moral nihilism

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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Darth Wong » 2012-07-09 01:10am

hongi wrote:
Darth Wong wrote:Social success, not necessarily social cohesion. Sometimes, excessive social order is harmful to success. Look at Admiral Nelson as an example: his victories often occurred because his commanders had more individual autonomy, whereas the Spaniards preferred a more top-down command structure which turned out to be too inflexible for changing battlefield conditions.
Do all societies succeed in the same way? And how would you recognise social success when you see it?
Well, social failure is easy enough to identify: the society disintegrates or is obliterated. If you look at our Stone Age roots, tribes which did not work co-operatively would suffer the same fate: annihilation, either by warfare or by an inability to gather enough resources to ensure survival. Within the tribe, co-operative behaviour was simply a basic necessity for survival.

While the inner workings of newer societies were far more complex, the criteria for success or failure weren't really that much different. Some fell by warfare (eg- the Third Reich) while others failed to sustain the expenditure of resources which their social customs require (eg- the Mayans). Success, in this context, simply means (at a bare minimum) the ability to create a society in which its members work with each other, and which can sustain itself. This does not sound like a particularly high standard, yet so many societies seem to have trouble reaching it.
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Alyrium Denryle » 2012-07-09 02:10am

First of all, you're saying that if a moral system is derived from evolution, it is therefore superior to all other moral systems. That is the naturalistic fallacy right there- a "natural" system is superior to the "artificial" ones developed by philosophers. Neat way to justify rejecting the sum of philosophy which you don't like all at once- it's "artificial", and therefore inferior to your preferred "natural" system. Fallacious way to determine which system is best, though!
My god, you are a fucking idiot. No. Evolution, both biological and social, GAVE US the ethical values that philosophers wax masturbatory about, and make false assumptions of Completeness and Universality regarding. The impulse toward consequentialism? It is hard-wired into our brains. An impulse toward deontology? Hard-wired into our brains. The two exist in tension, each moral decision we make has these two and self interest traded off against eachother. For example, if we are faced with a Villain's Sadistic Choice, we are more likely to save the one person if we know them, and more likely to save 10 people if we dont know any of the other people involved. If the number of people goes up, we might be willing to let our favorite cousin get the axe and make the painful decision in favor of say, 25 people. We also have a few other social impulses that are not strictly moral, but relevant. In-group loyalty, deference to authority, but these are more variable in their strength person to person than the first three I mentioned.

We know this because have the modern sciences of psychology and neuroscience.

It is also not the naturalistic fallacy if your position is much that their is no cosmic "ought". The naturalistic fallacy can only exist if you presume that ethics are laws written into the metaphysics of the universe. They are not. They were written into our brains by evolution in order to solve issues relating to living as social apes.
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Darth Wong » 2012-07-09 02:19am

The problem with Bakustra and similar species of idiot is that they assume we must choose between two alternatives:

1) Morality is absolute and objective to the universe.
2) Morality is subjective, and the subject is each individual, so anyone can make up his own morality.


Through a combination of stupidity or religious brainwashing, they completely discount the obvious third option:

3) Morality is subjective, but the subject is humanity. Therefore, individuals can't just make up their own morality, but it is not universal either.

And when you try to explain this to them, they insist on trying to force it into option #1 or #2, because they're just that slow-witted.
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Alyrium Denryle » 2012-07-09 03:09am

Through a combination of stupidity or religious brainwashing, they completely discount the obvious third option:

3) Morality is subjective, but the subject is humanity. Therefore, individuals can't just make up their own morality, but it is not universal either.
I tend to phrase it as an Adaptation, rather than subjective with regard to humanity. But it is this forced/false dichotomy that makes Ethics useless as a philosophical discipline with regard to prescribing behavior. As a means of systematization and removal of other evolutionary baggage it is awesome. Hell, it is awesome as a means of self-exploration etc. However, once we developed the social/behavioral sciences, it became abjectly inferior. We are no longer dealing with bullshit neo-platonic ideas about ethics and morality existing as an ideal metaphysical state in the realm of forms from which our behavior is necessarily degenerate. Fuck that. We are not waxing masturbatory about regular solids and suppressing the dodecahedron from the unwashed/uneducated masses.
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Bakustra » 2012-07-09 07:30am

Darth Wong wrote:The problem with Bakustra and similar species of idiot is that they assume we must choose between two alternatives:

1) Morality is absolute and objective to the universe.
2) Morality is subjective, and the subject is each individual, so anyone can make up his own morality.


Through a combination of stupidity or religious brainwashing, they completely discount the obvious third option:

3) Morality is subjective, but the subject is humanity. Therefore, individuals can't just make up their own morality, but it is not universal either.

And when you try to explain this to them, they insist on trying to force it into option #1 or #2, because they're just that slow-witted.
Okay, here's the problem, motherfucker. This 3) is just a fig leaf for 1) with the added advantage of enabling meat-eating, animal cruelty and alien genocide, because "universal to humans" is effectively universal as of right now. And I'm damn sure that your species of asshole would come around to incorporating any potential sapient alien species into these stunning observations, because while you're an arrogant motherfucker, you are thankfully not a complete motherfucker as of yet, though you are apparently unable to parse someone rebuking you for writing a confused mess of a paragraph.

See, "morality is subjective, but it is a product of collective human consciousness" is, since there is no fucking collective human consciousness, and not even collective subconsciousness if we use 20th-century psychology, just a way to avoid the implications of "morality is subjective" and reintroduce moral absolutism. To rewrite this slightly- "morality is a delusion, but the delusion is of humanity as a whole, rather than individual humans" or "morality is a construct, but the construction is that of humanity as a whole, not of individual humans" makes how fucking ridiculous this idea is apparent.

But maybe you're not doing this. Maybe you're just so fucking incompetent, so inconsistent, as to secretly be advocating something else than this abomination, this idea of humans coming together releasing some sort of guiding spirit we must kneel to. Maybe you're advocating a somewhat more sensible approach to 3). Well, in that case, 3) reduces to 2). Because humanity is made up of individuals, and without the insanity of the previous paragraph, morality is constructed by thousands and millions of humans working together, combining individual moralities that they "made up", to use your slur against philosophy (and don't even try to deny it, it's blatantly obvious to anyone with eyes and brain in working order), and eventually creating the social mores we might call "social morality". This is simplified, before you get to attacking it, because most creations are actually modifications of existing social mores.

