A curious question by Barry Arrington on UD..

…that I can’t seem to resist posting here:

I have a question for our materialist friends. Let’s imagine a group of chimpanzees. Say one of the male chimps approaches one of the female chimps and makes chimp signals that he wants to have sexual relations with her, but for whatever reason she’s not interested and refuses. Is it morally wrong for the male chimp to force the female chimp to have sex with him against her will?

If you answer “no it is not morally wrong,” imagine further a group of humans. On the materialist view, a human is just a jumped up hairless ape. Is it morally wrong for a human male to force a human female to have sex with him against her will? If you answer “yes, it is morally wrong,” I certainly agree with you. But please explain why on the materialist view it is not wrong for a hairy ape to force a female to have sex with him, but it is wrong for a hairless ape to force a female to have sex with him.

Link.

  1. Is it wrong for a man but not for a chimp? Yes, it is wrong for a man but not for a chimp.
  2. Why is it wrong for a man but not for a chimp?
    1. It is a meaningful question in regard to a man, whereas it is not for a chimp, because human beings are capable of moral choice, by virtue of many factors, including our theory of mind capacity, our complex social structures and our capacity for linguistic cultural transmission.
    2. The answer to the meaningful question for a man is “yes”, because prioritizing our own desires the wellbing of others lies at the definitional heart of human morality, and rape is a clear example of such an act.

234 thoughts on “A curious question by Barry Arrington on UD..

  1. William J Murray,

    William J Murray: “So, as you say, since one cannot live as if B is true, and the only alternative is A, the wise thing to do is act as if A is true, which is what I do.”

    That’s not what I meant at all, so let me try to be clearer.

    IS = 1
    ACTS_AS_IF_IT_IS = 1

    ISNT = 0
    ACTS_AS_IF_IT_ISNT = 0

    So we have 4 possibilities.

    11 is a rational position,
    10 is an irrational position,
    01 is an irrational position, and,
    00 is a rational position.

    It is not rational to choose an irrational position..

    As an analogy, if
    A = FULL_TANK_OF_GAS,
    X = DRIVE_FAST,
    B = HALF_TANK_OF_GAS,
    Y = DRIVE_ECONOMICALLY,
    then AY is an irrational condition to take and so is BX, even though when brought into the real world, they are not equivalently bad in their results, “depending” on real world conditions, but they are both still irrational behaviours.

    I think this is one the points you are trying to make, that while you are not trying to prove “an absolute common good exists” or that “god exists”, you are however trying to prove that your worldview is “rational”, but clearly we can see with real-world examples, that behaving with disregard to your reality, is not rational at all.

    I believe you and I and many others reading this, can demonstrate that failures result from behaviour that doesn’t come from an understanding of the specific environment that you have to operate within, in a given situation.

    It is no different for your theistic world-view.

  2. Can you explain, line by line, how you are concluding that “moral subjectivis[m]” implies that “might makes right”?

    1. Moral subjectivism is the claim that morality refers to subjective good.
    2. If good is subjective, then whatever I think is good is by definition moral for me.
    3. “What I think is good is by definition moral” = the might of personal will, or whatever principle one’s will chooses – empathetic emotion, consensus, rhetorical manipulation, authority, government, humanism, bible, koran, etc., which is still the might of personal will choosing whatever it wants as “good” via some subjective proxy principle.

  3. William J. Murray: 1. Moral subjectivism is the claim that morality refers to subjective good.
    2. If good is subjective, then whatever I think is good is by definition moral for me.
    3. “What I think is good is by definition moral” = the might of personal will, or whatever principle one’s will chooses – empathetic emotion, consensus, rhetorical manipulation, authority, government, humanism, bible, koran, etc., which is still the might of personal will choosing whatever it wants as “good” via some subjective proxy principle.

    But I don’t see that it follows that “might makes right”. Let’s say (for the sake of argument) that it is my subjective opinon that we should Love our Neighbours as we Love Ourselves. Why should I logically have to concede that “Might is Right”? That goes against my actual subjective morality.

    Not that I think morality is subjective. I think that the Golden Rule is a perfectly good objective principle.

    But even if I did think it, why would that entail believing that Might Makes Right?

  4. But I don’t see that it follows that “might makes right”. Let’s say (for the sake of argument) that it is my subjective opinon that we should Love our Neighbours as we Love Ourselves. Why should I logically have to concede that “Might is Right”? That goes against my actual subjective morality.

    I answered this in the very post you referenced. How many times would you like me to repeat all this? I’ve covered it all several times at this site.

    The argument isn’t what inferences flow forth from your particular subjective principle; the argument is about what premise is necessary for you to be able to pick that principle in the first place and call it “valid”. If the premise is that you can pick any moral principle you want and call it valid by whatever arbiting model or explanation you see fit (like defining morality conveniently), then you assert “love thy neighbor” via the might of your will.

