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 Post subject: On Morality, Civilization, and Chaos
PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2012 8:33 pm 
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Let me first pin down what I mean by "morality". I only wish to have a discussion about the "ought statement". I'm not concerned, for example, with thick concepts, or social norms, even though those topics may be related.

There are two kinds of "ought statements", or imperatives as I shall call them: the hypothetical imperative, which has the form, "If your aim is X, you ought to do Y," and the categorical imperative, which has the simpler form, "You ought to do Y." My thesis is the following: (1) Hypothetical imperatives are not "ought statements", they are "is statements" which prescribe a suggested means (Y) for attaining a certain end (X). These statements, as statements, can be objectively true or false. (2) Categorical imperatives are non-cognitive expressions of subjective preferences. They are not statements, and cannot be true or false.

Here is how I arrive at this conclusion. When we say the word "ought" in both kinds of imperatives, we are implicitly invoking the notion of choice among alternative courses of action; we are saying, hypothetically or categorically, that, "You ought to do X, as opposed to not doing X." Thus our subject is within the realm of praxeology, the science of human action.

Only the hypothetical imperative is consistent with the interpretive framework of praxeology, since it is explicitly affirming the nature of action within the means-ends framework. Actors seek to achieve their ends by employing means, and a hypothetical imperative is an evaluative statement about an actor's choice of means to attain an end. This evaluation can be correct or incorrect, and thus hypothetical imperatives are either true or false statements.

With categorical imperatives, which make no mention of ends, but only of means, there are three possibilities about their relation to praxeology. (i) The persons or things which "ought" to act according to these imperatives don't have ends, which is inconsistent with praxeology. (ii) People do have ends, but they are objective, and the categorical imperative is a prescribed means for achieving these ends now taken to be assumed. Yet this is also inconsistent with praxeology, in which ends are subjective. (iii) A subjective end is assumed, in which case the imperative is actually a hypothetical imperative with an implicit assumption. In practice (e.g. "Don't shoot me!"), categorical imperatives are usually used in the way of (i). We intuitively understand the subjective nature of value, and so (ii) is rarely ever seen. And (iii) is just silly (e.g. "Assuming you don't want to kill me...don't shoot me!). In practice, when a person A says a categorical imperative to another person B, A is usually substituting B's ends for his own, i.e. speaking to B as if B doesn't have ends of himself, and prescribing action that is in accordance with his, A's, own aims. Thus A is merely expressing to B what his subjective preferences are. A statement like, "Murder is immoral," might then better be understood as meaning, "Boo murder!" which is not true or false, but simply an expression of preference.

The above is the meat of my post, but I would like to ask a second minor question to the posters here, who are of a libertarian/anarcho-capitalist/voluntaryist strain I presume. If I am correct in the above, then how can you reconcile your political philosophy? Why not simply take yours, fuck everyone else, and leave the place on fire? Is the NAP not, simply, a subjective value preference? And on what basis can you condemn those who deviate from your philosophy? This is obviously a very open ended question, so splurge whatever thoughts you may have.

Edit: Grammar


Last edited by TortoiseDream on Thu Dec 27, 2012 11:27 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: On Morality, Civilization, and Chaos
PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2012 9:35 pm 
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Hypothetical imperatives are not "ought statements", they are "is statements" which prescribe a suggested means (Y) for attaining a certain end (X). These statements, as statements, can be objectively true or false.

Can you give examples of such a statements, true and false? I'm not grasping the assertion one is making and thus how it could be true or false.


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 Post subject: Re: On Morality, Civilization, and Chaos
PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2012 11:10 pm 
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Prairie - for example, "if you want to decrease your likelihood of falling off a tall building, you shouldn't stand near the edge of such a building."

Getting the precise wording might be tricky because there are always corner cases, but I hope you get the gist.

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 Post subject: Re: On Morality, Civilization, and Chaos
PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2012 11:10 pm 
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TD - high quality post! Great to have you on board (ReasonThusLiberty here!).