Now, you're factually wrong or else incoherent in another way, which is why 3) doesn't make sense even in the life-jacket I threw out to you in the previous paragraph (undoubtedly you can breathe the waters of smugness, alas). People absolutely can "make up" their own morality in differentiation from society's overall morality. Hongi's basic nihilism, the anarchist ethics I began to advocate in the thread before realizing just how much of a motherfucker you were going to be... these are clearly in opposition or at best differentiation from your espoused morals, which are apparently the universal-to-humans morals you derived without thinking. Can someone so opposed to any sort of religiosity really appropriate the practices of Zen Buddhism? But the alternative, to deny that such are deviations, is to make your morality uselessly broad. Well, there is a 3) all of its own, which is that any sort of deviation from your morals is an invalid one, but in that case you might as well go to hell and take your pride in your closed mind with you.
Alyrium Denryle wrote:
First of all, you're saying that if a moral system is derived from evolution, it is therefore superior to all other moral systems. That is the naturalistic fallacy right there- a "natural" system is superior to the "artificial" ones developed by philosophers. Neat way to justify rejecting the sum of philosophy which you don't like all at once- it's "artificial", and therefore inferior to your preferred "natural" system. Fallacious way to determine which system is best, though!
My god, you are a fucking idiot. No. Evolution, both biological and social, GAVE US the ethical values that philosophers wax masturbatory about, and make false assumptions of Completeness and Universality regarding. The impulse toward consequentialism? It is hard-wired into our brains. An impulse toward deontology? Hard-wired into our brains. The two exist in tension, each moral decision we make has these two and self interest traded off against eachother. For example, if we are faced with a Villain's Sadistic Choice, we are more likely to save the one person if we know them, and more likely to save 10 people if we dont know any of the other people involved. If the number of people goes up, we might be willing to let our favorite cousin get the axe and make the painful decision in favor of say, 25 people. We also have a few other social impulses that are not strictly moral, but relevant. In-group loyalty, deference to authority, but these are more variable in their strength person to person than the first three I mentioned.

We know this because have the modern sciences of psychology and neuroscience.

It is also not the naturalistic fallacy if your position is much that their is no cosmic "ought". The naturalistic fallacy can only exist if you presume that ethics are laws written into the metaphysics of the universe. They are not. They were written into our brains by evolution in order to solve issues relating to living as social apes.
So basically all morality was hardcoded into our brains by evolution. You know this because of evolutionary psychology, which I understand to be that branch of the sciences devoted to mythmaking, especially justifying the inequalities of Western society. I didn't realize that we can come around to that point in the cyclical theory of history where myth replaces thought!

And that is all that needs to be said, apart from you forgetting virtue ethics and nihilism as moral positions to be coded into our brain and thus make people categorizable like D&D alignments.

Code: Select all


Virtuous consequentialist - True virtuous - Virtuous deontologist
|                                         |                           |
True consequentialist - True neutral  - True deontologist
|
Nihilistic consequentialist - True nihilist - Nihilistic deontologist

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I mean, how often am I to enter a game of riddles with the author, where they challenge me with some strange and confusing and distracting device, and I'm supposed to unravel it and go "I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE" and take great personal satisfaction and pride in our mutual cleverness?
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Zablorg » 2012-07-09 07:43am

Bakustra wrote: See, "morality is subjective, but it is a product of collective human consciousness" is, since there is no fucking collective human consciousness, and not even collective subconsciousness if we use 20th-century psychology, just a way to avoid the implications of "morality is subjective" and reintroduce moral absolutism. To rewrite this slightly- "morality is a delusion, but the delusion is of humanity as a whole, rather than individual humans" or "morality is a construct, but the construction is that of humanity as a whole, not of individual humans" makes how fucking ridiculous this idea is apparent.
Could you expand on this some more? Certainly most ethical systems I've seen appear to be employed for the benefit of humanity as a whole. I think "collective human consciousness" just refers to a bunch of human consciousnesses in the same room.
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Bakustra » 2012-07-09 08:20am

Zablorg wrote:
Bakustra wrote: See, "morality is subjective, but it is a product of collective human consciousness" is, since there is no fucking collective human consciousness, and not even collective subconsciousness if we use 20th-century psychology, just a way to avoid the implications of "morality is subjective" and reintroduce moral absolutism. To rewrite this slightly- "morality is a delusion, but the delusion is of humanity as a whole, rather than individual humans" or "morality is a construct, but the construction is that of humanity as a whole, not of individual humans" makes how fucking ridiculous this idea is apparent.
Could you expand on this some more? Certainly most ethical systems I've seen appear to be employed for the benefit of humanity as a whole. I think "collective human consciousness" just refers to a bunch of human consciousnesses in the same room.
Well, then we move to the next couple paragraphs, where the problem is that this superposition of human consciousnesses is still a superposition of "making stuff up", which renders the whole "subjective-but-not-really" aspect hollow. This is, I feel, distinct from the goals of most ethical systems, which are attempts to produce universal approaches, but ultimately originating from the subjective perceptions of humans combining and recombining. This probably produces better systems than just a guy publishing his thoughts, but it's not universal, even to humans alone, and there isn't one single system either.
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I mean, how often am I to enter a game of riddles with the author, where they challenge me with some strange and confusing and distracting device, and I'm supposed to unravel it and go "I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE" and take great personal satisfaction and pride in our mutual cleverness?
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Darth Wong » 2012-07-09 08:33am

Bakustra wrote:
Darth Wong wrote:The problem with Bakustra and similar species of idiot is that they assume we must choose between two alternatives:

1) Morality is absolute and objective to the universe.
2) Morality is subjective, and the subject is each individual, so anyone can make up his own morality.


Through a combination of stupidity or religious brainwashing, they completely discount the obvious third option:

3) Morality is subjective, but the subject is humanity. Therefore, individuals can't just make up their own morality, but it is not universal either.

