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Monday, February 25, 2008 - 10:19amSanction this postReply
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What about (5): Don't do things to other folks, you don't want done to you.

According to R. Hillel, that is the entire Torah recited while standing on one foot.

Bob Kolker


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Post 1

Monday, February 25, 2008 - 11:25amSanction this postReply
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Bob, thanks for commenting. But a more accurate classification of the "Golden Rule" is that it is either "sentiment-focused" (ethics category #2 from the essay) or "action- or rule-focused" (ethics category #3).

This is true because there isn't any content in the Golden Rule -- and because it's a rule. Here's the late Mortimer Adler on this:

==========================
In Matthew: 7.12. Jesus says: "All things whatsoever you would have men do unto you, do you ever so to them."

As most of us rephrase this when we use this in our daily lives, we say, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And when we say this, we think we are summing up moral philosophy in a nutshell. This is all you need to guide the conduct of your lives.

I am going to try to show you that this is not so -- that the golden rule by itself is vacuous, i.e., empty of meaning; that by itself it does not tell you how to behave towards others or how to conduct your own life. I must add that it does contain one true moral insight, namely that any sound rule of conduct or moral precept must be universal -- applicable to all human beings everywhere.

This is the only truth in Immanuel Kant's famous categorical imperative (which is otherwise as vacuous as the golden rule).

So act that the maxim of your conduct can become a universal law of nature. In other words, what you are morally to do in your conduct toward others is what they are morally obliged to do in their conduct toward you. But this truth does not tell you what either you or anybody else is morally obliged to do. It merely says that all true moral obligations, in either direction -- you toward others or others toward you -- must be the same. Before I go any further and try to solve this problem for you, I must tell you that the golden rule, which we find Jesus stating in the gospel according to St. Matthew, is to be found also in most of the great religions of the world.

Judaism's Talmud: What is hateful to yourself, do not do to your fellow men" (i.e., what is injurious to you, because it violates your rights is injurious to others also because it violates their rights; so that if you expect them to be just in their conduct toward you, be just in your conduct toward them).

Islam: "No man is a true believer unless he desires for his brother what he desires for himself" (i.e., right desires are the same for all, for you as well as for others, and all right desires are for what is really good for human beings, which is the same for all).

Hinduism: "One should never do to another that which one would regard as injurious to one's self" (i.e., the same as before -- injustice) (i.e., which is injuring others) is the same whether it is injustice toward you or toward others, and no one should be unjust.

The fundamental terms of moral philosophy are good and evil, right or wrong. Which is primary, which is secondary? I think the answer to that question is that good and evil are primary, and right and wrong are secondary.

Good and evil are the subject of our desires and aversions. Right and wrong apply to our conduct towards others. In Christian moral theology, we find two precepts of natural moral law. The first precept is: Seek the Good. The second precept is: Harm no one (i.e., do not do anything that deprives others of real goods or interferes with their attaining what is really good for them).

As thus understood, the second precept is obviously dependent on the first and derivative from it; for if we do not know what is really good for us, we cannot avoid harming others.

The first principle of moral philosophy -- its categorical imperative -- is: You ought to seek everything that is really good for you and nothing else. Only when you know what is really good (e.g., truth is really good for human beings to know) can you draw any conclusions, such as seek the truth.

Now let us face the most difficult of all problems in moral philosophy. To do this, let us suppose that you understand the difference between what is really good for all human beings and what is only apparently good to some individuals but not to others.

Then you will be able to discover what you ought to seek for yourself.

That will also tell you what others ought to seek for themselves.

But how will that tell you why you ought to do unto others what you expect them to do unto you? How is the second precept of natural moral law derived from the first precept: how does your seeking the good lead you to obey the injunction: harm no one; i.e., do not injure them by depriving them of what is really good for them?

Let me restate this problem another way. Unless you understand the problem, you will not be able to understand the solution.

The problem is the age-old problem that everyone recognizes -- the problem of whether selfishness and altruism come in conflict, or are inseparable from one another (i.e., no one can be truly selfish without also being altruistic)?

