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Celebrating death





Indi
Current news headlines often give you an excellent chance for some powerful philosophical analysis, in messy real-world contexts, and recently we've had a doozy, but - to my disappointment - no one's seemed to pick up on it. There are certainly dozens of philosophical questions that can be asked in the wake of the Osama Bin Laden killing (talking philosophy's Mike Laboissiere raises at least a half-dozen of them in a single, excellent post), but i'm going to focus on one specific one... the questionable morality of celebrating Bin Laden's death.

Let's be clear on this: Bin Laden was a mass-murdering, religious extremist monster, and there is no part of the man's actions or motives that deserve praise on any level. i can't imagine any rational person lamenting the end to Bin Laden's plans or movement (assuming they are ended), but cheering on his death is an entirely different matter. So, right off the bat, let's get this perfectly clear: saying it is wrong to celebrate Bin Laden's death is not the same as saying there was any benefit to his existence. The first person that responds to a criticism of celebrating Bin Laden's death by implying that's the same as celebrating his life, his actions, or his cause, marks themselves as an idiot of the highest level.

Let's also be clear on this: this is not a forum for discussing military tactics. Clearly asking US SEALs to put their lives on the line to bring the man back alive rather than simply put him down quickly is ridiculous. It's a lot safer to just shoot on sight, rather than trying to assess the strategic situation and determine whether the target might have something nasty up their sleeve just in case of capture. (For example, i understand the SEALs were told that unless Bin Laden was asleep and naked, to kill him immediately... probably because of the risk that if he wasn't, he might have concealed weapons, or a hidden detonator to bombs all around the complex.) i would argue that the call to kill rather than capture was rational, and hence, moral, because the target, in this case, was a religious nutter who not only doesn't fear death, but who would welcome it, and who would relish taking as many people down with him as possible. But just because the order to kill was moral, that doesn't make celebrating the death moral. Being forced to kill someone for rational tactical reasons is not the same as wanting them dead, and certainly not the same as rejoicing in it.

And finally, let's be crystal clear on this: this is not a forum for discussing politics or conspiracy theories. i'm not interested in how "convenient" you think the timing of Bin Laden's death is, or if you think he isn't really dead. i'm not even interested in whether or not you think it's better, politically, that Bin Laden's dead rather than alive to spew his crap in an open trial. None of that is relevant here. The issue is the righteousness of the celebration of the death, not the death itself or the circumstances surrounding it.


Okay, that stuff's out of the way, so let's get into the meat of the philosophical problem. Bin Laden is killed in a raid. Next, thousands upon thousands of Americans are cheering and dancing in the streets to celebrate the fact that he's dead:

Whoops! Silly me. That is actually a picture of Palestinians celebrating the 9/11 attacks. How careless. This is the correct image:


Now, i don't think that anyone will argue that the Palestinians in the first picture are scum. They're celebrating the deaths of thousands of people. But what about the Americans in the second picture? Sure, they're only celebrating the death of a single person, but do the numbers really matter? Let's play with them a bit to see if they do.

Suppose that, instead of killing thousands of people, Bin Laden had only killed one person. Suppose, for example, he was in a street gang, and killed a rival street gang member. Would you celebrate Bin Laden's death in that case?

Ah, the victim wasn't "innocent", like the victims of 9/11. Okay then, suppose Bin Laden was in a street gang, and killed a cashier during a hold-up - now the victim is innocent. Is it now okay to celebrate Bin Laden's death?

Oh, okay, it's not just enough that Bin Laden killed... what matters is that he had no remorse and would kill again. Okay, so let's say Bin Laden holds up stores regularly, and frequently kills cashiers or bystanders, and shows no signs of stopping. Can we celebrate now?

What exactly determines when it's okay to celebrate someone's death, if ever?
ocalhoun
Um, how about, 'it's always okay to celebrate a death, supposing that you're not hurting anybody by doing so.'

It may be rather tactless, if there are people around who liked the guy, but I don't see it as immoral.
Indi
ocalhoun wrote:
Um, how about, 'it's always okay to celebrate a death, supposing that you're not hurting anybody by doing so.'

It may be rather tactless, if there are people around who liked the guy, but I don't see it as immoral.

Interesting. This is actually one of those cases that highlight why i reject utilitarianism.

So, does that mean that it would be okay to celebrate other types of harm, provided you're not hurting anyone? How about a party to celebrate someone getting raped, assuming you can be assured they will never learn about it?
liljp617
I understand and think it's justified for people to feel a bit more content with the world knowing such an individual is no longer present. I understand, and personally felt, the very slight increase in peace of mind going to sleep that night.

I don't understand celebrating the death of anyone. My mind just doesn't comprehend the purpose or reasoning behind rejoicing over death. I don't mourn bin Laden's death at all or excuse his actions, but attempting an "outside view," it's just plain sad that the man lived the life he did. I could be wrong, but I don't think people wake up one day and decide to take thousands of innocent lives and I don't know that people are born with that level of plain disregard for life. It's sad that some people can't mentally handle their life experiences in a rational way and end up rationalizing murder to such a devastating extent.

Like I said, I can't find it within me to mourn his death, but it definitely doesn't call for happiness or rejoicing. I think it calls for reflection more than anything. On an ethical level, I don't think there's justification for rejoicing over death. I can't even think of a practical reason, much less a moral reason, for expending energy on such a cold and callous type of celebration.

Quote:
I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Although it's a lot of "fluffy" rhetoric, the message is understandable and sums up my thoughts.
saratdear
Indi wrote:
What exactly determines when it's okay to celebrate someone's death, if ever?

When no real useful purpose is served by him living, when more people are at danger with his continued existence.

Indi wrote:
...i'm not interested in how "convenient" you think the timing of Bin Laden's death is...

I hope that's aimed at me. Razz
Bikerman
saratdear wrote:
then no real useful purpose is served by him living, when more people are at danger with his continued existence.
I think this is dodgy on several fronts.
Firstly, who is the competent authority here to pass judgement about purpose? You? Me? Do we all get to judge everyone?

Secondly, the amount of people in danger from him personally was negligible, so I'm assuming you would agree that any threat comes from people who look to him for leadership and/or training/funding?

A good test of any proposal is to turn it round and see how it looks from the other side.
So, someone thought to be pretty well past usefulness and who is, nonetheless, a danger to others (there does seem to be a contradiction lurking somewhere in the grass around here).
ps - I'm not sure what 'more' would be - more than would be in danger if he died? More than the one person he is? More than 1000?

See, here's the killer : I'm going to seriously claim that just about every US president this last 100 years fits your description by the time their term is nearly over...I think they have all been responsible for more deaths (of other citizens) than Bin Laden - in fact I'm certain of most of them, I'll just have to check the others. And if you ask the people in the countries concerned, I doubt many would say they found your visit 'useful'. Vietnam, Korea, Cambodia, assorted South American countries, most of the middle-east - and that is just the overt and indisputable stuff with US troops deliberately killing them. Factor in the collateral and it gets huge...

So I don't think we can deny that those Presidents are responsible in terms of being the ones with the decision - at least to the extent that OSB was, so the only question is - was there some special excuse for the US killings and a good justification? And is there no such reasoning behind OBL?*

Well, there's your problem. A very large part of the world population would answer that the only excuse was US greed and there was no moral justification most of the militarily offensive actions post WWII, other than 'preventive war' - which is quite an obscene concept
So, when Carter dies, party at your place? Did you seen any celebrations in 2004 when Ronnie died? Not, I guess, in the US.....I wonder how it would go down, though, if enemies did?

Now I know that many Americans have a real problem trying to imagine this, but I have to tell you with no particular pleasure or enjoyment - a good deal of the population of the world think America is evil and Americans corrupt, self-serving and murderous - the most evil empire on earth.
Does this matter philosophically? Yes, I think it does. The US has been untouchable for about half a century. It is getting more 'touchable' by the month. We know that many americans, including their leaders, give this very little thought. It is simply ASSUMED that if the US has 'gone in' then it is to do good things and get rid of the bad guys....well, no, sorry....no sale.
Don't get me wrong - I'd like to be able to line up squarely with the UK/US. It would be much easier. Does anyone seriously think I want to become a Muslim - because that is what OBL would demand. I want to see a united front against Islamists because they DO worry me, but if I have to surrender whatever ethical/moral positions that mame it justified to kill someone and celebrate their death, then I think it deserves a closer look.

(This criticism is going to be heard more and more over the next decades and the US will have neither the military nor the financial superiority to deal with it in the normal manner - a few threats, a few bribes, support for a few despots who are seen to he a bullwark against the damn commies.
Where do you think OSB learned to fight and direct forces? Good old US money bought mighty amounts of weapons for the resistance fighters during the USSR occupation of Afghanistan. They were the MujaHadin in those days - they became the Taliban later. They were freedom fighters then, of course, not murdering scum terrorists....

Anyhoo, I can't see the world being OK, much longer, with the US deciding it will do what it wants to do and bugger anyone else. I'd probably give that another 20 years or so, then the emerging superpowers - India, C hina and others - might insist that the US plays nicely or gets a smack.....

In short, one of my main objections is that the US has been setting world 'policy' on some things by force of arms, or financial strangulation for a while now. But this is suggesting it does much more - defining morality in terms of US perceptions of 'useful' which will naturally favour things they believe useful but others do not.
That is some power you made a grab for.....

* Here's a nice opportunity to widen this slightly (or take a slight diversion with he intent of clarifying the main points) - can anyone actually give a written, coherent account which shows why the dozens of US actions against other countries are in some way more ethically justifiable than - to take a possible starting point - Sadam Hussein was in invading Kuwait?
catscratches
Indi wrote:

So, does that mean that it would be okay to celebrate other types of harm, provided you're not hurting anyone? How about a party to celebrate someone getting raped, assuming you can be assured they will never learn about it?
Celebrating people getting hurt is to create an environment where harmful behaviour is encouraged. That would lead to people being more inclined to perform said behaviour. However, if you can somehow ensure that noone is harmed either directly or indirectly by the celebration, then yes; that would be okay.
saratdear
Bikerman wrote:
Firstly, who is the competent authority here to pass judgement about purpose? You? Me? Do we all get to judge everyone?

Yes, because the original question was - When is it okay to celebrate someone's death? I can celebrate my neighbour's death if I believe his continued existence serves no useful purpose for me.

Bikerman wrote:
Secondly, the amount of people in danger from him personally was negligible, so I'm assuming you would agree that any threat comes from people who look to him for leadership and/or training/funding?

Yes, I agree.

Bikerman wrote:
ps - I'm not sure what 'more' would be - more than would be in danger if he died? More than the one person he is? More than 1000?

More than the one person he is.

Bikerman wrote:
A good test of any proposal is to turn it round and see how it looks from the other side.So, someone thought to be pretty well past usefulness and who is, nonetheless, a danger to others (there does seem to be a contradiction lurking somewhere in the grass around here).

And that is?

Bikerman wrote:
See, here's the killer : I'm going to seriously claim that just about every US president this last 100 years fits your description by the time their term is nearly over...

Exactly. But as I said first, their life or death did not concern me. I saw no reason in celebrating their death. I am sure the people who were affected by them might be celebrating their death.

Bikerman wrote:
... then the emerging superpowers - India, C hina and others - might insist that the US plays nicely or gets a smack.....

My ego is stroked. Razz But as about giving a smack, I am doubtful..
Bikerman
And would you grant the same to others. You would be OK, for example, at people you had never met turning the funeral of a close relative into a celebration that they are dead? You wouldn't think they were acting in any way immorally or unethically?
saratdear
It would be better for them to conduct such a celebration at the safety of their homes.

I didn't mention it before, of course, but if I am celebrating anyone's death (Osama or my neighbour) I would have the sense to keep it down.

Yes, I see the point. The U.S celebrations outside the White House were not of that sort, but what prevents me from having a quiet little tea party in my house? Not everyone has to run in the streets proclaiming "Yeah he is dead!!"
Bikerman
I think that to celebrate any death is wrong on the grounds of basic 'universalism'. I know from introspection that it is unlikely that I would be anything other than angry and insulted if someone did this to me, The US took the line that this was retributive justice but if that is true then it is horribly weak. Most people with relatives who die violently seem to want some level of closure by getting the offender to at least say 'WHY'. It becomes very important - I've seen it happen. This doesn't, I suspect, bring any closure in that sense, and I'll be interested to see what relatives say when it has settled down....

I notice that nobody took up my little challenge yet - about showing the US was more vustified in its much greater level of killing than Sadam or OBL.......
ocalhoun
Indi wrote:
ocalhoun wrote:
Um, how about, 'it's always okay to celebrate a death, supposing that you're not hurting anybody by doing so.'

It may be rather tactless, if there are people around who liked the guy, but I don't see it as immoral.

Interesting. This is actually one of those cases that highlight why i reject utilitarianism.

Why are you so sure that it is immoral to celebrate death?
(I'm assuming you're rejecting utilitarianism because it disagrees with your feelings about this.)
Sure it's rude and disrespectful, but should rudeness and disrespect really be intrinsically immoral?


...

Also, I thought your morality was centered around the word 'rational'.
What is irrational about celebrating the death of a person that (practically) nobody liked, somebody the world is better off without?
I can only see that being irrational from the standpoint of the dead guy himself, but because of his condition, he's no longer concerned about such things.
Quote:

So, does that mean that it would be okay to celebrate other types of harm, provided you're not hurting anyone? How about a party to celebrate someone getting raped, assuming you can be assured they will never learn about it?

Given that this assurance is 100% certain, I see no problem with it.


This might actually be a nearly perfect platform to examine this question:
"Can something be immoral if it harms nobody?"


Bikerman wrote:
I notice that nobody took up my little challenge yet - about showing the US was more vustified in its much greater level of killing than Sadam or OBL.......

That's because it's way off topic. ^.^

Yeah, I know, trying to basically examine the situation reversed... but you kinda went off on a tangent once you got on the subject of how evil the US is.
Though, I'm sure you have some vustification for doing so in mind.
Quote:
I think that to celebrate any death is wrong on the grounds of basic 'universalism'. I know from introspection that it is unlikely that I would be anything other than angry and insulted if someone did this to me

So is it always immoral to insult or anger people?

... And to what lengths is one required to go in order to avoid insult or anger?
Bikerman
No it is not always wrong, but there does need to be a reason to make it even worth considering....

If I use the universal ethic - clearly it is wrong. If I use utilitarianism of a slightly different sort then it is still wrong because it brings no good (the celebtration) to anyone and does bring harm (cheapening the life of any human to the extent of it being a cause for celebrating inevitably cheapens all of us, since it says that the US is not bound by international law and agreements (which he knew, of course) and killing someone can be not only justified but seen as positive thing....
Indi
saratdear wrote:
Indi wrote:
What exactly determines when it's okay to celebrate someone's death, if ever?

When no real useful purpose is served by him living, when more people are at danger with his continued existence.

That might be justification for killing them... it's not justification for celebrating their death.

For example, imagine a disabled child who is the carrier of a particularly virulent disease. Let's say the child has an advanced form of autism, and is completely uncommunicative... they can't possibly be useful, and they certainly take a lot of effort to take care of - plus, there is the great danger of them unknowingly spreading the disease and killing lots of people. Killing them may be necessary... but do you really think it would be appropriate to throw a party about it?

saratdear wrote:
Indi wrote:
...i'm not interested in how "convenient" you think the timing of Bin Laden's death is...

I hope that's aimed at me. Razz

? It wasn't aimed at anyone. Why would it be aimed at you?

Bikerman wrote:
And if you ask the people in the countries concerned, I doubt many would say they found your visit 'useful'. Vietnam, Korea, Cambodia, assorted South American countries, most of the middle-east - and that is just the overt and indisputable stuff with US troops deliberately killing them. Factor in the collateral and it gets huge...

Where i grew up in the Caribbean, there are folk songs about the brutality and callousness of America following their various incursions, occupations and other meddlings (for example, American servicemen abusing the locals in WW2, or the invasion of Grenada in the '70s, etc.). Anna - a friend of mine who used to post here - is actually the (great-?)granddaughter of a woman who was raped by American soldiers in WW2. So yes, certainly, harm is a relative measure (granted, neither the Caribbean nor France prefer Osama over the Americans, but still). But to me, that only creates the possibility that it may be moral for some people to celebrate someone's death, but not others. In other words, it creates the possibility that it is moral for the Americans to celebrate Bin Laden's death because he killed so many of them (indirectly), but it is also moral for those Palestinians to celebrate 9/11 because those Americans who died killed so many Palestinians (indirectly). But then, it would seem that anyone can celebrate anyone's death so long as they can claim they were harmed by that person.

catscratches wrote:
Celebrating people getting hurt is to create an environment where harmful behaviour is encouraged. That would lead to people being more inclined to perform said behaviour. However, if you can somehow ensure that noone is harmed either directly or indirectly by the celebration, then yes; that would be okay.

See, i don't think you mean the same thing by "okay" as i do. i'm asking a moral question, not a practical one. "Okay" in that context doesn't mean harmless, it means praiseworthy (or at least, not worthy of condemnation). In other words, when you say something is moral, that means that you're saying that if someone does it, you would cheer them on and tell others they are good people because they did it (or, just that they did a good deed). When you say something is immoral, that means that you're saying that if someone does it you'd condemn them, and tell others that they are bad people for doing what they did (or, just that they did a bad deed). When you say something is amoral you're saying that if someone does it, you won't praise or condemn them, and if someone else asks you to list good or bad things that person has done, you won't include that thing on the list because it doesn't matter morally.

So let me ask you again. If you know someone who, after hearing that someone they didn't like was brutally raped and tortured, threw a party to celebrate that - even if they took great care that the victim never heard about it - is it moral. NOT "HARMLESS", moral. In other words, if your child was thinking about marrying that person (assuming that that person was able to support your child in the marriage), and asked you if you thought they were a good person... would you say yes? Would you trust that person to educate your young child on right and wrong, and how to act properly in society?

ocalhoun wrote:
Why are you so sure that it is immoral to celebrate death?
(I'm assuming you're rejecting utilitarianism because it disagrees with your feelings about this.)
Sure it's rude and disrespectful, but should rudeness and disrespect really be intrinsically immoral?

Well, in order:
i'm not, that's why i asked.
(No, i reject it for different reasons, but i think this example serves as a simplified case to highlight the problems with utilitarianism; you have a built in moral sense - all normal humans do, we all evolved it as social animals - and while it may sometimes falter it does serve as a good guide to help us determine when our rational moral theories are sound or not (for example, it will tell us immediately that Randian objectivism is clearly immoral, despite its efforts to rationalize itself as moral), so when something "feels" wrong even though your moral theory says it's right, you really need to rethink your moral theory.)
No, rudeness and disrespect are not intrinsically immoral - or even extrinsically immoral - they are actually amoral; it is the reason for being rude and disrespectful that determines the morality of rudeness and disrespect.

ocalhoun wrote:
Also, I thought your morality was centered around the word 'rational'.
What is irrational about celebrating the death of a person that (practically) nobody liked, somebody the world is better off without?
I can only see that being irrational from the standpoint of the dead guy himself, but because of his condition, he's no longer concerned about such things.

