Free Capitalist Network - Community Archive
Mises Community Archive
An online community for fans of Austrian economics and libertarianism, featuring forums, user blogs, and more.

Thoughts on ethics... pleasure = good

rated by 0 users
This post has 39 Replies | 4 Followers

Top 10 Contributor
Male
Posts 6,885
Points 121,845
Clayton Posted: Tue, Feb 14 2012 5:14 PM

I ate a Dove chocolate today and the foil wrapper said inside: "Indulge your every whim."

This is obviously bad advice but I think this is what people actually hear when they are told of the Epicurean ethic: what is pleasurable is good and what is painful is bad/evil.

Epicurus was careful to dispel this notion, noting that humans can foresee the long-run consequences of their actions and to act without regard to long-run consequences is, in fact, bad since you are choosing your own pain. For example, if you drink excessively, you will suffer a hangover and other health effects and there may be social consequences, as well. To drink to excess simply because of a whim is not to act morally in the Epicurean sense, it is to act immorally. Or, to put it in more economical language, it is a failure to balance the costs and benefits of a present course of action with the costs and benefits of its long-run consequences.

It is my view that one of the most important objectives which will contribute to human freedom and flourishing is the promulgation of Epicurean thinking about right and wrong. While Epicureanism does not provide a complete science of human ethics (i.e. prescriptions of what ends you should or should not have), it provides the framework for such a science. What remains is for people to begin talking about how to live life within this overarching framework that what is pleasurable is good and what is painful is bad.

Most ideas regarding morality are self-frustrating; they aim to achieve happiness through some form or other of self-affliction. For example, the Christian believer is supposed to agonize over his sins, donate a portion of his money to the Church and forego a litany of harmless pleasures in order to attain the pleasure that really matters, that is, being right with God and going to Heaven. But it is this metaphysical dichotomy between "pleasures that matter" and "pleasures that don't matter" that is problematic.

There is no good reason to believe that the pleasures of Heaven and being in good standing with a spirit being outweigh the other pleasures of life in importance. The Dawkins/Dennett anti-religionists insist on the abolition of belief in God and religion as the solution but this is an obvious mistake. It is possible to believe in spiritual entities without sacrificing one's morality (seeking pleasure/avoiding pain) and there is no necessary reason that a religious organization must interfere with right living more than any other organization (such as a business or charity).

It's not as easy as it sounds to live an Epicurean life, either. It really entails undoing all the bad training you've received through your whole life to neglect thinking about your own pleasure and, instead, rethinking the way you live your life entirely through the lens of the long-run consequences of your choices on your own happiness (pleasure or satisfaction).

In fact, I see it as a sliding scale... the more accurately you predict the long-run consequences of your choices, the better you can live your life, that is, the more successful you can be in attaining satisfaction of your own wants. What the critics miss is that, in the course of doing this, you must please many other people along the way. Social cooperation is already built into the very fabric of society and it is primarily by pleasing others that you will be able to attain your own highest happiness. Selflessness is not some onerous duty that we need wise leaders to coax everyone into performing so that society doesn't disintegrate. It's like any other law of cause and effect... when you make yourself available to do something that others need done, they will solicit your help with the offer to do something in return, that is, to trade with you. By exchanging with others, you improve your lot in life and increase your ability to satisfy your wants (including the want of leisure).

But until you undo the years of brainwashing and commit to achieve unhampered self-expression, you will have no incentive to go out and act in order to bring about the conditions under which you will best flourish. Teaching people the importance of this and teaching them about the ways in which society attempts to impede them from single-mindedly pursuing their own satisfaction is necessary to realizing greater human liberty and prosperity. The less amenable people are to forsaking their own pleasure, the less servile they will be and the less servile people are, the more hostile they will be to being yoked to the ends of the State and to endure tyranny. This is the Kraken versus the Establishment's Titans - once released, their destruction is inevitable.

Clayton -

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com
  • | Post Points: 80
Top 10 Contributor
Male
Posts 4,987
Points 89,745
Wheylous replied on Tue, Feb 14 2012 5:39 PM

Man, if this is what chocolate does to you...

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 50 Contributor
Posts 2,679
Points 45,110
gotlucky replied on Tue, Feb 14 2012 5:42 PM

Something to think about: at what point is that hangover immoral?  Is it wrong for someone to celebrate his 21st birthday and get drunk?  Is it wrong for him to smoke pot?  If he has cancer? Not even then?

What a lot of people are incapable of is seeing that there does not have to be a one size fits all view of immorality.  Epicureanism may be a good way to demonstrate that morality need not be viewed that way.

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 150 Contributor
Male
Posts 653
Points 13,185

What happens when I have to choose between present pleasure at the expense of future pain, and present pain for the sake of future pleasure?  Either way, I have to choose pain, so why should I always choose pain now?  

they said we would have an unfair fun advantage

"enough about human rights. what about whale rights?" -moondog
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 10 Contributor
Male
Posts 6,885
Points 121,845
Clayton replied on Tue, Feb 14 2012 5:57 PM

Something to think about: at what point is that hangover immoral?  Is it wrong for someone to celebrate his 21st birthday and get drunk?  Is it wrong for him to smoke pot?  If he has cancer? Not even then?

What a lot of people are incapable of is seeing that there does not have to be a one size fits all view of immorality.  Epicureanism may be a good way to demonstrate that morality need not be viewed that way.

I think the key is to realize that only the individual can make that call for himself. Some people consider any hangover at all to be too high a price to pay for drinking and simply forego drinking. Others feel that the pleasure of drinking can be traded off with a certain amount of hangover. But the key is that the Epicurean ethic is not a prescription for lobotomized, ultra-high-time-preference Hedonism, it is about calculating the relative costs and benefits to yourself - as best you can - of the various courses of action available to you at any point in time.

Clayton -

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 10 Contributor
Male
Posts 6,885
Points 121,845
Clayton replied on Tue, Feb 14 2012 6:02 PM

What happens when I have to choose between present pleasure at the expense of future pain, and present pain for the sake of future pleasure?  Either way, I have to choose pain, so why should I always choose pain now?  

See my response to gotlucky. It's up to you to decide which is the lesser of two evils. But the point is that you should calculate right/wrong with respect to your own pleasure/pain, not with respect to the pelasure/pain of others. On the surface, this sounds like heartless selfishness but it really is not - the pain of others also causes us sympathetic pain. The point is that you should alter your course of action in response to your sympathetic pain, not in response to any pain of another.

For example, killing an intruder to your home will cause him pain. It is not likely you will be sympathizing with his pain as you are busy protecting yourself from his aggression. Hence, the fact that he is going through pain is inconsequential to your right course of action. There is a reason that you do not sympathize with him: your brain is incapable of sympathizing with the suffering of someone who is aggressing against you. This is a feature which was apparently necessary for the survival of our ancestors.

Clayton -

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 150 Contributor
Male
Posts 653
Points 13,185

So if I have a high time preference and always prefer to spend paychecks now, then it would be immoral to save money, right?

they said we would have an unfair fun advantage

"enough about human rights. what about whale rights?" -moondog
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 10 Contributor
Male
Posts 6,885
Points 121,845
Clayton replied on Tue, Feb 14 2012 6:19 PM

@mik: That's up to you. I would say that you should explore life a little and see if you aren't happier after saving a little money and enjoying increased peace of mind and higher total income but it's ultimately up to you whether or not to follow that advice.

Clayton -

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 150 Contributor
Male
Posts 653
Points 13,185

Clayton,

The point I'm trying to make is that since we are regularly in a position where we must choose between pleasure now or pleasure later, and since we are our own judge as to which is better, then Epicureanism* boils down to "do whatever you want."  

EDIT: *I don't think this is really the Epicurean position, but it is how you've presented it.  

they said we would have an unfair fun advantage

"enough about human rights. what about whale rights?" -moondog
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 10 Contributor
Male
Posts 6,885
Points 121,845
Clayton replied on Tue, Feb 14 2012 9:43 PM

Clayton,

The point I'm trying to make is that since we are regularly in a position where we must choose between pleasure now or pleasure later, and since we are our own judge as to which is better, then Epicureanism* boils down to "do whatever you want." 

EDIT: *I don't think this is really the Epicurean position, but it is how you've presented it.

