Sunday, October 15, 2017

Yoshi’s Island DS



Finished Yoshi’s Island DS about a week ago and just beat Pikmin for the third or fourth time today.  Yoshi’s Island was incredibly easy until the last world.  I didn’t bother getting a perfect score in every level as I tried to do in Yoshi’s New Island.  As easy as this one was the one for the 3DS was even easier.  This one I beat the first round of secret levels but didn’t bother unlocking the second round for each.  It’s very generous with lives but I did end up getting a game over because I am awful at skiing.

Maybe I’ll post more for you guys soon.  I have papers due in a bit.  Fingers crossed I won’t procrastinate too hard.



Saturday, August 26, 2017

Science and Morality - revised ed.


Recently there have been some who have proposed that morality should be treated like a science.  Anyone who has taken anything from an introduction to ethics or is truly reflective on the subject of ethics knows why this is patently absurd.  Science, though not metaphysically sound, is reliable because human beings agree on the sensory data of the external world we share.  If I see a purple bottle, you are very likely to see the same.  Also, the bottle will act the same way regardless of if you or I act upon it.  But morality in the descriptive sense is the science of intuitions which vary widely based upon cultures and individuals.  And not only this, there is nothing from the impressions of moral feeling that tell us that something is right or wrong, just as there is absolutely nothing about any “fact” of science that can tell us whether this is the real world or not, and therefore what constitutes reality which is the domain of metaphysics.  This is why Skepticism seems the most honest response humans have come up with in regards to both the problems of knowledge (science) and the problems of living (applied ethics).
The moral realm of humanity is much alike the aesthetic realm.  People who like science fiction movies often think that Terminator 2 is great, but people who don’t like the genre are less likely to like the film.  People who have the moral intuition that what ought to be is a world of maximized happiness will promote policies that produce this; people who instead feel that what is right, what ought to be is utmost respect for human autonomy will instead promote a low tax rate and mention of the human suffering from laize-faire economic policies will not affect them unless their hearts can be stirred to change their implicit ought.  When we “reason” with a person’s morality, unless we are showing errors in their logic, we are really arguing with their hearts, not their minds, for the premises of morality come from the heart, the intellect being unable to produce premises of ethics that follow from reason.
Another distinction between the descriptive accounts of science (sense data) and moral intuitions is the former is not malleable while the latter is.  A person’s attitudes towards universal health care, abortion or a litany of other topics is in part based on their genetics but largely based on their upbringing and life experiences.  People are both inculcated into identifying with certain views and are likely to have the experiences to have certain viewpoints based on their geography, socioeconomic status and other factors. 
Unless an ethical system begins with a premise that is necessarily true all ethical systems constructed by Man begin with premises that do not follow from reasoning but from moral intuition or some other passion of the human animal.  Humans become convinced of their views as definitively correct, not because they are reasoning improperly, but because they believe they are acting with reason when they are instead acting upon their sentimental convictions.  Like a man of faith who believes he knows there is a God, when instead he has faith.  There is nothing wrong with faith, but it’s my conviction that we should be honest and know when we are acting upon reason and when we are acting upon sentiment. 
While skepticism of metaphysics produces no qualms for the lives of people living their daily lives, the reality of ethical skepticism does.  Reason can only give us conditionals, and which premise we accept we can have nothing but sentiment to choose from.  But we have to make a choice; normative knowledge is something we literally lack in entirety and yet it is the thing that is the most imperative for humans to have.  This acknowledgement allows people the freedom to see their sentiments as they are.  Just as a man of faith who sees his belief as unfounded by reason yet retains it.
That is not to say that logic is not used at all in ethical reasoning.  But rather, like almost all knowledge we have, it is a series of conditionals, or “if, then” statements that at their best are logically valid but the premise is still unproven.  That is to say, though the premise of Utilitarianism is ungrounded, if we accept it through our moral intuitions, it does follow that we should ban forced labor if we also have knowledge that it creates immense suffering and in the process removes actual and potential happiness.  Reason is invaluable to guide us to our goal but what our goals in life are only the passions can dictate.  A moral sentiment, one that guides us away from our most pressing inclinations for selfishness and instead follow a higher code or law, a premise that requires restraint is for humans equivalent to faith. 
It takes a kind of strength to believe what is not seen, just as it is a kind of strength to act on a premise that provides no immediate reward.  But while the Christian acts as if there is a God and Heaven, he assumes Heaven to be good and the divine order to be just.  The Moral Skeptic goes one further then the Agnostic Christian, for while the Christian is unlikely to have speculated if there ought to be a Heaven, the Moral Skeptic does not even know if his ethics are correct but must act as if they are.  Skepticism in the descriptive realm and skepticism in the ethical are as different as not knowing if there is a man behind the curtain and not knowing whether the man that may or may not be behind the curtain is your father.  The psychological implications, though not rational, is immediately understood by all.  Because being a human means we both feel and must act on sentiment.  Otherwise we could not live.

It was once said that humans are half-beast and half-divine, and there is no better example of this than the normative inclination.  Humans feel the world should be other than it is but can never demonstrate why, just as the beast feels its belly should be full but cannot provide an argument as to why.  If the divine in Man is His ability to reason, then the action of any logically valid source is in him the divine.  But what course he takes is a matter of faith.  It is not the same as the animals’ actions on sentiment however for the purely animal never considers if what it is doing is right.  The Ethical realm is the purely “divine” or above animal inclination realm for Man, for it is this realm where he ponders what he should do and must have the strength to either choose the moral path or live knowing he could have chosen a moral code but instead chose the path of self-indulgence.

Skepticism and Question of Universals


Recently I’ve thought of what a Skeptic would say of whether universals exist.  To the extent that we don’t know if the world is real is to the extent we cannot use our sensory experience as evidence confirming or denying its existence.  But if we take this into account and talk of the world we inhabit, regardless to whether it is metaphysical reality, then it appears that the moderate realist position is the one that follows.  For something to be a universal is to have a shared quality, something that does not exist in any one particular thing but is an attribute of something shared within a host of objects.  We see a tree and see it has yellow and green leaves.  To the extent it has green leaves is the extent it does not have yellow leaves or any other color of leaves, for to talk about something being green is to exclude it being any other color.  This must mean we know something about green.  Not how it manifests in something, or even if it really exists, but simply that it is a property that excludes other colors to the extent that it exists.
We see many things out in the world.  More than one of them is green.  Kant and other Idealists argue that universals exist only in the minds of beings.  It’s how we construct our perceptions of the world. But if this is the case then particulars must only exist in the mind as well.  For green is not a construct of reason, but of empirical sense data, as is every particular we see, taste, smell and so on.  A bird could be trained to prefer a green ball over a blue ball through pavlovian conditioning.  Therefore, it exists in their minds as well.  Since we’ve given skepticism assumption here, we don’t know the ontological status of any objects.  But to the extent we know the appearance of the tree and the ball, we know it shares the property “green.”  And we know that all corporeal objects have to share the properties of weight, height, density and so on.  A box with no height is not a box.  It is something which cannot exist as we understand what is a “box.”  Therefore, universals have to exist for any particular to be a coherent idea.
To Kant’s argument that it exists in the mind of the rational being (although seeing similarities does not seem to be a product of reason), I would bring up Hume’s argument of a new born not knowing what seems self-evident to us.  Just as a child would not know if a ball can bounce until it observes it, so no one would have knowledge of the concept of a certain texture until they experience it.  Over the person’s life they observe that many foods have the same or similar texture and through conversation with others learns a name for the experience.  Many universals exist on a sliding scale.  Like height.  Colors are a good example when one is discussing what is green or red.  Of course, we have specific colors like forest green and brick red, and to the extent that it’s one specific color it cannot be another, but color is something that can be mixed seen in leaves that are a mixture of primary colors whether homogenous or spotted throughout the leaf.  But the case remains, that to the extent that something is lime green is to the extent it cannot be tangerine.