And when you try to explain this to them, they insist on trying to force it into option #1 or #2, because they're just that slow-witted.
Okay, here's the problem, motherfucker. This 3) is just a fig leaf for 1) with the added advantage of enabling meat-eating, animal cruelty and alien genocide, because "universal to humans" is effectively universal as of right now.
:lol: :lol: :lol:

What a pathetic, posturing twit of a loser you are. You can't admit that you were dead wrong about me claiming that morality is based on some sort of absurd Cosmic Right and Wrong, so you try to save your bullshit misrepresentations by saying that if morality is about evolutionary group advantgage for humans, then that's pretty much the same thing. Only it's not, and anyone who has enough education to grasp this paragraph will know that. Biological group advantage completely and neatly solves the problem of figuring out the one missing element of morality, ie- explaining where the end goal comes from: not from Cosmic RIght and Wrong, but simply from the fact that we are humans, and our behavioural codes are obviously going to be for the benefit of humans. Everything else falls into place logically after that.
And I'm damn sure that your species of asshole would come around to incorporating any potential sapient alien species into these stunning observations, because while you're an arrogant motherfucker, you are thankfully not a complete motherfucker as of yet, though you are apparently unable to parse someone rebuking you for writing a confused mess of a paragraph.
This paragraph says nothing. It's just you desperately trying to make yourself look like you're #winning.
See, "morality is subjective, but it is a product of collective human consciousness" is, since there is no fucking collective human consciousness, and not even collective subconsciousness if we use 20th-century psychology, just a way to avoid the implications of "morality is subjective" and reintroduce moral absolutism. To rewrite this slightly- "morality is a delusion, but the delusion is of humanity as a whole, rather than individual humans" or "morality is a construct, but the construction is that of humanity as a whole, not of individual humans" makes how fucking ridiculous this idea is apparent.
I love the way you turn evolutionary group advantage into "collective human consciousness" in order to pretend that it's a silly idea. You really have no way of arguing other than misrepresentation, do you? You clearly think you're a really powerful debater, but you don't even have basic competence. Anyone who's not a blithering idiot will see what you're doing and laugh at it.
But maybe you're not doing this. Maybe you're just so fucking incompetent, so inconsistent, as to secretly be advocating something else than this abomination, this idea of humans coming together releasing some sort of guiding spirit we must kneel to. Maybe you're advocating a somewhat more sensible approach to 3). Well, in that case, 3) reduces to 2). Because humanity is made up of individuals, and without the insanity of the previous paragraph, morality is constructed by thousands and millions of humans working together, combining individual moralities that they "made up", to use your slur against philosophy (and don't even try to deny it, it's blatantly obvious to anyone with eyes and brain in working order), and eventually creating the social mores we might call "social morality". This is simplified, before you get to attacking it, because most creations are actually modifications of existing social mores.
See above.
Now, you're factually wrong or else incoherent in another way, which is why 3) doesn't make sense even in the life-jacket I threw out to you in the previous paragraph (undoubtedly you can breathe the waters of smugness, alas). People absolutely can "make up" their own morality in differentiation from society's overall morality. Hongi's basic nihilism, the anarchist ethics I began to advocate in the thread before realizing just how much of a motherfucker you were going to be... these are clearly in opposition or at best differentiation from your espoused morals, which are apparently the universal-to-humans morals you derived without thinking. Can someone so opposed to any sort of religiosity really appropriate the practices of Zen Buddhism? But the alternative, to deny that such are deviations, is to make your morality uselessly broad. Well, there is a 3) all of its own, which is that any sort of deviation from your morals is an invalid one, but in that case you might as well go to hell and take your pride in your closed mind with you.
This paragraph says nothing. It's just you desperately trying to make yourself look like you're #winning.

The fact is that you got caught grossly misrepresenting my position, and you are too much of an arrogant little shit to admit it. But frankly, I grow tired of your horseshit. The mods tell me that this is actually perfectly normal behaviour for you. You don't seem to contribute anything other than dishonesty and smarminess, and frankly, your contributions are worth even less than those of hongi, since at least hongi appears to be sincere. You're just contantly trying to make it appear as if you're #winning, no matter what gross misrepresentations you have to resort to.

First you claimed that I was promoting the idea of "objective morality" even though my very FIRST post in this thread said the exact opposite, and now you're trying to claim that I'm promoting some goofy New Age spiritual collective human consciousness even though only an idiot could possibly derive that from tjhe idea of evolutionary species survival and advantage. You clearly lack any method of debate other than misrepresentation, and I have seen enough to recognize that you are doing it deliberately. Either straighten up and start dealing honestly with people, or get the fuck off this board.
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Bakustra » 2012-07-09 09:14am

So, you're finally advocating the simple position that morality is solely a function of what better equips a society of humans to survive or not. Well, group selection is a minority position within biology, but I am not a biologist and so will accept that for now. So, what determines which system of ethics is the most fit in an evolutionary sense? How did you distinguish that the moral system you advocate is superior?

But in addition to that, let us consider one of the few attempts to determine what strategy is best for the Prisoner's Dilemma. Retributive systems were not successful, and the most successful in initial experiments was a reciprocal strategy based on the silver rule of "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth". In further experiments, this strategy was beaten by a strategy based on a mix of silver and golden rules, which forgave single transgressions but refused to collaborate with repeat defectors.

But the earliest laws of society- the earliest recollections of social mores in the code of Hammurabi- well, they're based more on the silver rule than the golden. How can this be? Were these societies evolutionarily unfit? Well, they didn't collapse in an orgy of self-destruction, but instead the Babylonians were replaced by a new political order that seems to have continued the Hammurabic approach. Indeed, it was a long time before any such alternatives appeared in social mores.

