A proponent of panpsychism argues moral truth is inherent in consciousness

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The Universe Knows Right from Wrong: A proponent of panpsychism argues moral truth is inherent in consciousness.

Phillip Goff

Quote:Some philosophers deny that there can be facts about values. I used to be one of them. But I’ve come to appreciate how claims about objective value infiltrate every aspect of rational thought and action, and because of this I no longer consider the denial of objective value to be a rationally sustainable position.

Quote:Consider the value claims we make in relation to evidence. We say that beliefs should be shaped by evidence and rational argument. This is in itself a claim of objective value; we are saying that someone who ignores evidence is failing to act as they ought. Indeed, the very act of believing involves taking yourself to have good reasons for the belief in question. Because of this, philosophers who argue against objective value, such as Bart Streumer from the University of Groningen, cannot consistently believe their own view. As Streumer concedes, if he believed his own view, he would believe that there are such things as good and bad reasons for belief, which is exactly what his view denies. In other words, the very engagement with rational argument and evidence presupposes facts about value.

Quote:How can the container view help ground moral truth? If we follow Aristotle in grounding moral truth in the goal-directed nature of human beings, then we fail to account for the necessity of moral truths. I propose we ground moral truth in the goal-directed nature of Reality itself. Pleasure is good and suffering is bad because Reality is essentially directed toward the former and away from the latter. Aristotle held that our nature as rational animals means that it is objectively good for us when we act rationally and objectively bad for us when we fail to do so. My proposal is that the inherently directed nature of Reality entails that it’s objectively good for Reality when it manifests as pleasure and objectively bad for Reality when it manifests as pain. And given that all things (whether actual or merely possible) are manifestations of Reality, all things participate in the goal-directed nature of Reality.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(This post was last modified: 2020-10-05, 04:21 PM by Sciborg_S_Patel.)
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Rationality and objectivity have their limitations. Sometimes it is the rebelling against such constraints which leads to something unexpectedly worthwhile. The word unexpected may be key. There are limits on what we know as well as limits on our understanding. It may be that sometimes the only way to progress is by a so-called 'leap in the dark', an action driven by neither logic nor facts.
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Also from the article:


Quote:"Philosophers searching for the ground of moral truth face a dilemma: Should we seek the basis of morality in a supernatural realm, or in the contingent world of space and time? The ancient Greek philosopher Plato took the former option, postulating “the Good”—or goodness itself—as an entity beyond space and time. Platonism about ethics is still a popular option, but its advocates face a deep problem accounting for moral knowledge. How is it that we creatures in space and time are able to access transcendent moral entities and gain moral knowledge?"


I prefer Platonism and a supernatural realm as to the issue of morality. The answer to the above question is that we are not only creatures of space and time. We are primarily creatures of a higher spiritual realm of existence in which the absolute moral principles are grounded. These principles are therefore part of our basic nature. Who or what established these principles is above our pay grade.
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I think Philip's on the right track here, but he is (in my view) still over-complicating things. Yes, morality is inherent in consciousness, but we don't need that consciousness in which morality is inherent to be a panpsychic "Reality" with a teleological direction, as per:

Philip Goff Wrote:Pleasure is good and suffering is bad because Reality is essentially directed toward the former and away from the latter.

No: objectively, pleasure is good, and, objectively, suffering is bad (all other things being equal, as Philip wisely cautions), by definition - any average conscious being can tell you that, without having to recur to a conscious, teleological Reality with an uppercase R.

If somebody challenges you to explain why he or she ought not to cause others to suffer, it suffices to kick him or her in the shins*, and say "Feel that? That's why not. The feelings of others from an objective perspective are no more nor less important than yours. Therefore, since you know how suffering feels, and would not want others to cause it to you, you ought not to cause it to them."

What does not suffice as an answer to that challenge is, "Consult the Platonic realm, my friend. There you shall find the answer." That's not going to help anybody understand anything. Likewise, what does not suffice as an answer to that challenge is, "Because God said so. And that's that." Your challenger is going to be left wondering why God said so, or whether what God proscribed was arbitrary, which he or she will intuitively know it could not have been.

OK, but what if somebody else then challenges you with, "But David Hume said you can't get an ought from an is"? All you need to affirm to him or her is that we don't need to, because the basic moral propositions are true simply in virtue of their meaning, including the meanings of the words which make them up. Much like we don't need to prove nor deduce the claim that "Red is a colour," we don't need to prove nor deduce (derive from a series of "is" premises) such basic moral claims as, "We ought not to cause suffering to others."

The next possibility then is that somebody challenges you with, "While I accept that that statement is true in virtue of its meaning, and that the word 'suffering' has real-word referents, I deny that the word 'ought' has any real-world referent. Moral 'obligation' does not exist 'out there' even though it has a conventional meaning which most people think does pick out something in the real world."

In that case, simply observe that person for an extended period of time. You will probably find that despite his or her claim that moral obligation does not exist in the real world, he or she behaves as though it does. As they say, "Actions speak louder than words", and in that case, your challenger has "spoken loudly".

