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Morality - a Scientific question

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What? Science deals with determined events? Says who? You think going to the Moon was a determined event? Or it wasn't science?

In order to go to the Moon which is a moral choice you need to establish few scientific facts-that is, identity of objects and cause-effect connections between them which determine their interaction. The fire of the rocket engine is determined event. The will to fire it-not. But will has nothing to do with science. 

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  I think this needs to be said for the sake of a few discussions here.

 

  When people use the word science today, they typically mean a rigorous application of logic and method to a group of data. Experimentation and analysis is performed that can be replicated by any other person. This is usually done to create predictive models.  These methods and the institutions surrounding them are subject to the arguments between philosophers of science. Those men argue about which methodologies are the best, which are the most valid, which can be said to get to the bottom of issues. These men and women often rely on the works of more general philosophers.  

 

   This is different from reason. Reason is available to all people. Innduction, deduction, reduction, integration, and limited experimentation. This is how people learn every day. Philosophy can only be based in reason, and science can only be based in a reasonable philosophy. There is no philosophy that can claim to be based in science. 

 

    A serious philosopher will appeal to facts that any person can induce for themselves when discussing ethics. Numerous ancient philosophers operated this way. They would observe a fact of life (sometimes imagined) , and then explain what this means for us. They would appeal to ideas about birth, life, death, sex,  pain, suffering, children, work. Any person intent on living life will already have attempted to learn a little about those things. The philosopher can hopefully rely on the reasoning abilities of his audience when he proposes an ethical idea. 

 

   I don't think that the fundamental questions of ethics require the specialized knowledge of science.  Psychology, economics, and the medical sciences may be able to help us understand certain ethical ideas better, but those sciences are best understood separately from the branch of philosophy known as ethics. 

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Nicky, it's not a good practice to use Wikipedia to as a foundation for such complex subjects.

I could've used any popular source which defines words in the English language, and they would've provided the same exact definition for science.

P.S. Had I known that you were just looking for a debate on definitions, I would've never bothered answering your question in the first place. Yes, you can define your way into being right on anything. But morality is not science, as far as the current definition of science goes. Going around telling people that it is would accomplish nothing except confusion and pointless discussions like this one.

Edited by Nicky

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I could've used any popular source which defines words in the English language, and they would've provided the same exact definition for science.P.S. Had I known that you were just looking for a debate on definitions, I would've never bothered answering your question in the first place. Yes, you can define your way into being right on anything. But morality is not science, as far as the current definition of science goes. Going around telling people that it is would accomplish nothing except confusion and pointless discussions like this one.

Say what? My whole point is that one can't solve this by appealing simply to popular definitions. In effect I am precisely say that you CAN'T define your way into being right but that determining what is science is a complex endeavour.

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Hairnet said:

" This is different from reason. Reason is available to all people. Innduction, deduction, reduction, integration, and limited experimentation. This is how people learn every day. Philosophy can only be based in reason, and science can only be based in a reasonable philosophy. There is no philosophy that can claim to be based in science. "

Wrong, reason, induction,deduction, reduction and integration are all used in the special sciences. What you all are unaware of is that the "typical" conception of science is a result of the bad philosophical methods created by philosophers (logical positivism) whos bad philosophy led them to separate/demarcate the general topics of metaphysics and epistemology etc. from the specialized topics and declare the general unscientific.

The particulars of this conceptual battle are many and simply assuming that the popular usage is an out of context directive is not a valid means of integration.

" I don't think that the fundamental questions of ethics require the specialized knowledge of science"

No it requires the generalized knowledge of the science of Philosophy.

Edited by Plasmatic

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Then specify an experimental or empirical way of testing a scientific theory that purports to derive ethical principle from the physical laws of nature?

 

The facts:

- man must act in order to live

- man has free will

- therefore man must choose to act in order to live

- man can choose to act for or against his life

- in order to live man must choose to act for his life

The last is an ethical principle. This is empirical evidence that and ethical principle can be derived from the laws or facts of nature.

The science of ethics discovers what the things are that man needs to live.

You have said in another thread that Ayn Rand was wrong and I've asked you to name what she was wrong about specifically. You never did. Now I am going to have to agree with plasmatic that it isn't that you disagree with Miss Rand, it is that you have never read her. This, of course, raises the question of how could you know Ayn Rand was wrong when you've never read her? What is your purpose on this site?