Hmm, I think you're right that this is not the Epicurean position as it is understood today but I wonder if it is, indeed, what he thought. If you formalize the concepts of pleasure and pain then, yes, it does boil down to simply "do whatever you want." And that's the whole point: there's nothing wrong with what you want. The lapsarian narrative of the human condition implies that there is some sort of deficiency in human will which needs to be corrected, by religious leaders or social leaders or some kind of wiser individuals who have the heavy duty to continually chastise and correct our errant will (don't ask me who is tasked with keeping the leaders in line).

When you abolish the idea of congenital moral deficiency - without jumping off the abyss into tabula rasa - you end up with a moral system that boils down, simply, to "do whatever you want" or, as the Satanists put it: Do What Thou Wilt. Is this not the essence of liberalism? That each individual is a whole and responsible being born with all the faculties required to chart for himself his own course in life, however wise or foolhardy he may be? Bear in mind that a person's chosen course of action can include seeking out moral instruction. So, those who sense a moral deficiency in themselves always have at hand the means to correct this deficiency. We do not need this imposed upon us.

Clayton -

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 50 Contributor
Male
Posts 2,493
Points 39,355
Malachi replied on Tue, Feb 14 2012 10:13 PM
When you abolish the idea of congenital moral deficiency - without jumping off the abyss into tabula rasa - you end up with a moral system that boils down, simply, to "do whatever you want" or, as the Satanists put it: Do What Thou Wilt. Is this not the essence of liberalism? That each individual is a whole and responsible being born with all the faculties required to chart for himself his own course in life, however wise or foolhardy he may be? Bear in mind that a person's chosen course of action can include seeking out moral instruction. So, those who sense a moral deficiency in themselves always have at hand the means to correct this deficiency. We do not need this imposed upon us.
I dont see quite how you managed to skip over the facts that humans are born with many faculties, but few capabilities, and in urgent need of instruction in all facets of life, not simply moral or social. One might expect the one law of liberalism to be the non-aggression principle, or perhaps the Golden Rule. "do whatever you want" resembles the propaganda version of anarchy.

I also take issue with your mischaracterization of Christianity in the op, but I will address that when I address the substance of the op, as it (the op) is a subject that interests me greatly.

Keep the faith, Strannix. -Casey Ryback, Under Siege (Steven Seagal)
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 50 Contributor
Posts 2,679
Points 45,110
gotlucky replied on Tue, Feb 14 2012 11:23 PM

@Clayton

I agree with you.  I'm trying to figure out how to demonstrate to other people that this is a good point of view.  I suppose it's just like any other debate...you don't argue to convice the people who are dead set against you, you argue to convince the observing third party who has not yet made up his mind.  

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 10 Contributor
Male
Posts 6,885
Points 121,845
Clayton replied on Wed, Feb 15 2012 1:56 AM

 

@gotlucky: I think a large part of it is also coming to really understand that evolution really is a self-correcting process. Sure, things are out of whack and yes lots of people are doing lots of really stupid shit (that affects you and me) but the process of evolutionary correction is always in operation. 

I realized this when reading about the evolutionary psychological theory of male jealous rage. Cuckoldry is a serious problem when you don't have DNA paternity tests. It is really difficult to be sure that the child you're pouring your energy into raising really is your own, especially when there are many genetically superior alternatives that your wife could have sneaked out and mated with. But Nature is unforgiving... men who failed to discern that a child was not theirs and poured their energies into it anyway doubly lost out in evolutionary terms... not only did they fail to propagate their genes, they actually contributed to the propagation of the genes of other, less-duped men. Such genes die out quickly and what replaces them is not so nice. Basically, male jealous rage is an ugly part of Nature's solution to this problem. Men who were mad with jealousy really did succeed in preventing their wife from cuckolding them more often than their less jealous peers.

I see the State in a similar light. It exists so, clearly, it is part of the natural order.  But my view is that it's part of the natural order like rape or domestic violence are part of the natural order: an ugly and undesirable evolutionary adaptation that solves some other problem that is even worse from Nature's point-of-view (such as passing up opportunities to reproduce or being cuckolded). But since we are flexible, social animals with a frontal cortex, we are capable of improving on Nature's worst-case scenario solutions with social norms (morality) and law. We will be rid of the State when our social norms and our laws adapt to remove the need for the State altogether and remove the large material benefits that come with being a State. It's not just an intellectual problem, it's a problem of values, mores, culture and law.

In the end, I think this process will unfold regardless of how well or poorly libertarians "spread the gospel" or to what desperate measures the Establishment resorts to halt or slow it. The Nature which created this scoffs at the machinations of men.

Clayton -

 

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 10 Contributor
Male
Posts 6,885
Points 121,845
Clayton replied on Wed, Feb 15 2012 2:09 AM

non-aggression principle, or perhaps the Golden Rule. "do whatever you want" resembles the propaganda version of anarchy.

Well, I think you're looking at the issue at too low a level of abstraction. Start with Robinson Crusoe alone on his island. Assuming his biological instincts are well-adapted to his environment, it is clear that "do whatever you want" is exactly the right moral rule. He ought to do whatever he wants to do.

And introducing Friday into the picture doesn't change anything, since Friday is now simply another part of Crusoe's environment (and Crusoe a part of Friday's environment).

What makes you need some kind of "corrective" moral principles is when your biological equipment is not well adapted to your environment (or if you are a tabula rasa, a view which is being thoroughly discredited these days).

Another way to look at the GR or NAP is as barometers of the relative power of individuals. A very powerful individual treats his inferiors in a very different way than individuals who are peers treat each other. Peer relationships are governed by rules which conform, more or less, to the NAP/GR (one can make the case that the NAP is just a restatement of the GR). So, we can actually make this tautological... an individual is powerful exactly if he is someone who treats his inferiors by rules very different from the rules by which they treat him.

The need for corrective morality arises from our maladaptedness to the modern environment but the essence of right and wrong remain. The means for correcting the mismatch between our built-in wiring and the actual circumstances into which we are born lies within our frontal cortex, that is, our capacity to form social norms and laws which alter the equilibrium of psychic benefits of various courses of action. Rape is a lot less attractive course of action when you know you are likely to be killed by a vindictive family member.

Clayton -

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 50 Contributor
Posts 2,679
Points 45,110
gotlucky replied on Wed, Feb 15 2012 3:06 PM

@Clayton

Well I suppose all I can do is just try to plant the seed of doubt whenever I can.  The bigger the State gets, the easier for people to see its harm to society - but one problem is that instead of trying to diminish the State's power, people try to wield it for their own purpose instead.  It's like the One Ring.  Everyone can recognize its power, but instead of trying to destroy it, everyone (or most people) just try to take it and use it themselves (or their politcal party).

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 10 Contributor
Male
Posts 6,885
Points 121,845
Clayton replied on Wed, Feb 15 2012 5:38 PM

It's like the One Ring.

Good analogy. I wonder if Tolkien had that in mind.

Clayton -

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 50 Contributor
Posts 2,679
Points 45,110
gotlucky replied on Wed, Feb 15 2012 6:41 PM

From Wikipedia on JRR Tolkien:

My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy(philosophically understood, meaning the abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs)—or to 'unconstitutional'Monarchy. I would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inanimate realm of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute them if they remained obstinate! If we could get back to personal names, it would do a lot of good. Government is an abstract noun meaning the art and process of governing and it should be an offence to write it with a capital G or so to refer to people.[94]

 

Maybe he did have it in mind.

  • | Post Points: 5
Top 50 Contributor
Male
Posts 2,493
Points 39,355
Malachi replied on Wed, Feb 15 2012 10:51 PM
And introducing Friday into the picture doesn't change anything, since Friday is now simply another part of Crusoe's environment (and Crusoe a part of Friday's environment).
the environment has become a social environment. I dont see how Crusoe's unmodified reaction to Friday is moral except in that you have defined morality as satisfying one's desires. As far as I am aware (although I am going off of hearsay here) feral humans are not good company.

Advocating "do what you like" as a moral principle is akin to filling the pantry with bottles of baby food and bottles of biowarfare agent and labeling every bottle "this bottle contains EITHER nourishment OR poison." the only difference is that my example is binary, whereas the number of possible acts for any actor ranges from many to infinite. In both cases, the instructions are devoid of instructional content.

we agree that people become happy by doing what they ultimately want. We disagree on whether they are born knowing what these acts are.

