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Reggie
22-01-08, 10:59
The thread title asks a question I've been asking myself ever since the Hiroshima thread and Catapharact's comments (which continued through PM) about the issue of whther there are any ethical truths.
This has now become a particular issue of importance because I have to form some kind of conclusion for myself about this dilemma because I've decided to enter an essay competition and I've gone for the ethics question which poses this very question.

More specifically the question says:

"There are no ethical truths. If there were there would not be such a long standing dispute and serious disagreement about ethics" What is wrong with this argument?

So the question, I believe is asking me (and you guys, since I'd like to turn this into a forum discussion) to argue in favour of there being ethical truths. But before that, I have to first be certain of my position on whether I do actually think ethical truths exist or not.

So the point of this thread should be to discuss whether ethical truths exist, give reasons why and then link back to why there is still such serious disagreements about ethics. :)

myrmaad
22-01-08, 11:12
This isn't going to be any great post, cuz I'm stealing time from schoolwork atm..

I beleive there are ethical truths, I had decided to live my life as an ethicist a while back, rather than as a political party affiliate, chiefly (that was the main impetus), but also because I believe our actions have consequences for our own happiness.

Not saying I'm perfect or get it right every time mind you, obviously, I make mistakes in trying. (Should be clear to all today :/ )

If there weren't ethical truths, then it wouldn't be nearly universally accepted that what Hitler did was wrong for example, or that what's happening (again) in Rwanda, and in the Congo is wrong. So I think that's for starters why I would conclude to begin with, that there must be ethical truths, however, as this is just the tip of the discussion, I'm open to changing my mind about that.

However, then comes the problem of whether there are "personal" ethical truths and if they change from person to person, how does that effect whether or not there are universal ethical truths. This is going to be a struggle for me. I think there may be, but then where's the line?

Conway
22-01-08, 11:28
I don't know, but I've always viewed ethics as some sort of unwritten or unspoken law, a social norm that is a social norm for a reason. Rather than being abided by because it is a social norm, it is such because it is something created by a collective (and thus societal) sense of choice. Hmm... Seems I'm making this more complicated than need be.

Anyhow, where does that sense of choice come from then? What creates the individual actions that almost always end up in congruence to each other (that is, similar in principle), thus making them a norm, which in turn builds up that unspoken or unwritten law (ethics)?

I think that the 'truth' in ethics lies in the fact that somehow, there are individual ethical principles that more often than not end up contributary to a collective set of ethical principles. I say 'set' because this 'ethical truth' is some sort of melting pot for all the individual ethical systems in it. This melting pot then brings about what we call 'ethical truth'.

...

But honestly...I don't really know if I'm even making sense. :p :o

Cochrane
22-01-08, 11:39
A good and difficult question, and I think the answer depends partly upon what you consider to be truth. I do think that there are some ethical basic principles that practically everybody agrees on, and violating them is universally considered bad. However, the individual interpretations vary greatly.

As an example, we all agree that killing humans is bad. But when it comes to abortion and death penalty, the opinions suddenly start to vary by huge amounts. Killing humans cannot be universally bad, or universally alright in some cases, because if it was, we would not have these huge discussions. And while we all look at it with horror, there have been thousands of humans who could apparently justify genocides. For this reason, I would say that there are no absolute ethical truths.

I would define ethical truths as the overlapping core parts of everyone's personal ethic system. People may differ on abortion and death penalty, but all agree that there is a core portion that says killing is bad, no matter how someone sees some aspects in particular. Those whose views do not overlap are potentially harmful towards humans or humanity, and such behaviour cannot be accepted. The principles they violate are basically ethical truths.

So in short, my opinion is that there are no real ethical truths from up front, but rather that ethical "truths" (which may not be the appropriate word) are a result of everyone's personal ethics.

Encore
22-01-08, 14:01
If there weren't ethical truths, then it wouldn't be nearly universally accepted that what Hitler did was wrong for example, or that what's happening (again) in Rwanda, and in the Congo is wrong.

The fact that you included a "nearly" in that sentence says a lot! There are minority groups (many in fact)that still think Hitler was right, and some of the parties involved in the genocides and other events still think they were right, because they still believe the "others" were inferior or somehing.

Is ethics something like a democracy, the values that get the most votes are "universal"? I think not.

I find it natural that humans in general feel it's wrong to kill other humans because it's a matter of species and survival, it doesn't necessarily concern a higher ethical truth.
But even this basic principle - that it's wrong to kill another human being - is not universally accepted. There is the death penalty in many countries yet, and like cochrane said, when this principle is applied to other concepts of death (euthanasia, abortion, etc) the relativity becomes even bigger.
On the other hand, many humans only have this principle in what concerns their "peers", people from their own culture or country; a proof is that many people don't care at all for the deaths of "enemy" peoples during wartime.

Other examples: today most cultures consider pedophilia a horrid crime, which might lead us to consider it's a universal moral principle. But ancient greeks and romans more or less accepted it. As they accepted slavery as a natural thing too.
Does that mean they were more "barbaric" than we are today? Does that mean we have evolved and discovered these universal ethics that they were unaware of? Well, I don't think we discovered anything, I just think these sets of ethical principles have been settling down according to what makes societies function better... Slavery, pedophilia and other "abominations", became more and more incompatible with the judaic-christian set of values that was the foundation for the modern western society, and it's this set of values that influenced the most of the world through the influence of western culture in the globe.

So I think all these little ethical details through which we rule our lives are part of our cultures. In that sense, we might consider it the truth, but only because it's our truth. Perhaps it's been artificially transformed into something universal; the universal declaration of human rights is really a product of western civilization and values, that has been expanded throughout the globe through the legal influence of the UN and other bodies. Even still, that declaration is not respected in many parts of the world, including some western countries.

tampi
22-01-08, 14:01
Perhaps the most obvious ethical truth is harming yourself :confused:
You are aware of own pain.



EDIT:Sorry Encore I step on your post :o:(

Encore
22-01-08, 14:05
Perhaps the most obvious ethical truth is harming yourself :confused:
You are aware of own pain.



EDIT:Sorry Encore I step on your post :o:(

No problem. :) I don't think harming oneself is a universal ethical truth though. There are religions, sects, philosophies, that consider pain is a way to know yourself better, to enlightenment, etc.

tampi
22-01-08, 14:10
True Encore, but use it as a form of purification.
That does not override the fact that everyone is aware of the damage that it applies to yourself.
Well, only if you don't have nerve endings to feel it.


EDIT: Really, is a great question. I have to think on it a while.....

rowanlim
22-01-08, 14:45
May I ask: WHAT IS ETHICAL TRUTH?

I dare not say anything because I'm uncertain of the definition of "ethical truth"

myrmaad
22-01-08, 15:11
May I ask: WHAT IS ETHICAL TRUTH?

I dare not say anything because I'm uncertain of the definition of "ethical truth"

Put these two together:
http://www.bartleby.com/65/et/ethics.html

http://www.bartleby.com/61/58/A0555800.html

JamesFKirk
22-01-08, 15:28
When it comes to ethical truths, I believe that when taken from an absolute view, there are none. What may seem ethical for one person, may seem totally unethical to the other. The examples are there, although they're hard to find since many values are now shared throughout the world. However, if one goes deep enough, such a dillema may be found. To say one example in general: Is it ethical to commit an unethical deed that would lead to an ethical outcome? That is a dillema that cannot be solved right away and in fact, cannot be solved at all, since it'll always lead to philosophical "discussion" (either with ones self or somebody else). And philosophy is not a science that would be able to describe an absolute truth, that is, a fact. That's what mathemathics are for, however, mathemathics are, were and always will be a "science without conscience", that is, unable to determine what is and is not ethical/unethical, right/wrong, and so on.
You may not agree with me, however, this is the way I see it.

Encore
22-01-08, 15:36
That's true. Isn't ethics a branch of philosophy? If it is it's just further proof that it can't be "absolute" knowledge.

myrmaad
22-01-08, 15:39
Also, by definition, it is culturally determined; I had that thought somewhere in the back of my head, but you really brought it to the forefront in your first post.


Alright I will say this:

In both abortion and capital punishment (capital/capitol?? can't think atm), I don't think anyone considers these positive or "right". They are wrong, but there is some acceptance of them as the lesser of evils in each case. (try to understand what I'm saying here).


But here's one that I think fits, nearly all cultures across the board think that killing a parent is wrong, and all that I know of believe that killing a healthy male child is wrong. (A child who has come to term and been born healthy.)

Know what I mean? K sorry no more time to play atm.

PARANOIA
22-01-08, 15:51
I'm about as ethical as a Nazi. I can't speak for any "given" ethical truth.

Encore
22-01-08, 16:20
But here's one that I think fits, nearly all cultures across the board think that killing a parent is wrong, and all that I know of believe that killing a healthy male child is wrong. (A child who has come to term and been born healthy.)



Sorry you're leaving (actually I gotta go to work too, soon)! But in answer to that, I think the two examples you offered fall under what I mentioned as a human group's basic survival needs. In any human society children are nurtured by, and learn from, older people, so the respect for our parents comes from that very natural and basic instinct, hence patricide being regarded as a terribly unnatural thing to do (= evil). As for killing a healthy male child, the principle is the same: it's completely against all nature to kill your descendants, that will continue your society!

So, I think examples of more universal principles are a result of more basic needs of human survival, and not necessarily universal ethics.

Capt. Murphy
22-01-08, 16:50
Ethical Truth? I find this to be somewhat redundant. A better thing to ask about might be relative truth. For, I believe, if something is ethical it must be true. On the other hand, it can be true that the dog killed the cat, but that is no where near "ethical". What is it you mean by "ethical"? Do you mean Moral? Or what is the best thing to do given the situation? Like, it would be unethical to kill someone. But if you had to kill that person to save someone else or yourself -would that still be considered "ethical"?

Anyway. To answer to question posed: Yes. There are Ethical truths. But no relative truths. Truth is absolute. If one thing is percieved by an individual as one way, yet a different way to someone else.... Which is the true 'Truth'?

:mis:

Nice topic. :cool:

jackali
22-01-08, 17:01
One has to ask though, can there not simply be ethical truths that are not universal? I mean, they're absolute ethical truths, but like Plato's Forms, they cannot be accessed by all. With the forms it takes the philosopher to have knowledge of the forms, perhaps you could take ethical truths to act much in the same way?

Okay, my response to this is somewhat shorter than others, but the question still stands.

Encore
22-01-08, 17:22
One has to ask though, can there not simply be ethical truths that are not universal? I mean, they're absolute ethical truths, but like Plato's Forms, they cannot be accessed by all. With the forms it takes the philosopher to have knowledge of the forms, perhaps you could take ethical truths to act much in the same way?

Okay, my response to this is somewhat shorter than others, but the question still stands.

Well, that's the point, there are multiple ethical truths, and acording to observation, they vary depending on the time and/or culture... They can't all express the same thing since many of them are direct oposites of each other. (ex.: buddha = violence is wrong, machiavelli = violence is right)

Now if there is ONE ethical truth that only philosophers and "enlightened" people can know of... Maybe.. I'm not sure. We're reaching theology here!

Capt. Murphy
22-01-08, 17:41
They can't all express the same thing since many of them are direct oposites of each other. (ex.: buddha = violence is wrong, machiavelli = violence is right)


Well, what is the reason for said violence? Is it for the sake of righteousness or justice? To make something right?

This is when it's about relativity. Violence (IMO) is right given the circumstances. I believe it is an incorrect statement to say "Violence is never right." Then, that can stem into -what is violence? Obviously, using force to oppose, or halt the actions of another, or to inflict harm. But, again, what is the reason for said violence?

If it's for the purpose of evil for evilness sake -then it isn't right (justified).

Cochrane
22-01-08, 17:58
Well, there's a saying here in germany that goes "The opposite of good is good intentions". There has to be more ways of calling violence evil than just if it's done for the sake of evil. Violence done by someone who thought he was in the right, but was actually wrong, is just as harmful as violence done for the sake of evil. Imagine if a president of a big country thought that another country was preparing war, and he'd go attack it. Now imagine that no evidence of a prepared attack could be found*. Would the war still have been right? I think not. Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is wrong, and neglecting to check properly is evil.

