Morality for dummies

Premise:

  • A “bad state” is a state that an organism would want to change.
  • A “good state” is a state that an organism seeks to achieve.

Therefore:

  • A “bad action” is causing an organism to enter a state that they would want to change.
  • A “good action” is helping an organism achieve a state that they don’t want to change.

Unfortunately, sometimes the good state of one organism depends on the bad state of another (or of the same organism at a different time). So for any organism (and we are probably the only ones on this planet at this time) with the capacity to weigh up actions on the basis of cui bono? (and when?), there will be frequent tension between competing claims.  I suggest that our methodology for resolving these claims are what constitutes what we call our “morality”, and that our methods of agreeing on this methodology are what constitutes our justice systems.  I also suggest that both arise directly from of our capacity to weigh up alternative courses of action on the basis of competing claims to the right to a “good state”, and need have nothing to do with whether or not there is a God or gods who care either.

Man of all creatures
Is superlative
(Away melancholy)
He of all creatures alone
Raiseth a stone
(Away melancholy)
Into the stone, the god
Pours what he knows of good
Calling, good, God.
Away melancholy, let it go.

Speak not to me of tears,
Tyranny, pox, wars,
Saying, Can God
Stone of man’s thoughts, be good?
Say rather it is enough
That the stuffed
Stone of man’s good, growing,
By man’s called God.
Away, melancholy, let it go

Stevie Smith, “Away Melancholy

Although of course, if there is such a God, and that God is good, she might care very deeply.

 

 

375 Replies to “Morality for dummies”

  1. William J. Murray
    Ignored
    says:

    OMagain: Then perhaps share some of those truths with the rest of us then, if they are so profound.

    There is no clarity that can penetrate denial.

  2. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    William J. Murray,

    There is no clarity that can penetrate denial.

    I know, I find that too. We are both such crystal-clear writers. Must be the other guy’s fault.

  3. William J. Murray
    Ignored
    says:

    Allan Miller:
    William J. Murray,

    I know, I find that too. We are both such crystal-clear writers. Must be the other guy’s fault.

    The writing doesn’t have to be all that clear when one is open to the message. If one is not, no amount of clarity will make any difference.

    For example, KN often understands exactly what I’m saying, even if he disagrees. He can paraphrase me pretty accurately and responds with understanding to the meaning of my posts. It seems to me he can do this because he’s not trying, consciously or subconsciously, to interpret me in a way that will give him some kind of cudgel to use to bang against my head.

  4. newton
    Ignored
    says:

    William J. Murray: seems t me that your perspective necessarily presumes questions like “Why am I here? Why am I experiencing this?” are mis-phrased “how” questions. Science describes facts and models and doesn’t ultimately answer why those facts and models are what they are. Indeed, from a scientific-knowledge point of view, “why” questions are rather nonsensical.

    Only those why questions that do not have a how are nonsensical. Uncaused causes.

    From my perspective, science is like a really fun toy or a really useful tool; you can do lots of really cool things with it, but it provides no essential knowledge or truths.

    From my perspective, science provides essential knowledge and truth. Without it people would not have the time to ponder ultimate truth.

  5. Neil Rickert
    Ignored
    says:

    William J. Murray: to simplify, you (correct me if I’m wrong) fundamentally believe that non-mindful matter and energy behaving according to patterns generates an emergent phenomena we call mind, and then those minds figure out, as best they can, the patterned behaviors of matter and energy that surround and generate these physiological minds.

    I’m not KN, but I’ll comment anyway.

    I disagree with that expressed view. In particular, I disagree with “according to patterns” and with “patterned behaviors”.

    As I see it, patterns are abstractions. As abstractions, they have no physical existence. We see patterns, but that has to do with how we cognize the world.

    So to you, a mind figuring such things out is actually engaged in accumulating what real truth and knowledge there is to be found in the world, which is why science is so important to that process.