The world may or may not exist only in our minds, and we have no way of verifying which is the case.  But the status of universals is not distinct from particulars, so though I would consider myself an Anti-realist, in the Nominalist-Realist-Idealist debate of universals the Moderate Realist position, or Aristotelian Realism, seems the most sensible.

Friday, August 25, 2017

On Science and Morality (work in progress)


Recently there have been some who have proposed that morality should be treated like a science.  Anyone who has taken anything from an introduction to ethics or is truly reflective on the subject of ethics knows why this is patently absurd.  Science, though not metaphysically sound, is reliable because human beings agree on the sensory data of the external world we share.  If I see a purple bottle, you are very likely to see the same.  Also, the bottle will act the same way regardless of if you or I act upon it.  But morality in the descriptive sense is the science of intuitions which vary widely based upon cultures and individuals.  And not only this, there is nothing from the impressions of moral feeling that tell us that something is right or wrong, just as there is absolutely nothing about any “fact” of science that can tell us whether this is the real world or not, and therefore what constitutes reality which is the domain of metaphysics.  This is why Skepticism seems the most honest response humans have come up with in regards to both the problems of knowledge (science) and the problems of living (applied ethics).
Another distinction between the descriptive accounts of science (sense data) and moral intuitions is the former is not malleable while the latter is.  A person’s attitudes towards universal health care, abortion or a litany of other topics is in part based on their genetics but largely based on their upbringing and life experiences.  People are both inculcated into identifying with certain views and are likely to have the experiences to have certain viewpoints based on their geography, socioeconomic status and other factors.  The moral realm of humanity is much alike the aesthetic realm.  Humans share similarities in their tastes but also differ greatly.  People who like science fiction movies often think that Terminator 2 is great, but people who don’t like the genre are less likely to like the film.  People who have the moral intuition that what ought to be is a world of maximized happiness will promote policies that produce this; people who instead feel that what is right, what ought to be is utmost respect for human autonomy will instead promote a low tax rate and mention of the human suffering from laize-faire economic policies will not affect them unless their hearts can be stirred to change their implicit ought. 
When we “reason” with a person’s morality, unless we are showing errors in their logic, we are really arguing with their hearts, not their minds, for the premises of morality come from the heart, the intellect being unable to produce premises of ethics that follow from reason.

Unless an ethical system begins with a premise that is necessarily true all ethical systems constructed by Man begin with premises that do not follow from reasoning but from moral intuition or some other passion of the human animal.  That is not to say that logic is not used at all in ethical reasoning.  But rather, like almost all knowledge we have, it is a series of conditionals, or “if, then” statements that at their best are logically valid but the premise is still unproven.  That is to say, though the premise of Utilitarianism is ungrounded, if we accept it through our moral intuitions, it does follow that we should ban forced labor if we also have knowledge that it creates immense suffering and in the process removes actual and potential happiness.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Confusing Every and Only


I’ve thought about starting making videos on Youtube.  I don’t know how to edit and I know making a “theatric” or visually appealing video is time consuming, but I think I might start just to make introduction to logic videos.  My first idea was to explain a very basic concept in logic.  And that is that every x and only x are very different things.

POP QUIZ:  If I were, in theory, a racist, and as two Australian men walked by my house I remarked, “only Australian people are criminals.”  Would this, were it to be true, be sufficient to know whether they were criminals?

A – Yes
B – No

The answer is No.  For the statement, “only Australian people are criminals,” says nothing about these two Australian gentleman.  It only indicates that they could be criminals.  Not that they necessarily are.  If I saw two Arabic gentlemen walk by my house, and if the proposition “only black people are criminals,” were true, then I knew they couldn’t be criminals because they weren’t black.  In theory, there could be only one criminal in the world.

Now, remove the above statement and replace it with, “all black people are criminals.”  If the statement were true then what would we know about a black man and a white man walking past us?

A – Neither are criminals
B – Both are criminals
C – We know the black man is a criminal but know nothing of the white man
D – We know the white man is a criminal but know nothing of the black man

The answer is C.  For if the statement were true, and if the man is black, then to have the statement both be true and the black man not be a criminal is a logical impossibility.  However, just knowing all black people to be criminals (in theory of course) says nothing about the criminality of people of different races.  Every black and white person could be a criminal.  Every black person and all white people save one could be criminals.

Now, take the statements above and combine them.  All black people are criminals, and only black people are criminals.  Apply this to the same scenario as above and answer the same question:

A – Both are criminals
B – We know the black person is a criminal but don’t know if the white person is
C – We don’t know if either are criminals
D – We know the black person is a criminal and the white person isn’t

The answer is D.  For if both statements are true then we not only know that any black person is a criminal (from the all statement), we know that any other person who is non-black cannot be a criminal (from the only statement).


Adam from YMS, Ben from the Drunken Peasants and numerous others commit the logical error of mistaking “all” and “only” statements.  Logic is important.  Though I can’t ground that statement in pure logic to know that it’s necessarily true.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Most Valuable Construct in Logic


Of all the tools in a logician’s tool kit, the material conditional or “if, then” is the most invaluable.  Unless the Rationalists of the Early Modern Era of Continental Philosophy are correct, very little has been demonstrated using pure logic.  And considering it doesn’t implicitly follow that what you or I see, hear, taste, smell and touch is “objective reality,” we don’t know anything certain from the senses either.  If the senses are valid (valid in this sense meaning a reliable way of ascertaining information of the “real world”) then the knowledge the senses give us are valid.  However, there’s no way of knowing, i.e. scientific anti-realism.  If human autonomy is something that should be respected, then slavery is wrong for it is in direct violation of basic human autonomy.  But do we know for a certain fact that human autonomy is something that is an ethical imperative?  Or do we feel such is the case because of moral intuition rather than from pure reason?
Human beings have to make choices, even if their choices lead them to pursue a course of action that has the intention to no longer make other choices.  Even lying in bed refusing to do something is a choice that has implicit “if, then” presumptions contained within said choice.  The Stoic Philosopher Epictetus said, “first decide who you want to be, then act accordingly.”  This is an example of a “if, then” statement with certain implicit values.  First off, it assumes that what we ought to do is determined by who we want to be.  Or determined by the type of life we want to live.  This of course is what is assumed in Virtue Ethics which predominated Ancient Greece.  But if we presume this, and if being this ideal person can be realized (or an approximation can be realized) by my actions is assumed, it does follow that I should act in a way that would realize this self I desire.  I was going to type “this self I desire for myself” but this is another assumption that one could argue assumes Egoism.  One could in theory wish an ideal self to be realized with different motives in mind.  But a Divine Command Theorist would say that who you want to be has nothing at all to do with what you ought to do.  A Consequentialist and Deontologist would agree and say that who you ought to aspire to be has to do with the realization of their ethical theories rather than who you want to be.
What starting premises we assume is totally up to us (whether it’s predetermined or we have free will or Compatibilism is true or whatever the case might be), but what the conclusions are is determined by logic.  The logical conclusions that typically have numerous assumptions that are unstated.  If all people are evil then we should kill everyone might sound sound to some but might sound ludicrous to others.  One must assume not only that everyone is evil (which is certainly debatable) but that we should kill the evil.  This assumption was unstated but its validity is just as important as whether or not a person is evil in the decision of whether or not they should be killed.

