Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Desirism on Unbelievable? Facebook group (part 1)

A thread on the Unbelievable? Facebook group discusses Desirism. (Copied here for archival purposes.)


The Morality of Desirism.

“I have said this before, and it might be partly my fault for not always using it correctly myself, but something is moral or immoral if it is something a person with good desires would do.”>>>

That sounds close to being a circular definition if you don’t describe what someone with good desires would do.

“It may seem trivial, but it is an important difference. I don't need to calculate whether my specific action will thwart or fulfil desires, I instead should ask whether someone with the desire to perform that action would tend to fulfil or thwart more desires.”>>>

OK, but haven’t you simply moved the calculation to another place?

“This is because desires cannot be turned on and off situationally. You can't instil a desire to preserve innocent human life and then decide in precisely one instance that you think it would be better not to do so.”>>>

Really? Isn’t that making them absolute then?

“There is "good for me," and "good for us." Morality deals with what is "good for us," i.e. all of society.”>>>

But society is simply made up of lot’s of mes. How is societies needs distilled from all of it’s individuals?

“So first one should ask if a person with good desires would shoot an animal in a crowded city. The desire to shoot a gun in a crowded city would lead to a greater number of accidental/unnecessary killings, which thwarts not only people's very strong desires not to die, but also friends and family members' desires to not have them killed, as well as thwarting people's desire to feel relatively safe. The benefit would be very minimal by comparison.”>>>

Not if there weren’t many people around. Did you not suggest that there might be a minimum number? Does this also mean shooting animals for food in the countryside is also immoral if you are not on your own?
· · · 29 June at 17:28


    • John Humberstone This is part of an ongoing conservation on the wrong thread, mainly led by Andrew Britton.
      29 June at 17:28 · · 1

    • Daniel Vecchio I wanted to respond to some issues that Andrew Britton raised in response to my questions. He writes:

      "Let's say I have a desire to raise a family. Theoretically a scientist someday could go into my brain and make me "believe" I had a family, thus creating a "sense of satisfaction" of that desire. In reality though, my desire had been thwarted because I didn't desire the illusion of a family, but an actual family."

      I think there may be some linguistic issues with this. If I am living within a simulation, then saying "I desire to raise a family" means nothing more than raising a family within the simulation. None of my experiences could lead me to have thoughts or use words that reference anything that may be beyond the simulation. My thoughts about "family" are contextualized within the simulation, so when I say that I desire to raise a family outside of the simulation, I would have no way of understanding the meaning of my own sentence.

    • Daniel Vecchio I suppose if you, at one time, lived outside of the simulation, you could escape this objection. But then I would suggest that brain simulation from birth would be optimal for desirism. Rapist could live in their simulated world. Serial Killers could live in their worlds. An Amish man in his world. A wall street type in hers. All of these brains would be experiencing simulations that guarantee optimal desire satisfaction. As desirism seems predicated on the belief that we should desire desire-fulfillment optimization, then this should be the ultimate goal for any desire utilitarian. The problem, though, is that it makes morality moot. We'd be left being able to do whatever we want in our own solipsistic universe, and we'd all get away with it. If my linguistic point stands, I don't know how you'd object.

    • Daniel Vecchio You might say that this is a very bizarre sci-fi thought experiment--that it may be technologically impossible. But that's not the point. The point is that I can't embrace an ethical theory that would be rendered moot with the proper application of technology.

    • Daniel Vecchio So, should we try and develop massive farms of brains-in-vats that run simulations customized to each brain's desires? I think we could clone billions of brains, and really really maximize desire fulfillment. Of course humans living outside of the simulation would drag down the maximization of desire-fulfillment, since they are often thwarted. Perhaps we could liquidate most humans, since they take up space, resources, and tend to thwart desires. We could leave a minimal crew of humans, or maybe even an artificial intelligence, to make sure the brain farms run smoothly. I think having the desire to build these brain-farms would be a very moral desire. It is the desire to promote as many desires as possible, and to not thwart any desires ever. It sounds super moral. No? True, you'd have to break a few eggs, to make space... but oh well.
      30 June at 00:31 · Edited · · 2

    • Sam Priest ‎^ this is why I'm reluctant to accept the desires thing.

      I think though, that such an issue can be circumvented by saying the point is to minimise the number of desires thwarted, NOT to maximise the number achieved, and not to get the ratio of non-thwarted to thwarted nice and high.

      Same sort of solution I came to ages ago from mulling over the whole thing about consequence based morality. You can't say it's anything to do with maximising benefits, you HAVE to say it's about minimising detriment. Failing that you get brains in vats and breaking eggs to make omelettes.

    • Daniel Vecchio Sam Priest, then you could be an anti-natalist. If humans just stopped reproducing, then eventually we'd go extinct and there would be no desire thwarting at all.

    • Dan Hettmannsperger III ‎"Desire" is better understood as CRAVING. When a man with a house and a car wants two houses and three cars...this is craving, and craving is the essence of what the Buddha called SAMSARA, the ocean of birth-and-death. To realize true emptiness, to see that all is governed by Impermanence and that self is and always was an illusion is to see the truth, and that is enlightenment. :)

    • Dan Hettmannsperger III This is not the same as desiring education or a bright and happy future for our children....that is ASPIRATION.

    • Sam Priest ‎^It would be a very odd society if there were no couples out there who desired children I have to say. If the basis of the system is one such that all thwarting of desire is by definition immoral (with some additional rule to determine the severity of the immorality based on the desire that was thwarted) then you're left in a more realistic system where every act of desire thwarting, eg. thwarting a couple's desire to have kids, is immoral.

      Of course you then get the problem where thwarting a murderer's desires is also deemed immoral... though perhaps far less so than the alternatives.

      The best system is to admit that actions can be moral in one sense but immoral in another.
      Locking up a murderer is moral in the sense it stops him killing and thwarting desires in that way, yet immoral in the sense it thwarts his own desire to kill.
      We just pick the lesser of two evils.

      I really do think though that our understanding of morality is one big mish-mash of lots of different considerations. Distilling it down to ONE thing like whether desires are thwarted or not is always going to be problematic for that reason.
      30 June at 01:44 · · 1

    • Sam Priest This is not the same as desiring education or a bright and happy future for our children
      -------------
      and both of those different forms are again different from desiring food and shelter - those are *needs*
      30 June at 01:45 · · 1

    • Dan Hettmannsperger III The Buddha stated that those actions which reduce suffering are deemed "good" actions while those which create needless suffering are understood to be "evil". One needs wisdom though, for one might try to reason that the pain caused by a dentist in the short run is evil, without seeing that the long term benefits actually reduce a great deal of suffering. :)

    • Dan Hettmannsperger III This is why the Buddha stated that to walk the Dharma path [that is, the path of truth] one must strive to manifest Wisdom (Prana) and Compassion (Metta) at all times...you cannot sacrifice one for the other.

    • Daniel Vecchio Dan Hettmannsperger III, I really am appreciating this stuff on Buddhism, but I don't want to lose track of the point of this thread, which is an evaluation of desirism.
      30 June at 01:50 · Edited · · 1

    • Dan Hettmannsperger III Just expressing a point of view. ;)

    • Daniel Vecchio Well, I don't want to be a jerk either. I think Buddhism might offer an interesting critique of desirism, or vice versa. I was just wondering if that is the direction you are going in.

