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Old 01-31-2014, 08:23 AM #22
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Why did you choose murder as an objective moral wrong? Why not cake eating, or jet skiing? I have never seen anybody display negative emotions while riding a jet ski

Mainly I just want to know why you selected murder as an objectively immoral action.
Because it seemed to me to be the most clear-cut objective moral truth. I think by definition this argument could be made for any moral truths.

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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.
As I tried to point out, this doesn't have to be the case. One could simply say that it is within the contructs of this existence for evil things to be evil. Murder could be immoral in the same sense that bachelors are unmarried. Tautologically.

Also, my proof never points to a god as the reason for objective moral truth. Intentionally.

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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.
I hate the idea of evolutionary morality as it is incoherent but I'd rather not go down that road in this thread. Save it for another. I can just say that Hume's is/ought problem killed Sam Harris' evolutionary morality some 200 years before it existed.
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Old 01-31-2014, 10:39 AM #23
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May I ask what made murder the most clear cut objective truth, in your mind? Did it just seem to be the most agreeable one for people to accept?

I get that if something is intrinsically good, much like 1+1 intrinsically equals 2, then it simply is that way (Poor wording, excuse me). But how are we to tell what is moral and what is immoral? What exactly does it even mean for an action to be moral or immoral? As I attempted to get at before, it is easier to do this given a divine command theory and a divinely inspire holy text, but what if we as humans disagree with these absolute truths? Are we immoral? What exactly does it mean to be immoral in this context?

If there simply are these objective moral truths, then I feel like they must either be entirely arbitrary or random, or (In the case that the morality system was intentionally designed) biased towards the will of the creator.

I know you purposefully left God out of this, but in my mind at least, an objective morality could either only have come about with or without intent/design. Neither make sense to me though, when it comes down to it.

To me at least, morality seems to have to be subjective to at least some extent.

If certain things simply are good/bad, and there is no reason or justification for it, then I guess things like not eating shellfish or wearing cloths of different fabrics could be seen as immoral. But if so, and I am immoral for breaking these natural laws, then so what? What does it mean to be immoral? It all just seems to fall apart.

Furthermore, if these moral absolutes exist, should we even be capable of breaking them? Can you think of any other natural laws or absolute truths that can be broken? If there is a rigid moral code, and we go against it, what does it even mean for that code to be there, or for us to be immoral?

I feel like at some point, each life (An awareness capable of moral/immoral action) must choose their loyalty or values based on what is important to them. Either choose to follow the moral code of reality, despite perhaps feeling negatively towards certain parts, or follow their own inner (subjective) moral compass based on the validity of their own mind, which can be guided and shaped via experiencing reality. Personally, I feel like the latter is more rational, despite it's vulnerability for manipulation. At least in this case, there will be reasoning and justification for what deems things as moral or immoral, although obviously not everyone will agree/value each bit of the reasoning.

I typed all of this on my phone, and am again just thinking out loud in between work/classes. If none of this is where you wanted things to go, feel free to ignore it and move on with the direction of the thread that you intended. I think we are all capable of moving on from a hypothetical position of some things being innately good/bad. We can always come back to this basic point later, if need be.
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Old 01-31-2014, 11:51 AM #24
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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?
How are you separating action from outcome?

What's catching me up is that you cannot murder someone without someone dying. If you do not acknowledge that someone dies, then murder has no meaning and can't be immoral - clearly you're not dissociating action and outcome, because that's impossible.

So how are you drawing the line immediately at someone's death, and saying there is no necessity to further examine outcome? As another example of "murder" being a potentially moral action, what if you kill out of mercy - the person wants to die and you make it possible?

The unstated value/assertion in your premise is that death is bad, and even without examining outcomes I don't think that's a sound basis for morality. I hope to die when my time comes, immortality sounds like a special kind of hell to me.
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Old 01-31-2014, 05:34 PM #25
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May I ask what made murder the most clear cut objective truth, in your mind? Did it just seem to be the most agreeable one for people to accept? More of less

I get that if something is intrinsically good, much like 1+1 intrinsically equals 2, then it simply is that way (Poor wording, excuse me). But how are we to tell what is moral and what is immoral? In the same sense that you intrinsically know 1+1=2. A priori. I don't think people need to be taught that murder is immoral, do they?

