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What essentially is Good and Evil?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Justme, May 6, 2012.

  1. To go into formal logic for a moment: If you accept the axiom that committing a murder is acceptable, then there cannot be any way to logically argue that the axiom is wrong--it's an axiom. There are no propositions you can make, or conclusions you can reach, that can flip that axiom, because you can't do that to axioms.

    So basically, the answer you're looking for is "no." If you accept that murder is okay, then there is no way to convince you that it's not.
     
  2. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    I'm reminded of the stories of family feuds in a certain european country I saw on TV, because of one murder, two families get caught up in a cycle of revenge that ends up with both families stuck inside their homes, really closer to fortresses at that time, for years. They can't step outside for fear of the other family killing them. Logically, if you disregard societies' consequences, then others would likewise be forced to disregard societies' consequences in a desire for revenge.
     
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I can't speak for exactly what Mindfire means by the term, but it's fairly easy to logically reduce any statement to the point where it has no meaning whatsoever, such that there's almost nothing which can be thoroughly and reasonably believed. Unless somewhere you accept some assumption about something, there's no logical basis for anything, even science.

    The question is, where should you get your "assumptions"? Which leads me to:

    The thing is, when all is ultimately reduced, there is only one piece of truly observable evidence: Yourself.

    Everything you experience - what you read, what you see, what you're told, taste or touch - all of it comes through that filter of you. When I talk about experiences that make me believe the things I do, I don't think I'm talking about miracles. I think I'm just talking about life, about the study and reflection of myself and what I conclude from that.

    And I conclude, almost right away: I make choices which have nothing to do with what my body or with what society is telling me. And an easy meta-analysis of myself, and the people I observe, convinces me that the same is true for others.

    Consequently, if I think that I deserve any respect, I think that they do, too.

    Wait, what's that thing in me telling me I deserve respect? Why should I trust it? Well, answering that would keep me here all night, and probably be pointless for the moment.
     
  4. Fnord

    Fnord Troubadour

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    Which is why anarchy as a form of society cannot persist. As Benjamin pointed out a couple pages back, societies that embraced this would go extinct and thus the ones that survived had to have some system of cooperation in order to persist.
     
  5. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I'm sorry, the second part of that question might have looked like a general "you," but I meant to direct it at you personally. Do you personally accept any axioms which would logically explain why murder is unacceptable? And what's your reasoning for that axiom?
     
  6. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Doesn't this get close to Kant's categorical imperative? I'm not a philosopher, so hopefully I haven't bungled it, but Kant laid out an argument for absolutes in moral behavior, that argued that immorality was irrational (and thus the product of some force acting against the reason of the individual).
     
  7. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    Ah, I'm reminded about Renee Descartes' and his famous saying; "I think, therefore I am," Basically, he was doing a thought experiment to find something that couldn't be disproven in any way what-so-ever. Sight, sound, taste, etc, all of these can be fooled, all that can't be disproven in any way is that there is -something- asking those questions. I'm not sure if that philosophy is still applicable or if it was disproven since, but it's still a lovely concept and forms the base of most of my magical / time travelling systems, everything else can be disproven, the self can't.
     
  8. This is true, but I'm not sure how this contradicts anything I said. In general, any claim can be broken down into simpler, more basic claims; eventually you get to the point where a claim can't be broken down or supported by evidence, and now you've got your core axiom. This is how it works; there is no other choice. Where we all differ is in our choice of axiom. Because axioms cannot be proven (they are assumed to be true without evidence), they are all equally valid, although they are not all equally useful.

    Yeah, that's solipsism. It's a perfectly valid core axiom, although not very useful. Let me put it this way:

    Imagine that Bob accepts solipsism ("My mind is the only thing that I know exists; nothing else I perceive can be treated as reliably existing") as his core axiom. This means that nothing he does makes any difference to anything, or has any point to it.

    However, one of Bob's goals is to lead a fulfilling, entertaining life. The solipsism axiom is incompatible with that goal. So he chooses a different axiom:

    "My mind is not the only thing that exists; other things exist, too, and I can perceive them (imperfectly) through the mechanisms of my senses."

    That axiom is compatible with Bob's goal. He goes on to live a fulfilling life as a tax accountant.
     