To make this clear, let us consider what are traditionally called the four cardinal virtues: fortitude or courage, temperance, justice, and prudence.

Of these, temperance and courage are entirely self-regarding virtues; and justice is entirely other-regarding.

Now if one can be temperate and courageous without also being just, then one can seek the good and at the same time harm or injure others, that is, be unjust toward them.

And if that is the case, the golden rule is out: you do not have to do unto others what you would have them do unto you. You want them to be just to you because that helps you to attain what is really good for you; but you can seek what is really good for you, without being just toward them if you can get away with it.

This problem arises in our seminars when we discuss the ring of Gyges in Plato's Republic. If, with the ring of Gyges, you can be unjust to others and get away with it, why not do so? What's in it for you to be just to others, if you can seek your own good without being just toward them?

In that little word if lies the whole problem. If it is not possible to seek your own good without being just to others, then you must act toward others as you would have them act toward you.

In short, the solution lies in a question that Aristotle answers in one way and all other moral philosophers answer in the opposite way.

The question is: are these moral virtues existentially separate virtues (so that you can have any one of the three without having the other two); or are they only three analytically distinct aspects of moral virtue, so that if you have moral virtue, you will have justice along with temperance and courage. ...
==========================
http://radicalacademy.com/adlergoldenrule.htm


Ed
(Edited by Ed Thompson on 2/25, 11:28am)


Post 2

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 - 6:01amSanction this postReply
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Ed,

The maxim Bob Kolker states is not the Golden Rule, but a version of  the Negative Golden Rule. The former concerns how to treat others. The latter concerns how not to treat others.

I don't understand Adler's saying the Golden Rule is vacuous. It is very abstract and is ambiguous (or fails) as a concrete guide in many situations. The same holds for the Negative Golden Rule. However, I believe each provides guidance in many situations, so neither is vacuous.

I believe the Negative Golden Rule is the far better of the two. It is about restraint, and an excellent one against initiating coercion. Think how much better the world would be if it were followed in the political arena! Obviously neither rule is a complete moral guide, since neither says anything about how to treat one's self, as Adler explains. So they are only vacuous in that way.


Post 3

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 - 7:42amSanction this postReply
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Thanks for pointing that out, Merlin.

I think that what Adler meant in saying the Golden Rule is "vacuous" is illuminated upon comparison of it with Nicomachean Ethics (which, ironically, has been charged with being somewhat vacuous itself!).

If you look at the ethics of Aristotle or Rand, you get this big emphasis about what kind of person to be. If you look at the Golden Rule -- or the negative Golden Rule, for that matter -- there's no mention of moral character (but a certain moral character is implied).

In other words, if you're a masochist and you follow the Golden Rule -- or the negative Golden Rule -- then you are going to hurt people. And that's wrong to do.

Ed

Post 4

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 - 11:23amSanction this postReply
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One should also bear in mind the context of the times in which these sentiments were made - the social structure and level of civilization involved - and the fact these were made for the times, not for all time as so oft presumed......

Post 5

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 - 2:08pmSanction this postReply
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Right Rev' -- but it pays to keep in mind that the folks who came up with these "revelations from God" PUBLICALLY (if not personally) meant for them to be held immutable.

:-)

Ed

Post 6

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 - 8:23pmSanction this postReply
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Here's a paper on morality that I will be presenting at the local Orange County "Backyard Skeptics" this Thursday:

http://philosborn.joeuser.com/article/301081/on_morals

I believe that I deal with one key issue more successfully than Rand or Aristotle - although not in conflict with their positions.


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Post 7

Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - 7:57amSanction this postReply
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Ed,

 

You described Rand’s ethics as “being based on building one’s character via virtue.” You noted that her ethics is focused “on one’s nature as a human being” and that “it can be characterized as ‘agent-focused’ morality.”

 

But Rand first treats value, then virtue. She defines the latter in terms of the former. It would seem that for Rand value is first not only in order of teaching-presentation, but in the conceptual order correctly reflecting living nature, including human nature.