    Your might (personal will) authorizes your choice of even an anti-might moral principle, which is why it is essentially hypocritical and self-defeating. Someone else can pick “subjugate thy neighbor” via their might of will, and it is necessarily the equal of yours because it stems directly from the same premised source of authority (personal will or choice) – but at least their moral principle isn’t hypocritical in terms of authorizing premise.

    Not that I think morality is subjective. I think that the Golden Rule is a perfectly good objective principle.

    Objective in what sense? Please try to remember that I do not argue that “morality” is objective; I consider morality a subjective description of something else (the good in terms of human purpose) that is objective, just as all human descriptions are subjective commodities held to represent other things that are assumed objective or subjective.

    But even if I did think it, why would that entail believing that Might Makes Right?

    Because might-makes-right is the only premise that authorizes you being able to choose any moral principle you want, including anti-might principles. If what you are referring to is premised as an objectively existent commodity, then true moral principles are assumed to be derived from that and not your own personal interest and will. IOW, one must subjugate their own idea of what morality is in favor of what it actually is, which is not “might makes right”, but rather “truth (about good) makes right”.

    This really isn’t complicated. If I get to choose whatever moral principle I want, my own personal will (might) is what is authorizing that choice of principle, so my entire moral system is predicated on might makes right even if my moral system eschews that principle. If my moral principles are held as truthful descriptions of an objective good, then my principles are not authorized by my own will, but rather (hypothetically) by the truth of an objective good, and my own will must be set aside for what is true. That is truth makes right, not might makes right.

    BTW, do I have thread posting privileges? I’ve been thinking about a subject or two I’d like to offer up for debate. If so, how do I go about it? I don’t see anything handy that says “start thread”.

  5. William J. Murray: BTW, do I have thread posting privileges? I’ve been thinking about a subject or two I’d like to offer up for debate. If so, how do I go about it? I don’t see anything handy that says “start thread”.

    You do now :) You should see a menu item called “+New” at the top of the page. I look forward to it.

    BTW, I appreciate the number of times you have attempted to explain your position to me, William. It’s not that I don’t read your posts – it’s just that I simply do not get what you mean. I’ll try to respond to your post above later today.

  6. But even if I did think it, why would that entail believing that Might Makes Right?

    I’d like to clarify my answer above. It only entails accepting “might makes right” as the fundamental epistemological premise that authorizes any ensuing subjectively-employed moral principle if you wish to, or are capable of, rationally revealing & accepting the necessary premises and conclusions required by your statements about morality.

    IOW, you don’t have to believe (nobody has a gun to your head) that “might makes right” is the authorizing epistemological premise behind your capacity to choose “love thy neightbor” as your moral principle, and “it is the definition of morality” as your explanation for that choice, but what else can validate such choices if they are only claimed as referring to subjective commodities?

    If the definition of terms and words are held as subjective commodities, and “good” is held as a subjective commodity, then what any of those things refer to is just chosen (in some sense) by the will (in some sense) of the individual, even if that choice is by ignorant default to whatever one “feels” or “happens to think”, or whatever it “seems to them” to mean; it is all ego-centered subjectivity. What good seems to be to me. What “morality” seems to be to me. What a good explanation seems to me to be.

    Even if those views are self-contradictory, or cannot be reasoned back to anything other than the might of one’s will, one can still simply “not believe” they must reason back to “migh makes right”. People can – and do – believe all sorts of self-contradictory, unsupportable, poorly-thought-out, irreconcilable and incoherent nonsense, and also believe that what they believe is perfectly sensible, ordinary, and well-supported and well-thought out. You’re free to believe whatever you want and you don’t have to justify any of it to anyone.

    So, it isn’t that one must believe anything, no matter how necessary it is logically in relationship to other beliefs or statements they assert. The point is that if one can, and is willing, then the conclusion must be that any subjective perspective of “what is good” (in terms of human oughts) necessarily draws from the epistemological foundation “might makes right”.

  7. I asked: “Hypothetically? So you agree that in actuality it doesn’t [grant the capacity for moral authority]?”

    WJM answered: “Hypothetically means, “IF X were true …”. It doesn’t mean X isn’t true.”

    That’s not an answer to my question.

  8. WJM said: “A moral subjectivist can stop a man from beating his wife or child just as easily as a moral objectivist; they just can’t offer a valid premise that authorizes their condemnation and action to intervene other than, ultimately, might makes right”

    Neither can you. Your premise cannot not authorize your condemnation beyond what you call “might makes right”, because you have no way of knowing whether your condemnation is in line with your “objective good”.

