Please refer to that one.
I’ve been continuing my questioning about EvolutionarySpirituality, and the view of the universe as a sacred place from the standpoint of naturalistic philosophy.
Part of this is asking: “What is ethical?”
I have come across an interesting idea that has answered questions I’ve held since I was, say, 6 or 7, when I first began wondering: “If I meant good, but things came out wrong, how could what I have done been wrong?”
The question is: “What is the basis of Ethics?” “What is the basis of Morality?”
The story goes that we were all on the same moral page, until we discovered other cultures, and then had the shock of cultural relativism, and with it, moral relativism.
People have postulated arguments, “Oh, this is right, because it meets Utilitarianism – the best for the many.” Or, “Oh, this is right, by the idea of intention.” Or, “Oh, this is right, by the GoldenRule.” And so on, and so forth.
The question, again, is: “What is the solid basis of Ethics?”
Once you have that basis, you can start pronouncing judgements and reaching agreements, after rational discussion over the facts, and such. That’s the theory.
I now, like a religious idiot, believe that I have found an answer.
It’s an answer, at least, that answers all the different ideas I have entertained as bases since I was 6. And I believe that this answer is scientifically sensical.
That answer goes like this:
To add some clarity to it:
It seems that we have a few different rule sets in our heads.
“This is what I am like.” “This is what those people are like.” “This is what this machine is like.”
For example, we might say:
Sort of a: “Manual of I work, and what I need to be careful about, and what it good for this system,” and so on.
And so on.
And we also have ideas about how other people(s) work, and how machines work, and how governments work, and so on.
But we also have ideas about how things ought to go.
So, we say:
We now have an ethical question.
The argument I have adopted goes like so:
I can conceive of the difference.
But I want to say: “I think that ethics is rooted in what people want (for the social order.)”
While I don’t yet know how to articulate the difference, I perceive that this is a different sort of “I want” than hedonism. Rather, perhaps, it seems to be a sort of “social hedonism.”
Philosophers have for a long time debated about "the Is-Ought problem."
You can read about it on the Wikipedia page, for a better explanation.
But, I see how this theory of “It’s what I want,” meets the Is-Ought problem.
Is → Want → Ought.
The first arrow is: “I happen to have a very real want.”
The second arrow is: “What ought to be is what I want.”
“Pandemonium!” “Total Moral Chaos!”
No. I was reading “The Ethics” (Nicomachean Ethics) by Aristotle, and he made a good point that individuals can’t really be considered outside of their society.
Individuals are basically made 95% out of their society.
I have a very good personal experience story to make this point plain, but I’m writing in a hurry, so I’ll just assume you can see this.
The moral sense, the “I wants,” seems to communicate very readily through the society.
So, we can actually see this very plainly in The Golden Rule.
That is, there’s a “hidden” “I want” in the Golden Rule.
Do you see it?
Oh! Oh! There it is! There it is!
Yes. We see the equation:
Want + Society = Ethics
This might seem really scary. But is it?
I don’t think so.
I ask myself, “What do I want for the social order?”
And then, Ergo, It’s ethical.
Oh, well, let’s get serious.
The nice consequences of this are as follows:
Ergo, I think I see, for the first time in my life, the glimmer of promise for a sane world.
“What is the relationship between IsWantOught, and moral relativism?”
I talked with a friend about IsWantOught, and he initially cautioned: “Wait, this sounds like it can get into moral relativism…”
The concern is this:
This has been the traditional trap. The idea eventually leads to: Nobody’s to say what’s right, and what’s wrong, and the trend is towards chaos.
So, in dismissing the existance of an “independent metaphysical / philosophical ethics, or a God-backed ethics,” do we find ourselves in moral relativism?
Quite the opposite.
It plays out like so:
In fact, IsWantOught is a direct answer to the question, “Who’s to say what is ethical?” It answers: “Each person is to say.” Within each person’s mind is an ethics manufacturing machine.
Now, if it happens that you think there’s mindless cultural imperialism going on, this doesn’t leave you defenseless. In fact, it gives you stronger ground to understand and mount your argument.
This is not a one-sided understanding, after all.
The play-book changes.
Suppose there was a former moral relativist. Said relativist noted that people A were enslaving people B. When people A did so, they argued, “We must enslave people B, for their own benefit. We know that they’re uncivilized, and that our cause is just, because they don’t even require wearing clothes in their world!”
For the former moral relativist, your old argument was:
The former relativists new argument is:
This is all that is required. There is no requirement to appeal to deities, and there is no requirement to appeal to metaphysical or philosophical ghosts.
