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Are trivial optional choices open to moral evaluation

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DavidOdden
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But I didn't ask about chosing to have ice cream in the first place, your response addresses that... only which of two flavours.

I am just asking for clarification of the assertion that there is no choice that can be made that does not have ethical implications.

Does one have a weird color? Is that attractive or repulsive to you? Does one have chunks and the other not? Do you like your ice cream smooth or chunky?

You will realize that the only way to make the choice completely empty of moral significance is to make it so both alternatives are absolutely identical as far as you know. Or, in other words, to make it so you don't know anything that would distinguish one option from the other with regard to your values. In that case either 1. both choices are identical, so it is not really a choice or 2. both choices are not identical and you just don't know which one is better. Even the second case is not void of moral significance - is it wise to choose given your ignorance or should you not eat ice cream after all?

You may, evidently, come to the conclusion that the moral significance of the choice is so negligible that it is not worth the effort of evaluating in any detail. That is when you flip the coin. But this does not mean that there is no moral significance.

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I am just asking for clarification of the assertion that there is no choice that can be made that does not have ethical implications.
I don't know what "ethical implications" are. What I said, you'll recall, is that no human choice is exempt from ethical evaluation. That means that if you are faced with a choice, then you must evaluate the alternatives as to suitability, w.r.t. your ultimate goal (your life). I'm kind of stunned than anybody here would think for an instant that there are alternatives that somehow don't need to be evaluated.
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No: it is the choice from which concepts of morality are made possible.That's a totally invalid assumption. These are some of the most important morally-relevant questions that you have to answer in order to answer the question. But even if you have made the decision to have ice cream, moral evaluation is still necessary.

If you hate chocolate, it would be immoral to order chocolate. If you are allergic to chocolate, it would be immoral to order chocolate. It's up to you as the agent of evaluation to know what is and is not relevant in morally evaluating the choice. If you are not allergic and like chocolate and vanilla equally, and there are no other facts which show that one flavor is worse than the other, the two flavors are morally equal. This is a conclusion that you reach after objective moral evaluation.Yeah, some people do ask really stupid questions or have really stupid answers. It they offend you, or of the discussion that actually engages the issue offends you, you could simple not look.

Let's say you're asked to evaluate two flavors and choose which flavor tastes better to you. No ethics involved.

I am not offended at all. No one has ever said anything to offend me here. I'm not sure what would have given you that impression.

Edited by scottd
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Suppose that you really love vanilla and you detest chocolate. Ethic is obviously involved. You must evaluate the choices.

But if you recognize them to taste differentlly but enjoy them equally how is it an ethical choice?

When given a choice between two things I enjoy equally I usually just pick the first one that comes to mind... because I loathe hemming and hawwing. The fact I choose not to hem&haw is an ethical choice. The choice between the two things is simply random.

"If you hate chocolate, it would be immoral to order chocolate. If you are allergic to chocolate, it would be immoral to order chocolate."

But lets take someone that loves a flavour but is allergic.... is it "immoral" for them to occassioanlly make themselves slightly ill in order to enjoy momentarily something bad for them?

Edited by QuoVadis
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But if you recognize them to taste differentlly but enjoy them equally how is it an ethical choice?
Your antecendent -- "if you recognize them to taste differentlly but enjoy them equally" (plus other hopefully obvious principles about the goodness of psychologically-pleasant experiences) entails that you have performed a moral evaluation of the choice.

I think that you're mixing the fact that all choices must be morally evaluated and the possibility that it's possible that no known fact will uniquely select "the best choice".

"If you hate chocolate, it would be immoral to order chocolate. If you are allergic to chocolate, it would be immoral to order chocolate."

But lets take someone that loves a flavour but is allergic.... is it "immoral" for them to occassioanlly make themselves slightly ill in order to enjoy momentarily something bad for them?

I dont know. I'd need to know more about their allergy, i.e. how sick they would be.
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Simply because it comes from someone who shows signs of altruism does not necessarily make receiving the gift harmful to the receiver.

Okay, true.

ordering a flavor simply because you do not like would be stupid but still not immoral. Can you truly believe that that would violate some philosophical principle?

It violates precisely the philosophical principle that one should value one's own happiness; that's all we're talking about here.

Most moral systems view morality in precisely the way you describe; as something which applies to large issues of life and death but provides little guidance for day-to-day living. It seems to me that one of Ayn Rand's main purposes in writing was to reunite morality with the everyday concerns of you and me. Philosophy tells us that that we should value ourselves, our rational desires, and our long-term happiness. This decision can be manifested in something as small as enjoying an ice cream. This particular example is beginning to border on the absurd, but the point remains; commitment to oneself is a constant, long-term, continually made decision to pursue one's happiness and values.