I suggest you read Clayton's thoughts on the matter on the Voluntaryist Reader here: http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com ... -language/

In fact, I will PM him to take a look at this convo, which should interest him.

I essentially agree with most of your analysis. Be warned that I have not taken any classes in philosophy, so I am not sure I am representing Kant or anyone else's views correctly - I merely go by what I consider to be logical.

That being said, I agree with almost all of your analysis. You break down the categorical imperative quite nicely.

As to your question about morality, there are two things:

1) Some people work within a natural rights perspective. As such, they go by either (i) or (ii) of what you said - (I am not sure that ii should be discounted too soon).

What, then, of natural rights? Well, we know that there are no objective rights in the sense of them being inherent in the fabric of the universe. Strictly speaking, it's not inherently wrong to steal or murder.

The discussion of natural rights as some objective truth is useful insofar as statists are interested in proposing natural rights theories.

2) Can the natural rights theory be savaged intellectually so as to not be technically incorrect? I believe so. Merely convert "rights" to propositions. And since all rights are property rights, all you have to do is to show that property rights are a favorable social norm to be followed. I believe that if a person begins by assuming the validity of self-ownership (and who doesn't want to accept it one they're really pushed?), then property rights can be derived from the nature of scarcity and self-ownership.

Once property rights are derived, it's likely a matter of real-world trial and error that leads to the decision that right-libertarian property rights are best (as opposed to usufruct).

Therefore, the entire natural rights discussion can be reframed in terms of (iii) that you mention. It is not at all trivial that a large percent of people might decide to express their preference for not having murder in a society ("Boo murder!"). If people generally respect this rule and care enough to enforce it, then a system which respects "natural" rights will emerge.

At least, this is what I gather from this debate.

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 Post subject: Re: On Morality, Civilization, and Chaos
PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2012 11:15 pm 
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To clarify what I mean - even if natural rights don't exist as the simple "objective truths" of the categorical imperative, people might want them to - in that case, a discussion on natural rights makes sense once again.

Another way to look at natural rights (a way in which, I think, Nielsio approaches them) is to use them as utilitarian hypothetical imperatives - Given that you want to increase the standard of living of people, you should adopt property rights.

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 Post subject: Re: On Morality, Civilization, and Chaos
PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2012 11:15 pm 
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Prairie wrote:
Can you give examples of such a statements, true and false? I'm not grasping the assertion one is making and thus how it could be true or false.


Sure, here are some:

"If you want to keep your plant alive, you should water it each day." (probably true)

"If you want to keep your plant alive, you should set it on fire." (probably false)

"If you want to survive the big storm, you should fortify your home." (probably true)

"If you want to survive the storm, you should do a dance for the sky god." (probably false)

These are all just different forms of saying, for example, "Watering your plant each day is a correct choice of means for keeping it alive," etc.


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 Post subject: Re: On Morality, Civilization, and Chaos
PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2012 1:33 am 
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TortoiseDream wrote:
Let me first pin down what I mean by "morality". I only wish to have a discussion about the "ought statement". I'm not concerned, for example, with thick concepts, or social norms, even though those topics may be related.

There are two kinds of "ought statements", or imperatives as I shall call them: the hypothetical imperative, which has the form, "If your aim is X, you ought to do Y," and the categorical imperative, which has the simpler form, "You ought to do Y." My thesis is the following: (1) Hypothetical imperatives are not "ought statements", they are "is statements" which prescribe a suggested means (Y) for attaining a certain end (X). These statements, as statements, can be objectively true or false. (2) Categorical imperatives are non-cognitive expressions of subjective preferences. They are not statements, and cannot be true or false.


I mean, if that's what you want to assert, then there really isn't a lot to talk about. "This category of discussion is inherently meaningless.... what do you think?" Well, how does it matter what I think if you have asserted from the outset that any such discussion is meaningless??

