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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Right or Wrong? » » Why disscussing right and wrong is wrong. (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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writeall
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Thom,
We are overwhelming the medium here. I'm going to rephrase some of your excellent post, just to make it fit better. Please call me out if I misstate.

Quote:
On 2012-01-29 13:39, Thom Bliss wrote:
But knowing something is not the same as merely believing it – (Clipped good example about the moon and McEcks)


The problem with your example is that at the time he expresses his "knowings" they are equivalently authentic. How he views them later is a matter of semantics, not historical fact.

Quote:
More to the point, just as our believing or disbelieving a proposition does not make it true or false, our attitudes of liking or disliking, approving or disapproving, or whatever, towards an action or a type of action does not make it good or bad, right or wrong.


The problem here is similar. We are using truth in two different senses. I am using it as if I were taking a temperature -- a discrete measurement, fixed in time. "True now, but maybe not tomorrow." You are using it as a kind of eternal thing that extends through time. "Once true, always true." Same for good, bad, right, wrong.

Brandt deserves a direct response:
Quote:
Being mistaken is not merely changing our minds, or having one sort of feeling and then a different one. As Richard Brandt, wrote in Ethical Theory, “Suppose, for instance, as a child a person disliked eating peas. When he recalls this as an adult he is amused and notes how preferences change with age. He does not say, however, that his former attitude was mistaken. If, on the other hand, he remembers regarding irreligion or divorce as wicked, and now does not, he regards his former view as erroneous and unfounded. …”


Let us use Brandt's example. On what basis would that same man, now talking to his truculent child say, "You are mistaken, peas are actually very good. You will discover this as you age." Again, the problem is with placement in time and perspective. Putting the man and his previous self together show this. As to the second string, where the man sees his mistake, on what basis is he entitled to say he is not making another mistake right now? Just as surely as he advocates one view in the past, another in the present, so too he may continue a series of "I was mistaken then" until the day he dies.

Quote:
Well, yes, at least one common meaning of ‘murder’ is ‘wrongfully taking a human life’. There are many types of taking of human lives that everybody agrees are wrong. I think that was Stony’s point. And his specific example was the Holocaust. Anybody who approvals of the Holocaust needs a new moral compass. Our approval or disapproval of the Holocaust, and genocide in general, is not on a par with our liking or disliking peas – just a matter of taste. There are other cases of taking of human life that there are disagreements about. But these, too, are not a matter of taste. That is one of the reasons why discussing right and wrong is not wrong and is, instead, almost mandatory.


The Holocaust is a very emotionally laden example, so I won't try to justify it in any way whatsoever. However, I would ask, if it is so obviously wrong (and heinously so), how did it happen in the first place? How did a large segment of the population come to accept that Jews and others were less than human?

Quote:
We, like other actors, should aim for a suspension of disbelief. I think, far too often, we only succeed in presenting a display of skill, or a puzzle. We should get our audience to think that – for example – we can really get a signed card to rise to the top of the deck; but far too often we only manage to get them to think we are very skillful with a deck of cards. We want our audience to believe, for a moment, that we have really cut somebody in two and then put the person back together, no worse for the experience. Instead, they only wonder how we created to illusion that we did that. On the other hand, after the show, we don’t want them to think that we can really cut somebody in two and put them together, just as the actors in a murder mystery don’t really want us to think, after the show is over, that the one actor really killed the other. I really don’t want to get this call at three in the morning: “You’ve got to help me! I just cut my wife in two, but I can’t figure out how to put her back together!”


Spot on, although I think if varies, depending on the trick. And, I think the same techniques can and are used to convince people of psychic powers (not so much by magicians).
stoneunhinged
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Quote:
On 2012-01-30 06:11, writeall wrote:
However, I would ask, if it is so obviously wrong (and heinously so), how did it happen in the first place? How did a large segment of the population come to accept that Jews and others were less than human?


Is this question not one of the (if not THE) most important question of our age?

A bit big for the Magic Café, however. We're still stuck at whether one ought to ask questions that cannot be definitively answered.
Thom Bliss
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Quote:
The problem with your example is that at the time he expresses his "knowings" they are equivalently authentic.
I don’t know what ‘equivalently authentic’ means. If you mean that everything he believes, he believes, then I would agree with that. But I don’t think we need to dress it up with an obscure label (‘equivalently authentic’). We can’t tell which of our beliefs about the world are true, which false, by merely examining the quality or nature of those beliefs. We have to actually study the world. I don’t know why you would think that would be a problem.

Quote:
We are using truth in two different senses. I am using it as if I were taking a temperature -- a discrete measurement, fixed in time. "True now, but maybe not tomorrow." You are using it as a kind of eternal thing that extends through time. "Once true, always true." Same for good, bad, right, wrong.
I confess to using ‘truth’ in the sense that it’s used by all competent logicians and scientists. The world changes, but truths don’t. If it is true now that the temperature of the room I am in is 65 degrees Fahrenheit, then it will always be true that the temperature of this room was 65 degrees Fahrenheit at this time—regardless of anybody’s upbringing, feelings, etc., and regardless of the temperature of any other room at this time, or of this one at some other time. If I believe, but believe erroneously, that it is 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and later discover that I was wrong, it won’t have changed from 65 degrees Fahrenheit to some other temperature. Similarly, an economic policy that might be the right one to adopt at this time, in these circumstances, might not be the right one to adopt at some other time, in a different set of circumstances.

