially-law-abiding community, not criminals, and that deterrent effect may well still exist with shorter sentences/better conditions; and satisfying community vengeance would be better addressed by community education and lesser sentences. At the very least, to the extent that any of these requirements are valid, conditions could be dramatically improved without doing violence to these themes. (Arguably real life sentences protect the community, but here again conditions should be radically improved).

We've been around most of these before and I don't have that much to add to what I've already said about these things tending to work at cross purposes to each other. As for deterrence "only working in relation to the already-substantially-law-abiding community, not criminals", that's probably true but doesn't eliminate deterrence as a justification without becoming circular - since if the law-abiding citizens weren't thus deterred maybe some would not be so law-abiding.


Further, I'd make the point that even if we lock people up to satisfy one of these other (let us suppose justified) objectives, we should *still* feel uneasy about it, for the simple fact that we're inflicting serious harm on an innocent person. We might agree that it has to be done, but that doesn't mean we should be calm about it. The lesser of two evils, perhaps, but a great evil nonetheless.

I wouldn't phrase it in anything like that sort of language (lest I be required by you to add fifteen paragraphs of disclaimers explaining the subjectivity of my position) but I agree with the basic sentiment.

Kevin Bonham
16-09-2004, 01:27 AM
Music, and certainly, food are definitely more important than politics.

OK, I could have expressed the point about food better.

Actually it's possible that music is almost as important to me as politics. I spend a lot of time debating about it too - just not very much of it here.

Alan Shore
16-09-2004, 01:51 AM
OK, I could have expressed the point about food better.

Actually it's possible that music is almost as important to me as politics. I spend a lot of time debating about it too - just not very much of it here.

Really? Give us some insights into your taste then.

Kevin Bonham
16-09-2004, 02:16 AM
Really? Give us some insights into your taste then.

Will do this on the music/films etc thread shortly.

Garvinator
16-09-2004, 02:35 AM
i have just read the three pages of posts, didnt it get off track of free will quickly :lol:. I was going to see if i could add something as i thought there were a couple of points missed, but i couldnt actually find anywhere that someone had defined what free will is in the context being debated. Can someone help?

Alan Shore
16-09-2004, 02:53 AM
i have just read the three pages of posts, didnt it get off track of free will quickly :lol:. I was going to see if i could add something as i thought there were a couple of points missed, but i couldnt actually find anywhere that someone had defined what free will is in the context being debated. Can someone help?

I'd say free will is the freedom to make a choice where the outcome of that choice is not predetermined - that is, what transpires does not necessarily have had to transpire that way because you have had the free will to choose an alternate possible outcome.

Of course there's three main ways of looking at this - a hard determinist view where there is no free will and the future has only one possible outcome, a liberalist that believes we have free will as defined above and a combatibilist that says there can only be one outcome however the choice that was made could have been otherwise, even though it was not.

I'm a combatibilist - it's a total cop-out but it's the best of both worlds ;)

Kevin Bonham
16-09-2004, 04:59 AM
i have just read the three pages of posts, didnt it get off track of free will quickly :lol:. I was going to see if i could add something as i thought there were a couple of points missed, but i couldnt actually find anywhere that someone had defined what free will is in the context being debated. Can someone help?

In the context in which I was getting stuck into it, free will is a belief which includes the following:

* Your decisions are not logically predetermined by the pre-existing state of your brain and the rest of the universe; rather, it was logically possible for you to have chosen differently to how you did (the "free" component)

* In making a decision you determine which path you select, it is not some random or chaotic process which you don't have any control over (the "will" component).

paulb
16-09-2004, 09:33 PM
As soon as you make any kind of moral or value judgement in classifying your "normal" person you're assuming the result
Agree it's very difficult to do it in a non-circular way; but if you're relying roughly on human flourishing, there might be a non-circular medical criterion. Maybe even statistical criterion. Agree, it's a thin hope.

xxx

Another interesting project towards legitimising morality (and possibly free will) is the Kantian tactic of seeing it as an essential/unavoidable for human beings, rather than trying to find it, pre-existing, "out there", as if oughts were objects. More on this later.


What about the flourishing of other critters, especially to the extent that it conflicts with our own?
Agree. We'd need to replace "human" with some notion like Singer's "experiencers".