If I had to answer the non-cognitive view, I would probably start with aesthetics. Is it really the case that "She has a great body" communicates nothing in particular to the hearer?? I think that most anyone above the age of 10 or so, will understand precisely what is being communicated. Thus, such an expression is capable of being false (for example, if stated in regard to a morbidly obese, disgusting-looking woman).

Quote:
Here is how I arrive at this conclusion. When we say the word "ought" in both kinds of imperatives, we are implicitly invoking the notion of choice among alternative courses of action; we are saying, hypothetically or categorically, that, "You ought to do X, as opposed to not doing X." Thus our subject is within the realm of praxeology, the science of human action.

Only the hypothetical imperative is consistent with the interpretive framework of praxeology, since it is explicitly affirming the nature of action within the means-ends framework. Actors seek to achieve their ends by employing means, and a hypothetical imperative is an evaluative statement about an actor's choice of means to attain an end. This evaluation can be correct or incorrect, and thus hypothetical imperatives are either true or false statements.

With categorical imperatives, which make no mention of ends, but only of means, there are three possibilities about their relation to praxeology. (i) The persons or things which "ought" to act according to these imperatives don't have ends, which is inconsistent with praxeology. (ii) People do have ends, but they are objective, and the categorical imperative is a prescribed means for achieving these ends now taken to be assumed. Yet this is also inconsistent with praxeology, in which ends are subjective. (iii) A subjective end is assumed, in which case the imperative is actually a hypothetical imperative with an implicit assumption. In practice (e.g. "Don't shoot me!"), categorical imperatives are usually used in the way of (i). We intuitively understand the subjective nature of value, and so (ii) is rarely ever seen. And (iii) is just silly (e.g. "Assuming you don't want to kill me...don't shoot me!). In practice, when a person A says a categorical imperative to another person B, A is usually substituting B's ends for his own, i.e. speaking to B as if B doesn't have ends of himself, and prescribing action that is in accordance with his, A's, own aims. Thus A is merely expressing to B what his subjective preferences are. A statement like, "Murder is immoral," might then better be understood as meaning, "Boo murder!" which is not true or false, but simply an expression of preference.


There is a fourth option you have not mentioned: that there is an end which is implied in all other ends. Please see my article on Suffering and Satisfaction: http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com/2012/12/07/suffering-and-satisfaction/.

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The above is the meat of my post, but I would like to ask a second minor question to the posters here, who are of a libertarian/anarcho-capitalist/voluntaryist strain I presume. If I am correct in the above, then how can you reconcile your political philosophy? Why not simply take yours, fuck everyone else, and leave the place on fire? Is the NAP not, simply, a subjective value preference? And on what basis can you condemn those who deviate from your philosophy? This is obviously a very open ended question, so splurge whatever thoughts you may have.


Sure, it's a great question. I think I will do a blog post on this at some point.

First of all, there are a lot of libertarians who fly their libertarianism merely as a flag-of-convenience. Many anarchists are not really anti-government so much as anti-this-government - cf Bill Whittle's webcam boohoo-fest right after the 2012 Obama win. And many libertarians only want to watch it all burn so they can have a chance to build their own little tyranny (I call it the "Bane mentality", to borrow from the recent Batman movie).

But, surely, a consistent libertarian is made of something better than this. So, on the other side of the equation are the deontological libertarians... I call them the "NAP-fundamentalists." God has one commandment: Thou Shalt Not Aggress. And that's it. You have a duty to obey God's one commandment. We all do. I am a libertarian because I obey this commandment. The secular NAP-fundamentalists keep the deontology and discard the theological rationalization, leading to a bizarre kind of foundationless-yet-religious-commitment to the NAP as a universal deontological imperative*. Many people find this approach quite unpersuasive.

But is it possible for a person to be sincerely libertarian and uncomfortable with the idea of baseless-self-sacrifice? I think it is and the answer comes through realizing the long-run, destructive consequences of your own, anti-human attitudes on your self. We are hardwired to cooperate with each other. Intentionally undermining this through statism, imperial religionism, or fair-weather-libertarianism is to inflict harm on one's own self, purely psychologically.