    • Dan Hettmannsperger III Well I am a Buddhist, and I merely thought that his entire teaching would be relevant given that he felt "desire" was in many ways the essence of the problem at the heart of the Human Condition.
      30 June at 01:59 · · 1

    • Daniel Vecchio Are Buddhists speaking of desire (taṇhā) in the same way as the desirist? They, the desirists, see desire as the reasons for actions, or some formulation thereof.

    • Daniel Vecchio So a Buddhist must have a reason for acting as a Buddhist. Could we call this a "desire" in a loose sense (even if it is not the kind of desire Buddha says to avoid)?

    • Thaddeus Aid I don't think desire is a good thing to base moral action on. Desire is primal thing and desire leads to many actions that are deemed to be bad by our society. If I desire your wife, she desires me and you desire me not to have your wife then the simple majority rule states that I should have your wife. Alternately, if I REALLY desire your property and you only desire it, then my greater desire could lead to me taking your property.

    • Sam Priest ‎^ and again that's the sort of thing that makes me say that:

      firstly you have to accept that actions can be moral in one respect and symultaneously immoral in another

      and secondly that if you're basing the system on desires or consequences etc you have to base it on evading detriment rather than considering anything to do with maximising positives.

    • Te Nee Daniel Vecchio why would you call a reason a desire? No respect for language? Some buddhists may believe from reason, others from desire. Some might have a reason and become buddhisst despite their desire not to be buddhist. And vice versa.

    • Daniel Vecchio I imagine that Andrew Britton is going to have some very smart things to say in response to all of this... But I fear that uploading his response might knock out all of facebook's servers.
      30 June at 02:27 · · 2

    • Daniel Vecchio Te Nee, I'm just parroting Alonzo Fyfe's definition of desire. I'm not sure why a desire is a reason for an action. I was pretending to be a desirist for a moment.

    • Te Nee Yup, thats the world you are living in- would you prefer holy ghost, bible and god? I bet you would, but my choice of words better conveys the childishness of theism.

    • Sam Priest play nicely lads. lol
      30 June at 02:40 · · 1

    • Andrew Britton John Humberstone,

      Thanks for starting the new thread.... I was nervous to as it seems like many of the threads I start sink to the bottom :/ not sure why...

      Sorry I haven't gotten a chance to chime in yet, and I won't be able to address much yet still.

      "That sounds close to being a circular definition if you don’t describe what someone with good desires would do."

      I believe in that post, or at the very least in many other posts, I have presented the definition of a good desire. One that tends to fulfill more and greater desires than it thwarts.

      "OK, but haven’t you simply moved the calculation to another place?"

      The reason it is important is because the only way we can influence each other's actions is by influencing their desires. Desires are malleable, but they can't just be turned on and off.

      "Really? Isn’t that making them absolute then?"

      How does that make them absolute? It simply means desires can be affected, but actions themselves cannot be directly affected, so the object of influence is the desire, not the action.

      Let me try re-formulating in non-moral language and see if it gets us anywhere.

      States of affairs exist - there is a way the world actually is.

      Beliefs actually exist - I have an attitude towards X that X is true.

      Desires exist - I have an attitude toward X that X is to be made or kept true.

      I have a reason to act to make desire X's true.

      If I desire water and a greater desire not to die, and believe that the glass in front of me contains water, I will drink it.

      If in reality it actually contains poison, then I should NOT drink it. The fact that I was mistaken did not affect what I should do, just what I did do based on my beliefs.

      If I lived in a society where poisoning wasn't condemned or punished, I would have a reason to petition the government to outlaw poisoning, and socially condemn people who poison to avoid this situation.

      In other words I SHOULD do these things (I have real objectively existing reasons to).

      Now it is clear that the overwhelming majority of people have a desire to not be poisoned, therefore society in general has a reason to act to prevent poisonings.

      Sorry, but I will have to finish responding later.

    • Andrew Britton Daniel Vecchio,

      "I think there may be some linguistic issues with this. If I am living within a simulation, then saying 'I desire to raise a family' means nothing more than raising a family within the simulation. None of my experiences could lead me to have thoughts or use words that reference anything that may be beyond the simulation. My thoughts about "family" are contextualized within the simulation, so when I say that I desire to raise a family outside of the simulation, I would have no way of understanding the meaning of my own sentence."

      It is funny because, although I can't remember where I read or listened about this topic recently, I found it interesting. The position you layout is undoubtedly controversial. The intuitive interpretation in my opinion is otherwise.

      If you desired a family and were convinced that this desire had been fulfilled, only later to find out it was a simulation and your "family" did not exist as anything except a computer simulation, would you still consider your desire to have been fulfilled and not just satisfied (i.e. the state of affairs that you have a family had been made true as opposed to you merely believing the state of affairs had been made true)?

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer,

      "Yes, it is circular. And no, calling "society" the ultimate arbiter doesn't help."

      I keep hearing this but I am not sure what you are referring to? Where have I said society is the arbiter?

      If I eat nothing but bacon for every meal, every day I will likely die an early death. This would be bad for my health, does that mean I get to "decide" what is best for my health? Absolutely not. Similarly things can be "good" for society or "bad" for society, this doesn't mean that society is somehow "in charge" of what is good or bad.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer,

      "which by the way my spell checker doesn't think exists"

      That is surprising to you? If you are waiting for spell checker to integrate desirism (which is a more recent variation on the original name "desire utilitarianism") you are probably going to be waiting for quite a while. Compatibilism is the most popular account of free-will among philosophers, and though I can't find an exact date, has been around for quite a while I believe, yet it is not even recognized by my spell checker... So a new secondary naming for a relatively new theory of ethics... I am not holding my breath.

      "was all about society using its power to inculcate good desires and cut out the bad desires."

      Desirism says that society "should" promote good desires and discourage bad desires, yes. This is not the same as saying society is the "arbiter" of what it should or shouldn't do.

    • Andrew Britton Daniel Vecchio,

      "I suppose if you, at one time, lived outside of the simulation, you could escape this objection."

      One doesn't need to have experienced life outside of a simulation in order to understand what a simulation is, if this were the case the movie "The Matrix" would be incomprehensible to us.

      "But then I would suggest that brain simulation from birth would be optimal for desirism. Rapist could live in their simulated world. Serial Killers could live in their worlds. An Amish man in his world. A wall street type in hers. All of these brains would be experiencing simulations that guarantee optimal desire satisfaction."

      I am tempted to say, so what? Yes, if society was able to create an idealized utopian society in which everyone got whatever they wanted at all times, then why would this be immoral? If you can give me reasons that actually exist why we "shouldn't" promote such a world, then we shouldn't do so, and if you have no such reasons, then we should.

      I think that when people react to ideas such as moral relativism or ideas encouraging large scale social engineering they are reacting to a very real threat, not some vague and abstract moral principal. They are worried that they themselves, or those for whom they care, will be harmed. I think they are often justified in this. Virtually all such grand experiments are disastrous, and though I don't consider myself a pessimist, I feel the scenario you describe would never come about as it would similarly be disastrous and result in massive suffering and the thwarting of countless desires.

      That being said, if you ask me in the abstract whether bringing about a utopian world devoid of desire thwarting would be moral, I think I would have to say yes. Why wouldn't I be in favor of such a world?

      But again, I think in THE REAL WORLD, any attempt to bring about such a world would almost certainly end in disaster, so I would be opposed.

    • Andrew Britton Once more as well, just to keep in mind when responding, desire fulfillment has no intrinsic value.
      5 July at 14:22 via Mobile ·

    • Paul Tozer Language evolves.

    • John Humberstone I am still not clear what desire fulfilment means.

