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Author Topic: Natural law and morals  (Read 4077 times)

J’raxis 270145

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Re: Natural law and morals
« Reply #15 on: April 21, 2008, 12:11 PM NHFT »

But then again, a cynic might say that your desire to prevent violence is personal preference.  ;)

I seem to remember that this sort of moral relativism—that all morals are just personal or cultural beliefs—came up somewhere in the pages of debate I linked to there. And the argument that came up was that non-aggression could be established, perhaps, as a universal moral principle since it already nearly is accepted, to some extent, and in some form or another, by every society. (No one really accepts it completely, or consistently, of course, which is why we still have the mess that we do, heh.)

[And actually, my desire is to prevent aggression. I have no desire to prevent violence (that’s just another word for force), and would in fact encourage people to use such if aggression is being committed against them.]
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Caleb

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Re: Natural law and morals
« Reply #16 on: April 21, 2008, 12:15 PM NHFT »

Ok, I'll fix it. A cynic might say that your desire to prevent aggression is personal preference.

You can't appeal to, "well, a lot of people share my preference" to make it a moral absolute. If everyone in the whole world loves chocolate ice cream, that doesn't make chocolate ice cream a moral absolute.
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memenode

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Re: Natural law and morals
« Reply #17 on: April 21, 2008, 12:37 PM NHFT »

Yeah, what Caleb is saying is in big part why I am hesitant in taking the non-aggression principle as an absolute objective or universal moral. I'll clarify a bit.

As I see it (and have expressed in the original post), the laws of nature are all the factors which are beyond human control. This obviously also means that everything that IS under human control no longer belongs to the realm of laws of nature and therefore cannot be considered objective before they are considered subjective. Consider the simple scenario where you believe that throwing yourself off the building wont actually hurt you, and do this and then die. Laws of nature, as something you can't control, caused you to die - they were unchangeable by your thought alone. So while you can change your thoughts you can't change reality.

Non-coercion principle, by the mere fact that one can change his mind about it is hardly an absolute reality. However, just as one who thought that throwing himself off the building wont harm him yet he ended up dead so changing your mind about non-coercion and acting upon such a belief will end with adverse consequences for you more likely than not.

This is why I'm saying it's a subjective moral, but one which is more likely to be accepted by majority of people as they come to understand the inescapable consequences of doing otherwise.

Cheers
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dalebert

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Re: Natural law and morals
« Reply #18 on: April 21, 2008, 03:42 PM NHFT »

This is why I'm saying it's a subjective moral, but one which is more likely to be accepted by majority of people as they come to understand the inescapable consequences of doing otherwise.

I think that's what it comes down to. What rights can you have without the right to life? Self defense is something that comes naturally to just about every living thing on this planet. Caleb believes in life after death. I don't. I abhor violence, but if it comes down to defending my life, I'll be really surprised if an animal instinct doesn't kick in. At that point, I'm not going to be analyzing the morality of the situation. There's that old expression- better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6. The principle applies. That's why I see self defense as part of natural law.
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memenode

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Re: Natural law and morals
« Reply #19 on: April 21, 2008, 05:57 PM NHFT »

If you can choose not to defend yourself then it doesn't fit the "factors not under human control" definition of laws of nature and in that sense isn't natural law. BUT, considering that pretty much everyone does defend themselves, and we're probably talking about 99.99% of humans (I guess the only exception is Gandhi and his little cult of total pacifists :D ) then it may be considered a de-facto natural law.

Even so though, self-defense includes merely defensive force, not initiation of force. I think that less people would refrain from initiated force than refrain from defensive force. Still, that merely compels me to treat it as a subjective moral rather than a natural law. I still believe that the likelihood of someone initiating force in a stateless society is much much lower than the likelihood of it happening in a state-governed society - because, ya know.. that's what state actually is - inevitably. There's simply no argument there. :)

And of course, another reason is that initiating force puts you in a greater state of risk for your life and liberty too (as you mentioned), which is another incentive not to initiate force (same one as the incentive to defend yourself).

Cheers
« Last Edit: April 21, 2008, 06:00 PM NHFT by gu3st »
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John Edward Mercier

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Re: Natural law and morals
« Reply #20 on: April 22, 2008, 07:39 AM NHFT »

Humans are NOT separate from nature... they are a subset.
'Fight or Flight' is a well known reactionary response to perceived danger.

The iniation of force is generally based on emotional factors... and in higher thought is subject to risk/reward assessment. The 'Art of War' is still read by business majors.



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J’raxis 270145

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Re: Natural law and morals
« Reply #21 on: April 23, 2008, 02:57 AM NHFT »

Ok, I'll fix it. A cynic might say that your desire to prevent aggression is personal preference.

