Discussion in 'General Chit-chat' started by Waterd103, Jul 8, 2012.

  1. Waterd103

    Waterd103 Well-Known Member

    I'm going to start this post to see that it sadens me that a guy considered so smart says so many nonsensical or useless things.

    I could start with pointing out the mistakes, but I fear I will be played the card of word like it was in the game definition thread, basically state "well game can mean a bazillion things". I think it's hardest this time, because in this case we have a respected guy using a word, and if he uses a word in this speech as he does being ambiguous, it's just sad by itself.

    So I will go the other way around, first I will ask for definitions of the KEY words used on his speech and then work with that and see if what he says makes sense with these new uses of words that you will supply, or not.

    1) What is morality? What's the definition of the word MORAL as used in this video?
  2. vivafringe

    vivafringe Moderator Staff Member

    I don't really want to watch an hour long youtube that you say is bad. Is it required for what you want to talk about?

    My favorite definition of morality is that it is asking what we should do. Probably you want a more technical definition though. I guess just use Wikipedia?
  3. FimPhym

    FimPhym Well-Known Member

    For what it's worth Viva, I've seen Sam Harris give this talk about morality in other videos and it seemed good!

    I don't know why definitions would be a problem, he seems to go out of his way to clarify what he means at each step. Maybe with waterd I should not be surprised that the nitty gritty of definition would be a huge deal. If we can't agree on game, morality is going to be impossible.

    To boil it down really quick he's saying that if our morality is based on brain states in humans (happiness/sadness), then science will have things to say about morality as our understanding of neuroscience increases. This is in contrast to the popular belief that science can say nothing about morality ever. There's more nuance to it than that but I guess that's why the video is over an hour long.
  4. Sirlin

    Sirlin Steward of the Realm Staff Member

    It's an excellent, excellent video. Deeply mystifying that waterd or anyone really would say bad things about it. It's a wonderful and important point that the usual view that science can't say anything about morality doesn't really make any sense. Sam explains very well why science has plenty to say on the topic. If you think he is saying "wrong or useless things" then a better approach would be to try to figure out why you have such a poor understanding of the very well-reasoned arguments he's presenting. Starting with the assumption that you have superior understand of the issues to him and he is saying wrong or useless things is way, way off base imo. Like what are you even talking about.
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  5. Waterd103

    Waterd103 Well-Known Member

    I don't understand how can I be off base. If someone start talking in holdem about how AA is not the hand that gives you the better chances of winning the pot. I will assume that I have a superior understanding for all the information and knowledge i have to back up that fact (AA is the hand that give you the better chances to win the pot)

    I really don't know how can I be off base. I start to look at the many definitions of Moral, and I can't find a definition either wikipedia or dictionary that do not put great part of his speech in the trash.

    More important Sam harris fails to establish which of the multiple definitions i found of moral he is using the, or many people i asked. A speecher that starts talking about a word with so many contradictory definitions and yet do not even explain what definition is he using of the word, fails first hand imo.

    But i'm gonna assume i'm at fault here, that there is somewhere an obvious tell of what definition is he using (i would be happy to know where the obvious tell is.)

    So since i'm at fault and i lack the capacity of understanding what definition of Morla he is using, I ask people here to direct me: 1) What is morality? What's the definition of the word MORAL as used in this video?

    Of course that is unless you say that the definition of Vivafringe is usefull. Which is crazy. "What we should do" for what? Im sure that is not the definition used here though (though vivafrige didn't watch the video). Because otherwise he would specify if an action is moral for X. As "should" is a meaningless word if it isn't for X, since should is a word that is meaningless without an objective.

    Sam harris never talk about the objectives of his moral or any moral at all. At least as far as I know, so I guess"what we should do" is just not the definition of moral, or any definition I know (otherwise I would hear phrases like, it's morally right to dragon punch air attacks in SF2, in order to try to win. Here the objective is trying to win at the game).

    If i use wikipedia definition.
    Then we fall on the same problem that vivafringe definition (since good or bad things can only be good or bad with respect to an objective, otherwise those are meaningless words.

    So all in all, my first question gets unanswered. I need the answer to this question to continue with my point.

    Edit: Vivafringe, btw, Sam harris part last around 27 minutes, and not the whole video
  6. rozencrantz

    rozencrantz Active Member

    I only got through 7 minutes. In that time it seemed like he is using morality to mean utilitarianism: maximizing benefit or minimizing suffering. It's a popular model, but it has some serious flaws, so maybe that's what's bothering Waterd?

    Harris' positive thesis, that science says lots about morality, seems fine and good, I don't know enough to comment. His negative thesis, that religion is not better than science for talking about morality, is really badly supported and full of strawmen. His errors, being in my field of study, were so egregious that it was almost painful to listen to him. This is sad because I am interested in his positive thesis.
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  7. Waterd103

    Waterd103 Well-Known Member

    I ask rozencrantz maximizing the benefit towho? Who or what determines what is a benefit and with that i would need a definition of what is a benefit.

    Also you say minimizing suffering. That is two different things for the same word, I assume you mean you don't know what he meant, and those are the two options. If the idea is to minimize suffering, suffering to whom? in what timeframe? The best way to minimize suffering is naturally extinct all that can suffer, that way suffering is zero. I doubt his talk and position about moral is that which have an obvius answer: the most moral thing to do is to extinct all life capable of suffering, if that could be done.
  8. vivafringe

    vivafringe Moderator Staff Member

    OK, I watched the thing, and yeah there seem to be some problems (it was entertaining though, I don't regret watching it).

    Let's say I grant that the worst possible world is the one where everyone is suffering the most (it's not, btw. I can imagine a world that is that, except everyone is immortal and the population of minds is doubling every year). Science still can't tell me whether it is better to start killing people or injecting them with mind-numbing narcotics.

    He lists economics and medicine as examples. He says no one disputes that difficult questions in these fields have "right answers," even if not all of them can be feasibly found out. The problem is that I can imagine experiments that could answer every "unanswerable question" he asks me. But I can't imagine an experiment, no matter how many resources I had, that could tell me whether it was better to kill everyone in his Worst Possible World or anesthetize them into oblivion.

