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Author Topic: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?  (Read 3248 times)

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Offline Missy

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #25 on: April 14, 2012, 02:37:25 PM »
Concur. Our species draws too many lines between our varying characteristics, we define one another according to our necessary differences one from another, we should define one another by our necessary similarities. On a basic level we are the same.

Offline TwoHundredTabs

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #26 on: May 06, 2012, 11:20:31 AM »
This is too closely related to my interests for me to resist posting on.

First, a few distinctions in terminology should be made.

There is a difference between morality and ethics. Morality is one's personal view of right and wrong (What I estimate is right for me). Ethics is a social view of what is right and wrong (What I estimate is right for others). The two often do not match up (I estimate that it is immoral for me to buy products from companies like Chick-fil-A. I do not estimate that it should be a rule that no one buys from such companies.).

There is a difference between subjectivity, inter-subjectivity, and objectivity. Subjectivity is the relation of my personal perspective to myself (Seeing people throw up makes me want to throw up). Inter-subjectivity is the relation of people's perspectives to each other (Most people feel sick when seeing others throw up). Objectivity is the relation of observable reality to everyone's perspectives (People who have had x experience report, on average, an x% likelihood that they will throw up when seeing others do so).

We can never truly have an objective perspective on direct reality, because we are limited by our personal subjective access of the world.


Whether or not ethical claims can be identified as more or less "true" (recognizing epistemological limits) or "right" than others can be determined by the same process by which we identify scientific claims as more or less "true" or "right". To say that all ethical claims (and moral beliefs) are equal and outside of truthful evaluation is to say that science is meaningless and that progress is impossible. We know this to be false.

What should be said is that every claim is always possibly false or wrong, no matter how much evidence there is behind it, because of our limited knowledge and ability to know. Even so, we can have varying degrees of certainty (or confidence) in the truth value of claims.

What people who discuss morality and ethics often fail to do is recognize the difference between talking about specific moral/ethical claims and general "rules of principle". That is, they do not factor in context. This is the equivalent of discussing science as though there is no such thing as specificity of hypotheses. It's like talking about school success without talking about contribution factors. (Oh, Hi! Nice to see you NCLB.)

We may not have the ability to evaluate claims in absolute terms - much less the ability to evaluate broad claims in absolute terms - but we can and do evaluate claims in specific terms. When the evidence for specific claims piles on, people make leaps to similar general claims. This is not a scientifically justified move, but the jump does have more backing than remaining with old general claims.

Consider the vague case of democratizing the public vote (removing poll taxes, making polling places easier to reach, etc.). We may be wore off now because of the amount of uninformed voters, but we are certainly better off than having control solely in the hands of a privileged group.

If that is too vague, then relate that case tot he case of abstinence-only education vs comprehensive health education. We may have crammed too much information into a small bracket of time in many comprehensive programs, but these programs are far better than the negative results of abstinence-only education.

And what is out measure of "better off"? The increase of feelings of pleasure and the decreases of pain - a consequential analysis.

While we may not be able to clearly identify the benefits and gains in terms of consequences in middle-sized change, we can see them clearly in specific scientific research and in at-large social change.

There is progress. We are more ethical - better off - than humans were in the past, on average.

Offline DTW

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Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #27 on: February 08, 2013, 09:45:25 AM »
I disagree completely.

It's not morals that make us better but  Technology. The most technologically advanced society is  the best. Just look at the fact that we're having this debate despite the fact that we all probably live thousands of miles away from each other. Nobody in Ancient Rome could do this , Nobody in Thirties Berlin could but we can because we're better.



Look at this way , If you had a dog who could fetch and a dog who could fetch , drive a car , send a text message and cook you dinner which would you say is better?

I'm pretty sure you would go with the one who could cook you dinner. There is clear proof that we are better. Look at Watson and Asimo those   two alone make this a rather foolish question in my opinion.'

Simply put , If the people of    Ancient Greece and Rome and Medieval Europe were so great why didn't they invent the car or the airplane?


When  The Vikings put a robot on mars and cure polio , I'll consider them my equal or better.'
« Last Edit: February 08, 2013, 09:47:39 AM by DTW »

Offline Shjade

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #28 on: February 08, 2013, 10:42:50 AM »
...that argument makes no sense. Having access to advanced technology doesn't make a person better. It just means someone who wants to hurt you can shoot you instead of being forced to cave your skull in with a rock.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #29 on: February 25, 2013, 07:47:24 PM »
I disagree completely.

It's not morals that make us better but  Technology. The most technologically advanced society is  the best. Just look at the fact that we're having this debate despite the fact that we all probably live thousands of miles away from each other. Nobody in Ancient Rome could do this , Nobody in Thirties Berlin could but we can because we're better.



Look at this way , If you had a dog who could fetch and a dog who could fetch , drive a car , send a text message and cook you dinner which would you say is better?

