Comment by Dienekes on January 12, 2012 at 11:10am

@Kir - I got about half way through that post, and I will finish it when I have time, but I can't right now.  But a couple of things jumped out at me. First, at some point you suggest that whoever you are speaking about is "nitpicking".  I actually think it's you that are nitpicking.  True there is a separation of "value" and "fact", but I just don't see how that excludes getting to a "value" using science.  Except for the second thing that jumps out at me, which is that you seem to think that science has nothing to do with anything at all unless it is pure fact, which I think is where your logic fails you.  Science is the search for truth *using* facts.  But it also uses intuition and guesswork.  Science is a methodology of getting to truth.  If science could never speak to "value", then there would be no such thing as psychology, or sociology, or behavioral sciences.  If you look closely at Zen Buddhism, you will see that there is a very scientific methodology of relieving discontentedness (what most texts refer to as "suffering") and a clear path to what no one can deny as a "moral life".  You have to see science as more than just a lab with test tubes.  A "moral" is quantifiable.  And anything that is quantifiable can be measured and have things measured against it.  And anything that can be measured falls into the realm of science.  Morality is a sociological construct.  That is why within a single group it doesn't change much from member to member, but between groups with large sociological differences, it changes radically.  People are taught morality, but there is also a certain amount of nature to it as well. 

You said "science doesn't answer moral questions, reason does."  If a man murdered his son in cold blood, would that be moral?  What if his son was a happy, well adjusted person in a relationship?  What if that relationship was with another man?  What if the father thought that his son would go to hell and loved his son so much he wanted to save him from that torture?  We are still in the realm of "reason" here.  But that "reason" is not based in facts.  It is based in feelings and superstition.  If it were based in facts, the father wouldn't have a problem with his son's gay relationship.  It is when you start diverging from facts that reason goes out the window.  When you ally facts to morals, you can see which stand up and which fall by the way side.  As I said, I don't disagree that we use reason to come to moral conclusions, but we can only do so rationally if we know as many of the facts as we can and discount superstition and illogical feelings.  When we decide to put other people's happiness ahead of our own. 

People would say it is "reasonable" to put your own selfish motivations above everyone else's.  "It's the way of nature.  Animals do it."  This can't be farther from the truth.  If you use science to study animals, the only animals that do that are solitary.  Any animal that is social will protect others in order to maintain a health society. 

So, I guess my questions to you are these: If we don't get to "reason" without facts, how do we get there that is rational and acceptable?  And if we use facts to get to what is "reasonable", why does that exclude science?

Comment by Dienekes on January 12, 2012 at 12:07pm

@Kir - I got through the rest faster than I thought.  :)

I also see where some of the confusion lies.  You say on your blog "And that really isn’t “morality” in my mind. It is ethics, a system of ethics upon which we can derive the boundaries..."  The definition of "Ethics", according to Webster is "the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation."  Dictionary.com defines ethics as "a system of moral principles: the ethics of a culture."  So, once again, I think it is actually you that are trying to nitpick on terms.  And if you want to do that, that certainly is your prerogative.  But I think that we are maybe saying more or less the same thing with different terms.  You just don't seem to like certain words.

Comment by Kir Komrik on January 12, 2012 at 12:28pm

Hey Keith,

@Kir - I got about half way through that post, and I will finish it when I have time, but I can't right now. But a couple of things jumped out at me. First, at some point you suggest that whoever you are speaking about is "nitpicking". I actually think it's you that are nitpicking.

 

Of course you do; you are the party wanting to simplify this and get your quick answer. Sorry, it doesn’t wash.

True there is a separation of "value" and "fact", but I just don't see how that excludes getting to a "value" using science.

Straw man. That is not what that I said. Unfortunately, I’ll have to repeat it here yet again,

But it is there. At 7:14 Sam Harris: “… It is thought that there are two quantities in this world, there are facts on the one hand and there are values on the other. And it is imagined that these two are discrete entities that can’t be understood in monistic terms and it is imagined that science can’t say anything about value …”

At 10:10 Sam Harris: “I am going to argue that this split between facts and values is an illusion. And my claim is that values are a certain kind of fact …”

No, they are not. And it is not nitpicking, it is a well known problem that philosophers have been discussing for over 200 years.