I think you may have missed the point I was trying to make when I quoted Brandt. I quoted him because I think he said it better than I probably could. There is a difference between questions of morality and questions of taste. One way of bringing out the difference is that we can be mistaken in our judgments of moral rightness or wrongness but not in matters of taste.

Quote:
… on what basis is he [Brandt’s hypothetical person who changes his moral views] entitled to say he is not making another mistake right now? Just as surely as he advocates one view in the past, another in the present, so too he may continue a series of "I was mistaken then" until the day he dies.
Yes, that’s right. He still might be mistaken. He has no guarantee that he isn’t.

Consider again the question of gravity. On what basis were the people who rejected the pre-Galilean view of gravity entitled to say they were not making another mistake right then? If they accepted Galileo’s views of gravity they were mistaken! And what of the people who rejected Galileo’s views in favor of Newton’s? They were mistaken, too, as Einstein showed. And what about those of us who accept Einstein’s view of gravity (as far as we are able to understand it) instead of Newton’s? What guarantee do we have that Einstein was right? We don’t; in fact, we can be pretty sure that he was wrong. But in each case, a not-quite-right view was rejected in favor of a closer-to-the-truth view. And this process will continue long after all of us are dead.

As I said before, I don’t know precisely what the objective (and non-relative) moral standards are. And neither does anybody else, at least not in a way that justifies absolute certainty. But that’s just life. And that doesn’t means that they don’t exist or we shouldn’t keep looking for them.

Thom
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writeall
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I think this is the meat of it:
Quote:
I think you may have missed the point I was trying to make when I quoted Brandt. I quoted him because I think he said it better than I probably could. There is a difference between questions of morality and questions of taste. One way of bringing out the difference is that we can be mistaken in our judgments of moral rightness or wrongness but not in matters of taste.


What I am saying is that we can not be mistaken about either, <i>at the time we make them</i>. If I ask you whether something you claim is wrong, really is wrong or whether you are mistaken about it, you would be (I think) hard pressed to say that you honestly believe you are incorrect. There can be no mistake in your judgement at the time you make it. This is what relativism claims, that our only measuring stick is the person doing the measurement. If, later on, you say, "I was mistaken then," you will be just as convinced that your new judgement is correct.

We change over time. Our beliefs change with us. To say that we are progressing is nice, but hard to measure without access to the absolute I am claiming doesn't exist. I'm a materialist, so I think our tastes, including those about morality, are subject to underlying biology (even if emergent). But even that isn't an absolutist stance, for we know biology changes over time as well.

I have another thought experiment. Suppose you met a future version of yourself on the bus. You are convinced this is you, perhaps ten years hence. If that future version told you that you were mistaken about some moral judgement you now hold, without any supporting argument, would you be able to change your stance? I don't think I could. I do not find it in my power to willfully change my views, they are not modifiable, yet they do change.
Thom Bliss
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First, let me say that I was wrong when I said,
Quote:
we can be mistaken in our judgments of moral rightness or wrongness but not in matters of taste.
The reason I quoted Brandt, above, is that I thought he brought out the difference between morals and mere preferences better than I could. There is a way we can be mistaken our own tastes, because our tastes can change without our being aware of it. More on that later.

Quote:
What I am saying is that we can not be mistaken about either [morality or taste], at the time we make them.
Quote:
If I ask you whether something you claim is wrong, really is wrong or whether you are mistaken about it, you would be (I think) hard pressed to say that you honestly believe you are incorrect.
The first sentence makes a very different claim from the second. I take it that you think that the second sentence somehow supports the first. It doesn’t.

Suppose that at some specific time (tx), somebody believed that π equals exactly 3.5. He or she would be wrong at time tx! But of course that person “would be … hard pressed to say [at time tx] that [he or she] honestly believes that [he or she was] incorrect,” because, at that time, that person would honestly but mistakenly believe that he or she was correct! (Of course, the person might acknowledge that he or she might be mistaken.) At some later time, tx+y, the person might realize that π doesn’t equal exactly 3.5. But as soon as the person realizes that he or she was mistaken, then (like magic!?) that person no longer believe that π equals exactly 3.5.

I don’t think I need to repeat all of that with moral judgments. Simply replace “π equals exactly 3.5” with some mistaken moral judgment and “π doesn’t equal exactly 3.5” with the negation of that moral judgment.

Quote:
To say that we are progressing is nice, but hard to measure without access to the absolute I am claiming doesn't exist.
Yet that is the situation in physics and all the other sciences. It’s not like any of us mere mortals have access to the laws of gravity that Galileo, Newton, and Einstein were merely “guessing” at!