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The facts:

- man must act in order to live

- man has free will

- therefore man must choose to act in order to live

- man can choose to act for or against his life

- in order to live man must choose to act for his life

The last is an ethical principle. This is empirical evidence that and ethical principle can be derived from the laws or facts of nature.

uestion of how could you know Ayn Rand was wrong when you've never read her? What is your purpose on this site?

Actually it isn't.  It is a tautology.  If a person takes the steps necessary to maintain his biological functions he may last a bit longer.  If he fails to do so he won't last very long.  That is simply a consequence of the fact that our biological engine exists far from thermodynamic equilibrium.  In simple terms we have to eat, drink and maintain our body temperature in order to live.  If we don't we will die.  And in the long run no matter what we do,  we die. At best we can delay our death a bit.

 

I simply fail to see how that has any ethical import.   What does it have to do with Right and Wrong?

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In order to go to the Moon which is a moral choice you need to establish few scientific facts-that is, identity of objects and cause-effect connections between them which determine their interaction. The fire of the rocket engine is determined event. The will to fire it-not. But will has nothing to do with science. 

Making the steps to go to X is a choice.  What the steps are is a matter of science and technology.  So there is the problem of determining what physical arrangements are necessary for a trip to X.  Then there is the question of whether the trip is worth our while or not.  The latter question is not a scientific question at all.  

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Hairnet said:

" This is different from reason. Reason is available to all people. Innduction, deduction, reduction, integration, and limited experimentation. This is how people learn every day. Philosophy can only be based in reason, and science can only be based in a reasonable philosophy. There is no philosophy that can claim to be based in science. "

Wrong, reason, induction,deduction, reduction and integration are all used in the special sciences. What you all are unaware of is that the "typical" conception of science is a result of the bad philosophical methods created by philosophers (logical positivism) whos bad philosophy led them to separate/demarcate the general topics of metaphysics and epistemology etc. from the specialized topics and declare the general unscientific.

The particulars of this conceptual battle are many and simply assuming that the popular usage is an out of context directive is not a valid means of integration.

" I don't think that the fundamental questions of ethics require the specialized knowledge of science"

No it requires the generalized knowledge of the science of Philosophy.

 

  Well mostly we are in agreement (Your post is kind of confusing, you should edit it) . You call them "The Science of Philosophy" and "The Special Sciences", whereas I would call them "Philosophy" and "Science". Just because I use those terms does not mean I think that "Philosophy" is any less of a fact base pursuit than "Science".  I was just describing the hierarchy of knowledge in contemporary terms.  

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Normative laws or neurophysiological laws?

That would likely depend upon the scientist. Normative would involve searching for ways to develop moral behavior through self awareness, whereas neurophysiological would involve the amoral search to find the right drug to control behavioral symptoms.

 

 Even though the laws governing human behavior are objective, peoples' reactions to them are subjective.

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It is a tautology.

Actually it isn't. A tautology starts with the same premises it purports to prove. Each of my statements is different from all the others.

 

 

I simply fail to see how that has any ethical import.   What does it have to do with Right and Wrong?

Now see, if you had read Ayn Rand you would know. It isn't incorrect for you to ask it this way but I usually reserve the words "right" and "wrong" for political discussions and speak of "good" and "bad" when discussing ethics. When speaking of "good" and "bad" you are speaking of "values". Here is Ayn Rand from "The Objectivist Ethics":

 

“Value” is that which one acts to gain and/or keep. The concept “value” is not a primary; it presupposes an answer to the question: of value to whom and for what? It presupposes an entity capable of acting to achieve a goal in the face of an alternative. Where no alternative exists, no goals and no values are possible.

I quote from Galt’s speech: “There is only one fundamental alternative in the universe: existence or nonexistence—and it pertains to a single class of entities: to living organisms. The existence of inanimate matter is unconditional, the existence of life is not: it depends on a specific course of action. Matter is indestructible, it changes its forms, but it cannot cease to exist. It is only a living organism that faces a constant alternative: the issue of life or death. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action. If an organism fails in that action, it dies; its chemical elements remain, but its life goes out of existence. It is only the concept of ‘Life’ that makes the concept of ‘Value’ possible. It is only to a living entity that things can be good or evil.”