It is based on rationality, but universal rationality, not just rationality for one person or one situation. If something is judged moral or immoral, it is judged based on the idea that anyone, anywhere, anytime, in the same situation would also make the same judgement.

It is always immoral to use another moral being solely as means - in other words, to exploit another moral being for something that you want without considering what they may want - because if you say that a moral agent can be used without consent, you are saying that you also consent to being used without consent (because the rule has to be universal), which is illogical; you either consent or you don't, you can't do both at the same time and you can't do neither. That's why slavery is wrong, for example, and why lying is wrong. It is okay to use a non-moral being (or object) solely as means, which is why it is okay to detain a criminal or lie to a murderer (ex, the old "Jews in the attic, lie to Nazis?" dilemma), because when they are choosing to act as a criminal or murderer they are clearly not moral beings (they've turned off their rational centres to do the murdering).

When Bin Laden was murdering, he was a non-moral being. When he was loving his wife and laughing with his friends, he was a moral being. Bin Laden, in other words, was not just a monster; he was a human being, with feelings, aspirations and dreams. When you exploit him for your entertainment - such as cheering his death - you're not just exploiting a non-moral monster, you're exploiting a moral being at the same time. Of course, no-one wants to think of it that way - the people dancing and singing about his death don't want to see him as a person, they just want to see him as a soulless monster - but, he was a person. A real, full, thinking, feeling person. He may have been a douche, but that doesn't justify dehumanizing him.

Now, recall that when something is moral, it is moral for everyone, everywhere, always. So, by saying that celebrating Bin Laden's death is okay, you would be saying that it's always okay to exploit people's (yes, people, not monsters) suffering for entertainment. And that, clearly, is not something you can say, because it is contradictory and hence irrational (because if you consent to that rule, it would imply that you consent that other people could exploit your suffering for entertainment, but consenting and being exploited (which implies non-consent) at the same time is impossible... hence... the idea is irrational).

Thus, by my rules, even if killing Bin Laden is rationally necessitated (which it certainly was), celebrating his death certainly isn't, and, in fact, is immoral. Even if no one gets hurt, dehumanizing (and, i'm forced by English to use anthropocentric words, but by "dehumanizing", i mean "de-person-izing" or "treating a moral agent, or rational being, as a mindless 'thing'") is always immoral, and celebrating someone's death is dehumanizing them. No one "deserves" to suffer, regardless of what they've done, but if it was necessary to make Bin Laden suffer for (universally) rational reasons, then, so be it, it had to be done... but we shouldn't enjoy it, and we certainly shouldn't sing and dance about it.

The only objection i can think of is if you try to say that Bin Laden is not a moral agent any more (because he's dead), so you can't exploit him. And that would be true if you were doing something like messing with his body - because his dead body is certainly not a moral agent - but when you celebrate his death you're not exploiting his body... you're exploiting his suffering - you're exploiting the misfortune that fell on him when was still alive... that is, being killed. You're cheering the end of a moral agent, not something done to the fleshy husk of that agent after the fact. The moral agent may not know he's being exploited (because he's dead), but it's not okay to exploit someone without their knowledge (or is it?), so it's still wrong.
catscratches
Indi wrote:

See, i don't think you mean the same thing by "okay" as i do. i'm asking a moral question, not a practical one. "Okay" in that context doesn't mean harmless, it means praiseworthy (or at least, not worthy of condemnation). In other words, when you say something is moral, that means that you're saying that if someone does it, you would cheer them on and tell others they are good people because they did it (or, just that they did a good deed). When you say something is immoral, that means that you're saying that if someone does it you'd condemn them, and tell others that they are bad people for doing what they did (or, just that they did a bad deed). When you say something is amoral you're saying that if someone does it, you won't praise or condemn them, and if someone else asks you to list good or bad things that person has done, you won't include that thing on the list because it doesn't matter morally.
I understood you perfectly well. To me, any "harmless" action is either amoral or moral (so, either praiseworthy or simply not worthy of condemnation).

Indi wrote:
So let me ask you again. If you know someone who, after hearing that someone they didn't like was brutally raped and tortured, threw a party to celebrate that - even if they took great care that the victim never heard about it - is it moral. NOT "HARMLESS", moral.
And my answer will be the same as the first time: No, since that would be to create an environment wherein harmful behaviour is encouraged, which is immoral. To celebrate rape is to say that rape is okay, which encourages that action and makes the participating people more inclined to commit it. If it's certain, however, that none of the participants will ever do anything of the kind or that their decision would not be altered ever so slightly by the participation in said event, I'll consider it amoral or moral.

Indi wrote:
In other words, if your child was thinking about marrying that person (assuming that that person was able to support your child in the marriage), and asked you if you thought they were a good person... would you say yes? Would you trust that person to educate your young child on right and wrong, and how to act properly in society?
If my child is still young and doesn't know the difference between right and wrong or how to act properly in society, I don't think that child is ready for marriage... That's avoiding the question, though.

When judging the character of a person, I would focus primarily on their concept of morality rather than any individual action. Ultimately I would hold it neither in their favour nor disfavor. This would be a question concerning the character of the person, not so much the morality of their actions.
ocalhoun
Indi wrote:

but do you really think it would be appropriate to throw a party about it?

Appropriate, no.
But not everything inappropriate is immoral...
Quote:

(No, i reject it for different reasons, but i think this example serves as a simplified case to highlight the problems with utilitarianism; you have a built in moral sense - all normal humans do, we all evolved it as social animals - and while it may sometimes falter it does serve as a good guide to help us determine when our rational moral theories are sound or not (for example, it will tell us immediately that Randian objectivism is clearly immoral, despite its efforts to rationalize itself as moral), so when something "feels" wrong even though your moral theory says it's right, you really need to rethink your moral theory.)

So, this built-in sense is fallible, yet we should (always?) trust it above rationally thought out theories?
Also, this is kinda sounding like an entirely different moral theory - one based on social biology; ie, whatever this socially evolved feeling says is moral, that's moral, et cetera.
However, this same sense surely evolved in a way that prevents rudeness and dist disrespect by the same methods as it prevents murder and mayhem... While being polite and respectful to others may have evolutionary advantage, that doesn't mean that the lack of these is immoral.
... This ties into the above quote; this sense likely tells you that inappropriate things are wrong, and it's the same sense that tells you that immoral things are wrong.
Quote:

it is the reason for being rude and disrespectful that determines the morality of rudeness and disrespect.

Hm, we may have a bit of an irreconcilable difference here...
I think the effects of an action are what determines the morality of it, while you seem to think that the causes of an action determine the morality.
Quote:


Thus, by my rules, even if killing Bin Laden is rationally necessitated (which it certainly was), celebrating his death certainly isn't, and, in fact, is immoral. Even if no one gets hurt, dehumanizing (and, i'm forced by English to use anthropocentric words, but by "dehumanizing", i mean "de-person-izing" or "treating a moral agent, or rational being, as a mindless 'thing'") is always immoral, and celebrating someone's death is dehumanizing them. No one "deserves" to suffer, regardless of what they've done, but if it was necessary to make Bin Laden suffer for (universally) rational reasons, then, so be it, it had to be done... but we shouldn't enjoy it, and we certainly shouldn't sing and dance about it.

The only objection i can think of is if you try to say that Bin Laden is not a moral agent any more (because he's dead), so you can't exploit him. And that would be true if you were doing something like messing with his body - because his dead body is certainly not a moral agent - but when you celebrate his death you're not exploiting his body... you're exploiting his suffering - you're exploiting the misfortune that fell on him when was still alive... that is, being killed.

okay, the logic is getting kinda convoluted now...
So,
1- the moral agent (Osama) is ended, by being killed
2- celebrating the end of the moral agent makes him no longer a moral agent...
But isn't he already not a moral agent after step 1, by virtue of being dead?
How can you call "treating a moral agent, or rational being, as a mindless 'thing'" immoral if he already is a mindless thing/not moral agent/not rational being?
(ie, how can you 'dehumanize by celebrating' what has already been 'dehumanized by bullet to the head'?)
Quote:
The moral agent may not know he's being exploited (because he's dead), but it's not okay to exploit someone without their knowledge (or is it?), so it's still wrong.

Okay, now it's just getting really weird.

It's okay. I used a medium to get in contact with the spirit of Osama, and he said he doesn't mind all the celebrations. Something along the lines of "I'm too busy with these 72 virgins to be bothered with silly celebrations..." ^.^
saratdear
Indi wrote:
but do you really think it would be appropriate to throw a party about it?

I'm with ocalhoun on this one. Appropriate? No. Immoral? No.

Suppose a lot of people were affected by this disease as well, due to him. I don't see it as inappropriate to heave a sigh of relief, if they were not particularly fond of him to begin with.

See, the problem is that you are equating celebration with demonstrations on the street cheering and waving.

Also, why does celebrating a death need to have negative connotations? I can say I am celebrating his death because he reached heaven safe and sound.

Indi wrote:
? It wasn't aimed at anyone. Why would it be aimed at you?

Because in another thread I had put forward some arguments on how his death could be convenient for someone. I thought you had read that. Sorry. My bad.

Bikerman wrote:
I think that to celebrate any death is wrong on the grounds of basic 'universalism'.

Let me be clear on this - I did not celebrate Osama's death, nor am I going to do so. But I don't believe there is anything immoral in other people doing so, guaranteed they do it keeping in mind their own safety.
spinout
Appropriate - YES

IMMORAL - YES

- must be the logical answer!
liljp617
saratdear wrote:
Indi wrote:
but do you really think it would be appropriate to throw a party about it?

I'm with ocalhoun on this one. Appropriate? No. Immoral? No.

Suppose a lot of people were affected by this disease as well, due to him. I don't see it as inappropriate to heave a sigh of relief, if they were not particularly fond of him to begin with.

See, the problem is that you are equating celebration with demonstrations on the street cheering and waving.


I think there's a difference between heaving a sigh of relief and openly/loudly rejoicing at something. Being relieved -- having a very slight increase in peace of mind -- is appropriate and I think completely natural. But throwing on your shoes and running out in the middle of the street to scream and rejoice about the fact is different from being mentally relieved.
saratdear
liljp617 wrote:
I think there's a difference between heaving a sigh of relief and openly/loudly rejoicing at something. Being relieved -- having a very slight increase in peace of mind -- is appropriate and I think completely natural. But throwing on your shoes and running out in the middle of the street to scream and rejoice about the fact is different from being mentally relieved.

I understand and I agree. Indi's original question I believe was "Is it okay to celebrate anyone's death the way people did outside the White House?" I expanded that definition of celebration to include all forms of celebration, from just relief to an all night party.
ocalhoun
liljp617 wrote:
saratdear wrote:
Indi wrote:
but do you really think it would be appropriate to throw a party about it?

I'm with ocalhoun on this one. Appropriate? No. Immoral? No.

Suppose a lot of people were affected by this disease as well, due to him. I don't see it as inappropriate to heave a sigh of relief, if they were not particularly fond of him to begin with.

See, the problem is that you are equating celebration with demonstrations on the street cheering and waving.


I think there's a difference between heaving a sigh of relief and openly/loudly rejoicing at something. Being relieved -- having a very slight increase in peace of mind -- is appropriate and I think completely natural. But throwing on your shoes and running out in the middle of the street to scream and rejoice about the fact is different from being mentally relieved.

Yes, but is it immoral to take it to an inappropriate and unnatural level?
Indi
catscratches wrote:
Indi wrote:
In other words, if your child was thinking about marrying that person (assuming that that person was able to support your child in the marriage), and asked you if you thought they were a good person... would you say yes? Would you trust that person to educate your young child on right and wrong, and how to act properly in society?
If my child is still young and doesn't know the difference between right and wrong or how to act properly in society, I don't think that child is ready for marriage... That's avoiding the question, though.

When judging the character of a person, I would focus primarily on their concept of morality rather than any individual action. Ultimately I would hold it neither in their favour nor disfavor. This would be a question concerning the character of the person, not so much the morality of their actions.

When i ask two different questions about two clearly different situations (someone getting married and a young child), i would think it was pretty obvious that i'm not asking about the same person. -_- Do i really need to spell that kind of thing out?

It's still avoiding the question. Just presume you have two people who are identical (morally) in every single way, except that one throws parties every time someone dies or suffers horribly. Make any additional assumptions you have to make (like that the parties are thrown in such a way that no one can possibly get hurt or whatever - come on, man, please don't tell me i have to spell every damn consideration out before you can do the comparison), and then answer the question: if you have two people, who are perfectly morally identical except that one throws rape-and-torture-celebratory parties, are they still perfectly morally identical? Would you ever choose the murder party person over the other one for something like teaching morality to others, or marrying your child?

ocalhoun wrote:
So, this built-in sense is fallible, yet we should (always?) trust it above rationally thought out theories?
Also, this is kinda sounding like an entirely different moral theory - one based on social biology; ie, whatever this socially evolved feeling says is moral, that's moral, et cetera.

? Whut?

Er... okay... let me put it this way. You're designing an artificial nose to detect and identify scents. After building the prototype, it says there are no odours in the room, yet, with your nose - your nose which has been developed in the laboratory of nature over thousands of years of harsh, real-world testing over the course of evolution - says there is a strong odour of bovine feces. BUT, because your nose is sometimes wrong, while your artificial nose has been developed by the latest theories of rationally thought of design and science, you conclude that obviously your artificial nose must be working fine, and your biological nose is just wrong as it sometimes is, and that the odour in the room is not that of bovine feces.

Well, i say it's bullshit, more likely than not. As well designed as your artificial nose might be, newsflash, you're not perfect; your rationality is not always flawless; you sometimes make mistakes with your reasoning. Your biological nose is also not perfect, but it is the result of a very, very tough design process, so while it is not always right, it is right so often, and has such a high degree of reliability, that it's idiotic to just shrug it off and ignore it without a damn good reason. If the artificial nose you designed yesterday disagrees with the conclusion of your evolutionarily-honed biological nose... you really, really, REALLY need to give your artificial nose a second look. Hey, your biological nose might be wrong and your artificial nose might be right... but i really wouldn't bet on it, and i certainly wouldn't make that assumption right out of the gate.

So... you've thought up a moral theory. Good for you! And it's all rational, and based on a reasonable axiom. Right on, good job! Now your nice moral theory is tested in a real-world situation, and comes up with a different answer than your thousand-generation-evolved-and-tested biological moral sense. And your answer to that contradiction is: "Well, my biological moral sense is sometimes wrong, and my artificial moral theory is designed rationally! i can't possibly be wrong in my reasoning; or at least, it's far less likely that i made a mistake reasoning than nature made during those thousands of evolutionary iterations. My reasoning faculty is awesome! So, to hell with that built-in crap that has been tested in real-world situations for thousands of generations, and rigorously pruned by natural selection! It's fallible! (Which, by implication, means that i think my own reasoning is not fallible.)"

Wow, i wish i had your confidence in my reasoning ability. See, for me, while i try hard to design a very carefully crafted rational framework, i'm so non-confident about my reasoning that when i see it disagreeing with a system designed and rigorously tested in nature over a thousand millennia... i worry; i make the starting assumption that all that evolutionary testing is more likely to be right than the thing i thought up completely detached from rigorous, real-world, trial-and-error testing. i go back to the drawing board and try to figure out why my moral theory and and my natural moral sense disagree, and if it's a flaw in my reasoning, i go back to work trying to refine my moral theory. BUT! If it turns out that there's a good chance that it's not my reasoning, but that rather this is an occasion where my natural moral sense is wrong, then, fine. But i would never, never, NEVER just assume that my reasoning is right and my natural sense is wrong without some serious testing first. i guess i just lack your confidence.

And no, it has nothing to do with the idea that whatever your moral sense says is moral must be moral, anymore more than the idea that you should trust your biological nose before an artificial nose you just designed says that whatever you smell with your biological nose must be the true scent. (And i can't even imagine how you could make that leap, given that i explicitly said the moral sense is fallible. How can it be fallible, yet at the same time the defining source of morality?)

ocalhoun wrote:
However, this same sense surely evolved in a way that prevents rudeness and dist disrespect by the same methods as it prevents murder and mayhem... While being polite and respectful to others may have evolutionary advantage, that doesn't mean that the lack of these is immoral.
... This ties into the above quote; this sense likely tells you that inappropriate things are wrong, and it's the same sense that tells you that immoral things are wrong.

No, it is well-established (granted, in science, not philosophy) that moral sense is entirely different from social sense. This is not the place to go into the details of the science, so i'll just quickly point out that there are dozens of different psychological afflictions that effect either the moral sense or the social sense - separately (such as Asperger's (people with Asperger's lack a sense of social propriety, but can tell moral right from wrong) or antisocial personality disorder (people with APD have no sense of right or wrong, but can behave perfectly fine socially)) - which means the two mechanisms must be discrete and separate. They certainly both make use of the same systems (extreme moral violation can make us feel physically ill by releasing the same chemicals as extreme social violation; witnessing a violent rape could make you nauseous just like watching Two girls, one cup), but that doesn't make them the same thing any more than the fact that sexual arousal and panic arousal use many of the same neurochemicals would make them the same thing.

ocalhoun wrote:
okay, the logic is getting kinda convoluted now...
So,
1- the moral agent (Osama) is ended, by being killed
2- celebrating the end of the moral agent makes him no longer a moral agent...
But isn't he already not a moral agent after step 1, by virtue of being dead?
How can you call "treating a moral agent, or rational being, as a mindless 'thing'" immoral if he already is a mindless thing/not moral agent/not rational being?
(ie, how can you 'dehumanize by celebrating' what has already been 'dehumanized by bullet to the head'?)

... i spent six paragraphs explaining this. In detail. Including answering all of those objections. "Skimming" again?

ocalhoun wrote:
It's okay. I used a medium to get in contact with the spirit of Osama, and he said he doesn't mind all the celebrations. Something along the lines of "I'm too busy with these 72 virgins to be bothered with silly celebrations..." ^.^

Hilarious! Ha ha ha! i'm so glad you find killing someone so funny! Hey, hey, i have an idea! Why don't we call up a rape victim! Yeah, yeah, we can ask them if they don't mind us celebrating their rape! Hey, i've even got a few numbers i could give you. Wouldn't that be fun! Oh! Oh! i know the perfect person! Yeah! Not only was she raped and beaten and left for dead in a field, they cut off her clitoris and labia during the assault and damaged her brain to the point that her eyes move randomly and have trouble focusing. Not quite a bullet to the eye, but still funny, right? Right? i'm pretty sure she wouldn't care about us partying about her assault (she actually probably wouldn't), so if she says she won't be bothered it's all going to be great moral fun, right?