You could still do those things, pragmatically speaking, but: by “requirement,” I am talking about cosmic obligations to ethics.
None of this should be construed as denying that seeking consistency is a good idea, or as asserting that abstractions are not useful, nor that practical knowledge is helpful towards achieving aims, or whether it is better or not to sacrifice short term wants in favor of long term wants, or anything like that.
This is not to run contra to HelmutLeitner’s ideas on how “reason” does not solve all our problems. (And, in many cases, cause more than they solve.)
I strongly agree. But, I don’t think reason is a bad idea, (and I don’t think Helmut does either,) and I think that this is a basis for a strong argument for the future.
That said, I’m just telling an idea I learned from a usenet newsgroup last Thursday, so, who knows. We’ll see how this stands up in my life.
But, as it is, I’m shocked and blown away by the simplicity and explanatory power of this idea. I’ve been telling it to everybody I talk with for the past week now.
It really explains so many things for me.
Lion, because you refer to me I add my $0.02.
In talk about ethics there is always some truth. But this doesn’t mean that things become clearly evident.
Ethics is about the theory of “good decisions”. This is based on answer to the question “what is good” but if we had no choice, ethics would be superfluous. The question of “IS vs. OUGHT” mirrors this, the situation of change, the need to change. All this is about decisions and change towards “more good” hopefully.
The realistic and shocking answer to the problem is that “good” is always relative to a “for whom”. So the question that comes from a value judgement like “this is good” is: is it good for the person, the family, the community, the wider society, the ecology of the whole planet, the universe? There is no “good” without a reference system.
There is constant fighting to convince people that that what is “good for us” is “generally good” in an abstract sense. If we can define “this is good and this is bad” then we don’t need so much arguments. And no-one will ask whether the good is in our advantage or his. There is a dark side about the concept of “good”, it is a facade to the concept of “advantage”.
So if you take “society” as a term that means “for all people” then I agree. But if someone creates some arbitrary boundary in his mind in the sense of “all people I live with and with which I can identify” then I disagree. In the word “society” is only truth if it is used in the right spirit.
I agree: This does not make the problems of ethics all immediately clear: Within our “What-I-wants” there are calculations to be made. What I am asserting is that this makes the basis of ethics clear: It is founded in what we want.
What we want should not be confused with advantage, because only some people want advantage, and other people want there to be no advantage. I am in a circle that values advantage, I understand that there are several here that do not, and you may be one of them. But I’m not saying that “what is to my advantage” is what constitutes ethics. I am saying that “what I want for the pattern of life,” (or something like this,) is ethics.
Is it disagreeable to you (don’t you like it how) most people, in their minds, have one set of sensibilities to their house, another set of sensibilities to their community, and another set of sensibilities to the world?
I am rejecting saying that there is a single “metaphysical ethics,” an independent “metaphysical good.”
I am also rejecting: “Oh, this is only right and true, if it’s in the right spirit.” Because, you are talking about what is desirable for you and your culture. (Which, incidentally: I believe I am part of. That is, what I want for the pattern of life, is that all people can live together in their independent ways.)
I think it is required that we are all humble, and take ownership of our desires for the scheme of the world.
“What I want is to live in a world where people live in harmony, and do not make exceptions for themselves.”
What I don’t want us to say is: “There is a metaphysical purity, an unfathomably deep spirits, that I speek for. That spirit tells me to tell you that the truth is that people ought to live in harmony, and not make exceptions for themselves.”
As I said, there is always some truth in ethics. You talk about deeper advantages than materialistic one, spiritual desires. It’s what you see as necessary for you to live, food for your soul, nevertheless it is your interest, your view of advantage. The desire for peace, for people to live in harmony. This is all very true.
But a “let’s live in harmony” looks very different from our perspective and from the perspective of the starving in underdeveloped countries.
I also do not feel different, but just follow my interests: I want to understand systems. With respect to human systems this means to look behind facades. Most of the time “good” and the concept of ethics are used as such facades. A paradoxical situation, worth to be includes in WikiIsParadoxical, if it isn’t already.
Lion, and Helmut, fascinating discussion. I like the questions you are asking here (What is the basis of ethics? What is the basis of Morality?). I like your answers:
And, helmut mentions “‘let’s live in harmony” looks very different from our perspective and from the perspective of the starving in underdeveloped countries.”