One could ask what about one of the few things I claim certain knowledge of?  Namely that a tree cannot be all red and all green simultaneiously.  This is irrespective of whether trees exist or not, or any other question that is irrelevant to the question at hand.  To be all red is to be consisting of no other colors.  If a tree could be all red and polka dots of red and blue at the same time then the very concept of being all red becomes meaningless.  And logic no longer becomes a tool which is operating under its proper purview.  To say that a tree can be all red and all green is worse in my mind then saying “if all the trees in the world are tall then we should chop them all down.” Because though the latter seems absurd in theory one could put a number of conditionals on it to make it logically valid, even though it seems likely to us that a number of those conditionals would not be true.  One can create an “absurd valid” argument using valid reasoning but premises which to us seem (or let’s assume, are) patently nonsensical because they contradict our senses.  But in another dimension let’s say, Doc Brown could be a mad man rather than a brilliant scientist (or both) and coffee could be the favorite drink of our velociraptor overlords.  Essentially every observalbel “fact” of our world does not follow from reason just as our sensory world being mind-independent reality in no way follows from reasoning.  In fact, though I disagree with Berkeley’s conclusions, he argues we can conclude that what we know is that we see is not mind independent rather than that it is.  My point is if knowledge of these things are important to you (if knowledge of these things and being a reasonable person is something you aspire towards, to take a page from Epictetus) then it is important to recognize the difference between what follows from reason and what knowledge we get from our senses.  Both are invaluable tools in essentially every philosopher’s arguments and in daily conversation.  Every political and religious discussion involves a combination of sense-data and reasoning.  When you look for errors in someone’s arguments try to see if you disagree with their data, their reasoning, or both.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Good Place as a Kantian Work


I love The Good Place.  It is funny and well written.  A lot of the humor is fairly simple but that doesn’t stop it from being funny (what?  A cactus?  That’s not a file!  Janet!).  But more than that I love that it teaches ethics while simultaneously demonstrating that people of our generation care more about a person’s moral’s (motives in their behavior) than their faith.  The fact that in the modern era it’s less controversial to have a depiction of Heaven without reference to God or Jesus than it is to have a Heaven where billions of innocent suffer endlessly just for not being part of the “right religion” speaks bounds for the ethics of our culture.  Far from perfect, but it’s my view that even if Kantianism is wrong it is far superior to the doctrine of Sola Fide that is one of the most wicked, unethical and nonsensical doctrines in the Christian faith.
The show seems initially split between Kantianism and Utilitarianism.  At first we learn that all souls have their deeds tallied upon their death.  High scores go to The Good Place and it seems that low and negative scores go to The Bad Place.  Since all the deeds mentioned are one’s that have great impact on others, it seems to implicit be arguing for Utilitarianism.  Then the character who is trying to save herself in episode eleven flat-out says that all actions done to save herself (self-preservation) have absolutely no moral worth.  Only one’s done out of “genuine goodness” or moral intent do – i.e. Kantianism.
I for a moment thought that the show could be essentially Buddhist in calculating Karmic consequences, but this would be (this is a simplification of Karma I realize) a synthesis of Utilitarianism and Kantianism so her actions which we assume have good consequences but not good intentions should still have some effect on her “soul meter.”
Ultimately it seems the show swings Kantian both because it is good deeds done for the “right reason” that cause it to move (and deeds done out of selfishness either have no effect or cause her to lose points) and because the show seems to be hitting at the moral intuitions most people have.  This is shown in the end with the final reveal of the two supposedly good people being in The Bad Place with the other two.  Though Chidi is more deserving of Hell in an Existentialist can’t-handle-freedom way than a Kantian one.  Kant took incredibly long to make a decision on his marriage and both left by the time he made his choice, so I think he’d be cool with that.
A good person isn’t a successful person.  That is the Greek idea that the Utilitarians have taken from.  Instead, a good person is one who simply wants to help other people and whose action reflect a genuine commitment to others.  This is far more along the lines of both Kant and Schopenhauer.  For despite their differences, they share a criticism of Greek and Utilitarian ethics in focusing on whether one lives the “good life” for the former or one is successful in creating happiness for the latter; instead, both emphasize a commitment to others that is more important than the happiness one makes it is focused on the self or not.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Gloriest to Aristotska

Unlocked Endless.  I played one ten minute round but I don't think I'll explore much further.  It's a good game though.  The only flaw I think in the game is you're supposed to let the people through when they say they're planning to stay for a year and yet it says two weeks on their travel visa.  You question them and they say, "oh yes, I stay only fourteen days."  You get money for detaining people and I assume this would be something you could detain someone for.  This would be a good game to play on a touch screen.

Also beat Bioshock again.  I still think it's one of the best first person shooters.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Planet of the Apes


I saw War for the Planet of the Apes recently.  It was a solid film, although I don’t think it explored us and them ideas as well as its predecessor did and its only strong suit in connecting the trilogy to the original was explaining how humans become “beast-like.”  I think its major faults were lacking in an all-out “war” for the planet and we don’t see much progress in the apes building society and choosing to view the humans as animals without souls nor rights.  We see anti-human sentiments in Koba, but most of the other apes seemed accepting of humans.  It would be interesting to see the development of this religion rather than merely its beginning.
Of course the original was made in ’68, so we have to excuse the limitations of the time, but it would be far more interesting to see a society of apes where the orangutans still have the stature of one; the chimps and gorillas likewise.  This is what the Tim Burton film achieved to a limited extent, as well as with more ape-like living habitats but on the whole that film was a forgettable remake.  The original is by no means perfect.  It meanders in the beginning and is flawed in having a desert city where the apes have medieval technology at best and yet they have rifles.  Now of course we can reason that they could have taken the guns from humans of thousands of years ago (assuming they’d still fire) but one would expect the apes would ban guns as they remove all evidence that Man was once intelligent. 
The original also suffers from being a product of its time in another way.  It seems it is in the forgotten vein of B Science Fiction movies of astronauts traveling to another world, otherwise they never would have tried the plot point of revealing to us what we already know, that Taylor was on the Earth the whole time.