 

There are no values without life; "value" does not exist in the absence of life. The very concept "value" is dependent upon the concept "life". Plants and animals pursue values automatically to sustain their lives, if they fail they die. She goes on to explain, in a much more eloquent way than me, that the organism's ultimate goal is its life. Pursuing that goal requires attaining certain values. Those values that promote the organism's life are "the good", those that destroy life are "the bad". 

Here is the whole "The Objectivist Ethics" by Ayn Rand. Please read it, you might learn something.

 

The difference between man and other animals is that man must choose his goals and therefore he can choose good or bad goals. That is where ethics comes in. Ethics defines what we should choose in order to live. Choosing the good enhances your life, choosing the bad detracts from it. If you make really poor choices you could die right now. If you make good choices you could live for 100 years. Makes a big difference in the "long run" (which of course means nothing apart from life).

 

So when you say:

In simple terms we have to eat, drink and maintain our body temperature in order to live.

 

the question is: what should we eat? fresh kill or decaying flesh? Apple pie or poison?; What should we drink? Water or drano?

That is ethics: what should we do?

 

And now I'll ask for the third time: Have you read anything Ayn Rand wrote? If not, how do you know she is "wrong"?

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There are no values without life; "value" does not exist in the absence of life. 

Well yes.  Isn't that rather obvious.  Only live sentient beings can do valuing.  And where do I go from this?  

 

What useful conclusion does this logically imply?

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Well yes.  Isn't that rather obvious.  Only live sentient beings can do valuing.  And where do I go from this?  

 

What useful conclusion does this logically imply?

 

I already gave you some useful conclusions that follow from this, are you hard of reading? Is english not your first language? I also provided you a link to an article written by Ayn Rand called "The Objectivist Ethics" in which she explains in much greater detail the myriad conclusions along with a long string of logical connections that must be made in order to derive an ethics from the facts of reality. I suggest you read it if you want to be taken seriously and have a fruitful discussion. I doubt this is what you are after since all of your posts consist of one or two not logically connected sentences.

This site is dedicated to the study and explication of Ayn Rand's philosophy, Objectivism. Presumably, when one comes here they have read and admire Ayn Rand and would like to learn more or they have some questions. Some people disagree with Ayn Rand in whole or in part and either want to discuss what they don't understand or argue about that with which they disagree. All are welcome.

Then there are trolls, like you, who haven't read Ayn Rand but want to bash her anyway. You haven't read anything by Ayn Rand and yet somehow you think you know she is "wrong". How is that possible? How can you know someone is wrong if you don't know what they have said? Trolls aren't welcome here so maybe you should just move along. Pretty soon no one will give you the time of day anyway.

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Marc, I just confirmed that Ruveyn is in fact Bob Kolker, aka BaalChatzaf :

http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=12579#entry172290

He has called Leonard Peikoff a "mathematical and scientific ignoramus" http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=5924&page=3

He has been trolling Oist sites for a long time and I wouldn't expect it to change any time soon...

Edited by Plasmatic

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Marc, I just confirmed that Ruveyn is in fact Bob Kolker, aka BaalChatzaf :

http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=12579#entry172290

He has called Leonard Peikoff a "mathematical and scientific ignoramus" http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=5924&page=3

He has been trolling Oist sites for a long time and I wouldn't expect it to change any time soon...

Define Troll.  I observe the rules of the forum.

 

And during my little tete a tete with L.P on the David Brudnoy program (beamed out at 50 kw clear channel)  I demonstrated that -at the time-  he did not know beans about mathematical logic which was the  topic of discussion.  

 

Who knows?  Maybe he learned something since.  That was 30 years ago.

 

ruveyn1

Edited by ruveyn1

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To some extent, Rand continued to use the label and concept science in the old ways. My first philosophy professor (1967) was a Thomist, and in his course, we heard of not only the sciences we freshmen were familiar with from high school—biology, chemistry, and physics—but of the sciences of logic, mathematics, metaphysics, ethics, esthetics, and theology. Yes, the science of theology. That was a very general conception to which the label science was being applied, namely, to any organized, systematic body of rational knowledge (rational, as opposed to mystically revealed).