There are heaps of other things where believing that things are a matter of taste does not prevent people from expressing a viewpoint one way or another, often (as in the case of art) quite fervently.
The contradiction (better: pragmatic inconsistency) I refer to concerns subjectivists not merely expressing a moral opinion, but actively promoting it ... actively seeking to bring it about that people change their moral opinions towards his opinion. This amounts to imposing your moral tastes, and the question is why would someone want to do it? Of course, there
are some people who seek to impose their tastes in various areas, and for various motives: some are simply bossy; some might find it fun to do; som might do it on a whim, and so on. But I doubt an activist subjectivist philosopher would be happy to rely on such "flippant" reasons. (of course, I think that they're not *really* subjectivists - despite their self-descriptions - and that they promote certain moral views because they believe they are superior in some sense beyond mere ego-centricism. I'd add that the deliberate obscurity of contemporary french philosophy would no doubt provide a great way to cloak the inconsistency).

To be fair, your moral remarks on this board seem largely of the "I like Chardonnay ... Oh I prefer Reisling" type ... mere opinion swapping, plus checking for consistency, which falls well short of promoting moral opinions. But your activism on behalf of gay rights or church/state separation would appear to be an instance of the pragmatic inconsistency I'm talking about.

xxx

Another, related criticism of moral subjectivism: It distorts moral language by collapsing the distinction between "I like/prefer X" and "X is good". I like cigarettes; but I don't think cigarettes are good. Likewise, I think that to sacrifice oneself for the benefit of others is good; but it's not something I like.

More generally, to say something is good or right (standard moral language) is not merely to express a personal preference but to commend it to others; to say stealing is evil is not merely to say I prefer that people don't steal - it's to say that you and others should have this preference and that your behaviour should abide by it. (This is the element of moral meaning missing from emotivism and partially captured by prescriptivism). It's not clear how a subjectivist who thinks that all moral views are on a par can explain the commendation.

xxx


What - overly intellectual because I frequently notice that negative claims made in public life are weakly supported and often absolutely bogus? Inappropriately detached because I refuse to be intimidated by emotional blackmail into agreeing with someone's concerns and going along with their campaigns simply because they mean well and have sympathy - even though they are misguided or worried about something that isn't really a problem?

It's not a personality attack, even if it looked, tasted, smelt and felt like one, and quacked like one as well. It's a criticism of method. I'm quite sure you're a fine bloke in general; but I think you mistakenly believe moral disputes - or partially meta-moral disputes like this one - can be resolved purely intellectually. It's not so much a matter of over-intellectualising as under-emotionalising.

This is a theme of mine, not an arbitrary attack. To illustrate, I'm convinced that the way to better morals and a better society is not principally through reasoned debate; it's principally through movies. Direct, engaged experience is even better, of course; but movies are a marvellously efficient shorthand way of achieving the sort of imaginative identification and sympathy that's needed for moral progress. It's the surest way to make people give a damn.

Kevin Bonham
16-09-2004, 11:21 PM
Agree it's very difficult to do it in a non-circular way; but if you're relying roughly on human flourishing, there might be a non-circular medical criterion.

Human flourishing is also a moral judgement so relying on it is again circular. The morality you come up with can be objective only in a conditional sense (eg "if you value human flourishing, then the appropriate moral standards are ..."). Furthermore this is unlikely to be a purely philosophical question - it could well be largely an empirical, scientific one about what actually works and what doesn't.


Another interesting project towards legitimising morality (and possibly free will) is the Kantian tactic of seeing it as an essential/unavoidable for human beings, rather than trying to find it, pre-existing, "out there", as if oughts were objects. More on this later.

Happy to dispose of that as well when it comes, it's nonsense. :P


Agree. We'd need to replace "human" with some notion like Singer's "experiencers".

Yes, and then when you get into what a load of unverifiable conceptual tosh the word "consciousness" is, you're likely to end up caring for self-recognising robots as well. I disagree with Singer about virtually everything but I like him because his wedge tactic on human-centred morality tends to take objective morality to places a lot of objectivists wouldn't honestly want to go.


The contradiction (better: pragmatic inconsistency) I refer to concerns subjectivists not merely expressing a moral opinion, but actively promoting it ... actively seeking to bring it about that people change their moral opinions towards his opinion. This amounts to imposing your moral tastes, and the question is why would someone want to do it?