There are two possible explanations. One is that multiple systems can coexist and survive equally well. This destroys the implications of a single system in your argument, and once again opens up the door for moral debate. The other is that what is best for the individuals who make up a society is not the best for that society, and so that opens up the door for individual morality, as following societal morality is not the best option for the individual. Even within the framework of group selection (which is generally thought of as bullshit or at best of limited applicability), your argument fails. EDIT: The third is that we cannot derive any sort of societal morality from early codes of law, which just puts us in the position of arguing without evidence- or the mythology of evolutionary psychology.
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I mean, how often am I to enter a game of riddles with the author, where they challenge me with some strange and confusing and distracting device, and I'm supposed to unravel it and go "I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE" and take great personal satisfaction and pride in our mutual cleverness?
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Darth Wong » 2012-07-09 09:21am

Bakustra wrote:So, you're finally advocating the simple position that morality is solely a function of what better equips a society of humans to survive or not. Well, group selection is a minority position within biology, but I am not a biologist and so will accept that for now. So, what determines which system of ethics is the most fit in an evolutionary sense? How did you distinguish that the moral system you advocate is superior?
It's not universally superior. It's just superior for humans, and we happen to be humans. What do you find so difficult to grasp about this?
But in addition to that, let us consider one of the few attempts to determine what strategy is best for the Prisoner's Dilemma. Retributive systems were not successful, and the most successful in initial experiments was a reciprocal strategy based on the silver rule of "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth". In further experiments, this strategy was beaten by a strategy based on a mix of silver and golden rules, which forgave single transgressions but refused to collaborate with repeat defectors.

But the earliest laws of society- the earliest recollections of social mores in the code of Hammurabi- well, they're based more on the silver rule than the golden. How can this be? Were these societies evolutionarily unfit? Well, they didn't collapse in an orgy of self-destruction, but instead the Babylonians were replaced by a new political order that seems to have continued the Hammurabic approach. Indeed, it was a long time before any such alternatives appeared in social mores.

There are two possible explanations. One is that multiple systems can coexist and survive equally well. This destroys the implications of a single system in your argument, and once again opens up the door for moral debate.
I love the way you try to sound reasonable while still hopelessly mangling the concept. Are you really this dense? That's the whole point of group advantage-based ethics (or any system of ethics which is based on a goal rather than a set of "self-evident" rules): you can't absolutely nail down what necessarily works best. You have to try things and see. It's entirely possible that there is more than one system which works equally well, or that a system which works well at one stage of societal development does not work so well at another. And yes, that opens up the door for "moral debate", which is a good thing, because it means that the system is flexible and can adapt to changing conditions, unlike hard-coded rule-based systems (which most other systems are).
The other is that what is best for the individuals who make up a society is not the best for that society, and so that opens up the door for individual morality, as following societal morality is not the best option for the individual. Even within the framework of group selection (which is generally thought of as bullshit or at best of limited applicability), your argument fails. EDIT: The third is that we cannot derive any sort of societal morality from early codes of law, which just puts us in the position of arguing without evidence- or the mythology of evolutionary psychology.
If you reject the concept of evolutionary group selection, then you reject the concept of evolution. If you're so stupid that you can't figure out why Stone Age tribes which could not co-operate would inevitably be out-competed by Stone Age tribes which could, then your intellectual deficiencies are far too great to be solved in an Internet debate.
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Bakustra » 2012-07-09 10:29am

Darth Wong wrote:
Bakustra wrote:So, you're finally advocating the simple position that morality is solely a function of what better equips a society of humans to survive or not. Well, group selection is a minority position within biology, but I am not a biologist and so will accept that for now. So, what determines which system of ethics is the most fit in an evolutionary sense? How did you distinguish that the moral system you advocate is superior?
It's not universally superior. It's just superior for humans, and we happen to be humans. What do you find so difficult to grasp about this?
Why are you avoiding the question? It's like you're deliberately interpreting everything I say in such a way as to make you look good. Let me rephrase this for you so that it will be slightly harder for you to wriggle out again, and we can either keep doing this until I qualify for a J.D. in contract law or you just answer the fucking question.
Moi, as amended wrote:So, you're finally advocating the simple position that morality is solely a function of what better equips a society of humans to survive or not. Well, group selection is a minority position within biology, but I am not a biologist and so will accept that for now. So, what determines which system of ethics is the most fit in an evolutionary sense for humans? How did you distinguish that the moral system you advocate is superior for humans?
But in addition to that, let us consider one of the few attempts to determine what strategy is best for the Prisoner's Dilemma. Retributive systems were not successful, and the most successful in initial experiments was a reciprocal strategy based on the silver rule of "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth". In further experiments, this strategy was beaten by a strategy based on a mix of silver and golden rules, which forgave single transgressions but refused to collaborate with repeat defectors.

But the earliest laws of society- the earliest recollections of social mores in the code of Hammurabi- well, they're based more on the silver rule than the golden. How can this be? Were these societies evolutionarily unfit? Well, they didn't collapse in an orgy of self-destruction, but instead the Babylonians were replaced by a new political order that seems to have continued the Hammurabic approach. Indeed, it was a long time before any such alternatives appeared in social mores.

There are two possible explanations. One is that multiple systems can coexist and survive equally well. This destroys the implications of a single system in your argument, and once again opens up the door for moral debate.
I love the way you try to sound reasonable while still hopelessly mangling the concept. Are you really this dense? That's the whole point of group advantage-based ethics (or any system of ethics which is based on a goal rather than a set of "self-evident" rules): you can't absolutely nail down what necessarily works best. You have to try things and see. It's entirely possible that there is more than one system which works equally well, or that a system which works well at one stage of societal development does not work so well at another. And yes, that opens up the door for "moral debate", which is a good thing, because it means that the system is flexible and can adapt to changing conditions, unlike hard-coded rule-based systems (which most other systems are).
So why are you advocating a particular system, then? What makes it possible for you to reject the anarchist ethics I proposed, which are "rule-based" in the same way that utilitarianism is, in favor of your particular system, which you have espoused earlier in this thread? Are you abandoning that espousal?

