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Subject: Morality and Human Value rss

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Clay
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Ok, this is taken from the tail end of the abortion debate. Wow, that thread is spawning a lot of subthreads!

The Message wrote:
lelandpike wrote:
The Message wrote:
Darilian wrote:

Better yet for us, pro life and pro choice, right now, to realize that human life is something of VALUE- and all that all life should be protected. But equal to the value of life is the value of our FREEDOM to be responsible for our actions and our bodies.

What use is freedom if our lives have no value?
How can our lives be of any value if we do not have the freedom to make our choices (and to choose wrongly?)

Ok, I'd like to take a philosophical detour here and ask, can you prove that a human life has value? What are you basing this on? The immortal soul? I don't believe in that fantasy, and neither do a large portion of this planet's population. Productiveness to society? That excludes a vast amount of individuals, including fetuses, infants and the impaired. So I ask you, what is value and does every human really posses this quality?

That's a timely question for this thread. By value I assume you mean moral value such that we humans have greater intrinsic worth than other animals.

For that I would go with the fact that we are the only life form that exhibits any real moral capacity. Other animals just don't appear to be morally capable.

Also, there's the issue of capacities per se. Whereas animals (especially mammals) have many of the same capacities we have, we have orders of capacities that they don't seem to have. (Animals obviously think, but we think about thinking - there are no animal philosophers... animals feel, we have feelings about our feelings... animals have various capacities of communication, but we discuss what communication is and the significance and purpose of communication, etc...)


Actually, this leads us to yet another detour in that, what is morality? Who is defining this morality? Morals have changed drastically over the years, and there is plentiful variation among individuals, so how exactly are you supporting your claims, logically?

Hmm, I think I'll start another thread, so as not to derail this topic in yet another direction.


Basically, there are two questions here.

First, what is morality and how can define it? There is so much variation in the way it has been and is presented that ultimately this has come to be a very nebulous idea. Is there even such a thing as morality, with one solid set of ideals with are ultimately true over all others?

Second, how does the issue of morality effect human value? Do human lives have actual value, or is this just a feeble hope our egos have conjured up?
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William Boykin
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I'll make a quick cop out and then go off and fade for the night.

1) I'm much more interested in ethics than I am with morality. Better to play the game fairly, I think- as I feel that (very probably) no one will ever come up with an objective system of morals that was universally accepted.

2) From that, the value of human life is that we play the human game. If we play the game fairly, our lives have meaning to other people. If we're jerks, then our lives have less meaning to other people- to the extent that they see us as a negative. Of course, what I see as being a really cool, witty, cynic and what you see as me being an smart ass dildo could be exactly the same things.....

3) I can't tell you about the value of human life, but I can tell you the value of Freedom.

Freedom costs a $1.05. If you put it up, who will?

Darilian
About 70% of that was actually serious.
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Clay
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Darilian wrote:
I'll make a quick cop out and then go off and fade for the night.

1) I'm much more interested in ethics than I am with morality. Better to play the game fairly, I think- as I feel that (very probably) no one will ever come up with an objective system of morals that was universally accepted.

2) From that, the value of human life is that we play the human game. If we play the game fairly, our lives have meaning to other people. If we're jerks, then our lives have less meaning to other people- to the extent that they see us as a negative. Of course, what I see as being a really cool, witty, cynic and what you see as me being an smart ass dildo could be exactly the same things.....

3) I can't tell you about the value of human life, but I can tell you the value of Freedom.

Freedom costs a $1.05. If you put it up, who will?

Darilian
About 70% of that was actually serious.


That's extremely vague and ill-defined, but we both already knew that. Basically, the stance is that morals are relative on an individual basis going both ways.
 
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Leland Pike
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From my last post on the thread that spawned this thread:

The Message wrote:
Actually, this leads us to yet another detour in that, what is morality?

Morality is what ought to be.

The Message wrote:
Who is defining this morality?

Morality cannot be defined any more than the laws of physics or mathematics can be defined. Like the other laws of nature (and nature's God) morality can only be discovered.

The Message wrote:
Morals have changed drastically over the years, and there is plentiful variation among individuals, so how exactly are you supporting your claims, logically?