I don't like the word "imposing" here, it carries connotations of forceful overriding in a situation where there usually isn't any.


Of course, there are some people who seek to impose their tastes in various areas, and for various motives: some are simply bossy; some might find it fun to do; som might do it on a whim, and so on. But I doubt an activist subjectivist philosopher would be happy to rely on such "flippant" reasons.

There are heaps of reasons an active subjectivist could have for promoting a given political or moral goal. These include the obvious and most direct one - subjective care about others generally (whether human or otherwise) - and more selectively pragmatic ones like the wellbeing of friends or self-interest, as well as slightly less usual reasons like the enjoyment of debate/writing or the dislike of absurdities in an opposing argument.


(of course, I think that they're not *really* subjectivists - despite their self-descriptions - and that they promote certain moral views because they believe they are superior in some sense beyond mere ego-centricism. I'd add that the deliberate obscurity of contemporary french philosophy would no doubt provide a great way to cloak the inconsistency).

Believing your moral views are superior in some sense beyond mere ego-centrism is not incompatible with subjectivism. For instance some of the French crowd, like Deleuze and Guattari try (rather unsuccessfully IMO) to demolish opposing views by connecting them with psychiatric conditions or with modes of political bias (such as fascism) now generally greatly scorned. But that's not saying "objectively, fascism is logically wrong", it's saying "we think fascism is very very ethically nasty and if you want to not be fascist in any way, here are your options.".)


But your activism on behalf of gay rights or church/state separation would appear to be an instance of the pragmatic inconsistency I'm talking about.

Why? Are you basing that comment on things I've said about those issues here, or just on the fact that I've been active at all, which is exactly the same thing as I do here except to a larger audience?


Another, related criticism of moral subjectivism: It distorts moral language by collapsing the distinction between "I like/prefer X" and "X is good". I like cigarettes; but I don't think cigarettes are good. Likewise, I think that to sacrifice oneself for the benefit of others is good; but it's not something I like.

I know what you're talking about but I don't understand how you can call it a criticism. You seem to be saying that if a point is otherwise logically correct but accepting its truth requires some rejigging of the existing language, then that counts against that point. That seems to be placing the ease of use of language (with all its messy and contradictory origins) as a higher criterion of truth than logic, which is odd. Actually the only difference between objectivism and subjectivism on these points is that the subjectivist, instead of saying "X is good", is likely to say "X is good if you want goal Y" (where Y is human flourishing, immediate nuclear war, whatever). In an intersubjective context even that clarification is often unnecessary.


More generally, to say something is good or right (standard moral language) is not merely to express a personal preference but to commend it to others; to say stealing is evil is not merely to say I prefer that people don't steal - it's to say that you and others should have this preference and that your behaviour should abide by it. (This is the element of moral meaning missing from emotivism and partially captured by prescriptivism). It's not clear how a subjectivist who thinks that all moral views are on a par can explain the commendation.

The subjectivist only thinks all moral views are on a par from the point of view of rational acceptability. You said it yourself - morality is about feeling as well as thinking, so for those subjectivists who are morally inclined about a particular issue, the commendation can come from that moral feeling. (Note that this does not mean "moral feeling" objectifies morality through the backdoor, because a person could be rational in their thinking while having no moral feeling on a given issue).


It's not a personality attack, even if it looked, tasted, smelt and felt like one, and quacked like one as well. It's a criticism of method. I'm quite sure you're a fine bloke in general; but I think you mistakenly believe moral disputes - or partially meta-moral disputes like this one - can be resolved purely intellectually. It's not so much a matter of over-intellectualising as under-emotionalising.

So what do you do when you come across a person whose intuitive pre-philosophical conviction (as reported by them) is that morality is subjective? (I forget who, but one philosophy lecturer I came across online said that virtually all his first-years felt that way.) Do you accuse them of lying or being "deluded" (even though there are countless cases of self-styled "objective" intuitive moralists violating or changing their claimed moralities in practice)? Do you assert that they are "emotionally deficient" just because their emotional answer does not agree with yours? If I can borrow Barry's pet device for a moment, there seems to be a grave danger of straying into "no true Scotsman" territory here. Or as I would put it, "false consciousness rubbish." :D

Of course, to me the whole idea of referring a meta-ethical question to the emotions is as utterly absurd as referring the question of whether pizza tastes good to the faculties associated with a priori logical reasoning. Perhaps this is because science gives me some vague idea of where emotions and intuitions can come from, in evolutionary, psychological and cultural terms, and how it is possible for them to be very unreliable things indeed.