You can't appeal to, "well, a lot of people share my preference" to make it a moral absolute. If everyone in the whole world loves chocolate ice cream, that doesn't make chocolate ice cream a moral absolute.

Sure I can. ;)

Like I said earlier, I consider “immorality” to be nothing more than a disagreeable action that someone engages in that warrants counteraction—things such as defense, and perhaps prevention and/or punishment. And “morality” of course would be nothing other than not engaging in such action. So long as you don’t do bad stuff, you’re living morally. Doing good stuff is good of course, but not required. There are no positive obligations.

And, as you know, I’m an atheist: I believe morality comes from human beings and human beings alone, nothing more.* No one is telling us what to do other than ourselves; there is no higher power or “absolute” anything guiding us. And so, how do we discover absolute or universal morality? We look for those things that are universally believed in to be disagreeable acts that warrant counteraction. If any such thing could be established to truly be believed by every single person alive, I could and would consider such a thing to be a moral absolute.

Of course, in most circumstances, the only way to establish such a thing would be to literally query every single person alive as to whether or not they believe in it—if you find one person who doesn’t, then it’s not universal. (This same exhaustive-search craziness came up in that thread, too, with respect to Jason trying to prove that there was no such thing as a six-year-old who had the mental capacity of an adult. I’m starting to think everything came up in that damned thread…)

However, forget about that! You can establish non-aggression as being something believed in by every single person alive simply by looking at the definition. Aggression means initiating force against someone: It means killing someone against their will, or harming them or taking something from them against there will, and so on.

And if something is against their will, obviously they think it’s disagreeable, and warrants counteraction—otherwise it wouldn’t be against their will, and thus couldn’t be considered aggression.

It’s all very tautological.

Now of course, there are many, many societies, including our own, in which acts of aggression by certain classes (e.g., the State and its agents) against another are tolerated, but this doesn’t mean they’re accepted—people against whom such actions are being committed certainly find them disagreeable, and certainly would like to take counteraction, they simply don’t out of fear or resignation.

Everyone believes in non-aggression. Where people seem to fall down is that the vast majority don’t apply it consistently. Everyone believes in non-aggression with respect to themselves. For most, with respect to others… well, see the previous paragraph about tolerating what the State and its agents do.


* If you’re familiar with the field of lexicography, there are two camps of sorts: Proscriptive lexicographers and descriptive lexicographers. Proscriptive lexicographers believe there is a “correct” way in which people ought to speak the language. Descriptive lexicographers believe that their job is simply to catalogue how people actually speak. Perhaps you could describe my approach to human morality as “descriptive morality” instead of “proscriptive morality.”
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dalebert

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Re: Natural law and morals
« Reply #22 on: April 23, 2008, 06:51 AM NHFT »

Morality is universally subjective but can be objective within a certain context. For instance, I see property and slavery as being objectively paradoxical to each other. It doesn't mean you can't be for one or the other, but you can't be for both 100% because they are mutually exclusive in principle. So morality I think can be defined objectively within the context of civilized society, though even that is based on our terms of what civilized society is.

Example: If your goal is to reach destination X and you're on a flat plane with nothing obstructing your path, then in that context, you can objectively say that going toward X is "better" than going away from X. Someone might logically argue that X isn't the goal and whether it is a subjective goal. However, if you can agree on the goal (the subjective context) then you can come to objective conclusions based on rational thinking. For instance, you cannot both go toward X and be going away from X in this context. That is a paradox.
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John Edward Mercier

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Re: Natural law and morals
« Reply #23 on: April 23, 2008, 08:38 AM NHFT »

Non-aggression wouldn't make much sense for a professional assassin... they operate on risk/reward.
Thus 'non-aggression' is not a universal.

Maximizing one's perceived value may be. As even the most charitable individuals do so mostly for some emotional public response  or some perceived gain in an afterlife.

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memenode

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Re: Natural law and morals
« Reply #24 on: April 23, 2008, 01:43 PM NHFT »

Quote from: John Edward Mercier
Humans are NOT separate from nature... they are a subset.

I agree. I don't think being able to manipulate some things in nature makes them less part of nature itself. It's just one of the natural properties of human beings. But given the context of what human being can or cannot do it seems logical to say that laws of nature are those which we are subject to whether we want it or not, those which we cannot affect in any way. Everything that we can manipulate, however, introduces the human factor to those natural laws and such actions can therefore no longer be considered natural, but human induced consequences.