In addition, relating to others on a purely genuine level is more satisfying and durable. The fact is that other people are spectacularly good at seeing through our pretenses. You can act like you have their interests at heart - while not really having their interests at heart - but this fraud is quickly detected and people treat you like what you are: an asshole. Since assholes are not treated as well as non-assholes, it's in your own interests to learn to sincerely care about other people, that is, to inculcate the virtue of altruism in oneself.

Stated differently, both your own brain and the people around you will retaliate against you for mistreating other people. While people will not stop aggressing against you merely by virtue of becoming a good person, at least some of those who would have retaliated against you had you been a selfish jerk will instead cooperate with you, leading to a better outcome for you, overall.

So, it's my contention that it is a mistake to imagine that you benefit from mistreating others when given the opportunity to do so "without consequence". But this is a long-run cost/benefit analysis... you can't just judge each choice individually without respect to its long-run effects on your own psychology (learning/reinforcement of habits, guilt, fears, etc.) and on your reputation (how others perceive you). Aggressing against others changes you, and it changes how others treat you. Though it may require some maturity to be able to discern this, it is clearly a net loss to you, the would-be aggressor.

"It is not possible for one who secretly violates the provisos of the agreement not to inflict nor allow harm to be confident that he won’t get caught, even if he has gotten away with it a thousand times before. For up until the time of death, there is no certainty that he will indeed escape detection." - Epicurus, Principle Doctrines 35

Clayton -

*The most heavy-duty arguments in this direction have to do with the universality criterion and the claim that only the NAP can satisfy this criterion, etc.

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 Post subject: Re: On Morality, Civilization, and Chaos
PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2012 2:21 am 
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Quote:
There are two kinds of "ought statements", or imperatives as I shall call them: the hypothetical imperative, which has the form, "If your aim is X, you ought to do Y," and the categorical imperative, which has the simpler form, "You ought to do Y." My thesis is the following: (1) Hypothetical imperatives are not "ought statements", they are "is statements" which prescribe a suggested means (Y) for attaining a certain end (X). These statements, as statements, can be objectively true or false. (2) Categorical imperatives are non-cognitive expressions of subjective preferences. They are not statements, and cannot be true or false.


While I think I understand what you are trying to say, you are using some contradictory language. "Is statements" cannot prescribe as they would be "ought statements" if they did. Anyway, there is an often overlooked problem when talking about the "best" way or the "correct" way to achieve an end. Real ends are actually incredibly specific. Theoretical ends, such as "I want to be an NBA star", are too broad and don't reflect reality.

Suppose you wanting to be an NBA star is actually one of your ends. It will not always be your current end as you will have to eat and sleep at the very least. So, we might say "If you want to be an NBA star, then you ought to practice basketball." Okay, but what then? How many hours per day? How many days per week? Are you going to exercise everyday? What exactly are you going to practice? How often will you practice by yourself versus training with others? And then there are other non-basketball related ends. Are you going to have a social life? Are you going to go to school? Are you going to get a job? Etc.

What we see here is that your end of wanting to be an NBA star is actually ranked against other ends. Some people might desire to be an basketball star, but maybe they aren't willing to rank that end above others. Maybe they would really like to be an NBA star, but they just can't give up their social life.

Even if there is only one way of achieving a particular end, it is still prescribed. If you want to be an NBA star, then you should do X. We can learn how an individual actor values that end by whether or not he does X. If he does X, then we know that he valued being an NBA star more than other ends, and if he does not do X, then we know that he valued other ends over being an NBA star. Either way, these statements are still ought statements.

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 Post subject: Re: On Morality, Civilization, and Chaos
PostPosted: Sat Dec 29, 2012 1:08 am 
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Wheylous,

Thanks for the kind words!