And of course, because you don't think there's anything morally wrong with such a party, since it's not harming her, you'll feel perfectly fine enjoying it, right? Right? You'll be able to dance around confident in the fact that you're a good person, while cheering on the fact that even though she used to be a voracious reader, she now can't manage it for longer than a few minutes at a time without taking a break or taking some painkillers because she can't focus on the words. She said it's okay!* So it must be all good, right?

* Actually, i didn't ask her, because as amusing as you find such a notion, i find it disgusting. However, i'm sure if you did ask her, she'd say pretty much what you think Bin Laden would - that she really doesn't care because she has so many good friends around her that she can't be bothered with what some creep she doesn't even know does. Granted, she might not say it so charitably.

saratdear wrote:
Indi wrote:
but do you really think it would be appropriate to throw a party about it?

I'm with ocalhoun on this one. Appropriate? No. Immoral? No.

Suppose a lot of people were affected by this disease as well, due to him. I don't see it as inappropriate to heave a sigh of relief, if they were not particularly fond of him to begin with.

See, the problem is that you are equating celebration with demonstrations on the street cheering and waving.

i'm equating celebrating with celebrating (regardless of the intensity). You're equating relief with celebrating. That's not right. Relief is not celebration - they may often happen together, but that doesn't make them the same thing. "Thank god i didn't die" is not the same thing as "Yippee, i'm alive!" Relief is the sensation you get from dissipation of fearful anticipation of some negative consequence. Celebration is an activity, not a sensation, but it's based on the sensation of joy, which is the sensation of something really good. They are entirely different things. Any first year psychologist will tell you there's a huge difference between positive and negative reinforcement (that is, between "adding a good thing" and "taking a bad thing away").

And the two can (and often) happen separately. i can celebrate being alive any time i like, regardless of whether or not i happen to relieved at a near escape. And, i can be relieved i didn't die while at the same time not celebrating because i want to die... just not like that (if you want an extreme example, a suicide bomber that trips on the way to their target could be relieved their bomb didn't go off in the fall and kill them... but just because they're not yet at the target... so they're hardly going to celebrate life at that point). Or: i celebrate Christmas... but not because i'm relieved that it wasn't cancelled or something; i'm relieved that my mom died from cancer quickly rather than lingering... i'm not celebrating anything about it. Relief is certainly not just a muted form of celebration.

saratdear wrote:
Also, why does celebrating a death need to have negative connotations? I can say I am celebrating his death because he reached heaven safe and sound.

Are you? Do you really believe he's in "heaven" safe and sound? Are you celebrating that fact? If not, then you could say that... but you'd be lying.

You're being disingenuous. You don't seriously believe that anyone celebrating Bin Laden's death is doing so because they believe he's gone on to find eternal happiness. So why bring it up?

Obviously if people were celebrating death for a good reason there wouldn't be a problem. But... they're not. And we're talking about them. They are enjoying the fact that Bin Laden's last moments were terrifying and painful - not whatever hypothetical people you're talking about - and their enjoyment is the subject of this thread.

Sure, if you can think up a good reason to celebrate death, then it wouldn't be immoral - if you actually had a rational reason to believe that there is a heaven and the dead person is "going" there somehow, then there would be nothing wrong with celebrating the death. But that doesn't change the fact that that's not why people are celebrating, which still leaves us with the question of thread.

saratdear wrote:
Indi wrote:
? It wasn't aimed at anyone. Why would it be aimed at you?

Because in another thread I had put forward some arguments on how his death could be convenient for someone. I thought you had read that. Sorry. My bad.

Meh, i'm getting used to it: every time i make a strong statement about something, someone thinks that i'm singling them out personally (when the truth is, most of the time i couldn't tell any of you apart anyway, because i read the forum without any avatars or signatures). i don't know much about what constitutes good writing, but i suppose the fact that people so often think i'm speaking directly to them must mean i'm doing something pretty awesome.
ocalhoun
Okay, first of all, I get that there needs to be something to compare one's theories to... But I wouldn't dismiss an otherwise good theory, just because my built-in moral sense disagrees with it on one occasion.

Also, how does this reconcile with different people having different moral senses?
I ascribe to the theory that there must be an absolute moral code, one that is the same for everyone... But if it is the same for everyone, how can it be reconciled with moral senses that vary from person to person?

And finally, how is it significantly different than simply a 'do whatever feels right' moral theory, if you're requiring that any moral theory (almost always) agree with the 'do whatever feels right' notion?

Indi wrote:
(And i can't even imagine how you could make that leap, given that i explicitly said the moral sense is fallible. How can it be fallible, yet at the same time the defining source of morality?)

That's exactly my question!
How can it be both fallible and useful as a tool to 'calibrate' moral theories?
Quote:

No, it is well-established (granted, in science, not philosophy) that moral sense is entirely different from social sense.

Okay, that makes sense, so I suppose I can withdraw that complaint about it.
So this moral sense may be fallible, but I no longer suspect that it has systematic flaws.
Quote:

ocalhoun wrote:
okay, the logic is getting kinda convoluted now...
So,
1- the moral agent (Osama) is ended, by being killed
2- celebrating the end of the moral agent makes him no longer a moral agent...
But isn't he already not a moral agent after step 1, by virtue of being dead?
How can you call "treating a moral agent, or rational being, as a mindless 'thing'" immoral if he already is a mindless thing/not moral agent/not rational being?
(ie, how can you 'dehumanize by celebrating' what has already been 'dehumanized by bullet to the head'?)

... i spent six paragraphs explaining this. In detail. Including answering all of those objections. "Skimming" again?

No, I read it carefully, and the pertinent (last*) two paragraphs I read two or three times, trying to make sense of them.

*The first four paragraphs seem to be there to establish that Osama was a moral being while alive, which I do not disagree with.

The concept I don't understand, however, is how it is possible to dehumanize (using your definition) a dead man... Seeing as he is already dehumanized by being dead.
Or, put another way, why we are concerned about what is rational from the perspective of a dead man?
Quote:

Hilarious! Ha ha ha! i'm so glad you find killing someone so funny! Hey, hey, i have an idea! Why don't we call up a rape victim! Yeah, yeah, we can ask them if they don't mind us celebrating their rape! Hey, i've even got a few numbers i could give you. Wouldn't that be fun! Oh! Oh! i know the perfect person! Yeah! Not only was she raped and beaten and left for dead in a field, they cut off her clitoris and labia during the assault and damaged her brain to the point that her eyes move randomly and have trouble focusing. Not quite a bullet to the eye, but still funny, right? Right? i'm pretty sure she wouldn't care about us partying about her assault (she actually probably wouldn't), so if she says she won't be bothered it's all going to be great moral fun, right?

Just a quick interjection here -- change this to read 'amoral', and I would agree with you.
Quote:

And of course, because you don't think there's anything morally wrong with such a party, since it's not harming her, you'll feel perfectly fine enjoying it, right? Right? You'll be able to dance around confident in the fact that you're a good person, while cheering on the fact that even though she used to be a voracious reader, she now can't manage it for longer than a few minutes at a time without taking a break or taking some painkillers because she can't focus on the words. She said it's okay!* So it must be all good, right?

* Actually, i didn't ask her, because as amusing as you find such a notion, i find it disgusting. However, i'm sure if you did ask her, she'd say pretty much what you think Bin Laden would - that she really doesn't care because she has so many good friends around her that she can't be bothered with what some creep she doesn't even know does. Granted, she might not say it so charitably.

No, I personally don't find rape to be something to celebrate. (Personally, I also didn't participate in any form of Osama-is-dead celebration either.)
However, I also don't see anything immoral about celebrating it, given that the victim is not further harmed by it.
You could argue that this dehumanizes the victim and/or encourages future rapes... Which, if true, could mean that the celebration causes harm... but I'm disinclined to place such stringent moral restrictions upon freedom of expression; I suspect that the influence of such things on actual future behavior is minimal.

I honestly don't see anything (intrinsically) wrong with the mere act of celebrating, no matter what the occasion might be for it... a moral being does not cease to be a moral being just because of what some other people think (or say) about it, does it?
saratdear
Indi wrote:
Relief is certainly not just a muted form of celebration.

But celebration is a loud form of relief.

James celebrated his passing the test, because he was sure he was going to flunk.
Robert was relieved he had passed the test, because he was sure he was going to flunk.

Robert here considered his relief to be a private affair, whereas James wanted to express his relief.

Indi wrote:
You're being disingenuous. You don't seriously believe that anyone celebrating Bin Laden's death is doing so because they believe he's gone on to find eternal happiness. So why bring it up?

It doesn't matter whether I believe it or not. My point is you can't say with 100% certainty whether all the thousands of people were celebrating just to see a mass murderer dead.

Indi wrote:
And we're talking about them. They are enjoying the fact that Bin Laden's last moments were terrifying and painful - not whatever hypothetical people you're talking about - and their enjoyment is the subject of this thread.

Who is them? As I said before, the demonstrations outside the White House might not have been the only people who celebrated. However, if your thread was aimed at only that small group of people, I take back my argument.

Indi wrote:
Sure, if you can think up a good reason to celebrate death, then it wouldn't be immoral - if you actually had a rational reason to believe that there is a heaven and the dead person is "going" there somehow, then there would be nothing wrong with celebrating the death. But that doesn't change the fact that that's not why people are celebrating, which still leaves us with the question of thread.

If you mean 'good' as in scientifically acceptable...

It doesn't matter whether I believe in heaven or not. If there was one person in that group who did, and celebrate due to the reason I told, there - you have a moral reason for him celebrating.
catscratches
Indi wrote:
catscratches wrote:
When judging the character of a person, I would focus primarily on their concept of morality rather than any individual action. Ultimately I would hold it neither in their favour nor disfavor. This would be a question concerning the character of the person, not so much the morality of their actions.

It's still avoiding the question. Just presume you have two people who are identical (morally) in every single way, except that one throws parties every time someone dies or suffers horribly. Make any additional assumptions you have to make (like that the parties are thrown in such a way that no one can possibly get hurt or whatever - come on, man, please don't tell me i have to spell every damn consideration out before you can do the comparison), and then answer the question: if you have two people, who are perfectly morally identical except that one throws rape-and-torture-celebratory parties, are they still perfectly morally identical? Would you ever choose the murder party person over the other one for something like teaching morality to others, or marrying your child?
I thought I was clear enough. So to get it crystal-clear: Yes, I would hold them on equal moral footing. Yes, I would feel confident in letting that person teach morality or marrying my child.
deanhills
I missed this thread Indi, but for once I agree completely with you. I found it completely macabre for people to celebrate the death of Bin Laden. For me it shows a clear disregard for the sanctity of a human life. How civilized can we really be when we celebrate another human's death to the extent that it had been going on? Surely that is just completely wrong. Two years ago when GITMO was the flavour of the month Americans were outraged that prisoners seem to have been treated badly, yet now they actually invaded a country, assassinated Bin Laden, and then made his death (without the benefit of a trial) into a celebration.

I found one Obituary in a Western Newspaper www.guardian.co.uk by accident, and it felt like a breath of fresh air when I read it as at least it showed a modicum of care for a human life.

I did not know Osama Bin Laden, and I think most of the people who celebrated his death did not know him either. Their hate must have been more directed at him as an icon and symbol of terror, which ironically had been promoted by the West to its nth degree.
jmlworld
deanhills wrote:
I did not know Osama Bin Laden, and I think most of the people who celebrated his death did not know him either. Their hate must have been more directed at him as an icon and symbol of terror, which ironically had been promoted by the West to its nth degree.


Also I didn't know before, but I noticed recently that Bin Laden was not (really) the first mass-murderer since the WWII, but he was the only recognized terrorist because the other criminals have the so-called Human Rights and the United Nations in their pocket.
catscratches
There have been many recognized mass-murderers and terrorists since WWII apart from Usama bin Ladin...
Dialogist
Indi wrote:
i would argue that the call to kill rather than capture was rational, and hence, moral, because the target, in this case, was a religious nutter who not only doesn't fear death, but who would welcome it, and who would relish taking as many people down with him as possible. But just because the order to kill was moral,..


This is as far as I got. I foolhardily presumed for a microsecond that the cocytus would materialize and all hell would freeze over and I was about to actually agree with one of your god-awful, blow-hardy posts. Alas, as it turns out, all is well on Planet Earth.
Indi
ocalhoun wrote:
Okay, first of all, I get that there needs to be something to compare one's theories to... But I wouldn't dismiss an otherwise good theory, just because my built-in moral sense disagrees with it on one occasion.

And who said you should do that? Not me. What i said was: "... while it may sometimes falter it does serve as a good guide to help us determine when our rational moral theories are sound or not..., so when something "feels" wrong even though your moral theory says it's right, you really need to rethink your moral theory." Naturally, if, after you've reviewed your theory, your theory appears to be sound, the next logical step is to review your moral opinion. If your moral opinion turns out to be flawed, then you can be pretty damn certain your theory was right. More likely, though, you're going to find the opposite: that your moral theory is flawed. But if you can't find anything wrong with either your moral sense or your theory... well, then, you have a pretty serious problem. Both can't be right.

ocalhoun wrote:
Also, how does this reconcile with different people having different moral senses?
I ascribe to the theory that there must be an absolute moral code, one that is the same for everyone... But if it is the same for everyone, how can it be reconciled with moral senses that vary from person to person?

The simple answer is that people don't have different moral senses. If you're only looking at the results, there will appear to be some variance in the details due to social and cultural conventions, but if you look at the details and the mechanisms, you see universal similarity.

As a real world example, i remember reading about an Ancient Roman or Greek (i'm just going to assume Roman) anthropologist (such as they were back then) who was, at first, revolted by the cannibal practices of another culture, and came, at first, to the knee-jerk conclusion that the Romans were more moral than these other people. To his credit, he gave it more thought, and came to the conclusion that what was really going was that there is no absolute morality, and that although the other culture's morality was different to the Roman culture's, it was neither superior nor inferior. That's just classic Cultural Relativism, and that is where most people stop - even today. But this guy was no intellectual slouch, so he thought harder, and he realized that both cultures were actually using identical moral thinking, but just differing in the supporting knowledge and assumptions; the other culture believed that ingesting people passed on their abilities and such to the eater, so people wanted to get eaten by their loved ones after they died, so that they could live on in them, while the Romans believed that the body was a temple that the soul inhabited and should be treated with respect out of deference to the person who inhabited it and cared for it all their life. In both cases, the dead were being respected according to their wishes (in other words, promises made to the dead before they passed were being honoured)... all that really differed were the wishes (and the underlying beliefs that caused the wishes).

Social and cultural beliefs - and even scientific beliefs - can change the way that underlying moral rules are applied, but they don't change the rules. The rules are constant, across cultures and across time (this has been demonstrated scientifically using tricky testing of adults, but mostly testing of babies). What you have to watch out for is when those rules are ignored, and overruled by post-hoc rationalization of selfish desires or, more often, religious beliefs. That's what you look for when you analyze the judgements of the moral sense; you look for false rationalizations masquerading as true moral judgements. Whenever you get differing moral judgements between two people (or two groups), that's the cause.

Take rape, for example. No person (excluding psychopaths of course, so let's just say no psychologically normal person) ever, now or any time in history, does not think intrinsically think that rape is immoral. If you look at the apparent exceptions, you'll find that most of them take two general forms:
  1. The woman doesn't really count as a person.
  2. The woman had it coming because of something wrong with her or something she did wrong.
And when you look deeper, you see that the causes of these beliefs is either a false social, cultural or scientific belief about nature (such as that women are inferior to men), or a religious belief (such as that women are being punished by God for tempting humanity into sin). The religious belief has no rational validity by definition, and the other type of belief is just plain wrong. So if someone believed that rape was okay, but their moral theory said no, then after first checking their moral theory to see if it might be the problem, they would check their moral sense... and that would show up as flawed, either because of the false belief, or because of the religious meddling in the thought processes.

ocalhoun wrote:
And finally, how is it significantly different than simply a 'do whatever feels right' moral theory, if you're requiring that any moral theory (almost always) agree with the 'do whatever feels right' notion?

i'm not requiring that. You're swinging at a straw man.

Look, let me put it another way: You get in your car, and it doesn't start. Query: which is more likely, that there's something wrong with the car, or that there's some external force in play? It is possible that the car is perfectly fine but alien intervention is preventing your engine from turning over, or that the car is actually starting but you have been hypnotized into being unable to see that (or something mundane like your gas was syphoned off and replaced with water so the gauge still reads full). Is it likely? No, so the first assumption you should make when your car doesn't start is that there's something wrong with the car, not that there's some external problem.

What you're doing is pretending that by saying that, i'm saying that you should never consider the possibility of external influence. But that's bullshit, because, as i've said explicitly several times, sometimes it ain't the car. Sometimes the problem is in the place you shouldn't first expect it to be. All i've said is that you should first suspect the problem to be in the car... not that it's always there.

That's all i've said, from the start: if your moral theory disagrees with your moral sense, suspect the theory. Rethink that theory first - not only, rethink it FIRST - because it's more likely to be flawed than your moral sense. Of course, the assumption i've made that i've not stated is that your mind is generally functional, rational and unburdened by extraneous crap - obviously if you're dealing with that kind of baggage you shouldn't be so quick to trust your mind. But, assuming you're sane, rational, and not twisted by something like psychological abuse or religion (which, really, is just organized and sanctioned psychological abuse), your moral sense should be functioning normally, which means it's pretty damn reliable. It is fallible - i've said that repeatedly, and clearly - but your 100,000+ year-old, evolutionarily-tuned sense is still far more likely to be working properly than your ~100 year-old pet moral theory. So when something between the two of them stinks... suspect your theory first.

ocalhoun wrote:
Indi wrote:
(And i can't even imagine how you could make that leap, given that i explicitly said the moral sense is fallible. How can it be fallible, yet at the same time the defining source of morality?)

That's exactly my question!
How can it be both fallible and useful as a tool to 'calibrate' moral theories?

As i've explained above, it's not about calibration, it's a matter of having two potential sources of error and picking the most likely suspect to check first.

But since you've brought it up, let me turn it back around on you. Your moral theory is that whatever does no harm is not immoral, correct (if not, just fill in whatever it really is)? Alright then: how do you test whether it's actually a good moral theory? Because, from where i'm sitting, it looks like all you're doing is making a circular argument: what does no harm is not immoral because something is only immoral if it does harm. Where's the justification? How do you know it works? What would make you suspect it was wrong, if putting stock in your natural moral sense is such a crazy idea?

ocalhoun wrote:
The concept I don't understand, however, is how it is possible to dehumanize (using your definition) a dead man... Seeing as he is already dehumanized by being dead.