 

You observed that utilitarian ethics are “beneficiary-focused.” Don’t value and beneficiary precede virtue in the conceptual dependencies in Rand’s ethical theory? Isn’t an appeal to self-benefit part of how Rand makes ethics a rational endeavor? It would seem right to say that in the center focus of Rand’s ethics there is value and with it the organism to which value pertains.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

David Kelley has added to Objectivist thought about virtue. He emphasizes that we are motivated by the desire to achieve our goals, not by the desire to conform to our principles. “One’s motivation flows from one’s purpose. One does not live for the sake of being moral; one acts morally in order to make the most out of one’s life” (IOSJ Spring 1992). He takes virtue to consist “in the rules of conduct, the traits of character, that are required for living successfully. . . . The purpose of virtue is to help us live in the world. . . . This is not to say that virtue is merely an instrument. Because we are beings of self-made soul, because our character is itself a crucial achievement, virtue ought to be a source of satisfaction in its own right—and a matter of concern in any action we take. But it nevertheless must take second place to achievement as a global value” (IOSJ May 1993).

 

In Rand’s conception, “productive work is the central purpose of a rational man’s life, the central value that integrates and determines the hierarchy of all his other values” (OE 25). Kelley elaborates this conception. Recall that moving, final scene for Eddie in Atlas: “not just business and earning a living . . . but Dagny, business and earning a living and that in man which makes it possible—that is the best within us.” (Cf. NE 1177a12–18.) Kelley thinks that “productive work expresses ‘the best within us’ because it reflects man’s basic relationship to reality: the use of reason to create the values his survival requires” (IOSJ May 1993). Kelley generalizes from work (in the sense of making a living) to achievement, which would include work, raising children, maintaining a house, sustaining a happy marriage, organizing a civic cause, or overcoming a physical handicap or psychological problem. “An achiever is a doer: someone who projects a goal, who takes responsibility for bringing it about, and who takes pride in doing it well” (ibid.).

 

This generalized value, achievement, Kelley calls a global value. Global values cut across many, more particular values. Other global values would be enjoyment and virtue (virtue as a value). Such values have enough breadth and depth to be serious possible answers to the questions, “what do I want out of life? What is it that gives my life meaning and would leave me feeling empty and aimless were it taken away?” (ibid.). Kelley argues that the values of enjoyment and of virtue are intimately connected with the value of achievement, but that achievement should be the central global value, if our ultimate value is life and our highest purpose is happiness.


Post 8

Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - 10:23amSanction this postReply
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Stephen, thanks for the critical comments.

=============
You described Rand’s ethics as “being based on building one’s character via virtue.” You noted that her ethics is focused “on one’s nature as a human being” and that “it can be characterized as ‘agent-focused’ morality.”

But Rand first treats value, then virtue. She defines the latter in terms of the former. It would seem that for Rand value is first not only in order of teaching-presentation, but in the conceptual order correctly reflecting living nature, including human nature.
====================

But the contrast that you have set up here where, on the one side, I appear to have Rand champion virtue and, on the other side, you show Rand championing value -- is a straw-man that would break-down should you request that I reformulate things into syllogisms. The reason that this is so is because, I have already universally implied the "value" of which you speak, using a sorites argument (with missing premises). Value -- even OBJECTIVE value -- is written in-between the lines of the following ...

============
... the focus is on one’s habitual actions and on one’s nature as a human being; it can be characterized as “agent-focused” morality; this dual-focus reveals ...
============

The unspoken "mention" of value in the words above is subtle; it's within the 5 words: "nature as a human being." This is the part of the focus -- which I mention as a "dual-focus" -- which makes it seem like what's been called Natural Law Ethics. It's about discovering what's really good for you (i.e., rational values).

Rand berated previous moral philosophers because they never questioned whether morality was needed (but merely compared and adopted already-existing codes). One of the 2 methods of attack here would be to start with value and then, applying it toward humans, derive our objective need for rational values.

The second method of attack here -- equally effective -- would be to start with the nature of human beings and then, applying that what's really good for this kind of creature, derive our objective need for rational values.

