View Single Post
Old 11-02-2006, 05:28 PM   #69
Spider AL
@Spider AL
A well-spoken villain...
Spider AL's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Help, help, I'm stapled to my workstation.
Posts: 2,162
Originally Posted by tk102:

Let's look closer at the numbers and see if we can't blame them.

Do equations of utilitarianism take into account future generations? Could it be that the most moral course of action for one civilization at war with another is to decimate that civilization in order to bring a homogenous world peace? (or: was the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki moral?)
You're asking whether the killing over 200,000 Japanese civilians, (with small proportions of US citizens, Korean indentured labourers and sundry western prisoners of war therein,) was the most moral course of action available to the United States in the "cause of peace"? I don't find that question too tricky. Do you?

Let's examine the historical context. Japan at the time was being manhandled into continuing the conflict predominantly by a militaristic elite. A rarified class of warmongering, bushido-obsessed toffs who were perfectly willing to let every single Japanese civilian and footsoldier die even if the effort to defend Japanese soil was totally futile. In their minds- it might be reasonably assumed- the Japanese people existed only to maintain their position and further their nefarious goals. This was of course a long-standing point of view among the Japanese political elite, even prior to the decadent Edo period. And lest we forget it was also (of course) a point of view readily shared by the ruling classes of Western nations throughout history.

The result of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings was that it demonstrated that the West had such monumentally destructive power that they could completely raze Japan without very many casualties of their own. It also demonstrated that the West didn't mind killing swathes of Japanese civilians in an instant. Those are powerful statements to make.

But whether those statements of power affected the course of the war is another question. The Japanese, according to contemporary accounts from notable figures on both sides of the conflict, might well have been willing to surrender before the atomic bombs were ever dropped... pending a little negotiation. The moral course of action in the cause of peace would naturally therefore have been to pursue the route of negotiation in a serious way. The US cannot be said to have tried in any serious way to "negotiate" Japan's surrender. Slightly less moral than diplomacy but infinitely more moral than the slaughtering of countless innocents, we have the equally unexplored option of surgical strikes. Rather high quality Commando units had been trained during WW2, especially by the British. However, the assassination of key Japanese officials wasn't on the cards.

But of course there were tertiary concerns to the US. The first concern was to cripple Japan's political structure so that their government would be easier to control and westernise following the conflict. The second concern was to demonstrate to the rest of the world (not just Japan, and in particular the soviets) that the US was militarily the most dangerous nation on the planet. The third concern was to save time, money and Allied soldiers' lives by abruptly ending the campaign as decisively as possible. The fourth concern was to take an unusual opportunity to test a new weapon on living targets in-situ. Not one of these concerns can be said to be anything less than amoral.

So when confronted with the evidence, it's clear that the bombings were immoral, but it's hardly surprising that they occurred. After all, the policy of bombing civilians common to ALL sides during the war was immoral. Additional factors that make the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings immoral are as stated- that they were an issue not of victory over an aggressor, but of dominance and control over a defeated people, and dominance on the world stage.

To provide additional proof that the act was immoral, we apply the "universal standard of behaviour" principle. What if Japan or Germany had dropped the bombs on us? Why, then it would be a war crime. Not because they were expansionist aggressors, but because the intentional targeting of non-combatants to illicit political capitulation is terrorism in its purest form. If it's immoral for them, it's definitely immoral for us.

Originally Posted by tk102:

What about free will? How is that taken into account? If someone is screaming and ranting and causing distress to others, is it morally right to sedate that person and give them a painless lobotomy?
You describe a hypothetical situation in which irreversible brain injury is inflicted on someone because their loudness is socially unacceptable, and then you imply that discerning whether the act is immoral or not is some way difficult? Surely you aren't being serious.

Originally Posted by tk102:

And are people's comforts and distresses measured equally? Does the comfort of a king outweigh the discomfort of a peasant?
Actually morally speaking, the discomfort of the peasant carries more weight than the comfort of a king. Because the king has wealth and power, and therefore has extra responsibilities. If a man wishes to be a leader, he has a moral obligation to care for those he leads, if necessary giving up his own comforts to improve the lot of "his team". This is why a moral executive would cut his own wages, before cutting the wages of those staff that work under him. Of course executives are rarely moral people.

Originally Posted by tk102:

How about pleasure/pain over time? If I give a piece of candy to child everytime he cries, I provide immediate pleasure to both of us. But over time, he might become spoiled and fat.
Well here we have a good example of why applied morality is dependent on our ability to gauge the likely consequences of our actions. Anyone who gives excessive amounts of sugary candy to their children has to be aware that they could be inflicting an injury on the child that won't manifest itself for some months or years. If someone chooses to sacrifice a child's health in order to make the child less noisy, or more "manageable", That's immoral. Very similar to the lobotomy angle, in that respect.