Yes, logically is exactly how we should support our claims. (OK, forgive the pun...) But, I don't see how morals could change over time any more than the laws of nature could. What changes, I think, are our moral rationalizations.
 
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Clay
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And mine.

The Message wrote:
lelandpike wrote:
The Message wrote:
lelandpike wrote:
The Message wrote:
Darilian wrote:

Better yet for us, pro life and pro choice, right now, to realize that human life is something of VALUE- and all that all life should be protected. But equal to the value of life is the value of our FREEDOM to be responsible for our actions and our bodies.

What use is freedom if our lives have no value?
How can our lives be of any value if we do not have the freedom to make our choices (and to choose wrongly?)

Ok, I'd like to take a philosophical detour here and ask, can you prove that a human life has value? What are you basing this on? The immortal soul? I don't believe in that fantasy, and neither do a large portion of this planet's population. Productiveness to society? That excludes a vast amount of individuals, including fetuses, infants and the impaired. So I ask you, what is value and does every human really posses this quality?

That's a timely question for this thread. By value I assume you mean moral value such that we humans have greater intrinsic worth than other animals.

For that I would go with the fact that we are the only life form that exhibits any real moral capacity. Other animals just don't appear to be morally capable.

Also, there's the issue of capacities per se. Whereas animals (especially mammals) have many of the same capacities we have, we have orders of capacities that they don't seem to have. (Animals obviously think, but we think about thinking - there are no animal philosophers... animals feel, we have feelings about our feelings... animals have various capacities of communication, but we discuss what communication is and the significance and purpose of communication, etc...)

Actually, this leads us to yet another detour in that, what is morality?

Morality is what ought to be.

The Message wrote:
Who is defining this morality?

Morality cannot be defined any more than the laws of physics or mathematics can be defined. Like the other laws of nature (and nature's God) morality can only be discovered.

The Message wrote:
Morals have changed drastically over the years, and there is plentiful variation among individuals, so how exactly are you supporting your claims, logically?

Yes, logically is exactly how we should support our claims. (OK, forgive the pun...) But, I don't see how morals could change over time any more than the laws of nature could. What changes, I think, are our moral rationalizations.

The Message wrote:
Hmm, I think I'll start another thread, so as not to derail this topic in yet another direction.

If you start another thread, do post a link on this one so we can find it.


I'm going to answer this last bit here, then move to the other thread.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/375206

Morality is substantially different from physics. For one, we can actively test and, as you put it, discover its laws. Morality, however, has no such measurability. How exactly are you 'discovering' morality?

It appears that the way you state this, it's simply a man made intellectual construct, and thus has no true meaning other than what any given society ascribes to it.
 
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Leland Pike
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The Message wrote:
lelandpike wrote:
The Message wrote:
Actually, this leads us to yet another detour in that, what is morality?
Morality is what ought to be.
The Message wrote:
Who is defining this morality?
Morality cannot be defined any more than the laws of physics or mathematics can be defined. Like the other laws of nature (and nature's God) morality can only be discovered.
The Message wrote:
Morals have changed drastically over the years, and there is plentiful variation among individuals, so how exactly are you supporting your claims, logically?
Yes, logically is exactly how we should support our claims. (OK, forgive the pun...) But, I don't see how morals could change over time any more than the laws of nature could. What changes, I think, are our moral rationalizations.
Morality is substantially different from physics. For one, we can actively test and, as you put it, discover its laws. Morality, however, has no such measurability.
OK, but notice you only rejected physics as an analogy. But what about the laws of mathematics? Or the laws of logic? With math and logic one is studying something that is purely non-physical. And the same is true of morality and ethics. (In fact, while physics is the study of physical phenomena, the laws of physics discovered by that study are also purely non-physical.)[/q]
The Message wrote:
How exactly are you 'discovering' morality?
Much as one would discover the laws of logic: Start with intuition and work out from there. ("I think, therefore I am...")
The Message wrote:
It appears that the way you state this, it's simply a man made intellectual construct, and thus has no true meaning other than what any given society ascribes to it.
Why would that be the case for morality and ethics any more than it is for the other laws of nature? It's easier for us to convince ourselves that moral truth is no more than a 'social construct' than it would be to convince ourselves that the same is true about physics, but still...
Two things are true about reality of any kind:
1) Reality is what exists whether anyone believes it or not.
2) Reality has severe consequences for those who ignore it.
It seems to me that attempting to deny the existence of morality and ethics has not done humanity any less harm than denying the existence of the laws of physics would.
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Clay
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The problem with this is that those other fields are, at least in some way, observable. Yes, mathematics is an 'intellectual construct', but you can physically see that 1 + 1 = 2. It's a necessary truth. Granted, the words expressing it could be different, but the idea is very solid and very capable of being proven. The same can be said of physics and even logic, though that one is a bit trickier. You can apply a format for valid reasoning to a real world scenario and observe the conditions and phrasings which make the argument work and then apply it to more complex ideas not as easily expressed.