The logical reciprocity here can be shown by rewording your quote:

============
It would seem right to say that in the center focus of Rand’s ethics there is value and with it the organism to which value pertains.
============

... to ...

============
It would seem right to say that in the center focus of Rand’s ethics there is [the human] and with it [their objective need for rational value (in order to live and thrive as the kind of creature that they are)].
============

You had preceded with ...

============
You observed that utilitarian ethics are “beneficiary-focused.” Don’t value and beneficiary precede virtue in the conceptual dependencies in Rand’s ethical theory? Isn’t an appeal to self-benefit part of how Rand makes ethics a rational endeavor?
============

Value and beneficiary do precede virtue in the conceptual dependencies in Rand’s ethical theory, as you appear to ask rhetorically. But, in actuality (metaphysically), they cannot by abstracted and 'rationalistically' floated away from their base: the nature of humans. And yes, Rand's appeal to self-benefit is ethically legitimated.

In short, it's not a leap (of logic or faith) to infer -- from what I've written and meant -- these wise quotes in your post ...

“One’s motivation flows from one’s purpose. One does not live for the sake of being moral; one acts morally in order to make the most out of one’s life”

“what do I want out of life? What is it that gives my life meaning and would leave me feeling empty and aimless were it taken away?”

Ed


Post 9

Monday, March 21, 2011 - 6:50pmSanction this postReply
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Each ethic attempts to target the real or imagined values of some moral agents, or of some third-party "beneficiaries" (of others' actions) -- not all of which need be human nor do they even need to be alive:

(1) [A rational self-interest ethic based on getting good at obtaining objective value by acting in a way that builds one’s character (i.e., virtuous action) -- e.g., Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Ayn Rand's Objectivist ethics]
This ethic uses the method of the discovery of rational values (rational ends and aims) and also the discovery of the correct means which those ends teleologically prescribe.

It is a relational "organism developing in environment" morality. 
(2) An ethic based on one’s widest and highly-variable personal feelings; rather than an ethic based on any reasoning, per se -- e.g., David Hume's noncognitive ethics
This ethic uses current desire in order to ascertain values -- with no mention of any rule or principle regarding how these subjective values either ought to be, or actually are, attained (beyond screaming and pounding your fists until you get what you want from others).

:-)

It is an inside-out, primacy of consciousness morality where feelings are powerful enough to trump facts.

(3) An ethic based on the adoption of universal rules; rules that are never meant to be broken, regardless of specific consequences -- e.g., Immanuel Kant's deontology
This ethic uses rationalization for a moral prescription coming from outside of the acting moral agent (i.e., a rationalized moral duty). Blunt rules for obtaining intrinsic values -- rules such as "never lie" -- are often prescribed.

It is an outside-in morality of rationalization, assuming that goodness or rightness is a property of non-living or immaterial existents or Platonic ideas outside in the "real" reality. 
(4) An ethic based on a supposedly-defined “good” and on the supposedly-knowable and widest – i.e., individual and social; present and future -- consequences (regarding this supposedly-defined “good”) of each of our chosen actions -- e.g., Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarianism
This ethic uses, at least implicitly uses, a grotesque recombination of ethic numbers 2 (subjectivism) and 3 (intrinsicism), in a vain attempt to supercede the limitations of ethic numbers 2 and 3. The answers to the questions:

Of value for what?
Of value to whom?

... become a wide-open 'mixed salad' of rationalizations, always including subjective assessments dressed up in science-like equations.

When judging the morality of your actions, someone else's interests may supercede your own, and a whole group of other people's interests may supercede the interests of that other person. It doesn't even stop there -- it never stops! -- because there is no limit to the amount of subjective speculation that can be encrypted into a mathematical "moral" equation which views good as intrinsic in nature -- but not necessarily intrinsic in anywhere specific in nature!

