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PhilosophyGround >> Consistency in moral belief


7/19/05 8:27 AM
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Cabal1
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Edited: 19-Jul-05
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Soo....Hello. I was having a discussion on the weekend with a very attractive young lady about political activism and vegetarianism. Long story short, the problem we encountered was this: A lot of arguments in moral philosophy seem to rely on playing one set of less strongly held beliefs off against a deeper, more strongly held conviction - in this way you can circumvent the problem of finding some objective morality to which these beliefs refer. What, exactly, is the value of having a consistent set of moral beliefs, though? Unless the assumption is that to say "killing animals is bad" picks out some universal, moral fact, then it doesn't have to entail "eating meat is bad", presumably. So where do we get the brute facts of morality? And if we can't get them, what's the point of thinking about morality rationally? I know it's an old problem, but I don't think it's ever really been addressed to my satisfaction.
7/19/05 10:09 AM
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FudoMyoo
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Edited: 19-Jul-05 11:02 AM
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"So where do we get the brute facts of morality?"

I don´t even think such facts exist. What we do (imo) is that we compare our values and existing moral convictions with each other to get some kind of system that is coherent and without the worst inconsistencies alá Rawls equilibrium theory.

"And if we can't get them, what's the point of thinking about morality rationally?
"

even if morals can´t be justified "empirically", we can atleast have a well-argued system of morals that we can justify with different rational arguments, even if it ultimatly boils down to non-rational beliefs.

and now the important question, did you get the attractive young lady´s telephonenumber?

 

7/19/05 11:42 AM
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Cabal1
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Edited: 19-Jul-05
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Yes, I agree FudoMyoo! But why should we value consistency in our moral beliefs if they're not making statements about some objective fact in the world. If saying "it's wrong to kill animals" doesn't actually state anything about the world, it should be OK to then also say "eating meat is not wrong". We can see why you couldn't say "the pen is red" and "the pen is not red", because it points to two mutually exclusive states of affairs. So is it just an inherent desire for ordered beliefs that we're appealing to? I have had the attractive young lady's number for some time, she is a longstanding friend and I'm trying to worm my way out of the friend zone. Hard work. Such hard work.
7/19/05 12:47 PM
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Dogbert
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Edited: 19-Jul-05
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As far as political activists are concerned, there is a straightforward reason to argue about consistency: people like to be consistent. This is a very strong psychological urge. Just how powerful the drive to be consistent is, is shown in the excellent book Influence by Robert Cialdini. So as long as people don´t think that eating babies is morally neutral, playing the consistency card works. On another level, people need some moral beliefs to guide them through their lifes. And logically, someone with contradicting moral beliefs has no moral beliefs. I guess we should see moral beliefs more as about who we are than some facts of the external world. They are part of our identity.
7/20/05 7:32 AM
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Cabal1
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Edited: 20-Jul-05
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So all we can do is appeal to a psychological tendency that we hope is present. I want more, dammit, but I don't think I'm going to get it. If moral beliefs are about who we are, then: "I believe it is wrong to kill animals" and "I do not believe it is wrong to eat meat" can't be inconsistent, surely. They're only inconsistent if they're statements about the external world.
7/20/05 9:35 AM
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FudoMyoo
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Edited: 20-Jul-05 10:24 AM
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"So is it just an inherent desire for ordered beliefs that we're appealing to?"

seems like it.

"They're only inconsistent if they're statements about the external world. "

to really make things complicated, I could say that those statements doesn´t have to be inconsistent in this case either. I could say that it is wrong to kill animals and that I would never do that. But now, since someone else already killed it, the animal is dead already, so I might just go on and eat it. That I don´t eat that particular animals meat, wont help it, or bring it back to life.

See how easy it is to bullshit yourself out of inconsistencies. ;-)

 

"I have had the attractive young lady's number for some time, she is a longstanding friend and I'm trying to worm my way out of the friend zone. Hard work. Such hard work. "

yup, I´ve been there, so I know it´s hard work. just make sure to be fast, before one of your friends get her before you do. That´s what happened to me, lol.

