From: Thomas Buckner (email@example.com)
Date: Sun Jan 30 2005 - 21:47:16 MST
--- Randall Randall <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> On Jan 30, 2005, at 7:43 AM, Thomas Buckner
> > same ideas. Some of the distinctions I can
> > which make it preferable:
> > Professional moralists (is to) professional
> > ethicists as professional wrestling (is to)
> > wrestling with the Big Questions.
> Have you read the public pronouncements of
> those who are held up as "professional
> ethicists"? If they're really "wrestling with
> the Big Questions", then they appear to be
> regrettably getting the Big Answers mostly
I know, I know, but I gave in to the siren call
of a clever turn of phrase...
> In ordinary argument, morals appear to be used
> as that code of behavior which one expects
> oneself to follow (for whatever arguable
> while ethics are used as that code of behavior
> you wish *other* people followed, but perhaps
> not so strongly as to turn it into law.
> In that spirit, morality is more general than
> ethics; it includes those behaviors for which
> there would still exist an "ought" were the
> actor the only individual (if any such
> exist, of course!).
> Randall Randall <email@example.com>
I assert, however, that no oughts could exist if
the actor were the only individual. A social
vacuum is an ethical/moral vacuum. Indeed, no
human could stay sane alone for really
significant periods of time. Solitary creatures
(many of which are carnivores) are rather alien
to us, and the most intelligent animals are
social; complete solitude is incompatible with
what we call ethical or moral values. Nothing a
spider can do is right or wrong, while an ant has
a clear role it must play in a successful colony.
I'm not trying to equate people with ants, but I
guess I did anyway. And I'll stand by that
comparison insofar as I consider unethical
behavior to be wrong specifically because it is
bad for the hive. If humans could consistently
hold themselves to high ethical standards, the
world would be a noticeably safer place, with
less exploitation and and coercion, resulting in
less motivation among some parties to try to blow
each other up, etc.
As an illustration of this principle, consider an
election in a liberal democracy where the loser
submits gracefully, knowing that the winner will
not proceed to have him shot.
If the winner does shoot the loser, it is
understood that losing is unhealthy and
submitting nonviolently to the election results
is a bad strategy.
If either side consistently cheats or resorts to
violence, a downward spiral ensues, perhaps to
civil war. The hive is rent asunder because the
ants could not restrain themselves.
The cause and effect might be regarded as
objective, but that is not really the same as
'objective morality.' A scientist on the moon
might watch the civil war through a scope with
cold, clinical detachment, and say "Ah, the
social contract broke down. Oh well." Or he might
say "The social contract broke down! This is a
disgrace!" and rain lightning bolts down on all
You see, the idea that there is an objective
morality IMHO depends on an outside observer who
judges. William Blake used to call him Old
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