*) There's a reason I mentioned neither the US nor Iraq by name here. I don't care about whether someone thinks the US were/are right or not, I want to talk about a situation where it would be absolutely clear for everyone that they weren't.

tampi
22-01-08, 18:03
I found this:

"I believe that ethics true is found precisely in the best possible way when not formally involves a threat or a promise"
Accordingly, a person who is atheist throws himself in front of a passing vehicle to save a little boy even makes an action true ethics, as he does not expect a reward for his work.


This I found in a reflection and study of the Torah (Judaism), on the request of God to Abraham to take his son to the Holocaust.

Think that is a good point, but inevitably the person who gives selflessly the life to save someone is necessarily influenced by circumstances in the course of his own life.
The other day I saw a postman who slid with his bike and fell to the ground in a step to pedestrians. Three women who crossed the passage watched him and followed theirs way without even stopping to ask. I don't know if they were atheist or not. But I think that has more to do with an instinctive act.
Come back to tread on my steps. I still think and the only real ethic that encounter is, save your own body of pain. :confused: and by extension to the others.

Capt. Murphy
22-01-08, 18:25
Whether Atheist or not... Saving the Child is (or shouldn't be) for the sake of oneself - but for the sake of the child. That is ethical. Now, if it came down to this situation, forgetting about whether anyone is atheist or a bible thumper, etc. if a large group were to see a child, say, in a basket floating down a river where there was a very long fall from a waterfall. Seconds are vital in saving the child, but no one acts because no one makes up their mind to act, thinking the other person or someone else should take the action. Then someone might think of the other person: "Why didn't you save the Child?" When, of course, it may have well been everyones' duty to save that child. So, is everyone guilty of the loss of that child? If someone did act and save the childs life - does that mean everyone else -that didn't help- was wrong for not having acted? I think not.

I'd guess that whatever the fate of the child was is what determines the guilt and/or innocence of those that witnessed the event and had and/or took the opportunity to help. Yet, I suppose the ultimate judge is oneself.

:-/

Gregori
22-01-08, 18:36
I believe "Treat other as you would like to be treated" is as close to an ethical truth as you can get. If you have any sense of empathy and decency, you'll try to put yourself in another person shoes before you decide to do something dreadful.

This doesn't require a God, just basic human compassion and not being entirely self-centred. I find much of my anger and hatred at people and the world goes away when I think of it from their persepctive and when I weigh up my own selfish actions.

The most immoral people in the world are hypocrites!

GodOfLight
22-01-08, 18:40
"There are no ethical truths. If there were there would not be such a long standing dispute and serious disagreement about ethics" What is wrong with this argument?


this is a great point... never thought about it like this :tmb: that simply because we can dispute on ethics, there are no universal ethics for every single person... interesting :)

i personally don't believe that there are any universal ethics for every single individual on this planet or even life form in this entire universe. there is no god sitting on some throne somewhere writing down the one true laws all beings must and should follow.

ethics are a personal thing for everyone in my opinion. Country, culture, nation, history, time period, and individual needs determine our ethics. Saying one does not have ethics is not possible... everyone has some form of ethics or beliefs they follow for themselves... but I personally don't think there is a one true thing every person will be able to agree on. ;)

Cochrane
22-01-08, 18:51
I believe "Treat other as you would like to be treated" is as close to an ethical truth as you can get.

There have been quite a lot of ideologies in the world, however, that had the inferiority of some people compared to others as one of their core ideas. For these, this seemingly simple and obvious rule does not apply (or at least they assume it does not apply to them, which is the same thing for most practical purposes). The ethical truth behind "Treat others as you would like to be treated" is actually "Others are the same as you are", and while I certainly like it, it's by no means generally accepted.

Gregori
22-01-08, 18:59
There have been quite a lot of ideologies in the world, however, that had the inferiority of some people compared to others as one of their core ideas. For these, this seemingly simple and obvious rule does not apply (or at least they assume it does not apply to them, which is the same thing for most practical purposes). The ethical truth behind "Treat others as you would like to be treated" is actually "Others are the same as you are", and while I certainly like it, it's by no means generally accepted.