Keep the faith, Strannix. -Casey Ryback, Under Siege (Steven Seagal)
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 50 Contributor
Posts 2,679
Points 45,110
gotlucky replied on Wed, Feb 15 2012 11:19 PM

I think you are confusing what Clayton has proposed as morality with what he has proposed as law.  Whether or not feral humans are good company doesn't change morality.  That has to do with law.  If I agress against Clayton, it doesn't matter if it was moral by anyone's standards.  He now has a beef with me and that needs to be settled one way or another.  Depending on the case, some people might say my aggression was moral.  Consider:

1)  Clayton engages in prostitution (Clayton, forgive me!).  The State then assaults, kidnaps, and jails him.

2) Clayton looks at me funny.  I assault him.

In the first scenario, many people would make the case that Clayton acted immorally.  However, does that immorality justify aggression?  Most of us here would say no - and we would even say the State has acted even more immorally.  But obviously, most people disagree with us.  They enforce their view of morality onto others.  In the second scenario, clearly I have acted immorally as I have assaulted Clayton with no good reason.

Just because Clayton is defining morality as "What is good is what is pleasurable, and what is bad is what is painful" (taken from wikipedia/epicurus) does not mean that he is throwing away the NAP.  They are separate from each other.

 

Malachi:

we agree that people become happy by doing what they ultimately want. We disagree on whether they are born knowing what these acts are.

This does not seem to be true.  How can a man be born not knowing things that make him happy?  Certainly others can suggest things that may not have been obvious to him, but how does this stop him from knowing what makes him happy?

Also, how would you define what is moral?

 

 

  • | Post Points: 35
Top 50 Contributor
Male
Posts 2,493
Points 39,355
Malachi replied on Wed, Feb 15 2012 11:29 PM
This does not seem to be true.  How can a man be born not knowing things that make him happy?  Certainly others can suggest things that may not have been obvious to him, but how does this stop him from knowing what makes him happy?

Also, how would you define what is moral?

people are born not knowing all sorts of things. They usually become even more ignorant once someone starts teaching them (ha). Seriously, have you ever seen actual newborn human young? Are you suggesting that a human infant knows how to create shelter and procure food? Let alone persuade a human of the opposite sex to mingle gametes?

in my opinion, "moral" refers to being in accordance with a divinely created, self-evident code of behavior with the principle characteristic that moral behavior creates the greatest possible amount of psychic profit.

as for your suggestions that I misunderstand Clayton's points, that very well might be true. I will return to this thread later when I have more time and try it again.

Keep the faith, Strannix. -Casey Ryback, Under Siege (Steven Seagal)
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 50 Contributor
Posts 2,679
Points 45,110
gotlucky replied on Wed, Feb 15 2012 11:55 PM

Not knowing how to build shelter or procure food does not mean a young child does not know what makes him happy.  And seeing as a newborn needs adults in order to live, I'm not sure it really makes sense to discuss whether it is moral for an infant to know how to build a house.  Also, just because people can learn that certain things are in fact "better" for them does not change that they still know that certain things make them happy, and other things do not.

Malachi:

in my opinion, "moral" refers to being in accordance with a divinely created, self-evident code of behavior with the principle characteristic that moral behavior creates the greatest possible amount of psychic profit.

Okay, well I don't believe in God, so obviously I can't agree with you on this.  But, where does God get his morality?  Why does he choose what he chooses?

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 50 Contributor
Male
Posts 2,493
Points 39,355
Malachi replied on Thu, Feb 16 2012 12:16 AM
I am not qualified to speak authoritatively on divine motives. But if I were to speculate, I would say that God did all of this because he believes that consonance is better appreciated when one has experience with dissonance. Its like music.
Not knowing how to build shelter or procure food does not mean a young child does not know what makes him happy.
ok, I declne to take the burden of proof here. Substantiate for me that a newborn human knows what makes him or her happy, if you please.
And seeing as a newborn needs adults in order to live, I'm not sure it really makes sense to discuss whether it is moral for an infant to know how to build a house.
since you concede that a newborn needs adults for survival, would you also concede that among the tasks of raising a child, there might include the process of instruction? Perhaps instruction in social affairs, including moral behavior with regard to other humans? So he was not actually born knowing whether he should treat others as he would like to be treated or just do whatever he wants, and therefore is in need of moral instruction? Right?
Keep the faith, Strannix. -Casey Ryback, Under Siege (Steven Seagal)
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 50 Contributor
Posts 2,679
Points 45,110
gotlucky replied on Thu, Feb 16 2012 12:50 AM

Malachi:

I am not qualified to speak authoritatively on divine motives. But if I were to speculate, I would say that God did all of this because he believes that consonance is better appreciated when one has experience with dissonance. Its like music.

Since you weren't specific, I'll have to make some assumptions.  Is murder dissonance?  Is charity consonance?  What makes it so?  Why does God determine that murder is wrong?  What about slavery?  According to God, slavery was okay.  According to modern Judaism and Christianity, it is not.  So, where did the change come from?  The Old and New Testaments did not change.  People's view did.  See here and here for more information.

Malachi:

ok, I declne to take the burden of proof here. Substantiate for me that a newborn human knows what makes him or her happy, if you please.

Okay.  Babies and Beethoven.  Positive and Negative: Infant Facial Expressions and Emotions.  Babies obviously can express and feel happiness and sorrow.  Something makes this happen.  These triggers cause the same reactions.  That a baby cannot reason at the same level as you or me does not change that babies can feel and know.  What they feel and know changes throughout their life.  This still doesn't change that an infant can know that seeing mommy makes him happy, or that loud noises make him upset.

Malachi:

since you concede that a newborn needs adults for survival, would you also concede that among the tasks of raising a child, there might include the process of instruction? Perhaps instruction in social affairs, including moral behavior with regard to other humans? So he was not actually born knowing whether he should treat others as he would like to be treated or just do whatever he wants, and therefore is in need of moral instruction? Right?

As I stated before, I will grant that infants need adults for survival.  I will not grant you that instruction in anything from adults is necessary for survival.  It's certainly helpful.  Parents could give everything their child needs without instruction until the child is old enough to figure things out for himself.  This would be a pretty terrible situation for the child, but it is not necessary to instruct.  So I cannot grant you this point.

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 50 Contributor
Male
Posts 2,493
Points 39,355
Malachi replied on Thu, Feb 16 2012 1:27 AM
Is murder dissonance?
since murder is defined as "unjust killing of a human" I would say yes.
Is charity consonance?
in general, yes. It can be. "Charitable" actions could also be immoral, suppose you were providing free housing and food to lazy spoiled teenagers.
Why does God determine that murder is wrong?
your question is circular. "murder" is a term given to unjust killing, depending on the speaker's intended source of justice. For a statist, the moral authority is the state, a killing isnt a murder unless the state deems it so.
According to God, slavery was okay.  According to modern Judaism and Christianity, it is not.  So, where did the change come from?  The Old and New Testaments did not change.  People's view did.  See here and here for more information
wha?? Are you some sort of prophet? How is it that you claim to know what God supported? Also, you have not expressed any literal contradiction, just a mishmash of assorted views (which must be how any atheist perceives affirmative religion). Youre like "God says this, humans say that, what the heck? How am I supposed to know anything hurr durr" If you're not an adherent of modern or ancient Judaism or Christianity, and I havent brought this up, what exactly is it doing in the thread? 
Okay.  Babies and Beethoven.  Positive and Negative: Infant Facial Expressions and Emotions.  Babies obviously can express and feel happiness and sorrow.  Something makes this happen.  These triggers cause the same reactions.  That a baby cannot reason at the same level as you or me does not change that babies can feel and know.  What they feel and know changes throughout their life.  This still doesn't change that an infant can know that seeing mommy makes him happy, or that loud noises make him upset.
so you are saying that babies know that listening to beethoven makes them happy? Because all you have established is capacity for happiness, not knowledge of the means to attain that happiness.
As I stated before, I will grant that infants need adults for survival.  I will not grant you that instruction in anything from adults is necessary for survival.
thats an awfully hard position to support. Are you a natural language proponent? Edited to add: aha! "necessary" ok feral humans are by definition "survivors" so I suppose you are correct.
It's certainly helpful.  Parents could give everything their child needs without instruction until the child is old enough to figure things out for himself.  This would be a pretty terrible situation for the child, but it is not necessary to instruct.  So I cannot grant you this point.
by "figure things out for himself" do you mean a self-directed process of trial and error?
Keep the faith, Strannix. -Casey Ryback, Under Siege (Steven Seagal)
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 10 Contributor
Male
Posts 6,885
Points 121,845
Clayton replied on Thu, Feb 16 2012 4:20 PM

we agree that people become happy by doing what they ultimately want. We disagree on whether they are born knowing what these acts are.