PS: Deontological systems are in fact capable of flexibility, so you're still injecting your personal distaste into this argument and you don't even know what virtue ethics are.
The other is that what is best for the individuals who make up a society is not the best for that society, and so that opens up the door for individual morality, as following societal morality is not the best option for the individual. Even within the framework of group selection (which is generally thought of as bullshit or at best of limited applicability), your argument fails. EDIT: The third is that we cannot derive any sort of societal morality from early codes of law, which just puts us in the position of arguing without evidence- or the mythology of evolutionary psychology.
If you reject the concept of evolutionary group selection, then you reject the concept of evolution. If you're so stupid that you can't figure out why Stone Age tribes which could not co-operate would inevitably be out-competed by Stone Age tribes which could, then your intellectual deficiencies are far too great to be solved in an Internet debate.
John Maynard Smith rejected group selection in the latter sense, feeling it to be unlikely to ever occur. He was one of the greats of biology in this century. Richard Dawkins rejects group selection as well. He is one of the preeminent zoologists alive. You are accusing both of them of disbelief in evolution. You arrogant swine. In addition, Dawkins's selfish genetics is built around demonstrating how social behaviors like altruism can develop from the individual selection of genes, negating the need for group selection to explain the development of social animals. I'm a physics undergrad (I say, knowing that this opens up entirely new avenues for you to dismiss me) whose formal study of biology has been confined to the high school level, and yet I still have a greater grasp of biology than you. Consider the plank in thy own eye before pointing out the motes in others in the future.
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Alyrium Denryle » 2012-07-09 10:31am

So basically all morality was hardcoded into our brains by evolution. You know this because of evolutionary psychology, which I understand to be that branch of the sciences devoted to mythmaking, especially justifying the inequalities of Western society.
A) Learn how to read. I said neuroscience. If you think functional MRI is a bunch of mythmaking, there is nothing I can do to help you.
B) Only Pop-Evopsych does that. Actual evolutionary psych studies the evolution of the cognitive basis of ethics, behavioral genetics, mate-poaching, the circumstances under which wide varieties of human mating systems evolve etc.
C) The actual discipline of Evolutionary Psychology is just an extension of Behavioral Biology to humans. But please, do not take your information from an actual behavioral biologist. By all means, get your information from shitty science reporting and disaffected basement nerds on the internet.

Please learn about what a branch of science is actually about before you construct a strawman. Thanks.

As for the rest of your non-argument, specific moral philosophies are not coded into our brains. I was trying to simplify it in order to show that what we call consequentialism and deontology are really just mental processes that are then fetishized by philosophers with too much self-importance. The short list was also not meant to be all-expansive. However, if you insist...

There are different parts of the brain that deal with different functional aspects of moral reasoning. These parts of the brain are specific. For example, there is one part of the brain in the frontal lobe that is basically the "empathy" part of the brain that cares about the suffering and pain of others in a non-specific and rational way. This is because the left hemisphere--particularly in the frontal lobe-- is responsible for the projective imagination necessary for theory of mind (the right hemisphere deals more with the here and now part of cognition and in the event of a stroke in the left hemisphere even your sense of self can become...unstable). It gets stimulated proportionate to the amount of harm and the number of individuals harmed. In other words, it is the "consequentialist" part of the brain. If given the classic trolly car analogy, this part of the brain is what compels you to pull the lever and spare the lives of the 5 people, at the expense of the single person on the other track.

There is another part of the brain, it is within the Amygdala. In moral reasoning, it deals with your more target-specific moral sentiments. It is the amygdala that makes you want to protect someone you are responsible for, or make you less prone to harm someone you have some sort of relationship to. It is the "deontologist" (just not Kantian) part of the brain. It deals with your specific duties and obligations toward individuals. It gets stimulated based on the strength of the social relationships etc.

Another part of the brain that mediates all this shit is the Ventromedial prefrontal cortex. It sorts the signals from these two parts of the brain and "decides" which is stronger. For example, if your father is the guy about to get crushed by a runaway train, you might let said train run over 10 people rather than hit him, because the amygdala signal is much stronger. Bump it up to 20 or somesuch, and the frontal lobe signal might be strong enough to override.

Virtue ethics... are special. It is not an ethical decision-making tool, more of a tool by which we assess our own character and that of others. It is not governed by the same sort of process. There is other stuff in there too, before you go on about how I left things out, but my hands will get cramped eventually.

We know all this, because we hook people into giant machines with powerful electromagnets inside.
Well, group selection is a minority position within biology, but I am not a biologist and so will accept that for now.
It is and it isnt. Basically the older formulation is roundly rejected, but there is one that works. It is called Multi-Level selection. Basically, if no relatedness is present, natural selection generally favors non-cooperation between individuals. Think of it this way, the lemming that does not jump off the cliff survives to pass on his genes, while those who do... well... doing so might be advantageous in the long-term, but natural selection has no foresight. So group selection fails. However, it can work under certain sets of conditions.

Say I have two groups living on an island that compete for food. If they were not competing, natural selection would favor non-cooperation and the group would dissolve. However, if there is competition between groups, the group with better cohesiveness will win. The external selective force on ALL individuals within that group would thus tend to hold it together while in-group competition tends to drive a wedge. The two selective pressures exist in opposition. Mechanisms would thus tend to evolve that keep within-group competition to a dull roar insufficient to cause group dissolution. This is where systems of ethics and justice come in.
But the earliest laws of society- the earliest recollections of social mores in the code of Hammurabi- well, they're based more on the silver rule than the golden. How can this be? Were these societies evolutionarily unfit? Well, they didn't collapse in an orgy of self-destruction, but instead the Babylonians were replaced by a new political order that seems to have continued the Hammurabic approach. Indeed, it was a long time before any such alternatives appeared in social mores.
You are only looking at one end. The code of Hammurabi was a retributive legal code, it did not include the rewards of being a good citizen because it did not need to. The society itself, without said legal system will do that. If you dont go around killing your neighbor or cheating people in your business practices, the society will tend to reward you in return.

Besides, the prisoner's dilemma does leave out a critical variable--an external force that mandates cooperation for mutual survival. It changes the nature of the payoff matrix when the price of defection could be death.