As I attempted to get at before, it is easier to do this given a divine command theory and a divinely inspire holy text, but what if we as humans disagree with these absolute truths? This notion of disagreement is exactly why I am drawing up this example. Once one does away with "situational sums" morals become quite clear. Again, we don't teach people that murder is wrong. It just is. It is the nature of our existence

What exactly does it even mean for an action to be moral or immoral? Morality is a propositional value-claim. Moral is simply those actions that fall in line with those claims.
What exactly does it mean to be immoral in this context? Acting against what is known to be morally true.

If there simply are these objective moral truths, then I feel like they must either be entirely arbitrary or random, or (In the case that the morality system was intentionally designed) biased towards the will of the creator. It could be simply within the nature of our existence (non-theistic)without being arbitrary. Again, to take the example, simply because murder is universally wrong (which I have yet to hear a valid rejection of) doesn't make it an arbitrary claim.

I know you purposefully left God out of this, but in my mind at least, an objective morality could either only have come about with or without intent/design. Neither make sense to me though, when it comes down to it. Why couldn't moral claims simply be within the nature of existence in the same way that other logically-true claims are?

To me at least, morality seems to have to be subjective to at least some extent. If certain things simply are good/bad, and there is no reason or justification for it, then I guess things like not eating shellfish or wearing cloths of different fabrics could be seen as immoral. But if so, and I am immoral for breaking these natural laws, then so what? What does it mean to be immoral? It all just seems to fall apart. This seems to be jumping the gun a bit. Can we just tackle one thing at a time? The task of proving objective morality seems a big enough venture within itself, doesn't it?

Furthermore, if these moral absolutes exist, should we even be capable of breaking them? Can you think of any other natural laws or absolute truths that can be broken? If there is a rigid moral code, and we go against it, what does it even mean for that code to be there, or for us to be immoral? What is right to do (moral claims) do not necessitate what must be done. This point seems a bit off.
I dealt with some of your concerns spracks, but to be frank I didn't put a lot of consideration into some. Simply for the point of linear thinking, I think we can avoid some of your objections for the moment.

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How are you separating action from outcome?
I don't believe I ever did. Martian made that claim, not I. It can only be said that I am separating individual action (and their moral worth) from collective actions.

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What's catching me up is that you cannot murder someone without someone dying. If you do not acknowledge that someone dies, then murder has no meaning and can't be immoral - clearly you're not dissociating action and outcome, because that's impossible.
You are correct. You cannot strip a way the person dying from the equation. But you can strip away outside influences and look at the murder as an isolated act.

Let's take Tom for instance. Tom is really sick and will die soon. To forgo more pain, Tom has asked you to kill him and you do so. A mercy killing. This action could conceivable be considered a moral action. One could say that this action (murdering Tom) is a moral action but I think that is an incorrect way of understanding a situation which can best be understood by asking why it was moral. Why? Well, you ended suffering? That's a moral good. You obeyed his wishes (giving him agency)? Probably a moral good as well. Notice that the act of taking one's life was not on that list. Because the action of murder itself was not moral. It is simply overcompensated by the good provided through merciful action and agency-giving. It was a necessary evil action for the purpose of providing total moral good.

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So how are you drawing the line immediately at someone's death, and saying there is no necessity to further examine outcome? As another example of "murder" being a potentially moral action, what if you kill out of mercy - the person wants to die and you make it possible?

The unstated value/assertion in your premise is that death is bad, and even without examining outcomes I don't think that's a sound basis for morality. I hope to die when my time comes, immortality sounds like a special kind of hell to me.
I think this is cleared up when understanding that I am not separating action from outcome. Only asking that we may dissect complex moral situations into individual moral actions that can be weighed.

If I were to weigh a box filled with helium balloons and lead weights, I could find the total weight of the box but still know little about the weight of the contents inside the box. By opening the box and looking at the contents separately, we can better understand their weight. I am only asking that instead of sealing the box that is a moral situation and examining it as a whole we open the box and look at each individual isolated action in its own manner.
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Old 02-01-2014, 09:44 AM #26
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Hypothetical physics problems which approximate reality may be constructed in vacuum. I don't see how any real life action or decision can be removed from its context without altering the very nature of said action or decision.

If, as people, we were to consider each quandary in total isolation from its context, our decisions would not be based on the reality of the situations within which they arise. To deny the context of our decisions is paramount to denying the majority of the basis which we use to make our decisions.

I think you'd need to make a strong case for how a morality which is constructed in such a vacuum is a legitimate import, and I am personally very unsure it's possible or that you'd even want to.
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Old 02-01-2014, 01:10 PM #27
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I don't see how any real life action or decision can be removed from its context without altering the very nature of said action or decision.

