Science as a source of morality - Page 2 - Politics | PoFo

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For discussion of moral and ethical issues.
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mikema63 wrote:Wouldn't it be a social obligation? You could lose respect in the community if you don't keep it but this seems more like society constructing and enforcing it's own made up rules rather than the universe at large.

No, it's not mere social obligation. It's entailed in its very definition. If no one ever kept their promises, the word would cease to have any meaning at all.
People don't keep promises though. The point is that they may face social repercussions if they don't.

I'm not really sure how it's not a social obligation just because a lot of people will fulfill the social obligation.
You're still not getting it. It's not that breaking promises is objectively bad, or that doing so makes you a bad person. It's that by making a promise, the person doing so is, by doing so, creating an ought. They are saying, effectively, "I ought to do this thing I'm saying I will do." It is a self-imposed ought, independent of any objective or social morality, and independent of whether the person actually fulfills it, entailed in the very definition of the word.
Sphinx wrote:... he (Naguib Mahfouz) made a bold claim that science can be a source of morality. He says that science entails (1) love of truth, (2) honesty in judgement, (3) devotion in work, (4) collaboration in research, and (5) willingness to view the world through the lenses of humanism.

Compare this to, say, Dawkin's view of science, that science is not in the business of morality, except perhaps to show logical inconsistencies of moral claims.

Which view of science do you prefer? I prefer Mahfouz's view. I believe that studying science have had a deep moral impact on my life.

He says that "science entails" a bunch of really nice things. But what's true is that "good science" entails those things. The last few centuries of military technology and crowd control techniques... don't qualify as "good."

Dawkins is unequivocally correct when he says that actual, neutral "science" is a good control for arbitrary "morality."

But some science - like Plato, Darwin, or Ibn Khaldun - seems to point to "free thinking" as a means to a "good science." And when I write "good," I'm talking about a science that won't eventually kill all potential scientists.

We're not there yet. We currently use science to enrich casino owners, and this soils our nest.
mikema63 wrote:Wouldn't it be a social obligation? You could lose respect in the community if you don't keep it but this seems more like society constructing and enforcing it's own made up rules rather than the universe at large.

Some of us agree with Natty Bumppo that keeping a promise is not a social obligation but part of an internal code. A code means nothing unless you honor it when no one else would ever know.

But I can't justify that on objective grounds.
You're still not getting it. It's not that breaking promises is objectively bad, or that doing so makes you a bad person. It's that by making a promise, the person doing so is, by doing so, creating an ought. They are saying, effectively, "I ought to do this thing I'm saying I will do." It is a self-imposed ought, independent of any objective or social morality, and independent of whether the person actually fulfills it, entailed in the very definition of the word.

You're right, I'm not getting it. :hmm:

I guess I just don't view the inner self as all that inner and isolated from the social world. I think our inner identities are constructed by our social environment after all.
Although there distinction between is-ought is crucial, I think the gap assumed between them isn't impassable except that science as it exists in it's positivist form limits itself severely in order to comfortably assert it's objectivity.
But when it comes to ethics, the seperation of our desires and what is leads to absurdity as if morality was nothing more than a reflex of biology than something of rational partially self-determining beings.
What is it to understand any given piece of behaviour as a human action? Consider the following example. If my head nods, it may be a sign of assent to a question or it may be a nervous tick. To explain the nod as a way of saying ' Yes' to a question is to give it a role in the context of human action. To explain the nod as a nervous tick is to assert that the nod was not an action but something that happened to me. To understand the nod as a nervous tick we turn to the neurophysiologist for a causal explanation. To understand it as a sign of assent is to move in a different direction. It is to ask for a statement of the purpose that my saying ' Yes' served; it is to ask for reasons, not for causes and it is to ask for reasons which point | to a recognisable want or need served by my action. This reference to purpose is important. When social anthropologists come across some unintelligible mode of behaviour, obedience to a primitive taboo, for example, they look for some as yet unnoticed purpose, some want or need to which such obedience ministers; and if they find none they look for some past want or need which the practice once served, even though now it is nothing but a useless survival. That is to say, we make both individual deeds and social practices intelligible as human actions by showing how they connect with characteristically human desires, needs and the like. Where we cannot do this, we treat the unintelligible piece of behaviour as a symptom, a survival or superstition.

One of the root mistakes of the liberal belief in the autonomy of morality now stands out. The believer in the autonomy of morality attempts to treat his fundamental moral principles as without any basis. They are his because he has chosen them. They can have no further vindication. And that is to say among other things that neither moral utterance nor moral action can be vindicated by reference to desires or needs. The ' ought' of morality is utterly divorced from the ' is ' of desire. This divorce is most strikingly presented in the position taken by Kant that it is a defining characteristic of moral actions that they shall not be performed ' from inclination'.. It is repeated in contemporary terms by those writers who deny that one moral judgment can be based on anything except another more fundamental moral judgment, on the grounds that no 'is' can entail an 'ought' and that entailment is the only logically respectable relationship between statements. And this position does not need to be attacked any further for my present purposes, for it is obvious that to represent morality in this light is to make it unintelligible as a form of human action. It is to make our moral judgments appear like primitive taboos, imperatives which we just happen to utter. It is to turn ' ought' into a kind of nervous cough with which we accompany what we hope will be the more impressive of our injunctions.

It is especially impoverished when the utilitarian ethics of capitalism assert that individual desires are the guiding principle for what is good.
In each of the historical settings that MacIntyre investigates, he is able to show that the type of justice and the type of rationality which appears to the philosophical spokespeople of the community to be necessary and universal, turns out to be a description of the type of citizens of the community in question. Accordingly, the justice of liberalism and the rationality of liberalism is simply that justice and that rationality of the “citizens of nowhere” (p. 388), the “outsiders,” people lacking in any social obligation or any reason for acting other than to satisfy their desires and to defend the conditions under which they are able to continue satisfying their desires. Their rationality is therefore that of the objects of their desire.

But I think we can combine science with an ethical humanism when we properly reconcile an understanding of human beings and their nature with the world as it is and how we also shape it with an approrpiation of Greek Virtue ethics that asks who we should be instead of what specific behaviour we should follow.
The point is that reflecting against abstract and implausible criteria while carrying out elaborate hypothetical calculations is just not how people actually make decisions. This is not surprising because it would be actually impossible to make decisions in that way and attempts to do so invariably lead to perverse outcomes. It is when two or more rules 5 conflict and we are called upon to decide which rule to prioritize or have to find a creative via media that ethics comes into play at all, and neither consequentialism nor deontology can help us when facing these kind of quandaries. The richness of the vocabulary for virtues and vices – prudence, courage, self-respect, humility, intelligence, intuition, firmness, kindness, fairness, empathy, flexibility, consistency, …. versus carelessness, cowardice, hubris, insensitivity, … – evidences the complexity of the process of determining one’s course of action in difficult situations and the depth of personal character that is called upon to act wisely. For correct decisions we must rely upon the judgment of a person in command of the relevant virtues and is in possession of all the facts. This is why we have judges and juries and we do not simply appoint a clerk to look up the relevant legal provision and read off the verdict. It always requires judgment, and the virtues needed to make a good judgment and carry it through can only be acquired through a moral education in the relevant tradition. Aristotle called the wisdom entailed in knowing how to act in the face of complex and conflicting imperatives phronesis.
Activity Theory is above all a theory of human flourishing. ‘Human flourishing’ is the usual English translation of the Greek word eudemonia, the central concept of Aristotle’s ethics. As a current of scientific thinking, Activity Theory has the great merit that its central concept – ‘collaborative project’, also often referred to as ‘an activity’ – is equally a descriptive, explanatory and normative concept.

‘Human flourishing’ refers to the enjoyment of a good life, something which bears little relation to the consumption of material goods, is little concerned with rights, but rather with the expansion of a person’s capacity for enjoyment. As Aristotle showed, human flourishing is meaningful only in terms of the collaborative creation of a good life for all human beings.

So activity theory is a scientific theory which is simultaneously an ethical theory. We not only see the world as made up of collaborative projects, and use collaborative projects to promote human flourishing, but we also advocate collaboration as the norm for secular life. The way all people ought to deal with one another is to collaborate with each other in projects.