    I doubt anyone sane will say that science can't inform us on how to best achieve our moral goals. That's pretty uncontroversial. But I still don't see how science can actually tell me what my moral goals are. This is the "is ought" problem, and I really don't think it's just a problem with language. I think the people asking questions had even more concise objections, which I don't think he answered well.

    Rozencrantz: He calls himself a consequentialist. Which to me has always seemed to say, "the best result is the best result."
  9. Waterd103

    Waterd103 Well-Known Member

    I was gonna post that some argentina person (in another forum where i'm discussing the same thing) told me that sam harris definition of moral is "that which is expected to increment the well-being of a society" Do you agree that is the definition sam harris uses in this talk?

    Well , this depend on the definition of moral. If the definition I was told Sam Harris is using is true, then science CAN as long as a) we agree it means the total sum of well-being b) We are told the composition of individuals of a given society.

    That is if we consider well-being that of happiness.

    Of course since i'm not given the proper material i have to make a lot of assumptions here and risk to be wrong.
  10. vivafringe

    vivafringe Moderator Staff Member

    I feel like a dick for arguing over semantics, but it's a "definition" thread so w/e. Sam Harris' moral framework is probably something like you said. But his definition of morality is probably "asking what we should do."

    I don't think we actually can agree on a) or b) though. Here's a great article I read recently regarding a):

    Also, what the heck does well-being even mean? Harris seems OK with saying, "just because I can't define it doesn't mean a definition doesn't exist." I'm personally not so sure. Again, what scientific experiment could tell me what well-being means?
  11. Waterd103

    Waterd103 Well-Known Member

    If you can't give some sort of definition you can say well-being as well as pacachaka and it will mean the same in a sentence, so that claim is just retarded, but i'm not sure that he makes that claim.
  12. Waterd103

    Waterd103 Well-Known Member

    This is the general vibe I get from three different forums that support moral realism. That is THE BEST case scenario, some scenarios are just ...

    Him: This is moral
    Me: Why?
    H: Because it's so according to the moral system of rules
    M: What rules?
    H: Those that are moral
    M: Can you tell me the rules?
    H: Yes, X and Y
    M: So why is usefull to me to know what is moral
    H: So you know what you should do
    M: What I should do for what?
    H: Possibility 1: I won't answer that question , Possibility 2: You don't get the point, Possibility 3: Should do , to do the moral thing, Possiblity 4: Should do to maximize happiness. Possibility 5: Act accordingly to the absolute right of humans.

    P4: (the other 3 are not even worth it). "To maximize the happiness of whom?"a lot of worthless answers and sometimes "Maximize the happiness of the individuals of a society"
    M: So it looks for events or acts where the sum of all happiness is the highest?
    H: Yes
    M: In what timeframe?
    H: Possibility 1: I won't answer that question , Possibility 2: You don't get the point
  13. Waterd103

    Waterd103 Well-Known Member

    Anyway whoever wants to help me that's awesome, if you want to post just to not help me, then do not even post plz or do but i will ignore.
  14. vivafringe

    vivafringe Moderator Staff Member

    It seems at some level you always have to resort to moral intuition. Really basic stuff like, "misery is bad, equality is good, truth is good." Using these intuitions is better than using religion; religion is a terrible way to make a moral framework. It's just the moral intuitions of some old dude.

    Anyway, after you make enough assumptions, you can use science to maximize the goals set by your moral intuitions. Science can even reduce the number of assumptions you have to make. For instance, we can probably prove down the road that beating a child increases long-term misery, so we don't have to have a separate intuition about whether we should beat a child. If this is all Sam Harris is saying, then he is saying some pretty obvious and good stuff. It just sounds like he is trying to say that science could one day completely replace moral intuitions. Maybe he's not, though.
  15. Waterd103

    Waterd103 Well-Known Member

    Religion is almost useleless for everthing related to the search of truth. Yes Science as always is better, however is what some people is claiming that science says about moral is my problem. And the logic statements he makes are bad, which is my point, however, I'm not sure i'm right, to be sure i should be sure what he meant when he uses the word Moral.

    I've been discusing these days with both moral relativists and moral realists. What I found is that moral relativist are always pro defining the word moral, while moral realist never want to do that. I almost feel back to discussing against religious people.
  16. Waterd103

    Waterd103 Well-Known Member

    i found this very good page at that talks a lot about the problems I have with Sam harris speach, and yet it doesn't provide answers. I'm surprised that for something as OBVIUS and LOGICAL as it was Sam harris speech i can't stop finding peoplee that find it so not obvius and sometimes lacking logic. Even on the spheres of people that are very smart , educated and pro science. Really astounding event.
  17. dzebra

    dzebra Active Member

    This is only true if the only things that matter are the things that can be observed and proven. Science is supreme if there is no spiritual or supernatural world. If there is, then science is only part of the story. It is obvious that you believe that there is no spiritual world, or that it's doesn't matter, and that's one of your axioms. Another acceptable axiom is that there is a spiritual realm. From that perspective, the search for truth can be very different.

    I only point this out because you seem to be claiming as fact something that is merely conjecture. Especially since one of religion's strengths is truth.
  18. Waterd103

    Waterd103 Well-Known Member

    Even if that spiritual world exist, religion would still almost useless compared to science in regards to finding the truth.
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  19. rozencrantz

    rozencrantz Active Member

    This is not true. Those religions that say anything about morality at all are not the product of a single person, nor are they monolithic. Just in the course of the NT, you have at least ten different authors debating the significance of the ideas of an eleventh person, who was critiquing a communal morality that was based on an even longer and more varied debate. Among those ten authors there is a whole range of moral theories, and a whole range of moral intuitions. Nobody's moral intuition is so great that they can't benefit from a critical reading of different moral ideas presented by people who have given critical thought to the issue.

    Even if physicalism is 100% true, there is still a millennia-long critical conversation about ethics and psychology, with perspectives from a wide variety of different cultures. How could that not be valuable?

    I'll give another crack at defining morality: It's a debate on what is meant by "right action," beginning from the assumption that there is something desirable that is called "right action," but none of us knows for sure what that is, even if we have some inkling or intuition of what it is.
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  20. Sirlin

    Sirlin Steward of the Realm Staff Member

    I agree that it's astounding you don't understand Sam's video. It's well spoken, well reasoned, and I explained it to you all over again in chat. Sounds like you have a problem with understanding, and should try learn from Sam rather than claiming you know more and that he's wrong. I doubt you are able to even summarize his points even though I already did it for you in chat. (That's really confusing to me, btw. I'm not able to understand how you don't understand his point when it's now been explained twice. You instead seem to ignore the substance of the argument and ask questions about wording in a burguny way.)