    • Paul Tozer ‎/John Humberstone/ Thanks for the explanation. These topics are new to me. I need an index to all the abbreviations used, e.g. YEC, NA, etc.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer, no one "decides" what we or society should or shouldn't do. All we can do is try our best to discover what it IS that we should or shouldn't do. Society should promote desires that tend to fulfill more and stronger desires and discourage those that do the opposite.

    • Andrew Britton John Humberstone, to say I desire X is to say I have an attitude towards X that it is to be made or kept true. If X is made or kept true, then that desire has been fulfilled... I believe I addressed this in my most recent comment addressed to you.

    • Paul Tozer ‎// is try our best to discover what it IS that we should or shouldn't do// I wish the discovery bit happened as fast as the need to do or not do requires.

    • John Humberstone Andrew Britton So the desires I might have would not necessarily be the same as yours?

    • John Humberstone Paul Tozer The OP was from Andrew, I just bumped it up because I still don't understand how it's objective.

    • Paul Tozer I was chuckling. I have figured out OP. Thanks John. I just read the OP and HNI what it means. [have no idea].

    • Paul Tozer Snopes: Tom Tozer says he's only trying to help.

    • Andrew Britton John Humberstone, most people obviously share certain desires in common, but if I desire chocolate ice cream, that does not mean you must also desire it.

    • John Humberstone So if there were a group of people who shared a common desire and another group who didn't, then it's possible that I could undertake an action which would thwart the desires of the first group but have no effect on the second.

      Would that be correct?

    • John Humberstone So the morality or otherwise, of the action would depend on who it affected at the time.

    • Andrew Britton John Humberstone, I don't mean this to be rude, but I feel like I am repeating myself a lot. It is moral or not depending on whether or not a person with good desires would do it. For instance, if somehow i knew that callously murdering a houseful of people would fulfill more desires than it thwarted, it would still be an immoral act as the desire to perform such actions tends to thwart more desires than it fulfills, and the primary concerns is the desires themselves.

    • John Humberstone You are not being rude, I am just not getting it. Thanks for you patients.

      Can you answer my question though rather than bringing in a new example, or show why it's invalid?

    • Andrew Britton John Humberstone, sorry, I know it is not these easiest thing to understand... I really didn't mean to sound like I was mad or anything. I don't want to discourage you from asking questions, there are just a couple of things I feel I have already answered more than a couple of times. Although I feel something like desirism is likely true, I am not committed to everything it argues so I do appreciate the attempt to criticize it, which obviously requires having a decent understanding of its claims.

    • John Humberstone I will look like criticism (and I would deny it) but mainly I am trying to understand it. So many thanks as I said. I do learn best though by asking questions.

      Anyway back to my question - So the morality or otherwise, of the action would depend on who it affected at the time.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer,

      "I think I understand what you're saying but I am at a complete loss to understand how this works in actual practice if someone or something isn;t commanding this to happen. And who are they, is my question."

      Why must someone be commanding? How does that establish a morality? I could command you to do something, that wouldn't establish my command as a moral standard would it? There must be a reason to follow such a command, should there not?

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer, "Somebody will have the guns and the keys to the jails. Who is that." I can give you my personal opinion as to how to best deal with power, crime, etc. in society. Not being omniscient I don't have "the" answer though. "The" answer is that guns and jails, etc. should be optimized to promote desire fulfillment and reduce thwarting. Desirism isn't a political philosophy, someone could accept desirism and be a libertarian, conservative, anarchist, socialist, etc. This doesn't mean any form of government is correct, merely that desirism itself doesn't proscribe a certain structuring of society.

    • Andrew Britton John Humberstone, "Anyway back to my question - So the morality or otherwise, of the action would depend on who it affected at the time." I thought I just answered this question. It is only indirectly related to who it effects at the time. It is based on whether it is the result of a good desire or bad desire. Does the action result from a desire that TENDS to fulfill/thwart other desires. The situation matters but does not determine the morality because it is a RULE utilitarian theory, not an ACT utilitarian theory.

    • John Humberstone Andrew Britton "It is based on whether it is the result of a good desire or bad desire. Does the action result from a desire that TENDS to fulfill/thwart other desires. "

      Well, in the second case it may fulfil my desires and as I said it will have no effect on the desires of the other group.

      So is that a good desire or not? How would I know if a person with good desires would do it or not?

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer, I am not sure what you are talking about. I have my personal beliefs as to what is the best way for society to operate... I am merely pointing out that desirism is not a set moral code, but a philosophical foundation for ethics. For instance, if I asked who does God think should be in charge of the guns according to the divine command theory of ethics, there would be no ONE answer, as it would depend on which God you believed in and what you believed that God liked and commanded. Similarly I could explain my belief as to the answer to your question, but that would be largely separate from the philosoph of desirism.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer, if you think that my beliefs and approaches to these issues would result in the "wrong people" getting the guns, etc. then I would be wrong ACCORDING TO DESIRISM. The right coarse of action is that which benefits society, I just am under no illusions that I currently know what is best for society... Still trying to figure that out for myself, but if you have all the answers you can feel free to enlighten me.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer,

      I have a hard time not finding some of your reactions to my statements somewhat humorous. I feel like you are taking my statements as more relativistic or radical then they are intended.... Either that or you are just a very rude conversationalist.

      All I can discuss is my beliefs and why I feel that they are superior to yours. That is all you can do as well, I hope that is not controversial.

      I believe desirism to be the most accurate description of the nature or morality and moral statements. As such I think moral arguments and claims should be based on these principals.

      That by itself only explains what fits best with what people generally mean with moral claims, and explains why and how moral claims can and should be justified.

      By itself desirism doesn't tell you how you should behave. In order to determine how you should behave, who you should vote for, etc. you also need true beliefs about the world.

      For instance, if I believed the United States would best be served by electing members of the Natural Law party, then it would make sense for me to do so in so far as I believe voting in this way will tend to fulfill more desires than it thwarts.

      I could be wrong though, it could be that voting for the Natural Law party tends to thwart desires. If this was the case it would not invalidate desirism as a theory of morality, it would only show that some of my beliefs were false (did not conform to reality).

      For instance, if I use the inverse square law to calculate the trajectory of a bowling ball I just catapulted, it wouldn't be the equations fault if I put in the wrong numbers for the balls weight, velocity, etc. The equation would be correct, my beliefs would be false.

      .... Did you ever explain to me how commanding something makes it moral by the way?

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer, yes. Someone could be a theist and accept desire utilitarianism for instance, which would likely effect their moral calculations.

    • Andrew Britton John Humberstone,

      "So is that a good desire or not? How would I know if a person with good desires would do it or not?"

      The scenario you are presenting is very vague, and I am not entirely sure what type of situation you are intending to reference.

      The best way I can think to say it would be by asking yourself certain questions.

      Am I performing this action based on a desire that is generalizable? In other words, is this a desire that it would make sense to promote among others? Or does the action help to propagate such desires?

      Again, you presented a generic situation so I can't really say what my answer to those questions would be.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer, it is a consequentialist ethical theory. In addition Alonzo Fyfe who coined the term uses it for applied ethics, but I am sure even he would agree that desirism could be an accurate description of ethics even if his moral conclusions are completely wrong. What I have been trying to focus on is the meta-ethical side though, what the foundations of ethics are... Desirism does not exclude God, it just is not dependent on a God.

    • Andrew Britton John Humberstone, did that help clear anything up at all?

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer, according to you, what grounds morality?

    • John Humberstone Not really, I'm thinking about it, will respond tomorrow. But thanks again.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer, presumably you think morality is somehow rooted in God, so why should I follow God's commands? Care what God commands? Etc.?

