- All Debates
- Popular Debates
- Active Debates
- New Debates
- Open Challenge Debates
- My Challenge Debates
- Accepted Challenges
- Debate Communities
- Argument Waterfall
- New People
- People by Points
Your profile reflects your reputation, it will build itself as you create new debates, write arguments and form new relationships.
Before this response is read, I apologize for any particularly spotty places where it may seem I lose interest. My computer has saw fit to freeze and not offer to restore my browser twice in the time I've attempted to make this response. If it fails to live up to the rigor of our debate I can only yield in frustration.
solipsist perspective, it remains possible for an individual within the realm of their own experience to hold non-human animals at equal value to human animals.
The mentioning of solipsism was purely to represent my holding of morality as a purely individual-based phenomenon, and the potential for the mentioned example doesn't denote anything.
I ascribe more closely to nihilism myself
Fear not, I'll not try to "define" your stance into immorality like most other Objectivist-minded people would be inclined to do(a major reason among others for my hesitation for self-identifying as an actual Objectivist).
Before delving into that I think it would be prudent to ensure that we are using “objective” and “subjective” in the same sense
Damn the polysemic nature of English.
For clarity with terminology:
By Objective I mean that which exists independent of the mind or experience.
By Subjective I mean that which is existentially mind-dependent.
By Value I mean the varying degree to which an action, behavior, or thing is in relation to the criterion.
By Virtue(should it ever arise) I mean the means by which we achieve a value.
I find it intriguing that you do not believe we are capable of evaluating the intrinsic value of any creature
Not on ecological terms, the countless examples of unprecedented effects brought about by even subtle changes in nature makes it a herculean task far beyond the capacity of we internet warriors to qualify. We can surely own animals, and they become part of our moral relationship to property, but that is the extent to which they can be given moral value.
yet simultaneously do think that we are capable of rationalizing our own self-interest
We can surely assess it in degrees. Adopting a little more of Sam Harris's rhetoric, there are varying degrees to which we can increase well-being(rational self-interest) from our decisions. We may not pick the action that produces the maximal amount of benefit, but that doesn't exclude any moral value from the chosen action(in other words, there are varying degrees to which your interests are served). This is where the concept of moral value arises.
For example, take the following scenario:
Man 1 consumes a certain amount of alcohol. This makes him belligerent and harmful to those around him. After being aware of this, he chooses to continue drinking. This leads to him committing violent acts on his family, culminating in their departure. Add any number of other potentially consequences.
Man 2 consumes the exact same amount without any such consequences due to his naturally higher tolerance. He's aware of his limitations and acts accordingly.
Man 3 consumes yet again the same amount as the two previous men. He shares Man 1's low tolerance, and knowingly continues to drink. However, after a single incident with his family he ceases to drink.
Man 4 doesn't drink.
Given the criterion of rational self-interest, we can make objective conclusions about the effects these behaviors have on the individuals' well-being.
Man 1 is immoral, or is committing an immoral action because he knowingly acts in a way that results in the elements of his life vital to his self-interest being endangered.
Man 2 is moral, or is committing a moral action because he is behaving in a way that increases the utility of his existence in a way that does not endanger the elements in his life vital to his self-interest.
Man 3 has chosen a moral action by ceasing behavior that places elements vital to his well-being, but only after the fact. The degree to which his well-being was served is lower than that of Man 1.
Man 4 is amoral, or is committing an amoral action because his behavior in no way positively or negatively affects his self-interest(in light of no assumed or added variables).
I do not think one can divorce the analysis of morality and value ascription from the irrational aspects of human nature, since the irrational is just as much an influence upon our conduct and even well-being as the rational.
How can the irrational be conducive to our well-being? Bear in mind I don't fully detach the significance of things like emotion from rational behavior. I fully acknowledge that emotion is a completely rational piece of human existence. Making irrational decisions based on emotion may be more of the point here, but I would argue that things like personal growth in the face of such occurrences are based within rational processes in spite of the irrational.
If the irrational and emotional were entirely dysfunctional and counter to our self-interest I do not think they would have persisted so strongly under thousands of years of evolutionary pressure.
The mass of humanity at any given point and time have believed or acknowledged things as true that aren't, continuing even now under scientific scrutiny. The persistence of such things (religion for example) doesn't denote anything of epistimological value. So too for the given example. Persistence in nature is not necessarily an indicator of a positive trait. I could site detrimental mutations that occur that don't result in the death of a species but still yield a demonstrable negative effect on their standard of living.
Even if we our trajectory were towards pure rationalism, I do not think that is ever something we could achieve and we are certainly not there yet which invalidates a perspective that defines morality purely in terms of the rational self-interest.
This statement could be an ad-populum of a sort. If the Muslim god were real, but there were no Muslims, the Muslim god would still be real.
Your argument would make sense if our internally-generated, objective moral projections ever truly and wholly aligned with our actual, intrinsic interests
Varying points across the moral landscape
My view is that the ascertainment of intrinsic self-interest is an altogether separate pursuit than morality
I'm becoming a little wary of being Sam Harris heavy, but I agree whole-heatedly with him in that if morality deals with something other than well-being than it is a meaningless term.
