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Thread: Moral vs. Factual Belief

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    tWebber Anomaly's Avatar
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    Moral vs. Factual Belief

    Why do moral and ethical thoughts, beliefs, propositions, motivations, etc. seem different than purely descriptive or factual ones? Consider the following statements:
    1. It is okay to rape someone as long as this is done as part of a study to determine first hand the psychological effects the act has on victims.
    2. There is nothing wrong with believing 40 + 16 sometimes equals 55.

    My point is that Q1 draws a stronger inner response than Q2. I see this in qualitative terms; falsity in purely descriptive propositions raises only a mild tension, but moral proposals produce a more robust resistance, one familiar form of which is ‘moral indignation’, which I propose can reasonably be said to be a type of response unavailable to inert factual falsehoods. The propositions “the capital of Italy is Barcelona” or “40 + 16 = 55” carry no such dynamic as false moral statements.

    I sometimes use this thought experiment as an example of this distinction:

    Imagine holding a heavy baseball bat. The following items are placed in front you in the following order:

    1. A 300 pound boulder.
    2. A flowering lilac bush.
    3. A grasshopper.
    4. A kitten.
    5. A human infant.

    Beginning with item 1, imagine swinging hard with your bat, striking each in turn three times as hard as you can. Observe your feelings as you strike each object. Unless you're psychologically defective, you likely won't be able to complete these tasks.

    This suggests to me that the late philosopher Mortimer J. Adler (1902-2001) was correct when he made the following distinction,
    "In Book VI of his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle, clearly cognizant of what he himself had said about the character of descriptive truth, declared that what he called practical judgments (i.e., prescriptive or normative judgments with respect to action) had truth of a different sort. Later philosophers, except for Aristotle's medieval disciples, have shown no awareness whatsoever of this brief but crucially important passage in his writings." (Ten Philosophical Mistakes, 1985)

    One might need to substitute a sledge hammer for the bat for use on the boulder in order to cause any damage to it, but the point remains; it seems the corruption of organisms (the bat produces the falsification of the health--probably the maximum falsification of death in some cases--of each organism) produces stronger dynamic of resistance. Adler identifies two distinct kinds of truth, descriptive (material, factual) and prescriptive (moral, normative). What was posted above seems to support Adler. I’d be interested to hear thoughts.

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    tWebber Roy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anomaly View Post
    Why do moral and ethical thoughts, beliefs, propositions, motivations, etc. seem different than purely descriptive or factual ones?
    They seem different because they are different.
    Jorge: Functional Complex Information is INFORMATION that is complex and functional.

    mikewhitney: What if the speed of light changed when light is passing through water? ... I have 3 semesters of college Physics.

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  3. Amen JimL amen'd this post.
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    tWebber Anomaly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roy View Post
    They seem different because they are different.
    Okay, I see a lot of room was left open in the OP. I maintain that:

    1. truth or any concept of value requires a mind of at least intellectual or higher caliber

    2. truth either
    a. preexists or
    b is a product of human minds or
    c has some other natural explanation for its existence

    Thoughts on the OP plus this?

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    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anomaly View Post
    Okay, I see a lot of room was left open in the OP. I maintain that:

    1. truth or any concept of value requires a mind of at least intellectual or higher caliber

    2. truth either
    a. preexists or
    b is a product of human minds or
    c has some other natural explanation for its existence

    Thoughts on the OP plus this?
    are you saying "truth" is synonymous with (ethical/moral) "value"?...are the terms interchangeable?

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    tWebber Tassman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anomaly View Post
    Why do moral and ethical thoughts, beliefs, propositions, motivations, etc. seem different than purely descriptive or factual ones?
    They don't. Morality and ethics developed for the same reason, i.e. they are a product of evolution as it lends itself to our survival as a species. In short, they are an instinctive survival mechanism.
    “He felt that his whole life was a kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.” - Douglas Adams.