  9. [edit is still not working for me, please disregard the comment just above, here is the correct version:]

    WJM said: “A moral subjectivist can stop a man from beating his wife or child just as easily as a moral objectivist; they just can’t offer a valid premise that authorizes their condemnation and action to intervene other than, ultimately, might makes right”

    Neither can you. Your premise cannot authorize your condemnation beyond what you call “might makes right”, because you have no way of knowing whether your condemnation is in line with your “objective good”.

  10. Neither can you. Your premise cannot authorize your condemnation beyond what you call “might makes right”, because you have no way of knowing whether your condemnation is in line with your “objective good”.

    I do have a “way of knowing”, just like I have a “way of knowing” about anything presumed to be objectively existent. Because my knowledge is not absolute or perfect doesn’t mean I have no “way of knowing”. I’ve repeatedly said exactly the opposite – that the “way of knowing” is by discerning self-evidently true moral statements, then reasoning other valid moral statements from there.

    You’re conflating “what a proposition logically implies” with “what one can claim as objective knowledge”. The ontological premise that an objective good exists is meaningless without the corresponding epistemological premise that we have a means of discerning and figuring out (knowing) proper behavior in relationship to that good. This Ontological/Epistemological framework is the only way we can (rationally) believe we avoid “might makes right” as the ultimate basis for moral claims and behavior.

  11. Re edits: The plug-in needs updating, but we are still waiting. Meanwhile, if you right-click (or whatever Mac users do) on the edit link, and open in a new tab or page, you should get an edit window. It seems to be the pop-up that is broken.

  12. While I am waiting for an actual answer to my question (Do you agree that you, just as everybody else, have no actual moral authority other than what you call “might makes right”?), I’ll address what you seemed to think was an answer:

    “Hypothetically means, “IF X were true …”. It doesn’t mean X isn’t true.”

    And here is the hypothetical scenario you refer to: “The premise hypothetically grants the capacity for moral authority other than “might-makes-right”. If the premise were true, it wouldn’t magically imbue peple with objective knowledge about it or cause them to act on it without error.”

    So, the hypothesis, i.e. hypothetical condition under which moral authority other than “might-makes-right” would be granted is: someone has objective knowledge of what is “objectively good” (resulting in the proposition: IF someone has objective knowledge of what is “objectively good”, THEN they have moral authority other than “might-makes-right”).

    You have already rejected this hypothesis. The entire argument about hypothetical grounds for moral authority is thus pure sophistry.

  13. WJM said: “This Ontological/Epistemological framework is the only way we can (rationally) believe we avoid “might makes right” as the ultimate basis for moral claims and behavior.”

    No. You haven’t shown that you can avoid “might makes right” as the ultimate basis for moral claims and behavior.

    I said: “Your premise cannot authorize your condemnation beyond what you call “might makes right”, because you have no way of knowing whether your condemnation is in line with your “objective good”.”

    WJM said: “I do have a “way of knowing”, just like I have a “way of knowing” about anything presumed to be objectively existent. Because my knowledge is not absolute or perfect doesn’t mean I have no “way of knowing”.”

    Please don’t pretend you don’t know exactly what I am talking about here: you have ADMITTED before that you have no way of knowing that YOU are correct and the OTHER PERSON, the person you are condemning, is wrong (you are admitting it again, in this very statement: “my knowledge is not absolute or perfect”!!!). If you think you do, you’ll have to tell us exactly WHAT this way of KNOWING is that you think gives you AUTHORITY over this other person!

  14. Do you agree that you, just as everybody else, have no actual moral authority other than what you call “might makes right”?

    I don’t know what you mean by “actual”. There is no “actual” moral authority other than the authority implied by (derived from) one’s premise. My premise is not a “might makes right” premise.

  15. madbat,

    You’re conflating “absoluite knowledge” with “knowledge”. I don’t claim any of my knowledge is absolute. Perhaps that is where your confusion about my argument lies.

  16. William J Murray,

    Here is a point relating to BarryA’s “Jupiter/NOT Jupiter” statements.

    If Jupiter does NOT exist, should you undertake actions that would only be relevant if Jupiter did exist?

  17. Toronto,

    Your question has it backwards. The more appropriate question would be:

    If we live as if Jupiter exists, and indeed cannot rationally live as if Jupiter does not exist, should we believe that jupiter exists, or believe that it does not?

  18. I asked: “Do you agree that you, just as everybody else, have no actual moral authority other than what you call “might makes right”?”

    WJM said: “I don’t know what you mean by “actual”. ”

    Merriam-Webster definition of “actual”: existing in act and not merely potentially.

  19. WJM: “You’re conflating “absoluite knowledge” with “knowledge”. I don’t claim any of my knowledge is absolute. Perhaps that is where your confusion about my argument lies.”

    I’m not conflating anything and I’m not confused. Tell us exactly WHAT it is you know about telling moral right from wrong that another person doesn’t, that you think gives you moral AUTHORITY over this other person to say they are wrong.