The original is excellent not only as a depiction of the conflict between evolution and creationism, but more importantly showing the ineffectiveness of Man’s moral intuition that humans have rights and non-human animals don’t by showing the indignation a man will feel if his will is denied.  Most Western philosophers carry on this intuition, but to my knowledge the ones who do so the most explicitly are Aristotle and Kant.  Despite their differences, they are alike in highlighting the differences between Man and non-human animal when Mill and Schopenhauer highlight their similarities.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

On Ought - Rough Draft


While the majority of the human race has lived and died unaware that their lives require metaphysical and meta-ethical foundation, philosophers have painstakingly dedicated their lives to answering questions no one required the answer to.  While argumentation in metaphysics (the Realist/Anti-Realist debate) has no inherent value in people's lives, meta-ethics arguably could.  What if the ‘ought’ I thought I ought to have is not the ‘ought’ I ought to?  What if something I thought was right is instead wrong and my beliefs are erroneous?  This ethical skepticism is certainly useful on some level – without it no one would question the social mores of their culture and many things like slavery and child labor could still be legal.  But what of a deeper, more fundamental questioning of ‘oughts?’  Skepticism that doubts the very notion that we ought to be happy, healthy and have well-being in our lives however one wishes to describe and define it.
It is this ought that I wish to demonstrate lacks foundation.  Basic or axiomatic ‘oughts’ that are required to have any of the secondary ‘oughts’ (I ought to go to the store, because I ought to get eggs; we ought to raise taxes on the wealthy for we ought to use said capital to provide national healthcare for we ought to be healthy) that we live our lives on.  Though I will demonstrate it is problematic for human beings to create rational foundation for ‘oughts’ this is not tantamount to Ethical Nihilism just as Anti-Realism is not tantamount to Metaphysical Nihilism.  The stance that there is an epistemic barrier between Man and Reality (whether descriptive or normative) is not synonymous with the stance that no such Reality exists or to claim we know the descriptive and normative accounts of things are erroneous.
The argument against normative claims of knowledge derives from Hume’s is-ought distinction[1].  Regardless of whether what we see in the world represents the thing-in-itself, and regardless of whether induction is valid there is at the very least with descriptive claims some indisputable account of an exterior world and things happening similar to as they have before.  However, with normative claims there is no starting point for us to begin upon.  If we cannot deduce normative claims from factual or descriptive ones alone then for there to be any oughts we can know there must be one we can know without reference to any other knowledge whether descriptive or normative – it must be axiomatic.  To refer to another normative claim to ground what was meant to be our grounding ‘ought’ ad infinitum would be a problem of infinite regress. 
Philosophy has yet to come up with this axiomatically true ‘ought.’  Until it arrives, and it’s my argument that though an open-mind is always preferable it appears no such argument will arrive, we remain in a position of tentative Moral Falibilism.  If the is-ought distinction is correct we need something axiomatic and conclusive in the notion of “ought” which there does not appear to be.  There’s nothing in the conception of “ought” that states that its rational to prefer my life over the life others, or the reverse, or prefer intimate duty to a small number over influence over a large nebulous mass or the reverse.  A person can have feelings of egoism or selflessness.  Duty to family or duty to their nation, but these are merely descriptive accounts of ethics that all individuals and cultures possess.
Kant’s ethics are in theory meant to be constructed purely from reasoning and not from preferences of people that Kant criticizes Utilitarianism of.  But has its own problems on top of what it criticizes Utilitarianism of.  Kant’s Categorical Imperative assumes that the will of the rational agent is a valid tool of determining normativity without conclusively arguing it.  It is true that if I consider wronging someone for my own advantage and then consider the universal law, “one can harm others if it gives personal advantage to one’s self” then the situation could arise where I become harmed for someone else’s gain.  An agent who is both self-interested and invested in the idea of ethical universality will then be tempted away from exploitative acts for they would not like to be exploited. 
However, that moral laws can be known to be constructed from the wills of rational agents is completely a figment of the human intellect.  Kant criticizes “empirical morality” and yet it  is empirical in that my feelings towards being treated one way or another is visceral rather than purely rational.  It creates a feeling inside of me, of satisfaction or dissatisfaction and I will that I be treated in a way that creates a feeling I wish rather than one I not.  I wish that my autonomy is respected as oppose to not, and although it is conclusive that the Categorical Imperative would have me then respect the autonomy of others what is not conclusive is that my own wishes have anything at all to do with what ought to be.  Kant sets out to salvage ethics from the whims of Utilitarians and Divine Command Theorists but is left with nothing but human whims outside of rejecting actions for being impossible if they were universalized.
Since it is the case that the fundamental nature of imperfect duties, ones that are not necessary but preferable, are ones that involve the agents will and not their reason, then animals which can will should be included despite the fact they cannot reason the C.I. themselves.  For if being a being that can reason the CI is a requirement, then it not only is something that the mentally challenged would fail, but it would require the CI to be based on purely rational grounds, rather than subjective and empirical grounds.  Kant acknowledges it is a product of the human imagination, what should instead perhaps be called will, that desires happiness.  Since all of our selfish desires are in effect to attain happiness, as Aristotle and the Utilitarians acknowledge, it seems that the large majority of our individual wishes for us, that which we would universalize through the CI, would be based on this will for happiness rather than on pure reason.
The reasoning part of the mind cannot desire anything, it can only either follow true or false premises to valid or invalid conclusions, or it can infer the probability of something occurring through witnessing like events with comparable variables happening before.  It is the reasoning part of the mind which believes the hypothetical rocket will or will not reach its target when it is launched.  It is the sensual and desiring part of my mind that desires that it will kill or spare certain names, that lives will be saved or not be saved, that the Earth should continue spinning on its axis or crash into the sun.  Kant could very well be right in saying that, “if you should be treated with respect, then you should treat others with respect.”  What he cannot ground in reason is the divide between the feeling I have of wanting to be treated with respect and claiming that I ought to be.  Rawls Original Position’s main flaw is the same.  It assumes what is right, what we should do, is what an agent wills for themselves if they could be any hypothetical being with any given traits within that society.
This inability to ground in logic the validity of our desires and intuitions also has obvious implications for Utilitarianism, Egoism and Virtue Ethics.  It is true that pleasure is pleasant, and we have desires for this or that particular pleasure, but what is not known is whether or not we ought to be happy or have this or that thing we believe would make us so.
Just as the Egoist argues against acting for other’s pleasure or well-being, one could argue against ethics having anything to do with our own.  If you and I are on an island, with only one sandwich to sustain us, some may think I ought to give it to you out of compassion, others would say I should try to have it for myself to further my own preservation and more would argue we should cut it in half for that’s what’s equitable and seemingly just.  But none of these arguments have a starting premise that is necessarily true.  There premises are based on our moral feelings, our inclinations and wishes, and we then make arguments based on them and no matter how sophisticated or simple they remain only that.
Virtue Ethics is also not spared.  One can give an account of generosity, courage, temperance or practical wisdom.  And though the descriptive account of these things may accurately describe a realization of “the good life” what they fail to ground is that I ought to live the good life.  I may be compelled to it, and I might even foolishly act against it as we all at times do as result from our worse impulses.  But here worse, or our vices, can only be said to not give us the good life, not that we ought not to be gluttonous, petty, self-centered and so on.
As I stated in my opening, what we have before us is a purely philosophical problem.  People live their lives pursuing their own personal normative evaluations and goals (mostly driven by Egoism) completely ignorant of the meta-ethical problems that philosophers immerse themselves with.  Just as if God (hypothetically a being I assume the validity of) told me I was a lobster, I would not run to the sea and attempt to crack snail shells with my hands, so if He told me what is morally correct is maximizing the amount of acorns in the Universe, I would not spend every waking moments hatching schemes to maximize their quantity.  We are beings driven by our intuitions and inclinations, never being able to ground them in reason.  And yet people aspire for the realization of their goals nonetheless.
Ultimately the problems of ethics are not what should we value but how do we attain it.  This is a problem both of descriptive knowledge and of action.  We have made great strides in the former but are largely where we were and likely shall remain in the latter – since problems in action arise typically in errors of a person’s character and will power and not upon knowledge and capacity to reason[2].  Problems the majority of ethicists describe in accounts of human moral weakness.