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer, that doesn't really answer the question. Desires are reasons for action, by their very nature you care about them, otherwise they wouldn't be desires... Thatis rather basic to the whole idea.

    • Sam Priest why should I follow God's commands? Care what God commands? Etc.?

      >How is that any different than the question, why should I care about whether more desires or fewer desires are fulfilled?
      ------------
      So you see the problem with the god thing too then. lol

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer, we get to choose what is moral?

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer, the point I am trying to make is that if morality is a real thing, it must provide reasons for action. It must answer the question "why be moral?" The only such answer I have yet seem to such a question is an appeal to desires, if you have another, feel free to share it. Why "should" I follow God's commands (if God exists that is)?

    • Aaron Higashi Because god is good. Because doing good brings one closer to him, who is the author of your being and source of all joy. Because not doing good distorts your soul, undermines the most fundamental and vital relationship you have, causes distance between yourself and god and makes it more difficult to do good in the future. Because doing good or evil has real, eternal consequences that effect the ultimate fate of everyone else in creation.

      And because chicks dig it when you do good things.
      6 July at 18:26 · · 1

    • Helen Marple-Horvat You bet they do!! But yeah...all that and more but Im watching the stupid tennis!!

    • John Humberstone How do you know whether an action is good or not. What criteria do you use for assessing the action?

    • Helen Marple-Horvat The chicks come running

    • John Humberstone Not much use if you're gay.

    • Aaron Higashi Good point, I should amend the statement to read "those to whom you are attracted become aroused to the point of madness, and pursue you indefatigably."
      6 July at 18:58 · · 1

    • John Humberstone ‎...and the main question just in case it slips past.

    • Aaron Higashi The main question has nothing to do with Andrew's question.

    • John Humberstone But you deign to respond to something that is completely irrelevant.

      In any case Andrew Britton is saying that there is a method for determining a moral action that is objective and so explaining how you do the same thing with God calling the shots is right on topic.

    • John Humberstone Who already did what?

    • Aaron Higashi I responded to "Why "should" I follow God's commands (if God exists that is)?"

    • John Humberstone And I asked asked a supplementary question.

      As always lack of answers are answers.

    • Aaron Higashi ‎"As always lack of answers are answers."

      Your tendency to ask an infinite string of repetitive, reductive, and largely definitional questions that could be answered via a simple google search turns one off to wanting to engage sometimes.

      Why we should follow god's commands has nothing to do with how we go about determining what god's commands are. And the first would be true regardless of any answer to the second.

    • John Humberstone I was asking about your method of how to determine a moral action, not Goggle's.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer,

      "answer your first question, no, we get to choose whether to act morally."

      Was there disagreement about this?

      "Your second question can only be answered by orthodox Judeo-Christian thought as 'because God is good by definition.'"

      To say God is good by definition doesn't really help much.... Would be a bit like me saying desires are good by definition.

      "Because doing good brings one closer to him, who is the author of your being and source of all joy."

      This only makes sense in the context of the DESIRE to be closer to Him.

      "Because not doing good distorts your soul, undermines the most fundamental and vital relationship you have, causes distance between yourself and god and makes it more difficult to do good in the future."

      Again, only makes sense in the context of the DESIRE to not have one's soul distorted, relationship undermined, etc.

      "Because doing good or evil has real, eternal consequences that effect the ultimate fate of everyone else in creation."

      Again, only make sense if you DESIRE to avoid those consequences.

      All of these things are meaningless as reasons for action without the associated desires.

      "And because chicks dig it when you do good things."

      I just do good things to be cool.

    • Andrew Britton Aaron Higashi, that last message also responded to you.

    • Helen Marple-Horvat I just cant take these "moral" threads seriously . I think atheists just need to chill the flip out about morals. Do your thing...whatever and forget it.
      6 July at 19:13 · · 1

    • John Humberstone ‎"I just cant take these "moral" threads seriously . I think atheists just need to chill the flip out about morals. Do your thing...whatever and forget it."

      Christians seem to think it's important, listen to the first part.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cq2C7fyVTA4


    • Helen Marple-Horvat nah. I dont care if you are morally superior or if any atheist is morally superior John. Just not interesting. Anyone can follow moral codes and still have no compassion. Like Paul says....I can give up my own life but without love ...its nothing.

    • John Humberstone That's not what the first part was about.

    • Aaron Higashi ‎"Would be a bit like me saying desires are good by definition."

      That's basically what you have said. Every moral system has irreducible first principles, because every moral system is fundamentally about the identification of the good. If something is good in a given system, it is not good for a reason that admits a more fundamental reality behind the question, it is good because it has been identified as good.

      In desirism, desires which tend to fulfill other desires are good. Why? Because they are. There's no reason beyond that, except maybe to just explicate the consequences of it being true. i.e. by saying well, once we're all fulfilling desires it will be wonderful and great, and that's really the best thing, etc.

      In moral theism, god's nature and his commands are good. Why? Because they are.

      This identification is what makes a moral system moral. It is no criticism to point out that these kinds of statements underlie any given moral system.

      "This only makes sense in the context of the DESIRE to be closer to Him."

      This is the same kind of tautology that moral hedonism rests on, just with pleasure instead of desire. I could subvert all of desirism by simply replacing desire with pleasure and saying, no, pleasure is what it's REALLY about. You could even make a moralistic theist hedonism, where pleasure was the end result of following all of god's commandments, and infinite pleasure, in the form of heaven, is the ultimate reward. But simply substituting terms does not at all impact the vast disparities between the systems. Moral systems are different primarily in that they offer different moral vocabularies by which to construct moral ideas, and by which to make moral calculations. This in turn influences the way that I think about my moral decisions.

      Besides, there's obviously a vast ontological difference between theistic and non-theistic moral systems that no substitution of terms can even approach.
      6 July at 19:28 · Edited · · 1

    • Helen Marple-Horvat ‎^ You can never have that time back again. Watching Matt Dillahunty is sin. It says so in the Torah.

      Woe to those who paddle in shallow waters. Their feet shall be cool but their brains will be like the fires of Gehenna.
      6 July at 19:30 · · 1

    • John Humberstone Isaiah is not the Torah.

    • Helen Marple-Horvat Is it in Isaiah? Thats good then cos I made it up.LOL

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer, // "To say God is good by definition doesn't really help much.... Would be a bit like me saying desires are good by definition."

      THAT IS what you have been saying.//

      Where have I ever said that? I think you need to read what I say more carefully.

    • Andrew Britton Helen Marple-Horvat, so atheist's should care about whether their actions are moral or if they are making the world a better or worse place? That's an odd position to take.

    • Andrew Britton Aaron Higashi,

      //Aaron Higashi "Would be a bit like me saying desires are good by definition."

      That's basically what you have said.//

      Both you and Tom claim this, but I would be rather shocked if you found an instance of me actually saying this.

    • Aaron Higashi In desirism, desires which tend to fulfill other desires are good by definition.

    • Andrew Britton Aaron Higashi,

      "If something is good in a given system, it is not good for a reason that admits a more fundamental reality behind the question, it is good because it has been identified as good."

      Desirism is not based on intrinsic value as you claim all systems must. Desires aren't "intrinsically" good, desires that fulfill other desires are not "intrinsically" good. If we are allowed to attach intrinsic value to anything we want then no one could be right or wrong about such things, it would be arbitrary.

      "In desirism, desires which tend to fulfill other desires are good. Why? Because they are."