Like many other apologists for moral relativity in this thread, you have given me a list of hypothetical situations that you consider to be morally "fuzzy" in some way. I think in this case I've found all of them to be relatively clear-cut questions. But it's worth remembering that even if a moral conundrum was presented to me that was complex enough to render it insoluble by me, that would not make morality relative.

Originally Posted by tk102:

What coeffecients do we assign to each of these factors in our equation? In fact, what objective equation do really have to begin with? We write our own rules as to what is important and what is less important, about who we empathize with and who we do not. With no objective way to measure morality, the argument of what is the most moral course of action is word-play for politicians. You cannot pretend that it is anything like a mathematical equation. It does not hold the same "truth".
That whole paragraph is completely devoid of any logical reasoning to back up the argument it asserts as truth.

You ask what "objective equation" we begin with, and the question of whether there are objective basic moral principles has been answered exhaustively throughout the thread. We begin with a basic understanding that others feel suffering just as we do, and that the lives of others have value, not merely our own life. Therefore through the quality of empathy we arrive at the conclusion that we wish to be moral, by minimising the amount of suffering and death we inflict upon others. We apply our reasoning powers to discern what will cause suffering and death to others, and then we strive to the best of our ability not to engage in such actions. If we find ourselves engaging in such actions by accident, we cease to engage in them. If we find that we have engaged in such actions in the past without fully understanding it, then we make whatever reparations to the wronged parties we are capable of making. These are very simple standards to remember, apply and adhere to.

You say that we "write our own rules" when it has been previously demonstrated that- logically speaking- writing one set of rules for oneself and a different set for others is inherently immoral as it is incompatible with the most basic principle of morality, that one must apply a moral standard universally. If one chooses to behave morally towards some people and immorally towards others... ONE IS BEING IMMORAL.

As for there being no "objective way to measure morality", you're incorrect. In many circumstances it is easy to measure, when death and suffering are easy to measure and options are starkly different and easy to evaluate. If there are circumstances in which death, suffering and the differences between available options are NOT easy to measure, it is the fault of those doing the measuring, not the "fault of the measurements".

And lastly, I do not "pretend" anything. Morality is almost exactly like a mathematical equation, in that every factor involved in "teh weighty moralz conundra" can theoretically be expressed as a simple value, and a logical train of thought emerges with a definite conclusion at the end of it, directly dependent on the relationship between values preceding it.

Likely outcome of stomping on frog = Death of frog.
Causing death when that death is unnecessary for continued survival of self != Moral
Death of frog necessary for continued survival of self? = No.
Other courses of action available to self = Not stomping on frog.
Stomping on frog != Moral.

Tertiary concerns can also be expressed in mathematical form:

But me stomping on frog = fun!
Me = Psychopath.

This jocular tangent merely points out that some moral questions are clear-cut and easy. Whereas some moral questions can be more difficult. But they only seem "difficult" due to our own inability to comprehend/discern/calculate all the variables involved, not because the variables themselves are in any way "relative". Just as only few people have the wherewithal necessary to comprehend complex mathematical equations, only few people have the reasoning power to process the tougher moral questions.

I've said it a dozen times already, and there's little I can do to elaborate on it any more than I have already. Like a lot of other people in this thread, it seems that you have observed the inability of a large proportion of people to calculate complex moral questions, and have concluded erroneously on the strength of that evidence that such a thing as "moral relativity" actually exists.

It's like observing that most people can't handle simple mental arithmetic and concluding erroneously that "two and two can equal seventeen, it just depends on your point of view."

Originally Posted by tk102:

My argument is that there is no foundation to objectiveness of morality since we have no means of determining moral magnitude that is objective.
And once again, I must contradict you. I have demonstrated that some moral questions are extremely clear-cut and easily objectively evaluated. Once again, some moral questions are tougher than others. But that's due to our stupidity as a species and as individuals. That is why the moral man strives to better himself and increase his wisdom. Because without wisdom, we will often inadvertently act immorally. Therefore to be optimally moral we must be optimally wise.

Originally Posted by tk102:

It just seems to blatant to me that morality is an internal concept. Why must we externalize it and proclaim it as an objective truth? I'm okay with it being subjective.
Well no offence, but you're not being moral if you're "okay with morality being subjective." Without a genuine effort to adhere to a universally applied standard of conduct, one can hardly call oneself a moral man. The moral man first wishes to be as moral as possible. This means that the moral man will strive to be as moral, if not MORE moral, than all other people. He will then apply the same standards to himself as he does to others, and vice versa. In addition, the moral man has a right to demand that all other people behave morally towards him, and all other beings. (Otherwise he is in a sense violating his OWN rights.)

In other words: If you wish to be moral you wish to do what is right. Therefore you believe there IS a right and a wrong. Therefore excusing others who are doing what you believe is wrong (immoral) because those people erroneously believe their own actions to be moral,.. is immoral.