Well, first of all, let's clear up that it's quite possible to dehumanize someone who's already been dehumanized. If that weren't true, then you could lie to someone and say, "Welp, i dehumanized them by lying to them, and once they're dehumanized they're dehumanized and can't get dehumanized again... so, might as well rob, rape and murder them and then celebrate their suffering."

Second, as i explained before, you're not dehumanizing a dead person, you're dehumanizing a person who happens to be dead. What you're dehumanizing is not "dead Osama" - you're dehumanizing Osama. You're taking the person, Osama, and revelling in the fact that he, a person, (not "it, a corpse") suffered. The only issue here seems to be that you think the timing matters. It doesn't; throwing a party to celebrate his suffering after he died badly is no different from throwing a party to celebrate his suffering if you know he's going to die badly before it happens.

ocalhoun wrote:
Or, put another way, why we are concerned about what is rational from the perspective of a dead man?

"Perspective" is irrelevant. If something is rational, it is rational. Period. Rationality no more varies from person to person than mathematics does, and, like mathematics, the equations solved by one person don't suddenly stop mattering or change meaning when they die.

ocalhoun wrote:
No, I personally don't find rape to be something to celebrate. (Personally, I also didn't participate in any form of Osama-is-dead celebration either.)

See, this is what bothers me. You claim your moral theory makes this a-ok, but at the same time qualify it with "but i wouldn't do it". But your moral theory, if correct, should be universally applicable - if there's nothing wrong other people celebrating someone's death or rape, then there is nothing wrong with you doing it. So why wouldn't you do it? What's stopping you? Let's assume you've been sitting around your house looking for a reason to get the gang together and party... why not a good old rape party? Why are you above this, while others are not? Or, why is this below you?

There are many amoral things that i'm just not interested in doing, but don't consider it wrong for others to do it, but for all of those i have reasons for not wanting to do them. Like painting my nails - i think it's amoral, but don't have any interest in doing it. Why not? Because: it takes time and effort i could dedicate to other stuff; the supplies cost money; i don't know how to do it; it would draw attention to my fingers when i'd rather have that attention on my fine ass; etc.... basically, i have lots of reasons for why i wouldn't do something i consider amoral. So what reasons would you not want to throw a rape party? Assume you have the supplies and space (so it would cost you nothing), and you have people who want to party but are looking for a reason or theme (so it would take no effort to do it)... basically assume whatever you have to assume to get all the silly objections out of the way, and get to the core issue - why don't you find rape something to celebrate, even though it's apparently okay for others to do so.

ocalhoun wrote:
... I'm disinclined to place such stringent moral restrictions upon freedom of expression....

Whoa, whoa, whoa... this is not a "freedom of expression" issue. That's just absurd. Does a paedophile have the freedom to express their lust for children, assuming the children don't get hurt? Should they? Are we restricting their freedom of expression when we say it's wrong? Is it wrong to put such stringent moral restrictions on paedophiles' freedom of expression?

This is not an "expression" issue. What do you think is being "expressed" here, other than naked contempt for a person? If you want to express your contempt for Bin Laden, just say, "i hate Bin Laden". If you want to express your belief that he deserved to suffer and die horribly, then say that. No one's stopping you from just expressing any belief about Bin Laden. But actually celebrating it? If you deserve the right to express your belief that Bin Laden's death was awesome by celebrating his suffering, why don't you also deserve the right to express your belief that other races are lower forms of life by never hiring them for jobs and keeping them out of your neighbourhood?

ocalhoun wrote:
I honestly don't see anything (intrinsically) wrong with the mere act of celebrating, no matter what the occasion might be for it... a moral being does not cease to be a moral being just because of what some other people think (or say) about it, does it?

This is wrong in two ways.

First, no one's claiming the act of celebrating is intrinsically wrong. i can't even imagine where that came from.

Second, no one's claiming that person ceases to be a moral being just because of what other people think or say. Again, i can't imagine where that came from. The closest i can think of is that you have implied that a person can cease to be a moral being because of what other people do; if i want you to cease being a moral being, apparently all i have to do is kill you... apparently then any humanity you may have ever had no longer matters, and everyone who ever had any kind of contract with you is suddenly released from it. What's that you say? You willed your possessions to charity? Sorry, don't think so, you're dead now, so, i'll just claim them and keep them. Won't harm you, right? Oh? You've asked to be buried at sea? Nah, i don't think so - i'll just stuff your corpse and use it as a funny car accessory.

The only other thing i can think of is that it's possible for someone to TREAT someone else as if they were no longer a moral being, or to think of them that way... but that's not the same as actually making them cease to be a moral being.

saratdear wrote:
Indi wrote:
Relief is certainly not just a muted form of celebration.

But celebration is a loud form of relief.

James celebrated his passing the test, because he was sure he was going to flunk.
Robert was relieved he had passed the test, because he was sure he was going to flunk.

Robert here considered his relief to be a private affair, whereas James wanted to express his relief.

No, celebration is not a loud form of relief. Celebration and relief are different semantically, psychologically and in practice. You celebrate when a good thing is added. You feel relief when a bad thing is avoided. Just because the two things can happen together, that does not make them the same thing.

James was relieved that he passed... AND he celebrated passing - two different things, but he did both.
Robert was relieved that he passed... but he did NOT celebrate passing - again, two different things, but Robert did only one.

James and Robert were both relieved at avoiding a failing grade. James was also so happy at gaining a passing grade that he felt like celebrating.

And here's yet another example:
Walter failed the test, but was so amused by his spectacular failure that he wanted to celebrate it (an "i got the worst mark ever" party).

Walter was NOT relieved, about anything... BUT he found something to celebrate.

There is no way you could claim that Walter was "loudly relieved". What could he possibly be relieved about? He failed! He got the worst mark! He certainly wasn't hoping to get the worst mark then was relieved when he did... that's absurd. So how in the hell could his celebration be a "non-muted form of relief"?

saratdear wrote:
Indi wrote:
You're being disingenuous. You don't seriously believe that anyone celebrating Bin Laden's death is doing so because they believe he's gone on to find eternal happiness. So why bring it up?

It doesn't matter whether I believe it or not. My point is you can't say with 100% certainty whether all the thousands of people were celebrating just to see a mass murderer dead.

? i don't need to say - with any certainty - that ALL of them are celebrating his death and suffering. All i need to do is say that most of them probably are, and offer evidence for that claim.

Surely you're not trying to deny that's what they're doing in the picture i put up? And if you don't deny that people are celebrating Bin Laden's death and suffering... why are you wasting my time with this nonsense?

saratdear wrote:
Indi wrote:
And we're talking about them. They are enjoying the fact that Bin Laden's last moments were terrifying and painful - not whatever hypothetical people you're talking about - and their enjoyment is the subject of this thread.

Who is them? As I said before, the demonstrations outside the White House might not have been the only people who celebrated. However, if your thread was aimed at only that small group of people, I take back my argument.

? Seriously, what in the hell are you talking about? i don't even know who was demonstrating outside the White House, or why, and i don't care. (For example, to start, the picture i put up of people celebrating was of New York, not Washington, but that's irrelevant.)

i'm not "aiming" at ANY group of people, large or small. i'm not interested in people. None of this is about pointing fingers at people. It's about determining principles. The only reason people were mentioned at all was to show a case where the principles matter in reality.

Fact: people were partying because Bin Laden had been killed... BY THEIR OWN ADMISSION. (Thousands of them, actually, all over the country.) They were on TV, staring right in the cameras, cheering, saying they were celebrating Bin Laden's death. Do you deny that?
Fact: even after the street celebrations, people are still celebrating Bin Laden's death, whether it be comedians laughing about it on TV or people making (and presumably buying) celebratory shirts. Google and see. Do you deny that?
The inescapable conclusion is that people were... and are... celebrating Bin Laden's death. That's all that matters. i don't care who they were, or where they were. i don't care whether this or that particular group of people were doing it, or whether they were out on the streets for some unrelated reason. Fact is, at least some people did it (and continue to do it). But i don't care who specifically those people are. All i care about is that it happened; people did (and still are) celebrate Bin Laden's death.

So it happened. Period. That ship has sailed.

Now, given that it happened, what this thread is "aimed at" is determining whether THE ACT OF CELEBRATING is moral or not... not the people; the act, or the reasoning behind the act.

If you want to point fingers at the people who did it, or defend them, go nuts, but i don't think you'll find anyone else here cares. i sure don't.

saratdear wrote:
Indi wrote:
Sure, if you can think up a good reason to celebrate death, then it wouldn't be immoral....

If you mean 'good' as in scientifically acceptable...

Uh, i mean "good reason" as in "good reason". Science has nothing to do with it.

saratdear wrote:
It doesn't matter whether I believe in heaven or not. If there was one person in that group who did, and celebrate due to the reason I told, there - you have a moral reason for him celebrating.

That's nonsense. In fact, the truth is the exact opposite. Because if they believe in heaven, and you don't, then you shouldn't be celebrating them going to heaven. At least, not if you're an honest person. If you don't really believe something good happened (such as them going to heaven), then you shouldn't be celebrating, and if you pretend to celebrate, that's just adding immorality upon immorality... because you'd be lying about the reason for your celebrating.

On the flip side, if you did believe they were going to heaven, even if they didn't believe it, then you could celebrate them dying. Because it doesn't really matter where they believe they're going, you believe they're in for something good, and that's a good reason to celebrate. You can choose not to celebrate because they didn't believe there would be anything to celebrate about, but that's your choice, not theirs.

You decide what to celebrate based on what you believe, not on what others believe. If Bin Laden believed he's going to heaven, but you don't believe it, then you can't celebrate... because you don't believe he's in for something good. Pretending you believe it just because Bin Laden did, so you can celebrate, is lying.
ocalhoun
Indi wrote:

ocalhoun wrote:
Also, how does this reconcile with different people having different moral senses?
I ascribe to the theory that there must be an absolute moral code, one that is the same for everyone... But if it is the same for everyone, how can it be reconciled with moral senses that vary from person to person?

The simple answer is that people don't have different moral senses. If you're only looking at the results, there will appear to be some variance in the details due to social and cultural conventions, but if you look at the details and the mechanisms, you see universal similarity.

I am skeptical about this. Sure, nearly all sane individual moral senses will agree about obvious things like murder and rape... but in less obvious cases, like this one, you may well find variations.

Now, the cause of these variations might be in-born, might be culturally derived, might be -- as I suspect is often the case -- due to the presence or absence of desensitization...

But that does not mean that everyone's moral sense agrees. And if cultural assumptions play a part in the formation of this moral sense, that means that in order to derive a universal ethic from it, you would have to take the tedious -- and likely futile -- task of stripping away all the assumptions.
Quote:

If you look at the apparent exceptions, you'll find that most of them take two general forms:

I would add another reason for apparent exceptions: being desensitized by previous exposure.
Quote:

So if someone believed that rape was okay, but their moral theory said no, then after first checking their moral theory to see if it might be the problem, they would check their moral sense... and that would show up as flawed, either because of the false belief, or because of the religious meddling in the thought processes.

Now, here's the part I'm fuzzy about...
How exactly does one check one's moral sense for problems?
Quote:

That's all i've said, from the start: if your moral theory disagrees with your moral sense, suspect the theory. Rethink that theory first - not only, rethink it FIRST - because it's more likely to be flawed than your moral sense.

Okay, I see what you're getting at now.
Problem is, my theory doesn't conflict with my moral sense... and apparently neither does yours.
We are both internally consistent in this respect, yet externally conflicting with each other.
So, I suppose you would tell me that both my moral sense and my moral theory are wrong?
Quote:

But since you've brought it up, let me turn it back around on you. Your moral theory is that whatever does no harm is not immoral, correct (if not, just fill in whatever it really is)? Alright then: how do you test whether it's actually a good moral theory? Because, from where i'm sitting, it looks like all you're doing is making a circular argument: what does no harm is not immoral because something is only immoral if it does harm. Where's the justification? How do you know it works? What would make you suspect it was wrong, if putting stock in your natural moral sense is such a crazy idea?

Well, for one thing, you can reexamine the reasoning that led to that conclusion, though I do concede that the moral sense is a useful tool for quick judgments, particularly in noticing when you do or do not need to reexamine.

If you must know, if you reduce my theory back to its origin, it actually stems from religious belief.
(also self-developed)
I won't get into the details now; I don't think it's particularly relevant.
Quote:

Second, as i explained before, you're not dehumanizing a dead person, you're dehumanizing a person who happens to be dead. What you're dehumanizing is not "dead Osama" - you're dehumanizing Osama. You're taking the person, Osama, and revelling in the fact that he, a person, (not "it, a corpse") suffered. The only issue here seems to be that you think the timing matters. It doesn't; throwing a party to celebrate his suffering after he died badly is no different from throwing a party to celebrate his suffering if you know he's going to die badly before it happens.

Well, the reason I think the timing matters is because of the 'do no harm' ethic...
I'm somewhat certain that it is impossible to harm a dead man.
(It is possible to harm his body or his estate... but these are inanimate objects, and I don't find harming inanimate objects to be immoral.)
Therefore, if an action against a dead man is to be found immoral, you have to find somebody living who is harmed by that action.
Quote:

See, this is what bothers me. You claim your moral theory makes this a-ok, but at the same time qualify it with "but i wouldn't do it". But your moral theory, if correct, should be universally applicable - if there's nothing wrong other people celebrating someone's death or rape, then there is nothing wrong with you doing it. So why wouldn't you do it? What's stopping you?

Okay, I'm just going to nip this one in the bud.
Nothing is stopping me, I think it would be okay for me to do as well.
The reason I didn't* do it was simply personal preference.

I also didn't eat lettuce for lunch, but this is simply personal preference, and I don't condemn anybody who did eat lettuce for lunch.

I see these as amoral actions, and abstain from them not from moral conviction, but simply because I don't feel like it. If I was a hateful person**, and had been nurturing a hatred for Osama for some time, I likely would have felt like celebrating, and if that were the case, I probably would have done so.


*I said that I didn't do it, not that I wouldn't do it, though coincidentally both are (mostly) true.
**I tend to not be... Making enemies is difficult for me.
Quote:
it would draw attention to my fingers when i'd rather have that attention on my fine ass;

I didn't know you had a donkey!
You'll have to post pics of the fine beast someday. ^.^
Especially if you enjoy having attention on it so much!


(Sorry for the pun, couldn't resist.)
Quote:
why don't you find rape something to celebrate, even though it's apparently okay for others to do so.

To reiterate and clarify things said above:
I also don't find lettuce something worth eating... but it is okay for others to eat it.
Quote:

ocalhoun wrote:
... I'm disinclined to place such stringent moral restrictions upon freedom of expression....

Whoa, whoa, whoa... this is not a "freedom of expression" issue. That's just absurd. Does a paedophile have the freedom to express their lust for children, assuming the children don't get hurt? Should they? Are we restricting their freedom of expression when we say it's wrong? Is it wrong to put such stringent moral restrictions on paedophiles' freedom of expression?

I find human* rights to be universal and naturally occurring, just like morals (ideally) are.
In fact, I think the two are inseparable, and as such, neither one should infringe on the other.
(ie, there should not be a moral rule that contradicts human rights, and there should not be human rights that contradict moral rules.)
This is why I don't think basic human rights should be constrained by morality.
(Yes, there are forms of expression that harm others; in this case, morality and rights do not conflict, as rights are limited in that they end where harm to another begins.)


*and other species; I disagree with the term 'human rights', but use it as I can't think of any substitute that would get the same point across.
Quote:

This is not an "expression" issue. What do you think is being "expressed" here, other than naked contempt for a person? If you want to express your contempt for Bin Laden, just say, "i hate Bin Laden". If you want to express your belief that he deserved to suffer and die horribly, then say that. No one's stopping you from just expressing any belief about Bin Laden. But actually celebrating it? If you deserve the right to express your belief that Bin Laden's death was awesome by celebrating his suffering,

Please explain to me the crucial difference between expressing something through speech and expressing something through celebration...
Really, I have no idea what the difference is here.
If it is harmful to express something through celebration, then it is also harmful to express it through speech, right?
Quote:
why don't you also deserve the right to express your belief that other races are lower forms of life by never hiring them for jobs and keeping them out of your neighbourhood?

Because that harms the people who want to work or go to your neighborhood.
Your right to express yourself ends at the point where it harms others.
(That, and 'keeping them out of your neighborhood' is likely to involve more than just expression as a means of enforcement.)
Quote:

ocalhoun wrote:
I honestly don't see anything (intrinsically) wrong with the mere act of celebrating, no matter what the occasion might be for it... a moral being does not cease to be a moral being just because of what some other people think (or say) about it, does it?

This is wrong in two ways.

First, no one's claiming the act of celebrating is intrinsically wrong. i can't even imagine where that came from.

You've got to include the qualification as well; 'no matter what the occasion might be for it'...
From what I gathered, people were saying that a celebration could itself be immoral if the reason for it was wrong.
Quote:

Second, no one's claiming that person ceases to be a moral being just because of what other people think or say. Again, i can't imagine where that came from.

I think it originated thusly:
-I stated that celebrating does no harm
-You stated that celebrating does harm by dehumanizing the person
-You furthermore defined dehumanizing to include no longer being a moral being
-So, I figured that celebrating makes them no longer a moral being...

I was, however, assuming a binary concept of human or de-human... If someone can be partially dehumanized, but not fully, then this makes more sense.
(Though I still don't think that a dead man can be further dehumanized, since being dead makes one as dehumanized as one can get... Or does it?)
Quote:
kill you... apparently then any humanity you may have ever had no longer matters, and everyone who ever had any kind of contract with you is suddenly released from it. What's that you say? You willed your possessions to charity? Sorry, don't think so, you're dead now, so, i'll just claim them and keep them. Won't harm you, right? Oh? You've asked to be buried at sea? Nah, i don't think so - i'll just stuff your corpse and use it as a funny car accessory.

This could be the subject of another whole debate, but no, I don't think such things would harm me. Might harm my heirs, might emotionally harm anybody who grieves for me, but does not harm me.
saratdear
Indi wrote:
There is no way you could claim that Walter was "loudly relieved". What could he possibly be relieved about? He failed! He got the worst mark! He certainly wasn't hoping to get the worst mark then was relieved when he did... that's absurd. So how in the hell could his celebration be a "non-muted form of relief"?

For arguments sake, I could claim that Walter made a bet that he would get the lowest mark...and so he was relieved.

But no. Argument accepted. Relief is not a muted form of celebration.

Indi wrote:
? i don't need to say - with any certainty - that ALL of them are celebrating his death and suffering. All i need to do is say that most of them probably are, and offer evidence for that claim.

That shirt is no piece of "evidence". I could put up one on a website which says - "Mother Teresa is dead!" - would you take that as evidence for thousands of people celebrating her death?

Indi wrote:
And if you don't deny that people are celebrating Bin Laden's death and suffering... why are you wasting my time with this nonsense?

I'm not wasting your time. YOU wanted a reason for celebrating someone's death. I gave a plausible reason for people celebrating a person's death. YOU thought that was nonsense. Your choice.

Indi wrote:
Fact: people were partying because Bin Laden had been killed... BY THEIR OWN ADMISSION. (Thousands of them, actually, all over the country.) They were on TV, staring right in the cameras, cheering, saying they were celebrating Bin Laden's death. Do you deny that?
Fact: even after the street celebrations, people are still celebrating Bin Laden's death, whether it be comedians laughing about it on TV or people making (and presumably buying) celebratory shirts. Google and see. Do you deny that?

No, I don't deny that.

Indi wrote:
Now, given that it happened, what this thread is "aimed at" is determining whether THE ACT OF CELEBRATING is moral or not... not the people; the act, or the reasoning behind the act.

If you want to point fingers at the people who did it, or defend them, go nuts, but i don't think you'll find anyone else here cares. i sure don't.

I was not the one who brought up the subject of people involved. You did.

Indi wrote:
saratdear wrote:
Also, why does celebrating a death need to have negative connotations? I can say I am celebrating his death because he reached heaven safe and sound.

...Obviously if people were celebrating death for a good reason there wouldn't be a problem. But... they're not. And we're talking about them. They are enjoying the fact that Bin Laden's last moments were terrifying and painful - not whatever hypothetical people you're talking about - and their enjoyment is the subject of this thread.

See?

Indi wrote:
what this thread is "aimed at" is determining whether THE ACT OF CELEBRATING is moral or not... not the people; the act, or the reasoning behind the act

Please be consistent.

Indi wrote:
Uh, i mean "good reason" as in "good reason". Science has nothing to do with it.

But then why do you believe "going to heaven" isn't a good enough reason for a person to celebrate Osama's death?

Indi wrote:
saratdear wrote:
It doesn't matter whether I believe in heaven or not. If there was one person in that group who did, and celebrate due to the reason I told, there - you have a moral reason for him celebrating.

That's nonsense. In fact, the truth is the exact opposite. Because if they believe in heaven, and you don't, then you shouldn't be celebrating them going to heaven. At least, not if you're an honest person. If you don't really believe something good happened (such as them going to heaven), then you shouldn't be celebrating, and if you pretend to celebrate, that's just adding immorality upon immorality... because you'd be lying about the reason for your celebrating.

On the flip side, if you did believe they were going to heaven, even if they didn't believe it, then you could celebrate them dying. Because it doesn't really matter where they believe they're going, you believe they're in for something good, and that's a good reason to celebrate. You can choose not to celebrate because they didn't believe there would be anything to celebrate about, but that's your choice, not theirs.

You decide what to celebrate based on what you believe, not on what others believe. If Bin Laden believed he's going to heaven, but you don't believe it, then you can't celebrate... because you don't believe he's in for something good. Pretending you believe it just because Bin Laden did, so you can celebrate, is lying.

You're confused here. I was talking about other people celebrating for that reason. Doesn't mean I have to celebrate for that reason, or I have to celebrate at all.
Indi
ocalhoun wrote:
Indi wrote:
The simple answer is that people don't have different moral senses. If you're only looking at the results, there will appear to be some variance in the details due to social and cultural conventions, but if you look at the details and the mechanisms, you see universal similarity.

I am skeptical about this. Sure, nearly all sane individual moral senses will agree about obvious things like murder and rape... but in less obvious cases, like this one, you may well find variations.

Now, the cause of these variations might be in-born, might be culturally derived, might be -- as I suspect is often the case -- due to the presence or absence of desensitization...

But that does not mean that everyone's moral sense agrees. And if cultural assumptions play a part in the formation of this moral sense, that means that in order to derive a universal ethic from it, you would have to take the tedious -- and likely futile -- task of stripping away all the assumptions.

That's exactly what is being done. If you're curious about the scientific side of it, check out Hauser. If you're curious about the philosophical side of it, check out Rawls. But it's not being done to derive a universal ethic, it's being done just to learn how the moral organ works.

Why would anyone want to derive a universal ethic from our internal moral sense? What would be the point? That would be like deriving a camera from our eye. It would work, but we can do better (and we have), by not copying the eye, blind spot and all, and instead merely using it as general inspiration (and using it to test potential cameras to see whether they introduce colour or other distortions between the source and image).

ocalhoun wrote:
Quote:

If you look at the apparent exceptions, you'll find that most of them take two general forms:

I would add another reason for apparent exceptions: being desensitized by previous exposure.

Actually, no. Desensitization reduces our response to a moral offence, but not our judgement of it. If we watch a thousand people get brutally murdered one after the other, we won't react as strongly to the 1001st as we did to the 1st... but we'll still call murder wrong.

ocalhoun wrote:
Quote:

So if someone believed that rape was okay, but their moral theory said no, then after first checking their moral theory to see if it might be the problem, they would check their moral sense... and that would show up as flawed, either because of the false belief, or because of the religious meddling in the thought processes.

Now, here's the part I'm fuzzy about...
How exactly does one check one's moral sense for problems?

i just explained: look for false beliefs or cognitive malfunctions mucking up your thinking.

ocalhoun wrote:
Problem is, my theory doesn't conflict with my moral sense... and apparently neither does yours.
We are both internally consistent in this respect, yet externally conflicting with each other.
So, I suppose you would tell me that both my moral sense and my moral theory are wrong?

Possibly, but i suspect that what's actually happening is that your moral sense is saying it's wrong, and you're rationalizing it away. My evidence: you wouldn't do it yourself, and your reason why not (which i'll get to), is painfully weak to the point of avoidant - a strong symptom of cognitive dissonance.

ocalhoun wrote:
If you must know, if you reduce my theory back to its origin, it actually stems from religious belief.
(also self-developed)
I won't get into the details now; I don't think it's particularly relevant.

Sure it's relevant. For starters, i suspect your moral sense isn't really saying what you're saying it's saying (for reasons i hinted at above, and will get into detail about shortly) - if that's true then that would mean that my moral theory, my moral sense, and your moral sense all agree... and your moral theory is the odd one out, so the question would be why, and the theory's basis is crucial in answering that question. But even regardless of that, if you can't trust your moral theory, then you can't be confident you got the right answer just because your moral sense and moral theory agree - remember, sometimes your moral sense can be plain wrong - so can you trust your moral theory? The basis for the theory determines the answer to that question.

ocalhoun wrote:
Quote:

See, this is what bothers me. You claim your moral theory makes this a-ok, but at the same time qualify it with "but i wouldn't do it". But your moral theory, if correct, should be universally applicable - if there's nothing wrong other people celebrating someone's death or rape, then there is nothing wrong with you doing it. So why wouldn't you do it? What's stopping you?

Okay, I'm just going to nip this one in the bud.
Nothing is stopping me, I think it would be okay for me to do as well.
The reason I didn't* do it was simply personal preference.

I also didn't eat lettuce for lunch, but this is simply personal preference, and I don't condemn anybody who did eat lettuce for lunch.

I see these as amoral actions, and abstain from them not from moral conviction, but simply because I don't feel like it. If I was a hateful person**, and had been nurturing a hatred for Osama for some time, I likely would have felt like celebrating, and if that were the case, I probably would have done so.


*I said that I didn't do it, not that I wouldn't do it, though coincidentally both are (mostly) true.
**I tend to not be... Making enemies is difficult for me.

You didn't answer the question. In fact, you avoided it by repeating exactly what i told you wasn't an answer. i know that you wouldn't celebrate someone suffering, i asked why. You say there's nothing immoral about it, so why not do it? "Preference" is a non-answer, because preference is determined by reasons: you might hate lettuce because it has a bitter flavour; you might hate olives because they are wet and salty and you hate wet, salty foods; etc. Nobody "doesn't like" something "just because"; if you dig, there are always reasons for the dislike. It is nonsensical to say "cheese is delicious, but i wouldn't eat it" without any reasons for the "but"; saying "it's delicious" effectively means you would eat it, and saying "its (a)moral" effectively means you would do it, unless there are other factors.

i believe that smoking pot is not immoral... and i'd do it if someone offered me some. That's putting my, well, mouth, where my mouth is; i'm demonstrating that i really believe it's not immoral by doing it, comfortably, without reservation. Wearing a red hat: if you gave me one, i'd wear it - again, i don't think it's immoral, and i show that by my actions.

i believe that dropping acid is not immoral... but i wouldn't do it, although i don't mind if others do. Why? Because of the long-term effects to the brain, including spontaneous hallucinations years after the fact. i have a reason for not doing it, even though i don't think it's immoral. i believe that masturbating in public is not immoral, but i wouldn't do it. Why? Because i don't want my sex face appearing on YouTube, and because of the danger to bystanders (probably better not to ask). i have reasons for not masturbating in public (aside from the jokes, because i'm painfully shy would be a legitimate reason - i don't even like taking off my jacket in front of strangers - and because it would get me arrested), which is why i wouldn't do it even though i don't think it's immoral.

So, okay, you don't want to celebrate people's suffering... but why not? Obviously not because it's immoral - you've said that it's not - so what is the reason then? Because it's vulgar, because it's icky? If so, why is it vulgar or icky? Follow the trail to the end.

ocalhoun wrote:
I find human* rights to be universal and naturally occurring, just like morals (ideally) are.
In fact, I think the two are inseparable, and as such, neither one should infringe on the other.
(ie, there should not be a moral rule that contradicts human rights, and there should not be human rights that contradict moral rules.)
This is why I don't think basic human rights should be constrained by morality.
(Yes, there are forms of expression that harm others; in this case, morality and rights do not conflict, as rights are limited in that they end where harm to another begins.)

Interesting. For the record, i think both morality and rights are universal, but not natural, yet inevitable. So, unnatural in the sense that they don't exist in nature nor can they be spontaneously generated by looking at nature alone. But "natural" in the sense that, like math, the rules arise inevitably once you make the right starting assumptions, and the starting assumptions themselves are, to quote a thinker you might be familiar with, self-evident (or, more correctly, if you pick the wrong starting assumptions, you'll see contradictions in the system; only the right starting assumptions give you a framework that is universally consistent). The rules of math are not really natural, and neither are the rules of morality or rights, but anyone who tries to derive them artificially, assuming they do the derivation correctly, will come to the same rules, even if from different directions.

i don't think of them as inseparable so much as different aspects of the same thing. Rights and morality are as linked as calculus and statistics. But, that's only in theoretical terms. In practical terms, rights are delegated and protected by the state, and morality is the responsibility of the individual. In this case, the moral decision of whether celebrating suffering is right or wrong is the domain of the individuals, and completely disconnected from the state's concerns about freedom of expression; even if your state doesn't have any freedom of expression, you can still decide whether celebrating suffering is moral or not, and the moral conclusion of whether it's moral or not has nothing to do with whether the state allows freedom of expression or not.

ocalhoun wrote:
*and other species; I disagree with the term 'human rights', but use it as I can't think of any substitute that would get the same point across.

Agreed.

ocalhoun wrote:
Please explain to me the crucial difference between expressing something through speech and expressing something through celebration...
Really, I have no idea what the difference is here.
If it is harmful to express something through celebration, then it is also harmful to express it through speech, right?

It's not about the difference between expressing by speech and expressing by celebration, it's that one is expressing, and one is not. Expression means broadcasting a belief to others. You can do that by speaking, or by dancing, or by... whatever. You can even do it by celebrating, and that is often done - for example, i have a hunch that some of the people celebrating Bin Laden's death aren't doing it just because they're happy, they're also doing it to send a message to Bin Laden's supporters. i suspect that if they were to put that message into words, it would be: "****** you, <some racist epithet against Arabs or Muslims>". But we're not really interested in them, if there are any of them (the moral question of this thread doesn't relate to them).

But none of this is about the expression, it's about the celebration. When is celebration not expression? When you're not celebrating for others; when you're not celebrating to send a message. If you're just celebrating because you're happy - which most of those people who were interviewed during the celebrations say they were - then you're not "expressing" anything, because you're not using your celebration to express a belief to anyone else; you're jumping around, cheering, because you want to.

If those people want to say that Bin Laden deserved to suffer horribly, that's expressing an opinion - that's expression. They could express that opinion anyway their little hearts desire, even by celebrating. But let's not be naive, that's not why they were partying in the streets. They were not partying to send a message to anyone, they were just bloody happy and wanted to party about it. That's certainly what they said in the interviews i saw. The only thing i heard even remotely resembling a message was: "U-S-A. U-S-A. U-S-A."

(If you want an analogy in terms of speech, not all speech is not necessarily expression. There's the classic example: falsely yelling fire in a crowded theatre; that's not expressing any opinions or beliefs, it's just being a dick. If you're not sending a message to someone, usually the general public, then you're not expressing anything, you're just making noise.)

ocalhoun wrote:
Quote:
why don't you also deserve the right to express your belief that other races are lower forms of life by never hiring them for jobs and keeping them out of your neighbourhood?

Because that harms the people who want to work or go to your neighborhood.
Your right to express yourself ends at the point where it harms others.
(That, and 'keeping them out of your neighborhood' is likely to involve more than just expression as a means of enforcement.)

But, naturally, if there are no people who want to work in your neighbourhood, then it's okay, right? Can't harm non-existent people, right?

ocalhoun wrote:
Quote:

ocalhoun wrote:
I honestly don't see anything (intrinsically) wrong with the mere act of celebrating, no matter what the occasion might be for it... a moral being does not cease to be a moral being just because of what some other people think (or say) about it, does it?

This is wrong in two ways.

First, no one's claiming the act of celebrating is intrinsically wrong. i can't even imagine where that came from.

You've got to include the qualification as well; 'no matter what the occasion might be for it'...
From what I gathered, people were saying that a celebration could itself be immoral if the reason for it was wrong.

? You know what "intrinsically" means, right?

ocalhoun wrote:
Quote:

Second, no one's claiming that person ceases to be a moral being just because of what other people think or say. Again, i can't imagine where that came from.

I think it originated thusly:
-I stated that celebrating does no harm
-You stated that celebrating does harm by dehumanizing the person
-You furthermore defined dehumanizing to include no longer being a moral being
-So, I figured that celebrating makes them no longer a moral being...

I was, however, assuming a binary concept of human or de-human... If someone can be partially dehumanized, but not fully, then this makes more sense.
(Though I still don't think that a dead man can be further dehumanized, since being dead makes one as dehumanized as one can get... Or does it?)

It is a binary concept. You're either "human" (and again, this goes back to your comment about "human rights" - we're constrained by language here, but "human" doesn't mean literally homo sapiens sapiens, it means "moral agent"), or you're not. There's no half-way.

No, the problem is that you seem to think that treating someone inhumanely makes them inhuman. i'm not sure how you figured that; if i treat someone like a dog - making them wear a leash and walk on all fours - that doesn't make them a dog. It just makes me someone who treats a human like a dog.

So basically:
- Celebrating someone's suffering dehumanizes them, in that it makes you, the celebrator, someone who treats a person as a non-person... it does nothing to them. (And i don't know about harm - harm doesn't matter to me. Harm doesn't determine morality, as far as i'm concerned. There are moral decisions that do incredible harm, and there are immoral decisions that do no harm.)
- i use "dehumanizing" to literally mean treating someone as no longer a moral being - there's just no better word in English.
- Anytime you dehumanize someone, it's immoral.

As for why it doesn't matter that the person is dead, i should think that's obvious. The state of the person really doesn't matter, what matters is your belief about the state of the person. When you celebrate someone's death, you - in your mind - are dehumanizing the image you have of that person - in your mind - regardless of what's happening out there in the real world. Morality happens in the mind; the real world provides the data, but all the decisions and judgements happen in the mind. This might strike a consequentialist - like yourself - as wacky, but to me, the consequentialist vision is a little screwy: you get weird situations such as where something that is perfectly moral today is immoral tomorrow. For example, you say it's moral to celebrate Bin Laden's death because you can't harm him anymore... but then let's suppose that next year someone figures out how to revive the dead, or invents a time machine, or whatever, and brings Bin Laden back, and he's really hurt by the celebrating; what do you say to him, "Gee, it was moral yesterday"?

ocalhoun wrote:
Quote:
kill you... apparently then any humanity you may have ever had no longer matters, and everyone who ever had any kind of contract with you is suddenly released from it. What's that you say? You willed your possessions to charity? Sorry, don't think so, you're dead now, so, i'll just claim them and keep them. Won't harm you, right? Oh? You've asked to be buried at sea? Nah, i don't think so - i'll just stuff your corpse and use it as a funny car accessory.

This could be the subject of another whole debate, but no, I don't think such things would harm me. Might harm my heirs, might emotionally harm anybody who grieves for me, but does not harm me.

So that means i could do it, and i wouldn't be immoral (assuming you have no heirs). Or, more personally, you could do it to me (or anyone), and it wouldn't be immoral. Right? So there's the question again: would you? And if not, why not? Like, if you knew i was dead, what - besides the law - would stop you from walking into my house, digging through my personal writings, and cribbing the parts you like to create a plagiarized book (for example)?

And again: "it's not immoral but i wouldn't do it" is an evasion. If i was dead and you stole my brilliant novel idea and published it as your own, is that moral?

saratdear wrote:
Indi wrote:
? i don't need to say - with any certainty - that ALL of them are celebrating his death and suffering. All i need to do is say that most of them probably are, and offer evidence for that claim.

That shirt is no piece of "evidence". I could put up one on a website which says - "Mother Teresa is dead!" - would you take that as evidence for thousands of people celebrating her death?

The shirt is an example of an overwhelmingly popular sentiment. If you'd check the site, you'd find ~900 such shirts, some even more grotesque (and be sure to read the writing on the right). A quick Google of YouTube gives me over 7000 videos for "osama celebrate OR celebration OR party" (and i got tired of adding ORs).

Seriously, what are you doing? Because, from here it looks like you're just being purposefully ignorant. Do you seriously not know that there were ecstatic celebrations over the news of Bin Laden's death? Do you seriously not believe that most of the people at those celebrations were celebrating because Bin Laden met a bad end (and not because he's going to Heaven, and you implied)? Because if you do know that these celebrations happened, and why they happened, you're just being an annoying waste of my time.

saratdear wrote:
I'm not wasting your time. YOU wanted a reason for celebrating someone's death. I gave a plausible reason for people celebrating a person's death. YOU thought that was nonsense. Your choice.