      The reason they are "good" is because we "should" encourage them, we have reasons for action that exist to encourage them, not because someone decided one day that they are good. You don't even have to call them "good" if you don't want to, the reason they are called that in desirism is because that seems to be the closest term which fits how they function.

      "There's no reason beyond that, except maybe to just explicate the consequences of it being true. i.e. by saying well, once we're all fulfilling desires it will be wonderful and great, and that's really the best thing, etc."

      It is not something I just "say." I believe it is the reality of how the world works.

      "In moral theism, god's nature and his commands are good. Why? Because they are."

      So if God decided that He wanted to make everyone miserable for all eternity... That would be a good thing? The problem with these other arguments/systems is they end up having to advocate such obvious absurdities.

      "This identification is what makes a moral system moral. It is no criticism to point out that these kinds of statements underlie any given moral system."

      Such intrinsic value does not underlie desirism, and it is a valid criticism to ask where this intrinsic value and prescriptivity comes from.

    • Aaron Higashi ‎"The reason they are "good" is because we "should" encourage them, we have reasons for action that exist to encourage them"

      It's the same thing. You're chasing your tail.

    • John Humberstone ‎"The reason they are "good" is because we "should" encourage them, we have reasons for action that exist to encourage them, not because someone decided one day that they are good."

      It's what those reasons are that seems to be the question. Interestingly the reason seems to be straight forward for Aaron (see woo from earlier) but what appears to be missing is the mechanism for knowing whether your actions are actually achieving the goal.

    • Andrew Britton Aaron Higashi, I will try to respond more later... But it is a little difficult when you don't even make an argument, as above.

    • John Humberstone Andrew Britton "Am I performing this action based on a desire that is generalizable? In other words, is this a desire that it would make sense to promote among others? Or does the action help to propagate such desires?">>>

      Once again, what is the mechanism for determining that? Will it be a Yes/No answer that applies to everybody?

      "Again, you presented a generic situation so I can't really say what my answer to those questions would be.">>>

      Let put the two groups back in the scenario of killing something for food. If the group consisted of people like me we would finf no problem with it.

      However, the group consisted of people like my my they would say it is wrong to do it in front of the.

      Does a moral objective exist in this scenario?

    • Aaron Higashi Saying desires are not intrinsically good, but instead, things we should do because we have reasons for action and encouragement, is saying the same thing. This is what it means for something to be good. That we should do it, and there are reasons for acting good and real world encouragement for us to do those good actions.

      All moral systems have a relatively arbitrary first choice of what is good. It's the same with deontology (why is duty good?), utilitarianism, (why is utility good?), hedonism (why is pleasure good?), stoicism (why is balance good?), or moralistic theism (why is god good?). These things are good because they have been identified as THE good.

      Comparing and contrasting moral systems of this level is fairly absurd. You compare with the implications and the moral calculations that are produced from these first principles.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer, that is funny... I have said there are goopd desires and bad desires, how is that possible if desires are by definition good? Maybe you could point out where I said this so I can correct myself as it would obviously be inconsistent with the rest of what I have said?

    • Aaron Higashi ‎"I have said there are goopd desires and bad desires, how is that possible if desires are by definition good?"

      Good desires are desires which tend to fulfill other desires. And following good desires is THE good on desirism. I don't think this is that complex.

    • Daniel Vecchio Andrew Britton,

      "It is funny because, although I can't remember where I read or listened about this topic recently, I found it interesting. The position you layout is undoubtedly controversial. The intuitive interpretation in my opinion is otherwise."

      I stole it from Putnam. :-D

      "One doesn't need to have experienced life outside of a simulation in order to understand what a simulation is, if this were the case the movie "The Matrix" would be incomprehensible to us."

      The Matrix actually references this point when they discuss the taste of chicken. Does everything really taste like chicken, or is it an error in the simulation? There is no way to distinguish the two from within the matrix. We understand the movie because it references things on our level of experience. It's thinking about being a level up from our experiences, and assuming that our language applies that is problematic.

      "I am tempted to say, so what? Yes, if society was able to create an idealized utopian society in which everyone got whatever they wanted at all times, then why would this be immoral? If you can give me reasons that actually exist why we "shouldn't" promote such a world, then we shouldn't do so, and if you have no such reasons, then we should."

      I guess we just don't share the same moral intuitions. It is for this reason that I cannot be a desirist. There is nothing logically incoherent about the world I described, and it seems to be desirable on desirism. Yet I don't desire it at all. I think desirism is missing some "essential" features of the moral life.

      "I think that when people react to ideas such as moral relativism or ideas encouraging large scale social engineering they are reacting to a very real threat, not some vague and abstract moral principal. They are worried that they themselves, or those for whom they care, will be harmed. I think they are often justified in this. Virtually all such grand experiments are disastrous, and though I don't consider myself a pessimist, I feel the scenario you describe would never come about as it would similarly be disastrous and result in massive suffering and the thwarting of countless desires."

      Again, it's not a matter of whether it would ever come about. It is a matter of whether desirism is true. I cannot endorse it, because I cannot say, "So what" to the scenario I painted.

      "That being said, if you ask me in the abstract whether bringing about a utopian world devoid of desire thwarting would be moral, I think I would have to say yes. Why wouldn't I be in favor of such a world?"

      I am against such a world. I would want the rapist brains to have their desires thwarted even if they were not actually harming anyone (just raping in the simulation).
      6 July at 22:48 · · 1

    • Andrew Britton Aaron Higashi & Tom Tozer,

      "Good desires are desires which tend to fulfill other desires. And following good desires is THE good on desirism. I don't think this is that complex."

      As long as your clear that these desires have no intrinsic value. The value comes from the relationship between these desires and states of affairs. The desire by itself cannot prescribe an action (tell you what you "should" do) and the state of affairs can't prescribe an action (ditto), together they do however.

      Saying God will love me more if I give to charity by itself does not tell me I "should" give to charity. Saying that I desire the love of God will not tell me I "should" give to charity, it is the conjunction of these two statements that give rise to the "should."

      (the above example is for illustrative purposes so don't go off on how I don't understand what Christianity is all about because of it)

    • Aaron Higashi ‎"As long as your clear that these desires have no intrinsic value. "

      They do have intrinsic value on desirism, just as the good does in every moral system. Their intrinsic value is that it is the combination of them, and not something else, with the state of affairs, that leads to true moral action. It's not pleasure plus state of affairs = moral action or pleasure + state of affairs = moral action. It's desires. That's the intrinsic value. Desires are in the privileged position of being the key to true moral values.

      It doesn't matter how you are dressing it up. I don't know why you are being defensive about it.

      But it doesn't really matter. Define it however you want. Whatever floats your boat, or desires.

    • Andrew Britton Daniel Vecchio,

      "I guess we just don't share the same moral intuitions."

      Intuitionism is probably the worst basis for a moral system I know of, anyone can justify anything they want if it is just a matter of what "feels right."

      "It is for this reason that I cannot be a desirist. There is nothing logically incoherent about the world I described, and it seems to be desirable on desirism. Yet I don't desire it at all. I think desirism is missing some 'essential' features of the moral life."

      If it is an undesirable world then it would be one that would be wrong to bring about. Like I said, it would be moral only if it was what people desired to bring about. I thought i stressed this in my response. Also, like I said, I am pretty sure any attempt to actually implement such a world would, like most attempts at utopian social planning, end in disaster.

      Finally, to what essential features are you referring?

      "Again, it's not a matter of whether it would ever come about. It is a matter of whether desirism is true. I cannot endorse it, because I cannot say, 'So what' to the scenario I painted."