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    tWebber Anomaly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by siam View Post
    are you saying "truth" is synonymous with (ethical/moral) "value"?...are the terms interchangeable?
    Yes. I take the position that value has exactly two denominations, true and false. Prescriptive truth is synonymous with normative value (though there's room for debate here) generally and moral/ethical in particular.

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    tWebber Anomaly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tassman View Post
    They don't. Morality and ethics developed for the same reason, i.e. they are a product of evolution as it lends itself to our survival as a species. In short, they are an instinctive survival mechanism.
    This is the normal answer from atheists; I was surprised when Roy agreed. Do you believe this because evidence leads to this conclusion or because it fits into a preexistent worldview?

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    tWebber Tassman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anomaly View Post
    This is the normal answer from atheists;
    It’s the only possible answer for anyone not categorizing humans as more than what we are, namely intelligent members of the Hominidae family of great-apes. Along with them we are imbued with the evolved instinct to survive - as are all living creatures. Morals and ethics are a product of the evolution of the necessary social behavior of humanity to survive as a cooperative intelligent social animal - something we share with other intelligent animals and, to a limited extent, with simpler life-forms.
    “He felt that his whole life was a kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.” - Douglas Adams.

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    tWebber Chrawnus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tassman View Post
    It’s the only possible answer for anyone not categorizing humans as more than what we are, namely intelligent members of the Hominidae family of great-apes. Along with them we are imbued with the evolved instinct to survive - as are all living creatures. Morals and ethics are a product of the evolution of the necessary social behavior of humanity to survive as a cooperative intelligent social animal - something we share with other intelligent animals and, to a limited extent, with simpler life-forms.
    That was an unnecessarily wordy way of saying "because it fits into [my] preexistent worldview."

  11. Amen Cerebrum123 amen'd this post.
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    tWebber Anomaly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tassman View Post
    It’s the only possible answer for anyone not categorizing humans as more than what we are, namely intelligent members of the Hominidae family of great-apes. Along with them we are imbued with the evolved instinct to survive - as are all living creatures. Morals and ethics are a product of the evolution of the necessary social behavior of humanity to survive as a cooperative intelligent social animal - something we share with other intelligent animals and, to a limited extent, with simpler life-forms.
    The problem I have is that evolution began its life as a descriptor of mechanistic biological systems. At some point the pursuit of naturalistic explanations had to bring morality into its cupboards in order to preserve epistemic and ontic consistency within a the naturalist framework. But morality, because it’s categorically separate from mechanistic/empirical systems places “evolutionary morality” in the same boat as supernatural claims for morality—i.e., from a naturalist’s POV, pure speculation. Will you concede this point?

    I’m not dismissing evolutionary morality on this point, mind you, just calling it what it is in light of your stating morality’s dependence on evolution as a foregone conclusion as if it’s knowledge any intelligent person should know. A fundamental component of my own view of reality and existence consists in a similar marriage of categorical disassociates; I hold that value [abstract quality] inheres both abstract and material existents and this produces, among other things, moral judgments, propositions and motives resulting in primarily value-based behaviors. One reason for the op is to see if reasonable accounts can be given for the existence of value apart from minds….what is your position on this?

    Given that both your and my beliefs about morality necessarily tread the rim of the speculative, what remains seems to be whether either view has a reasonable mechanism in place sufficient to grant warrant for belief. Speculative is okay if there’s enough logical evidence to connect that logic to behavior and states of affairs in the ‘real’ world (whatever that is).

    For instance, Greene and Haidt made a splash a few years ago correlating normative judgments with neuroimaging in efforts to establish evolutionary causes for morality. Their work has since been criticized by others in the field citing the imprecision of neuroimaging to allow assignment of specific patterns of thought to local areas of the brain beyond the most general of senses, and other logical problems with the presentation. Of course every view is going to have faults. At the end of the day the best we have are the formations of worldviews as far removed from reasonable doubt as we can get.

    I’m curious, how would you respond to the points in my second post?

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