If, as people, we were to consider each quandary in total isolation from its context, our decisions would not be based on the reality of the situations within which they arise. To deny the context of our decisions is paramount to denying the majority of the basis which we use to make our decisions.
Isolated values are derived from isolated actions. Contextual values are derived from contextual actions. Stop cross contaminating. I am not implying that the moral value of contextual decisions be determined by isolated values. Your objection is a misnomer.
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Old 02-01-2014, 08:30 PM #28
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Isolated values are derived from isolated actions. Contextual values are derived from contextual actions. Stop cross contaminating. I am not implying that the moral value of contextual decisions be determined by isolated values. Your objection is a misnomer.
My objection is that there is no such thing as an isolated action.
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Old 02-01-2014, 11:23 PM #29
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My objection is that there is no such thing as an isolated action.
well i don't know how to deal with that. it seems quite apparent that there is. but i guess i could argue for it...

--

Why would one be (at least potentially) justified in killing for self defense or for a societal good (killing one to save many) but not justified in killing for profit or for sheer boredom?
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Old 02-02-2014, 09:56 AM #30
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well i don't know how to deal with that. it seems quite apparent that there is. but i guess i could argue for it...
I'd love an example.

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Why would one be (at least potentially) justified in killing for self defense or for a societal good (killing one to save many) but not justified in killing for profit or for sheer boredom?
I think at the end of the day systems of morality are best based on what produces a stable society (which means it gives people a sense of security, stability, and aligns with their values). Killing for profit and sheer boredom do neither.
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Old 02-02-2014, 10:23 AM #31
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I'd love an example.
I just gave like 4...

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I think at the end of the day systems of morality are best based on what produces a stable society (which means it gives people a sense of security, stability, and aligns with their values). Killing for profit and sheer boredom do neither.
Okay, so give me an example of a justifiable instance of murder. And why it is justifiable.
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Old 02-02-2014, 12:19 PM #32
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I just gave like 4...
Alright, let's start with the most recent one I found looking up.
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Let's take Tom for instance. Tom is really sick and will die soon. To forgo more pain, Tom has asked you to kill him and you do so. A mercy killing. This action could conceivable be considered a moral action. One could say that this action (murdering Tom) is a moral action but I think that is an incorrect way of understanding a situation which can best be understood by asking why it was moral. Why? Well, you ended suffering? That's a moral good. You obeyed his wishes (giving him agency)? Probably a moral good as well. Notice that the act of taking one's life was not on that list. Because the action of murder itself was not moral. It is simply overcompensated by the good provided through merciful action and agency-giving. It was a necessary evil action for the purpose of providing total moral good.
I think you're confusing the nature of language as description with reality.

We have words which separate reality at some chosen level of resolution, and this resolution is based on how we've defined each word as well as its use. Of course I'm not going to describe the actions of Tom's killer at the subatomic level, or at the millisecond level, or at the level of "he picked up the knife, put his left foot in front of his right foot, kept his balance, stopped 3 feet in front of tom...", or to go bigger "the world existed then it didn't". These are choices in our language, and once you recognize this you see that language is only a description of our reality and not our reality itself.

With this in mind, let's go back and look at Tom's situation. I can certainly choose to omit the description of the circumstances of Tom's demise to more closely examine some specific aspect. But the circumstances themselves cannot be removed; indeed, if I were to go into the actual situation and remove Tom's wishes to die or remove the killer's willingness to comply, or remove Tom's illness altogether so I can examine the murder itself, the murder would never have happened. You can then see that the murder itself is inextricable from the circumstances, and to do so is an abuse of language.

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Okay, so give me an example of a justifiable instance of murder. And why it is justifiable.
I think my position on this is clear now.
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Old 02-02-2014, 01:13 PM #33
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I think you're confusing the nature of language as description with reality.

We have words which separate reality at some chosen level of resolution, and this resolution is based on how we've defined each word as well as its use. Of course I'm not going to describe the actions of Tom's killer at the subatomic level, or at the millisecond level, or at the level of "he picked up the knife, put his left foot in front of his right foot, kept his balance, stopped 3 feet in front of tom...", or to go bigger "the world existed then it didn't". These are choices in our language, and once you recognize this you see that language is only a description of our reality and not our reality itself.