Ofcourse they did. That was to maintain the status quo so they could go on doing unethical things. Same thing happens today. Everybody paints a picture of their rivals, those that they are opressing as inhuman, different. It's nothing new.

The evil and selfish people of this world have always implied that others were inferior monsters, just for the purpose of exploitation, control and power. If more people were honest, this rule would apply. Most problems in the world today could be solved by this.


"There are no ethical truths. If there were there would not be such a long standing dispute and serious disagreement about ethics" What is wrong with this argument?


I think this argument is a fallacy. There have been long standing disputes about the fundamental building blocks of the Universe. What the Universe is made of has not even been completely solved today and there are dozens of competing theories. No one doubts that its resolvable though.


While they're may be no ethical truths, the point is fallicious.

Reggie
22-01-08, 19:11
Some excellent replies, I'm glad I posted this thread :tmb:
WARNING: Loooong one from me this time.

I believe our actions have consequences for our own happiness.

However, then comes the problem of whether there are "personal" ethical truths and if they change from person to person, how does that effect whether or not there are universal ethical truths. This is going to be a struggle for me. I think there may be, but then where's the line?

So am I thinking you're inclined to go down the route of ethical subjectivism?

Ethical subjectivism

Main article: Ethical subjectivism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethical_subjectivism)
Ethical subjectivism is the meta-ethical (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meta-ethics) belief that ethical sentences reduce to factual statements about the attitudes and/or conventions of individual people, or that any ethical sentence implies an attitude held by someone. As such, it is a form of moral relativism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_relativism) in which the truth of moral claims is relative to the attitudes of individuals[1] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subjectivism#_note-0) (as opposed to, for instance, communities).
An ethical subjectivist might propose, for example, that what it means for something to be morally right is just for it to be approved of. (This can lead to the belief that different things are right according to each idiosyncratic moral outlook.) One implication of these beliefs is that, unlike the moral skeptic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_skepticism) or the non-cognitivist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-cognitivism), the subjectivist thinks that ethical sentences, while subjective, are nonetheless the kind of thing that can be true or false.


I remember my philosophy teacher telling us in meta-ethics that Subjectivism just doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Allow to me to relay what he said:

"Simple Subjectivism can't logically account for the notion of an ethical disagreement...any ethical theory must account for the notion of ethical disagreement"

...

A better thing to ask about might be relative truth. For, I believe, if something is ethical it must be true. On the other hand, it can be true that the dog killed the cat, but that is no where near "ethical". What is it you mean by "ethical"? Do you mean Moral? Or what is the best thing to do given the situation? Like, it would be unethical to kill someone. But if you had to kill that person to save someone else or yourself -would that still be considered "ethical"?

Anyway. To answer to question posed: Yes. There are Ethical truths. But no relative truths. Truth is absolute. If one thing is percieved by an individual as one way, yet a different way to someone else.... Which is the true 'Truth'?

:mis:

Nice topic. :cool:

Well, what is the reason for said violence? Is it for the sake of righteousness or justice? To make something right?

This is when it's about relativity. Violence (IMO) is right given the circumstances. I believe it is an incorrect statement to say "Violence is never right." Then, that can stem into -what is violence? Obviously, using force to oppose, or halt the actions of another, or to inflict harm. But, again, what is the reason for said violence?

If it's for the purpose of evil for evilness sake -then it isn't right (justified).

It just so happens that I've arrived at this chapter in my book that I'm reading. I'll give you some more detailed feedback on relative vs absolute morality tomorrow but your last part of your first post contrasting with your second post throws me a little. First it seems as if you're all for moral absolutes as you point out by saying that there are no relative truths (which only leaves absolute) but then you start to talk about reasining behind an action and how there are exceptions that can be made which simply leads us back to relative truths.

In answer to the question you highlight of one person having an ethical disagreement with another, that's not such an issue (is it?) if you believe that its all relative however if you believe in absolute morality then the dilemma that you pose definitely causes problems...