Without the desire to adhere to an objective moral standard, we become the purveyors of nothing more than inequality, and become inherently immoral.


Originally Posted by Nancy Allen``:

I'm gonna have a shot at this. Most would agree that murder is wrong, wouldn't they? Even those who believed in large scale murder would likely agree that child predetors were the lowest of the low wouldn't they? Those are two morals that are pretty much universal.
The word "Murder" really denotes an illegal killing of another human. Not necessarily an immoral killing. There's a big difference. It's perfectly morally acceptable to shoot a man who is trying to shoot you in order that he might take the wallet from your cold dead... pocket, for instance. The law might deem such a killing to be murder, depending on the circumstances; but sometimes it's moral to kill.

That aside, your post seems to be an attempt to find some moral principle that everyone believes in. That's not only futile, it's irrelevant. Not everyone believes the earth to be round, but it is. Likewise some amoral people believe that their immoral acts... are moral. They're incorrect. Their "state of incorrectness" doesn't mean morality is relative.


Originally Posted by Ray Jones:

I wonder if acting in a "moral way" unintentionally really can be considered acting moral? Is it moral not to crush the frog just because you don't want your shoes to be all frog-inside-out-ish, but you wouldn't care about his life at all? Is it amoral to split a worm in two, who will not die from it, nor feel any pain, but there's just increased "worm population" instead?
Well here's the distinction. If you unintentionally commit a moral act- avoiding squishing the frog merely to save your shoe-leather- Your act was moral, but your intent was not. And without the desire to be moral, no matter how many good deeds you do by accident, you as a person will never be moral.

Secondly regarding the worm angle, cutting a worm in half doesn't result in two worms. That's an old wives' tale. Cutting a worm in half will most often kill it. In some cases if the cut is very exact, one portion of the worm will heal and survive, but not often. And therefore, cutting a worm in half is immoral.

Originally Posted by Ray Jones:

Isn't it already amoral just to live, because whatever action you take, it most probably will cause pain, suffering and death of other lifeforms? Is it moral to safe one animals life just to cause the death of others with it? Can one be absolute and totally moral?
In the purely philosophical sense, we can never be totally anything. Because we're human, and intrinsically flawed creatures. Perfection is a goal to strive for, it's never attainable.

But in certain circumstances, our choices can be totally moral, when they are clearly the most moral option available to us. When we do the right thing for the right reason and both are easily computed, then we're being totally moral. Choosing not to hit a guy who annoys you is a totally moral choice, with moral action attached. Choosing not to stomp that frog. Choosing to take that injured stray cat you found on your doorstep to the vet instead of throwing it into the canal. (as some people would.) The more complex the situation however, the more difficult it is to be sure that you're being totally moral. But it's your responsibility as a moral man to try to be totally moral in both thought and action.

Originally Posted by Ray Jones:

And isn't morality, the "universal standard", an exclusively human concept? Can "real" and especially intentional moral or amoral acting be expected from individuals/creatures/lifeforms, who are not capable of percieving a concept like morality? Is the elephant, who frequents your yard, amoral, just because he stamps down on the frog and crushes it while he was focussing in on your apple tree instead of caring about where to step next? Or, is the (universal) principle of evolution, like survival of the fittest in particular, amoral? Is the little eagle, who is screaming the loudest, thus getting the most food and probably causing one of his siblings to starve, amoral? Or is it the mother eagle, giving him the most food and not sharing it equally?

Do we find something like morality outside of the pink monkey society?
I think I've answered this question before in this thread with the simple statements that the ability to apply morality is limited by limited intelligence and reasoning power, and that without the quality of empathy one has no reason to be moral. I don't know that animals other than humans possess empathy. I don't really know that other humans possess empathy. I assume they do, because they tell me so. But animals without empathy won't really want to be moral. And animals without our ability to reason and anticipate likely consequences of actions, won't be ABLE to be moral. Hey, most PEOPLE aren't moral. It's doubtful that many other animals are.

Also, the fact that other animals may not be capable of possessing a sense of morality is just as irrelevant as the fact that some humans aren't capable of possessing a sense of morality. So they can't. So what? The moral standard exists outside of individuals, be they man or elephant.

And of course, in the final analysis it's a moral truism that those with the most power have the most responsibility to use their power morally. Who has more power than intelligent humans? Who has a greater responsibility to be moral?


As for Windu's comments, I'm not responding to them. Not because I'm being rude, but because I believe- due to many inconsistencies in his writing style, and his perennial steering of every topic back to the same irrelevant yet emotive nonsense- that Windu is a troll. And I don't reply to trolls.

[FW] Spider AL
Hewwo, meesa Jar-Jar Binks. Yeah. Excusing me, but me needs to go bust meesa head in with dissa claw-hammer, because yousa have stripped away meesa will to living.

Last edited by Spider AL; 11-02-2006 at 05:40 PM.
Spider AL is offline   you may: