Notice that if you ask "When does life begin?" you get a definition, not a fact. What does this mean for the debate between pro-choicers and pro-lifers, one side defining life to begin at birth, the other at conception? Doesn't it mean that it's a problem without a solution?
"CAN we do what we like because they will not remember it?" Sure we CAN, unless something is stopping us. It all depends upon one's ethical inclinations. In my case, I WOULDN'T, but in saying that I don't refer to some overarching ethical system. It is simply my choice, when it comes to people in the world. What a woman chooses to do with the innards of her own body is none of my business.
That may be the best way to consider things. In terms of consequence. And not just to others either. What we feel about ourselves after we do something and if we are willing to do with any adverse consequence should be controlling. Subjective as hell, but we always have to live with our feelings about what we've done, even if they aren't always rational.
Certainly, if the person's ethics allow it. You seem to think there is some sort of metaphysical ethical system. But that's only possible with a god who can declare something right or wrong "because I say so." You have your ethics, I have mine, and a warrior for a headhunting tribe or a Nazi has his.
So, apart from a deity, what makes something UNIVERSALLY wrong or right?
"Inflicting unnecessary suffering is ethically or morally wrong by definition."
What is unnecessary suffering? Is there necessary suffering? I used to punch my friends shoulders in high school quite hard, thus inflicting unnecessary suffering. Does this mean I'm an immoral person?
"What I am interested in is whether atheists can replace the morality of a holy book with something that is cogent, logical and a force for good."
Yes, quite easily. Instead of having preconceived notions of right and wrong as some external guide, you just force yourself to stop and ponder when encountering an ethically charged choice. After that you just have to rely on yourself to make mostly good choices.
"Surely it is unethical to injure someone? Did your friends mind? If not, you maybe you had permission but on the unspoken basis it would be reciprocated? Hard to say without knowing more about it. Perhaps they saw you as a bully? Who knows?"
You are the expert on necessary and unnecessary pain, you tell me.. Was it an immoral choice? First point is, you cannot make always-statements, because even you can think of a reason why it would be perfectly fine and therefore not unethical. Second point is, the pain surely wasn't necessary, but does that make it unnecessary? It doesn't - it just "is" - without belonging to either category.
"when they are young and get into fights you have to tell them it's wrong to hurt people"
Why? Why is it wrong to hurt people? Sometimes people get hurt, either physically or emotionally, by your reactions, actions, or inactions. Kids should be taught to avoid fights, not that fighting is wrong, and to be responsible for their choices.
"It is not nice (ethical) to cause others unnecessary pain and suffering."
The planet is not a particularly nice place, and pain and suffering is pretty much a constant in biological life. Pain relieving and suffering reduction is not the base of my decision making process. I wasn't programmed by Isaac Asimov.
"Surely we can all agree it is not ethical to inflict pain unnecessarily?"
Not unless we can find out clearly what necessary vs unnecessary is, along with how one would define pain vs non-pain.
"It seems a great pity to me if a community of free thinkers cannot even agree"
I believe that is why you would call them "free thinkers". There is no reason why anyone have to agree on something.
"If we can't agree on something as basic as this, maybe the world is better with religions."
Perhaps it would be, I don't know. I doubt it though, but I would have to see your arguments.
"Well you have to provide more information."
No, I would have to give you my story, which is something entirely different than objective proof. I see you like to only weigh subjective evidence, attempting to find out what was in my heart when I did it. What if I believe he enjoyed it, but in his reality he was tortured by it?
I've already stated it was clearly unnecessary and painful. But then again, it's something every boy has done and/or be done to growing up, and I wouldn't call it a 'widespread and grave lack of ethics'. Your two main points is that unnecessary suffering is to be avoided as it is immoral and not to be inflicted because it's unethical. However, you fail to define what those words actually mean. What exactly is it that you define as'unnecessary' and 'suffering'.
"Well, if you thought it was unnecessary then it was unethical."
That's not what I said. I said that it was not necessary, which is not the antonym of necessary. Something can be not necessary without immediately becoming unnecessary. Having fire sprinklers in my room may be not necessary, but it is not unnecessary.
For pain, there is even a scale from 1-10 based on time and intensity. Over which specific level combination of time and intensity is it too much pain to be inflicting?
"If you do not think inflicting suffering unnecessary, then it is not unethical."
Cool. Then we agree.
"You have picked a particularly trivial subject for discussion."
I've picked one example (of a number I could think of) which punched holes in your argument. I am not going to argue your argument's strengths - that's your job - I'm showing where it falls through, using examples you may find banal.
"Suffering is the bearing of pain or distress."
My back hurts sometimes after work, is my employer then unethical?
"Pain is an unpleasent sensation."
As is hunger and freezing. You are not exactly defining it well.
"Common sense definitions."
Apart from not being common, not making sense, nor being definitions - then sure.
"Provide an example of inflicting pain where you think it neither necessary or unnecessary."
I have: Kids punching shoulders.
"This scale would just lead to a scale of just how unethical rthe action was."
Soall infliction of pain is thus unethical? Then we have just made a complete circle where you already have agreed to it not being so. Also, I thought ethics were supposed to be a binary expression, or can thing be less or more unethical (or most unethicallary - genocide perhaps)?
"Why did you need to ask that question?"
Because you have been asked to define what you mean by "unnecessary" and "pain/suffering". To meaningfully quantify it such that it is possible to render judgements. So far you have failed.
"Your position rejects the notion that causing unnecessary pain and suffering is unethical."
It doesn't. It only rejects that all unnecessary pain/suffering is unethical, which is incidentally exactly the thing which invalidates your position.
"we just do what feels rights at the time."
Pretty much. No sense in being anything less than humble about the fact that most of our good intentions ("morals") sometimes fall through.
"Where does the sense of right and wrong come from?"
Usually the consequences of choices, ethics tend to be more ex post facto than a priori knowledge.
"If there is an innate sense of ethics/morality, how did it allow for slavery, sexism, rascism?"
There isn't. It's (mostly) a product of the environment and what is socially permissible, usually combined with lessons from youthful breaking of rules and education.
PS: Still awaiting a better definition of unnecessary suffering...
The operative word here, Mikey, is UNNECESSARY. Morally, it's what constitutes unnecessary . . . not what constitutes pain and suffering . . . that is at question.
And because there is no such thing as an objective moral standard, what is or isn't morally unnecessary is a matter of opinion. Get it?
We're all too familiar with your vegetarian mantra of unnecessary pain and suffering. That is YOUR subjective moral criteria. It is not an objective criteria because it isn't always the prime factor. Your criteria are not mine and I'm sick and tired of vegetarian/vegan preaching. And don't tell us you don't preach. We've been reading your preaching for too long already.
I'm fine with what I've written. Let others decide.
I think vegetarians can understand everything except those who disagree with them. This is dense.
Not trying to sound insulting here, but that's typically how the general mindset is with any particular group, of any kind.