Your claim that not every choice is a "moral" choice would be correct when talking about just about every moral system out there. For Objectivism, however, morality is about pursuing personal happiness and fulfillment, and any choice which could potentially improve or detract from one's own happiness is a moral (read: happiness-affecting) choice. In this case, clearly choosing the better ice cream makes one more happy.

Edited by Dante
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But I didn't ask about chosing to have ice cream in the first place, your response addresses that... only which of two flavours.

I am just asking for clarification of the assertion that there is no choice that can be made that does not have ethical implications.

This is exactly what is meant by "dropping context". The context is what makes it moral and the context is what you want to put aside.

Suppose you were to consider an action which you evaluated negatively, such as stealing to get some ice cream. Any ice cream you obtained this way is still just ice cream, it is not tainted or contaminated. The intrinsic qualities of the ice cream are unchanged, it is only the context that makes it a disvalue. If you can understand that, then you can understand the other case where the context makes the ice cream a value.

If there were a case of ice cream being neither a value nor a disvalue but a non-value, then maybe that could be a candidate for a non-ethical decision. But if you are taking any kind of meaningful action in regard to it then that would automatically promote its status to a value (or disvalue).

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Suppose I do. Then I choose vanilla. How is that moral or immoral?
Wouldn't that be the rational choice? Wouldn't the choice of chocolate -- in that context -- be the irrational choice? Is it moral to make the rational choice rather than the irrational one? Edited by softwareNerd
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you answered that the choice to live is not a moral choice; that is correct, yet it contradicts your bold statement about no choice being a non-moral choice.
You're right; that is the one choice that is not subject to moral evaluation. It would be logically circular. Ice cream choice still must be evaluated morally: ice cream is not your fundamental choice.
Moral values are for the purpose of guiding actions that impact one’s life.
Complete nonsense. You make it sound as though it's self evident how a choice impacts one's life. That is the very point of moral evaluation.
Your statement “I'm kind of stunned than anybody here would think for an instant that there are alternatives that somehow don't need to be evaluated” is confusing: that was never expressed to my knowledge.
Then I take it that you accept my admonition to you that all alternatives must be morally evaluated. See above.
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Wouldn't that be the rational choice? Wouldn't the choice of chocolate -- in that context -- be the irrational choice? Is it moral to make the rational choice rather than the irrational one?

I am speaking here about which flavor I like more, not of the choice of which to HAVE.

If asked to choose which I like better...

If I like the taste of vanilla better, then that is the flavor I like better. Could it be immoral to like the taste of vanilla better than chocolate?

As for which to choose to eat;

Let's assume I like them both equally. I am not allergic to either, neither choice will benefit Obama, neither comes with a lethal dose of poison, neither would promote death and destruction, or anything else that may come to anyone's mind. I have no preference and would be perfectly happy and content with either.

ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL, how could choosing vanilla be immoral?

Edited by scottd
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Could it be immoral to like the taste of vanilla better than chocolate?

....

ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL, how could choosing vanilla be immoral?

No, only choices can be morally evaluated, not preferences.

All things equal, choosing one or the other cannot be immoral.

All I'm saying is that in a morality which tells you to pursue your own happiness, giving up even some small sliver of happiness for no reason is immoral.

Edited by Dante
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No, only choices can be morally evaluated, not preferences.

All things equal, choosing one or the other cannot be immoral.

All I'm saying is that in a morality which tells you to pursue your own happiness, giving up even some small sliver of happiness for no reason is immoral.

This is the point I, and others, have been trying to make. Not all choices are moral choices.

I certainly agree with your last statement as well.

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This is the point I, and others, have been trying to make. Not all choices are moral choices.

I certainly agree with your last statement as well.

I just agreed that a choice between two indistinguishable options (preference-wise) cannot be immoral. I still think that if one choice is higher on your (long-term, rational) preference scale, morality steers you to that choice for the purpose of furthering your happiness to the greatest extent possible.

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I just agreed that a choice between two indistinguishable options (preference-wise) cannot be immoral. I still think that if one choice is higher on your (long-term, rational) preference scale, morality steers you to that choice for the purpose of furthering your happiness to the greatest extent possible.

So you do NOT agree that, "All things equal, choosing one or the other cannot be immoral."?

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No, only choices can be morally evaluated, not preferences.

Which ice cream you like better is not a choice, it is a fact. Facts are not subject to moral evaluation.

I think you guys are confused. If I prefer to kill people and drink their blood for dinner rather than play games in my spare time, that may be a fact - a man-made fact, but it is certainly an immoral act if I act on it and an indication of an immoral person - such that has automatized values of death.

I'm not going to go into the discussion, I just saw this and decided to leave a short comment.

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So you do NOT agree that, "All things equal, choosing one or the other cannot be immoral."?