      I believe I have explained why I said "so what." First I think it would be impossible. Second I think it would be impractical and should be avoided. Thirdly, IF it could be pulled off perfectly and resulted in the fulfillment of everyone's desire in a utopian heaven, then yes, who wouldn't want to live in a utopian paradise, and why would it be wrong?

      "I am against such a world. I would want the rapist brains to have their desires thwarted even if they were not actually harming anyone (just raping in the simulation)."

      Why? You wanting something or it giving you an icky feeling isn't really an argument.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer,

      "You've got it backwards actually. Or sideways, I'm not sure which. God won't love you more or less. That's not the issue. But anyway."

      Did you read the disclaimer I put at the bottom? It was just a hypothetical, not an accurate description of what I thought Christians believed.

    • Andrew Britton Aaron Higashi,

      "They do have intrinsic value on desirism, just as the good does in every moral system."

      One of the claims of desirism is that intrinsic values don't exist.

      "Their intrinsic value is that it is the combination of them, and not something else, with the state of affairs, that leads to true moral action."

      An intrinsic value would be a property of a thing in and of itself. In desirism the value comes from the relation between desires and states of affairs, not from an intrinsic property. That is one of its central claims.

      "It's not pleasure plus state of affairs = moral action or pleasure + state of affairs = moral action. It's desires. That's the intrinsic value. Desires are in the privileged position of being the key to true moral values."

      Desires are central to values, but I think you might be confused as to what an intrinsic value is.

      Let us contrast two worlds, in the first world there are 10 people and they all have 1 desire, to push a rock down a hill, and they live on a world with many rocks on hills so their desires are constantly fulfilled.

      In a second world there are 20 people each with 2 desires! They want to push the rock down the hill AND kick a tree. Again there are plenty of rocks and trees so desire thwarting is basically unheard of.

      If desire fulfillment had intrinsic value, we SHOULD bring about the second world if we had the choice, desirism says it does not matter, there are no reasons for action to bring about the world with more desires, or more people with desires over the other.

      "It doesn't matter how you are dressing it up. I don't know why you are being defensive about it."

      How am I being defensive? I am just trying to explain it as best I can.

      "But it doesn't really matter. Define it however you want. Whatever floats your boat, or desires."

      If ethics and living a moral life don't matter to you that is fine, I am simply trying to describe a system of morality that ACTUALLY EXISTS for anyone who might be interested. You can feel free to merely assert without justification that one must randomly attach intrinsic value to something all you want... I just wanted to clear up the confusion.

    • Aaron Higashi ‎"One of the claims of desirism is that intrinsic values don't exist."

      One of the claims of moral relativism is that all moral propositions are relative. Except of course, the governing principle of moral relativism itself. The same goes for desirism. Perhaps none of the objects of our desires have intrinsic value, but desire still has the intrinsic value that it, and nothing else, is the proper foundation for moral values. It doesn't matter that it's in combination with states of affair in the world. EVERY moral system includes that. That's a non-issue. Desire has the property, intrinsically, that it + the world = true morals.

    • Daniel Vecchio I agree with Aaron Higashi. Fyfe gives a great deal of lip service to saying that desirism denies intrinsic values, but then builds a whole system on desire fulfillment. Seems functionally equivalent to treating desire fulfillment as an intrinsic value. I'd need to see a difference.

    • Andrew Britton Aaron Higashi, it seems like you might be confused as to what intrinsic value means. Like I said, if desires were intrinsically valuable, we "should" manufacture desires just to fulfill them. If we could create robots with desires, we should make as many as possible just so that more desires would be fulfilled... Desirism says there is no value in that, desires and desire fulfillment in themselves aren't valuable. If I have a desire then the star of affairs that would fulfill that desire DOES have value TO ME, but that is it.

    • Andrew Britton Daniel Vecchio, I guess my above comment applies to you as well then. Also, just to point out, desires are real reasons for action, I haven't ever seen any reason to act based on an intrinsic value however.

    • Daniel Vecchio Andrew Britton,

      Moral intuitions are the place where we start whenever we discuss morality. Sure, we don't rely on intuitions in science, when we have strong confirmations to think a theory is right despite our common sense. But moral theories are a dime a dozen. Why accept a counter-intuitive moral theory, when so many other theories cohere with my intuitions? In other words, there is a certain point where you make a choice, accept the theory and give up on the intuitions, or keep the intuitions and find a better theory. I choose the latter.

      Desirism isn't just icky to me. It is a theory that, given the proper technology, there is no need for moral progress, character development, friendship, etc. It reduces the moral discussion to brain-states, and in so doing, misses the whole point of morality. That's the whole point of my thought experiment. It shows that if we can figure out how to get the right brain-states, our actions become irrelevant. Sure its ontological sparse, but I have no commitment to being ontologically spares. I don't mind admitting that objective and intrinsic values permeate nature and, especially, are found in humans (not just brain patterens).

    • Daniel Vecchio Andrew, desirism isn't just about fulfilling things I desire, it is a form of utilitarianism that asks us to value something beyond what we desire out of self interest. So it must make a case that desire fulfillment maximization on the global scale is something I ought to desire.
      7 July at 02:39 via Mobile ·

    • Daniel Vecchio It is in making that case that it leaves the subjective and begins to sound like intrinsic values.
      7 July at 02:40 via Mobile ·

    • Andrew Britton Daniel Vecchio,

      "Moral intuitions are the place where we start whenever we discuss morality."

      I guess we differ right off the bat then. I prefer to start with the truth and things as they actually exist.

      "Sure, we don't rely on intuitions in science, when we have strong confirmations to think a theory is right despite our common sense. But moral theories are a dime a dozen."

      What does the amount of moral theories matter? In addition, can you name another theory that is based on things as they actually exist in the real world and doesn't have made up intrinsic values?

      "Why accept a counter-intuitive moral theory, when so many other theories cohere with my intuitions?"

      I don't find it terribly counter intuitive, I think it can be confusing because much ethical talk has confused the subject to begin with, in addition, like I said, I am more concerned with a morality that actually exists and fits Te way we use moral language, if you have another one I would be interested in seeing it. Lots of bad theories don't make a good theory wrong.

      "In other words, there is a certain point where you make a choice, accept the theory and give up on the intuitions, or keep the intuitions and find a better theory. I choose the latter."

      The place where I think intuitions are worst is the exact type of situation where you claim the theory breaks down. You describe a scenario that is far out of touch with reality as far as I am concerned and then act as if it demonstrates a problem with the theory because it reaches strange results... Well it was a strange scenario, in addition it doesn't conflict very greatly with my intuitions, it is just a bizarre scenario that is most likely impossible, ANY theory can come up with strange artifacts if stretched so much... Unless you have one that isn't so effected? Again, I would be glad to hear what it is?

      "Desirism isn't just icky to me. It is a theory that, given the proper technology, there is no need for moral progress, character development, friendship, etc."

      Again, this is only true in your scenario where no one cares about any of these things, there are no undesired negative outcomes, and all if hunky dory without a downside... Not to mention you don't seem to have an argument as to why in this made up world people "should" care about such things.

      "It reduces the moral discussion to brain-states, and in so doing, misses the whole point of morality."

      What is the point of morality according to you so I can know what is being missed?

      That's the whole point of my thought experiment. It shows that if we can figure out how to get the right brain-states, our actions become irrelevant."

      "Sure its ontological sparse, but I have no commitment to being ontologically spares. I don't mind admitting that objective and intrinsic values permeate nature and, especially, are found in humans (not just brain patterens)."

