Monday, May 23, 2011

Morality is a subtype of logic

A thread courteously started by an anonymous reader over at the James Randi Educational Foundation:

I'm a fan of this forum, first and foremost. It's a good place for skeptics to congregate.

Secondly, I love stuff like this, and hope that more of it happens in the future.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Posted by Vortigern99 in the thread: 
The OP and thread question strike me as a false dilemma and a nonsense question. The two concepts, morality and logic, are not mutually exclusive so there is no compunction to choose one to "replace" the other.

You might as well ask, "Is it possible to replace a banana with a game of Monopoly?" It's nonsensical. 


1. All personal moralities should conform to scientific standards and principles, as all facets of reality stem from or are themselves empirical phenomena; nothing is exempt from this -- not even whether you should be allowed to kill people for fun!

2. "Suffering is bad," while true, isn't the whole story. Value equations are the rest of it; see here.

3. However, there is a profound difference between "Suffering is bad" and "An action which causes suffering is bad." If causing harm in a particular instance negates a greater amount of harm elsewhere, then the potential action -- that is, the action that reduces suffering while in the process causing it to some degree -- is logically "good," while the harm itself is obviously still intrinsically bad in the same sense that circles are round.

4. Whether morality is an "objective" matter is beside the point of the original posts. Regardless of the status of morality as an empirically verifiable tool, it is valid; it's just that its scope is so narrow as to miss the vast majority of that which is "bad" in the universe. Humans are the only entities that we're currently aware of that are capable of being immoral; volcanoes, earthquakes, lions, and the AIDS virus may not be immoral beings, but they cause "bad" -- as far as we can tell.

Posted by mike3 in the thread:
...they seem to be saying we should toss out "morality" ("remove it from our philosophy"), leaving, apparently, only "logic". Does the false-dilemma response apply here?

"Morality" is in quotes in my original passage because I meant the word "morality" -- not the practice of framing things in moral terms. We should ask whether it's logical to rape women for fun -- not whether it's moral. Are both questions basically the same? Yes, but the latter causes us to focus on the human element of the bad parts of the universe, which isn't nearly a fundamental enough focus. I'm merely requesting that the human species update its vocabulary and broaden the scope of its ideals.

P.S.: It's more like asking if it's possible to replace a banana with a piece of fruit.

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