7/20/05 10:08 AM
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vermonter
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Edited: 20-Jul-05
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Oh shoot, gotta work right now but i am def. posting on this thread later today!!! I love philosophy :) -doug-
7/20/05 12:17 PM
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Dogbert
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Edited: 20-Jul-05
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"[...]can't be inconsistent, surely. They're only inconsistent if they're statements about the external world." "I´m someone who opposes the killing of animals and wouldn´t do anything to support the killing." adn "I´m eating flesh." are incosistent.
7/20/05 4:40 PM
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vermonter
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Edited: 20-Jul-05 04:50 PM
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Dogbert: What if the animal died of natural causes, or accidentally without negligence? It seems that, when you say "killing" you mean something roughly equivalent to "murdering" and not "dying naturally, or via accident." I'm not sure you can consistently refuse to eat flesh for moral reasons based on "it's wrong to murder." It seems as though you'd need a seperate fundamental moral belief about it being wrong to eat dead mammals or animals. Cabal, Why would a moral belief that killing animals need to be universal for it to be a fact? I'm not really following you there, but otherwise i think i get your general point: If the deeper or fundamental moral beliefs aren't founded on anything "real" then how can the beliefs that follow them logically be anything more then "gut reactions" to an emotion or some other internal state? Does that sound about right? Well first of all, i think you realize from past threads that i do not believe that moral objects exist. However, i DO think that our moral beliefs come from somewhere physical that you CAN point to. For example, you and i can get together some day and i'd say "Gee, getting cut with a knife really hurts, and i'd prefer it if noone ever cut me with a knife." You might say, "You know, that DOES hurt. lets agree to not cut each other with knives." So far we've generated a small ethical system (a code of conduct, based on fact, in this case physical facts, and not moral facts) and agreed upon "rights." Now this obviously doesnt always go on, and even if it doesnt, there's a good chance most people wont feel right cutting other people with a knife, but i believe that an historical (or biological, whichever you prefer) explination of this is pretty plausible. We dont feel right about it naturally because harming other people reduces our survivability. All of these basic reasonings are founded on things in the world, and can well be studied. So, if you are to hold the belief "killing animals is bad," i DO believe it needs to be founded on some kind of fact about the world. For most so-called ethical vegetarians, it manifests itself as a reaction to what appears to be pain, suffering, and/or death of a creature whos life is no less valuable than ones own. If we have agreed that we will not kill one another (for a variety of real reasons, a few of which i have already given) and can find no significant difference between a human life, and some non-human lives, than a consistent set of ethics that is founded on fact can be extended without much difficulty to animals. At least it seems that way to me. Of course, whether or not being vegetarian actually saves the most animals is another concern entirely. ;) -doug-
7/20/05 5:48 PM
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Dogbert
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Edited: 20-Jul-05
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"What if the animal died of natural causes, or accidentally without negligence? It seems that, when you say "killing" you mean something roughly equivalent to "murdering" and not "dying naturally, or via accident." I'm not sure you can consistently refuse to eat flesh for moral reasons based on "it's wrong to murder." It seems as though you'd need a seperate fundamental moral belief about it being wrong to eat dead mammals or animals." I agree. I still don´t eat roadkill. Given where meat usually comes from, not eating flesh is a good moral rule of thumb that usually applies. @Cabal1: Not only facts can be contradictory. "There exist exaclty one unicorn." and "There exist exactly two unicorns." surely contradict each other.
7/20/05 6:12 PM
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vermonter
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Edited: 20-Jul-05
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LOL. Do you really need a moral code to not eat roadkill? I think not ;) -doug-
7/20/05 7:45 PM
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Dogbert
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Edited: 20-Jul-05
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That´s the point. For all practical purposes, the question of wether to eat meat or not is a moral one or one of taste.
7/20/05 7:47 PM
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FudoMyoo
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Edited: 20-Jul-05
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or both.
7/21/05 12:20 PM
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Cabal1
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Edited: 21-Jul-05
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vermonter, when I say "brute facts" what I'm referring to are facts presented as existing independently of the subject. So if it were a brute fact that killing is wrong, there could be no people in the universe and it would still be a fact that killing is wrong. I'm not sure that you're really addressing my issue in the rest of your post. It looks like you're giving a descriptive account of ethics, but it's not really a normative account...There would seem to be no reason to feel that a person who decided to buy out of the universalised ethical system you describe is in any way wrong - as soon as they step outside your system, they're not bound by it.
7/21/05 2:27 PM
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vermonter
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Edited: 21-Jul-05 02:29 PM
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"when I say "brute facts" what I'm referring to are facts presented as existing independently of the subject." I understand that, and i stated that i don't think that such a thing exists because it would have to be abstract, and i would prefer to go without. "So if it were a brute fact that killing is wrong, there could be no people in the universe and it would still be a fact that killing is wrong." Again, i know. Although they do not exist independant of certain circumstances, or of our concepts of circumstances, they certainly aren't based on nothing. That's my point. Even without abstract moral objects (what you call "objective morality"), the statement "killing animals is bad" can be adequately based on substantial enough grounds. You asked specifically about the entailment of "eating meat" from the too shakey "killing animals is bad" and if it was worth having a consistent belief system and my answer is that "killing animals is bad" can be based on sufficient physical grounds to justify some sort of ethical belief. Some argument in the form of: P1 animal suffering/killing is bad P2 animals suffer and die for meat consumption C eating animals is bad is not only consistent, but your skepticism about the stability of P1 seems to be unfounded, despite my own lack of belief in moral objects. "There would seem to be no reason to feel that a person who decided to buy out of the universalised ethical system you describe is in any way wrong" Right. This is a consequence of my philosophy that may be unintuitive to most, but seems true anyway. One method of stepping outside of the ethical system i describe would be the end of human beings all together, which is a popular philosophical example that you yourself used. According to my position, there are no brute facts about morality but the point i was trying to get across was that the statement "killing animals is bad" doesnt have to be an objective moral fact for it to be right given the right sort of definitions, conditions, and belief system. I still have a hard time breaking down arguments/questions written a certain way into their component parts, so i apologize for any lack of clarity. -doug-
7/25/05 7:26 AM
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Cabal1
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Edited: 26-Jul-05 07:35 AM
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"doesnt have to be an objective moral fact for it to be right given the right sort of definitions, conditions, and belief system." Yes, but this is exactly the point I'm making. There's no reason to put those definitions and conditions in place if they're not present already. "P1 animal suffering/killing is bad P2 animals suffer and die for meat consumption C eating animals is bad" This is a consistent set of premises, but not a valid argument. A valid deductive argument would require the additional premise: "P3: If p is bad, and q->p, then q is bad". Without that the set of premises: "P1 animal suffering/killing is bad P2 animals suffer and die for meat consumption P3 eating animals is not bad" Is equally consistent. The problem with P3 is that it says something about the nature of what it is for an act to be bad, something which can't be assumed.
7/26/05 3:20 PM
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Dogbert
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Edited: 26-Jul-05
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I think one should use a more decision theoretic approach. P1 Otcomes in which animals suffer or die for no natural reason are bad (of course lots of caveats are needed.) P2 Meat consumption is avoidable without any problems. P3 Meat consumption ultimately leads to suffering and dying of animals. C: Meat consumption is bad. If you judge actions by the outcome, which at least consequentialists do, the argument is clear.
7/27/05 7:34 AM
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Cabal1
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Edited: 27-Jul-05
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You ALWAYS think one should use a more decision theoretic approach. I think that argument's OK, but I do think it sidesteps the issue by assuming my P3 and just referring to it as being a consequentialist principle.
7/27/05 10:45 AM
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FudoMyoo
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Edited: 27-Jul-05
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"but I do think it sidesteps the issue by assuming my P3 and just referring to it as being a consequentialist principle. "