    Try posting what Sam is saying. Not like "what does some word mean??" Or "he is wrong, but I won't list any reasons why." Just post in a completely straightforward way what he saying, with the assumption that he is not an idiot, meaning giving the benefit of the doubt in reasonable places. I guess I'll do it for you AGAIN?


    In a world with no life or beings or conscious awareness, there are is no concept of morality. (Obviously true. There would be nothing that could make a conscious decision, and nothing else that could suffer or not suffer based on that decision.)

    Statement 1 is a clue that "morality" is not some completely random thing. Not just any arbitrary thing is moral, and the nature of it does not derive *because* it was written in a book, and we need no supernatural being to justify it. Statement 1 hints to us that an action being good or bad morality is connected to its effect on conscious beings. (Uh...yeah? This is for people so wrong-headed that they think "written in bible = moral," which is absurd. So great, we have now cleared up the most absurdly bad thinking and called it out.)

    If there the metric has to do with causing more or less suffering, then all possible laws anyone could name are not equal effectiveness. For example, a law stopped people from pooping directly into the community's only water supply (when pooping other places is readily available), would have more merit than a law saying we should throw acid in all little girl's faces. Not his exact example, but yes his point. (Sure, again it's obvious that some laws would be better or worse than others at reducing the suffering of people. It's easy to create examples were people suffer for no reason at all, showing those are bad.)

    If you want figure out which laws or actions or something are moral or not, then where should you look? His point here is really that you have these choices: a) something with literally NO basis whatsoever or b) something with more than 0 basis. Lots of non-science things (like whatever some 2000 year old book happened to say) have 0 basis. That is, it's entirely possible that some advice it gives is now known to cause suffering for no gain or a gain far smaller than suffering. Stoning a rape *victim* to death is one (unfortunately) real example of that. If you use "nothing" as your basis, you might come up with that rule. If you use a scientific mindset of logic and looking at cause and effect, and whatever data is out there in the world--making the best decision you can according to facts and known things about human psychology, physiology, economics, blah blah then you'll be better off than if you used "nothing."

    His statement is simultaneously obvious and yet novel. It is very common for atheists to claim that religion is non-source of morality, but it is not so common to go the next step and say that science has more than 0 to say about it. But certainly it does if the whole point is not some arbitrary set of rules, but instead something to do with people suffering (because things can be known and learned about which things cause more suffering to everyone vs which cause less).

    He also makes the point that's basically reminding us of the nirvana fallacy. Like if someone asks if it's better inconvenience 10 people and save one person from really huge annoyance, would that be "moral"? He's saying that an inability or difficulty in answering that is NOT a gotcha that proves his whole concept wrong. He gave several examples from medicine where we also can't really easy answer pinpoint questions about which would be better (maybe in the future when we are more sophisticated we can?). Anyway it's like a "can't see the forrest for the trees" thing. Medicine isn't "proven wrong" by a question being hard to answer about which thing helps more in some specific case. It doesn't mean we should throw out medicine and replace with arbitrary nonsense. There are tons of questions medicine can answer like if your liver is failing and you're going to die, what are some things that might cause you not to die? Also medicine knows all about how throwing acid in people's face causes serious problems, and not because a 2000 year old book said, but because of measurable, known facts.

    So the entire nitpicky approach of "Sam cannot answer every possible question, like how LONG of a timeframe should the suffering be measured!? That shows a problem with his argument!" No it doesn't, you're making up something far outside his argument, so that would be a strawman. His actual argument is very reasonable and simple. Use science rather than nonsense when making decisions (especially policy decisions for a community) as you take into account the wellbeing of people. If you disagree with what he's saying, I guess you could advocate ignoring overwhelming evidence about pooping in the community water supply being bad for people, or something. Perhaps you could advocate using scripture and ignoring data about human physiology and psychology in your moral decisions. As outlandish as that would be, it does seem to legitimately be the position of "disagreeing" with his fairly simple ideas.
    vivafringe likes this.
  21. icewolf34

    icewolf34 Well-Known Member

    Statement 1 is pretty interesting. It's kind of like a boundary condition: 0 conscious beings means no solutions for maximizing morality function. So I was thinking, what are some cases near the boundary conditions?

    1-person case: Is it possible to do an immoral act if there is only one conscious being in the universe? For example, is it immoral for the single being to pour acid on himself, causing himself suffering? (Let's move beyond the 'all actions reveal true preferences' argument... I think there are clear real-world counterexamples to that claim.)

    2-person case: There is 1 man with a vial of acid, and 1 girl. The man would derive pleasure from throwing acid on the girl. Is there anything the girl can say to convince him to do otherwise? For example, can she prove that a 'minimal global suffering' morality is objectively better than a 'maximize personal pleasure' morality?

    I'm not looking to 'disprove' Sam. I'm sympathetic to the argument that the system isn't fully developed yet, nirvana fallacy, etc. Just curious if it has anything to say along those lines yet.
  22. Sirlin

    Sirlin Steward of the Realm Staff Member

    Joke or real? It's embarrassing to see this said on these forums.
  23. Sirlin

    Sirlin Steward of the Realm Staff Member

    icewolf, Sam would say the 1-person case is not a morality question and that the 2-person case is. That seems consistent with his statements at least. Probably he'd say that it wouldn't be reasonable for the happiness in your example to be as high of a quantity as the suffering of the girl. ("But what if it is?" Starting with absurd wrong premises can lead to any wrong statement.) Further, in some video (someone could find it?) I think he discusses that exact concept of being happy when others suffer, and his opinion on it. Like what if our society really likes throwing people to the lions? He frowns on that community and says it's not correct to add up the happiness of the crowd, subtract the suffering of the people killed by lions, and come out with a positive number. If you're interested, you might try to find that.
  24. Wobberjacky

    Wobberjacky Well-Known Member

    There are definitely some bad points to nitpick in that talk. The stunningly (or willfully?) unsophisticated comments on marriage are one example. Especially since he makes no admission to the fact that religious dogmas, though they modulate biological impulses, are themselves being modulated by culture and modern ethics. I like rozencrantz's posts because they debunk the frankly adolescent idea that "religion is just what some dumb old guy said 2000 years ago." Modern Christians for example, I think are just as likely to say "cheating is wrong because I promised God I would not" as they are to say "cheating is wrong because I promised my spouse I would not because that would upset them." That's a lot of progress, and if you don't see those kinds of changes happening among religious people, you aren't paying any fucking attention.