      So what is to stop me from inventing all kinds of intrinsic values, and why should I accept that yours exist? How exactly does that work?

      "Desirism isn't just about fulfilling things I desire, it is a form of utilitarianism that asks us to value something beyond what we desire out of self interest. So it must make a case that desire fulfillment maximization on the global scale is something I ought to desire."

      Not really. As a society we should promote certain desires, and as individuals we should also promote many of those desires. There are desires that are "good for us" as a society. Those desires, we as a society, should promote.

      I can't "make" you care about society, I can try and influence you, but that is it.

    • Daniel Vecchio Why try and influence me unless you think it's something one ought to value? Again, lip service to denying intrinsic values. When pushed, you have to deny that your theory is actually prescriptive. Then when we leave this point, it's a prescriptive theory again.
      7 July at 03:21 via Mobile · Edited ·

    • Andrew Britton Daniel Vecchio, the reason it might come off that way is because, for the sake of argument, I am assuming you are someone who wishes to be moral (i.e. do what is best for society). There is no über watcher who is going to clobber you if you don't though. It is in my interest to influence you and others because I think it helps fulfill my desires. I ought to try and influence you because it is good for me and good for us (i.e. society). No intrinsic value.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer & Aaron Higashi & Daniel Vecchio & John Humberstone, This post might help clear up some confusion: atheistethicist.blogspot.com/2011/06/moral-ought-and-prescriptivity.html?m=1

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer,

      "Frankly I didn't understand your 'disclaimer.' What was the point of the hypothetical if it isn't what Christians believe? How does that illuminate anything?"

      The reason I chose a simplified, non-representative example was twofold. First, not matter what description I give somebody is going to claim I just "don't understand" Christianity. Likely this is because almost every person has a deferent description of what the proper relationship really is. That is why, secondly, I chose a simplified version so hopefully people could fill in the "blanks." Why should you strive to be moral? It undoubtably is founded in some desire, a desire to be close to God, please God, do His work on earth, develop a relationship, etc. etc. etc. feel free to fill in the blanks.

      Also my goal was merely to demonstrate the fact that it lacked intrinsic prescriptively, I just figured I would change it up by using a theistic example as I thought you and Aaron might be more sympathetic to such a formulation.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer,

      To start off with, people WILL act on their greatest desires given their beliefs... that is a given.

      "Suppose Agent has a desire 'Bathe in the blood of ten year old children,' and action 'kill a bunch of ten year old kids and pour their blood into a bathtub,' can improve the possibility of bathing in the blood of ten year old children, then the Agent ought to kill a bunch of ten year olds kids and pour their blood into a bathtub."

      If that is the agents only desire, than to achieve that outcome he ought to perform that act. That is not on the level people usually make moral assessments though. If I am going to rob a bank and desire to not be identified, I "ought" to where a mask.

      This is speaking less about morality and instead about "usefulness." In addition it should be pointed out that if someone's only desire really is to just bath in the blood of 10 year olds, nothing anyone says is going to be very persuasive.

      The question is, what ought "we" do in this situation?

      In general people have many and strong reasons to condemn and punish such actions, therefore society "ought to" condemn and punish him if he does this.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer, as in many instances, it depends on what you mean by the statement. There is no one "ought." if I asked you whether or not I ought to where a mask when robbing a bank, the answer would be I ought to do so for that task. If the question is whether or not society should condemn bank robbery, the answer would be that they ought to condemn it. As it is bad for society, from an ethical perspective I would say he should not kill a bunch of 10 year olds, by which I mean in general people have many and strong reasons to condemn such activity.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer, using the same example, if the killer wanted to go to hell, should he kill those children and reject Jesus, and if not, why not?

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer, whoops... Copy and past problems,

      " If you asked me whether you should wear a mask when robbing a bank, I would say 'Don't rob a bank.'"

      That would be a non-sequitor... The question wasn't whether one should rob a bank so your answer would not be an answer to what I asked.

      "Well, see, then I would say his desires are screwed up."

      Ought he love Jesus?

      The point is what you seem to be implying is a fault in desirism is just a fact about the way the world works. If someone's only desire is to go to hell, then they ought not become a Christian (obviously I am not speaking from my world view :).

      You can "define" tha as an immoral choice, but that is just arbitrary. Desirism is more concerned with things that actually exist and how they relate to the way we use moral language.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer,

      "And desirism ends up telling someone they ought to kill ten year olds and fill up their bathtub with the blood. I'm not sure what the benefit of your system is."

      Are you actually interested in this or just trying to think of a way to demonize what I say to make you feel better?

      Where did I say desirism tells someone they ought to kill 10 year olds, etc.? I have said the exact opposite, are you even paying attention to what I say?

      Only in so far as Christianity advocates this is it true... Are you saying that Christianity advocates such killings?

      Desirism says that society should condemn and punish someone who performs these killings or attempts to, do you have a problem with that?

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer,

      Are you interested in addressing things I HAVE said, or would you prefer to make up more boogy-men?

      "Ought he love Jesus?

      The point is what you seem to be implying is a fault in desirism is just a fact about the way the world works. If someone's only desire is to go to hell, then they ought not become a Christian (obviously I am not speaking from my world view :)." right?

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer, to simplify so you don't get confused. If someone's only desire is to go to hell, should they accept Jesus ("ought" they?)

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer,

      "Yes, they should accept Jesus, because their desire to go to hell is a sickness, a sick desire, and Jesus will heal that and they will realize what their true desire is."

      In that case it either wasn't a true desire or the desire was changed by Jesus somehow. That doesn't really effect my point however, theoretically if someone truly, deeply, sincerely, and unwaveringly desired hell over heaven there would be nothing you could say to that person... That is what I was basically saying in the case of the person who only desired the child murdering.

      "Let's try another angle of attack on your system. Should the person who puts the blood in the bathtub be punished?"

      Most certainly.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer,

      "Yes, they should accept Jesus, because their desire to go to hell is a sickness, a sick desire, and Jesus will heal that and they will realize what their true desire is."

      In that case it either wasn't a true desire or the desire was changed by Jesus somehow. That doesn't really effect my point however, theoretically if someone truly, deeply, sincerely, and unwaveringly desired hell over heaven there would be nothing you could say to that person... That is what I was basically saying in the case of the person who only desired the child murdering.

      "Let's try another angle of attack on your system. Should the person who puts the blood in the bathtub be punished?"

      Most certainly.

    • John Humberstone Andrew Britton This post might help clear up some confusion: atheistethicist.blogspot.com/2011/06/moral-ought-and-prescriptivity.html?m=1~

      I don't really have a problem with shoulds, oughts and musts apart from not finding them useful.

      What I can't get my head around is moral actions that seem to fulfil societies group desires that are deemed to be good by you definition. As a said earlier the reason, other than to fulfil desires, seems to be missing unless that is it.

    • Andrew Britton John Humberstone, would you mind re-phrasing that last question/comment, I am not sure I understand. Thanks.

    • John Humberstone It's the same point I made earlier in relation to a comment Aaron made, you may have missed it. As he said, theists carry out what they believe to be good/moral deeds in order to be closer to God. As I said then, I don't how how they assess achievement of that goal but at least it is understandable.

      You responded by saying that there were reasons to carry out moral actions without the presupposition of a God, but I must have missed what those reasons were.

    • Andrew Britton John Humberstone,

      "As he said, theists carry out what they believe to be good/moral deeds in order to be closer to God. As I said then, I don't how how they assess achievement of that goal but at least it is understandable."

