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Old 01-26-2014, 05:01 PM #1
TheSilentAssassin
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Mathematical Metaphysics and its Imports on Morality

This sprung up from another thread. I wanted to open this up to others.
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I was placing platonism in opposition to positivism/subjectivism. Both Einstein and Godel affirmed an objective reality (something the positivists of the era were using their works to reject). Godel's mathematical platonism posited that the truth of mathematics as determined by the reality of mathematics (not by an artificial subjective construction). For instance, the structure of the natural numbers exists independently of our understanding of them. In the same sense, Einstein affirms the truth of physics being determined by the reality of an objective "out yonder". The structure of space-time exists independent of our understanding of it.
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Any way you could boil down in a similar way how morality is anything but subjective?
So, here we go. I'm turning this question on you. Give me your thoughts. I hope to have some time to write up something of my own soon.

I think the best approach would be:
1) Compile a list of arguments for mathematical platonism
2) "Convert" them into arguments for objective morality
3) See what sticks.
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Old 01-26-2014, 07:56 PM #2
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Iamblichus.
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Old 01-26-2014, 08:41 PM #3
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Iamblichus.
You're gonna have to give me more than that...

--

@Umami or whoever
I think I want to start by positing the existence of at least one universal moral truth. A strong point for metamath realism is that math is inherently tautological. Math can claim a preposition P (such as 2+2=4) is always true. I'm going to follow in that vain.

So, here we go:

1) I want to posit that murder is always immoral. Murder is universally immoral.
To be technical, the proposition P1 (i.e. murder is not moral) is universally true.

I'll stop here but I can give you a path for where I think I am going
2) The existence of a universal moral truth implies a universally moral system
3) A universally moral system implies an non-subjective morality.
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Old 01-27-2014, 09:33 AM #4
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Well, Iamblichus like Pythagoras and to a lesser extent, Plato, sketched out cosmologies based on mathematics and mathematical principles (Monad/Dyad et. al.). The key thing however, a point they stressed, was that the math wasn't the proof or thing I'm itself but the symbol. I guess you could say Iamblichus tried to distill platonic metaphysics into pure logic through numbers. The numbers weren't taken as independent entities.

Which isn't to imply a rejection of an objective reality. At any rate, if you want to compile a list of aarguments for mathematical Platonism, Iamblichus is, in my opinion, the best source.
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Old 01-27-2014, 09:34 AM #5
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I haven't had my coffee yet.
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Old 01-27-2014, 10:45 PM #6
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Originally Posted by TheSilentAssassin View Post
You're gonna have to give me more than that...

--

@Umami or whoever
I think I want to start by positing the existence of at least one universal moral truth. A strong point for metamath realism is that math is inherently tautological. Math can claim a preposition P (such as 2+2=4) is always true. I'm going to follow in that vain.

So, here we go:

1) I want to posit that murder is always immoral. Murder is universally immoral.
To be technical, the proposition P1 (i.e. murder is not moral) is universally true.

I'll stop here but I can give you a path for where I think I am going
2) The existence of a universal moral truth implies a universally moral system
3) A universally moral system implies an non-subjective morality.
There exist bases for mathematics, one ubiquitous basis being the ZF axioms. These are asserted as correct, and indeed agree with our most basic intuitions of "groups of things", and the existence of studies like Physics seems to imply they are inherent to our reality. The set of axioms is also self-consistent.

That said I'm not sure I'm on board with your initial proposition, as murder can certainly be justified in some contexts. It's subjective.

Seems you need to go more fundamental (if possible).
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Old 01-28-2014, 10:40 AM #7
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That said I'm not sure I'm on board with your initial proposition, as murder can certainly be justified in some contexts. It's subjective.
I believe I have a way getting past that. I'm willing to posit that murder is always immoral. The distinction is that there are certain situations where the moral good of another action (such as saving another's life) outweighs the inherent and universal immoral nature of murder.

For instance, if we are talking about the classic kill one to save a million scenario, this scenario has multiple parts, the murdering of one person and the saving of one million lives. People may argue that the good of saving one million lives outweighs the bad of killing one but that isn't to say that the killing of one itself isn't immoral.

For murder to not be immoral, one would have to argue that the act of taking a life solely in itself can be good (or at least neutral). I simply don't see that being the case. I'm hoping this is where you can challenge my idea.
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Old 01-28-2014, 12:04 PM #8
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There are no evil actions, only evil minds. No one is born a blank slate so we have no way of knowing whether killing would be neutral due to the heavy hand of whatever culture formed our perspectives. One may go the Nihilistic route and claim that value is an arbitrary construct of the mind and thus the act of killing renders no significant moral result in any particular situation. Of course, nihilism itselfis incoherent as it accepts the mental formulation that morality is just a mental formulation. So that's not useful.