[1] In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, 'tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceived by reason.
[2] It is possible to conceive of a very virtuous man in whom the better consciousness is so continuously active that it is never silent, and never allows his passions to get a complete hold of him.  By such consciousness he is subject to a direct control, instead of being guided indirectly, through the medium of reason, by means of maxims and moral principles.  That is why a man may have weak reasoning powers and a weak understanding and yet have a high sense of morality and be eminently good; for the most important element in a man depends as little on intellectual as it does on physical strength.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Glorier to Aristotska

Got the ending where you join the resistance.  Now I just need to not do any favors for the resistance and I get the "victory" ending - or what's considering winning.  Also got a Class 5 Apt which kills your bank account.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Glory to Aristotska

Playing Papers, Please.  Got myself, my son and my wife out of the country.  I'm trying it all again to see if I can make an ending where either the resistance wins or I don't get in trouble for partially helping them.

Good game.  Worth ten dollars.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Colleges

Looked at niche's college ratings and some changed from two years ago.  Milwaukee has gone down as did Stevens Point.  Eau Claire and La Crosse went up.  Most schools in the UW System still get either a B or B minus in terms of Academics.  Only ones that get higher are La Crosse and Madison.  I kind of wish I went to La Crosse now but my school is still fairly affordable and gets a B while many get a B minus.

It could've been better; but it also could've been a lot worse.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Childhood... Confused

Mulan (of, well, Mulan) sings "when will my reflection show who I am inside?"  She only feels she has found her identity once she begins dressing as a man.

Mulan is a metaphor for transgender people.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Bioshock Infinite

I just beat the most recent Bioshock and I enjoyed it.  I didn't enjoy it quite as much as when I played through the first for the first time.  I didn't like that when you die you lose money and restart with enemies partially healed so I just played through most of the game without dying.  (coughs and looks at knuckles which somehow signifies showing off.)

I also didn't like that none of your choices mattered unlike the other Bioshocks, but they were going with a Hard Determinist angle so I guess having your choices changing the ending would've effected that.

Good game.  Wanted to play it for a few years now.  Might try Fallout.  We'll see.

On Reason and Desire


Rawls Original Position’s main flaw is it assumes what is right, what we should do, is what an agent wills for themselves if they could be any hypothetical being with any given traits within that society.  Like Kant’s Categorical Imperative, it assumes that the will of the rational agent is a valid tool of determining normativity without conclusively arguing it.  It is true that if I consider wronging someone for my own advantage and then consider the universal law, “one can harm others if it gives personal advantage to one’s self” then the situation could arise where I become harmed for someone else’s gain.  An agent who is both self-interested and invested in the idea of ethical universality will then be tempted away from exploitative acts for they would not like to be exploited. 
However, that moral laws can be known to be constructed from the wills of rational agents is completely a figment of the human intellect.  Also, although Kant criticizes “empirical morality” it is in a sense empirical in that my feelings towards being treated one way or another is visceral rather than purely rational.  It creates a feeling inside of me, of satisfaction or dissatisfaction and I will that I be treated in a way that creates a feeling I wish rather than one I not.  I wish that my autonomy is respected as oppose to not, and although it is conclusive that the Categorical Imperative would have me then respect the autonomy of others what is not conclusive is that my own wishes have anything at all to do with what ought to be.  Kant sets out to salvage ethics from the whims of Utilitarians and Divine Command Theorists but is left with nothing but human whims outside of rejecting actions for being impossible if they were universalized.
Since it is the case that the fundamental nature of imperfect duties, ones that are not necessary but preferable are ones that involve the agents will and not their reason, then animals which can will should be included despite the fact they cannot reason the C.I. themselves.  For if being a being that can reason the CI is a requirement, then it not only is something that the mentally challenged would fail, but it would require the CI to be based on purely rational grounds, rather than subjective and empirical grounds.  Kant acknowledges it is a product of the human imagination, what should instead perhaps be called will, that desires happiness.  Since all of our selfish desires are in effect to attain happiness, as Aristotle and the Utilitarians acknowledge, it seems that the large majority of our individual wishes for us, that which we would universalize through the CI, would be based on this will for happiness rather than on pure reason.

The reasoning part of the mind cannot desire anything, it can only either follow true or false premises to valid or invalid conclusions, or it can infer the probability of something occurring through witnessing like events with comparable variables happening before.  It is the reasoning part of the mind which believes the rocket will or will not reach its target when it is launched.  It is the sensual and desiring part of my mind that desires that it will kill or spare certain names, that lives will be saved or not be saved, that the Earth should continue spinning on its axis or crash into the sun.  Kant could very well be right in saying that, “if you should be treated with respect, then you should treat others with respect.”  What he cannot ground in reason is the divide between the feeling I have of wanting to be treated with respect and claiming that I ought to be.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Quickly on a Blog Post

This blog post refuting Kantian ethics is intereting (http://peasoup.typepad.com/peasoup/2010/01/the-deepest-error-in-kants-ethics.html).  The author wants to defend "natural things" and sees flaws in Kantian Ethics that I concur with - however there are flaws in his own reasoning as well.  Or rather, there are if he's using the term "goods" to refer to things that are normative.  A thing can have value in a purely descriptive way without being normative.  However the word like "good" and "virtue" has intrinsic normative weight in our minds.

In the end he confirms my suspicion of Kant's morals being largely Augustinian.  However Kant is far more Libertarian than Augustine.  This is one reason why I want to write on Kant.  Because although Christianity is superficially in our culture, it is really Neo-Liberalism that is the mentality of American Culture.  With some Christianity Puritanism thrown in.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

On Hypocrisy and Moral Fallibilism


Regardless of what ethical intuitions and beliefs a person has, one of the surest ways to sour a person in their eyes is to reveal their hypocrisy.  Hypocrisy is something that is repulsive to anyone who cares about integrity because it is that one thing that by definition breaks from having ethical integrity.  A man can boldly declare that he is an agent of Satan, and it is his ethical duty to torture as many puppies as possible.  And another can be a huckster for God, collecting millions of dollars from the gullible and credulous, condemning homosexuality, and then later be charged with possessing child pornography of underage boys.  Though the former is more harmful to agents capable of feeling pain, he also possesses more integrity than the man who gets rich selling “branded religion” and doesn’t believe in his product.
Now it should be noted that there is a difference between hypocrisy and moral weakness.  All religions create harsh rules of conduct for people to live by.  There is a difference between legitimately attempting to live according to a code and failing, and never trying and yet espousing it as “gospel truth” or condemning others when they stray from this allegedly self-evident and necessary path.   Everyone hates a hypocrite and yet everyone has been a hypocrite in one aspect of another.  Schopenhauer speaks of the trait of people despising when their autonomy or dignity is violated, and yet when we have the option to disregard others and treat them with the same apathy its done instinctually.  This deals with the Egoism that is at the heart of a great deal of our nature.
If we cannot deduce any ethical knowledge, can we still salvage the concept of hypocrisy?  In one way yes, in another no.  We cannot strictly because we cannot outright dismiss Ethical Egoism.  Egoism does away with hypocrisy because it’s the normative stance that proclaims, “anything that furthers my will.”  If I can steal a hundred dollars from someone, and then convict someone who commits the same ill against me then one charge me with hypocrisy, but if the ought of life is, “anything that furthers my will” then Egoism surpasses treating others as you would like to be treated.  One could claim that Egoism claims a “universal Egoism” where all human beings should promote either their own self-interest or their own desires.  And then one could attempt to argue that there can still be a sort of hypocrisy that is wrong, where one pursues their own interest but argues against others doing the same.  However, if “anything that furthers my will,” is the true law of a man’s heart, then to convince others of different ethical systems or of moral compulsions is more reasonable than to tell people they shouldn’t help you and should only think of themselves.  This is why con men get into religion, not because religion is itself a con, but because morality can always be exploited by Egoists to benefit themselves.