    But enough about that tangent. I could not agree more with Sam's positive thesis. I also agree with Sirlin that it was mostly well-reasoned. To me, the talk is a plea to think about things differently, and to ask questions differently. I do not think Sam is trying to answer a lot of questions, which is where I feel like you're misunderstanding things, Waterd. His point is that we are excluding science from moral discussion when we obviously should not. I don't see what reasonable definition of morality could refute that, so asking "what is his morality" is off-base to understanding the speech.

    EDIT: I guess if you're just really interested though, yeah he's some sort of utilitarian/consequentialist. He thinks we should create a world where as many people are happy as possible, for as long as possible, without allowing happiness to be derived from the unwilling or uninformed suffering of others (sounds pretty good to me!) That's a mouthful, so if something needs clarification just ask.

    RE-EDIT: And remember, that morality is a framework, or a goal if you will. I don't believe he is offering any advice on how to achieve that, or answer any sort of specific questions about how that is implemented, other than to say science needs to be a part of the discussion.
  25. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    I haven't watched the talk yet, but I agree that this is a good definition. I think part of the problem you're running into, WaterD, is at some point you just have to decide for yourself. There isn't a consistent definition of "the well-being of a society". Obviously it's different for each society, but it's not even going to be the same for multiple people in the same society.

    The real point of moral discussions at all, is they have to start with you defining your own version of the "rules of morality", and how you choose to follow them. And then you discuss the specifics with other people, and maybe make adjustments based on that. And you can take in societal pressures (follow the law, or we send you to jail!), and include that in your rules (or not!).

    But that's really all there is to it... it's about a personal truth. You're never going to find a consistent external answer, so all you can possibly hope to do is reflect on other people's opinions through your own personal lens, and see whether it's useful.

    This doesn't seem like a good example. I mean, part of the reason is that you can argue there is no difference. Anesthetizing someone into a living vegetable versus actual killing them, are not really two different outcomes as far as the person in question is concerned. That said... they are clearly two different outcomes for everyone else. Keeping someone alive with drugs has a pretty clear financial component... you need space for them, you need to pay caretakers, you need to pay for whatever drug is actually being used. Same with killing people... still takes space, still costs money. You do some calculations, figure out which one is actually viable.

    Wait, wait, wait... did you just try and tell me that religion is making progress because some religious people have managed to come to a conclusion that non-religious people already came to without needing religion? What part of that is actually progress....
  26. dzebra

    dzebra Active Member

    I'm not sure if this also includes "An action being good or bad morally is connected to it being performed by a conscious being." It may not be the effect on something else that causes intrinsic rightness or wrongness. It may be its performance by something.

    What if everything in the universe had a purpose, and any time something in the universe acted against its purpose, it was morally wrong, and any time something in the universe acted in alignment with its purpose it was morally right? The question to morality then becomes "What is my purpose?" And religion has a lot to say about that.

    And I stand by my comment about truth in religion. I'm not speaking of things like mathematical facts or whatever, but true religion delves into the nature of human condition, and new perspectives on life. That's the truth that I'm talking about.

    I guess this is where I find a problem.
    That's not obviously true. That's maybe true. If it is the case that there is a God who created everything, then morality could easily be "God's rules are good, breaking them is wrong." And since that possibility can't be thrown out, then there can't be an "obvious" thing about morality.

    Assuming that there is no God whatsoever, then his argument seems pretty solid, though.
  27. Bod

    Bod Active Member

    The 1-person case is an interesting thought experiment. I guess immoral acts aren't possible if there is only one conscious being in the universe? An interesting question, though fairly irrelevant to the discussion in this thread.

    On the other hand your 2-person case seems like a classic Prisoner's Dilemma. Even if throwing acid on the girl maximizes the man's happiness, it causes the girl great suffering and pain, whereas choosing to not throw the acid would cause neither pain nor suffering for either of them. 'Minimal global suffering' versus 'maximize personal pleasure' seems like a false dichotomy to me, so I don't know what to say there.
  28. Wobberjacky

    Wobberjacky Well-Known Member

    And it's this kind of elitist attitude that I was speaking against with my rant. How the fuck is that not progress? Because some people figured it out sooner? That's your argument? Really?
  29. Sirlin

    Sirlin Steward of the Realm Staff Member

    Claytus's statement is fine. Sam himsself even talks about how "progress" of religion being less bad in ways here and there is a far cry from any kind of good thinking. Starting at 10:10 for some foundation:

    At 11:42 he gets to an example of "progress" in religion, and how actually it's more of a crumbling of a bad system of thinking being slowly exposed, than it is of intelligent discourse.

    Btw, I was taking it as given that it's unreasonable for a reasonable thinking person to claim that a supernatural being more complex than anything we know of is necessary to explain what we can observe. It's a non-answer in that it answers nothing really, and in the same category of unlikeliness as someone having seen the ghost of Elvis, or that there is a teapot orbiting Jupiter. So highly unlikely and unsupported that I'm really caught off guard by a non-joking claim of this on these forums.
  30. dzebra

    dzebra Active Member

    The behavior of particles at the atomic level is necessary to explain things that can be observed. This information was not always known. I wonder how many people had your same thought before that knowledge was discovered.

    "The idea that something so more complex than anything we know of is necessary to explain what we can observe? No reasonable person would think that." - Some guy from a long time ago responding to a guy's theory of the atom.
  31. Sirlin

    Sirlin Steward of the Realm Staff Member

    That isn't a good analogy at all. Back to the point where I'm really caught off guard by your statement though. The idea that there's a supernatural being who created everything is outlandish. If you want to say your supernatural being cares about what food I eat on which day, or who I have sex with, that's even more outlandish. Why would we consider this? The default position is to reject it (NOT to take it as 50/50 maybe true or maybe not). So the burden of proof would be on you to explain why this outlandish thing would be true, with some evidence. You of course have none and cannot meet the burden of proof, or even offer anything towards it. So we'll have to go back to rejecting it.
  32. Waterd103

    Waterd103 Well-Known Member

    I'm not interested in religious talk, since I think we are most here beyond of beliving in Santa claus.