Actually, I don't disagree with this, it's just that I don't think Person A can tell Person B what will make him happy better than Person B can decide for himself. I Person B, like any person, is in a perpetual process of self-learning in determining what will make him happy and he may seek advice from Person A in determining for himself what will best make him happy but Person A cannot dictate to Person B what will make him happy for the simple reason that Person A does not have access to Person B's subjective state.

Clayton -

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com
  • | Post Points: 5
Top 10 Contributor
Male
Posts 6,885
Points 121,845
Clayton replied on Thu, Feb 16 2012 8:51 PM

I would also like to add that - to the extent that the study of the contents of human nature is scientific - we can lend the weight of science to the conclusions reached by such study. Evolutionary psychology is the best example of this, in my view.

Biology, for example, imposes law on what courses of action can make us happy (for example, you cannot get lasting happiness/pleasure/satisfaction from eating poison or jumping naked from a very high cliff). Similarly, evolutionary psychology also imposes laws on what course of action can make us happy, laws discovered from the study of the conditions under which the human brain evolved. I imagine that a sound sociology (I don't think one exists at this point) could likewise unearth laws of human society within which we operate, whether we like it or not.

History, moral philosophy and scholarly legal study are all avenues of study which could once again be fruitful in increasing our understanding of the nature of society, the individual and the individual's relation to society. However, a reversion in methodology to the older Austrian methods of praxeology and thymology will be required before this can happen.

Clayton -

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 50 Contributor
Male
Posts 2,493
Points 39,355
Malachi replied on Thu, Feb 16 2012 9:33 PM
So if I understand correctly, you are saying that Brian cannot use praxeologic means to determine what will make Mary happy, only scientific means will answer that question (as far as the question can be answered). Is this an accurate representation?
Keep the faith, Strannix. -Casey Ryback, Under Siege (Steven Seagal)
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 10 Contributor
Male
Posts 6,885
Points 121,845
Clayton replied on Thu, Feb 16 2012 10:45 PM

, only scientific means will answer that question (as far as the question can be answered).

Brian can only answer the question of what can/cannot make Mary happy only insofar as he can discern scientific laws regarding human nature. Such laws cannot be derived through deductive methods, they can only be arrived at through inductive methods (studying actual human nature and the specifics of how it came to be).

Brian can and must guess what will bring about his own happiness (that is, Brian acts). He may be mistaken or he may get it right but only time will tell. Science can help Brian in assessing what his own ends ought to be but it is only of so much use since much of what will make Brian happy or unhappy is the result of the particular circumstances in which Brian finds himself (circumstances he shares in common with no one else, that is, what it is to be Brian).

And the word "science" should not be understood in the primarily clinical sense in which it is used today - the corpus of human experience is the primary repository of scientific knowledge regarding human happiness. Innumerable humans have lived before us and they have tried uncountable different life choices with as many outcomes. Some of them got it wrong and led miserable lives; their peers and descendants learned from their mistakes and made different choices and passed on to their descendants a tendency towards making those choices in the form of genetic dispositions and social norms. To put it another way, you can learn a lot more about human nature from reading a good novel than you can from reading the Psychological Bulletin.

Clayton -

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 200 Contributor
Posts 467
Points 7,590

Man, if this is what chocolate does to you...

I loved that comment and had a chocolate moment thinking about the implications of it.

  • | Post Points: 5
Top 50 Contributor
Posts 2,679
Points 45,110
gotlucky replied on Fri, Feb 17 2012 1:53 PM

Malachi:

your question is circular. "murder" is a term given to unjust killing, depending on the speaker's intended source of justice. For a statist, the moral authority is the state, a killing isnt a murder unless the state deems it so.

It is not a circular question.  There are people who do not consider murder to be wrong.  One example would be anybody who actually murders and recognizes it as such.  They did it knowing it was murder.  If they don't regret it later, then they definitely don't consider it wrong!  Just on Drudge the other day was an article about a woman so pissed at her boyfried/husband (I can't recall) about not getting a Valentine's Day gift that she took a knife and tried to murder him!  Fortunately he locked himself in the bedroom away from her until the police arrived - but she tried to murder him!  Over not getting a present!  This woman clearly believed murdering her boyfriend/husband was not wrong.

Now, I think she was wrong to try, but that's because I believe murder is wrong.  So the question is not circular.  So I ask again, why does God determine murder is wrong?

Malachi:

wha?? Are you some sort of prophet? How is it that you claim to know what God supported? Also, you have not expressed any literal contradiction, just a mishmash of assorted views (which must be how any atheist perceives affirmative religion). Youre like "God says this, humans say that, what the heck? How am I supposed to know anything hurr durr" If you're not an adherent of modern or ancient Judaism or Christianity, and I havent brought this up, what exactly is it doing in the thread? 

I am not a prophet.  I do not believe in God, so I cannot think "God" supported anything.  However, Jews believe that the Torah is the word of God.  Christians believe something or other about the New Testament being the word of God.  Now, when I say that God supported slavery, the thing is, that in the Torah, or Old Testament, there are sections that deal with God's rules regarding slaves and slavery.  I even linked to it.  There is an article for Christianity too.

So, I guess it depends on whether or not you believe that the Old and New Testaments are the word of God or not.  If you do, then this is entirely relevant, as it shows that God supported slavery, but modern Jews and Christians do not.  So there is a contradiction between God and his believers.

If you do not believe that the Old and New Testaments are the word of God, well then I am curious as to how you know what God believes.  I was under the assumption you are a Christian from other threads, but I suppose I could be mistaken.

I was a Jew at one point.  I had a Bar Mitzvah.  I no longer believe in God, so I am not longer a practicing Jew.  This is why I call myself an atheist.  I brought this up because there are modern interpretations of God's morality that contradict what is supposed to be his word.

God says this, humans say that hurr durr?  Really?  I expect actual refutations of my arguments.

Malachi:

so you are saying that babies know that listening to beethoven makes them happy? Because all you have established is capacity for happiness, not knowledge of the means to attain that happiness.

The second article had nothing to do with Beethoven.  It had everything to do with facial expressions and emotions.  With these articles I demonstrated that babies have not only a capacity for happiness, but that there are causes for their emotions.  These causes do not have random effects on infants.

Infants do communicate.  When they are especially young, this is done mostly through crying.  But they do laugh.  This is communication.  Just because it is not at the same level as us, does not mean it does not exist.

At this point, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that despite the fact that a baby can have an outside stimulus, then have an emotional reaction, and then communicate this reaction, that the baby in fact is not capable of knowing that food = pleasure, burping = less pain.

Malachi:

thats an awfully hard position to support. Are you a natural language proponent? Edited to add: aha! "necessary" ok feral humans are by definition "survivors" so I suppose you are correct.

Okay, you stated that you see I am correct here.

Malachi:

by "figure things out for himself" do you mean a self-directed process of trial and error?

I don't much care how a human figures things out.  If a person can figure things out without trial and error, then more power to him...but if it must be done with trial and error, then so be it.

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 50 Contributor
Male
Posts 2,493
Points 39,355
Malachi replied on Fri, Feb 17 2012 6:52 PM
It is not a circular question.  There are people who do not consider murder to be wrong.  One example would be anybody who actually murders and recognizes it as such.  They did it knowing it was murder.  If they don't regret it later, then they definitely don't consider it wrong!  Just on Drudge the other day was an article about a woman so pissed at her boyfried/husband (I can't recall) about not getting a Valentine's Day gift that she took a knife and tried to murder him!  Fortunately he locked himself in the bedroom away from her until the police arrived - but she tried to murder him!  Over not getting a present!  This woman clearly believed murdering her boyfriend/husband was not wrong.
Your assumption that people never do things that they know to be wrong is false. You also ignore my point that "murder" is not just any homicide, it is an unjustified homicide. Clearly the woman did not think she was going to murder her boyfriend, she intended to kill him in a rage.

it is a circular question because it is like asking "why is water wet?" "wrongness" is a PROPERTY of "murder," by definition.