Quote from: J’raxis 270145
And if something is against their will, obviously they think it’s disagreeable, and warrants counteraction—otherwise it wouldn’t be against their will, and thus couldn’t be considered aggression.

That's a very good point. I suppose this is an effective argument in favor of the conclusion that everyone "subjectively" agrees with non-coercion which makes it a de-facto objective truth as well.

Quote from: dalebert
Morality is universally subjective but can be objective within a certain context.

I agree. It also fits with what J'raxis said above. I suppose just like you first have to have an individual before you can have a social group (therefore making individualism more fundamental to socialism) in this case we first test a theory for subjective thinking and then see if it can be made objective. It appears that non-coercion can.

It's actually the same strategy used to determine the distinction between natural laws (hence inescapable) and human decisions (hence always relative to the individual applying them). Can an individual human subjectively change a given factor that affects his thought and action? If the answer is no then that factor is a natural law. If the answer is yes then the "truth" in question is relative to the human individual.

Quote from: John Edward Mercier
Non-aggression wouldn't make much sense for a professional assassin... they operate on risk/reward.
Thus 'non-aggression' is not a universal.

Well, there you successfully question the objectivity of the truth of non-aggression. I think at that point it may be worth asking whether he is really disagreeing with non-aggression? The very reason acting aggressively is seen by the assassin as a "risk" may indicate that he does not want to be aggressed upon, but given his circumstances is willing to risk that by aggressing on others. In this sense we could say that non-aggression IS an objective principle - it's just that some people choose to break it and suffer the risks/consequences associated.

I still, just to be clear, haven't entirely made up my mind whether to consider non-coercion as objective/universal/natural law or just a subjective moral held by most people. Just exploring the issue. But I feel I'm getting closer to seeing it as an objective "held by all" moral, mostly based on what J'raxis says above..
« Last Edit: April 23, 2008, 01:46 PM NHFT by gu3st »
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John Edward Mercier

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Re: Natural law and morals
« Reply #25 on: April 24, 2008, 10:36 AM NHFT »

By definition a Law of Nature would be a universal constant, or at the very least one that has not been disproven and has substancial support.
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dalebert

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Re: Natural law and morals
« Reply #26 on: April 24, 2008, 12:47 PM NHFT »

By definition a Law of Nature would be a universal constant, or at the very least one that has not been disproven and has substancial support.

I think when people are talking about natural law, they're referring to concepts that developed naturally as part of the evolution of the human race as a social creature. That's what I mean by it. Ideas like the right to life, liberty, and property developed as very effective traits key to the success of our species. They are not laws of nature per se like gravity or the conservation of mass, but they developed naturally and have inherent logical value as a favorable trait to be chosen by natural selection. In time, I would expect non-aggressive, cooperative people (who nonetheless stand up for their own rights) to survive better than criminals leading to more civilized and therefore prosperous societies in the future because it makes sense. There are species that developed to be incredibly self-sufficient where it doesn't necessarily make sense for them, like alligators. Intelligence is only part of the equation for human success. Cooperation is another big part, and respecting rights is a key part of more effective cooperation.
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John Edward Mercier

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Re: Natural law and morals
« Reply #27 on: April 25, 2008, 09:04 AM NHFT »

'Natural Law' is a misnomer of social morality based in philosophy.
The term suggests a universal constant, but has been debated with inclusions and exclusions for quite some time. The basic of greed/fear is understood, but beyond that the dynamic is to obtuse to accomodate a universal constant.

Cooperation is important, but its fluid.


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dalebert

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Re: Natural law and morals
« Reply #28 on: April 25, 2008, 09:29 AM NHFT »

The term suggests a universal constant, ...

No, the term itself only suggests that it's natural. I specifically said it's not universal or constant and can only be objectively examined within a certain context. I don't know. You didn't quote, but the timing of your response makes it appear that it's a response to me but perhaps it's directed elsewhere. I agree that it's fluid, particularly when applied to real situations. That's why it will always be debated and that's why there will always be a need for effective dispute resolution if we want to live in a peaceful society. It's also why I'm against unnatural law. While natural law is open to debate, unnatural law is very clear and easy to define by it's arbitrary nature of "It's the law because I say so or because condition x, which I pulled out of my ass, has been satisfied."
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John Edward Mercier

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Re: Natural law and morals
« Reply #29 on: April 25, 2008, 10:04 AM NHFT »

A Law in science is a universal constant... its not supposed to be fluid.
The term was more likely used first by someone wishing to establish their hypothesis as being unquestionable. They more likely gathered circumstancial evidence based on observation of their immediate scope of knowledge... and should have termed it Natural Theory... but went for the big one.



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