To illustrate, I'm convinced that the way to better morals and a better society is not principally through reasoned debate; it's principally through movies. Direct, engaged experience is even better, of course; but movies are a marvellously efficient shorthand way of achieving the sort of imaginative identification and sympathy that's needed for moral progress. It's the surest way to make people give a damn.

That's fine, and probably very true but that sounds to me like simply an empirical statement about what works best in convincing people of a moral goal, and nothing to do with whether morality is or is not objective.

paulb
17-09-2004, 10:00 PM
Human flourishing is also a moral judgement so relying on it is again circular. The morality you come up with can be objective only in a conditional sense (eg "if you value human flourishing, then the appropriate moral standards are ...").
Agree, but don't think that's a problem. Just as we've agreed that a group of people who share values can sensibly ("rationally") discuss their applications/implications, so we could have such a morality relativised to (almost all) humans as a group. That wouldn't convince a Martian, of course, nor would it convince a mythical disinterested "objective" observer (if that notion makes any sense at all), but it'd be enough to legitimise human moral talk - which is my project.


Futhermore this is unlikely to be a purely philosophical question - it could well be largely an empirical, scientific one about what actually works and what doesn't.
Agree emphatically. Physical/empirical facts are relevant to morality. Don;t think that's a problem.


Yes, and then when you get into what a load of unverifiable conceptual tosh the word "consciousness" is, you're likely to end up caring for self-recognising robots as well.

My view is that the capacity to suffer (pain or discomfort) is critical in defining the extent of the moral community. I don't think self-recognition is critical, and I don't think (as some do) that mere "planning" or purposeful activity is sufficient. A robot might do X because it "desires" Y, and in a sense may have an "interest" in Y or "value" Y, but thwarting its ambitions does not induce suffering, and furthering its ambitions does not induce joy or pleasure.

I'd agree the word "consciousness" tends to trigger all sorts of nonsense remarks, but I think, but it'll take more than contempt to make the problem away


There are heaps of reasons an active subjectivist could have for promoting a given political or moral goal. These include the obvious and most direct one - subjective care about others generally (whether human or otherwise) - and more selectively pragmatic ones like the wellbeing of friends or self-interest, as well as slightly less usual reasons like the enjoyment of debate/writing or the dislike of absurdities in an opposing argument.

Answer later


Believing your moral views are superior in some sense beyond mere ego-centrism is not incompatible with subjectivism. For instance some of the French crowd, like Deleuze and Guattari try (rather unsuccessfully IMO) to demolish opposing views by connecting them with psychiatric conditions or with modes of political bias (such as fascism) now generally greatly scorned. But that's not saying "objectively, fascism is logically wrong", it's saying "we think fascism is very very ethically nasty and if you want to not be fascist in any way, here are your options.".)

Answer later


I know what you're talking about but I don't understand how you can call it a criticism. You seem to be saying that if a point is otherwise logically correct but accepting its truth requires some rejigging of the existing language, then that counts against that point. That seems to be placing the ease of use of language (with all its messy and contradictory origins) as a higher criterion of truth than logic, which is odd. Actually the only difference between objectivism and subjectivism on these points is that the subjectivist, instead of saying "X is good", is likely to say "X is good if you want goal Y" (where Y is human flourishing, immediate nuclear war, whatever). In an intersubjective context even that clarification is often unnecessary.

Not sure what you mean by "logically correct" (true? logically valid? implied by the premises?).

xxx

"accepting its truth requires some rejigging of the existing language" ... then you're agreeing to something different to what has been said. If you mean X, then say X. What a subjectivist activists is doing is saying Y, being undestood as having said Y, and then pretending that they've said X. It's a misuse of language.

more later

Kevin Bonham
19-09-2004, 12:03 AM
Agree, but don't think that's a problem. Just as we've agreed that a group of people who share values can sensibly ("rationally") discuss their applications/implications, so we could have such a morality relativised to (almost all) humans as a group. That wouldn't convince a Martian, of course, nor would it convince a mythical disinterested "objective" observer (if that notion makes any sense at all), but it'd be enough to legitimise human moral talk - which is my project.