You are being dishonest, and cherry picking my words from one point and claiming they're related to another. What i said was nonsense was your claim that: it doesn't matter what you believe when you do something, it matters what other people believe. That is what i called nonsense, not, as you claim, some "plausible reason for celebrating a person's death" that you gave.

saratdear wrote:
I was not the one who brought up the subject of people involved. You did.

Indi wrote:
saratdear wrote:
Also, why does celebrating a death need to have negative connotations? I can say I am celebrating his death because he reached heaven safe and sound.

...Obviously if people were celebrating death for a good reason there wouldn't be a problem. But... they're not. And we're talking about them. They are enjoying the fact that Bin Laden's last moments were terrifying and painful - not whatever hypothetical people you're talking about - and their enjoyment is the subject of this thread.

See?

Indi wrote:
what this thread is "aimed at" is determining whether THE ACT OF CELEBRATING is moral or not... not the people; the act, or the reasoning behind the act

Please be consistent.

? There is no inconsistency there. What inconsistency do you think you see? In the first quote - which you've edited to change it's apparent meaning - i'm trying to get you to stop making up imaginary people with imaginary beliefs to avoid the questions (yet, i still specifically answer the hypothetical question you raise, in one of the parts you cut). i also point out (and you cut this out, too), that it doesn't matter what you say you believe, it matters what you actually believe, and that you couldn't seriously argue that the people celebrating actually believe what you were trying to imply they do. And i say, straight up, and you even bolded this part, that the thread is not about the people, it is about the enjoyment: look, right here, "their ENJOYMENT is the subject of this thread". And then, in the next quote, i say... surprise surprise... "what this thread is "aimed at" is determining whether THE ACT OF CELEBRATING is moral or not... not the people; the act, or the reasoning behind the act". It's right there, in plain English.

saratdear wrote:
Indi wrote:
Uh, i mean "good reason" as in "good reason". Science has nothing to do with it.

But then why do you believe "going to heaven" isn't a good enough reason for a person to celebrate Osama's death?

Why do you think i believe that? Do you just think i believe that because it suits your preconceptions of what you think i should believe?

Because i certainly never said that. In fact, i said the opposite.

saratdear wrote:
You're confused here. I was talking about other people celebrating for that reason. Doesn't mean I have to celebrate for that reason, or I have to celebrate at all.

No, i really don't think i'm the confused one here.

As i said, in plain English, if you... no, you know what? i'm going QUOTE myself, so you can see how plainly i said it: "... if you actually had a rational reason to believe that there is a heaven and the dead person is "going" there somehow, then there would be nothing wrong with celebrating the death."

There. See? i said it quite plainly. IF YOU REALLY BELIEVE BIN LADEN IS GOING TO HEAVEN, AND IF THAT IS WHY YOU ARE CELEBRATING, THEN THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH IT. Does that make it clearer?
saratdear
Indi wrote:
There. See? i said it quite plainly. IF YOU REALLY BELIEVE BIN LADEN IS GOING TO HEAVEN, AND IF THAT IS WHY YOU ARE CELEBRATING, THEN THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH IT. Does that make it clearer?

Yes, it does. Thank you very much.

I did not celebrate Bin Laden's death, nor am I going to do so in the foreseeable future. But now I have one moral reason, if I ever plan to do so.

Thanks for your time.
ocalhoun
Indi wrote:

i just explained: look for false beliefs or cognitive malfunctions mucking up your thinking.

But are they likely to be found from within the system?
("A sure sign of being crazy is that you're certain of your sanity" and all...)
Quote:

Possibly, but i suspect that what's actually happening is that your moral sense is saying it's wrong, and you're rationalizing it away. My evidence: you wouldn't do it yourself, and your reason why not (which i'll get to), is painfully weak to the point of avoidant - a strong symptom of cognitive dissonance.

I'll also get to the evidence later, but I don't think I'm rationalizing away what my moral sense is saying... Of course, as I said earlier, it is extremely difficult to be sure from within the system that is (or is not) producing that rationalization.
Quote:

i know that you wouldn't celebrate someone suffering, i asked why. You say there's nothing immoral about it, so why not do it? "Preference" is a non-answer, because preference is determined by reasons: you might hate lettuce because it has a bitter flavour; you might hate olives because they are wet and salty and you hate wet, salty foods; etc. Nobody "doesn't like" something "just because"; if you dig, there are always reasons for the dislike. It is nonsensical to say "cheese is delicious, but i wouldn't eat it" without any reasons for the "but"; saying "it's delicious" effectively means you would eat it, and saying "its (a)moral" effectively means you would do it, unless there are other factors.

[...]

So, okay, you don't want to celebrate people's suffering... but why not? Obviously not because it's immoral - you've said that it's not - so what is the reason then? Because it's vulgar, because it's icky? If so, why is it vulgar or icky? Follow the trail to the end.

I don't want to celebrate harm to people because I would only be glad of harm befalling them if I hated them.
I don't hate them, because it is my nature to try to get along with people and not make enemies.
It is my nature to not make enemies, likely because I was physically weak when growing up, and making enemies would be too dangerous, and then this nature gives me positive results in that it makes me less stressed, so it gets reinforced and entrenched.
I was physically weak when growing up because of genetics and a relative lack of exercise.
Do I need to follow the trail any further, or is this sufficient?

There's my reasons. Absent those reasons, I might be quite inclined to celebrate various people being harmed.
Quote:

Interesting. For the record, i think both morality and rights are universal, but not natural, yet inevitable.

I'll agree with that. 'Natural' was probably a poor word choice; universal and inevitable are better.
...You could say it's natural in the way that the rules of geometry are natural.


Quote:

i don't think of them as inseparable so much as different aspects of the same thing. Rights and morality are as linked as calculus and statistics. But, that's only in theoretical terms. In practical terms, rights are delegated and protected by the state, and morality is the responsibility of the individual. In this case, the moral decision of whether celebrating suffering is right or wrong is the domain of the individuals, and completely disconnected from the state's concerns about freedom of expression; even if your state doesn't have any freedom of expression, you can still decide whether celebrating suffering is moral or not, and the moral conclusion of whether it's moral or not has nothing to do with whether the state allows freedom of expression or not.

Yes, 'human' rights are distinct from legal rights. Correctly so, in some cases, given practical difficulties in enforcement.
Quote:

But none of this is about the expression, it's about the celebration. When is celebration not expression? When you're not celebrating for others; when you're not celebrating to send a message. If you're just celebrating because you're happy - which most of those people who were interviewed during the celebrations say they were - then you're not "expressing" anything, because you're not using your celebration to express a belief to anyone else; you're jumping around, cheering, because you want to.

Ah, so the difference is between expression through speech and celebration sans expression.
Thank you for the clarification.
Quote:

But, naturally, if there are no people who want to work in your neighbourhood, then it's okay, right? Can't harm non-existent people, right?

Well, right, actually.
If nobody wants to work in your neighborhood, you can't exclude them, just as you can't remove the air molecules from a perfect vacuum, just as you can't kill your imaginary friend.

It isn't even an amoral/immoral/moral act any more, because it isn't an act at all.
Quote:

? You know what "intrinsically" means, right?


Quote:

there are immoral decisions that do no harm.

Examples?
Of course, there's the 'immoral because you thought it would do harm, even though it turns out that it didn't' ie, a failed murder attempt is still immoral... (supposing that it was an earnest attempt)

But besides differences between expectations and reality, can you give me some examples of immoral acts that harm nobody? I'm really curious to see if I agree that any of them are immoral...
Quote:

- Anytime you dehumanize someone, it's immoral.

Even when it's actually something? Once dead, you no longer qualify as 'someone'.


Quote:

As for why it doesn't matter that the person is dead, i should think that's obvious. The state of the person really doesn't matter, what matters is your belief about the state of the person. When you celebrate someone's death, you - in your mind - are dehumanizing the image you have of that person - in your mind - regardless of what's happening out there in the real world. Morality happens in the mind; the real world provides the data, but all the decisions and judgements happen in the mind. This might strike a consequentialist - like yourself - as wacky,

It does sound wacky indeed.
Committing immoral acts entirely within your own head?
I don't think that any kind of belief or thought could or should be immoral... (Partly because even the most practiced at self-control are not perfectly in control of their own thoughts. Sure, control of your thoughts can be learned, practiced, and enhanced, and some are better at it than others, but I don't think anybody has perfect control.)
But also partly because, as what you call a consequentialist, a cause with no effects attached is inherently amoral. Therefore, a thought could only be immoral (or moral) if you acted on it, meaning that it would then have effects.
Quote:
but to me, the consequentialist vision is a little screwy: you get weird situations such as where something that is perfectly moral today is immoral tomorrow. For example, you say it's moral to celebrate Bin Laden's death because you can't harm him anymore... but then let's suppose that next year someone figures out how to revive the dead, or invents a time machine, or whatever, and brings Bin Laden back, and he's really hurt by the celebrating; what do you say to him, "Gee, it was moral yesterday"?

Okay, so when somebody invents a time machine or starts reviving the dead, we'll have to reconsider the notion that dead people can't be harmed.

That doesn't really change anything, not on a fundamental level, nor on a practical level.

As for what we'd say about it, it's one of those situations where expectations did not match reality; we (very reasonably) expected him to stay dead; he didn't.*
As such, any harm done is accidental, regrettable, and future repetition of such things will be avoided.

*If we did expect zombie Bin Laden** to resurrect and be offended, then it would be immoral the whole time, even while he was dead.
**Given that he was killed by a head shot, I don't think he can come back as a zombie, since the same wound would also re-kill a zombie.
Quote:

Like, if you knew i was dead, what - besides the law - would stop you from walking into my house, digging through my personal writings, and cribbing the parts you like to create a plagiarized book (for example)?

Assuming:
1-immunity from legal problems
2-no rightful owners of said notes will be deprived of their (legitimate) use
3-you're not going to come back from the dead
4-I'm inclined to 'write' a plagiarized book
5-Immunity from social/legal problems stemming from the risk that my plagiary is discovered


Yes, I would do that.
Quote:

And again: "it's not immoral but i wouldn't do it" is an evasion. If i was dead and you stole my brilliant novel idea and published it as your own, is that moral?

Yes, given the five assumptions listed above (particularly #2 and #3), it is an amoral act.
Indi
ocalhoun wrote:
Indi wrote:

i just explained: look for false beliefs or cognitive malfunctions mucking up your thinking.

But are they likely to be found from within the system?
("A sure sign of being crazy is that you're certain of your sanity" and all...)

But you're not using your beliefs to test your beliefs, you're using your reasoning faculties. And you're not using your internal cognitive reasoning to test whether it's working, you're comparing it against "external" (ie, universal) standards: ie, reason.

Computer analogies often work well for the human mind, so think of it like this: to test whether a computer has been corrupted you use the computer's processing ability to test the data it has stored, and see if its corrupted. Then you test the computer's processing ability against external standards - like mathematics (because computers are just big calculators), which is really just a specific form of reason.

ocalhoun wrote:
I don't want to celebrate harm to people because I would only be glad of harm befalling them if I hated them.
I don't hate them, because it is my nature to try to get along with people and not make enemies.
It is my nature to not make enemies, likely because I was physically weak when growing up, and making enemies would be too dangerous, and then this nature gives me positive results in that it makes me less stressed, so it gets reinforced and entrenched.
I was physically weak when growing up because of genetics and a relative lack of exercise.
Do I need to follow the trail any further, or is this sufficient?

There's my reasons. Absent those reasons, I might be quite inclined to celebrate various people being harmed.

Unless you're claiming that it's (a)moral to celebrate the suffering of enemies, but immoral to celebrate the death of friends, then you still haven't answered the question. Why would you not celebrate the suffering of people you like? i get that you wouldn't be inclined to because you're not happy about it, but that still begs the question of what happens if you're just in a good mood. You woke up on the right side of the bed, found a ten spot on the road, had a delicious lunch, so you're looking for a reason to party... then you hear that a friend of yours has been diagnosed with cancer, and some people that don't like him are going to have a party about it. Your friend will never hear about it, so... would you go? If not, why not?

ocalhoun wrote:
Quote:

But, naturally, if there are no people who want to work in your neighbourhood, then it's okay, right? Can't harm non-existent people, right?

Well, right, actually.
If nobody wants to work in your neighborhood, you can't exclude them, just as you can't remove the air molecules from a perfect vacuum, just as you can't kill your imaginary friend.

It isn't even an amoral/immoral/moral act any more, because it isn't an act at all.

But then that would mean that in a country that happened to be all-white (for example), it would be perfectly appropriate to put "no n***ers allowed" on the flag, to name the capitol "Lynchville", and so on, so long as no black people have any interest in joining. Despite your claim, that is not a non-act... those are pretty blatant acts.

In fact, let's make it more realistic. Let's say that a group of white supremacists decided to open a club dedicated to white supremacy. Presumably, no non-whites would be interested in joining that club, although they are welcome (so there's no "enforcement" of the racism). By your logic it would be perfect acceptable for that group to paint its clubhouse over with racist epithets. And again i stress... not just legal, but moral, which means that the only objections to the design would have to be aesthetic (in which case, if they painted racial slurs artistically, the clubhouse design would be perfectly welcome in a mixed community).

Again, i have a really hard time believing that if you were walking down the street in your (presumably mixed) neighbourhood and saw one building painted over with the nastiest racial slurs imaginable - albeit done in an artistically beautiful design - that you wouldn't even bat an eyelash. (Or, worse, that you'd stop and admire the artistry of it and then go on tell everyone how beautiful you think it is.)

ocalhoun wrote:
Quote:

there are immoral decisions that do no harm.

Examples?
Of course, there's the 'immoral because you thought it would do harm, even though it turns out that it didn't' ie, a failed murder attempt is still immoral... (supposing that it was an earnest attempt)

But besides differences between expectations and reality, can you give me some examples of immoral acts that harm nobody? I'm really curious to see if I agree that any of them are immoral...

Oh, let's see: cheating on a test (assuming that it doesn't result in you getting qualified to do something you don't really know how to do), having an affair (assuming you practice safe sex), stealing the shoes off a dying person (assuming there is no chance of saving them), having sex with a child (assuming that there was no violence - doing something without someone's consent is not harming them, otherwise it would be immoral to report a thief to the police), hell even having sex with animals (assuming the animal is not harmed), surreptitiously feeding meat to a vegetarian (assuming they are a vegetarian for ethical reasons, not health reasons)... tons of stuff.

ocalhoun wrote:
Quote:

- Anytime you dehumanize someone, it's immoral.

Even when it's actually something? Once dead, you no longer qualify as 'someone'.

i think you're having an issue with time here. They're only something after you dehumanize them. That's what the word "dehumanize" means: you're taking a person, and turning them into a thing.

ocalhoun wrote:
Quote:

As for why it doesn't matter that the person is dead, i should think that's obvious. The state of the person really doesn't matter, what matters is your belief about the state of the person. When you celebrate someone's death, you - in your mind - are dehumanizing the image you have of that person - in your mind - regardless of what's happening out there in the real world. Morality happens in the mind; the real world provides the data, but all the decisions and judgements happen in the mind. This might strike a consequentialist - like yourself - as wacky,

It does sound wacky indeed.
Committing immoral acts entirely within your own head?

i didn't say the act was committed in your head. i said the decision was made in your head, and that's where the morality comes into play. Punching someone in the face is not intrinsically immoral, what matters is why you decided to do it; if you decided to do it because they asked you to (say, to see if they could take it) then it's fine, but if you decided to do it because you don't like their skin colour then it's wrong. The critical factor in determining the morality is your thought process... and that's all in your head.

If someone was trapped in a machine screaming for you to push the release button, and you pushed the button you thought was the release button (and assume for rational reasons) but it turns out to be the "grind" button and the person ends up horribly hurt, then if you're right and morality is determined by harm what you did was immoral. You harmed him. You pushed the button to harm him. You even did so deliberately - you didn't accidentally fall on the button.

But that's in the real world. In your head, you thought that you were pushing the right button, and that you were helping him. It is that world - the world in your head - that determines morality. In your head, you were trying your damnedest to do the right thing... so what you did was moral, even though it turned out horribly and the person got harmed. So long as you've tried your best to make sure that your mind-world is as close as possible to the real world, you can't be blamed for the differences between the two that you had no way to know existed.

ocalhoun wrote:
I don't think that any kind of belief or thought could or should be immoral... (Partly because even the most practiced at self-control are not perfectly in control of their own thoughts. Sure, control of your thoughts can be learned, practiced, and enhanced, and some are better at it than others, but I don't think anybody has perfect control.)

No one said that thoughts or beliefs should be immoral. i said "decisions and judgements".

ocalhoun wrote:
Quote:
but to me, the consequentialist vision is a little screwy: you get weird situations such as where something that is perfectly moral today is immoral tomorrow. For example, you say it's moral to celebrate Bin Laden's death because you can't harm him anymore... but then let's suppose that next year someone figures out how to revive the dead, or invents a time machine, or whatever, and brings Bin Laden back, and he's really hurt by the celebrating; what do you say to him, "Gee, it was moral yesterday"?

Okay, so when somebody invents a time machine or starts reviving the dead, we'll have to reconsider the notion that dead people can't be harmed.

That doesn't really change anything, not on a fundamental level, nor on a practical level.

As for what we'd say about it, it's one of those situations where expectations did not match reality; we (very reasonably) expected him to stay dead; he didn't.*
As such, any harm done is accidental, regrettable, and future repetition of such things will be avoided.

*If we did expect zombie Bin Laden** to resurrect and be offended, then it would be immoral the whole time, even while he was dead.

Except now you have to exist in this kind of nebulous world where either you ignore the logical progression of technology and knowledge, or you live in constant fear of doing anything.

Think about it: you don't know that Bin Laden won't be revealed to be alive tomorrow, or that no one will ever figure out how to revive the dead in some way or another. These things are unlikely, but not ridiculously unlikely. So where do you stand today? Either you say, "i know that some day Bin Laden might be reanimated, but he can't be reanimated today, so even though i know this might hurt him in the future, i'm gonna party." Or you say, "Bin Laden might be reanimated, so i don't dare party, even though it seems like it would do no harm right now."

This is not just a problem with the Bin Laden scenario, it's a fundamental problem with the whole harm principle. Take the case of a black man moving into a racist neighbourhood - you said there's no problem with the neighbourhood being racist so long as no black people want to enter it. Except that it may be the case that a black man does want to enter... but you just don't know about it. Which means that either you ignore that possibility, or you accept it and don't be racist even though it will do no harm.