And this really comes back to what we talked about in LiteracyOfHumanNature. I agree that Ethics is what you want. But, there is a deeper system of human values that shapes why you want it. This deeper system of human values is a combination of BioPsychoSocial? forces. Our deep structure value systems, or fundamental assumptions are shaped by our environments and conditions of existence, which includes the social arrangements and cultural arrangements that we identify with, and are a part of. They are also shaped and influenced by dynamic neuronal systems. By the way that our brain-mind systems work and operate (and by the way that we enhance them with technology).
So, I think you are 100% right, Lion, that you have found the answer to “What is the basis of ethics?” being “Ethics is what you want.”.
Yet, I am convinced that when you dig even deeper into human BioPsychoSocial? systems, and you ask “why do you want that?” you find why one person’s “progress” is another’s “hell on earth”. Why one person believes that he must kill anyone who does not share his religion, while another believes exactly the opposite. Why one person strives to be the CEO of Enron, while another strives to be the leader of a street gang. Why one person becomes a scientologist, while another becomes a psychiatrist. The moralities and ethics of each one of these people might be radically different.
Good point! The question “What is the basis of Ethics,” answered with “It’s what you want,” connect then to: “Why do people P want X?”
i want to understand systems .
ethic is what i want .
so indeed, i understand ethic .
In “ethic is what I want” (Lion) I do not understand the meaning of “is”.
I can read this as:
I still feel a lost about the true meaning of this page.
Let’s see if we can do this in pieces.
Take an ethical dilemma. Ask people: “What is ethical, here? What is moral here?”
Now, ask: “How is the person’s answer functionally different than: What would you want people to do in this situation?”
As I wrote above, to add some clarity to it:
So, the root of ethics is desire and want. It is not metaphysics, it is not deductive, it does not follow from first principles, it does not follow from God-given principles, and so on. No, the root foundation of ethics is what you want.
Since we get those wants from our society, it has the appearance of being “out there.” And in fact, it is (materially) “out there,” because that’s where it came from. Your society quite literally handed you your wants for society. So we can understand why people were confused, and thought that ethics was some metaphysical entity from outside (the proper first basis) or from some God outside (that moves their conscience so.)
Does this make it clearer?
See, all my life, I was asking myself: “What is ethical? How do we know what is ethical? What is the basis of ethics?”
My first major theory was based in intention. Later, I switched to TheGoldenRule?, for a very long time. But, what is the basis of the Golden Rule? The question remained unanswered. “How can I convince somebody by reason and intellect that the Golden Rule ws a firm basis? They could just as plausibly argue from Utilitarianism.”
I now see those metaphysical constructs as tools that we use to instill consistency and coherence to our decisions. But they are not themselves the basis of ethics.
The basis of ethics is, very simply, what we want.
“But that’s crazy! That’s hedonism!”
Not quite. First, it’s what we want for society, and further, it seems that we work in such a way that those wants are installed into us, from whatever society we happen to be in.
This also would nicely explain why beauty standards and sexual standards, which fly in the face of all reason, are nonetheless frequently confused by the mind with morality, and why many societies say things like: “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
Does this make sense?
We’re used to thinking of ethics in terms of these frameworks.
People argue a lot over which is the better foundation for ethics. They argue from results, they argue from foundations, they argue from simplicity, they argue from applicability, and so on, and so forth: “Well, see, if we think about this one this way, we get these sorts of results. Doesn’t that seem more reasonable to you?”
But what is the foundation?
And I’m saying: The foundation is what we want. (What we want for society.)
Does this make sense?
In your list of scenarios:
The second is the closest. But it’s incorrect.
Why? Because it says: “The true I can’t be wrong.”
But this isn’t right, because it suggests that there is an objective, independent right and wrong.
But there is not an independent right and wrong. See, this is what I mean when I’m talking about a “metaphysical ethics” – an independent right and wrong.
Human beings are the authors and creators of “right and wrong.”
Right and wrong is what you want.
It’s not that “what you want is what matches the cosmic right,” rather, it is: You are the author and arbiter of right & wrong.
You and everyone else, that is. You didn’t individually hand-craft your own DNA, after all. You received it from your society. Similarly, you have received your ethical wants from society.
Note also another problem: “I should be allowed to do what I want.”
Of course not.
And why not?
Because that’s not what we want.
If you want to just kill somebody, the rest of us are going to try and constrain you. Because, that’s what we want.
We will try to convince you before hand, by handing you our wants as you grow up, and by indoctrinting you in our collective wants, to not want that sort of thing to happen.
When you stand there, wanting to kill that other person, we want you to feel the conflict between the two wants: The wants of society that live within you, and the wants of your mind at that individual moment.
The wants of society live within you. But what form do they take? They can only possibly take the form of your own wants.