    Also I agree that Science is usefull tool in the search for truth. That much I agree. So if you look for the truth of something, science is very likely be a very usefull tool.

    Now , having said that I will quote a part of the wikipedia article because I think it's easier than me typing it.

    I could use a variant of this as the definition of morality uses in his speech, since this is the interpreation of smart man, and also Sirlin claim it's "obvius" So, I guess it's fair to say and define that, this is what Sam harris do, and will in the future act as if this is the case.

    I want to note though how this is the first time in my life I see someone using the word morality in this way. This is not what Religious people do, or most people i know do. This is a reinvention of the word morality, the same way keith has redefined the word Game. Why Sam harris redefinition is accepted? Other than because he did it in a popular book I can't understand.

    But let's accept the "reinvented" "morality" Word, and work from there.

    Scrap that, I can't , since it makes no sense to me, I will use the definition of the pursuit of well-being, as defined by him, and well-being... is...

    ...Well I will link to the following is very interesting, where Sam harris responded to critics made by philosophers, that seem that like me "failed to see the obvius" (I'm starting to doubt the meaning of the word obvious here when important smart philosophers fail to see it). I think Sam harris responses are sometimes bad and sometimes good. Most of the time, when the responses are bad I don't care much about his response.

    What's important is that the philosophers to whom he answers to, have, the same problems I do. Sam harris then explain they failed to see his point. Though I think Sam Harris,in the cases I do care, give ok responses. I think those responses should be essential and even more important than the speech i linked here, thanks to philosophers questions. I think there is a lot of problems still. But those are problems I do not care really for now. The most important thing is the following is that in his responses he ADMITS that which is moral, is relative to the subjects involved. He even makes comparisions with HEALTH and says health is relative.

    My whole point about this is to establish that Absolute moral or moral realism, or the idea that acts are moral or not regardless of the individuals involved, is just wrong. Wrong in the sense that is logical false and make no sense, yada yada yada.

    Sam Harris seems to attack moral relativism and deny this fact. yet in this "response to critics" He says "well it's actually a true fact".

    Edit: Sorry about the color fonts problems, I have troubles in this forum with it. It does weird things with the font when you copy paste and edit, etc.
    vivafringe likes this.
  33. Wobberjacky

    Wobberjacky Well-Known Member

    This attitude is bad. We should not be dumb enough to think that the way to bring more people into intelligent discourse is to tell them the beliefs they have been raised on are a crumbling system that ought to be done away with. We should not be dumb enough to even talk like that amongst ourselves. The dramatic Hollywood moment of telling someone "everything you know is wrong" may work on a few people here and there, but most will respond with resentment and resistance. This prolongs our already agonizingly slow attempts at progress.

    Real progress happens when people change themselves. When so-called crumbling institutions reconsider out-dated ideas. I haven't heard much of Sam outside stuff in this thread, but he seems to have many views in common with Dawkins, who I am not a big fan of. Because:

    That's what I was referring to. We can talk about how "oh, religions are a crumbling institution," and "oh, the thinking of religious persons is not evolving fast enough." But it serves no purpose and if anything, stands in the way of progress, which requires education, persuasion, and patience enough to let people learn things for themselves.

    EDIT: Okay I don't know how to make videos not embed themselves in posts.
  34. Sirlin

    Sirlin Steward of the Realm Staff Member

    If you don't like the PR of saying true stuff, that's too bad. I didn't know we were talking about PR. Dawkins says good and true stuff. If you think he should say it some other way (I don't at all, I think it would be great if everyone had his attitude and laughed the very idea of religion) then that would be some other thread. Has nothing to do with the substance of Sam Harris's point. Has nothing to do with Sam's other point in the video I linked that slight changes to the crumbling institution aren't coming from an honest intellectual place, but rather from "the clash of modernity," as he says, shining a light on the dogma to begin with. Seems that's you've invented some new point about saying things in a friendly way that's unrelated to all that, doesn't belong in this thread, and that I strongly disagree with anyway.
  35. Wobberjacky

    Wobberjacky Well-Known Member

    The Pope reconsidering birth control may be a good example of the head of the system not going about things in an honest intellectual way, I'll give you that. It doesn't change the fact that individual Christians, many of them, already decided birth control was okay a good long time ago, and that many other tenants of their Church are suspect as well. Ignoring the validity and value of this bottom-up change as Dawkins, Harris (I think), Claytus, and I suppose you have is misguided at best and elitist at worst.

    I am well aware that point is tangential to the thread, by the way, and said as much. I'll make a new one I guess.
  36. dzebra

    dzebra Active Member

    Yeah it is.

    Why would we consider that the rules of logic reach correct conclusions? The default position is to reject the rules of logic. So the burden of proof would be on you to prove that the rules of logic are accurate, with some evidence. You can't prove logic with logic, since that would be circular, so there has to be some other way.

    The reason the people believe that the rules of logic are accurate tools to use is because they are consistent with themselves and they are consistent with the world as we know it. The same can be said of the supernatural. Some people have different ideas about the supernatural, and your ideas about the supernatural seem to not be consistent with the world as we know it. I am not trying to tell you that you are required to believe in the supernatural, but I am saying that it's not an act of idiocy to believe in it. People have just as much reason to believe in the supernatural as they do to believe in the rules of logic.
  37. Waterd103

    Waterd103 Well-Known Member

    yes plz, go create another thread for religious stuff.
  38. Sirlin

    Sirlin Steward of the Realm Staff Member

    It's not elitist. In our actual real history, the KKK had some power. It lost a lot of power when it became SHAMEFUL to be associated with it. Sam Harris actually has some interview about that exact thing. Anyway, the point is that it would be a great thing if were shameful to be associated with religion or with hating gays, etc. Dawkins agrees, me too. Wrong thread for this though, I know it's more derail and irrelevant to the point Sam is making, sorry.

    dzebra: wait, yes it is an act of idiocy to believe in supernatural forces that created everything and care about what I eat on Sunday, etc. It's outlandish, should be rejected by default, and we'd need evidence and for you to meet the burden of proof. You can't meet it anywhere close, therefore it actually is idiotic to believe. I see no other possible conclusion there. "Idiotic" to me means believe in something absurdly improbable that has no support. I guess maybe the word "idiotic" means something different to you? That could be. The underlying meaning of believing in something outlandish with no support, regardless of the label, is what we're talking about though. It's anti-intellectual at the least. A big derail too, I don't see how it's any different than cluttering up the thread with claims that there's a supernatural Santa Claus or Zeus.
  39. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    This doesn't make any sense. If there's no conscious being in the universe, then there's noone who *could* break god's rules. So, the concept of morality still doesn't exist. It's the classic "shadows can't exist with light" argument, for lack of a better way to express it.