Hypocrisy can still be argued against if we assume that ethics may be dependent on context but is not dependent on agent.  Though we cannot ground in reason that we ought not be hypocrites it seems reasonable to find it unattractive because we find ethical integrity and fortitude attractive.  We cannot establish that we ought to, either find it attractive or have what we find attractive, but what we can say is that integrity is both desirable for the sake of our species and for its own sake.  We are hard-wired to dislike hypocrisy, and the concept of hypocrisy is a necessary concept if we are to pursue an ethic that is dependent on the quality of the character, the rule or the consequences all of which hold that an any particular agent is subject to the law of the general.

On NC-17 and Censorship


It is my contention that the review board should give ratings only to provide information to parents and the general viewing public, not to censor which is its consequence with the existence of the NC-17 rating.  If we want the limits of what people can experience in a cinema or in their homes to be only what is sought after, then the current censorship, not by the government, but by the mentality of all being “ad-friendly” and inoffensive must be done away with.
Though I cannot demonstrate that the Libertarian premises are the correct ones, it is obvious to all that if we are to value human choice over the potential welfare of the public then we must welcome all art and expression, even what is offensive to us.
The argument of protecting children is non-effective, because this is what the ‘R’ rating should be.  While the ‘R’ rating is supposed to be a stern warning to prevent children from seeing the film, the NC-17 rating is a stern warning to movie makers that their art will not make money or be widely distributed, not from lack of audience but lack of acceptance in movie theaters.  Legally a parent can take a child to an ‘R’ rated film which should be done away with both to protect the child from what is supposedly so harmful but also to protect the movie-going public from the invalid argument that we should have a NC-17 rating to protect children from what they should not see.
The rating ‘R’ is in itself usually undesirable even in many horror movies because it means less profits for the movie studio.  And this is partly unavoidable as long as humans continue making movies with the incentive of making money, and we continue to deem it unsavory or undesirable that a child see an ‘R’ rated film.  It is a reasonable sacrifice we make for the sake of children.  But to prevent art to be seen by any eyes in an ineffective attempt to protect children is what is inexcusable and is what the NC-17 causes. 

The documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated is an excellent documentary to watch if you’re interested in this topic.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

On Kant and Woody Allen


In James Lawler’s Does Morality Have to be Blind?  He gives a Kantian analysis of one of Woody Allen’s most noteworthy films, Crimes and Misdemeanors.  He contrasts, as Kant does, between the causal world of descriptive claims with the “moral world” of normativity which Kant makes incorrect assumptions of what follows if ethics to exist. 
Though Allen’s film is brilliant, it in a sense is superficial.  It explores whether or not the world is just, not whether justice “exists” or can be known.  I put exists in quotations to emphasize the distinction between whether the world conforms (or can conform) with what is right and “what is right?” independent of whether it is achievable which is purely descriptive.  The film presumes murder is wrong, the question is whether this “justice” will be achieved through having the righteous be rewarded and wicked and egotistical suffer in one form or another.  It is not a film which truly examines the question of ought but an insightful character study that shows how humans with differing qualities respond in comparable or desperate situations. 
This is ultimately what art is intended for, descriptive accounts, and because Allen achieves this while failing to give an ethical argument is why he is rightfully regarded as a great artist.  One could argue there is a contradiction in my reasoning that I claim that art ought to be purely descriptive and Allen succeeds in creating quality art in this regard.  But this is not my argument.  I do not argue what art should be, only what art is.  Artists have attempted to create ethical arguments in their work but it is either secondary to the depiction of characters or it becomes the main aspect of the work, is looked at as moral proselytizing, and therefore fails to be “good art.”  I do not make the argument that people should make good art; I only make a purely descriptive account of what good art is removing all normativity from the word “good.”
Returning to a Kantian analysis of Allen’s film, both the film and the philosopher make premises of morality which are not grounded.  Throughout the majority of Allen’s more cerebral movies there is the implicit or explicit premise that without God life is without foundation.  This is something that most ethicists would disagree with but Kant would be sympathetic to it.  Though a “God-free” version of Kantian Ethics is indeed possible in his Critique of Practical Reason Kant certainly gives both arguments for why ethics require premises that are sympathetic to Christianity and that one can make an ethical argument for God (for belief in God, rather than knowledge of His existence) when all other arguments in the past made by Descartes, Leibnitz and the rest fail.
Lawler describes three premises that Kant makes for the “possibility of ethics” straightforwardly (Woody Allen and Philosophy p. 45-46)[1].  All of them fail to be necessary requirements for normativity or ought-ness to be valid regardless of whether said reasoning is true, that is to say, such is actually the case.  It is true that humans have ethical intuitions of what is ethical and not, or rather what is required for something to be consistent with their intuitions or not, but this have nothing to do with the logic of determining normativity.  Though it very well could be the case that one must be free in the Libertarian or Non-determinist sense, we do not have this knowledge.  That is, there is nothing we know of that makes it necessary for the Non-determinist interpretation of free will and ethics to be the only valid one.  If, for example, Utilitarianism of any variety is the case, then the freedom of the agent is insignificant and a causal, unthinking machine building a utopia based on programming is just as ethical as a Man who does so with compassion for all mankind beating in his breast (though both are equally ethical under this interpretation, only the latter is moral or has moral intentions – as I’ve described in my essay Morality and Ethics).
The second postulate I was surprised Kant argued for, or argued for in the way Lawler argues.  Lawler argues that Kant states one must have faith that if one does the “right thing” even if it seems impossible that it will succeed God will intervene and aid the just by having his aims reach their desired and ethical conclusion.  But this is clearly not the case.  For not only does injustice exist, but more importantly to the argument just actions are thwarted or do not bear their intended fruit.  It follows from this that either an omnipotent God is not working at all times to make these men and women successful, He is working at all times but is not omnipotent, or the version of justice that God operates under is so inconsistent it is arbitrary and based on His whims. 
If one would argue that all good men and women are rewarded in the Kingdom of God despite their efforts not bearing fruit on Earth both in terms of reaping desired results and in creating happiness for them this would be the more reasonable answer which I recall Kant also claims.  It is not only more reasonable because it is not contradicted by the cases of goodness thwarted on Earth, but it reflects the notion that what is right has nothing to do with whether said attempts to attain this “rightness” are successful or not. 
The error here lies in Kant’s assumption that for something to be ethical it must be possible.  That is one reason why he thinks he should assume we have Libertarian free will.  He believes we require it for ethical judgments and due to his metaphysical skepticism he believes it is possible.  But what if the first was true but not the second?  What if he was corrected that Libertarian free will was necessary but somehow Man’s causal nature in not only the phenomenal realm of appearances but in the “thing-in-itself” could somehow be demonstrated?  If ethics must be possible, or realizable, to exist then the entire project of normativity would be dead.  But it could very well be the case that one can demonstrate that one can know that an action is right or wrong and yet the realization of the conditions of said action is impossible.
The third postulate Lawler does not argue for or cite with clarity Kant’s position behind.  He mentions that the person is more than, “just a thing,” but this in no way necessitates a belief in the immortal soul.  One can hold the view that the human person is nothing more than chemicals existing in a temporary state of cellular reproduction and still believe that that life has dignity and should be treated as an end-in-itself.  All three main branches of ethics do not require a belief in an immaterial soul.  It is obvious to most now that there is nothing about “atheistic materialism” that necessitates Nihilism nor nothing about the idea of the immortal soul that necessitates respecting every individual life.  For one can have the views of the immortal soul existing for the sake of the Devil, so one should torture or do whatever one can both in this life and the next to please Him.  Though one can argue this is a wicked view, there is nothing contradictory or logically inconsistent in it.
The second and third postulate are fundamentally theological and have nothing to do with normative claims.  The first commits a more understandable error of believing that an agent must be free to do something or to refrain from action to be judged and punished or reward for his deed.  Believing that ought-ness needs to be grounded in possibility of realization but as I’ve previously argued this isn’t necessarily the case.  The Greeks were not interested much in this question and on the whole spoke of the sentiment that virtue is praiseworthy and vice contemptable regardless of whether or not one was “free” to be sick or well.  One does not act, free or otherwise, to be beautiful and yet the Greeks praised beauty as a virtue along with other wisdom, temperance, courage and the rest. 
Compatibilism to my knowledge has yet to be thoroughly refuted (though as a skeptic I neither assent nor dissent to its existence) and there are branches of ethics that are valid, regardless of whether their premises are true, without reference to the freedom and concern for others autonomy that Kant emphasizes and believes is crucial.