We share wants, on a massive social scale, and we call it: “Ethics.”
ethic is what we want
Have we arrived at Kant’s categorial imperative?
“Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it would become a universal law.”
⇒ let’s act according to the maxim that we can imagine the whole society to be organized that way.
if you are doubting that a “general we” exists, you must restrict whole society to lion, you and me (but to want this society growing, right? ) .
sigi, it’s unclear to me what the “we” means. It is subject to the problem of UsAndThem and a rightful reason for MeatBall:TheWarOnThem. I agree when “we” represents an arbitrary group that has some agreement, about their interest and goals, and tries to sets ethical standards. The “we” can also represent the whole society when someone tries to create a standard that is acceptable to all. I would disagree when the “we” is used to represent an idealistic or absolute viewpoint, actually representing the whole sciety, which imho can’t exist. There can be no “we” and no ethics that doesn’t create winners and loosers.
i’ll try it once more .
ethic is what we (lion, sigi, helmut) want .
if this is not understandable for you, than you can not say “yes” (in welchem sinn auch immer) .
your answer is “no (in the sense of: bla, bla ..)” .
i’ll try it again:
can we(lion, sigi, helmut) say: “xyz” ?
no, we can’t, because we first must clarify what the word we means . oops: i can’t say “we cant”, because we first … . oops: i can’t say “because we first ..”, because ääh .
I don’t think I’m communicating clearly enough…
…my goal here is not to construct an ethics.
My question was: “What is the basis behind ethics?”
It was not “What is ethical?”
I think that the “It’s what we want” answer to “What is the basis behind ethics?” …in many ways, blows “What is ethical?” out of the water, because the question “What is ethical” is, more appropriately, “How would people P like a person X to respond in a situation S?”
And, in fact, there will be diversity of opinion there, and so on, and so forth.
There is further complexity, because people P, or a subset of people P, can be convinced, by various practical explanations, and by various consistency requests, that they would like a person X to respond to situation S in a different way. There are meta-ethical concepts, such as: “How do we want persuasions to work,” and so on. And again, different peoples, different ethics.
The revelation here is that the foundation is in want, rather than metaphysical / philosophical existence, that the foundation is in want rather than in spiritual truth or Godly dictum.
So: HelmutLeitner, if you want society to “Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it would become a universal law,” then that is the ethics that you subscribe to.
There is a similarity behind that rule, and the definition of ethics that I’m describing here:
Note that they are not identical.
That individuals want for society to put that individual above all others is on the same ethical footing as a more egalitarian view, because the root of all ethics is want. (By the IsWantOught reasoning.)
That doesn’t mean we need to abide that sort of ethics. But it does (appropriately, in my view) deflate our sense of ethical superiority. Because: We see that at the end of the chain, these are simply things that we want.
This argument is not a way to say, “Ah; Using this argument, I can convince you that my ethics are better than yours. Utilitarianism trumps Intentionalism! No! Kant trumps Utilitarianism! No! Golden Rule trumps Kant! No! Virtue Ethic trumps Golden Rule! (and so on, and so forth)” It is, rather, to say, “There is a scientific basis for the man-made phenomenon of ethics. Here is how this works.” This is more of a description of how things are, rather than what things should be. Or, rather, how our “shoulds” come from “wants” come from “is.”
That said, this does influence debate. If someone says, “God tells me I must hate homosexuals,” you know: You can argue differently. You can then say, “OK, God might say something like that, maybe, but what would you want? Would you want a world where people are punished based on how they want to have sex in their own bedroom? And if so, why? Independent of what God wants.” Someone could well argue, “It’s just what I want,” but at that point, you can start asking them to square it with their other wants. Perhaps, if they find the behavior ugly, perhaps we should also lock up ugly people, too, or any other minorities that they don’t find appealing.
Arguing from Categorical Imperative, or arguing from any of the other competing would-be foundations of thinking, is, (I think,) like arguing from metaphysical spirit or ghost. “Which cosmic ontology would you rather have?”
“Gee, do I have to pick? What exactly are the full implications of that philosophy? Because I wouldn’t want to pick one that I don’t like…”
We want to know the consequences of the proposed philisophical basis, because we don’t want to get trapped, right?
We don’t want to get trapped in something we don’t want. Yes?
(So in the case of ethics, arguing from consequences is fine, because consequences is what this is all about! …should it be true (like I think it is) that ethics is based in what we want.)
I hope this is clearer..?
Lion, sometimes it seems to become clearer to me, then it turns the other way. It’s a big difference to say “Ethic is what we want” as a definition and “Ethic is based in what we want” as a kind of genetic explanation. BTW it would be probably nearer to the truth when one replaced “want” by “need”.