Christians believe something or other about the New Testament being the word of God.  Now, when I say that God supported slavery, the thing is, that in the Torah, or Old Testament, there are sections that deal with God's rules regarding slaves and slavery.  I even linked to it.  There is an article for Christianity too.
right. Those are still two separate things. For example, we can agree that government is immoral. However, we can also say that there are moral ways for public employees to behave. Rep. Paul being an example. Would you agree?
So, I guess it depends on whether or not you believe that the Old and New Testaments are the word of God or not. If you do, then this is entirely relevant, as it shows that God supported slavery, but modern Jews and Christians do not.  So there is a contradiction between God and his believers.
Again, there is no contradiction. Assume arguendo your interpretation of scripture is correct, and assume that scripture is the literal word of God. Modern "believers" are wrong about slavery. Where is the contradiction? Suddenly its significant that people are sinful? We already know people are sinful. Next,

Assume arguendo that your interpretation of scripture is correct, and that scripture is not the literal word of God. No contradiction. Humans are sinful, and had slaves, and rules. And, as I have already suggested, your interpretation of scripture is dubious, as are your motives for attempting to derail Clayton's thread in this manner. I hope I can answer your objections and allow us to return to topic.

If you do not believe that the Old and New Testaments are the word of God, well then I am curious as to how you know what God believes.
you seem to have a binary view of religious epistemology, and so I am glad to type briefly about my own views on the matter. I really do not want to gallivant all over Clayton's thread so I will try to make this brief.

Every Christian that I know believes that the Bible was written by man and inspired by God. It is also fundamental that God gave me a rational mind before my parents gave me a Bible, so I use the one to interpret the other. This is scriptural, by the way. 

John chapter 16

I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.

So when I use my rational mind to interpret the Bible I dont get all bent out of shape because a hebrew who lived thousands of years ago wrote down some laws about how to treat slaves. The most recent weak link in the chain of custody is the canonization authority.

as to your question, it is the end product of rational inquiry. A well-designed universe would incorporate positive and negative feedback systems. Moral behavior tends to make one happy. Thats how I know.

I expect actual refutations of my arguments.
Your confusion will resolve itself in time.
The second article had nothing to do with Beethoven.  It had everything to do with facial expressions and emotions.  With these articles I demonstrated that babies have not only a capacity for happiness, but that there are causes for their emotions.  These causes do not have random effects on infants.
yesss, thats why I said "capable of happiness." of course they are capable of happiness, but you said they know what makes them happy.
How can a man be born not knowing things that make him happy?  Certainly others can suggest things that may not have been obvious to him, but how does this stop him from knowing what makes him happy?
I wold like you to show me a baby that is born knowing beethoven makes him happy.
At this point, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that despite the fact that a baby can have an outside stimulus, then have an emotional reaction, and then communicate this reaction, that the baby in fact is not capable of knowing that food = pleasure, burping = less pain.
if by "outside stimulus" you mean putting some beethoven on the stereo, then all that proves is that the adult needs to expose him to it for him to know he likes it. 
I don't much care how a human figures things out.  If a person can figure things out without trial and error, then more power to him...but if it must be done with trial and error, then so be it.
that entails a learning process, which is an implicit acknowledgment that he is not born knowing what makes him happy. He has to figure it out. Telling him to "do what he wants to do" is a useless statement.
Keep the faith, Strannix. -Casey Ryback, Under Siege (Steven Seagal)
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 50 Contributor
Male
Posts 2,493
Points 39,355
Malachi replied on Fri, Feb 17 2012 6:55 PM
And the word "science" should not be understood in the primarily clinical sense in which it is used today - the corpus of human experience is the primary repository of scientific knowledge regarding human happiness. Innumerable humans have lived before us and they have tried uncountable different life choices with as many outcomes. Some of them got it wrong and led miserable lives; their peers and descendants learned from their mistakes and made different choices and passed on to their descendants a tendency towards making those choices in the form of genetic dispositions and social norms. To put it another way, you can learn a lot more about human nature from reading a good novel than you can from reading the Psychological Bulletin.
tracking, but since you said this, I have to point out that Bill Bodri from meditationexpert.com would take issue with your assertion (in another thread) that buddhism is not scientific. He says buddhism is "the science of cultivation" (iirc). I have no opinion on the matter since I am not a buddhist I do not have the requisite experience.
Keep the faith, Strannix. -Casey Ryback, Under Siege (Steven Seagal)
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 10 Contributor
Male
Posts 6,885
Points 121,845
Clayton replied on Sat, Feb 18 2012 4:25 PM

 buddhism is "the science of cultivation"

I'm specifically referring to Buddhism's speculations regarding reincarnation. As far as epistemology goes, Buddhism (at least Tibetan Buddhism as expounded by the Dalai Lama) is very sound, much more sound than most Western philosophy.

Clayton -

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com
  • | Post Points: 5
Top 50 Contributor
Posts 2,360
Points 43,785
z1235 replied on Sat, Feb 18 2012 6:47 PM

Just wanted to say: Clayton, excellent OP!

 

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 10 Contributor
Male
Posts 6,885
Points 121,845
Clayton replied on Sat, Feb 18 2012 11:57 PM

@z: Thanks for the positive feedback.

I feel very strongly that a holistic approach to the problem of how to live is the long-run means to correcting the imbalances in the social order created by pervasive privilege. A careful reading of the first few chapters of HA shows that Mises had a favorable view of Epicurean thought - he basically says that the modern economic conceptions of "want" and "satisfaction" are formalizations of Epicurus' ideas regarding pain and pleasure, respectively.

But I think where people feel that economics is lacking is in its focus on material well-being. I think that Mises even briefly addresses this in HA, pointing out that a large part of what goes into our happiness is, in fact, concerned with material factors: food to eat, clothes to wear, shelter to live under, and so on. But I think Epicurus provides a counter-point to the presumption that more material wealth is equivalent to greater happiness (note that Mises never comments on right ends - including this - but I think many people tend to make this presumption anyway).

The correlation between wealth and happiness may hold for some individuals at some times but, in the general case, it breaks down for two reasons. First, the more you have, the more you have to worry about. That is, the problem of securing your wealth grows larger the more wealth you have. This covers everything from the need for insurance, to bank accounts, to tax- and estate-planning to security cameras, you name it. Second, appetites are not exogenous to the mind of the individual; they can be whetted or dulled.

The need to acquire material wealth in the first place is driven by the appetites. If the basics are covered, then satisfaction can be had just as easily by dulling the appetites as by acquiring more wealth. This is what Epicurus meant when he said that "what is good is easy to get"... that is, it is quite easy to cover the basics. The choice is up to the individual whether the increased capacity to satisfy whetted appetites is worth the additional pain of acquiring the material wealth with which to satisfy them.

For the most part, happiness is a state of mind. Anyone who has been to so-called developing countries knows that people in these countries are generally more visibly "happy" even though they are poorer in absolute terms than people in the so-called developed world. There are not as many furrowed brows, less work and more play This isn't because material wealth makes you unhappy, obviously. Rather, I think it is a failure of individuals in wealthier countries to properly handle their own appetites. Rather than accept that you simply cannot afford to satisfy your appetite to own a Hummer, you inflict the misery of unfulfilled desire on yourself and work long hours and give up your social life in order to tell yourself that "one day" you will fulfill your "dream" without once introspecting on whether that dream really is your dream or General Motors'.

Many of us in the so-called developed world act as if we are exempt from the need to learn to ignore the pleas of advertisers and dull our appetites beyond our capacity to satisfy them. These are skills that really everyone needs, no matter how wealthy. Credit card companies and shopping malls are not selling merchandise, they are selling a feeling, the feeling that you can buy everything. But the costs of indulging in such fantasies is high - even if you do not act on them - because of their effect on your ability to be satisfied with life.

Balancing your wants against your capacity to satisfy them is a skill that you must have if you want to be happy and I believe this skill makes an excellent complement to the "work ethic" that is required if you want to increase your material wealth. The key is to strike the right balance between the two and bear in mind at all times that the final purpose of either work or asceticism is always your own happiness. Don't allow yourself to get carried away in work for its own sake or asceticism for its own sake.

Clayton -

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com
  • | Post Points: 5
Top 50 Contributor
Posts 2,679
Points 45,110
gotlucky replied on Tue, Feb 21 2012 5:09 PM

Malachi:

Your assumption that people never do things that they know to be wrong is false. You also ignore my point that "murder" is not just any homicide, it is an unjustified homicide. Clearly the woman did not think she was going to murder her boyfriend, she intended to kill him in a rage.