Unless you want to ground the position on something objective, there's no where this conversation can go. If you remove the metaphysically objective source for such a universal, you have to show in some way that the act of killing produces a consistent result that is always "this"

In my opinion, the act of killing has a multitude of outcomes that won't fall neatly into good/bad/neutral when taken as whole. If one were to focus on individual outcomes, then the task is possible. That, unfortunately is the llimitation of this whole conversation. What's it going to be, parts or whole?
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Old 01-28-2014, 02:30 PM #9
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Originally Posted by TheSilentAssassin View Post
For murder to not be immoral, one would have to argue that the act of taking a life solely in itself can be good (or at least neutral). I simply don't see that being the case. I'm hoping this is where you can challenge my idea.
Here's the problem with this assertion - to argue that killing is bad, you have to examine the outcome. Once you do that, you see frequent outcomes which are neutral. Just as an example, situations of a life for a life (I murder someone else to save myself... say, we're both starving and help is just far enough for us both to survive). To say that is an evil act would value both our deaths over the life of one or the other.

Which brings up a further interesting point - why is death evil? Alternatively, why is death by nature less evil than death by a human hand? Is nature evil?

Sorry, I just see too many contradictions arising from such an assertion.
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Old 01-28-2014, 07:10 PM #10
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Here's the problem with this assertion - to argue that killing is bad, you have to examine the outcome. Once you do that, you see frequent outcomes which are neutral. Just as an example, situations of a life for a life (I murder someone else to save myself... say, we're both starving and help is just far enough for us both to survive). To say that is an evil act would value both our deaths over the life of one or the other.
This is missing my whole point. The "sum" of a life for a life has two components: the taking of a life and the giving of another. We can undoubtably say that while the whole sum may be good or bad, the direct action of taking a life is inherently bad while the giving of another is inherently good. The question of the value of the sum simply lies in the weight of both, but that doesn't change their individual value.

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Which brings up a further interesting point - why is death evil? Alternatively, why is death by nature less evil than death by a human hand? Is nature evil?
One step at a time.
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Old 01-28-2014, 09:03 PM #11
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Let me try this another way. I am not denying that there are situations where murder would be the most moral option. That however does not imply that murder itself is a moral action.
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Old 01-28-2014, 11:33 PM #12
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For the sake of argument, is it out of bounds to inquire what exactly makes murder automatically immoral? couldn't it be conceivable in some circles that killing certain people is an action of good? Kill the wicked, and the wicked no longer populate society? Or on another line of thought, kill the "weak" so that humanity will be "strong?" I feel like man's objective or definition of good is needed to make ANY sort of judgement on what can be said to be good or bad. Which to me, does suggest a less than objective morality.

Now, I myself would describe morality along the lines of a version of ethical pluralism, but that really is only helpful in describing morality, not explaining/justifying it.

A veil of ignorance is also very helpful in determining what can be said to be good or bad, assuming no divine right or sentient "chozen-ness."

Sorry if none of that made sense or was irrelevant to this discussion. It has been a long day, but for some reason I felt compelled to re enter philosophy talk...I may be a bot rusty though.
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Old 01-29-2014, 12:41 AM #13
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For the sake of argument, is it out of bounds to inquire what exactly makes murder automatically immoral?
I was hoping to find some consensus (or at least field objections) before moving towards why, but perhaps that question may yield some answers as to its reality. So, I'm okay with that.

From a religious perspective: Euthyphro

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couldn't it be conceivable in some circles that killing certain people is an action of good? Kill the wicked, and the wicked no longer populate society? Or on another line of thought, kill the "weak" so that humanity will be "strong?"
-killing the wicked (capital punishment)
-killing the weak

Aren't those both examples of my previous point? In both cases, the act of murder isolated in itself is still immoral. The reason why they could be considered moral is due to the moral good (wickedless society, stronger society) compensating for the moral bad of the killing.

If this weren't the case, then by definition, couldn't murder be justified by literally anything?

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I feel like man's objective or definition of good is needed to make ANY sort of judgement on what can be said to be good or bad. Which to me, does suggest a less than objective morality.
I'm not quite sure I understood this. None the less, thanks for contributing. Not too rusty at all.
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Old 01-29-2014, 10:53 AM #14
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Isn't murder/killing only immoral if every single life is valued/precious/sacred? If we as humanity were to take the approach that only the strong are worthy of life, and to remove the weak from the collective is a moral duty, then wouldn't that make the action of killing/murdering moral/good?

Obviously this is not my view, but I myself struggle to ascribe the label of objectivity to morality, even in the seemingly most agreeable areas (Murder, fidelity, honesty, stealing, rape, pleasure utility, etc.).