 

You can find Rand speaking of the science of mathematics, and perhaps some people still talk that way today. Near the end of Rand’s life, I was in graduate school in physics at the University of Chicago. From some of my professors, I learned to make a sharp distinction between science and mathematics. So to this day, I always say the discipline of mathematics, not the science of mathematics. Geometry was one of the great sciences, in the broad sense of the term, achieved by the Greeks. It was quite possibly the greatest one, and surely in the ensuing centuries, educated people were more likely to have worked through some of the splendor of Euclid, than to have gotten far into Greek astronomy, optics, harmonics, or biology. Mathematics has continued its advance of light and power in modern times, but because of the new methods of empirical science perfected in the age of Newton and beyond, which has revolutionized our insight and power, and because those methods are in sharp contrast to our method of pure mathematics, it is natural to want to seal that hard-won distinction by keeping the species name science for modern physics et al. and some other species name such as formal deductive discipline for mathematics.


When Rand spoke of the science of ethics, she could easily mean it in that general old sense of an organized, systematic body of rational knowledge, as when she would speak of the science of mathematics. But in the case of her own ethical system, she meant more than that, drawing attention to its basis, at least in part, in facts evident in the science of biology. I include the qualification in part because her ethics also depended on psychological claims, not only biological ones. It is the stronger, modern sense of the science of biology (which had its work advancing big-time in the nineteenth century before and independently of evolutionary theory,* to which it later would be integrated) that is parent to the strong sense in which Rand saw her ethics as scientifically founded.  Jean-Marie Guyau (1885) viewed his ethical system also in that way. His conception of life was somewhat different from Rand’s, and this yielded a not wholly egoistic system, though a thoroughly individualistic one.* ^


Quite a few contemporary ethical theories try for a biological basis: abc

 

Edited by Boydstun

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Steven said:

"You can find Rand speaking of the science of mathematics, and perhaps some people still talk that way today. Near the end of Rand’s life, I was in graduate school in physics at the University of Chicago. From some of my professors, I learned to make a sharp distinction between science and mathematics."

Here you assert that your Prof. taught you to demarcate Mathematics as unscientific while simply relegating Ms. Rand's conception of science to the "old". My question to you is what factual grounds do you accept such categorization. Surely you haven't simply noted that folks dont talk a certain way about certain subjects anymore and decided that's enough of a reason.

I'm asking a sincere question.

Edit: Concerning the general differentiation of math from "empirical" science. You are aware that there are Oist endeavouring to demonstrate the objectivity of methematics and that Ms. Rand considered her epistemology to be akin to mathematics?

Edited by Plasmatic

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.

Oh yes, Plas, mathematics certainly is objective. I know a fair amount of mathematics, and it is hard-as-nails, stubborn-fact objective. So is logic. We continue to make discoveries in them, not unconstrained fancies, notwithstanding the contrary sayings of the formalist tradition (with Hilbert's more grandiose moments of text scooped up and paraded by nominalists).

 

On the usage of science, that was only to keep very present the distinction between our empirical science and the mathematical in the science. I have no problem with people continuing to refer to mathematical science. I'll keep to mathematical discipline. Partly that is also for personal sentimental memories of a stage of my life thirty-plus years ago. There is no real confusion of what one is referring to in either case.

 

By the way, you might like to follow my developing serial essay,

Truth in Geometry

Part 1 – Aristotle
Part 2 – Locke and Leibniz
Part 3 – Kant, Precritical
Part 4 – Kant, Critical (forthcoming)

 

There will be an additional part or two bringing the history up to the present and drawing final conclusions on the nature of truth in geometry (all of them).

 

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Well, about Sam Harris, this may well be a turning point in the dominant philosophy.

Probably not.  But I can hope.

 

Aside from his obvious altruistic bent, he's asking the right questions and he represents a monumental step in the right direction.

Burkas are symbolic of philosophical abominations, and putting cholera in the drinking water would be a horrible idea!

He has some very, very dangerous ideas, but he's after the truth.  Isn't that what Objectivism is about; moral truth?  Even if all this amounts to is spreading the idea that ethical issues aren't subjective, once someone realizes that there are solid, logical answers out there, how much better is that for Rand's ideas?

It's very invigorating.  =D

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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You can talk about morality for days on end to a relativist, with absolutely no results.  In the end what's right and wrong for you is different from their right and wrong and nothing you can say will ever convince them otherwise.

To admit that there IS an OBJECTIVE answer out there, which everyone should agree with, is really the first step towards Objectivism.

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