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OfflineTinTree
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Determinism & Objective/Subjective Morality
    #3667847 - 01/23/05 03:10 PM (11 years, 10 months ago)

In The Dilemma of Determinism by William James, he defines determinism as the theory that chance has no place in the workings of the universe. If you are choosing between two roads to travel down to go home, your decision is predetermined, all but one of the options are impossible. Further, we have "judgements of regret" about events that we wish had occurred some other way, generally events we consider bad (9/11, the Tsunami, murder, rape etc etc).

Now if determinism is true then either 1) the Universe is a flawed place where bad events take place (pessimism) or 2) our judgements of regret are incorrect in labeling some events as bad and others as good (subjectivism). Finally, in the essay, James denies subjectivism, stating that it "violates my sense of moral reality through and through. When I imagine such.... as the Brockton murder, I cannot conceive it as an act by which the universe, as a whole, logically, and necessarily expresses its nature without shrinking from complicity with such a whole".

Now in an important side-note: James states at the beginning of Dilemma that: "If there are two conceptions, and the one seems to us, on the whole, more rational than the other, we are entitled to suppose that the more rational one is the truer of the two." And yet, it seems to me that he denies subjectivism on sentimental grounds (a refusal to abandon his objective sense of morality). Can anyone give me some rational reasons in favor of a system of objective morality? How about rational reasons in favor of subjectivism?

I'm very interesting in hearing people's thoughts.
Here is the entire text of the essay should anyone care: http://csunx2.bsc.edu/~bmyers/WJ1.htm


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"I'm afraid of losing my obscurity. Genuineness only thrives in the dark. Like celery."
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Offlinefresh313
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Re: Determinism & Objective/Subjective Morality [Re: TinTree]
    #3667942 - 01/23/05 03:33 PM (11 years, 10 months ago)



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OfflineTinTree
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Re: Determinism & Objective/Subjective Morality [Re: fresh313]
    #3668207 - 01/23/05 04:38 PM (11 years, 10 months ago)

People are too lifeless to try and tread some new ground... :confused:


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Offlinefresh313
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Re: Determinism & Objective/Subjective Morality [Re: TinTree]
    #3668224 - 01/23/05 04:42 PM (11 years, 10 months ago)

i just dont like kicking dead horses


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OfflineTinTree
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Re: Determinism & Objective/Subjective Morality [Re: TinTree]
    #3668263 - 01/23/05 04:54 PM (11 years, 10 months ago)

Discussing subjectivism and objective morality here is subservient to the aims of looking at determinism and indeterminism. If subjectivism is more rational than objective morality, then by James, it can be held the more true theory, giving more insight into the essential question of determinism vs. indeterminism.
I'm mostly trying to show James' self-contradiction; this is worthwhile, The Dilemma of Determinism is considered a very influential essay. Yeah, it's just a mental exercise, but it isn't kicking a dead horse... this is a Philosophy forum. It will be a useful thread if people can focus on the specifics here, and actually have some debate, rather than just restating their position repeatedly... :wink:


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Re: Determinism & Objective/Subjective Morality [Re: TinTree]
    #3668275 - 01/23/05 04:57 PM (11 years, 10 months ago)

i just gave you some information that had already been discussed
dont make such a gross generalization of this forum based on my opinion
:jester:


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OfflineTinTree
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Re: Determinism & Objective/Subjective Morality [Re: TinTree]
    #3668304 - 01/23/05 05:06 PM (11 years, 10 months ago)

Quote:

TinTree said:
People are too lifeless to try and tread some new ground... :confused:




Perhaps this was a little unfair. Sorry.

Anyway:  We find that each person's experience of reality differs, based on their individual differences; greatly apparent in physical matters such as colorblindness, deafness, and such, but also based on the personality traits of each person. I think it is safe to assume that all thoughts arise from perceptual stimulations, past or present. James' definition of a bad event or act is one that, had we the power, we would undo and choose some other event in its place due to our "judgements of regret". However, I think it clear that different people would choose other events to undo, and have different "judgements of regret". This gives a strong base in rationality to subjectivism, being that morality is a construction based on human thoughts. These "judgements of regret" seem to me another attempt to resurrect an "essential good" or Platonian form, albeit in a new disguise.