And the same problem extends... everywhere. If you build a ray gun that will automatically kill any purple, slimy people with silicon-based DNA, on the assumption that it will never actually harm any such people because they don't exist (and i direct you back to your "removing air molecules from a vacuum" analogy... so this is actually the way you think), then you are ignoring the possibility that they do exist, and that they might be harmed before you can disable your ray gun. It's either that, or you accept the possibility and don't build the ray gun, even though it will probably never do any harm.

ocalhoun wrote:
Quote:

Like, if you knew i was dead, what - besides the law - would stop you from walking into my house, digging through my personal writings, and cribbing the parts you like to create a plagiarized book (for example)?

Assuming:
1-immunity from legal problems
2-no rightful owners of said notes will be deprived of their (legitimate) use
3-you're not going to come back from the dead
4-I'm inclined to 'write' a plagiarized book
5-Immunity from social/legal problems stemming from the risk that my plagiary is discovered


Yes, I would do that.
Quote:

And again: "it's not immoral but i wouldn't do it" is an evasion. If i was dead and you stole my brilliant novel idea and published it as your own, is that moral?

Yes, given the five assumptions listed above (particularly #2 and #3), it is an amoral act.

Really? And you don't think that's a little peculiar? You don't think that pretty much any other writer in the world would disagree with you? i haven't done a survey, but i'd bet that if you asked any writer how they would feel about someone who did that, they would be disgusted. i'm not just basing that on a hunch either, but on the reactions to famous plagiarists like Stephen Ambrose, T. S. Eliot, Vice President Joe Biden and Martin Luther King Jr.. Bearing in mind, too, that i didn't pick those names randomly; these are people whose plagiarism harmed no one (as opposed to someone like H. G. Wells or Richard Owen, who both certainly harmed someone badly), and in certain cases - King's in particular - the fact that they got away with it for as long as they did turned out to do a lot of good for the world.

And yet... even while happily acknowledging that King did a lot of good things, whenever the subject of his plagiarism comes up - even though it did no harm at all to anyone - there is always a sense that King failed as a paragon of morality, and always a sense that people are rushing to excuse behaviour that they consider unquestioningly immoral from an otherwise great man.
catscratches
Indi wrote:

Oh, let's see: cheating on a test (assuming that it doesn't result in you getting qualified to do something you don't really know how to do)
Not immoral.

Indi wrote:
, having an affair (assuming you practice safe sex)
Not immoral, assuming of course that you're not found out or that the affair doesn't cause any problems in your "real" relationship.

Quote:
, stealing the shoes off a dying person (assuming there is no chance of saving them)
Not immoral.

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, having sex with a child (assuming that there was no violence - doing something without someone's consent is not harming them, otherwise it would be immoral to report a thief to the police)
I do think that causes harm. Not physical, no, but emotional.

Quote:
, hell even having sex with animals (assuming the animal is not harmed)
Not immoral.

Quote:
, surreptitiously feeding meat to a vegetarian (assuming they are a vegetarian for ethical reasons, not health reasons)
Not immoral, and that's coming from me as a vegetarian for ethical reasons. (This is of course discounting the ethical implications of obtaining said meat.)

And before the question whether I would do it in real life:
Cheating: yes and have done so.
Having an affair: no, since I do think it causes problems in you relationship(s), regardless of whether you're found out or not.
Stealing shoes of a dying person: no, but for practical reasons (societal values, potential link to the death, the state of shock I'd be in, etc.)
Having sex with animals: no, I don't fancy 'em.
Feeding meat to a vegetarian: no, since I don't see any gain from it and I find it immoral to obtain that meat.
ocalhoun
Indi wrote:

Unless you're claiming that it's (a)moral to celebrate the suffering of enemies, but immoral to celebrate the death of friends, then you still haven't answered the question. Why would you not celebrate the suffering of people you like? i get that you wouldn't be inclined to because you're not happy about it, but that still begs the question of what happens if you're just in a good mood. You woke up on the right side of the bed, found a ten spot on the road, had a delicious lunch, so you're looking for a reason to party... then you hear that a friend of yours has been diagnosed with cancer, and some people that don't like him are going to have a party about it. Your friend will never hear about it, so... would you go? If not, why not?

With those assumptions granted, yes, I would. Though, while there, I may object to people disparaging my friend.
... ie, "Yay, we're so happy person X got cancer! He's such a horrible person!"
"Hey, he's not so bad... he didn't really deserve it... Let's party!"
Quote:

Again, i have a really hard time believing that if you were walking down the street in your (presumably mixed) neighbourhood and saw one building painted over with the nastiest racial slurs imaginable - albeit done in an artistically beautiful design - that you wouldn't even bat an eyelash. (Or, worse, that you'd stop and admire the artistry of it and then go on tell everyone how beautiful you think it is.)

I can find it tasteless and rude without finding it immoral.
Is it immoral to offend someone? I think not.
Quote:

ocalhoun wrote:
Quote:

there are immoral decisions that do no harm.

Examples?
Of course, there's the 'immoral because you thought it would do harm, even though it turns out that it didn't' ie, a failed murder attempt is still immoral... (supposing that it was an earnest attempt)

But besides differences between expectations and reality, can you give me some examples of immoral acts that harm nobody? I'm really curious to see if I agree that any of them are immoral...

Oh, let's see: cheating on a test (assuming that it doesn't result in you getting qualified to do something you don't really know how to do) Not this conversation again! If you recall, I was of the opinion that this was amoral. , having an affair (assuming you practice safe sex) as catscratches said, this usually causes harm, but if you could somehow manage to do it with no harm done, it would be amoral , stealing the shoes off a dying person (assuming there is no chance of saving them) You also have to assume that his legitimate heirs don't exist, or don't want the shoes , having sex with a child (assuming that there was no violence - doing something without someone's consent is not harming them, harming by the victim's standards, mind you... and minors need help in judging harm otherwise it would be immoral to report a thief to the police in this case, you are helping reverse harm, not causing it), hell even having sex with animals (assuming the animal is not harmed) being an animal rights supporter, I would also require consent of the animal, surreptitiously feeding meat to a vegetarian (assuming they are a vegetarian for ethical reasons, not health reasons) harm by the victim's standards, remember; the vegetarian may well consider himself harmed.... tons of stuff. tons of stuff, yes, but none of it that I would agree is both immoral and harmless.

(my comments in blue.)
Quote:

ocalhoun wrote:
Quote:

- Anytime you dehumanize someone, it's immoral.

Even when it's actually something? Once dead, you no longer qualify as 'someone'.

i think you're having an issue with time here. They're only something after you dehumanize them. That's what the word "dehumanize" means: you're taking a person, and turning them into a thing.

So, returning to our original, concrete, example...
Osama is still a 'person' after a bullet or two to the brain?
Are you still a person after death?
Quote:

i didn't say the act was committed in your head. i said the decision was made in your head, and that's where the morality comes into play. Punching someone in the face is not intrinsically immoral, what matters is why you decided to do it; if you decided to do it because they asked you to (say, to see if they could take it) then it's fine, but if you decided to do it because you don't like their skin colour then it's wrong. The critical factor in determining the morality is your thought process... and that's all in your head.

If someone was trapped in a machine screaming for you to push the release button, and you pushed the button you thought was the release button (and assume for rational reasons) but it turns out to be the "grind" button and the person ends up horribly hurt, then if you're right and morality is determined by harm what you did was immoral. You harmed him. You pushed the button to harm him. You even did so deliberately - you didn't accidentally fall on the button.

But that's in the real world. In your head, you thought that you were pushing the right button, and that you were helping him. It is that world - the world in your head - that determines morality. In your head, you were trying your damnedest to do the right thing... so what you did was moral, even though it turned out horribly and the person got harmed. So long as you've tried your best to make sure that your mind-world is as close as possible to the real world, you can't be blamed for the differences between the two that you had no way to know existed.

Okay, this I suppose we can find some common ground on.
Doing harm while reasonably expecting to do good is moral.

Because we're not omniscient, sometimes we make mistakes, and whatever the consequences, I wouldn't call an honest mistake immoral.
Quote:

No one said that thoughts or beliefs should be immoral. i said "decisions and judgements".

Ah, I'm okay with that as long as it is implied that these decisions and judgments are only subject to morality once they result in actions (or lack of actions, or any real-world consequences). A decision or judgment that has no effect outside of one's own head, though, is not a morally judge-able act.

Quote:

Except now you have to exist in this kind of nebulous world where either you ignore the logical progression of technology and knowledge, or you live in constant fear of doing anything.

Think about it: you don't know that Bin Laden won't be revealed to be alive tomorrow, or that no one will ever figure out how to revive the dead in some way or another. These things are unlikely, but not ridiculously unlikely. So where do you stand today? Either you say, "i know that some day Bin Laden might be reanimated, but he can't be reanimated today, so even though i know this might hurt him in the future, i'm gonna party." Or you say, "Bin Laden might be reanimated, so i don't dare party, even though it seems like it would do no harm right now."

I do know these things. The alternatives are ridiculously unlikely.

If Osama isn't dead, why has his organization named a new leader, instead of parading a healthy Osama in front of the cameras to embarrass the 'great satan'?
How close is medicine to being able to revive a man dead of gunshot to the head? (And subsequent dumping in the ocean... and subsequent digestion by fishes...)
How's that time machine project coming along?


Potential harm can also be considered harm. But in this case, the potential for the harm is so low that it is safe to treat it as zero.
Quote:

This is not just a problem with the Bin Laden scenario, it's a fundamental problem with the whole harm principle. Take the case of a black man moving into a racist neighbourhood - you said there's no problem with the neighbourhood being racist so long as no black people want to enter it. Except that it may be the case that a black man does want to enter... but you just don't know about it. Which means that either you ignore that possibility, or you accept it and don't be racist even though it will do no harm.

Potential harm can be considered actual harm.
If there is a potential for harming that one guy who you don't know about, then that harm needs to be recognized and avoided.

An analogy more apt to the example at hand would be a community putting up a sign that said, 'no unescorted dead people beyond this point'.
Quote:

And the same problem extends... everywhere. If you build a ray gun that will automatically kill any purple, slimy people with silicon-based DNA, on the assumption that it will never actually harm any such people because they don't exist (and i direct you back to your "removing air molecules from a vacuum" analogy... so this is actually the way you think), then you are ignoring the possibility that they do exist, and that they might be harmed before you can disable your ray gun. It's either that, or you accept the possibility and don't build the ray gun, even though it will probably never do any harm.

Okay, so take the accepted formula for risk (severity x probability) and weigh that against whatever benefit is gained from building such a weapon.

The probability of the risk is very low*, but the severity is very high.** The ray gun would need to do a moderate amount of good to make up for this (potential) harm.


* Depending on the range of the weapon... If the universe is as full of life as some theorize, the probability of slimy purple silicon people existing is pretty good... and the longer the range of this ray gun, the more likely that these purple people will be within this range at some point.
**Especially if you take into account possible retribution from your slimy silicon purple people.
Quote:





ocalhoun wrote:
Quote:

Like, if you knew i was dead, what - besides the law - would stop you from walking into my house, digging through my personal writings, and cribbing the parts you like to create a plagiarized book (for example)?

Assuming:
1-immunity from legal problems
2-no rightful owners of said notes will be deprived of their (legitimate) use
3-you're not going to come back from the dead
4-I'm inclined to 'write' a plagiarized book
5-Immunity from social/legal problems stemming from the risk that my plagiary is discovered


Yes, I would do that.
Quote:

And again: "it's not immoral but i wouldn't do it" is an evasion. If i was dead and you stole my brilliant novel idea and published it as your own, is that moral?

Yes, given the five assumptions listed above (particularly #2 and #3), it is an amoral act.

Really? And you don't think that's a little peculiar? You don't think that pretty much any other writer in the world would disagree with you?

I do think they would disagree with me, but I don't care.
Quote:
and always a sense that people are rushing to excuse behaviour that they consider unquestioningly immoral from an otherwise great man.

Which highlights the inconsistencies of their own moral systems.
The dissonance here comes from them assuming that it is immoral for whatever reason, while also assuming that something that benefits people is moral.

Now, I find ascribing your own name to someone else's posthumous work to be rather tasteless and self-aggrandizing... but not immoral so long as it harms nobody... and could actually be moral if it is done for the sake of benefiting others.
catscratches
ocalhoun wrote:
harm by the victim's standards, remember; the vegetarian may well consider himself harmed.
Not if they don't know about it.
ocalhoun
catscratches wrote:
ocalhoun wrote:
harm by the victim's standards, remember; the vegetarian may well consider himself harmed.
Not if they don't know about it.

What's the point of doing that if they never find out?

In any case, I think it should probably be immoral to do something to someone that you know they would consider harmful if they knew about it.
spinout
to celebrate death - the best way to do that is to see your life through everyone elses eyes!

Getting interested to die??? Well, it must be the best way to celebrate it anyhow. Just laughting at your own memorial, well the more the merrier!

If so, would the eyes that saw me be happy, angry, joyful or BITTER! Rolling Eyes
I have the idea up til now that anyone that sees my life would shutter in bitterness... Darth Vader is nobody compared to me!
Indi
ocalhoun wrote:
Indi wrote:

Unless you're claiming that it's (a)moral to celebrate the suffering of enemies, but immoral to celebrate the death of friends, then you still haven't answered the question. Why would you not celebrate the suffering of people you like? i get that you wouldn't be inclined to because you're not happy about it, but that still begs the question of what happens if you're just in a good mood. You woke up on the right side of the bed, found a ten spot on the road, had a delicious lunch, so you're looking for a reason to party... then you hear that a friend of yours has been diagnosed with cancer, and some people that don't like him are going to have a party about it. Your friend will never hear about it, so... would you go? If not, why not?

With those assumptions granted, yes, I would. Though, while there, I may object to people disparaging my friend.
... ie, "Yay, we're so happy person X got cancer! He's such a horrible person!"
"Hey, he's not so bad... he didn't really deserve it... Let's party!"

That's hardly celebrating his cancer. You're still trying to weasel out of the problem.

ocalhoun wrote:
Quote:

Again, i have a really hard time believing that if you were walking down the street in your (presumably mixed) neighbourhood and saw one building painted over with the nastiest racial slurs imaginable - albeit done in an artistically beautiful design - that you wouldn't even bat an eyelash. (Or, worse, that you'd stop and admire the artistry of it and then go on tell everyone how beautiful you think it is.)

I can find it tasteless and rude without finding it immoral.
Is it immoral to offend someone? I think not.

Calling someone a schmuck, or farting in their general direction is offending them. Degrading their humanity, such as by using racial or sexist slurs, is not just offending someone.

Seriously, if you think using racial slurs like that is merely rude, or "tasteless"... you seriously don't understand racism (or sexism or any such associated thing).

ocalhoun wrote:
Quote:

ocalhoun wrote:
Quote:

there are immoral decisions that do no harm.

Examples?
Of course, there's the 'immoral because you thought it would do harm, even though it turns out that it didn't' ie, a failed murder attempt is still immoral... (supposing that it was an earnest attempt)

But besides differences between expectations and reality, can you give me some examples of immoral acts that harm nobody? I'm really curious to see if I agree that any of them are immoral...

Oh, let's see: cheating on a test (assuming that it doesn't result in you getting qualified to do something you don't really know how to do) Not this conversation again! If you recall, I was of the opinion that this was amoral. , having an affair (assuming you practice safe sex) as catscratches said, this usually causes harm, but if you could somehow manage to do it with no harm done, it would be amoral , stealing the shoes off a dying person (assuming there is no chance of saving them) You also have to assume that his legitimate heirs don't exist, or don't want the shoes , having sex with a child (assuming that there was no violence - doing something without someone's consent is not harming them, harming by the victim's standards, mind you... and minors need help in judging harm otherwise it would be immoral to report a thief to the police in this case, you are helping reverse harm, not causing it), hell even having sex with animals (assuming the animal is not harmed) being an animal rights supporter, I would also require consent of the animal, surreptitiously feeding meat to a vegetarian (assuming they are a vegetarian for ethical reasons, not health reasons) harm by the victim's standards, remember; the vegetarian may well consider himself harmed.... tons of stuff. tons of stuff, yes, but none of it that I would agree is both immoral and harmless.

(my comments in blue.)

Wow, there's a whole lotta double-standards and shifting judgements in there - so much that i don't even know where to begin. i'll try and take it example-by-example, but bear in mind that none of these were meant to challenge your standards of what is moral, just to show that there are some things that are universally considered immoral that do no harm.

  • Cheating on a test: yes, i recall your opinion, and i think it is wrong. i think anyone who is responsible for creating the tests, applying them, grading them - anyone that even knows the purpose of the tests - would also agree it is wrong. i think if you were caught cheating on a test - even if it was a test that "meant nothing" - your pleas of "there's nothing wrong with it!" would count for squat.

  • Cheating in a relationship: i'm not really a fan of relationships at all, but i'm frankly baffled at the idea that you think there's nothing wrong with lying to your partner, breaking the contract you have with them, and going off and doing whatever the hell you please - so long as you don't get caught. i'm seriously beginning to wonder if the word "moral" means the same thing to you that it does to me. i have to stress again: you do understand that i'm talking about moral, not harmful, right? You do understand that i'm talking about actions that are praiseworthy (moral), to be condemned (immoral) or neither (amoral), right?

    i also can't believe that, were you to commit an affair, you would not consider what you had done immoral unless you were caught. That's just... wrong. You're effectively saying that if someone asked you if you felt guilty about cheating on your spouse, you would shrug and say nope... right up until the day your spouse finds out, and then you'd be sorry. i mean, i'm not a clinical psychologist, so i don't do diagnoses, but do you realize that is... literally... the standard of a psychopath? i don't have a DSM, but from memory i'd say that's literally one of the requirements for either APD or NPD - both of which are types of psychopathy. Are you really sure you want to stick by this position: that it's perfectly okay to lie, cheat, and whatever else so long as you don't get caught?

  • Stealing the shoes off a dying person: see, this is where it starts to get really messy for me, because you don't seem to care one iota about bin Laden's heirs - even though they would almost certainly be very upset about you celebrating their father's death. This is a pretty blatant double standard; you don't even bother to assume any of those same things for bin Laden that you now say you "have to assume" for the man whose shoes you are stealing. Why is it that you "have to assume" that someone wants a dying man's shoes (which, really, seems unlikely), but not that someone cared about bin Laden?

  • Having sex with a child: now comes in this idea of judging harm by the victim's standards, which apparently only applies when you don't hate the victim, but is really messy even without that hitch. Alright, so if you rape a child, then years later that child, as an adult says it was no big deal and it didn't really effect their life at all, then that means it was not immoral to rape that child? Oh, here's a really neat conundrum: what if the victim says, years later, that the rape was a good thing - that it freed them sexually from an early age, so they were never hung up by awkwardness in the teen years? Does that now mean it was moral to rape the child? Are you seriously saying that if you raped a child and got away with it for years, then later that child - now an adult - comes out and says that the rape wasn't a bad thing for them (or was a good thing!), that you're going to stand up and say "i raped that person as a child, and i don't think there was anything wrong with it, because it apparently did them no harm"?