Interesting, I never thought of questioning that P3-principle. Could you perhaps give some examples when you think that premise is false?

7/27/05 1:40 PM
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Dogbert
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Edited: 27-Jul-05
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"You ALWAYS think one should use a more decision theoretic approach." I DO think that ethics is part of decision theory (a pov stolen from John Harsanyi). I also think that there is generally to much emphasis on first order logic in philosophical circles. "I think that argument's OK, but I do think it sidesteps the issue by assuming my P3 and just referring to it as being a consequentialist principle." There is much bang behind consequentialism. Attacking consequentialism might be harder than attacking P3. I´m also curious about how you want to do that.
10/25/05 11:05 PM
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ICTimer
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Edited: 25-Oct-05
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"I know it's an old problem, but I don't think it's ever really been addressed to my satisfaction." I can agree with you on that. My personal belief is that it is partially due to the difficulty to develop objective moralism in an emerging world with constantly clashing and growing and changing and evolving societies. Just because it's difficult doesn't make it impossible to do so (I am not an ethical relativist) - I think that we can agree that there are some certain moral judgments that are relatively consistent across cultural and societal guidelines that we can agree on. What they are...well, this is why I'm still taking Intro to Ethics*...I agree with FuduMyoo's first reply though. *-Done a lot of reading and studying on my own, but recently quit my job to go back to school and I'm taking philosophy courses now...I think it might end up as my major when I transfer to a different school. Just to make the background clear, so you know how much my opinion is worth in comparison to say Plato or Socrates. :)
10/26/05 9:54 AM
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FudoMyoo
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Edited: 26-Oct-05
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Welcome to the forum ICTimer!

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