I doubt that we will ever be fully capable of wholly ascertaining our intrinsic self-interest, but I do think we are becoming capable of greater accuracy through the pursuit of reason and logic
There will always be a valid discussion about what is or may not be in a self-interest. As flawed human beings in a flawed social dynamic, of course what we may perceive to be in a self-interest may indeed run contrary to it. But using it as a criterion for evaluating our decisions, we can reach greater levels of personal utility and understanding. And always underlying is the fact that there are actions that yield the maximal amount of benefit to our self-interest.
My observation had nothing to do with the validity of morality, but it’s lack of absoluteness. A thing which varies as widely as morality can hardly be claimed to be absolute, in my opinion
I think the only thing we can denote about morality given its diversity is that mankind has an intrinsic want to determine morality, and even that is assumptive and subject to better explanations.
There can be no “wrong” or “right” moral perspective (those concepts being, themselves, value judgments)
If morality deals with self-interest, and we can in any way determine that, than there are examples in which there are right and wrong actions, correct?
cannot self-ascribe moral value they lack it entirely
The crux of our disagreement actually lies in this statement. I approach morality the way a solipsist would, as something applied entirely for the individual and their own experience.
Humans are fully capable of projecting moral value/judgement onto non-human entities and objects, including animals.
But that was the point of my qualification regarding property.
. As you have observed, morality is a byproduct of human faculties. This makes it not an objective actuality but a subjective construction; morality ceases to exist if we do not conceive of it as existing and do not project it out into the objectively real world.
I follow a quasi-Objectivist school of thought, establishing morality as a product provided by the application of human faculties towards the goal of rational self-interest. That is the criterion with which I evaluate moral decisions. Now, if rational self-interest is a subjective phenomenon, than you would be correct. This is where(for the sake of contemporary significance as well as convenience insofar as diction is concerned) I adopt much of the rhetoric of Sam Harris(admittedly ironic in many regards) arguing that things like well-being and self-interest are not outside the area of conclusive evaluation. Thus, I would disagree that the existential status of morality affects its objective nature. What is in your self-interest at any given moment (and therefor moral) would be so even if you didn't project the term moral at it. The means of deriving moral value however(for the sake of continuity) does require such projections.
The empirical existence of diverse moralities is more than adequate proof to my mind that morality is not an absolute in any possible manner. Moralities are varied, disparate, and contradictory.
The multitude and diversity of religions in the world have no bearing on their individual validity, so too is it with morality.
Case in point: while most people do not genuinely value non-human animals equally to human animals, there are some who would place equal or even greater value on the former than the latter.
The existence of a particular viewpoint isn't an indicator of anything. It merely begs the question. Their viewpoint cold be incomplete, misguided, or wrong(or even right). As previously stated, the diversity an d multitude of a phenomenon doesn't inherently denote anything beyond sociological tendencies (something that in no way adequately deals with the question at hand)
Morality is a byproduct of human faculties, but this alone does not immediately mean that humans have greater value.
Logical deduction can lead to no other conclusion.
-Morality (and therefor moral value) exists as a byproduct of human faculties
-Human faculties are exclusive to humans
-Animals lack human faculties (apologies for the tautology, but it seemed necessary)
-Animals lack morality(and therefor moral value)
The only elements of morality that apply to animals are those born out of our relationship to property(which admittedly is a very significant element, indeed I'd go so far as to say the most important, but this isn't something intrinsic and is only applied on a case-by-case basis)
That we do not ascribe equal value to animals through our moral perspectives means that human have greater value
If morality is an objective absolute (which I advocate as the correct premise), then moral perspective as it seems to be applied here is a meaningless criterion for the establishment of any conclusion to the question.
Humans kill, steal, etc. for the mere pleasure of doing so, animals generally do so in order to survive.
Anyone with a large dog with a particular fondness for smaller critters or a sadistically playful cat knows this is simply not true. I realize you said generally, but this is anything but a small exception to the rule and I suspect the addition of the word was an attempt at culpability evasion. Plenty of examples of unnecessary killing (far beyond those committed by domesticated pets mind you) and such happen in nature. Also, would the fact that my acts are driven by a need for survival excuse their moral significance?
How many jails are built for punishment of animals other than mankind?
Several in fact, as long as we accept jail in its polysemic vagueness to refer to a general place of containment. If instead you wish to use the exclusively human institution, than the point is pedant and can easily be dismissed as a necessary element to a species possessing the faculties to develop such complex social arrangements.
Determining the value of something organic with any other criterion other than morality is beyond the capacity of those present. How can we assess the ecological significance of any particular organism to the fullest extent? There is no conceivable means we could use to determine the entirety of the effects any particular living creature has on worldly affairs. Given this, we must approach the question as if applies to moral value. This is a much easier question, as life other than our own intrinsically has none. Morality is a product of human faculties, meaning that the only organisms capable of possessing value are humans. Therefor, humans have greater value than other animals.