Basically, the prisoner's dilemma starts out with the assumption that defection has a better payoff matrix than cooperation--unless retribution and reward inside repeat interactions are thrown in. When there is another city state or tribe trying to kill you, defection becomes a non-option, and if you try, the other individuals will MAKE you cooperate.
John Maynard Smith rejected group selection in the latter sense, feeling it to be unlikely to ever occur. He was one of the greats of biology in this century. Richard Dawkins rejects group selection as well. He is one of the preeminent zoologists alive. You are accusing both of them of disbelief in evolution.
See above regarding within and between group competition and multi-level selection.
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Bakustra » 2012-07-09 10:38am

So I am given to understand that because these things arise within our brains they are not learned behaviors (memetic replicators, if we wish to go down the road of jargon) and must be genetic because you say so. I am given to understand that John Maynard Smith and Richard Dawkins didn't and don't reject group selection because of this new theory of multi-level selection despite Smith's deadness and Dawkins's selfish genetics arguing that social behaviors are largely a consequence of gene selection, and therefore to reject group selection is indeed to reject the whole of evolution, and it wasn't, in fact, a childish and clumsy attempt by Mike Wong to play Tomas Torquemada and demand confession and repentance. I am given to understand that virtue ethics don't really count, again because you say so. I am given a lot of stuff, but I'm afraid you're doing a terrible job of supporting it.
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Darth Wong » 2012-07-09 02:00pm

Bakustra wrote:Why are you avoiding the question? It's like you're deliberately interpreting everything I say in such a way as to make you look good. Let me rephrase this for you so that it will be slightly harder for you to wriggle out again, and we can either keep doing this until I qualify for a J.D. in contract law or you just answer the fucking question.
Moi, as amended wrote:So, you're finally advocating the simple position that morality is solely a function of what better equips a society of humans to survive or not. Well, group selection is a minority position within biology, but I am not a biologist and so will accept that for now. So, what determines which system of ethics is the most fit in an evolutionary sense for humans? How did you distinguish that the moral system you advocate is superior for humans?
I am really getting tired of your fucking misrepresentations, asshole. There are whole pages earlier in this thread where I repeatedly try to explain that we don't know in advance what's superior; we learn what works through experience. I even gave numerous examples, yet you are now pretending that I never explained any of this, and you're accusing me of "dodging". Without exception, every one of your posts contains some glaring misrepresentation or other.
I love the way you try to sound reasonable while still hopelessly mangling the concept. Are you really this dense? That's the whole point of group advantage-based ethics (or any system of ethics which is based on a goal rather than a set of "self-evident" rules): you can't absolutely nail down what necessarily works best. You have to try things and see. It's entirely possible that there is more than one system which works equally well, or that a system which works well at one stage of societal development does not work so well at another. And yes, that opens up the door for "moral debate", which is a good thing, because it means that the system is flexible and can adapt to changing conditions, unlike hard-coded rule-based systems (which most other systems are).
So why are you advocating a particular system, then? What makes it possible for you to reject the anarchist ethics I proposed, which are "rule-based" in the same way that utilitarianism is, in favor of your particular system, which you have espoused earlier in this thread? Are you abandoning that espousal?
We know from experience that anarchist ethics don't work, moron. What part of "we use what works" do you not understand?
PS: Deontological systems are in fact capable of flexibility, so you're still injecting your personal distaste into this argument and you don't even know what virtue ethics are.
Any ethical system which is not willing to acknowledge the necessity of coercion is a waste of time.
The other is that what is best for the individuals who make up a society is not the best for that society, and so that opens up the door for individual morality, as following societal morality is not the best option for the individual. Even within the framework of group selection (which is generally thought of as bullshit or at best of limited applicability), your argument fails. EDIT: The third is that we cannot derive any sort of societal morality from early codes of law, which just puts us in the position of arguing without evidence- or the mythology of evolutionary psychology.
If you reject the concept of evolutionary group selection, then you reject the concept of evolution. If you're so stupid that you can't figure out why Stone Age tribes which could not co-operate would inevitably be out-competed by Stone Age tribes which could, then your intellectual deficiencies are far too great to be solved in an Internet debate.
John Maynard Smith rejected group selection in the latter sense, feeling it to be unlikely to ever occur. He was one of the greats of biology in this century. Richard Dawkins rejects group selection as well. He is one of the preeminent zoologists alive. You are accusing both of them of disbelief in evolution. You arrogant swine.
No, you are a lying sack of shit. They rejected NON-EVOLUTIONARY group selection as an explanation for altruism, not evolutionary group selection. I never said anything about altruism being non-evolutionary; I used altruism as an example of how social beneficial traits can evolve. Yet another gross distortion on your part.
In addition, Dawkins's selfish genetics is built around demonstrating how social behaviors like altruism can develop from the individual selection of genes, negating the need for group selection to explain the development of social animals. I'm a physics undergrad (I say, knowing that this opens up entirely new avenues for you to dismiss me) whose formal study of biology has been confined to the high school level, and yet I still have a greater grasp of biology than you. Consider the plank in thy own eye before pointing out the motes in others in the future.
See above, moron. You obviously read something like this. But if you did, then you should know that Dawkins only objects to the idea of group selection not involving genetic mutation as a mechanism to explain instinctive altruism, ie- non-genetic behavioural group selection as an alternative to evolution. He is not saying that we cannot mimic evolutionary processes and create social structures whose fitness can be determined in the same way, moron. Once again, you demonstrate your amazing capacity to misrepresent, bullshit, and then pat yourself on the back for #winning.

I grow seriously tired of your misrepresentations. Let's see: first you said I espouse "objective morality" even though my very first post said the exact opposite. Then you said that I was promoting some kind of New Age "collective consciousness" because I said that groups can have collective interests (hint: collective interest and collective consciousness are entirely different things, and I can't believe that you confused the two by accident). Now you're saying that I never explained how we judge a system of morality to be superior, when the whole point I've been trying to make this whole time is that we need a system of morality defined by goals rather than rules, because goals allow us to test systems rather than using circular logic and judging them by their own axioms. And now you seize upon the fact that I used the words "group selection" in order to pretend that I'm going against Dawkins, even though Dawkins was using that phrase to describe something else entirely: the idea of non-genetic group selection as an alternative to evolution. Oh, and let's not forget you trying to accuse me of supporting Nazi eugenics, immediately after I explained how eugenics has historically been a failure.