And thanks. :)

...

Put these two together:
http://www.bartleby.com/65/et/ethics.html

http://www.bartleby.com/61/58/A0555800.html

I recognise this stuff from class, thanks for posting it! :)

Also, by definition, it is culturally determined; I had that thought somewhere in the back of my head, but you really brought it to the forefront in your first post.

Which is why I guess eastern philosophy (and its branch of ethics) and western philosophy (and its branch of ethics) are so different from each other? Hmm...I don't know enough about eastern philosophy very much...maybe someone can fill us in on how it might culturally determined perhaps?

...


I think that the 'truth' in ethics lies in the fact that somehow, there are individual ethical principles that more often than not end up contributary to a collective set of ethical principles. I say 'set' because this 'ethical truth' is some sort of melting pot for all the individual ethical systems in it. This melting pot then brings about what we call 'ethical truth'.



So in short, my opinion is that there are no real ethical truths from up front, but rather that ethical "truths" (which may not be the appropriate word) are a result of everyone's personal ethics.

So you're both saying that relative morality in itself produces absolute morality?
Hmm...is that even possible? or do they end up cancelling each other out (= no ethical truths :/)

...

The fact that you included a "nearly" in that sentence says a lot! There are minority groups (many in fact)that still think Hitler was right, and some of the parties involved in the genocides and other events still think they were right, because they still believe the "others" were inferior or somehing.

Is ethics something like a democracy, the values that get the most votes are "universal"? I think not.Interesting. That would go against what Encore and Conway said about relative morals collectively producing absolute ones.


So I think all these little ethical details through which we rule our lives are part of our cultures. In that sense, we might consider it the truth, but only because it's our truth. Perhaps it's been artificially transformed into something universal; the universal declaration of human rights is really a product of western civilization and values, that has been expanded throughout the globe through the legal influence of the UN and other bodies. Even still, that declaration is not respected in many parts of the world, including some western countries.

Which would link back to Myrmaad's post about Culture and religion being involved. As for the declaration of human rights...that's another argument in itself. Do rights exist? some would argue that the answer is "no".

...

That's true. Isn't ethics a branch of philosophy? If it is it's just further proof that it can't be "absolute" knowledge.

I would like to point out that philosophy and therefore ethics should not be considered as less worthy of attention simply because its not concerned necessarily with finding absolute language. What philosophy is concerned with in regards to its relationship/contrast with science is that whilst Science deals only in first order language (speaking directly about physical, biological or chemical observations), Philosophy uses second order language which examines what it means to speak about those things. Also it should be noted that history's greatest mathematicians and scientists have been involved with philosophy and vice versa additionally physics back in ye olde times was known as "natural philosophy". So philosophy definitely has its place. :)

...


I think this argument is a fallacy. There have been long standing disputes about the fundamental building blocks of the Universe. What the Universe is made of has not even been completely solved today and there are dozens of competing theories. No one doubts that its resolvable though.


While they're may be no ethical truths, the point is fallicious.

Ahh I see where you might be coming from with this. Do you know what kind of fallacy is being committed with that statement if that is indeed what the problem with the argument is?

...

I'm going to leave it there for now. So much I'd like to reply to and think about! :tmb:

Cochrane
22-01-08, 19:33
So you're both saying that relative morality in itself produces absolute morality?
Hmm...is that even possible? or do they end up cancelling each other out (= no ethical truths :/)

Basically yes, although absolute may be the wrong word here. I think that a majority will always find a set of core ethical values that everyone agrees with to some degree, and those can be considered "absolute" or "truth", but I'd say only for the group in question. Of course, humanity itself forms such a group, so one could say that things that all humans agree with in one form or another (like "killing humans is bad") are as absolute as it gets.

So in a way this cancels out ethical truths, yes. What I consider to be truth is actually the weakest form of relativism. I'm not certain if this is really the answer, that's just where my initial argument leads the longer I think about it.


