RE: Evil ? (was: Hypostases (was: Natural Order & Belief)

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Tue, 19 Dec 2006 18:56:51 +1100

Bruno Marchal writes:
> > The analogous statements are:
> >
> > a1. umbrellas keep you dry
> > a2. feeding the poor reduces their suffering
> >
> > We can agree on the definition of the words and on the facts asserted.
> > If
> > there is disagreement on the definition, for example if you were
> > thinking of
> > a teapot when you heard the term "umbrella", then it would be a simple
> > matter
> > to show a picture of an umbrella and a teapot and resolve the
> > misunderstanding.
> > If there is a disagreement on whether umbrellas do in fact keep you
> > dry, or
> > whether feeding starving people reduces their suffering, then we could
> > go out
> > into the rain with and without an umbrella or interview a starving
> > person before
> > and after he has been fed, and reach agreement that way.
> >
> > In contrast, consider:
> >
> > b1. we should use umbrellas when going out in the rain
> > b2. we should feed the poor if they are hungry
> >
> > We might expect that most people would agree with these statements.
> > However,
> > if there is disagreement, there is no way to resolve it. I could say
> > that I don't care
> > if I get wet, despite the discomfort, and I don't care if the poor
> > starve, despite the
> > fact that this will cause them suffering. I could even say that I do
> > care about these
> > things, but as part of my personal ethical system I don't believe it
> > is good to use
> > umbrellas or feed the poor.
> That last point is an interesting point, but to be sure it is even more
> going in the direction that there is no normative theory of good/bad.
> So if we are diverging on something it is perhaps that you believe
> there is a normative theory of truth ?
> All we can say is
> c1. IF you want keep yourself dry and if it is raining here and now
> then using an umbrella can help you with such or such probability.
> c2. If you want make that precise poor person less hungry (here and
> now) then by giving him food you will get success with such or such
> probability.
> All right ? (if not elaborate because it would mean I am missing
> something).
That's more or less the point I have been getting at. You can turn normative
statements into descriptive ones by changing "you ought" into "if you want to...
you ought".
> > Moreover, I don't have to justify it in terms of other
> > ethical principles or commandments from God:
> With (a)comp, you have to NOT justify it in terms of God. With comp
> (and God = +/- Plotinus'one) we could justify that any *action* made in
> the name of God is bad, even saving the planet from some attack by
> horrible monster ...
> Witrh comp (and the "ideal" case of self-referentially correct machine)
> it is just impossible for a machine to do something good and at the
> same time telling she is doing something good ... (similar paradoxes
> are illustrate in taoist and buddhist tales).
Any internet references for such tales?
> > what I feel is what I feel, and that's
> > all there is to it.
> Sure.
> > You can try to persuade me that I should feel differently,
> That would be like a dentist asking his patient not to suffer ...
If the feeling is a physical one, yes, but if it an opinion, an ethical belief,
even a desire, peopel can be persuaded: that's what advertising and
propaganda is about.
> > but you
> > can't do this by persuading me that I am wrong in my facts, my
> > reasoning, or that
> > we are defining terms differently.
> OK. If you agree with c1 and c2. (I have added c1 and c2 because the
> "should" can be use in the moral way, and then I agree with you; but it
> can be used in the conditional sense, in which case nuance must be
> added). I mean you cannot both
> 1) believe that umbrellas keep you dry, 2) pretend you want to keep
> yourself dry
> and then go out without umbrellas (assuming all the default
> assumptions, for example, don't give a counterexample like "the problem
> is that my umbrella" is 42 km high .... that would make things out of
> topics.
OK: the problem is when "should" stands as an absolute.
Stathis Papaioannou
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Received on Tue Dec 19 2006 - 02:57:09 PST

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