EVERY goddamned thing you ever say is a distortion, a misrepresentation, some kind of strawman fallacy with a heaping of smarmy #winning self-congratulatory bullshit piled on top, and I'm sick of it. No matter how flagrant the error, you never admit to it: you just try again, with some new distortion.

I have better things to do with my time than fix hardware and software issues to keep this board running just so I can repeatedly correct your foul misrepresentations of my position. Go fuck yourself, and run off to your other troll forum to whine about what a bad man I am. I know that's what you routinely do anyway.

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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Ziggy Stardust » 2012-07-09 03:08pm

I realize this is now obsolete, but Darth Wong, I think, was spot on about Bakustra having some sort of subconscious religious influence to his thought. Not to armchair "psychologize" (fun word, right?), the way he talked about logic and philosophy seems to suggest it, and I really cannot think of any other way to categorize his reactions to neuroscience/evolutionary psychology except as an underlying anti-scientific mindset.
Bakustra wrote: So basically all morality was hardcoded into our brains by evolution. You know this because of evolutionary psychology, which I understand to be that branch of the sciences devoted to mythmaking, especially justifying the inequalities of Western society. I didn't realize that we can come around to that point in the cyclical theory of history where myth replaces thought!

And that is all that needs to be said, apart from you forgetting virtue ethics and nihilism as moral positions to be coded into our brain and thus make people categorizable like D&D alignments.
the position of arguing without evidence- or the mythology of evolutionary psychology.
How do you justify his comically vehement reaction to any mention of evolutionary science otherwise?

--------------------------------------------
If you did a fMRI on a physics professor, there'd be some specific part of the brain that lights up when he solves different kinds of problems, right?

Can we understand physics by looking at these images?
No, but that's missing the point. What we can understand from those images are how the human brain solves problems, which is interesting in its own right. The entire point that AD and DW were emphasizing is that morality is not some definite universal construct to which humans only have some sort of "access", but that morality in and of itself is a condition of human psychology (I phrased that rather poorly, I admit, but I am in a hurry).

That is, this argument of yours only makes sense if you define physics as something that only exists as a facet of human psychology, as opposed to being a vast system of models explaining the behavior of matter and motion.

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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Alyrium Denryle » 2012-07-09 03:12pm

If you did a fMRI on a physics professor, there'd be some specific part of the brain that lights up when he solves different kinds of problems, right?

Can we understand physics by looking at these images?
Nice job question-begging via your analogy, which inherently assumes physics and ethics are comparable, by equivocating the laws of physics and their constancy and externalness to human minds, with rules of ethics which are also assumed in your analogy to be constant and external to the mind..

Needless to say, your analogy is false because ethics do not exist as a thing outside the minds of sentient creatures and if we want to know about ethics and moral cognition with any more depth than a philosopher pulling a set of axia out of his ass, we need neuroscience and psychology.
The entire point that AD and DW were emphasizing is that morality is not some definite universal construct to which humans only have some sort of "access", but that morality in and of itself is a condition of human psychology (I phrased that rather poorly, I admit, but I am in a hurry).
You got it pretty much right.
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Alyrium Denryle » 2012-07-09 03:28pm

Destructionator XIII wrote:Saying "neuroscience and psychology can help us answer ethical questions" is an axiom pulled out of your ass.
Not answer ethical questions moron. Though, it can. Just in a more roundabout way (understanding with more detail certain aspects of cognition. For example, understanding how pain or feelings of injustice are processed).

What they CAN do for us is give us the capacity to understand where ethics come from, why they exist, and why we can never seem to get a workable system of ethics that does not break down. In the latter case, because the ethical values that get isolated by philosophers and assumed to be complete and universal are neither. That does not mean they are not real. They are just real in the sense that they arise out of the mind as a prerequisite for social behavior, and are more complicated in their processing and application than the discipline of philosophy can deal with.
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Vaporous » 2012-07-09 04:26pm

Destructionator XIII wrote:
Alyrium Denryle wrote:What they CAN do for us is give us the capacity to understand where ethics come from, why they exist, and why we can never seem to get a workable system of ethics that does not break down.
Morality is an abstract concept. Consider another word, like "flight". Flight has always existed. The concept of flight would exist even if there were no flying objects or no humans to think about it.

Morality is the same thing. The word represents an idea. You can't define ideas with brain scans.
They are just real in the sense that they arise out of the mind as a prerequisite for social behavior, and are more complicated in their processing and application than the discipline of philosophy can deal with.
Like flight, ethics are an abstract idea that might be selected for by evolution, giving a survival edge, but that doesn't mean the concept can be defined by our particular implementation.
they aren't trying to define an idea with a brain scan. they are trying to define brain activity tied to certain behavioral patterns with brain scans. you're getting caught up on the words "morality" and "ethics" because they are being used in a scientific context (where they are tied to observable or measurable behaviors) instead of a philosophic one (where they are tied to abstract concepts and systems).

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Re: moral nihilism

Post by AdmiralKanos » 2012-07-09 06:27pm

Nieztchean Uber-Amoeba wrote:Pfft, New Testingstan posers.

I tried to argue with DW in this thread before it was cool.

But my posts were just too underground for him to hear about them.
I did answer your first one. I honestly have to admit I didn't notice your second one. In my defense, it was kind of small and easily missed over when scrolling. Having said that:
Nieztchean Uber-Amoeba wrote:
Darth Wong wrote:Social success, not necessarily social cohesion. Sometimes, excessive social order is harmful to success. Look at Admiral Nelson as an example: his victories often occurred because his commanders had more individual autonomy, whereas the Spaniards preferred a more top-down command structure which turned out to be too inflexible for changing battlefield conditions.
Okay, social success, which I take from your context to mean the prolongation, strengthening, and continued survival of the society.