Maybe it is useful to talk about the use of ethical values. Are moral values and opinions for which you can find a good explanation on why to follow them more useful than those for which you don't? That would go back to the evolutionary argument, which I don't want since I've gotten tired of this discussion in the other thread. Still, it's a point to think about: Are absolutee ethical truths those that are embedded in our species because they gave us an evolutionary advantage?

Draco
22-01-08, 19:41
The only universal truth is that Truth is Relative. This applies to ethics among other things.

Gregori
22-01-08, 19:45
The only universal truth is that Truth is Relative. This applies to ethics among other things.

If it was truth, it wouldn't be relative. Have you ever stepped in front of a train and survived?

Capt. Murphy
22-01-08, 20:56
I'm not sure if this is what I was looking for. At any rate, it's still a good read, and might be relative to this discussion. I was trying to search for something with 'relative -vs- absolute truth' in it. Maybe I should've looked at more search results. :-s

http://www.rzim.org/resources/essay_arttext.php?id=9

^It's mainly Christian based, but there are many interesting things to read there. ^_^ Apologetics ftw!

Encore
22-01-08, 23:48
I would like to point out that philosophy and therefore ethics should not be considered as less worthy of attention simply because its not concerned necessarily with finding absolute language. What philosophy is concerned with in regards to its relationship/contrast with science is that whilst Science deals only in first order language (speaking directly about physical, biological or chemical observations), Philosophy uses second order language which examines what it means to speak about those things. Also it should be noted that history's greatest mathematicians and scientists have been involved with philosophy and vice versa additionally physics back in ye olde times was known as "natural philosophy". So philosophy definitely has its place. :)


Oh I absolutely agree, when I say that philosophy can't discover absolute truths it's not in a negative way, I can't really explain this but all philosophy seems to be the pursuit of truth in a most subjective way, it's not objective "in your face" like science. I actually think philosophy is extremely necessary for the advance of human knowledge.

Ward Dragon
23-01-08, 00:30
"There are no ethical truths. If there were there would not be such a long standing dispute and serious disagreement about ethics" What is wrong with this argument?

Gregori already explained what's wrong with this argument (even if people disagree and argue over something, there could still be a true answer). I was trying to find a philosophical term for the fallacy. The person is claiming that since we haven't found a clear answer in such a long time, that means that there isn't an answer. That could possibly be an argument from ignorance (saying that we haven't been able to disprove that ethics are relative, therefore ethics are relative). That's the best I can do as far as explaining what's wrong with the logic of that particular argument :)

As for my personal thoughts on the matter, I think that there is some universal ethical truth. I think that this ethical truth is that it's wrong to cause (or allow) pain without a justified reason. The subjectivity comes in when people try to determine what is justified and what isn't.

For example, a doctor may need to cause pain in order to heal a person through surgery. The doctor obviously thinks that healing the person justifies whatever pain is caused by the treatment, so the course of action is considered ethical. On more controversial cases, supporters of euthanasia would think that ending the pain of a terminally ill patient would outweigh whatever pain was caused by the death, whereas opponents would say it doesn't. Likewise, for capital punishment supporters may say that preventing the pain of future victims justifies whatever pain the murderer is put through in death, whereas opponents would say that it's not justified to weigh real pain in the present against theoretical pain in the future.

Now I'll give a simpler example to show how my idea could be adapted for most of the laws we have which people generally accept as ethical. If a person steals something, then they are causing emotional pain to the person they stole it from since that person probably cared about the object, worked hard for it, etc. So when people decide if it's ethical, they weigh that pain against the thief's motivations to see if it was justified (was he stealing medicine for his dying wife or was he stealing a TV to hock for drug money?). If it was for his dying wife, then he was probably preventing more pain than he caused so people would be more lenient. If it was so he could buy drugs for himself, then there's nothing good to balance out the damage he did to the person he stole from. That's grossly simplified from real world occurrences, but hopefully you get the idea I'm trying to explain. Most of the time (at least from cases reported on the news) people are not stealing for reasons that would be considered justified, so the vast majority of stealing is considered unethical. That could be expanded to fraud and other similar crimes since the perpetrator is causing some sort of pain to the victim. Even laws like speed limits are put into place in order to reduce the probability of an accident occurring in which people could get hurt or die.

