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Thread: To what extent can ethics be anchored in reason?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain Man View Post
    Coming up with a non-theistic system of morality is relatively easy. Consequential ethics and pragmatism are reasonably intuitive, but where the atheist runs into a brick wall is when he tries to explain why someone ought to prefer one course of action over another. Suppose someone is rich and powerful enough to skate through life without ever having to face the negative consequences of their behavior. If an Ultimate Judge doesn't exist then why shouldn't they?
    Thats why we have laws so that even the rich and powerful can not necessarily escape the negative consequences of their behavior. Many a very wealthy and powerful person has murdered someone and not escaped the consequences.

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    tWebber Mountain Man's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimLamebrain View Post
    Thats why we have laws so that even the rich and powerful can not necessarily escape the negative consequences of their behavior. Many a very wealthy and powerful person has murdered someone and not escaped the consequences.
    That doesn't answer the question, Jimmy.

    Besides, the rich and powerful are very adept at circumventing the law, and many of them have done so throughout history. For that matter, even a common criminal on the street can live outside the law if he's sufficiently careful. And if there's no Ultimate Authority to hold them accountable then why shouldn't they?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain Man View Post
    That doesn't answer the question, Jimmy.

    Besides, the rich and powerful are very adept at circumventing the law, and many of them have done so throughout history. For that matter, even a common criminal on the street can live outside the law if he's sufficiently careful. And if there's no Ultimate Authority to hold them accountable then why shouldn't they?
    Actually it does answer the question. The rich and powerful, as well as the common criminal on the street, should they be unprincipled, may escape the negative consequences of their immoral behavior, but it is never a given, and that is enough to keep most of them in check. The reason they ought to behave in a moral way is because the society within which they live, being a moral society, is ultimately in their own best interests.

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    tWebber Mountain Man's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimL View Post
    Actually it does answer the question. The rich and powerful, as well as the common criminal on the street, should they be unprincipled, may escape the negative consequences of their immoral behavior, but it is never a given, and that is enough to keep most of them in check. The reason they ought to behave in a moral way is because the society within which they live, being a moral society, is ultimately in their own best interests.
    You're naive if you think it can't be in someone's best interests to exploit society for their own gain. History is full of examples. That's the problem with pragmatism and situational ethics, because moral behaviour isn't necessarily optimal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain Man View Post
    You're naive if you think it can't be in someone's best interests to exploit society for their own gain. History is full of examples. That's the problem with pragmatism and situational ethics, because moral behaviour isn't necessarily optimal.
    It's possible for a particular immoral action to be in ones best interest, should they wish to risk it and get away with it, but in general a more secure society is in their, and in everyone else's best interest. You're whole argument is "oh, but they might get away with it." So what? Some people will sometimes get away with crimes, but society, and life therein, is better off for having laws even if sometimes some immoral behavior goes unpunished.

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    tWebber shunyadragon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by guacamole View Post
    I'm curious how atheists and other non-religious folk find or create ethical rules. A lot of Christians assert that with out God, there is no reason to be good. I'm interested in turning the question around. What is the basis of ethics in non-theistic systems? Preference? Popularity?

    fwiw,
    guac.
    The prevailing view in science,and among many atheists is that humans cannot create ethics and morals anchored in reason. The foundation of morals and ethics is evolution, and survival of the species. Social animals require cooperation, social, stability, and a hierarchy of morals and ethics to survive. These characteristics of human behavior are apparent in simpler forms in higher mammals, for similar reasons.

    The concept of consequences mentioned before ties into this, in that the consequences of the lack of morality and ethics is social chaos, and human societies and cultures do not survive, and humanity cannot survive.
    Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
    Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

    go with the flow the river knows . . .

    Frank

    I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

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    tWebber Mountain Man's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimL View Post
    It's possible for a particular immoral action to be in ones best interest, should they wish to risk it and get away with it, but in general a more secure society is in their, and in everyone else's best interest. You're whole argument is "oh, but they might get away with it." So what? Some people will sometimes get away with crimes, but society, and life therein, is better off for having laws even if sometimes some immoral behavior goes unpunished.
    That's just a hand-wave, Jimmy. Try actually answering the argument. You say that society is better when people live morally, but why ought one value what's best for society if it's in their own best interest to live selfishly? Why ought someone like the late Pablo Escobar care about society when his crimes made him richer and more powerful than the country he was living in?
    Some may call me foolish, and some may call me odd
    But I'd rather be a fool in the eyes of man
    Than a fool in the eyes of God


    From "Fools Gold" by Petra

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain Man View Post
    That's just a hand-wave, Jimmy. Try actually answering the argument. You say that society is better when people live morally, but why ought one value what's best for society if it's in their own best interest to live selfishly? Why ought someone like the late Pablo Escobar care about society when his crimes made him richer and more powerful than the country he was living in?
    Pablo Escobar was killed at the age of 44 MM. Was it in his best interests?

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    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    How could anyone really know the long term consequences of any act?
    We can't be infallibly certain about anything, but that is no excuse for shirking our responsibility for exercising our judgment to the best of our ability. Sometimes our judgment will be wrong, and we have to live with that. The only way to never do anything wrong is to never do anything, and even that won't work when inaction itself is the wrong option.

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    Quote Originally Posted by guacamole View Post
    How do you reckon the beneficial or harmful quality of consequences then?
    The reckoning can get complicated, but I'd start by presupposing that no rational person wants to live in world in which some people can cause other people to suffer gratuitously.

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