I think I'm missing something here.  When did I say that people never do things they know to be wrong?  Anyway, that is an interesting definition of murder, because that is not the common definition of murder.  Anyway, even the wikipedia entry does not fit how I define murder.  I define it as an "unjustified killing".  Justice, Law, and Morality are all different things.  They relate to each other in various ways, but they are different.  Many people would say that prostitution is immoral, and in most places it is against the law.  I would find it to be injust to arrest and imprison the prostitute.  In this case, I see that there is a conflict between three concepts.  If somebody killed Ghandi's mother, I think he would be justified in killing the murderer, but, obviously, Ghandi would believe it immoral and not do it.

If a murderer murdered another murderer, it is possible for this to be unjustified.  Rothbard believed that only the victim's family (or close friends, w/e) had a claim against the murderer, not the state.  If they forgave the murderer, it would be unjustified for anyone to kill the murderer.  Of course, they would now become murderers themselves.

Of course, I don't subscribe to Rothbardian ethics as strictly as I used to, but the point is that there can justified and unjustified killings.  How does God determine that unjustified killings are wrong?  And if you really prefer, how does God determine that a killing is unjustified?

Malachi:

right. Those are still two separate things. For example, we can agree that government is immoral. However, we can also say that there are moral ways for public employees to behave. Rep. Paul being an example. Would you agree?

Since this is your analogy, I will substitute the words we were using for you:

For example, we can agree that God is immoral.  However, we can also say that there are moral ways for Christians and Jews to behave.

You may wish to rethink your analogy.

Malachi:

Again, there is no contradiction. Assume arguendo your interpretation of scripture is correct, and assume that scripture is the literal word of God. Modern "believers" are wrong about slavery. Where is the contradiction? Suddenly its significant that people are sinful? We already know people are sinful. Next,

Assume arguendo that your interpretation of scripture is correct, and that scripture is not the literal word of God. No contradiction. Humans are sinful, and had slaves, and rules. And, as I have already suggested, your interpretation of scripture is dubious, as are your motives for attempting to derail Clayton's thread in this manner. I hope I can answer your objections and allow us to return to topic.

So, if God condones slavery, but modern believers condemn it, and the modern believers are wrong...Okay, great.  If you don't see a problem with believers saying their God is wrong, then that is fine, I guess.

Interesting how you say I am derailing Clayton's thread.  It takes two to tango, buddy.  If you don't want me to respond to your points, feel free to stop responding to mine.  If you would like to continue this in another thread, feel free to start it yourself.  Don't try to pin this on me.

Malachi:

you seem to have a binary view of religious epistemology, and so I am glad to type briefly about my own views on the matter. I really do not want to gallivant all over Clayton's thread so I will try to make this brief.

Every Christian that I know believes that the Bible was written by man and inspired by God. It is also fundamental that God gave me a rational mind before my parents gave me a Bible, so I use the one to interpret the other. This is scriptural, by the way. 

Okay.  That returns me to one of my original questions of: "How do you know what God deems to be moral/immoral, and how/why does he do it?"

Interesting cop out.

Malachi:

I wold like you to show me a baby that is born knowing beethoven makes him happy.

That's great.  I never claimed it.  So I really don't have any intention of trying to prove something I did not claim.

Malachi:

if by "outside stimulus" you mean putting some beethoven on the stereo, then all that proves is that the adult needs to expose him to it for him to know he likes it. 

Again, good for you.  This does not contradict anything I said.

Malachi:

that entails a learning process, which is an implicit acknowledgment that he is not born knowing what makes him happy. He has to figure it out. Telling him to "do what he wants to do" is a useless statement.

Again, this does not contradict my argument.

Since you have now made so many claims that do not accurately resemble my arguments and statements, I feel that I should now go back and requote what I said:

My original statement:

How can a man be born not knowing things that make him happy?  Certainly others can suggest things that may not have been obvious to him, but how does this stop him from knowing what makes him happy?

Some more:

Not knowing how to build shelter or procure food does not mean a young child does not know what makes him happy.  And seeing as a newborn needs adults in order to live, I'm not sure it really makes sense to discuss whether it is moral for an infant to know how to build a house.  Also, just because people can learn that certain things are in fact "better" for them does not change that they still know that certain things make them happy, and other things do not.

And more:

Okay.  Babies and Beethoven.  Positive and Negative: Infant Facial Expressions and Emotions.  Babies obviously can express and feel happiness and sorrow.  Something makes this happen.  These triggers cause the same reactions.  That a baby cannot reason at the same level as you or me does not change that babies can feel and know.  What they feel and know changes throughout their life.  This still doesn't change that an infant can know that seeing mommy makes him happy, or that loud noises make him upset.

And just a bit more:

The second article had nothing to do with Beethoven.  It had everything to do with facial expressions and emotions.  With these articles I demonstrated that babies have not only a capacity for happiness, but that there are causes for their emotions.  These causes do not have random effects on infants.

Infants do communicate.  When they are especially young, this is done mostly through crying.  But they do laugh.  This is communication.  Just because it is not at the same level as us, does not mean it does not exist.

At this point, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that despite the fact that a baby can have an outside stimulus, then have an emotional reaction, and then communicate this reaction, that the baby in fact is not capable of knowing that food = pleasure, burping = less pain.

I will try to state my argument in another way so that it is more clear.

1)  People are born with the capacity to know pleasure and pain

2)  Certain things are pleasurable and painful to an infant, and the infant knows what those things are

For example, hunger is painful.  The infant cries to communicate that is hungry.

For example, seeing mommy is pleasurable.  The infant laughs when playing peek-a-boo with mommy.

3)  What is pleasurable and painful for a person can change throughout his life

For example, many children hate broccoli.  As they age, these very same people begin to like broccoli.

Malachi:

Your confusion will resolve itself in time.

Interesting that you resort to such statements.  Let me resort to one myself:

Since you have repeatedly mischaracterized my argument, I can only conclude that you are inept or dishonest.  I have no desire to continue debating with someone who is either inept or dishonest.

 

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 50 Contributor
Male
Posts 2,493
Points 39,355
Malachi replied on Tue, Feb 21 2012 7:46 PM
I think I'm missing something here.  When did I say that people never do things they know to be wrong?  Anyway, that is an interesting definition of murder, because that is not the common definition of murder.  Anyway, even the wikipedia entry does not fit how I define murder.  I define it as an "unjustified killing".
yes, it does seem like we are talking past each other. Perhaps if you explain how my definition: "unjustified homicide" is uncommon, and different from your definition of "unjustified killing." is it because I restrict the term to human victims?
Of course, I don't subscribe to Rothbardian ethics as strictly as I used to, but the point is that there can justified and unjustified killings.  How does God determine that unjustified killings are wrong?  And if you really prefer, how does God determine that a killing is unjustified?
Well I do not see a difference between justice and morals. So I can answer the question in the abstract and tell you that morals find their origin in God, and He is the final arbitrer of all moral questions. Moral behavior is behavior that brings one closer to God, and so in an objective sense the morality of an action would be whether it was pleasing to God. The quality in an act that makes it moral would be whether it puts the actor on the side of glorification by identification or glorification by contrast.

the point of all of this is for God to have other intellects with which to converse. We know from cognitive processes that a thing can only be understood by the human mind when it is contrasted with a dissimilar thing. God's glory is manifest, everyone contributes but some people contribute by providing contrast. Ergo, moral behavior makes one happy, which is my contribution to the op and I hope this answers your question as well.

Since this is your analogy, I will substitute the words we were using for you: For example, we can agree that God is immoral.  However, we can also say that there are moral ways for Christians and Jews to behave. You may wish to rethink your analogy.
no, this analogy was about slavery, remember? We can agree that slavery is immoral. However, we can also agree that if one is a slave, it might possibly not be moral for one to kill his master and escape. If you disagree, we will revisit this point.

This is a point that a lot of atheists try to ignore or subvert: the civilizing effect of organized religion. If you have a slave-owning society and you wish to convert some of their members, youre not going to have a lot of success (speaking secularly here) if you require them to set free all their human chattel. It may actually do more good if you make the master treat the slaves well.

as for your claim that God Himself endorsed slavery, well, you still need to find me a properly attributed source. I am pretty sure the Bible was written by men. I mean, they even named the authors in a lot of cases! Can we put this strawman back in the barn?