With this in mind, let's go back and look at Tom's situation. I can certainly choose to omit the description of the circumstances of Tom's demise to more closely examine some specific aspect. But the circumstances themselves cannot be removed; indeed, if I were to go into the actual situation and remove Tom's wishes to die or remove the killer's willingness to comply, or remove Tom's illness altogether so I can examine the murder itself, the murder would never have happened. You can then see that the murder itself is inextricable from the circumstances, and to do so is an abuse of language.
You are confusing the abuse of language with the ability of cognition/reflection. This has nothing to do with language. I think can be cleared up below.

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I think my position on this is clear now.
To be frank, your objection has little to do with my argument. Probably due to the fact that (1) this is a complex subject, (2) I may not be explaining it well, and (3) there are some limitations to discussions over the internet.

Humor me. I think this thought experiment will shed some light. Give me an example of a justifiable example of murder and a non-justifiable example of murder.
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Old 02-02-2014, 01:46 PM #34
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I'm not comfortable making absolute moral judgements. I can give you instances I find disagreeable and instances I understand, but that's about it.

I don't agree with capital punishment. I understand killing patients with terminal illnesses who wish to die.

P.S. if you set out looking to justify specific actions with a moral code, you're not looking for an objective, universal truth. You're just looking to codify a set of cultural norms to which you already adhere.
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Old 02-02-2014, 03:26 PM #35
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What makes mercy-killing terminal patients "agreeable" while capital punishment is not?
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Old 02-02-2014, 03:53 PM #36
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In that particular contrast, the will of the person being killed. Although I suppose I don't know the will of people on death row.
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Old 02-03-2014, 01:14 AM #37
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In my opinion I do not think you could directly impose and import concepts from mathematics to morality because morality has no base or direction in the first place.

While mathematics exist abstractly we are able to "prove" its concepts (ie, 2+2=4. Descartes wrote about this in his "Rules of the Mind". One of the rules were that the only thing we can know for sure is mathematics because they do not require our senses to prove). Morality does not work this way. We can not prove that murder is wrong. We can believe it, we can all agree that it is wrong, but that doesn't make it so. Even with the assumption that there was some sort of moral "Proof" that would only make it objective. And while like mathematics it is objective, that wouldn't necessarily make it an absolute morality (meaning, an action is good/bad regardless of the scenarios we present it in). But morality is not an absolute; murder can be immoral in some scenarios, but not in others (as y'all have given earlier in the conversation). Math, unlike morality, is an absolute. 2+2 would always equal 4, regardless. In no other scenario will 2+2=5, no matter how much Big Brother tells you otherwise.

EDIT: I have more to add on why even if morality was absolute why it wouldn't work. I have stuff to do and I'm still trying to properly word myself so that it would make sense to you guys.

EDIT 2: Ok, so I had wrote all that last night and looking back I'm not sure if I fully understood the idea you're trying to put forth. I'm going to stand by what I typed, but if any of you could give me some clarity to the original idea in the thread that would be helpful.

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Old 02-03-2014, 08:01 PM #38
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Sorry. Pretty wrapped up in some work. I'm hoping to get to a response tonight.
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Old 02-03-2014, 11:19 PM #39
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If you chose murder, more or less, because it seemed to be the most agreeable potential moral absolute, then I must ask why you think that is? What about murder resonates with humans in such a negative way? Or are you positing that there isn't a traceable reason, but it is simply wired in our brains that way, similar to (Example off the top of my head) touching fire causes us pain, murder causes us mental discomfort/uneasiness/anger?

From an evolutionary psychological perspective, I think our human distaste with murder can be explained quite simply.

Consider this. Most humans today have a taste preference which favors fatty/salty foods. This trait helped our ancestors survive, in a time when food was often scarce. Those who couldn't stomach the taste of these foods likely did significantly worse in terms of surviving and reproducing. Thus, this trait made it into Humanity's genetics, and is still here today (At least for now).

Similarly to this, I think humanity's general distain for murder could quite possibly be explained. There has always been murder, since the dawn of man. There is still murder today, but only amongst a very small percentage of the population. Perhaps a more neutral/tolerant, or even favorable, attitude towards murder was prevalent in our ancient ancestors. Wild animals today seem ok with the concept, for most part. Maybe once we were too. But over time, as things played out, the anti murder crowd became more and more abundant, and those holding sentiments of indifference or favorability began being increasingly incarcerated or killed off (hypocritical/cognitive dissonant as it may be), these people were less and less reproductively successful.

I don't know if I am prepared to say that an attraction/indifference to murder is entirely due to some genetic predisposition, but between that and a continued advancement of knowledge/reason/order in forming societies, I think the phenomena can be largely explained.