To throw a random idea in for the sake of argument, even someone like Hannibal Lecter seems to follow this rule, although in a twisted way. He is definitely aware of the pain he is causing, but he thinks it is justified because of the pleasure he gets from what he does, and because he thinks that his victims deserve it for the crimes they have committed themselves. This extreme example may seem like I undid my argument for universal ethics. I wanted to point out that I'm not saying there is a specific universal set of rules and laws. Rather, I am saying that there is a universal logical thought-process for ethics which may result in different answers depending on which premises individual people start with.

So basically to sum it up, I think that the universal ethical truth is that it's wrong to cause or allow pain without justification for doing so. Each case has different variables so it has to be individually considered when determining if the justification is good enough for causing/allowing the pain to occur. Different people have different ideas of when it is worth it, but I think everyone (or almost everyone) who thinks about ethics uses that general principle on some level.

(Sorry if that ramble made no sense. I tend to get ahead of myself and not explain things properly all the time, or go off on tangents and forget what my original point was :o)

Encore
23-01-08, 00:50
^^ So, do you mean that even diferent sets of moral values use the same logical ethic permise (causing pain is wrong) to justify themselves? Am I correct? Example: slavery wasn't regarded as wrong, because it wasn't regarded as painful to other humans, because slaves weren't regarded as humans.

(just trying to see if I understood your argument, I'm a little slow :o)

Ward Dragon
23-01-08, 01:03
^^ So, do you mean that even diferent sets of moral values use the same logical ethic permise (causing pain is wrong) to justify themselves? Am I correct? Example: slavery wasn't regarded as wrong, because it wasn't regarded as painful to other humans, because slaves weren't regarded as humans.

(just trying to see if I understood your argument, I'm a little slow :o)

That was pretty much what I was trying to say, that I think everyone uses the same logic but with different premises. To use your slavery example, some of the slave owners would know they were causing pain, but they would look at whatever benefits they were receiving from it and think it was worth it, therefore the slavery would be justified in their minds. Other slave owners might be under the impression that conditions were better for the slaves then they would be if they were free, so that's how those people would justify it to themselves. Then others would start with the premise that the slaves were sub-human and so to these people the slaves' pain would be worth less and easier to try to justify in their minds. Then in our modern society we have a different point of view and different premises we are basing our logic on, so we think that the supposed benefits of slavery do not justify the slaves' pain, therefore slavery is unethical.

(If that didn't make sense, then it's not you so don't worry :p I'm trying to explain an idea before I've really fully thought how to explain it, and that usually does not end well :p)

Edit: To be clear, I didn't say that causing pain is automatically wrong. I said I think it's a logical formula that causing unjustified pain is wrong, and the murky part comes in when people try to reason out what is justified and what is not justified based upon different viewpoints of what things are worth.

Encore
23-01-08, 01:25
You make a very good point. I'd have to think properly about it to offer a final reply. Unfortunately it seems Heath Ledger's death has somehow blocked my reasoning right now.. :(

myrmaad
23-01-08, 04:39
In fact though, the majority of slave owners were so immersed in their culture that they truly did not believe what they were doing was wrong. This goes back to my sociological training in attitude formation and is somewhat complex, 1) Attitudes are not based on logic 2) People will adopt attitudes based on "mere exposure" 3) People will adapt their perceptions to accommodate their beliefs--3a) based on how well the attitude serves their psychological needs --3b) to get rewards/approval --3c) to accommodate their understanding of the why the world is the way it is --3d) as an ego defense --3e) to accommodate and express their own self-concept

I think these were clearly illustrated in the soul debate.

To be utterly frank, I rather feel like coming on TRF for gibber-jabber and to get away from the rigors of scholarship. To tell the truth I'm just sick to death of school right now. This is nothing new it's been going on for the past two semesters.


So let's say that I was swayed by the soul debate and have formed a new opinion: That, astonishingly, not all people have souls.

I could accommodate this new information by deciding that some people are less equal than others i.e. if they have no soul, they are substandard specimens, not quite human, and I need not worry about treating them ethically.

Chew on that.

That's it for now.