    Consider this. Remember those memory wiping things from Men in Black? Do you realize that if you had one of those, then - by your logic - you could go around and rape as you pleased - adults, children, anyone - and so long as you did no measurable physical damange, you could flash away their memory of the experience, effectively leaving them completely unaffected by it. In other words, with one of those things, you could stroll around and rape as you pleased and, as long as you flashed their memory clear after, you would be doing nothing immoral?

  • Feeding meat to a vegetarian: and the "harm by their standard" thing comes back, but even weirder than before. Because for some reason, even though the vegetarian is completely unaware of the harm, apparently it matters, even though it didn't matter in the case of cheating on a test, in a relationship or even in the case of bin Laden. What? How come it's okay to set up a horribly racist community so long as no people of the wrong race notice it, but it's not okay to put some meat in a vegetarian's meal without them knowing it? Neither is really harmed by your standard, and although both are terribly injured by their own standards, neither of them know it... but it matters in one case and not the other?

i only created that list to show some examples of fairly clearly immoral things that don't actually do any harm, but it turns out to have revealed some serious problems with your moral theory.
  • It does not involve empathy in any form - which is usually considered in both science and philosophy to be the foundation for moral thought. In fact, you flat out say "you don't care" about the authors who feel that your actions in plagiarizing someone elses work are wrong. In your formulation, you can pretty much do whatever nastiness you like, provided you aren't caught and don't do any noticeable harm (maybe! but it's hard to say because...).
  • The rules keep changing; standards that apply in one case don't seem to apply in another, and there isn't any kind of predictable pattern as to when certain rules apply (other by figuring out which victims you care more or less about).
  • The rules themselves are inconsistent. One minute offence does no harm, the next minute it does (because the only "harm" racist epithets do to a person of that race is apparently offence, yet that's enough to make it immoral to use them when there are people of that race that want to move in?).


ocalhoun wrote:
So, returning to our original, concrete, example...
Osama is still a 'person' after a bullet or two to the brain?
Are you still a person after death?

bin Laden - and anyone - is a person in your moral considerations, so long as you consider they are. Morality happens in the mind, and if bin Laden is a person in your mind when you dehumanize him, then it doesn't really matter how long he's been dead, or - if he's not dead - whether or not he finds out.

ocalhoun wrote:
Quote:

Except now you have to exist in this kind of nebulous world where either you ignore the logical progression of technology and knowledge, or you live in constant fear of doing anything.

Think about it: you don't know that Bin Laden won't be revealed to be alive tomorrow, or that no one will ever figure out how to revive the dead in some way or another. These things are unlikely, but not ridiculously unlikely. So where do you stand today? Either you say, "i know that some day Bin Laden might be reanimated, but he can't be reanimated today, so even though i know this might hurt him in the future, i'm gonna party." Or you say, "Bin Laden might be reanimated, so i don't dare party, even though it seems like it would do no harm right now."

I do know these things. The alternatives are ridiculously unlikely.

Ridiculously unlikely is not the point - the point is the possibility exists. You cannot deny that. Either you admit the possibility and don't do anything, or you deliberately ignore the possibility that you know exists so you can do something that would otherwise be immoral. It's a no-win situation.

ocalhoun wrote:
Okay, so take the accepted formula for risk (severity x probability) and weigh that against whatever benefit is gained from building such a weapon.

The probability of the risk is very low*, but the severity is very high.**

Now i really have a problem with you deciding something is moral or immoral based on how badly the person you harm can spank you back. Doesn't that imply that it's more okay to do immoral things to the weak than the strong?


ocalhoun wrote:
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Really? And you don't think that's a little peculiar? You don't think that pretty much any other writer in the world would disagree with you?

I do think they would disagree with me, but I don't care.

And this is the point where you're supposed to reevaluate your moral code: it is internally inconsistent and does not jive with the innate moral sense of a vast majority of people.

ocalhoun wrote:
Which highlights the inconsistencies of their own moral systems.
The dissonance here comes from them assuming that it is immoral for whatever reason, while also assuming that something that benefits people is moral.

What? No, nothing like that.

There is no inconsistency in their moral system - at least so far as this example shows. There is nothing inconsistent with saying that Martin Luther King Jr. was wrong to plagiarize, but right to lead the civil rights movement. Seriously, that's apples and oranges - how do you get inconsistency there?

No, the dissonance is perfectly understandable given there is NO conflict. If there was inconsistency or conflict, they could just hand-wave the disparity away. But their system is consistent (at least in this instance), so they can't just shrug off what they don't like because it's too clearly "correct". The best they can do is make excuses for the behaviour... not their judgements of it; their judgements are clear, solid and consistent.

Your system has to deal with inconsistencies, not theirs. Theirs quite clearly states that plagiarism is immoral. Period. You are the one that has to try and figure out the calculus of harm. You have to explain why King's action can change from being moral to immoral depending on entirely unrelated circumstances. You have to figure out how his plagiarism is moral because he became a peaceful civil rights leader, but it would be immoral if he had gone on to become some kind of Black Panther-esque terrorist/vigilante and carried out a series of murders for the sake of racial equality.
catscratches
ocalhoun wrote:
In any case, I think it should probably be immoral to do something to someone that you know they would consider harmful if they knew about it.
It seems like that would have you need to revise several of your previous statements. I am, for example, rather sure that one's partner would find it harmful to cheat.
ocalhoun
catscratches wrote:
ocalhoun wrote:
In any case, I think it should probably be immoral to do something to someone that you know they would consider harmful if they knew about it.
It seems like that would have you need to revise several of your previous statements. I am, for example, rather sure that one's partner would find it harmful to cheat.

That's true.

I need to reevaluate some -- you two have got me twisted in knots.
But I'll probably go back to the position of 'demonstrable harm by victim's standards = immoral'.
(And the corollaries indifferent by 'victim's' standards = amoral, good by 'victim's' standards = moral.)

Indi wrote:
ocalhoun wrote:
Indi wrote:

Unless you're claiming that it's (a)moral to celebrate the suffering of enemies, but immoral to celebrate the death of friends, then you still haven't answered the question. Why would you not celebrate the suffering of people you like? i get that you wouldn't be inclined to because you're not happy about it, but that still begs the question of what happens if you're just in a good mood. You woke up on the right side of the bed, found a ten spot on the road, had a delicious lunch, so you're looking for a reason to party... then you hear that a friend of yours has been diagnosed with cancer, and some people that don't like him are going to have a party about it. Your friend will never hear about it, so... would you go? If not, why not?

With those assumptions granted, yes, I would. Though, while there, I may object to people disparaging my friend.
... ie, "Yay, we're so happy person X got cancer! He's such a horrible person!"
"Hey, he's not so bad... he didn't really deserve it... Let's party!"

That's hardly celebrating his cancer. You're still trying to weasel out of the problem.

And you're trying to weasel me into it.
You'll have to do a better job of that, because your scenario didn't mention that I was inclined to celebrate his cancer and/or misfortune in particular, only that I was inclined to celebrate and that happened to be the celebration of the day.

I'll spare you the effort of finding some plausible reason for me to be inclined to celebrate my friend's misfortune in particular:
Assuming I wanted to celebrate that, and all the previous assumptions, I would celebrate it.
Given all these unlikely and/or illogical assumptions, yes I would be just fine with celebrating a friend's misfortune.
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Calling someone a schmuck, or farting in their general direction is offending them. Degrading their humanity, such as by using racial or sexist slurs, is not just offending someone.

Seriously, if you think using racial slurs like that is merely rude, or "tasteless"... you seriously don't understand racism (or sexism or any such associated thing).

Perhaps I don't.
I've been on the fence about if offending is harmful or not, but I think I've come up with something, and I'm going to try it out. (And I'm sure the helpful posters here will put it through the fire to refine it and get rid of impurities ^.^)
I'll go with 'demonstrable harm'.
ie, harm/benefit still judged by the victim's standards, but needs to have some kind of demonstrable evidence of this harm/benefit. (including distinct changes in victim's behavior/psyche).
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i think if you were caught cheating on a test - even if it was a test that "meant nothing" - your pleas of "there's nothing wrong with it!" would count for squat.

Call my a psychopath if you will, but others' moral judgment of my own actions have absolutely no bearing on my own, personal, moral judgments of my own actions.
Yes, my pleas would count for nothing, because the test administrators would be the ones in power and the ones administering the judgment.
That doesn't change my own judgment though.
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Cheating in a relationship: i'm not really a fan of relationships at all, but i'm frankly baffled at the idea that you think there's nothing wrong with lying to your partner, breaking the contract you have with them, and going off and doing whatever the hell you please - so long as you don't get caught. i'm seriously beginning to wonder if the word "moral" means the same thing to you that it does to me. i have to stress again: you do understand that i'm talking about moral, not harmful, right? You do understand that i'm talking about actions that are praiseworthy (moral), to be condemned (immoral) or neither (amoral), right?

Now you're trying to twist my words a bit. 'As long as they don't find out'; NOT 'as long as you don't get caught.'
If they never (can*) know; there is no harm done. If there is no harm done, there is no immoral act.
By saying 'as long as you don't get caught', you're just trying to make me sound like more of a psychopath than I really am. The cheater's being caught has nothing to do with it. The cheated's finding out is the important part. If the cheated found out about it after the cheater's death, it would still be wrong.

*Which goes back to the 'potential harm is harm' from my last post. One would have to be 100% certain that no harm would be done, from the beginning... An unlikely scenario.
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i also can't believe that, were you to commit an affair, you would not consider what you had done immoral unless you were caught. That's just... wrong. You're effectively saying that if someone asked you if you felt guilty about cheating on your spouse, you would shrug and say nope... right up until the day your spouse finds out, and then you'd be sorry. i mean, i'm not a clinical psychologist, so i don't do diagnoses, but do you realize that is... literally... the standard of a psychopath? i don't have a DSM, but from memory i'd say that's literally one of the requirements for either APD or NPD - both of which are types of psychopathy. Are you really sure you want to stick by this position: that it's perfectly okay to lie, cheat, and whatever else so long as you don't get caught?

So long as it does no harm.
(If I do harm and don't get caught, that is still harm, therefore, it is still immoral... ie. If I murder someone, getting away with it doesn't make it moral.)
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Stealing the shoes off a dying person: see, this is where it starts to get really messy for me, because you don't seem to care one iota about bin Laden's heirs - even though they would almost certainly be very upset about you celebrating their father's death. This is a pretty blatant double standard; you don't even bother to assume any of those same things for bin Laden that you now say you "have to assume" for the man whose shoes you are stealing. Why is it that you "have to assume" that someone wants a dying man's shoes (which, really, seems unlikely), but not that someone cared about bin Laden?

Ah, there's a point.
If bin Laden's heirs (or any other random people who cared about him) are demonstrably harmed by celebrating, then celebrating causes demonstrable harm. Therefore, the celebrating would be immoral.
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Having sex with a child: now comes in this idea of judging harm by the victim's standards, which apparently only applies when you don't hate the victim, but is really messy even without that hitch. Alright, so if you rape a child, then years later that child, as an adult says it was no big deal and it didn't really effect their life at all, then that means it was not immoral to rape that child? Oh, here's a really neat conundrum: what if the victim says, years later, that the rape was a good thing - that it freed them sexually from an early age, so they were never hung up by awkwardness in the teen years? Does that now mean it was moral to rape the child? Are you seriously saying that if you raped a child and got away with it for years, then later that child - now an adult - comes out and says that the rape wasn't a bad thing for them (or was a good thing!), that you're going to stand up and say "i raped that person as a child, and i don't think there was anything wrong with it, because it apparently did them no harm"?

Consider this. Remember those memory wiping things from Men in Black? Do you realize that if you had one of those, then - by your logic - you could go around and rape as you pleased - adults, children, anyone - and so long as you did no measurable physical damange, you could flash away their memory of the experience, effectively leaving them completely unaffected by it. In other words, with one of those things, you could stroll around and rape as you pleased and, as long as you flashed their memory clear after, you would be doing nothing immoral?

In both of these scenarios, you're ignoring the immediate harm done.
In the first case, the child-raping, the eventual good would have to outweigh the immediate harm... and really, there's no way you could be sure of that ahead of time, so you'd need to weigh potential good against potential harm (as well as immediate good vs immediate harm).
I'd say, that -- unless you try to box me in with another concocted scenario with lots of unlikely and/or illogical assumptions -- the harm is likely to outweigh the good, and the act is immoral.

In the second case, you're simply ignoring the immediate harm taking place before the memory is wiped. They would not only need to not know about it later; they would also need to not know about it as it was happening.
(And then there's the issue of taking away a small portion of their time to live...)
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Feeding meat to a vegetarian: and the "harm by their standard" thing comes back, but even weirder than before. Because for some reason, even though the vegetarian is completely unaware of the harm, apparently it matters, even though it didn't matter in the case of cheating on a test, in a relationship or even in the case of bin Laden. What? How come it's okay to set up a horribly racist community so long as no people of the wrong race notice it, but it's not okay to put some meat in a vegetarian's meal without them knowing it? Neither is really harmed by your standard, and although both are terribly injured by their own standards, neither of them know it... but it matters in one case and not the other?

You're right. There has been some inconsistency in this type of case.
Hopefully, the new 'demonstrable harm' policy will clear that up.

Under that policy, the vegetarian would need to...
A> Know about it and feel bad enough about it to cause behavioral changes. (Or perhaps feel bad enough about it to be physically ill.)
-and/or-
B> Have some physical harm done, perhaps getting sick from change of diet.
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i only created that list to show some examples of fairly clearly immoral things that don't actually do any harm, but it turns out to have revealed some serious problems with your moral theory.

I still don't concede that any of those are both immoral and harmless, mind you.
They're all either harmful or not immoral.
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[It does not involve empathy in any form - which is usually considered in both science and philosophy to be the foundation for moral thought. In fact, you flat out say "you don't care" about the authors who feel that your actions in plagiarizing someone elses work are wrong. In your formulation, you can pretty much do whatever nastiness you like, provided you aren't caught and don't do any noticeable harm (maybe! but it's hard to say because...).

You can remove the 'you aren't caught' part. All that is required is that you do no harm.
I'm saying that for something to be immoral, there must be a victim somewhere harmed by it.
I'm also saying that 'because it obviously is' and 'because other people think so' is not sufficient justification to call something immoral.
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The rules keep changing; standards that apply in one case don't seem to apply in another, and there isn't any kind of predictable pattern as to when certain rules apply (other by figuring out which victims you care more or less about).

[...]

The rules themselves are inconsistent. One minute offence does no harm, the next minute it does

My apologies; there are a few problems.
Hopefully, I've just made some progress towards ironing them out.
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(because the only "harm" racist epithets do to a person of that race is apparently offence, yet that's enough to make it immoral to use them when there are people of that race that want to move in?).

Hopefully this problem will be solved by the 'demonstrable harm' concept.
People who want to move in, but are not allowed to are obviously demonstrably harmed.
People who are offended by racist epithets may or may not be harmed demonstrably. It depends how much they let it affect them.
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ocalhoun wrote:
So, returning to our original, concrete, example...
Osama is still a 'person' after a bullet or two to the brain?
Are you still a person after death?

bin Laden - and anyone - is a person in your moral considerations, so long as you consider they are. Morality happens in the mind, and if bin Laden is a person in your mind when you dehumanize him, then it doesn't really matter how long he's been dead, or - if he's not dead - whether or not he finds out.

Okay then. In my mind, he's not a person. He's a corpse.
(And also a spirit, but one that is not at all concerned about celebrations over the death of its former identity, mainly because it doesn't remember much about that... But that's a discussion for a different thread; this one is verbose enough without trying to discuss my religion as well.)
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Ridiculously unlikely is not the point - the point is the possibility exists. You cannot deny that. Either you admit the possibility and don't do anything, or you deliberately ignore the possibility that you know exists so you can do something that would otherwise be immoral. It's a no-win situation.

OR, you take a third option, weigh the 'severity of harm x the probability of harm' (aka risk) against whatever gain there is through doing the action.
For risks with a 'ridiculously' low likelihood, it doesn't take much good to overcome the potential harm.
Quote:

ocalhoun wrote:
Okay, so take the accepted formula for risk (severity x probability) and weigh that against whatever benefit is gained from building such a weapon.

The probability of the risk is very low*, but the severity is very high.**

Now i really have a problem with you deciding something is moral or immoral based on how badly the person you harm can spank you back. Doesn't that imply that it's more okay to do immoral things to the weak than the strong?

Now you're just taking that out of context.
The possibility of sparking an interplanetary war is just another part of the risk/benefit analysis to be done.
The primary concern is harming the purple people. The possible losses in a war that might be started (on both sides) is a secondary (less likely) concern, but one that must be considered because of its very high severity.
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And this is the point where you're supposed to reevaluate your moral code: it is internally inconsistent and does not jive with the innate moral sense of a vast majority of people.

As for the internal inconsistencies, hopefully I'm on-track to getting rid of those.
But as for the 'innate moral sense[s] of a vast majority of people'... I really do NOT care.
Checking things against my own innate moral sense is one thing... checking it against others' is something I'm too... psychopathic... to do, I suppose.

My moral code is for my own benefit; if others disagree with it, that doesn't matter to me.
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There is no inconsistency in their moral system - at least so far as this example shows. There is nothing inconsistent with saying that Martin Luther King Jr. was wrong to plagiarize, but right to lead the civil rights movement. Seriously, that's apples and oranges - how do you get inconsistency there?

I get it from the whole indecision about if the plagiarizing (for a good cause) itself was wrong or not.
My moral system gives an obvious answer for that, while theirs is conflicted between calling it a good act because of the consequences or calling it a bad act because of 'intrinsic' immorality of plagiarism.
Paying attention only to the consequences clears that up nicely.
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Your system has to deal with inconsistencies, not theirs.

Working on that...
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Theirs quite clearly states that plagiarism is immoral. Period. You are the one that has to try and figure out the calculus of harm. You have to explain why King's action can change from being moral to immoral depending on entirely unrelated circumstances.

A quick bone to pick here: the circumstances are NOT unrelated. They are quite related.
The (expected) effects of an action are related to the action, are they not?

Merely pushing a button has no intrinsic moral value, now does it?
It all depends on the circumstances of what that button does.
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You have to figure out how his plagiarism is moral because he became a peaceful civil rights leader, but it would be immoral if he had gone on to become some kind of Black Panther-esque terrorist/vigilante and carried out a series of murders for the sake of racial equality.

Why, you make that sound like it would be difficult to explain how that is...
Plagiarism to cause benefit: moral
Plagiarism to cause harm: immoral
That was easy.
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