Morality has no such mechanism for proving. All the 'proof' is people saying this and that, and then arguing over it. Eventually, one group will usurp the other, not due to being any more 'correct' or 'moral', but simply due to mob mentality, ingrained traditions in the young and other such methods for majority rule. Then those ideas of morality get carried on and the process repeats itself.

There is a difference between people agreeing on something now and then changing their minds later on, and something that is absolutely true.
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Isaac Citrom
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I think that both with respect to value as well as morality the OP in his comments presumes that there is, even if unknown, some definite and right meaning. For example, he suggests that people have long been debating what morality is but have yet to determine it or the real truth of it. This is not the case nor is it necessary for it to be the case.

Regarding value it is entirely subjective. The value of a thing is whatever importance someone places on it. Of course, this differs from person to person even within identical contexts. I highly value my wargames while another wouldn't spit on a wargame to put out a fire. Similarly, a roll of toilet paper might be valued at 25 cents on one day and $50 on another.

As such, there is no specific value for a human life. Millions are spent to protect president Obama. Granted, the risk of his being hurt is greater than most but the US spends millions on his safety because his life is more valued. I'm fair sure millions would not be spent on the average person even with definite threats on his life. Many don't like to look at this in the eye, trying to claim that each individual's life is equally valued, but I would suggest that that does not jibe with reality.

GAWD claims that life is priceless. Perhaps he means irreplaceable but I don't want to put words in his mouth. I would ask that he demonstrate this claim. By every measure I can think of, I do not see where a human life is priceless, where we would pay any amount at all to save one. That a mother would pay any price at all to save the life of her child does not mean that a human life is priceless. We can only conlcude from that that her own child's life is priceless and only to her.


So, what of morality. Well, it's kind of too broad of a topic for a forum. It's sort of like a chiuld asking his father, "Dad, what's the meaning of life, and I gotta be at hockey practice in 15 minutes."

Morality is one of the principal topics of philosophy. It is not just that a book or books have been written on the subject, rather it has occupied the minds of thinkers for millenia. An understanding of what humans mean by morality--what ought to be--has developed and grown as great thinkers have added to the knowledgebase.

More than that, morality, like value, is not a constant to be discovered. Different schools of thought have developed all within a culture or value system, and different cultures have their own streams of thinking. What might be immoral in a Judeo-Christian context might be the absolute right thing to do in a Japanese context.

In my opinion it is this very notion that there is one right way that is at the heart of more liberal and secular-humanist thinking. This statement might seem counterintuitive such that a secular-humanist would say that he recognizes other cultures and their different ways and respects them. Look at it from another angle. "If we but recognize this other way of thinking and respect it, they will in turn respect our ways.

Implicitly in this mode of thought is the belief that they ultimately think like we do, have the same sensibilities, and share the same values. That is, that this notion of toleration of differences is the true understanding of morality and values. Underneath it all, at worst they have just not come around or are prevented from seeing the light, so-to-speak.

Contrary to this secular-humanist view of the world is the statement that other modes of morality are very different and will not naturally behave and accept what we--in our morality--value and think ought to be. I share this view.
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Ken
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The Message wrote:
First, what is morality and how can define it?


Morality is defining what is right and wrong or the ability to distinguish between what is right and wrong.

This is subtly different than "ethics" which is a question of how one makes choices based on their beliefs of what is right and wrong.

Quote:
Second, how does the issue of morality effect human value? Do human lives have actual value, or is this just a feeble hope our egos have conjured up?