    From my perspective, there is no truth or knowledge to be found in the world. Similarly with patterns, truth and knowledge are abstractions, so have no physical existence. Rather, truth and knowledge exist in how we interact with the world. Science is important, because it provides us with very effective ways of dealing with the world and of exerting what control we can have over the world.

    I, on the other hand, hold the premise that the reverse is true – that mind is actually what is generating the patterns of behavior of what we call matter and energy (even if they are essentially the same thing – non-dualist – like “matter” in a dream).

    I almost agree with that. But I don’t derive the same conclusions.

    If aliens from andromeda were to visit earth, they might see very different patterns from the ones that we see.

    However, the patterns that we see are real enough, in the sense that if those aliens applied the same criteria that we use, then they would see the same patterns. However, those andromedan aliens might be incapable of applying our criteria, and we might be incapable of applying their criteria.

    I think this is one of the profound differences between a spiritual framework and a non-spiritual framework …

    I’ve never been able to work out what “spiritual” is supposed to mean.

  6. Robin Robin
    Ignored
    says:

    newton: Only those why questions that do not have a how are nonsensical. Uncaused causes.

    From my perspective, science provides essential knowledge and truth. Without it people would not have the time to ponder ultimate truth.

    Personally, I gotta go with William on this one. Science really doesn’t answer any philosophical “why” questions: “why are we here?” “why is there something rather than nothing?” “why is there evil in the world?” and so forth.

    Of course, this is only an issue if one is curious about such issues in the first place. I myself do not feel there’s any underlying mystery as to why we are here or why there is something vs nothing; I happen to think that universes are perpetual and thus there is no alternative EXCEPT existence of a material universe. I can’t imagine why anyone feels otherwise, but then that’s just me.

  7. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    William J. Murray,

    The writing doesn’t have to be all that clear when one is open to the message. If one is not, no amount of clarity will make any difference.

    Yeah, I know, I got it already. I wasn’t being entirely serious.

  8. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    William J. Murray: There is no clarity that can penetrate denial.

    Chuckle. Tell you what, why don’t you write another book? Or just, you know, keep your profound revelations to yourself. As you prefer.

  9. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    William J. Murray: There is no clarity that can penetrate denial.

    Denial of what? That aliens exist and you and your wife are kidnapped by them on a regular basis? Or that spoons can be bent with the power of the mind? Or that faith healers can cure cancer? Or that you have a special “free will zone” where your mind makes decisions free of any causal constraints? Or you can will the universe into behaving as you desire? Or you can communicate via PSI?

    Are those the sorts of things you think I’m in denial about? If not those, then what?

  10. William J. Murray
    Ignored
    says:

    Neil Rickert said:

    I disagree with that expressed view. In particular, I disagree with “according to patterns” and with “patterned behaviors”.

    As I see it, patterns are abstractions. As abstractions, they have no physical existence. We see patterns, but that has to do with how we cognize the world.

    …..

    Rather, truth and knowledge exist in how we interact with the world. Science is important, because it provides us with very effective ways of dealing with the world and of exerting what control we can have over the world.

    And then Neil Rickert said:

    I’ve never been able to work out what “spiritual” is supposed to mean.

    It seems to me, putting myself in your shoes, that the meaning of spirituality from your perspective would be clear: it’s people that cognize the world differently than you and arrange it largely into patterns of design, purpose and moral meaning, and that doing so is very useful from their perspective.

  11. William J. Murray
    Ignored
    says:

    OMagain said:

    Are those the sorts of things you think I’m in denial about?

    I don’t think you are in denial about anything.

  12. newton
    Ignored
    says:

    Robin: Personally, I gotta go with William on this one. Science really doesn’t answer any philosophical “why” questions: “why are we here?” “why is there something rather than nothing?” “why is there evil in the world?” and so forth.

    It certainly can answer ,why won’t my car start? All I was saying is not all why questions are nonsensical from a scientific viewpoint.

  13. Robin Robin
    Ignored
    says:

    newton: It certainly can answer ,why won’t my car start? All I was saying is not all why questions are nonsensical froma scientific viewpoint.