Interesting how you say I am derailing Clayton's thread.  It takes two to tango, buddy.  If you don't want me to respond to your points, feel free to stop responding to mine.  If you would like to continue this in another thread, feel free to start it yourself.  Don't try to pin this on me.
haha. Its rude to ignore people. I was cautioning you to stay on topic. Who shows up to a discussion and says "since you werent very specific, I am going to have to make some assumptions"? Have you ever heard of socratic (or mauetic) method?

questions about morals are on topic, when we start drifting into source materials and epistemology we need to get back on track. 

Okay.  That returns me to one of my original questions of: "How do you know what God deems to be moral/immoral, and how/why does he do it?" Interesting cop out.
lets see...we are on an austrian economics forum, and when you ask me about holy books, and I tell you I use my rational mind...its a cop out?

Like Jesus said, there are really only two commandments: Love God with everything you have, and love your neighbor as yourself. And if you follow those commands, every action you take will be moral. So test it out. God created the earth, so we already know that it is good to use the earth fruitfully and bad to destroy, waste and pollute. Its even worse if you do it to someone else's property, because you violated both rules.

and we know from rational thought that God would design a universe with positive and negative feedback cycles, so that moral behavior would be incentivized and immoral behavior disincentivized.

I will try to state my argument in another way so that it is more clear. 1)  People are born with the capacity to know pleasure and pain 2)  Certain things are pleasurable and painful to an infant, and the infant knows what those things are For example, hunger is painful.  The infant cries to communicate that is hungry. For example, seeing mommy is pleasurable.  The infant laughs when playing peek-a-boo with mommy. 3)  What is pleasurable and painful for a person can change throughout his life For example, many children hate broccoli.  As they age, these very same people begin to like broccoli.
You seem to be equivocating on the word "know." since we have so much trouble with you and definitions (killing =/= homicide in that context? Really?) and you seem to be trolling me, I doubt this is a fruitful avenue of exploration. You have not supported your original statement, reproduced here:
How can a man be born not knowing things that make him happy?  Certainly others can suggest things that may not have been obvious to him, but how does this stop him from knowing what makes him happy?
he can be born ignorant of what things make him happy because he is born ignorant of a great many things. Of course when you equivocate on "know" then your statements become trivial.
Since you have repeatedly mischaracterized my argument, I can only conclude that you are inept or dishonest.  I have no desire to continue debating with someone who is either inept or dishonest.
I think our discussion speaks for itself. Good day, sir.
Keep the faith, Strannix. -Casey Ryback, Under Siege (Steven Seagal)
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 200 Contributor
Posts 468
Points 8,085
Wibee replied on Wed, Feb 22 2012 9:56 PM

learned the definition of two new words today,

amenable

 

promulgation

 

well... Epicurian too. 

 

The day is a success! 

  • | Post Points: 5
Top 50 Contributor
Posts 2,679
Points 45,110
gotlucky replied on Wed, Feb 22 2012 11:22 PM

Malachi:

yes, it does seem like we are talking past each other. Perhaps if you explain how my definition: "unjustified homicide" is uncommon, and different from your definition of "unjustified killing." is it because I restrict the term to human victims?
 
It seems I misread what you wrote.  I thought you had said the murder was a wrongful killing, not an unjustified killing.  Apparently we have the same definition of murder.  However, our definition is actually different from the current and historical definition, which I linked to here.  Here is another source for the definition.  Neither of these support our claim of unjustified killing.
 
Malachi:
Well I do not see a difference between justice and morals.
 
Well, this is where I get a little confused.  I do make a distinction.  Here are two questions that I think highlight this:
A) Do you consider prostitution to be immoral?
B) Do you consider imprisoning prostitutes to be just?
It is possible for someone to believe prostitution to be immoral, but that it would be unjust to imprison prostitutes for their "crime".  This is why I make a distinction between justice and morality, no matter how closesly linked they are.
 
Malachi:
no, this analogy was about slavery, remember? We can agree that slavery is immoral. However, we can also agree that if one is a slave, it might possibly not be moral for one to kill his master and escape. If you disagree, we will revisit this point.
 
I will quote our conversation:
gotlucky:
I am not a prophet.  I do not believe in God, so I cannot think "God" supported anything.  However, Jews believe that the Torah is the word of God.  Christians believe something or other about the New Testament being the word of God.  Now, when I say that God supported slavery, the thing is, that in the Torah, or Old Testament, there are sections that deal with God's rules regarding slaves and slavery.  I even linked to it.  There is an article for Christianity too.
 
Malachi:
right. Those are still two separate things. For example, we can agree that government is immoral. However, we can also say that there are moral ways for public employees to behave. Rep. Paul being an example. Would you agree?
 
Strictly speaking, our conversation was about God condoning slavery, not slavery in and of itself.  You should be more clear about your analogies.  Besides, I suppose we could still substitute the word slavery and slaver master, or slavery and slave:
For example, we can agree that slavery is immoral.  However, we can also say that there are moral ways for slave masters to behave.
Or
For example, we can agree that slavery is immoral.  However, we can also say that there are moral ways for slaves to behave.
 
To quote you again:
Malachi:
 We can agree that slavery is immoral. However, we can also agree that if one is a slave, it might possibly not be moral for one to kill his master and escape. If you disagree, we will revisit this point.
 
I notice that you use the word might in there.  Even so, I do not agree with this statement.  If the slave were to kill his master and escape, that would be both justified and moral.  It may or may not always be prudent, but that is a separate issue and best looked at on a case by case basis.  But as far as justice and morality are concerned, the slave would be in the right.
 
Malachi:
lets see...we are on an austrian economics forum, and when you ask me about holy books, and I tell you I use my rational mind...its a cop out?
 
Yes, it is a cop out.  It does not matter what forum we are on.  If I ask you, "How do you know what God considers to be moral, and why/how does he decide what is moral?"  And you respond with, "Well, I don't believe that there are any actual quotes as to what the word of God is, but I can use my rational mind to figure it out."
That is a cop out.  That's all well and good that you seem to be able to figure it out.  The question is "How?"
Anything short of answering that is a cop out.
 
Malachi:
Every Christian that I know believes that the Bible was written by man and inspired by God.
 
Malachi:
Like Jesus said
 
Pick one.
 
Malachi:
You seem to be equivocating on the word "know."
 
Really?  Please show me what definitions I appear to be using.  Here is the definition of know.  But for your ease, I will cite them and insert them into my statements.  Disclaimer: this will take up quite a bit of room.
1) (transitive) To be certain or sure about.
A)  People are born with the capacity to be certain or sure about pleasure and pain
B)  Certain things are pleasurable and painful to an infant, and the infant is certain or sure what those things are
C)  What is pleasurable and painful for a person can change throughout his life
 
2) (transitive) To be acquainted or familiar with; to have encountered.
A)  People are born with the capacity to have encountered pleasure and pain
B)  Certain things are pleasurable and painful to an infant, and the infant has encountered what those things are
C)  What is pleasurable and painful for a person can change throughout his life
 
3) (transitive, also intransitive followed by about or, dialectically, from) To have knowledge of; to have memorised information, data, or facts about.
A)  People are born with the capacity to have knowledge of pleasure and pain
B)  Certain things are pleasurable and painful to an infant, and the infant has knowledge of what those things are
C)  What is pleasurable and painful for a person can change throughout his life
 
4) (transitive) To understand (a subject).
A)  People are born with the capacity to have understand pleasure and pain
B)  Certain things are pleasurable and painful to an infant, and the infant understands what those things are
C)  What is pleasurable and painful for a person can change throughout his life
 
5) (transitive) To be informed about.
A)  People are born with the capacity to have understand pleasure and pain
B)  Certain things are pleasurable and painful to an infant, and the infant understands what those things are
C)  What is pleasurable and painful for a person can change throughout his life
 
6) (transitive) To experience.
A)  People are born with the capacity to experience pleasure and pain
B)  Certain things are pleasurable and painful to an infant, and the infant experiences what those things are
C)  What is pleasurable and painful for a person can change throughout his life
 
7) (transitive, archaic, biblical) To have sexual relations with.
A)  People are born with the capacity to have sexual relations with pleasure and pain
B)  Certain things are pleasurable and painful to an infant, and the infant has sexual relations with what those things are
C)  What is pleasurable and painful for a person can change throughout his life
 
Okay, that was long.  You also quoted me:
gotlucky:
 
How can a man be born not knowing things that make him happy?  Certainly others can suggest things that may not have been obvious to him, but how does this stop him from knowing what makes him happy?
 