So, from this ethical perspective, do you consider Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia from 1984 (or at least, the endstates of those societies postulated by O'Brien) to be moral paramounts, given their nature as societies which have made the undermining of their social success impossible?
I would have to say that the fictional state in "1984" has very low social cohesion. Part of social cohesion is trust in your fellow citizens, and that is virtually nonexistent in 1984. Everyone is terrified of everyone else, because they can be reported.
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Nieztchean Uber-Amoeba » 2012-07-09 06:40pm

AdmiralKanos wrote: I did answer your first one. I honestly have to admit I didn't notice your second one. In my defense, it was kind of small and easily missed over when scrolling.
Fair enough, that can happen.
I would have to say that the fictional state in "1984" has very low social cohesion. Part of social cohesion is trust in your fellow citizens, and that is virtually nonexistent in 1984. Everyone is terrified of everyone else, because they can be reported.
Okay, so in this case, the complete social success of 1984 is less important than its social cohesion (your distinction), where social success is predicated on the the sum collective sturdiness of the society and its cohesion is predicated on the sum individual feelings of the people who make it up (and importantly, it is feelings here which are important, as opposed to intentions or actions running counter to the social programme, which are both largely absent).

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Re: moral nihilism

Post by AdmiralKanos » 2012-07-09 06:43pm

Nieztchean Uber-Amoeba wrote:
AdmiralKanos wrote: I did answer your first one. I honestly have to admit I didn't notice your second one. In my defense, it was kind of small and easily missed over when scrolling.
Fair enough, that can happen.
I would have to say that the fictional state in "1984" has very low social cohesion. Part of social cohesion is trust in your fellow citizens, and that is virtually nonexistent in 1984. Everyone is terrified of everyone else, because they can be reported.
Okay, so in this case, the complete social success of 1984 is less important than its social cohesion (your distinction), where social success is predicated on the the sum collective sturdiness of the society and its cohesion is predicated on the sum individual feelings of the people who make it up (and importantly, it is feelings here which are important, as opposed to intentions or actions running counter to the social programme, which are both largely absent).
I never said it would be an easy metric to use ;)

I think a lot of people want a system that's easy to use. I will freely admit that what I'm talking about is not easy to use at all, it would be subject to lots of debates, etc. But that is still an improvement over iron-clad rules.
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Nieztchean Uber-Amoeba » 2012-07-09 07:16pm

Incidentally, I'd like to note that the distinction DW made in his first post - of a morality that exists somewhere between the purely subjective and the purely objective, which is determined by society - does in fact have a tradition in Western philosophy, most notably that school of philosophy labelled the 'Hermeneutic' school of Hans-Georg Gadamer (who was a student of Heidegger, who some people would call one of the most 'Eastern' of the great Western philosophers).

Gadamer essentially proposed that how people act and exist in the world is predicated on something not so different from how people evaluate single chapters of a book in relation to a whole, or a book in relation to a genre - you evaluate the part in relation to what you know about the whole, but you also evaluate the whole in relation to the part, and that a new insight about the whole changes how you view the part, that new view of the part gives you new insight into the whole, and vice versa and so on and so forth, in what is deemed the 'hermeneutic circle'. He thought that how people evaluated their 'self', and each other, in relation to the 'world' (which means both the physical world but also the culture, society, etc. that surrounds them) and vice versa, so that effectively such things as aesthetics and ethics were all grounded in the tradition of the society that made them, but since we are, in even minute ways, part of the same world, have traditions with the same roots, people with different ideas or societies can still exist on the same shared 'horizons' - a term which gets pretty involved and which it would take me a while to explain properly, but the basic idea is that humans finding meaning - both in terms of aesthetics, like the meaning of a work of art, or in morality - are inter-subjective, in that there's a range of possible meanings, so it's almost-but-not-quite relative, but also since we all share some kind of shared background in our 'traditions' we can all communicate and critique across.

There's obviously a lot more to it since Gaudamer wrote a giant 600-page dense German monograph on the subject with which he also sought to ground the social sciences and reconcile them with the natural sciences, but I find it kind of interesting just as a tangential note to this discussion.

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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Junghalli » 2012-07-09 08:13pm

Ziggy Stardust wrote:I realize this is now obsolete, but Darth Wong, I think, was spot on about Bakustra having some sort of subconscious religious influence to his thought. Not to armchair "psychologize" (fun word, right?), the way he talked about logic and philosophy seems to suggest it, and I really cannot think of any other way to categorize his reactions to neuroscience/evolutionary psychology except as an underlying anti-scientific mindset.
Bakustra wrote: So basically all morality was hardcoded into our brains by evolution. You know this because of evolutionary psychology, which I understand to be that branch of the sciences devoted to mythmaking, especially justifying the inequalities of Western society. I didn't realize that we can come around to that point in the cyclical theory of history where myth replaces thought!

And that is all that needs to be said, apart from you forgetting virtue ethics and nihilism as moral positions to be coded into our brain and thus make people categorizable like D&D alignments.
the position of arguing without evidence- or the mythology of evolutionary psychology.
How do you justify his comically vehement reaction to any mention of evolutionary science otherwise?
Because evopsych, especially internet amateur evopsych, has a history of being used to defend questionable social and cultural propositions on the basis of dodgy just-so stories?

Do you think evopsych bingo only exists because people are anti-science?

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Straha
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Straha » 2012-07-09 08:17pm

Or this wonderful chestnut:

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'After 9/11, it was "You're with us or your with the terrorists." Now its "You're with Straha or you support racism."' ' - The Romulan Republic

'You're a bully putting on an air of civility while saying that everything western and/or capitalistic must be bad, and a lot of other posters (loomer, Stas Bush, Gandalf) are also going along with it for their own personal reasons (Stas in particular is looking through rose colored glasses)' - Darth Yan

Junghalli
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Junghalli » 2012-07-09 08:24pm

Given the political/rhetorical advantages of being able to claim the high ground of human nature in support of your ideas about what society should be like it'd come as no surprise to me that evopsych, especially the amateur and populist kind as opposed to the real science that actually has to stand up to five minutes of examination by people who know their stuff, is politicized as hell and filled with all kinds of often repulsive crackpottery. I think I might be more surprised if it wasn't like that.

Given that, any surprise some people might be a bit cynical about it?

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