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"I'm afraid of losing my obscurity. Genuineness only thrives in the dark. Like celery."
- Aldous Huxley


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Invisibleshroomydan
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Re: Determinism & Objective/Subjective Morality [Re: TinTree]
    #3670050 - 01/24/05 12:31 AM (11 years, 10 months ago)

I posted a paper on "The Dilemma of Determinism" a while back. You can find it here.

http://www.shroomery.org/forums/showflat...rue#Post3229897








Quote:

"If there are two conceptions, and the one seems to us, on the whole, more rational than the other, we are entitled to suppose that the more rational one is the truer of the two." And yet, it seems to me that he denies subjectivism on sentimental grounds





That's the entire point of his essay; it's a sentimental argument for free will. James says as much in the beginning of his essay when he says it is not his intention to go over the old metaphysical arguments. Because science cannot decide for or against determinism, we must make a decision on what seems more rational to us.
Note that James refers to the work of David Hume who denied the principle of causality upon which the theory of determinism is founded. For him, the moral demand that there be a real distinction between good and evil is just as rational as the mechanical demand that matter follow the laws of cause and effect.

Quote:

Can anyone give me some rational reasons in favor of a system of objective morality? How about rational reasons in favor of subjectivism?




I suppose by objective morality you mean an ethical system based on an objective metaphysical reality? If there is and objective reality, then it would be beneficial act accordingly rather than making it up as we go along, pretending that the world is whatever we want it to be.
In my opinion, St. Thomas Aquinas's natural law is the best system of objective morality. You can read it here.
http://www.google.com/url?sa=U&start....htm&e=8092

David Hume has a subjective morality based on consensus of feeling, if most people feel that something is honorable then it is, if most people feel that a behavior is dishonorable then it is. This was Hume's attempt to escape radical subjectivism, the errors of which are clearly exposed by James.

Subjective determinism can lead to some huge ethical problems. We can act in any manner we like and still call it good. James points out the fatal moral error in this system.

Everywhere it fosters the fatalistic mood of mind. It makes those who are already too inert more passive still; it renders wholly reckless those whose energy is already in excess. All through history we find how subjectivism, as soon as it has a free career, exhausts itself in every sort of spiritual, moral, and practical license. Its optimism turns to an ethical indifference which infallibly brings dissolution in its train.23

He gives an extreme example of the ethical indifference fostered by subjectivism . “It makes the goose-flesh the murder excites in me a sufficient reason for the perpetration of the crime. It transforms life from a tragic reality into an insincere melodramatic exhibition, as foul or as tawdry as anyone’s diseased curiosity pleases to carry it out.”24


One of my favorite moral systems is that of Emmanuel Kant. It is an autonomous system of morality (subjective), unlike the divine command theory of St. Thomas (heteronamous/ objective). The system is too complex for me to go into here, but if you are searching for a subjective morality which works, then Kant is your man. His system is based on what he calls the 'categorical imperative'- whatever you do,
"Act so that the maxim [determining motive of the will] may be capable of becoming a universal law for all rational beings."

About the Categorical Imperative:
http://www.google.com/url?sa=U&start....htm&e=8092



You can reads Kant's Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals here.
http://www.google.com/url?sa=U&start....htm&e=8092


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InvisibleHuehuecoyotl
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Re: Determinism & Objective/Subjective Morality [Re: shroomydan]
    #3670078 - 01/24/05 12:40 AM (11 years, 10 months ago)

There can be no universal objective reality due to the variety of cultures on this planet. Each requires a different set of morals and mores to survive.


--------------------
"A warrior is a hunter. He calculates everything. That's control. Once his calculations are over, he acts. He lets go. That's abandon. A warrior is not a leaf at the mercy of the wind. No one can push him; no one can make him do things against himself or against his better judgment. A warrior is tuned to survive, and he survives in the best of all possible fashions." ― Carlos Castaneda


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OfflineTinTree
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Re: Determinism & Objective/Subjective Morality [Re: shroomydan]
    #3670374 - 01/24/05 01:55 AM (11 years, 10 months ago)

Many thanks!! :thumbup:

Quote:

shroomydan said:
I posted a paper on "The Dilemma of Determinism" a while back. You can find it here.

http://www.shroomery.org/forums/showflat...rue#Post3229897








Quote:

"If there are two conceptions, and the one seems to us, on the whole, more rational than the other, we are entitled to suppose that the more rational one is the truer of the two." And yet, it seems to me that he denies subjectivism on sentimental grounds





That's the entire point of his essay; it's a sentimental argument for free will. James says as much in the beginning of his essay when he says it is not his intention to go over the old metaphysical arguments. Because science cannot decide for or against determinism, we must make a decision on what seems more rational to us.
Note that James refers to the work of David Hume who denied the principle of causality upon which the theory of determinism is founded. For him, the moral demand that there be a real distinction between good and evil is just as rational as the mechanical demand that matter follow the laws of cause and effect. 