    Well, I did caveat my agreement. To wit, “science really doesn’t answer any philosophical “why” questions”. I don’t think, “why won’t my car start” falls under that category.

    Be that as it may, I agree with you that “why” questions are nonsensical from a scientific standpoint.

  14. GlenDavidson
    Ignored
    says:

    Science really doesn’t answer any philosophical “why” questions: “why are we here?” …

    Well there is this theory about evolution, replete with evidence.

    It may not provide the sort of answer one would prefer, but it does have actual evidence for it. I’m not really interested in the version of the question that “deep thinkers” insist goes beyond the mere evidence.

    Glen Davidson

  15. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    Allan Miller: I know, I find that too. We are both such crystal-clear writers. Must be the other guy’s fault.

    Like when you write that the genetic code is a code and that the genetic code is not a code. Clarity. Right?

  16. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    newton: From my perspective, science provides essential knowledge and truth. Without it people would not have the time to ponder ultimate truth.

    How sweet.

  17. Adapa
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung: Like when you write that the genetic code is a code and that the genetic code is not a code. Clarity. Right?

    How about when a dozen people ask you to define your term “real code” and you scurry off and refuse to do it every time? Hypocrite much?

  18. newton
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung: How sweet.

    Thank you mung, always have been a half full kind of guy, you disagree with my point?

  19. newton
    Ignored
    says:

    Robin: Well, I did caveat my agreement. To wit, “science really doesn’t answer any philosophical “why” questions”. I don’t think, “why won’t my car start” falls under that category.

    Be that as it may, I agree with you that “why” questions are nonsensical from a scientific standpoint.

    Actually you would agree with William then. My feeling is some are, some aren’t.

  20. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    Adapa: How about when a dozen people ask you to define your term “real code” and you scurry off and refuse to do it every time? Hypocrite much?

    My claim all along has been that the genetic code meets the mathematical definition of a code. The claim that I failed to define the term is blatantly false.

    You’ve also repeatedly asserted that I have equivocated in my use of the term without ever showing how I did so. An intellectually honest response would be one in which the equivocation was demonstrated and not merely asserted.

    You do this site proud, as almost every post of yours strengthens the case that the admins here are not in any way fair or objective. So in spite of your false and unsupported claims, you still manage to serve a useful purpose.

    Congratulations.

  21. Adapa
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung: My claim all along has been that the genetic code meets the mathematical definition of a code. The claim that I failed to define the term is blatantly false.

    You completely failed to define what you meant by “real code”. It’s a dishonest and cowardly Creationist equivocation that you use all too frequently.

    If you claim differently then link to the post where you defined “real code” or you admit you’re a liar.

  22. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    Adapa: You completely failed to define what you meant by “real code”.

    Actually, it was Allan who introduced the term “real code” and he has repeatedly said so. Your ire is misplaced. Not just misplaced, but unjustified.

  23. Adapa
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung: Actually, it was Allan who introduced the term “real code” and he has repeatedly said so. Your ire is misplaced. Not just misplaced, but unjustified.

    That’s demonstrably false. You used the term here.

    Mung:

    The genetic code is a real code and the genetic code is not the only real biological code. Defend your stance.

    Multiple people asked you to define what you meant by “real code” and you ignored every request. I know it’s one of your pet equivocation games (along with trying to rewrire history) but it won’t work.

  24. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    Adapa, I did not say that I did not use the term. What I said was that Allan introduced it and has repeatedly said so. IOW, you should know better.

    If you will fix your link to where you got that quote I will go find where Allan used “real code” before I did, even though you are probably the only person on this site who thinks otherwise. I will do it just for you so that you can find some other excuse for calling me a liar.

  25. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    Adapa: How about when a dozen people ask you to define your term “real code” and you scurry off and refuse to do it every time?

    A dozen people eh? And I refused to define what I meant every time? You can, of course back up that claim with actual evidence. Or not.

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