And that is the issue, not whether or “Science can get at value”, whatever that means.

Except for the second thing that jumps out at me, which is that you seem to think that science has nothing to do with anything at all unless it is pure fact, which I think is where your logic fails you. Science is the search for truth *using* facts. But it also uses intuition and guesswork. Science is a methodology of getting to truth. If science could never speak to "value", then there would be no such thing as psychology, or sociology, or behavioral sciences. 

You lost me here. I have not been saying any such things. What I am trying to tell you is that Harris has not succeeded in deriving value ... from anything.

If you look closely at Zen Buddhism, you will see that there is a very scientific methodology of relieving discontentedness (what most texts refer to as "suffering") and a clear path to what no one can deny as a "moral life". You have to see science as more than just a lab with test tubes. A "moral" is quantifiable. And anything that is quantifiable can be measured and have things measured against it. And anything that can be measured falls into the realm of science. Morality is a sociological construct. That is why within a single group it doesn't change much from member to member, but between groups with large sociological differences, it changes radically. People are taught morality, but there is also a certain amount of nature to it as well.

No, “morality” is not quantifiable. Quantifiable things and “morality” are fundamentally different constructs. “Morality” has to do with what we value in society, and that is not a quantity, nor does it have anything to do with it. "Value" is not a reference to an arithmetic construct.

You said "science doesn't answer moral questions, reason does." If a man murdered his son in cold blood, would that be moral? What if his son was a happy, well adjusted person in a relationship? What if that relationship was with another man? What if the father thought that his son would go to hell and loved his son so much he wanted to save him from that torture? We are still in the realm of "reason" here. But that "reason" is not based in facts. It is based in feelings and superstition.

I disagree. To even concede that your example is sufficiently well defined is not reasonable, for starters.

Your entire treatment of “morality” in that example is meaningless, for reasons I’ve already proven. 

If it were

Comment by Kir Komrik on January 12, 2012 at 12:30pm

Hey Keith,

 

Continued ...

 

 

If it were based in facts, the father wouldn't have a problem with his son's gay relationship. It is when you start diverging from facts that reason goes out the window. When you ally facts to morals, you can see which stand up and which fall by the way side. As I said, I don't disagree that we use reason to come to moral conclusions, but we can only do so rationally if we know as many of the facts as we can and discount superstition and illogical feelings. When we decide to put other people's happiness ahead of our own.

People would say it is "reasonable" to put your own selfish motivations above everyone else's. "It's the way of nature. Animals do it." This can't be farther from the truth. If you use science to study animals, the only animals that do that are solitary. Any animal that is social will protect others in order to maintain a health society.

So, I guess my questions to you are these: If we don't get to "reason" without facts, how do we get there that is rational and acceptable? And if we use facts to get to what is "reasonable", why does that exclude science?

 

And, consequently, the rest of this post is off topic and immaterial.

@Kir - I got through the rest faster than I thought. :)

I also see where some of the confusion lies. You say on your blog "And that really isn’t “morality” in my mind. It is ethics, a system of ethics upon which we can derive the boundaries..." The definition of "Ethics", according to Webster is "the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation." Dictionary.com defines ethics as "a system of moral principles: the ethics of a culture." So, once again, I think it is actually you that are trying to nitpick on terms. And if you want to do that, that certainly is your prerogative. But I think that we are maybe saying more or less the same thing with different terms. You just don't seem to like certain words.

You are tangenting far, far off topic. The contention I made was that Harris was engaging in Fallacy by failing to deal with David Hume’s objection. And, as I clearly showed he never established how he gets value from fact. Period. If you can prove how he gets value from fact, and stay on that topic, please do so.

- kk

Comment by Kir Komrik on January 12, 2012 at 12:51pm

@Keith - FYI

 

My response to this post at kirkomrik.wordpress.com; in full, was:

 

Hey Arcahaeopteryx1,

I have someone over at TA saying that my definition of “ethics” and “morality” are the same, or something like that. So, I thought I would clarify what I mean by Singer’s “morality” and how I see that term. What I am saying, which is clearer if you read my entire treatment of this subject, is that we can derive a system, call it “morals” if you like, that is objective within human society, that is, strictly amongst human beings. And that is all that matters for us. And *that* is what I call “ethics” in the sense that it only prescribes a pragmatic way that human beings can live together and cooperate, without placing any “value” on those pragmatic boundaries, and satisfy the things that all human beings biologically (and objectively) value. And those boundaries are what we call “law”.

So, as a member of this hypothetical society, I do not need to place any “value” on a particular more, I only need to understand that all human beings are guaranteed to value that particular more because of their biological makeup. If, and I stress if, we can find such mores, we have a system of law we can use that is not “moral” in the sense that we place no premium on it identifying “value”. But it is a system of agreeable rule of law nonetheless.

Is there something I could say to make that clearer? Is it not clear? It might not be, so I want to be sure it makes sense. Thanks.

-kk

Comment by Dienekes on January 12, 2012 at 12:59pm

@Kir - Wow!  You are throwing "STRAWMAN!" at me because I misunderstood what you were saying?  Dude.  I'm not a religitard.  Calm down.  People misunderstand things from time to time.  It's not always an "attack". 

Comment by Kir Komrik on January 12, 2012 at 1:00pm

Hey Keith,

 

"Attack"? What do you mean? I'm engaging your claims assertively. It has nothing to do with you.

 

- kk

Comment by Dienekes on January 12, 2012 at 1:18pm

What I mean is "assertively" assuming that I'm throwing straw man arguments at you instead of taking the reasonable approach that I might have misunderstood or misinterpreted something.  If I get something wrong, it's okay to actually say that instead of yelling "strawman argument!"

Comment by Dienekes on January 12, 2012 at 2:11pm

@Kir - "The contention I made was that Harris was engaging in Fallacy by failing to deal with David Hume’s objection."

I assume you are talking about David Hume, the 18th century Scottish philosopher.  I'm curious as to how you get to "fallacy" simply because Sam didn't specifically address something that some random philosopher said.  I mean, it's not like Sam was specifically addressing certain aspects of David's viewpoints, but "conveniently" ignoring others. Personally, I completely understand why Sam didn't bring David into his discussion.  If you are talking about some other, modern day David Hume, then, again, this is NOT a strawman argument, but rather just that I'm not aware of what you are talking about.  I know of no debate between Sam and a David Hume.

"And, as I clearly showed he never established how he gets value from fact. Period. If you can prove how he gets value from fact, and stay on that topic, please do so."

I think Sam makes it very clear in his Ted Talk.  It appears that you don't want to address that here, since I asked what part of his talk you disagree with and you divert from the question.

It appears to me that Hume is one of those people who want to take philosophy to it's ridiculous extreme.  His concept of bundle theory, as far as I can tell, is completely nonsensical.  To say that only the properties of an object exist, and that the object doesn't really exist is (in my opinion) flat out stupid.  If you remove properties from an object, you are actually changing the underlying object.  It is no longer the same object.  There are also properties that, if you remove them, you must replace them with something else.  The properties are not the reality.  They are just descriptions of the reality.

If you are an advocate of the Problem of Induction, I assume you believe that all science is based on logical fallacies and therefore completely invalid.  If that is the case, then I think we're at an impasse.  Although it is true that we can only "perceive" reality through our senses, it is the only reality we have and I think the scientific method does a good job at validating those perceptions.  I don't see the value in throwing out the dishes with the dishwater. 

As Sam says, morality relates to the truths about how communities flourish, are productive, and enlightened.  That is where we get "value."  I "value" security in my home, security from my government, being able to feed and care for my family, helping my friends and neighbors, I "value" being able to increase my knowledge through study.  All these things help me as a person and help the society around me.  When we talk about "morals", that's what we are talking about; making our lives and the lives around us better with as little cost to others as possible.  I don't quite understand how that can be confusing. 

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on January 28, 2012 at 4:10pm

“If in some cataclysm all of scientific knowledge were destroyed and only one sentence passed on to succeeding generations, what statement would convey the most information in the fewest words?” “Everything is made of atoms”

Richard Feynman, American Nobel Prize winner.

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