Well, I know of no major religions that don't assign an inherent value to a human life, so I'd suggest that there's a presumption of human value built into every moral system. Even more secular interpretations of morals (such as a constructionist view of the US Constitution) assign a value to a human life, so this is pretty universal.

Where the discussion will get interesting/go off the rails is defining what that value is and when it "attaches" to a life. There are differences in those perceptions that can vary fairly significantly.
 
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isaacc wrote:

I think that both with respect to value as well as morality the OP in his comments presumes that there is, even if unknown, some definite and right meaning. For example, he suggests that people have long been debating what morality is but have yet to determine it or the real truth of it. This is not the case nor is it necessary for it to be the case.

Regarding value it is entirely subjective. The value of a thing is whatever importance someone places on it. Of course, this differs from person to person even within identical contexts. I highly value my wargames while another wouldn't spit on a wargame to put out a fire. Similarly, a roll of toilet paper might be valued at 25 cents on one day and $50 on another.

As such, there is no specific value for a human life. Millions are spent to protect president Obama. Granted, the risk of his being hurt is greater than most but the US spends millions on his safety because his life is more valued. I'm fair sure millions would not be spent on the average person even with definite threats on his life. Many don't like to look at this in the eye, trying to claim that each individual's life is equally valued, but I would suggest that that does not jibe with reality.

GAWD claims that life is priceless. Perhaps he means irreplaceable but I don't want to put words in his mouth. I would ask that he demonstrate this claim. By every measure I can think of, I do not see where a human life is priceless, where we would pay any amount at all to save one. That a mother would pay any price at all to save the life of her child does not mean that a human life is priceless. We can only conlcude from that that her own child's life is priceless and only to her.


So, what of morality. Well, it's kind of too broad of a topic for a forum. It's sort of like a chiuld asking his father, "Dad, what's the meaning of life, and I gotta be at hockey practice in 15 minutes."

Morality is one of the principal topics of philosophy. It is not just that a book or books have been written on the subject, rather it has occupied the minds of thinkers for millenia. An understanding of what humans mean by morality--what ought to be--has developed and grown as great thinkers have added to the knowledgebase.

More than that, morality, like value, is not a constant to be discovered. Different schools of thought have developed all within a culture or value system, and different cultures have their own streams of thinking. What might be immoral in a Judeo-Christian context might be the absolute right thing to do in a Japanese context.

In my opinion it is this very notion that there is one right way that is at the heart of more liberal and secular-humanist thinking. This statement might seem counterintuitive such that a secular-humanist would say that he recognizes other cultures and their different ways and respects them. Look at it from another angle. "If we but recognize this other way of thinking and respect it, they will in turn respect our ways.

Implicitly in this mode of thought is the belief that they ultimately think like we do, have the same sensibilities, and share the same values. That is, that this notion of toleration of differences is the true understanding of morality and values. Underneath it all, at worst they have just not come around or are prevented from seeing the light, so-to-speak.

Contrary to this secular-humanist view of the world is the statement that other modes of morality are very different and will not naturally behave and accept what we--in our morality--value and think ought to be. I share this view.
.


I think I'm more or less in agreement with you. However, due to the relativistic nature of this view, can either concept be said to have a necessary truth independant of any other idea or are they purely subjective and thus irrelevant?
 
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Isaac Citrom
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In my opinion they are purely subjective and very relevant. I'm not sure I see why something has less relevance only because it does not have a definite meaning.
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isaacc wrote:

In my opinion they are purely subjective and very relevant. I'm not sure I see why something has less relevance only because it does not have a definite meaning.
.


Because it fails to stand on its own. 1+1 always equals two, simply by virtue of itself, independent of anything else. An individual's particular view of morality ceases to be once that individual does. It's the bane of any purely fictional idea, which is effectively what morality is if subjective.
 
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Isaac Citrom
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GAWD wrote:
isaacc wrote:

GAWD claims that life is priceless. Perhaps he means irreplaceable but I don't want to put words in his mouth. I would ask that he demonstrate this claim.


Sure, I'll come back to this ...

Every individual is irreplaceable (for obvious reasons) and every individual is priceless.

Priceless in the sense of a valuelessness that indicates human "value" cannot be calculated by any measure or scale (monetary or otherwise). No one on the planet is worth any more than anyone else b/c no one is worth anything. The attribution "value" to human beings places us all into an economic (broadly construed) logic of measuring our worth against each other, thereby laying the foundation for logics of power and status that inevitably lead to human exploitation.