  9. Ah, sorry, I misunderstood.

    So the answer there is yes. I do personally accept axioms which lead to murder being unacceptable, mostly because one of my (derived) goals is to not be murdered. My reasoning goes like this:

    Everything starts with your goal. My goal is to live a life as long, happy, healthy, fulfilled, and free of undue injury as possible, given my circumstances. My core axiom must be compatible with that goal, and must not logically lead to any conclusions that conflict with that goal.

    My core axiom is that there exists a universe that I am inside, and I can perceive things (with varying degrees of reliability) within that universe.

    One of the things I observe in this universe is that human societies that allow random murder do not survive as well as societies that don't. Such murderous societies also drastically increase the chance of members of those societies being murdered. Being murdered is incompatible with my goal.

    To minimize the chance of being murdered, I want my society to promulgate the idea that murder is unacceptable, and to segregate from the rest of the population those who have shown a willingness or inclination to commit murder, as doing so will reduce my chance of being murdered. (insert thousands of scientific studies about sociology and criminology here, conveniently undertaken by other people so that I don't have to do all the research myself)

    "Murder is unacceptable" (or "murder is wrong/evil/immoral") is shorthand for all of the above.
     
  10. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    But is there anything which would make it logically unacceptable for you to ever want to commit murder if that murder, and the consequences of that murder, were not incompatible with your goals? That's what I'm asking. I understand why society would want to limit murders, and why you would support that as a member of society. But is there a logical reason, based on any axioms which you accept, which would prevent you from doing exactly what you would ask society to discourage?
     
  11. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    Scientific reductionism, also known as strong naturalism, is the philosophical stance that absolutely everything, no exceptions, can be explained mechanically through the power of SCIENCE!
     
  12. Ah, okay.

    In that case, I have to disagree that what I said is equivalent to scientific reductionism.
     
  13. I'm confused. Are you asking that, if I had a different set of axioms, I might come to a different conclusion than I have now? The answer to that is self-evidently yes, so I'm not sure why you even need to ask. If you want, I can come up with a goal which is compatible with the conclusion that murder is a-ok, and work through the logic of it.

    Or maybe you're asking whether or not any of the axioms that I currently do accept prevent me from committing murder. In that case, the answer is also yes. For one thing, me committing murder helps contribute toward the murder-acceptance situation that I want to avoid; second, I would most likely get caught and punished, which would be incompatible with my stated goal; third, I would most likely feel really awful and guilty if I murdered someone, which would be incompatible with my stated goal; fourth, my family would suffer if I were imprisoned for murder, which would be incompatible with my stated goal.
     
  14. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    First, you entirely missed my point. You're being too literal. I meant "economics" in a broad sense. In a "perfect economic system" poverty would not exist because producers and consumers would all happily coexist and get whatever they needed. This is obviously not reality, and something that is not perfect is, by definition, imperfect.

    And I don't think that reasoning necessarily points us toward relativism, because to say that is to imply that anyone who believes rather in moral absolutes is necessarily unreasonable. And that implication devolves to insult fairly quickly.
     
  15. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    And again, this gets back to Kant, who said (if I'm understanding it correctly) that an absolute form of morality is reasonable, and immorality (which certain aspects of a relativistic approach would fall into) is irrational.
     
  16. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    this is rather confusing.... I imagine this is what those reading my arguments felt like....

    I'll just say that I think you're wrong, but I respect your right to your opinion even if I disagree with it, as that is part of MY moral belief.
     
  17. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    I've been following along, or at least trying. :p And I've been thinking, not always a good thing. But here's what's been running around my head. Wondering if I've missed anything.

    If there's objective morality then where did it come from?

    If it came from a deity, who is all powerful and all knowing that created the universe, which means the deity knows all that has happened and all that will happen and created the universe in accordance with that knowledge.

    If that's the case, we are all predestined to do act as the deity has planned, which means we have no free will.

    Without free will, how can there be morality? How can we be judged guilty of anything we have no control over?

    Now if there is no deity, who is the determiner of objective morality?
     
  18. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    You can have a deity who doesn't know everything that will happen :)
     
  19. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    The second is not the logical outreach of the first. An omnipotent deity can, by definition, choose to create people who have free will, but would of course know the outcome of their choices. But foreknowledge does not necessitate predetermination. ((If you happen to be a Calvinist, you can send me a PM about it.))
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2012
    Phietadix likes this.
  20. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    Heh, there's always my favorite explanation ^^ God's a jerk.
     
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