One could even postulate that there is intrinsic (ecological) "earth-value" which needs to be a variable in the equation -- because even if parts of the earth and the earth as a whole aren't alive, that does not prevent the utilitarian from claiming that the earth is a value unto itself. What method does the utilitarian use to ascertain the differential equation of values for any given instance or action?

Their subjective and rationalized interpretations of how "important" each factor is in relation to other factors.

So the utilitarian starts by saying the he has found a brand new and shiny intrinsic morality which is justified by "science" rather than by philosophy, like the other ("bad") intrinsicisms have had to be justified. An example would be a new kind of "scientific socialism" which culminates in a great moral calculus performed for us and to be implemented -- by force, if necessary -- in our individual lives. In truth, it is merely the subjective interpretations and feelings of the moralist, written down in an equation which is supposed to matter a lot to others (because of the scientific 'bells and whistles' attached to it).

:-)

It is an inside-out morality masquerading as an outside-in morality in order to be propped up and to be made appealing to a public who already values science.

Ed

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 3/21, 8:08pm)


Post 10

Monday, March 21, 2011 - 7:05pmSanction this postReply
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Post #9 reads true to me. Did you mean for it to be relevant to any your and my recent discussions?

Edit:
Err, at least, do you think it is clear that the ethic I propose is #1? Just we disagree on whether the best behavior for a person (or any life form) is different depending on their abilities and context?
(Edited by Dean Michael Gores on 3/21, 7:14pm)


Post 11

Monday, March 21, 2011 - 7:09pmSanction this postReply
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Dean,

Check it again for edits. I did mean for it to be relevant to the "Values Goals Desires" thread you started.

Ed


Post 12

Monday, March 21, 2011 - 7:27pmSanction this postReply
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Ok, I replied back on the other thread. Note my edited question in the post above please. :)

Post 13

Monday, March 21, 2011 - 8:19pmSanction this postReply
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Dean,

... do you think it is clear that the ethic I propose is #1?
It wasn't, and isn't, clear to me. If asked, I would have placed you in the #2 category with all values arising from nothing other than current desires -- and all choices of alternative means toward the attainment of all values left up to individual "discretion."

... we disagree on whether the best behavior for a person (or any life form) is different depending on their abilities and context?
I think that's right. I think we disagree about whether "best behaviors" are different (instead of the same) between different life forms -- all with differing abilities, and all found in differing contexts. For instance, I think that ethic #2 at least approximately describes the ethics of the animal world -- with evolutionary instincts providing both the desires of, and the means to, all value attainment (and with other life forms being mainly, but not always, an impediment to one's value attainment).

Ed

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 3/21, 8:23pm)


Post 14

Monday, March 21, 2011 - 10:05pmSanction this postReply
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Hm, I guess maybe here is what I think:

I have chosen ethic #1 for myself. Other people choose #2, #3, and #4, and I dislike that they do this, for the same reasons that you dislike it, such as that it frequently results in their claiming that wealth redistribution is good or limitations on private behavior is good.

#A. I would say that such a choice is the root/primary/basis of a life form's ethical system. To them, before the choice is made, from their own perspective, there is no "value" judgment of what is good or bad, right or wrong. They could figure the implications of each goal, but they do not yet have any root goal attainment to be enhanced or hindered.

Furthermore, I'd say that every life form can continually decide its root goal, "to live" is not necessarily it. That some life forms change their root goal during reality's procession. Any other root goal is expected to result in an earlier demise than the "to live" root goal. A life form could even choose not to have any goal-- normally soon after interrupted by the life form choosing a root goal for one reason or another (reasons/sources being discussed in another thread).

I think where we disagree here is that you would claim that "to live" is always every individual human's root goal no matter what. Hence you conclude that other people are then making the incorrect decision for themselves when they try to replace their root goal with another.

I'd rebut that: I agree, from the life form's past self's perspective, changing to "no goal" or some goal other than "to live", the past self would deem the new choice of root goal as bad. But "past self" does not exist, it is the past. Reality is what currently exists as it goes through its procession. The "current self" may have decided not to have a goal, or decide to choose a new root goal (the root goal to choose a root goal :). And hence during this time, it is nonsense to say "it is bad from that life form's perspective to have such a goal" (see #A).