Quote:
Clayton's thoughts


I did read this when you posted to reddit, and I don't remember disagreeing with anything there. I'm glad he took the time to differentiate the various uses of the word "morality".

Quote:
To clarify what I mean - even if natural rights don't exist as the simple "objective truths" of the categorical imperative, people might want them to - in that case, a discussion on natural rights makes sense once again.


I understand what you mean, but I think this is a conversation beyond what I intended (although I welcome it, nonetheless). Ends are not objective, but if we look into the world we find the vast majority of people with similar subjective ends, such as securing their person and their property. This, however, is just a statement of fact, to which I could simply say - so what!


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 Post subject: Re: On Morality, Civilization, and Chaos
PostPosted: Sat Dec 29, 2012 1:57 am 
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Clayton,

Quote:
Well, how does it matter what I think if you have asserted from the outset that any such discussion is meaningless??


Well I'm not wanting to have a conversation about morals (e.g. "What should we do?"), I want to have a conversation about whether I'm right or wrong about morality being "meaningless".

Quote:
Is it really the case that "She has a great body" communicates nothing in particular to the hearer??


It does communicate something, but only the preferences of the speaker. The listener can be in agreement or disagreement with that preference, but that's not the same thing as the expression being "true" or "false".

Quote:
There is a fourth option you have not mentioned


Can you elaborate on what you mean, and what you think the implications are for the categorical imperative?

Mises would have agreed that, by definition, action and striving for happiness are formally the same thing. Indeed, we are in no position to substitute our vision of happiness for another's. I'm hesitant to call the ultimate end an "end" like other ends, for this reason. Like "infinity" in mathematics, I prefer to think of the ultimate end as a direction.

Quote:
Sure, it's a great question. I think I will do a blog post on this at some point.


I'll be waiting for your blog post. In the mean time, from what I gather, would you agree with the summary that you adhere to a principle of non-aggression because you believe a society where people by and large also adhere to this principle will enable you to achieve your own ends most successfully?


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 Post subject: Re: On Morality, Civilization, and Chaos
PostPosted: Sat Dec 29, 2012 2:01 am 
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gotlucky,

Quote:
While I think I understand what you are trying to say, you are using some contradictory language. "Is statements" cannot prescribe as they would be "ought statements" if they did.


Fair enough.

As for the rest of your post, I'm in full agreement that ends are ranked, and this ranking can change in time. But I fail to see your point...


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 Post subject: Re: On Morality, Civilization, and Chaos
PostPosted: Sat Dec 29, 2012 11:52 am 
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My point was my entire last paragraph:

gotlucky wrote:
Even if there is only one way of achieving a particular end, it is still prescribed. If you want to be an NBA star, then you should do X. We can learn how an individual actor values that end by whether or not he does X. If he does X, then we know that he valued being an NBA star more than other ends, and if he does not do X, then we know that he valued other ends over being an NBA star. Either way, these statements are still ought statements.

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 Post subject: Re: On Morality, Civilization, and Chaos
PostPosted: Sat Dec 29, 2012 4:37 pm 
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Quote:
Even if there is only one way of achieving a particular end, it is still prescribed.


What is prescribed? What are you talking about?

Quote:
If you want to be an NBA star, then you should do X. We can learn how an individual actor values that end by whether or not he does X.


No that doesn't quite follow. Humans are prone to make errors. Maybe he wants to be an NBA star, but erroneously does something else Y instead of X.

Quote:
Either way, these statements are still ought statements.


What statements?

In any case my post is about how "ought statements" are "meaningless", i.e. either "is statements" or just non-statement noise making (essentially). My post is to challenge the validity of "ought statements" as used in philosophy.


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 Post subject: Re: On Morality, Civilization, and Chaos
PostPosted: Sat Dec 29, 2012 5:05 pm 
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Quote:
What is prescribed? What are you talking about?