I'm pretty sure you would go with the one who could cook you dinner. There is clear proof that we are better. Look at Watson and Asimo those   two alone make this a rather foolish question in my opinion.'

Simply put , If the people of    Ancient Greece and Rome and Medieval Europe were so great why didn't they invent the car or the airplane?


When  The Vikings put a robot on mars and cure polio , I'll consider them my equal or better.'

Err. You realise that this is about moral and ethical development, right? I'd say you got to the right conclusion via a completely wrong method, unless you consider warfare a moral good.

Technology implies belligerence. I wouldn't call that a high moral standing.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #30 on: February 25, 2013, 08:04:13 PM »
Yeah, stupid vikings only managed to put a robot on polio and cure Mars.  Idiots.

Anyway...
Technology implies belligerence.

I'm intrigued.  Are you putting that as the hard and fast rule you seem to be?  Or is it qualified?  Either way, if you have time I'd love to hear an expansion.  If not then don't worry about it.  And welcome to E, by the way.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #31 on: February 25, 2013, 08:41:57 PM »
Yeah, stupid vikings only managed to put a robot on polio and cure Mars.  Idiots.

Anyway...
I'm intrigued.  Are you putting that as the hard and fast rule you seem to be?  Or is it qualified?  Either way, if you have time I'd love to hear an expansion.  If not then don't worry about it.  And welcome to E, by the way.

I don't have hard data to cite right now (I'm running on 90 minutes of sleep here), and I'd retract it in the face of counterevidence, but I have reasonable confidence in it. Warfare tends to be a major driver of technological advancement, and when two cultures of significant difference in tech level meet each other, the more advanced one tends to obliterate the less advanced one.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #32 on: February 25, 2013, 08:43:16 PM »
When  The Vikings put a robot on mars and cure polio , I'll consider them my equal or better.'

Actually, the Vikings did put a robot on Mars.  In 1976.  Both stopped transmitting in the early '80s.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking_program

*flees*

Offline Ivellios617

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #33 on: February 26, 2013, 04:47:02 AM »
Well... if everyone's "evil" then nobody is evil, if viewed from within. And if different is evil... then everything that isn't us is evil. ... My brain hurts...

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #34 on: February 26, 2013, 11:28:37 AM »
As far as the greater subject goes: Yes, there have been many standards of morals and ethics over time. Yes, sometimes what was considered perfectly good behaviour was in fact incredibly harmful to a huge number of people. No, that doesn't mean we can't possibly know if we're doing better now.

(Disclaimer: I'm an act utilitarian, and this does show in my assumptions.)

It seems to me that there are exactly two things we need to ensure that we do to make sure we're standing on firmer ground than our forebears: Make our standards as all-encompassing as possible (I personally would set the bar at "Anything capable of asking for rights gets them."), and use a reality-based approach. Check the actual results of your actions on actual people, and see whether the results are harmful or could be improved. If so, adjust.

Are we there yet as a society? No. How do we get there? By individuals using this approach until it becomes widespread.

Offline Blythe

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #35 on: March 04, 2013, 01:49:39 AM »
Okay, after taking a long time to review this particular thread, I feel ready to traverse this complicated and tricky idea.

The OP looked to me to be dealing with two aspects of moral relativism. One of these is meta-ethical relativism, the idea that nobody is objectively right or wrong. This concept is enhanced by the fluid and ever-changing structures of societal morality. If morality keeps changing, then there is no set standard of morality. If there is no set standard of morality, then the morals of a Roman slaveholder could be construed to be just as valid as that of a modern USA citizen in 2013.

Then the concept of normative relativism emerges. If we cannot objectively determine moral standards, then we should permit other alternate behaviors even as we disagree over the apparent morality, or lack thereof, within those behaviors.

But in my opinion, it's not an issue of IF some important standard of our modern societal morality is construed of as evil in a future timeline....it's WHEN this will happen. Society changes and advances, and morality must be thought of in new ways to incorporate new paradigm shifts. Many of our moral concepts in this modern era were not possible in Rome, which may have prevented current moral trends from emerging that that time. For example, the idea of not using domestic abuse to discipline a wife and allowing her independence would not have been accepted because childbirth and the home were a foundation of society, a foundation that men desperately relied on women to maintain and manage. But now these once-essential tasks are not so essential for modern society, and morality changes to suit the needs of society.

This is my first post in a very serious thread. All apologies if my arguments/debating tactics are not particularly good. I'm used to writing literature papers rather than philosophy essays.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #36 on: March 06, 2013, 10:42:00 PM »
The thing is, though, even if we can't be sure we've truly "got it" (and I'll gladly concede that point), we can be pretty damn certain that we've got at least part of the picture. You'd need a mountain of evidence to convince me that slavery, racism, or sexism were good things, for example.

As for when certain aspects of our society will be considered evil: Right goddamn now. We've got institutionalized sexism, heteronormativity, cisnormativity (is that the right word?), and a disturbing trend of encouraging and widening inequality. I'd say all of that is pretty evil.