I think that a 5-word sentence is just too short to capture the essential meaning.
The nearest I can come is using something like “let’s not talk about ethics because this has too much abstract and questionable overhead, let’s talk about our wants and needs openly and how to implement them as a community in our society”. This is a common sense viewpoint in a community discussion about decisions.
The detailed arguments given on this page all seem to be questionable. It’s also a misunderstanding that I brought in Kant because I agree with his attitude. I think that by constructing a reference system of [we, society] you are near the idea of an idealistic absolute reference system like Kant’s. I think, quite to the contrary that there can’t be a single-reference-system situation (you won’t get consensus on homosexual marriage or death penalty) and to try is an over-simplification that must fail.
My attitude towards the problem is less positive than yours, because where you seem to imply an “overhead” I assume that the existing forces behind ethics are (1) to dominate people (2) to hide interests. Of course there is also (0) to increase the stability of the community. But we have agreement on what we want: no ethical arguments, open discussion and negotiation about changing systems.
BTW ethics seems a GrayPattern?: a pattern that actually solves problems at certain stages of community or society development but which turns into a DarkPattern in other situations, e. g. when a society needs to change.
If you see the “we want” as a solution to a problem, in the sense of “we can agree of where we want to go”, then you are wrong. Problably we could all agree on “we want peace” but what actions do lead to peace? Obviously many people believe that the best way to get peace is to wage a war. The difference between “what you want” and an inconsistent “how you act”, our lack of system understanding, can not be made to magically disappear.
I’m very confused.
I feel I’ve not communicated at all.
If you see the “we want” as a solution to a problem, in the sense of “we can agree of where we want to go”, then you are wrong.
Yeah. That would be wrong. Except, that’s not what I think.
What I’ve presented is a vision of extroadinarily diverse ethics.
The question that IsWantOught answers is “What is the foundation of ethics?” It does not answer “What is ethical?”
I’m feeling very misunderstood, and am thinking that a total rewrite focusing on the very first ideas, without proceeding to following ideas, is in order.
I think what I want to do is:
…but, this is going too far.
The implications of the idea need to be separate from the idea itself. Otherwise, I am trying to explain to much of myself at once, in an a-synchronous environment. One person thinks I’m saying that ethics = hedonism, another person thinks I’m saying that I get to define the moral agenda of the entire world, another person thinks that I’m talking about “we,” but wants to show me that there is no clear we, and so many other distractions from what is, in truth, a very simple idea.
I swear, it takes only a very short time to explain this in person, where we can ask questions and answer them…
So, is archiving this page fine, and writing out “SourceOfEthics” fine?
There, I’ve done it.
I think this line of thinking is good, too.
I want these questions.
sigi, use seem to use “tree” like an icon for a deeper concept or idea. Maybe there is something in between Austin’s reference to Alexander, who works about unfolding living systems, and the concept of “fractality” which corresponds to this.
you changed your writing and it’s indeed better now . so the following is only of historical value: not forgotten, but forgiven
are you joking? a tree is an elementary graph with no circles in it and the classical and most simlple model of fractality . you are the only one who left the tree of ''yous'' and the only one who has taken back his pledges . i don't know you and i don't want to know you . but dear me! i know your führer- äh leitner- äh gründer-wiki and the wikis you sell to other people . let's be silent about it, it's better . and how can you dare to write a book about wikis and to sell it . either people have internet, then a good link will do it, or they haven't, then your book is bull-shit for them . and this dirty try to make a wiki-programm with copy-right . who has done that before?
my deep want is: stand a little out of my sun .
ja, ich weiss, alex hat sich das in bezug auf meine person auch schon gewünscht und ich habe mich auch nicht so hundertprozentig daran gehalten . was soll man machen, it's a wiki, und das ist ja schließlich das schöne daran . (alex hat voltaire hochgehalten, was ich ihm hoch anrechne (man muss ja zunächst immer mal ehrlichkeit voraussetzen)) . was "topicality" betrifft (bzw. deinen eigenmächtigen missbrauch dieses wortes (heißt eigentlich nur "aktualität")), siehe meine kommentare zu den fragen von lion .
Sigi, if this is your desire, why do you move into my shadow?
BTW I didn’t write a book about wiki and ProWiki software is GPL-ed since March 2006. GründerWiki is the first wiki that has introduced a ConsensusGroup for democratic decisons. A concept that we both co-developed there.
If you want to attack me, please do so, but why here on this page, against all rules of topicality?