      To me that is not understandable. Why should one do things to get closer to God? Saying something will make you closer to God does not by itself give a reason for you to do it. An action is only prescribed if this state of affairs is combined with a desire. A DESIRE to be close to God + a state of affairs that will bring you closer to God = a reason to bring about that state of affairs. Neither the desire nor the state of affairs by themselves tells you whether you "should" or "should not" perform an action.

      "You responded by saying that there were reasons to carry out moral actions without the presupposition of a God, but I must have missed what those reasons were."

      Desires are the ONLY reasons for action that exist. If someone asks why they should do something, the ONLY appropriate response is to give reasons for action.

      To say someone "ought" to do something means people generally have many and strong reasons to perform an action. What reasons are there not to murder say? People in general (including me) have many strong reasons to discourage murder in society as it tends to thwart desires. This desire thwarting IS IN ITSELF a reason for action.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer,

      "Why and who decides?"

      Why?

      People have many and strong reasons to condemn such actions as they tend to thwart many and stronger desires than it fulfills. I could explain what types of desires such murdering thwarts... But I am guessing you can probably figure it out if you think about it for a second.

      Who?

      No one. It is simply a factual statement to say it thwarts desires and it is thus a factual statement to say people generally have many and strong reasons to condemn it.

      "He values bathing in the blood of children and has acted to fulfill that value (I'm trying to use your formula but may not be getting it right) and so has fulfilled the desire. All the kids are now dead, so they have no more desires to be unfulfilled."

      The desires have been thwarted whether or not they are alive currently... Unless you also wish to claim they desired to die. Then there are the desires of the family, community, etc. In addition do you really not see the downside to having someone walking around with such desires?

      "So somebody -- who? -- has to decide his desire fulfillment "ought not" to have occurred. Who?"

      No one decides.

    • Andrew Britton ‎@tom tozer,

      "I think th problem... is that there is no morally right answer under your system. If there are more people who like to bathe in kids' blood than people who can stop them from doing it, your system has no way of saying that what they are doing is still wrong."

      In a hypothetical world where children and their parents strongly desired that they be killed in this way and thus this tended to fulfill such desires then there would be no reason to condemn, would there?

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer,

      "Yes, under natural law and Judeo-Christian morality, absolutely yes there would."

      What is this natural law and why should I follow it?

      "Take child sacrifice. Singer says babies aren't able to form desires. So no desires thwarted. But the parents desire to please the fertility god by killing their children."

      Where does Singer say this? As I am pretty sure you just made that up.

      "Judeo-Christian morality and natural law still condemn that. So, you're reading is incorrect."

      What "reading?" What non-desire based reason is there to follow this morality you discuss?

      As I said before, the same thing would be just as true under your "Judeo-Christian natural law." In a world where everyone wanted to go to hell and no one cared about getting closer to God, why shouldn't they kill these children?

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer, to be clear Singer's preference utilitarianism. Is different from desirism.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer, to be clear Singer's preference utilitarianism. Is different from desirism.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer,

      "A) I don't care if you follow it;"

      So if someone doesn't want to follow the natural law then it is up to them, you can't say they ought to?

      "C) The fact that you can't figure out why people shouldn't kill children is not a recommendation for your philosophy."

      As I have said many times, but for some reason you are completely oblivious to, the ethical system I follow says I should condemn the murder of children... as I have said over and over and over again... So I can't tell if you just don't want to understand me or if you are intentionally trying to demonize me.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer, so far I have provided a system that allows me to say objectively that reasons exist for me to condemn child sacrifice. So far you have said their is something called a natural law that you don't care whether I follow and can't seem to give me any reasons why I should follow it, but tha it says I shouldn't kill children, unless I decide I don't care abou this natural

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer, you have yet to explain WHY someone OUGHT to follow the natural law.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer, I have seen discussion of it, but I have yet to hear a clear explanation of why someone ought to follow natural law that doesn't ultimately reduce to desirism, so if you wouldn't mind enlightening me.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer,

      //On the second point, you said : "In a hypothetical world where children and their parents strongly desired that they be killed in this way and thus this tended to fulfill such desires then there would be no reason to condemn, would there?"

      Didn't you say that? Like two posts ago? What am I not understanding?//

      The answer to your question is already present in my response... In a HYPOTHETICAL WORLD. In the ACTUAL world that we REALLY LIVE IN, such murders should be condemned.

      It is a bit like saying you condone those murders because you answered yes to the situation of a HYPOTHETICAL universe where God commanded them.

      If God commanded you to murder those children, would you? And if you answer yes, would that mean you condone murder?

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer,

      Again, like I said I don't believe Singer has a sound basis for his ethical system and I disagree with him on some factual matters and on some of his methods of justifications.

      That being said, especially if anyone reads what you have said and immediately comes to the conclusion that Singer is a moral monster who should be immediately dismissed, here are two quotes from Singer.

      "Sometimes, perhaps because the baby has a serious disability, parents think it better that their newborn infant should die. Many doctors will accept their wishes, to the extent of not giving the baby life-supporting medical treatment. That will often ensure that the baby dies. My view is different from this, only to the extent that if a decision is taken, by the parents and doctors, that it is better that a baby should die, I believe it should be possible to carry out that decision, not only by withholding or withdrawing life-support – which can lead to the baby dying slowly from dehydration or from an infection - but also by taking active steps to end the baby’s life swiftly and humanely."

      " I give about 25% of what I earn to NGO’s, mostly to organizations helping the poor to live a better life. I don’t claim that this is as much as I should give. Since I started giving, about thirty years ago, I’ve gradually increased the amount I give, and I’m continuing to do so."

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer,

      "The reason you should follow the natural law has nothing to do with desiring anything. You should because it is your duty as a creature toward the creator."

      Why does you telling me it is my duty mean I ought to do it? Why do I have an obligation to my creator? I have yet to see where the "ought" comes from.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer,

      "The only thing different about the "hypothetical world" you proposed was what the people desired, as far as I could tell."

      The only thing I changed in my hypothetical was what God desired. So if God desires you to murder children and bath in their blood you ought to?

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer,

      I am curious what you think of the following article:

      http://mobile.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/02/rick_santorum_and_prenatal_testing_i_would_have_saved_my_son_from_his_suffering_.html

      It is about a parent struggling with the fact that their child is guaranteed a short life filled with ever increasing suffering.

      This I believe is along the lines of what I believe Singer is referring to. Even if you don't agree with Singer's conclusions, can you really call him a moral monster for wanting to reduce the suffering of children and parents in such horrible situations?


      mobile.slate.com
      This week my son turned blue, and for 30 terrifying seconds, stopped breathing. ...See more

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer, once again, in the interest of clarity, I actually disagree with Singer on this issue. I just get tired of people who often can't muster the intellectual fortitude to defend their own position demonising others for tackling difficult subjects. Whether or no I agree with him I recognize that his interest is in making the world a better place and I try to keep my criticisms on a rational logical level, and not a personal level.

    • Andrew Britton Tom Tozer,

      "Duty is a commonly understood word. I am not 'telling you' to do your duty. It is your duty whether you recognize it or not."

      My question is where does this duty come from and why "should" I do my duty? If you are claiming there is a moral duty that I "should" uphold, then you have to be able to explain where the duty and "should" come from.

      "Do it or don't. Not my problem."

      You keep saying this kind of thing but I don't really know what purpose it serves in a discussion on the foundation of morality? Would you accept this as a legitimate response to a question you asked about desirism? And if not, why should I?
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