    I think that's the point... noone's saying there is no god. But the outcome of logical arguments doesn't change whether or not god exists. So, it's just not worth talking about.

    @Wobberjacky: I do have to point out that despite the tone, my original response to you was an *actual question*, not a sarcastic rhetorical statement. I honestly thought I must have misread what you wrote.

    Note that the whole argument is doubly stupid because there's whole bundles of religions out there that don't have these problems you're coming up with. For example, I'm actually not 'Elitist'... I'm a Unitarian. And yes, I do believe that being part of a religion that isn't openly anti-gay, anti-birth control, or currently involved in a child sex scandal makes a better person than people who are. Kind of funny how that works...
  40. garcia1000

    garcia1000 World Champion Staff Member

    Wowow, this is a great summary of entire waterd robot/performance art thing
  41. icewolf34

    icewolf34 Well-Known Member

    For context, I said:
    2-person case: There is 1 man with a vial of acid, and 1 girl. The man would derive pleasure from throwing acid on the girl. Is there anything the girl can say to convince him to do otherwise? For example, can she prove that a 'minimal global suffering' morality is objectively better than a 'maximize personal pleasure' morality?

    Firstly, that is certainly not prisoner's dilemma. (Hint, it is a 2x1 matrix, not even a 2x2.) Secondly, economic perspective on prisoner's dilemma is that a rational participant chooses to defect, ie maximize personal payoff, ie throw the acid, ie opposite of what standard moral reasoning would say. And thirdly, from the man's perspective, those two moral systems do give different results for this problem, so yes they are dichotomous.

    I finally watched the video and actually I found it pretty interesting, so thanks for linking it. I suggest that everyone take the 17 minutes they might use to read this thread and watch the video instead. Some bullet points:

    1. Values are facts about the well-being of conscious creatures.

    2. We can define an objective moral continuum without religion.
    2a. Worst possible result is a universe where every conscious creature suffers as much as it can for as long as it can.
    2b. If you admit that there is a single result that is better than this, you define a moral continuum.
    2c. It's obvious to any reasonable person that the Taliban system of throwing acid in the face of a girl who wants to go to school is a step closer to universe-of-maximum-suffering, therefore it is bad. If her acid-throwing father disagrees, he is objectively wrong.

    3. There is no divide between facts and values.
    3a. A value for health underlies medicine. A value for well-being underlies morality.
    3b. If someone doesn't value evidence / logic, what evidence / logic will you provide to make them value those? Thus we see that a value on evidence and logic underlies all science, therefore a value underlies facts. There is no fact / value divide.

    I think 2a is pretty clever, setting a base case which should have consensus. I'm not sure that 2b actually inducts properly, even to cover 2c... seems to rely on "it's obvious [implicitly, to people with our background]." Achieving a moral result when the situation doesn't have consensus between stakeholders is the whole difficulty! Most members of this forum who I've discussed this with seem to be standard moral relativists, so curious what others think about this as well. I can link a thread where someone told me that my desire not to have my sister murdered is just a preference rather than a morally good thing, for example.

    3a, I would say that's the difference between biology (a science) and medicine/public policy (not science, informed by values and culture). Maybe that distinction isn't important, but that's how the fact/value divide propagates there in my mind.

    I would like to view the video where Sam distinguishes between different moral systems (Sirlin refers to it here), if anyone has a link.
  42. Waterd103

    Waterd103 Well-Known Member

    Icewolf: 2.a is a problem in that "worst possible" has not a "to what" As said something is better or worse for X. Yet the X is to me not clearly stabished in the video. yet it seems hinted in his "response to critics" that i linked to.
    It seems X is maximizing well-being to all conscious creatures.

    Doing that is fine, the problems come later when he calls that "Moral" Then we have a problem. Keith in this forums was called outwhen he tried to redefine game, and it happend to me to. yet this guy goes ahead redefine moral, and that's a good speech? I'm waiting for the forks.

    Worse is when, nobody is even sure he is calling that moral, or what he is calling moral, something you can see in his response to critics and in the wikipedia link, where you can find several non-similar definitions of moral for him. I think he is not clear on what he talks about, and he does this with a word like moral. And that ends bad, some people will assume they understand him, if somehow they want the same things than him, then go ahead and say "well, i understand what he says" the only thing they did understand imo is that they both somewhat agree in what they do not want.

    You can see in the point 2.a that he do not specify worst for what. Many people that really would dislike that scenario jump in "I agree with what you say" only beause they agree that's something they do not want it to happen. 2b has the same problem.

    I feel Sam harris speech only work to some people that get focused in that they do not like the events sam says he doesn't like, and jump in "I agree" But it's really a matter of luck if you actually agree with him or not, because with the words he used, what he meant, can fall in several possibilities, which of those possibilities is unknown.

    He sometimes talk about "moral" being those events that make flourish every conscious creature. What is flourish there? one just has to guess. But later I see him saying, events that maximize the well-being of conscious creatures. What is the well-being, again, one has to guess. So he is not only disfiguring the word Moral, he is not even clearly redefining it.

    When that happens, as pointed in the wikipedia article "The scientific search for empirical facts always requires operationalization. In other words, investigators need to agree to define terms to some extent before reasonable discussion can even begin"
    Well, I disagree Sam harris definied morality to the extent that reasonable discussion can even begin.