  20. William J Murray,

    William J Murray: “If we live as if Jupiter exists, and indeed cannot rationally live as if Jupiter does not exist, should we believe that jupiter exists, or believe that it does not?”

    What you’ve done here is claim that conclusions can be arrived at without regard for input data.

    One must follow the evidence to the conclusion, not follow a conclusion to the evidence it is based on.

    Using your template, I can live as if I had won a lottery since I cannot rationally live on what I make at my job.

    If I do that, I will go broke.

    You are demonstrating faith, not rationality.

  21. Does any of this lead anywhere?

    I’ve repeatedly said exactly the opposite – that the “way of knowing” is by discerning self-evidently true moral statements, then reasoning other valid moral statements from there.

    Since there appear to be no self-evidently true moral statement — at least none that are universally accepted — I fail to see the point of this discussion.

    there are widely accepted generalizations, and many have been codified in law. But if there were self-evident moral truths, law would be a lot simpler.

    And, indeed, law has been simpler in the past than it is now. The fact that law gets more complex and less intuitive over time indicates that the premises upon which it is founded do not lend themselves to pure logic. In fact, one of the most widely derided character types is the person who tries to enforce the letter of the law.

  22. WJM said: 1) “The ontological premise that an objective good exists is meaningless without the corresponding epistemological premise that we have a means of discerning and figuring out (knowing) […] that good.”

    and WJM also said: 2) “I didn’t say that I correctly discerned what good is; people’s […] interpretation (or inference) of *what is good* can be wrong.”

    #2 states directly that your conclusion of what is *good* may be wrong. This can only be true if you can not (i.e. do not have the means to) reliably discern (know) what is *good*. Thus, according to #1, your premise that an objective good exists is meaningless.

  23. WJM, still waiting for your answer: Do you agree that you, just as everybody else, have no actual (meaning: existing in act and not merely potential) moral authority other than what you call might-makes-right?

  24. I know this is an old thread, but I could not figure out a way to add a new topic. Maybe I don’t have such privileges, but in any event I read through Barry Arrington’s “Two Atheists are Playing Cards…” post and I would be interested in discussing Barry’s usual cluelessness about atheism in general and what Dawkin’s point was in specific.

    To begin with, Barry’s two card players are a horrid analogy for Dawkin’s point and atheism in general. Dawkins never mentions anything about morality, but besides that, he doesn’t even try to come at this from two different rule sets (as the card player analogy implies). I’m not even sure, after rereading Barry’s comments, how he came to the idea in the first place.

    So what exactly is the point of Barry’s post

     

  25. I think the point of most of his posts is to drive embarrassing threads off the first page.

    Which might work if his posts were less embarrassing.

    I think there’s a reason he’s a bill collector rather than a trial lawyer.

    I do think there’s a drive to “get” Dawkins.

  26. As I predicted, mphillips has disappeared. I have no idea why, but it happened right after KF threatened bannation. How do you respond when the moderator accuses you of immorality for disagreeing?

    But in another thread, UDs lunch was eaten on the subject of junk DNA. the whole crowd of regulars was shown to be ignorant scum. When this happens there is usually a flurry of new threads with no point other than to draw attention away from the losing discussion.

  27. I don’t think Barry posted the “Atheist morality” nonsense to try to draw attention away from more embarrassing posts. That’s like trying to draw attention away from from your wife having an affair by posting pics of your own affair. On the other hand…

  28. It’s a hypothesis. Barry posts a barrage of threads when the regulars are stumped. the thing is, no matter how stupid they are, you get banned for disagreeing with Barry.

  29. So what exactly is the point of Barry’s post?

    He’s trotting out the old “if morality isn’t dictated by God, then it’s just personal preference” canard. Of course, he doesn’t bother to explain why God’s personal preference should be morally binding on us, or how we can discern God’s preference in the face of zillions of competing, contradictory claims from people like Barry who are certain they know what God wants.

  30. Joe is busy at UD claiming I am mphillips. I wish I had that ability, but alas, not. Sorry Joe but you embody the failure of design detection.

  31. I see Kairosfocus is reading comments here.

    I can’t tell for sure but is KF owning up to or denying banning mphillips? In case he finds time to read more…

    Come on over, KF and, so long as you don’t link to porn and can be succinct enough not to overload the software, you will be very welcome, I’m sure!

  32. Yes, well that goes without saying. Barry is, to put it mildly, just a plain old bully jerk.

  33. I got that gist. The problem I have with his argument is, well, he’s not actually demonstrating his premise given Dawkin’s actual point. And Sal did no better in his line by line rebuttal. Sometimes I just don’t get what they actually think the words they use mean as opposed to what I take away from their statements.

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