I don't think you're quite getting what I'm saying. Let's try again.

In your list of all the things you were making equal, you included your preferences for one or the other; "Let's assume I like them both equally."

I agreed with this statement, because if you truly like them both equally, one cannot contribute more to your happiness than another. Thus, choosing either option is not immoral, only because you are not passing up a superior option in choosing.

So I do agree that "All things equal, choosing one or the other cannot be immoral," but only because of what you set to be equal. If you retract one of those equalities (if you then say well, if you like one better, you could still choose the other one without being immoral), then my statement simply no longer applies. We're no longer talking about what I agreed with. In that second case, not everything is equal. Your preferences for one are stronger than your preferences for the other one. Thus, the two choices give you a different amount of happiness, and morality would tell you to follow the path to greatest happiness.

In this morality, you're always trying to find the path to greatest personal, long-term happiness. In the special case where two roads lead you to the same level, then and only then does morality not tell you which way to go. Make more sense?

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I think you guys are confused. If I prefer to kill people and drink their blood for dinner rather than play games in my spare time, that may be a fact - a man-made fact, but it is certainly an immoral act if I act on it and an indication of an immoral person - such that has automatized values of death.

I'm not going to go into the discussion, I just saw this and decided to leave a short comment.

Well don't get pulled in if you don't wish to be, but I would like to clarify this.

In your example, notice that you had to include "act[ing] on it" in order to make it immoral. The individual had to make a choice to act on their preferences in order for it to be immoral.

However, you also say that this indicates that the person has "automatized values of death." I strongly agree. What I would say about this is that it indicates numerous immoral choices in the past. One needs to be repeatedly immoral in order to build up such preferences. Preferences are in our long-term control, but not our short-term control.

Let's say I was bullied growing up, very often and very maliciously. I come to the conclusion that it's a kill or be killed world, and I choose to be on top in that dichotomy. I victimize others for a significant portion of my life, and my repeated immoral choices build up a malicious, anti-life character. However, one day I encounter someone or something which convinces me that there is a third option, to live in rational harmony with others (at least those others who make this choice also).

Can I eliminate my preferences immediately? Can I suddenly alter my character because of an intellectual epiphany? No. What can I do? I can consistently choose to defy my anti-life premises, I can consistently act to promote my own flourishing by respecting the rational flourishing of others. If I stick with this for a long time, my character will begin to shift in a pro-life direction.

So the question is, at which point do you begin to act morally? Is it right after you have your epiphany, or only after you have eliminated your "automatized values of death?"

I think that as soon as you start making moral choices, you are behaving morally. If you do this consistently, you will end up with pro-life values and character, but changes in character lag behind the choices we make. A person acting in a life-promoting way despite having some internalized values of death is moral.

What, then, is character good for? Character simply makes it much easier to go in a certain direction. Pro-life internalized values make it much easier to consistently act in a pro-life manner. It's like a wind blowing in the right direction. If it's blowing in the wrong direction, you can still fight it and be moral, and eventually it will turn around, but it's much harder to do that. However, it's still the direction we decide to head, not the direction of the wind, which makes us moral or immoral.

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I don't think you're quite getting what I'm saying. Let's try again.

In your list of all the things you were making equal, you included your preferences for one or the other; "Let's assume I like them both equally."

I agreed with this statement, because if you truly like them both equally, one cannot contribute more to your happiness than another. Thus, choosing either option is not immoral, only because you are not passing up a superior option in choosing.

So I do agree that "All things equal, choosing one or the other cannot be immoral," but only because of what you set to be equal. If you retract one of those equalities (if you then say well, if you like one better, you could still choose the other one without being immoral), then my statement simply no longer applies. We're no longer talking about what I agreed with. In that second case, not everything is equal. Your preferences for one are stronger than your preferences for the other one. Thus, the two choices give you a different amount of happiness, and morality would tell you to follow the path to greatest happiness.

In this morality, you're always trying to find the path to greatest personal, long-term happiness. In the special case where two roads lead you to the same level, then and only then does morality not tell you which way to go. Make more sense?

Are you agreeing that not all choices are moral choices?

Either way, to test the preference/morality/path to happiness theory..

Let's continue with our silly flavor example:

I like vanilla better, but I like chocolate, too. The last five times I had vanilla. Now I think I want to have chocolate because I'm a little burned out on vanilla. However, I'm not completely sure that halfway through the ice cream I won't decide I should have gotten the vanilla!

OR:

I like vanilla best, but I have always enjoyed trying new flavors of ice cream. The last five times I had vanilla. Now I think I want to have the new Magic Pickleberry everyone has been talking about! However, I'm not completely sure that halfway through the ice cream I won't decide I should have gotten the vanilla!

My philisophical and emotional well being could be at risk for Pickleberry?

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