    But if i'm wrong, and he did define it to that extent, I'm waiting for those that DO clarify to me that definition. Is clearly in his "response to critics", as I said, that other philosophers also do not think the word was yet defined enough.

    I think though that we can have an idea of what he said, and i have several possibilities, the funny party is that he makes logic mistakes (Though different ones) in his speech, depending on which one of the possibilities is the correct one, in regards on what he meant when he talks about morality. Though instead of investigating each of the possibilities and the possible logical mistakes if that possibility is the truth one, I ask, which of the possiblities is the one Sam harris used, so i can go ahead and debunk his speech under that specific possibility of use of the term Moral. (unless I'm really surprised on what Moral means in his speech and is a possibility I do not count, and maybe with that possibility his speech lack any logical mistakes).

    There is something I partially agree with though.Personally I think, Science is always our best tool to find the truth.

    About the case of the acid in the face, depending on the definition of Moral, it could be MORALLY right to do or not. Look at the case where Moral, is that which maximize the happiness of a group of creatures that consider between them equals/"part of a specific group they care about".

    For that definition, The men may not even consider the female part of his group, so the happiness of the female is not relevant, only of the men, if that's the case, and the men is more happy after realizing the action, then it's moral for him to do so.

    Let's say that they consider the women part of the group, and her unhappiness count. But if this men do not throw the acid, not only this men will be unhappy, but a lot of his friends, family etc. Now you have a lot of people that would be more happy if this men throw the acid in her face, and you have all this extra happiness that could easily sum up more than the happiness of this women. Again, then it's moral to throw acid in the face.


    I will say though that moral in most of his definitions, seems a useless concept to me. At least in the same way that is to me known the amount of mass some star in the galaxy andromeda have. It to me may be interesting or something, yet, at the time of take decisions a rather useless tool.

    The main reason I'm arguing here is because defenders of the science (i'm pro science), use bad science. And that's sad to me.
  43. icewolf34

    icewolf34 Well-Known Member

    'Worst possible' means 'no matter what objective function you are (actually) using in your life, you agree that this is the worst result.' I don't think he assumes that the goal is maximizing happiness for all conscious creatures for point 2a. He's just saying that no matter what your goal is, you must agree that any other state is preferable to the one where all 'conscious creatures suffer as much as possible for as long as possible'.

    The rest of your post seems more or less in line with the questions that I had.
  44. Waterd103

    Waterd103 Well-Known Member

    If what you say is right (on what worst possible means). The question : "Can you imagine a world where YOUR suffering is maxed out for the longest time possible?" That would be by 100% identical to his question. As our suffering is basically directly connected to our goals.
    And that is almost circular logic (won't say this is for sure circular logic since i'm not sure i'm right here and do not want to discuss this)
    The worst result for you is getting the worst result.

    That is suffering maximized is the worst result. We suffer as a consecuence of our goals getting the worst results. So of course if we get the worst result of our goal, we get the worst result of our goals.
  45. icewolf34

    icewolf34 Well-Known Member

    I think you're missing the point a bit still... imagine that the two of us are the only two people in the universe. If only you are suffering as much as possible for as long as possible (SMPFLP?), I may not agree that this is 'bad' and that all other states are better. However, if both of us are SMPFLP, we can agree that this is the worst possible state and all other states are better*.

    Then since we can agree on the relative goodness of two states, we can draw a rudimentary moral direction between them. He claims that this is all you need to develop a moral framework (I think?).

    *Possible criticism: 'all other states are better or equal'?

    By the way, I don't find that my suffering is directly tied to getting bad results on my goals. In fact I might be willing to suffer to achieve some goals (hurting myself while snowboarding), or I might suffer with no impact on some goals (I currently have an uncomfortable head cold, but I'm still making progress on my work and creative goals, perhaps more than when I am healthy.)
  46. Waterd103

    Waterd103 Well-Known Member

    Well, I would rewrite what I said, but I will try to express in a different view. Once you are getting the maximum suffering, if anybody else, or whatever it's happening becomes irrelevant, how can be worst that Now i'm also suffering? You are already suffering the most, me suffering more can't change your state for the worst, you are ALREADY suffering the most.

    The worst result for the goals of one life is maximum personal suffering, everthing else you add is just not relevant at all.

    If im a third party and see two guys in this situationa and you tell me that the worst thing for the goals of this two persons that can happen is that both get max level of suffering (if that even exist is debatable), for the major amount of time possible. I will say, for each individual that holds true. If you add a third individual that is not suffering though, I will answer that for those TWO is still the worst, for the third one, is not even close to the worse.

    Of course if you talk about, the amount of suffering there is in the group, well of course everybody suffering is the worst scenario, that , as i said is auto-defined, if that is the use of the word moral. But suffering is a result, and what event or action gets you to that result, varies depending on which are the members of the society.

    My point is, Of course you can scientifically analyse moral issues, as long as moral is what we are talking about. But with this definition you have to accept, that the event or action that lead to less suffering (thus is a more moral action) is RELATIVE to WHICH ones are the member of that society, and bazillion other factors. But that is basically what Moral Relativism talks about I think (or at least what i talk about in case i'm wrong about moral relativism) and which Sam harris seems to disagree (i'm wrong? I can be, as I said i'm not even sure what Sam harris is even saying concretly)

    Of course you may not get that for the following comment where you deny that your suffering is not directly related to the bad results of your goals, which I would call essential to this discussion and as far as i know , wrong.

    When you tell me"In fact I might be willing to suffer to achieve some goals " That only means that you are willing to fail at some goals in order to succeed at some. Which is natural, and part of the everysecond trade we do in life. Avoiding pain is a goal, and not avoiding it lead us to suffer, that much is true. But we do so in order to achieve goals that are more important to us, like learning snowboard. Preserving my legs at my 30's is one goal. Health is one goal. But If i had to sacrifice one leg, for the health of my child, which I love, I would do it. I would suffer if i lose the leg, but i would suffer more if i lose my child, because the child is more important than the leg.

    I guess we should focus on this part of the conversation for now, because the moment we disagree on what means that a human suffer, is where the major leak of the whole discussion is found imo, at least for now.
  47. icewolf34

    icewolf34 Well-Known Member

    I concede the point on pain-avoidance being just another goal. If I was in maximum pain, AND failed to learn to snowboard, that would be the biggest possible failure given those two goals. It doesn't quite seem right to me to place 'suffering' on one end and 'attaining all goals' at the other, but I think it would come down to uninteresting semantics to tease that apart.