After I graduated from college, before my first career job, at many points in time I was in the "no goal" state, being knocked out of this state once in a while by my body pushing me into providing for my body's primitive needs. Laying in bed in the morning, thinking that I had no goal, thinking I would not even care if I stopped breathing, but my body is automatically breathing, and I didn't care to stop it from breathing... automatic body functions only, no goal.

Eventually I decided I'd do what I needed to do in order to keep myself in good health. My thoughts were that if I ever did find something worthwhile, then I would then be able to do it.

Through the years since then, I've acquired all sorts of sub goals, leaving "to do what I need to do in order to keep myself in good health" as my primary goal. I've realized that my body isn't as reliable as I'd like it to be, so that results in me wanting things like: To communicate my ideas, so that my ideas live on. To have children for a number of reasons: to communicate my ideas, to potentially have some more people in the world like me (cause I like myself :), and because I really love watching/helping kids learn, kind of live on through children. Then there is the whole idea of life extension, computer human interfaces to increase productivity and rate of ability to increase life extension, and the idea of making human level (and beyond) computer intelligence (another kind of child in my opinion).

I've discovered that there is a huge conflict between me and people that want to tax me and others that are productive to my goals. Hence my incredibly strong support of the free market capitalist political position. Hence my goal to somehow increase productive people's defense of their property, and to somehow make people net lose when they initiate force (net lose = only the insane and fools would initiate force).

Now I have all of these incredibly interesting sub-goals for myself. And I'm content with "to live" being my root goal. My motivation level varies. Once in a while I'll still get to the "no goal" state, but not too often or for very long. Sometimes my motivation level is way too high, and I don't get enough sleep. Like now! Good night! :)
(Edited by Dean Michael Gores on 3/21, 10:06pm)


Post 15

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - 8:57amSanction this postReply
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Dean,

I agree, from the life form's past self's perspective, changing to "no goal" or some goal other than "to live", the past self would deem the new choice of root goal as bad. But "past self" does not exist, it is the past. Reality is what currently exists as it goes through its procession. The "current self" may have decided not to have a goal, or decide to choose a new root goal (the root goal to choose a root goal :). And hence during this time, it is nonsense to say "it is bad from that life form's perspective to have such a goal"
Just a quick comment for now: That is one of the best descriptions of existentialism that I've ever seen.

Ed


Post 16

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - 2:28pmSanction this postReply
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to say nothing of concrete mindedness... the reality is indeed the present -BUT THAT IS A CULMINATION OF THE PAST...

Post 17

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - 3:15pmSanction this postReply
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Ed, Agreed, this is the existentialist viewpoint on the root desire. But beyond this single viewpoint, existentialism is poorly defined and all over the place. Hence even though I agree with an "existentialist" on this point instead of an objectivist, I would not call myself an "existentialist". I agree with existentialism on this point, is all.

Robert Malcom, AGREED... :P And despite that I say I once in a while have "no goal" as my root, it is rare and brief. Furthermore, for my entire life since I have chosen a root goal instead of kind of doing what my parents think is best & what catches my interest... I have never chosen a goal but "to live" as my root goal, simply a variation on motivation. Hence my mind is quite consistent over time, using past to predict future, and knowing myself, I do not foresee my root goal ever changing again, only a variation in motivation.

Post 18

Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - 6:22pmSanction this postReply
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Here is a mock round-table discussion to highlight key differences in the 4 basic ethical codes:

Speaker:
Philosophers, I gathered you here today to testify about what the cost of government should be. Please proceed.

Sally Subjectivist:
Well, I feel like the purpose of government is to make everyone equal and that that is going to take a lot of work, so I feel like the cost of government should be really, really high -- in order to satisfy my whims (the satisfaction of which being something that is more important than the welfare, or even the very lives, of others or even of myself). And I want to add that what we shouldn't attempt to do here today is to think -- because ethics is supposed to be non-cognitive. Thinking is bad, very bad. Feeling is good. Thinking ... bad ... feeling ... good. Thinking ... boo! ... feeling ... hooray! Okay, I've said what it was that I felt like saying at the moment, and now I feel like sitting down, so that is what I am going to do.