Quote:

Can anyone give me some rational reasons in favor of a system of objective morality? How about rational reasons in favor of subjectivism?




I suppose by objective morality you mean an ethical system based on an objective metaphysical reality? If there is and objective reality, then it would be beneficial act accordingly rather than making it up as we go along, pretending that the world is whatever we want it to be.
In my opinion, St. Thomas Aquinas's natural law is the best system of objective morality. You can read it here.
http://www.google.com/url?sa=U&start....htm&e=8092

David Hume has a subjective morality based on consensus of feeling, if most people feel that something is honorable then it is, if most people feel that a behavior is dishonorable then it is. This was Hume's attempt to escape radical subjectivism, the errors of which are clearly exposed by James.

Subjective determinism can lead to some huge ethical problems. We can act in any manner we like and still call it good. James points out the fatal moral error in this system.

Everywhere it fosters the fatalistic mood of mind. It makes those who are already too inert more passive still; it renders wholly reckless those whose energy is already in excess. All through history we find how subjectivism, as soon as it has a free career, exhausts itself in every sort of spiritual, moral, and practical license. Its optimism turns to an ethical indifference which infallibly brings dissolution in its train.23

He gives an extreme example of the ethical indifference fostered by subjectivism . “It makes the goose-flesh the murder excites in me a sufficient reason for the perpetration of the crime. It transforms life from a tragic reality into an insincere melodramatic exhibition, as foul or as tawdry as anyone’s diseased curiosity pleases to carry it out.”24


One of my favorite moral systems is that of Emmanuel Kant. It is an autonomous system of morality (subjective), unlike the divine command theory of St. Thomas (heteronamous/ objective). The system is too complex for me to go into here, but if you are searching for a subjective morality which works, then Kant is your man. His system is based on what he calls the 'categorical imperative'- whatever you do,
"Act so that the maxim [determining motive of the will] may be capable of becoming a universal law for all rational beings."

About the Categorical Imperative:
http://www.google.com/url?sa=U&start....htm&e=8092



You can reads Kant's Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals here.
http://www.google.com/url?sa=U&start....htm&e=8092




--------------------
"I'm afraid of losing my obscurity. Genuineness only thrives in the dark. Like celery."
- Aldous Huxley


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OfflineNiamhNyx
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Re: Determinism & Objective/Subjective Morality [Re: TinTree]
    #3670939 - 01/24/05 04:11 AM (11 years, 10 months ago)

Objectivity doesn't exist, and determinism is fucking stupid. Believe me, it's objectively correct!


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Re: Determinism & Objective/Subjective Morality [Re: TinTree]
    #3671532 - 01/24/05 09:42 AM (11 years, 10 months ago)

Quote:

Now if determinism is true then either 1) the Universe is a flawed place where bad events take place (pessimism) or 2) our judgements of regret are incorrect in labeling some events as bad and others as good (subjectivism). Finally, in the essay, James denies subjectivism, stating that it "violates my sense of moral reality through and through. When I imagine such.... as the Brockton murder, I cannot conceive it as an act by which the universe, as a whole, logically, and necessarily expresses its nature without shrinking from complicity with such a whole".




I think that emotivism is the best theory of morality (Hume's theory mentioned by Shroomydan). I don't think morality really exists in any real sense. I do, however, think that as individuals and as a society, we should agree to suppose that what is beneficial to humans and the planet as a whole tends to be good (or some better wording to this effect).

I tried to explain in that huge thread why objectivism is false.


Edited by deafpanda (01/24/05 09:43 AM)


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Re: Determinism & Objective/Subjective Morality [Re: shroomydan]
    #3671548 - 01/24/05 09:50 AM (11 years, 10 months ago)

Dan - I am wondering why you call Kant's categorical imperative a subjective theory of morality. Surely it is objective, as any observer would come to the same conclusion about the morality of any act following his maxim.

And do you really think it works? The way I read it, it bans lying.


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Re: Determinism & Objective/Subjective Morality [Re: deafpanda]
    #3671834 - 01/24/05 12:34 PM (11 years, 10 months ago)

It is subjective, because it only requires one to follow laws which are authored by self.I don't believe Kant called it subjective though; he called it autonomous.

There are actually three formulations of the categorical imperative in the Groundwork. The latter two derive from the first which I mentioned above but in my opinion they must all be taken together.

The categorical imperative would only prohibit lying if the subject decided that all rational beings should not lie. I wrote a paper on this that I will post when I get a chance. In the paper I argue that Kant's ethical system is actually a middle road and a bridge between objective and subjective morality. I'll try to get it posted tonight.


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