Let me explain.  Infants are born experiencing pain.  I am almost 100% certain that this is the case for all newborn babies.  They are capable of experiencing pain and pleasure.  In other words, they know pain and pleasure.  And, since they in fact communicate which they are experiencing, I argued that they have knowledge of pleasure and pain and what are the causes.
So, are you telling me that babies do not experience pleasure and pain, and that they cannot be certain as to the cause?  For example, can a baby not know that mommy = happiness?
 
Malachi:
you seem to be trolling me
 
Considering how many times you have mischaracterized and tried to use straw men arguments on me, I should really say the same of you.
 
Malachi:
as for your claim that God Himself endorsed slavery, well, you still need to find me a properly attributed source. I am pretty sure the Bible was written by men. I mean, they even named the authors in a lot of cases! Can we put this strawman back in the barn?
 
Well, naturally I believe the New and Old Testaments were written by men.  However, Jews believe that the Torah is the word of God.  Not inspired by, but the word.  However, since you are not a Jew but a Christian, I will take you at your word that you do not believe the Torah is the word of God.  If that is the case, then it really doesn't matter if I cite any chapters and verses.  However, it is the height of laziness for you to go ahead and assert that I have not found a properly attributed source, seeing as I did.
 
However, since you are so lazy, I will do the work for you:
Titus 2:9-10; King James Version (KJV):
9Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again;
 10Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
 
That is from the New Testament.  However, since you consider it not the word of God, then it is irrelevant.
I don't feel like actually quoting from the Torah, so I will just quote wikipedia (which contains the sources):
Judaism and Slavery:
In antiquity, Jewish society condoned slavery.[3] Slaves were seen as an essential part of a Jewish household.[4] It is impossible for scholars to quantify the number of slaves that were owned by Jews in ancient Jewish society, or what percentage of households owned slaves, but it is possible to analyze social, legal, and economic impacts of slavery.[5]
The Jewish Bible contains two sets of rules governing slaves: one set for Jewish slaves (Lev 25:39-43) and a second set for Canaanite slaves (Lev 25:45-46).[1][6] The main source of non-Jewish slaves were prisoners of war.[4] Jewish slaves, in contrast to non-Jewish slaves, became slaves either because of extreme poverty (in which case they could sell themselves to a Jewish owner) or because of inability to pay a debt.[3]
 
Again, since you do not consider the Torah (Old Testament) to be the word of God, then it is irrelevant.
However, I have directly sourced the materials in this thread now.  Before, I merely linked to it, expecting you to actually read it.  Instead, you just claimed that I did not source anything.
How honest of you.

 

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 50 Contributor
Male
Posts 2,493
Points 39,355
Malachi replied on Thu, Feb 23 2012 8:01 PM
we shouldnt have problems with the definition of murder. As I said earlier, "murder" refers to an unjustified killing. Of course, we can use words like this to describe many things, there is a legal sense of the word, there is a descriptive sense, exclamatory sense, etc. However if we agree, as we do, there should be no problems. So if we both agree that murder is an unjust killing, then do you see why your original question was circular?
Well, this is where I get a little confused.  I do make a distinction.  Here are two questions that I think highlight this: A) Do you consider prostitution to be immoral? B) Do you consider imprisoning prostitutes to be just? It is possible for someone to believe prostitution to be immoral, but that it would be unjust to imprison prostitutes for their "crime".  This is why I make a distinction between justice and morality, no matter how closesly linked they are.
a) yes

b) no

I'm sorry, I dont see the distinction. Prostitution is unjust and immoral, and it is unjust and immoral to cage prostitutes. One can only be truly just in God's eyes. If someone was justified by an immoral law, they would be immoral and unjust and the law would also be immoral and unjust.

Strictly speaking, our conversation was about God condoning slavery, not slavery in and of itself.
yes, but neither of us believes that He condoned slavery, so my question to you is why are we typing about this?
For example, we can agree that slavery is immoral.  However, we can also say that there are moral ways for slave masters to behave. Or For example, we can agree that slavery is immoral.  However, we can also say that there are moral ways for slaves to behave.
Those are both correct extrapolations of my statements. Is there something you dont understand? 
I notice that you use the word might in there.  Even so, I do not agree with this statement.  If the slave were to kill his master and escape, that would be both justified and moral.  It may or may not always be prudent, but that is a separate issue and best looked at on a case by case basis.
If youre suggesting that it might not be prudent because the slave might be, say, recaptured and tortured to death, I think we can agree that it might not be moral, in an epicurean sense, to put yourself in a position where you are likely to be imprisoned and tortured to death. So you will have to explain how morals can be imprudent. That would challenge Clayton's premise for the thread, and we would be back on topic. Heh.
But as far as justice and morality are concerned, the slave would be in the right.
what if the conditions of slavery are amenable to the slave? Is he still right if he sacrifices greater satisfaction for lesser satisfaction?
Yes, it is a cop out.  It does not matter what forum we are on.  If I ask you, "How do you know what God considers to be moral, and why/how does he decide what is moral?"  And you respond with, "Well, I don't believe that there are any actual quotes as to what the word of God is, but I can use my rational mind to figure it out." That is a cop out.  That's all well and good that you seem to be able to figure it out.  The question is "How?"
its interesting that I went on to explain just that, and it happened to be one of the few times in this little sidebar of ours that anything was relevant to the op, and you managed to skip right over it. Here are my statements:
as to your question, it is the end product of rational inquiry. A well-designed universe would incorporate positive and negative feedback systems. Moral behavior tends to make one happy. Thats how I know.
Like Jesus said, there are really only two commandments: Love God with everything you have, and love your neighbor as yourself. And if you follow those commands, every action you take will be moral. So test it out. God created the earth, so we already know that it is good to use the earth fruitfully and bad to destroy, waste and pollute. Its even worse if you do it to someone else's property, because you violated both rules. and we know from rational thought that God would design a universe with positive and negative feedback cycles, so that moral behavior would be incentivized and immoral behavior disincentivized.
Sooooooo....I use my mind to interpret the Bible and this God-given reality, and figure it out. And its interesting that I seem to find independent replication of my findings all over the place, cf. epicurianism, cf. non-aggression principle, cf. universal rule of law, cf. anthropology, ad infinitum.
Pick one.
I reject your false dichotomy and will continue to 1) affirm the primacy of reason and 2) avail myself of any source material I wish.
Really?  Please show me what definitions I appear to be using.  Here is the definition of know.  But for your ease, I will cite them and insert them into my statements.  Disclaimer: this will take up quite a bit of room.
Your apparent equivocation is where you changed from asserting that babies are born knowing things to asserting that babies are born with the capacity to know things. however you explained your original statement and now we can move on. 
Let me explain.  Infants are born experiencing pain.  I am almost 100% certain that this is the case for all newborn babies.  They are capable of experiencing pain and pleasure.  In other words, they know pain and pleasure.  And, since they in fact communicate which they are experiencing, I argued that they have knowledge of pleasure and pain and what are the causes. So, are you telling me that babies do not experience pleasure and pain, and that they cannot be certain as to the cause?  For example, can a baby not know that mommy = happiness?
Well for starters you have changed your statement from asserting that babies are born knowing what things make them happy, to babies are born feeling pain and knowing that they are feeling pain. And I imagine that whatever knowledge you ascribe to them is knowledge from experience, and therefore your statements are trivial. I wonder why you even bothered to contradict me in the first place.
However, I have directly sourced the materials in this thread now.  Before, I merely linked to it, expecting you to actually read it.  Instead, you just claimed that I did not source anything. How honest of you.
actually I said you had not sourced your claim of God Himself endorsing slavery. And you still have not done so. I would like to ask you to refrain from making aspersions about my honesty when you say things like this
According to God, slavery was okay.
And then backpedal like its cool. If you dont claim to be a prophet, then maybe you shouldnt attempt to speak for God. If you are an atheist, then maybe you should be more concerned with people and the words of people than what may or may not be the word of God and who does or does not believe that. Thank you for correctly sourcing and attributing your evidence. It is a historical fact that slavery was relatively prolific across the world up until relatively recently. Now it is called "taxation."
Keep the faith, Strannix. -Casey Ryback, Under Siege (Steven Seagal)
  • | Post Points: 5
Page 1 of 1 (40 items) | RSS