I have no idea what you are talking about now. In your OP, you said:

Quote:
My thesis is the following: (1) Hypothetical imperatives are not "ought statements", they are "is statements" which prescribe a suggested means (Y) for attaining a certain end (X). These statements, as statements, can be objectively true or false.


As I already pointed out, this is contradictory language. You cannot mix the language of ought statements (e.g. prescribe) with the language of is statements. It's like talking about square circles.

As I was say, even if there is only one way of achieving X, the method is still prescribed. In other words, even if the only way to make chocolate milk is to use milk as an ingredient, the means is prescribed. You should use milk as an ingredient in chocolate milk or you will not achieve your end of having chocolate milk.

Quote:
No that doesn't quite follow. Humans are prone to make errors. Maybe he wants to be an NBA star, but erroneously does something else Y instead of X.


I was assuming that the individual understood the particular means necessary to achieving his goal of being an NBA star. But even if we were to take that assumption away (as it is in the real world), it is still accurate. Part of achieving any goal is to learn what needs to be done in order to achieve it. If you cannot bother to learn what you need to do in order to achieve your goal, then clearly you did not value that goal as highly as you thought.

Quote:
What statements?


The statements that if you want to achieve X, then you ought to do Y...Those are clearly ought statements, not only for the reasons provided but also because it contains the word and meaning of ought...

Quote:
In any case my post is about how "ought statements" are "meaningless", i.e. either "is statements" or just non-statement noise making (essentially). My post is to challenge the validity of "ought statements" as used in philosophy.


Ought statements are not is statements. Clayton already explained how they are not meaningless, and I explained how they are very clearly ought statements. They prescribe actions. In other words, they tell you what you should do. If you want X, then you should do Y. If it is the case that Y will achieve X, then you should do Y if you want X. If you don't want X, then you shouldn't do Y. The only way you can make an is statement out of these is to say "If Y, then X." That is a descriptive is statement. "If you want X, then you ought to do Y" is an ought statement. And it is certainly not meaningless.

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 Post subject: Re: On Morality, Civilization, and Chaos
PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2012 12:02 am 
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Here is Nielsio's reply from Reddit:

Quote:
The OP appears compatible with my philosophy (and Mises's).

As far as the question:

Quote:
The above is the meat of my post, but I would like to ask a second minor question to the posters here, who are of a libertarian/anarcho-capitalist/voluntaryist strain I presume. If I am correct in the above, then how can you reconcile your political philosophy? Why not simply take yours, fuck everyone else, and leave the place on fire?


..my answer is here: http://nielsio.tumblr.com/post/30568008370/david-gordon-and-the-cash-register-thought-experiment

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 Post subject: Re: On Morality, Civilization, and Chaos
PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2012 3:02 am 
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TortoiseDream wrote:
Clayton,

Quote:
Well, how does it matter what I think if you have asserted from the outset that any such discussion is meaningless??


Well I'm not wanting to have a conversation about morals (e.g. "What should we do?"), I want to have a conversation about whether I'm right or wrong about morality being "meaningless".


I think I would point to the abject failure of all the positivistic projects. The logical positivists failed. Empiricism failed. Positivist moral nihilism ("moral language is meaningless") also fails for similar reasons (cf the arguments Hoppe gives in A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism (http://mises.org/etexts/SocCap.pdf), Chapter 7).

My next question would be: which of the four connotations of moral language do you think are meaningless?? Does the question "Do people in Muslim countries generally believe homosexual sex is immoral?" really have no true/false answer??

Quote:
Quote:
Is it really the case that "She has a great body" communicates nothing in particular to the hearer??


It does communicate something, but only the preferences of the speaker. The listener can be in agreement or disagreement with that preference, but that's not the same thing as the expression being "true" or "false".