    Maybe think about it this way. If we can move from a universe where we are both SMPFLP, to one where we both are not, then we can agree that this is an objectively positive movement (even if we came to that conclusion with totally different and selfish utility functions). We would say that that's a morally good movement. Again, I don't know where to go from there... maybe someone else can jump in.

    EDIT: I thought about it a bit more, and actually the difference between suffering/well-being, and not-achieving-goals/acheiving-them seems like it might matter. Like, I don't know that Sam would say that a universe where I fail to snowboard is less moral than one where everything is exactly the same except I succeed in learning to snowboard.
  48. Waterd103

    Waterd103 Well-Known Member

    I would agree that it's a morally good movement, and I also agree there could be a few absolute moral actions (like this you name), that do not mean that all moral actions are always moral.

    Let's imagine that the question is "What's the best course of action to reduce the amount of time needed to go From point A on earth to point B"

    Well, there are definitly A worst result possible (taking the infinity of time) and best result possible (taking no time) That are fantasy world. Saying that do not prove at all that actions that lead to lesser time, will always lead to lesser time.

    I think he even fails to establish where point A and point B are located. he only says, that taking Zero time to travel is the best possible scenario. But, let's imagine for a second we know the location of A and B. Those locations are eiffel tower and the statue of liberty.
    The answer to the question has to do with climatic condition, our tools available, the technology available, and all the people that is involved. So the answer to the question is relative to lot of things.

    And yes of course there are going to some things that will always lead to bad results. Like flying in circles, like going parallel non stop to the imaginary line between both points. The fact that some things will always be wrong about that do not mean anything eitther. Additionally instant teleporting to the B point is probably going to be always the right answer, yet it doesn't prove that the answers , rules or guides to my question are absolute and not relative to factores and individuals involved, specially because Instant teleporting is just not possible. Yet maybe in a future if we manage to instant teleport to any place we desire, we are going to have an absolute always right answer. Does it mean that today it has an absolute right answer all the time and under all conditions? Well, the answer I just gave it's only valid IF we have that power.

    Yes, if we in the future generate a Magic genie that will grant maximum well-being to all living things, I agree that super choice will triumph all other choices and it's gonna be the more moral choice.

    Does it mean that which is moral is always moral? no.

    Though I agree that Science, in both cases, will be a great tool to determine the best answer to both questions in a "Given set scenario", but that scenario is constantly changing.
  49. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    Finally watched the video... was way more boring and obvious stuff than I expected. Not sure why it's worth discussing. Anyway:

    No, it's not the same. It's called generalizing. His world is the worst *for everyone*, therefore we can all agree about it. Your world is only the worst for you, therefore I might be perfectly happy there. On the scale of "Current World" vs. "WaterD suffers, but everyone else is fine", I might be able to say "Well, they seem the same to me, no moral imperative". But in comparing "Everyone suffers" vs. "WaterD suffers, but everyone else is fine", obviously I prefer "WaterD suffers" world. So using his reasoning, it becomes a baseline shared argument for all conscious beings. Whereas your argument is entirely personal.

    (That's the whole point... it turns out it doesn't matter if we disagree about about whether "Claytus suffers, but everyone else is fine" vs. "WaterD suffers, but everyone else is fine" world is better. As long as we both agree that "Everyone suffers" world is worse than a random 50% chance to be in one of the previous two mentioned worlds... then the moral continuum exists as he defined it.)

    I have no idea why you think he redefined morality. He uses it the exact same way as your wikipedia definition. Morality = asking questions about things are right vs. things that are wrong. He further states that you can classify right and wrong under a blanket term well-being, that's analagous to health. I.e. "Not vomiting all the time is healthier than vomiting all the time" is the same statement as "Not throwing acid at people for no reason causes humanity to flourish more than throwing acid at random people for no reason".

    He then *purposely* doesn't give a strict definition for well-being. Which is fine, not some big loophole. Like health, it's a super-complicated term that many people disagree about. Well, okay. It actually turns this doesn't even matter. As long as you can agree that a concept of "well-being" exists, it really doesn't matter what it is.

    This is like, crazy 100% wrong. Did you listen to the part where he answers a question by relating his stance to economics at the end of the video? He basically specifically responded to this point and pointed out that it does matter.

    I'm beginning to think you don't like it because you're the wrong audience, WaterD. You're a fairly logical person, and all Harris is saying is basically "We should use logic more", if you want to boil it all down to a single sentence. I think you're trying to assume this applies to you, and discovering you can't really apply it usefully. Whereas all Harris really cares about is going out and finding the people who don't use logic ever and just read the bible and assume it's true, and he's just saying to them "Be more like WaterD, and use logic".
    Delha and Sirlin like this.
  50. Waterd103

    Waterd103 Well-Known Member

    I think maybe my problem is this. I don't know what he claims. But people seem to say that he claims Moral truths are not relative to the system we are talking about.
    What do you say?
    I of course do not oppose the concept that logic and science are very important tools on the search of truth.
    But he do not do that, he talks specifically about moral. Yet it seems people can't even't understand what he is talking about, btw i get different responses from different people, I personally have no idea what he talks about and then you go ahead and say that his definition is the same than wikipedia definition :
    Is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good (or right) and those that are bad (or wrong).means you say he said that.

    And as I explained in my post number 5, it makes no sense at all.

    So some people say he redefined morality, and you say he didn't, but he gave a meaningless definition. I don't know
    which one to keep.

    So, so far we either have him talking no sense, or being unspecific, or just changing the definition of morality. They are all a problem.

    Why is this a problem if you are right and the message is the one you say? (using logic is a good tool to find the truth) First because I don't know if he is really saying that. Second because if he is saying that, using bad speech and/or bad logic hurts me , more than it helps me.

    I have the same discussion with libertarians, as you know i don't like how much power current states around the world have. So we both want to reduce state power. So sometimes libertarians seem shocked that I debunk libertarians claim that have poor logic. Well, It does not help to my cause that people spreading concepts that I think are true, do so by using bad logic, because then will relate those concepts with bad logic and then it's gonna be harder for all of us to reach truth.

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