Quote:
Suppose you met a future version of yourself on the bus. You are convinced this is you, perhaps ten years hence. If that future version told you that you were mistaken about some moral judgement you now hold, without any supporting argument, would you be able to change your stance? I don't think I could.
In ten years I might very well be senile! But, if I was also convinced that the future me was still rational, I might change my view. I would, at least, ask the future me why my present view is mistaken, or — if the future me disappeared in a puff of smoke before I could do that or before he could answer — I might see if I could find some reasons for changing my view. Ah, but notice that a moral judgment can have (and actually needs) supporting arguments; mere matters of taste do not, at least not in the same way.

Suppose now that Newton was somehow transported into the future and met Einstein. Einstein explains his theory, but without giving any of the reasons why it is better than Newton’s. Would Newton embrace Einstein’s views? Not likely!

Now suppose that Einstein explained how his theory was better than Newton’s. (Einstein would have a great deal to explain, including technology that was not even dreamed of in Newton’s time, such as photography, so it would be a very long conversation indeed.) Would Newton accept Einstein’s theory over his own? I don’t know. Newton had quite the ego. Is Einstein’s theory better than Newton’s? Yes!

Now suppose that the person in Brandt’s argument, while a youngster, meets his older self on a bus. The older self tells him that someday he will like peas. Would that change the youngster’s tastes? Maybe, but not likely. Could the older self give reasons for liking peas? Not likely. But the older version might convince the younger version of hisself that some of his moral judgments are wrong by giving him reasons why they are wrong.

I said at the top of this post that there is a way we can be mistaken our own tastes. Suppose that at some time, tx, Brandt’s youngster doesn’t like peas and that at some other time, tx+y+z, the adult does. There is likely a time, tx+y, when the person actually likes peas but doesn’t realize it, simply because he hasn’t tried peas recently.

But, and this is the point, the adult doesn’t regard his former dislike of peas to be mistaken; but when he changes his moral views, he would regard his former views as mistaken (even if, perhaps, they were based on the best information he had at the time).

Jdmagic357 where are you?


Thom
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writeall
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I flipped the order or these quotes because of how I was thinking about them. (Hopefully, I didn't gerrymander away the sense of your post.)
[quote]On 2012-01-31 17:22, Thom Bliss wrote: (much clipped)
But, and this is the point, the adult doesn't regard his former dislike of peas to be mistaken; but when he changes his moral views, he would regard his former views as mistaken (even if, perhaps, they were based on the best information he had at the time).[quote]
Actually, I thought about this some more. We can use the "mistaken" notion for matters of taste. Consider these two examples:
"I thought I liked peas, but now I know I was only trying to show love for my mother by pleasing her. I never really liked them at all." And:
"I was mistaken when I wrote in my diary that I loved her; turns out it was just teenage lust and hormones in play."

Quote:
Ah, but notice that a moral judgment can have (and actually needs) supporting arguments; mere matters of taste do not, at least not in the same way.


Interesting side issue there. Do we come to our moral judgements only after examining the arguments or are the arguments tacked on to support the judgements we already have? I lean more toward the latter rather than the former. Perhaps it is a mix. However, in my experience, if you ask me a moral question that isn't made complex and dense with difficult nuances, I simply "find" the answer in my head. It seems to be there to discover, as immediate as recognizing a word on a page and just as effortless.

This seems to be the same way with questions about taste. For instance, if you ask, "Do you think a man wearing a skirt to church would be appropriate?" I just "know" my answer, without analysis. (Note I tried to pick an ambivalent question that could be one of taste or morality.) If you then ask me why, I will go back and find reasons to support what I spouted out without any consideration at all. Of course, this isn't always so. But I think it is so more often that we would like to admit.

What's fascintating is how more information about context can change the opinion I express, on both moral issues and matters of taste. Telling me that spinach A is organic and B has been picked by slaves, I might easily prefer the taste of one over the other, even if they are the same. Surely you are familiar with how context shapes experience -- one of the arrows in our conjuring quiver. Taste and preference are therefore not such simple matters, and, like morality, influenced by forces outside ourselves.

Good stuff. Again, I'd like to thank you for your insights.

Bill
writeall
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Doubled up
writeall
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And triple. If I post the same thing over and over, does it make it seem more correct?
stoneunhinged
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LOL!

Just FYI, if you double post, you can click "edit" and one of the options is to delete your post. You have to do it within thirty minutes, and if someone posts before you delete it it stays. Also, you can always report your second and third posts to the moderators, and they'll clean it up for you.

Which leads me to also say this: a moderator might just see it by accident (i.e., without anyone reporting it) and do it anyway. In which case they will delete this post too for being off topic. Then we can go to the manager's forum and ask why our post count is mysteriously going down. Smile

Now back to our regular program.
Thom Bliss
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Well, there is the Bellman’s rule of three: “What I tell you three times is true.”
Steve_Mollett
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This thread is so wrong! Smile
Author of: GARROTE ESCAPES
The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth.
- Albert Camus
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Quote:
On 2012-02-02 19:57, Steve_Mollett wrote:
This thread is so wrong! Smile


There's an ironic truth in that since the original poster has long since been banned from the Café.
stoneunhinged
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*snap*
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