I don't know if this means that morality can only be subjective, pending the virtues/goals of those governed by it, but I certainly haven't been able to come up with an all encompassing moral theory, free of holes (Which is really saying something, since I received an A in Phil 101 )

I'll try to give a better response to everything down the road at some point, hopefully. I've been working 70hrs/week and going to the University full time, so I haven't been able to sit/read/reflect very frequently as of late.
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Old 01-29-2014, 10:56 AM #15
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Let me try this another way. I am not denying that there are situations where murder would be the most moral option. That however does not imply that murder itself is a moral action.
Why not?
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Old 01-29-2014, 09:31 PM #16
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Why not?
Because the murder itself is just part of a total sum of actions.

Killing one to save a million = K
Murdering one = M
Saving others = S
K = M+S

If S is positive and M is negative and S>M, K is positive.
If S is positive and M is negative and M>S, K is negative.

K being positive does not imply that M is positive. It is possible to be negative as long as it is smaller than K.

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I'll try to give a better response to everything down the road at some point, hopefully. I've been working 70hrs/week and going to the University full time, so I haven't been able to sit/read/reflect very frequently as of late.
No problem brotha. Same boat. Swamped on this end, too. Somehow, I am finding these discussion to be cathartic though.

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If we as humanity were to take the approach that only the strong are worthy of life, and to remove the weak from the collective is a moral duty, then wouldn't that make the action of killing/murdering moral/good?
Answering the bold:

It would not make the "act of murder" good, it would make the "act of killing for the sake strengthening society". See the distinction? The murder is still wrong. The wrongness of the murder is being overcompensated by the rightness of strengthening society in this hypothetical.

--

By all means, please continue to critique this moral theory. I am looking for it's holes.
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Old 01-30-2014, 09:20 AM #17
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If you're judging action separately from outcome then there's no argument and no discussion to be had here.
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Old 01-30-2014, 03:35 PM #18
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Old 01-30-2014, 10:47 PM #19
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I guess I just don't understand what makes murder automatically immoral, if not because it is extinguishing life, which we tend to hold as precious/sacred.

Or were you just looking for consensus that we all "feel negatively" about the action of murder? If this, I would assume that is so because none of us want to die, and thus, empathize with those who have their lives snuffed out at the hands of another person (A rational fear, so maybe murder could be said to be immoral because we all fear/wouldn't want it to happen to us?). But if we did not have this fear or did not have this sort of empathy, and did not value the lives of certain people, then I don't think murder would be seen as immoral.

So is there something that makes murder immoral? Or any criteria for what constitutes as moral or immoral behavior in this theory? I hate getting hung up on this point, but yet so far I can't go along with it.
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Old 01-30-2014, 11:18 PM #20
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If you're judging action separately from outcome then there's no argument and no discussion to be had here.
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I guess I just don't understand what makes murder automatically immoral, if not because it is extinguishing life, which we tend to hold as precious/sacred.

Or were you just looking for consensus that we all "feel negatively" about the action of murder? If this, I would assume that is so because none of us want to die, and thus, empathize with those who have their lives snuffed out at the hands of another person (A rational fear, so maybe murder could be said to be immoral because we all fear/wouldn't want it to happen to us?). But if we did not have this fear or did not have this sort of empathy, and did not value the lives of certain people, then I don't think murder would be seen as immoral.

So is there something that makes murder immoral? Or any criteria for what constitutes as moral or immoral behavior in this theory? I hate getting hung up on this point, but yet so far I can't go along with it.
You both seem to be dealing with the same question, so I feel I can answer them together. Keep in mind that this is an ad hoc fluid idea so feel free to drive me in a better direction.

With that being said:
I think that objective morality implies that moral propositions (i.e. action x is moral) have an intrinsic truth value outside of circumstance or outcome.

In this case I am presenting it seems (at least to me) that when separated from "system sums" (such as killing one to save many) and viewed independently murder is always immoral. Because it is intrinsically immoral. Because of its objective moral truth-value. This instance of a universal moral truth seems to point towards an objective moral truth.

As a theist, I was of course attribute the objective morality to a deity but I suppose that is not necessary. One could simply argue that it is inherent within existence (such as the laws of logic); a tautological truth just like the mathematical tautologies that inspired this argument.

Which part of this seems problematic?
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Old 01-30-2014, 11:40 PM #21
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Why did you choose murder as an objective moral wrong? Why not cake eating or door opening? Could these sort of actions also be intrinsically moral or immoral?

I understand that if you have a holy book which you believe in, then you can simply point to a verse and state it as moral/immoral via divine command theory. But even then, it is only seen as objective truth to those within that worldview/religion.

I can also see how an evolutionary morality can arise in a species (Or even across many/all surviving species). But even then, it seems only that morality is merely a tool/attribute of survival (morality with a function). There are other problem with this as well.

Worth mentioning here, I am just thinking out loud, so I apologize if I miss the mark or seem intentionally obtuse. I assure you, if I am being obtuse, it is very much unintentional.

Mainly I just want to know why you selected murder as an objectively immoral action.
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