But let's say that he or she does not behave as though moral obligation exists: in that case, we still need not accede to his or her challenge; he or she more likely than not is simply actively choosing to ignore his or her moral obligations. In this case, he or she is more likely than not to be at least anti-social if not dangerous, and should probably be isolated from the rest of society so as to minimise the suffering he or she causes.

Philip Goff Wrote:It is broadly agreed that (all things being equal) pleasure is good and pain is bad, and that (all things being equal) knowledge is good and ignorance bad. Of course, there is also divergence in moral views, and it’s a challenge for any believer in objective value to explain this.

Here, in the bit I've emboldened, I think that Philip falls into the same trap that Sam Harris does: the black-and-white thinking that if there are objectively true moral claims, then every moral claim must be objectively true. I think instead that whilst the big and broad moral principles are objectively true, as we "flesh out" those big and broad moral principles - that is, stipulate how to apply them in more and more specific situations - the exercise of legitimately subjective individual values becomes more of a factor.

For example: I don't think that there is a wholly objective answer to the moral question, "If person A accidentally damages the property of person B, who ought to be responsible for repairing the damage?" In today's Western societies, it seems obvious that the answer is "person A", but if you think about it, you can probably come up with good reasons why "person B," or, "split 50-50 between persons A and B," are equally legitimate answers, among a variety of possible others (e.g., "the collective in the guise of a tax-collecting State") - and different people might legitimately choose different answers to this question based on legitimately differing subjective moral values.

I like that Philip has come up with an argument that avoids the more unsustainable approaches to moral grounding, but I don't think he's hit on the simplest - and correct - answer just yet.

* [ETA: Pedantic note: I'm obviously not seriously suggesting kicking other people in the shins - that's simply for rhetorical effect.]
(This post was last modified: 2020-10-17, 05:07 PM by Laird.)
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(2020-10-17, 04:52 PM)Laird Wrote: If somebody challenges you to explain why he or she ought not to cause others to suffer, it suffices to kick him or her in the shins*, and say "Feel that? That's why not. The feelings of others from an objective perspective are no more nor less important than yours. Therefore, since you know how suffering feels, and would not want others to cause it to you, you ought not to cause it to them."
That seems to make sense. But it clearly is incomplete. Plenty of people choose to take actions which they know will cause suffering to others. Some take pleasure in doing so. The explanation of why it is 'wrong' takes a bit more. The idea that the feelings of everyone should carry equal weight is at first sight, only a postulate or hypothesis, rather than something which is known.

I think to close that gap there needs to be some connectedness, one need not specify how or why, but in some way there needs to be some link between individuals.

The nature of that connectedness is a topic in its own right, I think.
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(2020-10-17, 06:50 PM)Typoz Wrote: That seems to make sense.

I'm glad you think so.

(2020-10-17, 06:50 PM)Typoz Wrote: But it clearly is incomplete.

Here, I disagree.

(2020-10-17, 06:50 PM)Typoz Wrote: Plenty of people choose to take actions which they know will cause suffering to others. Some take pleasure in doing so.

Yes, some people choose an easy and pleasurable selfishness over adherence to moral obligation. That doesn't mean that moral obligation is not... well, obligatory... just that some people renege on their moral obligations.

(2020-10-17, 06:50 PM)Typoz Wrote: The explanation of why it is 'wrong' takes a bit more.

I don't think so, but I'm open to considering your reasoning as to why:

(2020-10-17, 06:50 PM)Typoz Wrote: The idea that the feelings of everyone should carry equal weight is at first sight, only a postulate or hypothesis, rather than something which is known.

I think there is a very good reason to accept that postulate though: consciousness is consciousness is consciousness; a feeling is a feeling is a feeling - no matter who the self of that consciousness is; no matter who is feeling that feeling. How could it be otherwise?

(2020-10-17, 06:50 PM)Typoz Wrote: I think to close that gap there needs to be some connectedness, one need not specify how or why, but in some way there needs to be some link between individuals.

I don't. In fact, I find the idea that moral obligations only hold if we are in some supernatural/paranormal/extended way connected to those to whom we are obligated to be flawed in the same way that I find the idea that we should only be moral because it affords us entry into heaven to be flawed.

I think that type of connection (as opposed to the "everyday" connectedness of "what I do affects others") is morally irrelevant. All that is morally relevant is that we are interacting with another feeling conscious being whose feelings we can affect.
Here I'm not sure whether there is logic or belief uppermost. Certainly there may be ideas which cause disquiet. But maybe that is because things we trust may be undermined, the feeling of uncertainty should our foundations give way may be an obstacle to what one might term objectivity.
Firstly, it seems that you are criticising me, Typoz, in which case I do wish you'd personalise your criticism rather than obliquely depersonalise and objectify it. If I were to try to interpret you in the terms in which I wish you'd write, my interpretation might go something like this:

"Laird, I am not sure whether you are primarily using logic or merely succumbing to belief. Certainly, some of the ideas I've presented may cause you disquiet, but maybe that is because my ideas undermine the things you (merely) trust. And maybe the feeling of uncertainty that would arise in you if you allowed my ideas to shatter your foundations (as, I, Typoz, suggest they rightly do) is an obstacle to you being objective."