Good luck with it. :P

I've got no problem with a project of this kind, but I do think it is irrelevant to the objective/subjective debate. If successful it only proves that a certain kind of morality is the most likely to be rationally adopted by "almost all" humans as a group. It doesn't prove that that morality is objectively logically sounder than the moralities (if any) of those omitted from the near-consensus, and nor does it prove there is anything "wrong" with the dissenting minorities in an other-than-moral sense.

Whether there will ever be anything more than a very very broad and hazy moral consensus even between your so-called "reasonable" people is an interesting question. I don't know.


Agree emphatically. Physical/empirical facts are relevant to morality. Don;t think that's a problem.


My view is that the capacity to suffer (pain or discomfort) is critical in defining the extent of the moral community.

I'm not sure how you define "suffering" as opposed to suffering-like behaviour (such as appearing "wounded", or giving signs of apparent alarm or discomfort) without smuggling "consciousness" in through the back door. I remember reading Singer's arguments on this and not finding them convincing at all.


I'd agree the word "consciousness" tends to trigger all sorts of nonsense remarks, but I think, but it'll take more than contempt to make the problem away

Actually I never thought there was a problem until a friend of mine said "Look, let's just do the Occam's Razor thing on this whole concept of 'consciousness',


Not sure what you mean by "logically correct" (true? logically valid? implied by the premises?).

For the purposes of what I was saying, any of the above. I was wondering whether you thought a conflict between a philosophical argument and everyday language counted against the truth of that concept in any way, because I don't think it does.


"accepting its truth requires some rejigging of the existing language" ... then you're agreeing to something different to what has been said. If you mean X, then say X. What a subjectivist activists is doing is saying Y, being undestood as having said Y, and then pretending that they've said X. It's a misuse of language.

I think you are overestimating the extent to which ordinary language is actually contaminated with objectivism. For completely unambiguous communication which no one could find misleading, the subjectivist might want to add the conditionals on all moral remarks. However, I don't think the language is so objectively skewed that the subjective usage of an unconditional "should" needs to be deemed irregular. I'm claiming that both are within the bounds of normal social usage.

I like to go definition-chasing in questions like this, and having a look at the dictionary definition of "should" and dictionary definitions of the words within that definition etc just led me to endless cycling round and round in circles between "should", "moral", "duty", "right", "responsibility", "socially correct" etc, without ever crossing into anything purely logical that firmly indicated belief that morality is objective. I would expect that people generally don't have such firm opinions on it (and if they have pre-philosophical intuitions we know these can go either way), and there is no reason to give one philosophical school an advantage just because they held the upper hand within the hallowed halls until, oh, about 100 years ago. So I simply don't agree with your claim that the subjectivist is misusing language. There is simply an ambiguity there that can be avoided by using conditionals if one wants to.

Another thing worth pointing out is that subjectivist activists can be highly effective by not even making what look like moral statements, but simply by shooting holes in the empirical and philosophical arguments of whatever forces they oppose. I do this a lot. For instance, I just had a look at my last fifty or so letters published in newspapers and there is not one single unconditional "should" in the lot of them. It's interesting that you presume to judge that my "activism" appears inconsistent when you haven't read it outside this BB and therefore have very little idea how I go about it.

Granted, I'm not impressed generally when a self-professing subjectivist carries on about morality as if absolutely nothing has changed. However my main reason for not being impressed is that I think they're missing an opportunity to sink the boot into objectivism in the process. :P

arosar
20-09-2004, 06:04 PM
I liked this . . .

http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,12084,1296101,00.html

AR

arosar
20-09-2004, 06:23 PM
So can youse two blokes do us all a bit of a favour? You reckon you could like summarise your positions in bullet points? You write too many words fellas. What are you saying KB and what are you saying PaulB?

AR

arosar
11-10-2004, 05:45 PM
Derrida shows that language is a tool of the boo-gwa-zee.
Derrida also shows that 2 understand a word, an individual is not bound by tyranny of text rules.

Your hero is dead.

AR

Kevin Bonham
11-10-2004, 09:22 PM
No, he's deconstructing the phallogocentric Western oppositions life/death and Heaven/Hell as we speak.