Think again - a definite meaning is conveyed in the same way that "imagine a circle" conveys a definite meaning. It seems to me you are creating a false-dilemma between the (clearly false) idea of communication-as-mental-Xeroxing and logical nihilism. You don't have to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Sure, you and I can disagree on the boundary-cases - just as we can disagree whether this is really red, magenta or violet - but "she has a great body" doesn't maybe refer to a 450-lb, bedridden, reeking slob. It definitely does not refer to that, so therefore, it conveys some definite meaning. It distinguishes between a "this" and a "that" to at least some degree.

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There is a fourth option you have not mentioned


Can you elaborate on what you mean, and what you think the implications are for the categorical imperative?


Basically, if you have a conditional imperative: "If you want to X, then you must do Y" and you choose an X such that "If you want to do X" is necessarily always true, then the entire if-clause becomes redundant and can be dropped. Consider: "If you want to be happy/satisfied then you must do Y". But since it is always the case that you want to be happy/satisfied whenever you are making a choice (happiness/satisfaction is the end that is implied in all other ends), then we can just drop the if-clause and say "You must do Y."

Thus, categorical imperatives are all the conditions of individual choice related to happiness/satisfaction. This is why I call satisfaction the moral criterion. It is the only basis upon which right-and-wrong can be judged by the individual.

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Mises would have agreed that, by definition, action and striving for happiness are formally the same thing. Indeed, we are in no position to substitute our vision of happiness for another's. I'm hesitant to call the ultimate end an "end" like other ends, for this reason. Like "infinity" in mathematics, I prefer to think of the ultimate end as a direction.


As do I. It is an unattainable end, but I disagree that we should not call it an end for this reason. People pursue many things that they attain only incrementally (e.g. monetary wealth).

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Sure, it's a great question. I think I will do a blog post on this at some point.


I'll be waiting for your blog post. In the mean time, from what I gather, would you agree with the summary that you adhere to a principle of non-aggression because you believe a society where people by and large also adhere to this principle will enable you to achieve your own ends most successfully?


No. Because I believe this principle will enable you to achieve your own ends most successfully. And me too. That is, it will benefit each and every one of us... except those in the parasitic class. They will lose out. But I have difficulty having sympathy for such a "plight."

Clayton -

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 Post subject: Re: On Morality, Civilization, and Chaos
PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2012 3:56 am 
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gotlucky wrote:
As I already pointed out, this is contradictory language. You cannot mix the language of ought statements (e.g. prescribe) with the language of is statements. It's like talking about square circles.

As I was say, even if there is only one way of achieving X, the method is still prescribed. In other words, even if the only way to make chocolate milk is to use milk as an ingredient, the means is prescribed. You should use milk as an ingredient in chocolate milk or you will not achieve your end of having chocolate milk.

Ought statements are not is statements. Clayton already explained how they are not meaningless, and I explained how they are very clearly ought statements. They prescribe actions. In other words, they tell you what you should do. If you want X, then you should do Y. If it is the case that Y will achieve X, then you should do Y if you want X. If you don't want X, then you shouldn't do Y. The only way you can make an is statement out of these is to say "If Y, then X." That is a descriptive is statement. "If you want X, then you ought to do Y" is an ought statement. And it is certainly not meaningless.


I already admitted that I may have been a bit sloppy in the wording of my OP using the words "prescribe" and "ought statement". Thanks for pointing that out. Here is how I would revise it so that it's clearer what I'm trying to say:

(1) Hypothetical imperatives are "is statements" which state that some means (Y) is correct for attaining a certain end (X). These statements, as statements, can be objectively true or false.

In other words the statements, "If you want X, you ought to do Y," and, "Y is a correct choice of means for doing X," are formally equivalent. I think we may be also having trouble commucating due to the fact that "ought statement" hasn't been rigorously defined anywhere in the discussion yet. So if you want to propose that this statement is also an "ought statement", fine.

gotlucky wrote:
But even if we were to take that assumption away (as it is in the real world), it is still accurate. Part of achieving any goal is to learn what needs to be done in order to achieve it. If you cannot bother to learn what you need to do in order to achieve your goal, then clearly you did not value that goal as highly as you thought.