Now to my main point, some people (Now and throughout history) have had no problem with the action of murder. Some people feel no regret or remorse for committing murder. While the people may be said to be mentally abnormal, this does not change the fact that they are humans who lack the seemingly innate trait for a sentiment of disdain towards murder. If murder were objectively Immoral, could people who do not feel this sense of wrongness from murder even exist?

Whether it be genetic predisposition (A psychological compulsion, varying levels of empathy or testosterone/aggression, etc.), or cultural conditioning, it seems likely to me that our sense of morality could have possibly ended up different than it is today, given different conditions and contributing variables. Which to me, suggests a subjective morality when it gets down to it.

Again, typed this on my phone, please excuse any errors or lapses in thought.
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Old 02-03-2014, 11:28 PM #40
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No problem, take your time.

Okay, so now I will be discussing why this wouldn't work even if morality happened to be absolute.

The problem now is how would we give value to a moral claim? Lets say we know that both murder and torture is wrong. Which vice is lower than the other? We would have no way of determining the greater of two evils.

Even if we did, we still couldn't get far from there. If what I believe you are trying to impose is correct, you could "add" or "subtract" ideas the same way you would math. The only issue now is how would we decide when to "add" or "subtract". What if I wanted to multiply? Square root? Morality is to abstract for it to be treated on the same level of math.
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Old 02-04-2014, 09:55 AM #41
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Originally Posted by Umami View Post
In that particular contrast, the will of the person being killed. Although I suppose I don't know the will of people on death row.
I'm trying to figure out how to post this without using too much philosophical vernacular. Basically, my point is that you are only capable of judging the distinction between the two (and their moral value) by cognitively dissecting the moral sum into its parts (for instance, the moral gain of mercy over the moral loss of capital punishment). You claimed that one cannot isolate an action into its parts but talking about the will of the person in question is isolating a moral sum into parts.

Perhaps, we can solve this with a simple change of language. Can you agree that "murder is always an immoral act assuming there aren't extenuating circumstances (such as saving a million or preventing further pain)?

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In my opinion I do not think you could directly impose and import concepts from mathematics to morality because morality has no base or direction in the first place.
To be clear, I am not directly imposing mathematics over morality. I am hoping to learn from the arguments of mathematical realism and apply similar tactics towards moral realism because both are similar systems. A priori metaphysical claims.


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While mathematics exist abstractly we are able to "prove" its concepts (ie, 2+2=4. Descartes wrote about this in his "Rules of the Mind". One of the rules were that the only thing we can know for sure is mathematics because they do not require our senses to prove). Morality does not work this way. We can not prove that murder is wrong. We can believe it, we can all agree that it is wrong, but that doesn't make it so. Even with the assumption that there was some sort of moral "Proof" that would only make it objective. And while like mathematics it is objective, that wouldn't necessarily make it an absolute morality (meaning, an action is good/bad regardless of the scenarios we present it in). But morality is not an absolute; murder can be immoral in some scenarios, but not in others (as y'all have given earlier in the conversation). Math, unlike morality, is an absolute. 2+2 would always equal 4, regardless. In no other scenario will 2+2=5, no matter how much Big Brother tells you otherwise.
We can prove mathematics in the sense that we can prove a tautological truths. Math is true by virtue of its own definitions. Due to infinite regression problems, math has to ultimately rely on intuitions (as I hope to show morality does). Eventually, proofs boil down to the point that you have to rely on them being insanely obvious. Because if not, one could always ask for another proof of that proof. *If this isn't clear, I can expand. I don't feel like I covered this well.*

I agree that we cannot prove morality. It relies on intuitions. (I am using that term because it is Descartes and the subsequent arguments. If you don't know the implications of the term, I can flesh that out too).

Also, note that you just assumed morality isn't absolute. Something I am contending. As 2+2=/=5, I am contending that murder (without extenuating circumstances) will always be immoral.

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Originally Posted by Marci View Post
Okay, so now I will be discussing why this wouldn't work even if morality happened to be absolute.
Can we hold off on this for just a bit? I have learned that multiple conversations in one thread often lead to more chaos then they are worth. I would like to see your objections; i just want to make sure we give everything its due justice.

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I.
Spracks, I moved your post to another thread. Hope you don't mind. I am just enjoying this discussion and your post. I want to make sure we keep this clear. I will try to respond myself soon.
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Old 02-04-2014, 11:21 AM #42
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