[1] One is that, contrary to the deterministic assumptions of science, human beings are fundamentally free… the second postulate is the postulate of God.  “By moral faith,” Kant writes, “I mean the unconditioned trust in divine aid, in achieving all the good that, even with our most sincere efforts, lies beyond our power”… The third postulate of morality is the postulate of immortality.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Adventure Time – Elements


I was going to write an in-depth analysis of the entire Adventure Time series.  It’s something I wanted to write for a few months now, but with the show ending soon I’ll wait until it concludes to write about the show as a whole.  But I’ll just quickly give a piece of love for the show:  it’s the smartest kid’s show, bar none.  It subtly introduces ideas to children the way a work of art should.
            Elements was a great mini-series and its saddening that it will be the last one and likely the last major plot thread before the show’s conclusion.  The major element of the story that I find interesting is the Borg/Invasion of the Body Snatchers element of the, well, Candy Element.  It’s a great analysis of the question, “would we want a problem free existence if it meant giving up our individuality” and being a broader thought-experiment for one’s preferences in ethics which give descriptive intuitions but provide nothing conclusively normative. 
            A youtuber who reviews and analyzes Adventure Time episodes seems to highlight the confusion many people have and the bias towards classical Utilitarianism.  He states, “maybe they are truly happy in this state.”  Assuming, or rather implying, that the deciding factor of what ought to be is clearly what makes people happy.  Sam Harris makes the same confusion of ethics and the is-ought distinction with health.  Confusing skepticism of what will make us healthy with confusion that we know that we ought to be healthy when the only thing we can point to is the descriptive fact that pain and lack of health is unpleasant while pleasure and vitality desirable.  But this in itself does not conclude that what ought to be is the satisfaction or infinite increase of all pleasure.
            A virtue ethicist and deontologist would argue that the “Borg” Utopia is morally wrong.  Not only is it lacking in certain virtues but it also is forced on Jake and Finn.  A Utilitarian would be fine with this because although philosophers like John Stuart Mill give a broad interpretation of liberty and autonomy he does so only because he believe these are essential for human happiness.  But if humans could be changed into candy-creatures this would no longer be the case.  A Deontologist could still make the argument that it’s wrong but a Utilitarian would have to somehow show it would cause creatures more pain than pleasure.
            The story is great in having us ask what type of life we would truly wish to live and world we wish to live in.  Many times people think they want something but regardless of whether or not what they want should be they often times find the satisfaction of their desires not as satisfying as originally conceived.  Schopenhauer is the greatest writer on this subject.
            The show also examines being stuck in the past and not having problems accepting loss and change.  Seen in Betty not being able to accept Ice King and Finn momentarily clinging to the past of being with young Princess Bubblegum but ultimately accepting his current state of being a friend of hers.  Desiring the past can only be destructive.


On Two Forms of Acceptance and the Unstated Meaning Behind Words



In my paper, Morality and Ethics, I describe how the words morality and ethics should be used to separate distinct concepts that at times become confused.  It seems that this confusion of sentiments can not only happen with words through definitions but entire sentences through interpreted meaning behind the surface.
Take the example of discrimination and acceptance.  If I say the sentence, “Gays should be accepted.”  The most superficial meaning of treating homosexuals with kindness is not ambiguous.  What is however is the why behind acceptance.  Is it because the author believes homosexuals are “just like straight people” or are they saying that homosexuals should be accepted even if they aren’t like “normal people.”  The former is essentially a descriptive account of things while the latter is a normative one.
The first one does nothing with a presumption many people have: that those who are different should be shunned.  It instead says that gays (this is also true of statements regarding different races, religions, etc.) aren’t different and are normal people.  Therefore, they shouldn’t be shunned.  The second and in my mind more moral (moral in the sense of deriving from universal compassion) interpretation is the declaration of “you shouldn’t shun the different or odd.” 
This interpretation is not only more moral but more liberating.  For just as the homosexual community has their proverbial “closet” to step out of, so the so called “freaks” and odd-balls of all shades, stripes and varieties have their own dark corner where they must hide their true selves – aspects of themselves which are debatably more essential to our humanity than mere sexuality.  Censorship of these personality traits, quirks and other aspects of people is more debilitating arguably, both in the sense that it cripples the suffering social “deviant” and society has to be in a sense more closed minded to enforce taboos, social mores and social regulations of “normalcy.”
People often don’t state their fundamental premises when they give a descriptive or normative account.  When someone says “murder is wrong,” or “it is wrong that James killed John,” they typically don’t state why which is arguably more important than a declaration that the majority will agree with.  For if it is true, then it needs to be stated why, both for the sake of truth and so people will use their reasoning either to defend or argue against the proposition.  Otherwise it is just secular “dogma,” as is essentially the whole of social norms and ethical propositions of society. 
These propositions are first enforced and childhood and go on throughout adulthood.  Schools don’t teach children to question premises or find answers.  Only to describe and recite the answers already given in the sciences, religions and culture produced by great minds who had the ability to think for themselves despite societies unwillingness to foster creative and critical thought, and in some cases, makes a deliberate attempt to stamp it out when it the flower blooms amongst the weeds and dandelions.
Everyday language is important if our foundational premises in thought are of any significance.  For it is in our everyday language where the norms and premises of a culture reveal themselves.  Not only in what is said, but in what is omitted.  Wittgenstein said, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”  If this means, “we should not say things we do not have knowledge of,” and if moral fallibilism is correct, then all ought statements should be stricken from the utterances of Man.  But then how would we live our lives?  Also, it is not left unnoticed that the statement of “…one must be silent,” is itself a normative or ought claim – so to claim that one ought not to make ought claims would be a self-contradiction.
Though I cannot definitively argue my position, for this would be to contradict moral fallibilism, it is my view that humans should continue making ethical declarations, but rigorously examine their language and premises.  Both because this may help in creating not only better thinkers but arguably better human beings.