No, I still disagree. Even if you devote an enormous amount of effort into determining how to achieve your goals, you can still be in error.


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 Post subject: Re: On Morality, Civilization, and Chaos
PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2012 11:53 pm 
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I already admitted that I may have been a bit sloppy in the wording of my OP using the words "prescribe" and "ought statement". Thanks for pointing that out. Here is how I would revise it so that it's clearer what I'm trying to say:

(1) Hypothetical imperatives are "is statements" which state that some means (Y) is correct for attaining a certain end (X). These statements, as statements, can be objectively true or false.

In other words the statements, "If you want X, you ought to do Y," and, "Y is a correct choice of means for doing X," are formally equivalent. I think we may be also having trouble commucating due to the fact that "ought statement" hasn't been rigorously defined anywhere in the discussion yet. So if you want to propose that this statement is also an "ought statement", fine.


There is no other way to put this: Is-statements and ought-statements can never be equivalent. They are unrelated. An is-statement stating that Y will achieve X is equivalent to modus ponens: if Y, then X. These are objectively either true or false. If your statement that "some means (Y) is correct for attaining a certain end (X)" is equivalent to Y will achieve X, then that is indeed an is-statement.

It is not and ought-statement. "You should do Y if you want X" is an ought-statement. It is a separate idea from the is-statement version above.

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No, I still disagree. Even if you devote an enormous amount of effort into determining how to achieve your goals, you can still be in error.


My response is the same. If you cannot bother to learn what means you need to achieve your goal, then you did not value it as highly as you thought. I'm not talking about some impossible to foresee circumstance beyond your control preventing you from achieving your goal. If your goal is to bake a cake, then you need to learn what you need to do in order to achieve that goal. There are many things that you need to do to ensure that you will achieve your goal, such as learning the recipe, learning how to operate an oven, making sure your baking area is safe, etc.

If something that is within your control prevents your from reaching your goal, then clearly you did not value your goal as highly as you thought. For example, if you don't bother to learn how to operate an oven, then you will not be able to bake a cake. This is within your control. If you do not learn to operate an oven, this means that you spent your time doing other things - things that you clearly preferred doing over learning to operate an oven.

However, some things are outside of your control, such as a storm. You might take all sorts of precautions to not live in an area where earthquakes are common or where hurricanes are common, but sometimes shit happens. If you could not have done anything about it, then there is no sensible way to say that you didn't value baking the cake highly enough.

You always have choices, and if you want to bake that cake, then you need to learn how to accomplish it. If you consult the tomes of the god of baking in order to learn and for some reason this doesn't work, then you need to look to other options, unless you don't value your goal of baking a cake as highly as you thought. If you really want that cake more than other things, then you will find a way (provided it isn't some impossible goal).

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 Post subject: Re: On Morality, Civilization, and Chaos
PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 6:20 am 
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gotlucky wrote:
There is no other way to put this: Is-statements and ought-statements can never be equivalent. They are unrelated.


Did you read my response to you? This is a semantic point of disagreement.

gotlucky wrote:
My response is the same. If you cannot bother to learn what means you need to achieve your goal, then you did not value it as highly as you thought.


I see no counter-argument here.


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 Post subject: Re: On Morality, Civilization, and Chaos
PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:50 pm 
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TortoiseDream,

I read your response. If you want to define is-statements and ought-statements as the same, so be it. Your critique is irrelevant to the normal debate where people make a meaningful distinction between is-statements and ought-statements. In terms of meaning, is-statements and ought-statements do not mean the same thing. That is why they are different categories of statements.

As I said, feel free to define them however you want, but then your resulting critique has nothing to do with the traditional distinction.

Regarding the counterargument, you never offered one to begin with. You failed to see my point, which was that you did not value your goal as highly as you thought, not that you didn't value your goal at all. You offered nothing to respond to so I tried to explain in more detail.

I might as well ask you what you asked me: Did you read my response to you?

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