It is on such a basis that Marx was able to criticize capitalism, that from human nature we can criticize how capitalism reduces many to their basest existence in the gap between what is (actuality) and what ought to be (potentiality).
Where we can criticize certain traditions from the position of broader traditions that aren't so abstract in their reduction of reality and humans within it in both conception and the actuality it attempts to realize.
But such a science isn't the source of morality, rather morality is already based in our ways of living rather than mere individual moral oughts.
If we begin from the individual as is common to modern thinkers, we make nonsense of the historical origins and nature of human beings and the actual development of different conceptions of an ethical life.
Sittlichkeit is dierent from Moralität. Moralität begins with Socrates and reaches its high point in Kant. Moralität is individual, rational, and reective morality. It is based upon individual autonomy and personal conviction. One must rationally decide what is moral and do it because it is moral—because our rationality tells us that it is the right thing to do. This rational and reective component is relatively absent in traditional Sittlichkeit, which is best represented, for Hegel, in the Greek polis before the rise of Socratic Moralität. Sittlichkeit is ethical behavior grounded in custom and tradition and developed through habit and imitation in accordance with the laws and practices of the community. Personal reection and analysis have little to do with traditional Sittlichkeit. Sittlichkeit is ethical life built into one's character, attitudes, and feelings.

The individual ought is impotence wishfulness, but when a participant in a way of life we can criticize and change things to varying degrees.
I guess to put it crudely, morality always emerges from a particular means of life. The ideal standards which guide a project/tradition are always present and are never merely the whims of the individual.
Every nationality and every epoch, and likewise every class, possesses its own morality, which is always a product of social psychology. There is the morality of the Hottentot, who, it is said, responds when asked the question, “What do you consider to be good, and what do you consider to be bad?” by declaring, “Good is when I steal a wife; bad is when I'm robbed.”

Moral concepts and ideas vary depending upon the social environment, and what is considered bad at one time and in one place, elsewhere might be considered the greatest of all virtues. And if there are any common feature in all these different manifestations of moral consciousness that can be identified, this is only because certain common elements shared by every human society were once part of the social order.

Thus, from the standpoint of social psychology, ethics must be looked upon as a certain form of social behavior that was established and evolved in the interests of the ruling class, and is different for different classes. This is why there has always existed a morality of the ruler and a morality of slaves, and this is why epochs characterized by crises have represented the greatest crises of morality.

It is said that in the schools of ancient Sparta, children were forced to wait upon a common table while the adults had their meals. A child had to steal something from the table, and he would be punished only if he couldn’t do this, or only if he were caught red-handed. The moral lesson of this experiment was to steal and not get caught. Such an ideal was entirely conditioned by the Communist order of the closed aristocratic society of Sparta, in which concern for property did not constitute the standard of morality, in which stealing, therefore, was not considered a sin, but where force, craftiness, cunning, and composure constituted the ideal of all citizens of Sparta, and where the greatest sin was the inability to deceive someone else and to control one’s emotions.

And from different means of life people universalize their values as the good life for humans in general and as such can challenge other traditions of life as better or worse by their own ideal and by the rival's own ideals.
In fact the new ways of life emerge from criticism of such ideals where the predicament of such living comes into contradiction for a people.
Following Kant (Kant 1929), Hegel said that there were two kinds of knowledge: immediate, intuitive knowledge on one side, and mediated, conceptual knowledge, gained through language and reason, on the other (Hegel 1979). Intuitive knowledge is bottom-up, based on introspection and immediate, sensuous activity using the objects of day-to-day life; conceptual knowledge is top-down knowledge, mediated by language, cultural activity, law enforcement, religious rituals and so on. The point is that at any given point in history, these two forms of consciousness are at odds with one another; the intuitive feeling of what is true and right is at odds with science, law, religion and the whole way the world is run, at any given time. Thus, the unsatisfactory nature of society is present in the consciousness of every individual member of society, in the internal conflicts manifested in the various forms of activity, the contradictions of which are the driving force of history, as Hegel saw it.

The gap between ideals and the actuality give space for people to begin to question such ideals and immanently critique such standards and then seek to objectify a new way of life.
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