Is that a fair interpretation?

Secondly, I wish that you would address the actual points I made, rather than allude to some sort of "undermining" of my position which you seem to think you have achieved, and to some sort of "illogical" lack of "objectivity" on my part, and my wallowing in (mere) "belief". If you have undermined my position, then how so, and how does my response to that supposed undermining (which I do not believe has occurred) fail? If I am being illogical and unobjective, then how so?
(This post was last modified: 2020-10-17, 08:04 PM by Laird.)
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(2020-10-17, 04:52 PM)Laird Wrote: I think Philip's on the right track here, but he is (in my view) still over-complicating things. Yes, morality is inherent in consciousness, but we don't need that consciousness in which morality is inherent to be a panpsychic "Reality" with a teleological direction, as per:


No: objectively, pleasure is good, and, objectively, suffering is bad (all other things being equal, as Philip wisely cautions), by definition - any average conscious being can tell you that, without having to recur to a conscious, teleological Reality with an uppercase R.

If somebody challenges you to explain why he or she ought not to cause others to suffer, it suffices to kick him or her in the shins*, and say "Feel that? That's why not. The feelings of others from an objective perspective are no more nor less important than yours. Therefore, since you know how suffering feels, and would not want others to cause it to you, you ought not to cause it to them."

What does not suffice as an answer to that challenge is, "Consult the Platonic realm, my friend. There you shall find the answer." That's not going to help anybody understand anything. Likewise, what does not suffice as an answer to that challenge is, "Because God said so. And that's that." Your challenger is going to be left wondering why God said so, or whether what God proscribed was arbitrary, which he or she will intuitively know it could not have been.

Reality has no obligation to help us to understand anything, much less morality, or even to make there exist an explanation that is understandable to human beings. Therefore the failure of one point of view to foster logically understanding morality (suggesting that it is "programmed in" to reality by higher powers) is no argument against this point of view.

Ultimately, a utilitarian approach saying that morality logically derives from and evolved from the basic nature of consciousness still ultimately appeals to whatever unknowable powers originated (human) consciousness itself and determined what properties it would have.

And the utilitarian approach doesn't explain the evolution of higher emotions such as compassion and kindness and love.

The utilitarian approach appears to suggest that morality evolved in human beings because it minimized suffering and maximized pleasure, and this approach suggests that the strong feeling that certain moral rules objectively exist and are very much the way things "ought" to be are part of this evolved complex. Unfortunately, this mindset doesn't encompass the whole realm of spirit. Assuming for the moment that all the manifold empirical evidences and philosophical arguments are valid for the existence of a spiritual realm and an afterlife to which human beings transition on physical death, it would make much more sense if moral rules such as the enjoinment to foster kindness, compassion and love originate in the basic nature of spirit. The source of this would probably be unknowable by man.

If man's consciousness originates in and returns to the realm of spirit and exists in that realm as the soul, then the utilitarian theory of morality would have us believe that the soul inherently had no compassion, kindness and love and had to learn these ways of thinking and feeling through Earth experience. Well, that seems just remotely imaginable, but isn't very likely in my estimation.
(2020-10-17, 08:02 PM)Laird Wrote: Firstly, it seems that you are criticising me, Typoz, in which case I do wish you'd personalise your criticism rather than obliquely depersonalise and objectify it.

No. I apologise for the ambiguity in my post. I hadn't intended to cause offence.

Actually I was considering my own thoughts as well as yours, any criticism was directed as much at myself as at anyone else. Again I can only apologise for that.

What I wanted to add, not in response, but as an illustration of my own thinking is this. I personally don't find rationality to be helpful for myself in understanding these matters. I'm very much a hands-on, get-your-hands-dirty sort of person. I've learned so much from my experiences as I go through this life. For years I was wrestling with stuff lingering from past-life troubles. But at some point I got myself into a situation which caused pain for myself and hurt other people too. You cannot believe how overjoyed I was, it was an immense relief to realise that at last my life was in my own hands. I was actually responsible for something! Yes, I'd made a mess, but I was directly the cause of that mess.

That was years ago now, but since then I've learned more and more from interactions with other people, observing cause and effect. Often the effect is taking place out of sight, somewhere on the other side of the world, as I interact with people in different countries. Often there is no physical evidence, but I get direct feedback, I feel the emotions of other people, where they are particularly intense. That means  I feel joy occasionally, and pain and distress too.

That is one reason why I have over the years reduced my involvement in online debates and discussions, there is often a whirlpool of emotions going on. Of course one might argue that it needn't be so, people can engage without melodrama. Nevertheless, it has caused a reduction in my postings. I just enjoy the tranquillity of existing without all of that.

So yes, there is logic, I observe cause and effect. But I don't try to rationalise too much.
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