But, you already knew I was going to say that devil


Actually, I didn't.

I think you're playing a little game of semantics here. You define "priceless" as sans price. C'mon, priceless is a common enough term with a common understanding. It means supervalued, not no value. It means valued so high that we cannot put a meaningful and practical price on it. That is what I asked you to demonstrate as I don't see it in the real world.

If you want to stick with your own personal definition of priceless, then I would disagree with you. Even a total stranger to me has value to me such that I would sacrifice at least something.

But, if I read you correctly, you wish to say that people are outside the scope of economics so value and price are meaningless. I answer to that that you state as fact something that you wish to be; it ought to be that way.

I don't at all think it is. I need go no further than my local hospital where people die everyday waiting in queue for surgery for which their turn didn't come up in time. Their lives were valued only to a certain point with respect to resources expended. In the US, patients die everyday who were refused critical treatment such as for cancer because they lack the necessary insurance. I'm sure that together we can come up with another thousand examples where people's lives were assessed a value that was not as high as the value of the resources required to save it.
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William Boykin
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Just because we 'do' place a price upon human life doesn't mean that we should.

While I might agree with some free market ideologues that say that ultimately, you have to view some issues (like health care) in terms of who can pay, and who cannot (ie, some people are going to get life extension drugs that others cannot afford, and we accept this because otherwise there would be no incentive for ANY medical research at all), that doesn't mean that I feel that this is 'good'. At best, I see it as a necessary evil.

I most certainly do NOT want to see a world where we don't at least TRY to value human life. A completely market based philosophy of life is truly frightening.

As I've said before- I'm in favor of markets because, generally, they help promote human freedom, not because they are inherently good in and of themselves.

Thats a point of view that I think that the Republicans need to make more clear in their discussions of the relationship of markets vis a vis the government.

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isaacc wrote:
In my opinion it is this very notion that there is one right way that is at the heart of more liberal and secular-humanist thinking. This statement might seem counterintuitive such that a secular-humanist would say that he recognizes other cultures and their different ways and respects them. Look at it from another angle. "If we but recognize this other way of thinking and respect it, they will in turn respect our ways.

Oh, you were doin' good until this all-too-predictable detour into your unseemly obsession with liberals.

isaacc wrote:
Contrary to this secular-humanist view of the world is the statement that other modes of morality are very different and will not naturally behave and accept what we--in our morality--value and think ought to be. I share this view.

I share that view, too, but I've got a different way of dealing with that fact than you, one that's entirely compatible with secular humanism and leftist thought.
 
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I want to know where "price" became mixed with "value." One's moral "values" aren't usually things we discuss having a "price" because they're a reflection of what we believe in and hold dear. That need not equate to a dollar figure.

Saying "I value human life" doesn't mean I could tell you how much you'd have to pay me to take one.
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perfalbion wrote:
I want to know where "price" became mixed with "value." One's moral "values" aren't usually things we discuss having a "price" because they're a reflection of what we believe in and hold dear. That need not equate to a dollar figure.

Saying "I value human life" doesn't mean I could tell you how much you'd have to pay me to take one.


Again, a semantic play. The word value has more than one connotation. In our current discussion, we are not using the word value as you are. In critical thinking this is referred to as an apparent argument. Merriam-Webster online has 9 connotations listed for the word value. We are using the word value to mean the monetary worth of something. You are using it to mean something (as a principle or quality) intrinsically valuable or desirable.

I was arguing that a human life does in fact have a value as I see the world functioning. GAWD first raised the point that human lives ought not have a value, they should be outside the scope of economics.
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I'm just referring back to the OP. The question asked wasn't about "value" as a measure of monetary worth, it was a question about moral choices and values. It strikes me that discussing price is missing the point of the thread that was started.

That's not a semantic play, it's noting that the original question asked was about moral values not monetary ones.
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Quote:
Morality cannot be defined any more than the laws of physics or mathematics can be defined. Like the other laws of nature (and nature's God) morality can only be discovered.


I would contest the notion that the laws of physics or mathematics have been discovered, instead of invented (in the most wide sense). This comes across a recent debate about the nature of science.
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