Monday, June 26, 2017

On Morality and Ethics


Six months ago or so I wrote an essay called On Virtue and Character, in which I attempt to distinguish between action and intent.  And although I now find fault with several aspects of the paper, what I don’t find reason to criticize is the attempt to distinguish between moral intention or motive and describing a desirable outcome regardless of the incentive of the actor.  For much like the discussion of free will, I feel discussions of ethics (or morality, or normativity, or actually of all these things) becomes congested by the introduction of misunderstandings through language.  Wittgenstein once said that all the misunderstandings of philosophy were as result of language, and though all may be a tad hyperbolic he certainly was onto something.
Since the philosophy of virtue ethics is directed towards people’s habits and behavior (though they also look at a person’s state of mind upon acting) and Schopenhauer argues that descriptive morality is grounded in compassion I find it as convenient as any other arbitrary division that the former describe whether an action or outcome in the world be preferable and the latter describe how the motives of the acting agent are directed.  Whether we ought to be moral is an entirely different question than both if we are in a given situation or if morality is grounded in compassion or something else. 
The last question seems to me another meaningless division once we lose all normativity associated with the word.  Unless we wish to define morality differently, if we define it as having concern for others, it seems a matter of analytic apriori knowledge that morality is grounded in compassion.  We know that people by-en-large prefer compassion over selfishness or malice, but if we use the word morality to describe it without any normativity then all we are in effect saying when we say, “Jeff was moral when he saved Lisa,” is “Jeff was thinking of Lisa when he saved her; not of any potential reward he might receive or the potential displeasure it may bring to someone else.” 
Let us be clear: it is not saying, “Jeff was right to save Lisa.”  For this is a question of preference of action which I claim should be connoted to ethics and also as a moral, or hmmm, ethical skeptic I would claim we cannot know.  We can know however what Jeff’s motivations were when Jeff jumped into the pool.  And even if we could not, his motivations and whether he ought to do a thing are entirely different conceptually.  One can argue that the two are intrinsically connected, and although in theory this could be the case there is nothing about the two concepts which makes this necessarily true.  Just like in theory all triangles could be blue and all squares polka-dotted.  This does not entail that the nature or definition of a tringle is attached in any way to “blue-ness” nor squares to polka-dots.
To reiterate, the question of a dog’s head being crushed by a giant rotating gear is a question of ethics, not morality.  Unless one would make the argument that there is an acting agent with a will involved (either the gear has a will, or it is being controlled by an agent with a will whether it be a man or God) we must confess knowledge that there is nothing here of morality.  That is to say it is neither moral nor immoral.  Speaking of morality here is akin to Locke’s description of the will being tall or short being just as absurd for him as describing it as “free” or “not free.”  His argument was not that the will was not free, but that freedom is not a thing to be attached to the will.  What is to be attached to the action however is whether or not it is ethical or unethical.  That is to say, whether the dog ought to have his head crushed or not.  One may make the claim that it should, should not, it is contextual based on other factors (which ultimately is what the Utilitarian would argue – the dog could later run into the street and give half a dozen children rabes for example), there is no difference ethically, or that we have no way of knowing.
Though it is in some sense arbitrary which word we use for which concept, just as we could just as well call shapes colors and colors by the names of shapes I do think it is necessary to have two distinct words to separate these two distinct concepts in thought.  Wittgenstein seems to be on to something again when he says we should look to how language is used.  Though I’m sure we could find examples of the words I’ve given be used in the exact opposite way in which I’ve given them, on the whole I would say most usages of moral have to do with the intentions of the acting agent. 
When we think of whether a man is “good” we think of his character or whether he considers others welfare as an end-in-themselves or considers others as only a means to his own goals or satisfactions.  When we think of a person’s conduct, how they habitually act, we think of their lives forming a certain “ethical code” and whether or not this code aligns well with our own.  How we feel people ought to behave whether or not context and circumstance are factored into this calculation or not.  Someone then, could have a completely fine ethical code in the eyes of many, be square-dealing and fair, but do so for reasons that are entirely self-centered and therefore not moral. 
Someone could say that he ought to be moral, but this is in effect saying, “it is ethical to be moral,” or the concept of ought for them has something to do with a person’s motives.  Using the given meanings however to say, “one ought to be ethical,” is to provide no new knowledge or theory outside the original agreed upon definition of words.  It is akin to saying, “a moral person has concern for others,” or, “a triangle has three sides.”  One can argue with the definition of a triangle the same way one can argue semantics over the definition of ethics and morals but what is crucial is there is a difference between argument over the definition of a triangle and argument over what a three-sided thing is. 
One is a question of representation while the other is a question of essence.  To ask, “what do I mean when I say ‘triangle?’” is to inquire what meaning the sound I make with my mouth or letters I type on my keyboard refer to.  To ask, “what is a triangle?” is to ask of the thing’s ontology or status in existence.  It could be triangles are merely a product of a person’s mind, or they really exist; or they really exist and are merely a product of someone’s mind but then whether or not something is real is not contingent on it existing externally to the human mind.
Returning to distinguishing ethics from morals, though it is more difficult to think of situations of the opposite happening in the world they certainly do occur.  A couple may send their child to a gay-conversion clinic where horrible things are done to them.  The parents however, legitimately had the best interest of the child in mind and not only did they not wish him or her harm, they earnestly prayed for their child’s well-being although they arguably had a false notion of what well-being is.  Many would say that their action was not ethical, they should not have done what they did, but that does not change the fact that their intentions were directed towards the child and not themselves in this instance.
Language is as much as logic a key aspect to philosophy.  To ignore the means by which ideas are expressed by our species and attempt to focus only on the “content” divorced from all linguistics is much like Aristotle’s critique of the Platonic forms.  Once you divorce all logical expression from its linguistic vessel you’re left with something that is not imaginable let alone possible to be actualized.  For just as to have “horse-ness” is to mean to have something be a color and a size and a shape and so on, to have a thinking thing have a thought, whether true or false, whether profound or insipid, is to have a language be the “vessel” or means by which that thought is given. 

A mistake in understanding the meaning of a word in a philosophical text is as erroneous as failing to understand the nature of the thought.  Although the former can be easily corrected while the latter requires more thought and is perhaps to never be corrected in some due to limitations not in the understanding of the words but the thoughts behind them.