Danny Deontologist:
Well, I believe in God and I know what He wants (He wants what I want), and God wants to make everyone equal, so -- because of the specific God I believe in -- that means that Sally was right, though she was right for the wrong reasons. The correct way to get into the position to be able to dictate a moral prescription to yourself or to others is to be able to read the mind of God -- which is something that I can do. God commands equality and so, therefore, equality is right. The cost of government, therefore, should be really, really high. If you don't like that argument, then I'll make slight changes in it, and maybe even water-down the very concept of God -- but I'm still going to be coming up with rules meant for everyone and for all time, so there!

Ulanda Utilitarian:
Let me be clear, I'm totally not a subjectivist or a deontologist. Instead, I am 100% reasonable and rational. I'm scientific. I'm all about results, baby. Which results, you ask? Why, I just adopt the current social mores and ...

Eddie Egoist:
Hey, you just contradicted yourself! You said you were going to outline a moral prescription while fully abiding by reason or rationality, and then you admitted to unjustifiedly adopting "mores" based on nothing other than their current popularity.

Ulanda Utilitarian:
Will somebody shut him up for me?

Speaker:
Eddie, let Ulanda continue.

Ulanda Utilitarian:
Anyway, because most people want equality, it's the right goal to aim at -- so the first 2 ethicists were right, but for the wrong reasons. Since I prefer not to ever talk about first principles or final ends, that's all I want to say about that. Let's get down to the nitty-gritty. Now, what we've got to do -- what morality commands us to do -- is seek the Greater Good. The way I see it (the only "way" that counts), the Greater Good is best served by maximum satisfaction of wants and/or needs -- and that is going to cost a lot of money. Look at my flow-chart filled with hedonistic algorithms. [pointing to the start of the chart] We'll use the tax code first because the risk-to-benefit ratio is largest for that option, and, if that doesn't work, we'll try social engineering, and we'll crack the self-esteem of geniuses or others harboring "too much" talent, and, if that doesn't work, we'll empower a communist dictator over the people and ...

... So, yes, the cost of government should be really, really high. Now, some people are going to get hurt -- some may even lose their very lives in the process -- but that's okay, because their loss is just a necessary evil, like sacrificial lambs in honor to the almighty and all-important Greater Good. It's a trade-off you see, you put unpopular people or unpopular values on one side of the ledger, put the popular things on the other side -- and then you sacrifice the unpopular to the popular and ... Voila! ... Greater Good! Yaaaaahooooooo! Oh, I'm sorry, I'm supposed to be completely reasonable and rational. Please forgive my subjective outburst of emotion.

Eddie Egoist:
Well, before you ask what's right to do, you have to know what kind of a thing you are -- what kind of creature you are. For instance, it might be right to climb trees if you're a monkey, but it's a terrible moral prescription for a fish. A fish would die trying to climb a tree. It turns out that we are a certain kind of creature that needs principles in order to survive, so there has to be a principle for everything -- rather than basing some of our moral prescriptions on what we personally feel like doing, on what we think God wants, or on what is currently and popularly felt or wanted by 51% of the populace. Because we have and need minds, we need to be free. Because a burgeoning government necessarily impinges on liberty, the cost of government should be really, really low. It is the only way that humans could ever maximize their own well-being.

Ed

p.s. You can also create subjectivists, deontologists, and utilitarians who are free market individualists, too* -- but I refrained from that here in order to be as clear as I could about the differences in these 4 ethics.

*Which shows that those 3 ethics are ultimately arbitrary and baseless, as you can use them to argue either for or against any position.

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 12/27, 5:03am)


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Thursday, December 27, 2012 - 10:17amSanction this postReply
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Ed, you probably intend Eddie Egoist to be "new egoist" rather than a "traditional egoist", but his interlocutors might not. See Letters of Ayn Rand.

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