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Philosophical Issues (Extended Cognition p. 5)

Posted Jul 3, '13 at 3:01pm

MageGrayWolf

MageGrayWolf

9,676 posts

Knight

In other words, why seek out someone who knows when you could seek out someone who has all true beliefs?

Though wouldn't the person asking the question have to have knowledge that the believers beliefs were factual? This knowledge could either come prior to asking the question or confirming the beliefs validity once a question was asked, which would result in knowledge. In this sense the true belief would be hollow with out knowledge from at least one party as no one would know it is true.

 

Posted Jul 4, '13 at 12:15am

Maverick4

Maverick4

3,707 posts

Because justifying true belief is the epistemological equivalent of preaching to the choir.

In this case, the justification has no value because  it does nothing to change the outcome that results from the true belief. To go back on your example involving directions to Rome, suppose I ask an individual for directions who has a true belief on how to get their (supposing Swampman is in Italy :P) from Venice. I obey his directions and get to Rome, then eventually go back to tell the individual that I got to Rome using his directions. The justification that his directions are correct is worthless, as not only were they correct, but he wouldn't have gicen them to me if they weren't correct.

To put it another way, we say that the numeral one has value because you can add it to another numeral and change the outcome of the operation:

1 = 1

1 + 1 = 2

Justification in regards to true belief has no value, because the justification has no affect on what the outcome of the operation winds up being.

True Belief = Correct Outcome

True Belief + Justification = (The Same) Correct Outcome

 

Posted Jul 4, '13 at 11:57am

Moegreche

Moegreche

2,801 posts

Moderator

Though wouldn't the person asking the question have to have knowledge that the believers beliefs were factual?

Hehe, yeah you're right. This starts to get into some really heavy epistemology which might not be fun for most people. Since this involves an agent's beliefs about beliefs, it changes the nature of the question quite a bit.
Your thoughts on this make me wonder whether philosophers are so stuck in a particular way of thinking about things that they just can't access these common sense kinds of thoughts on the subject. Though even this new way of thinking just tries to sidestep the question.
Maybe to answer the question properly we need to clarify what kind of knowledge we're talking about (testimonial, a priori, a posteriori, even intuitions) before we can even start to give an answer.

In this case, the justification has no value because  it does nothing to change the outcome that results from the true belief.

That's a really interesting point. When Socrates thought about the problem he thought that knowledge had practical value over mere true belief. I've never bought into that and I don't know of anyone who actually holds that view. But your point just smashes Socrates to little philosophical bits!

This whole debate is actually part of a much, much larger debate concerning the nature of knowledge. It's widely held that there are 2 desiderata (requirements) that a theory of knowledge should meet. First, it should get the cases right - so ascribe knowledge when there is knowledge and withhold when there's not. Second, a theory of knowledge should account for its value. The real problem is getting a theory of knowledge that can do both of those things. It should be pretty clear from the discussion so far why this is the case :)

But perhaps this initial topic is just too heavy - there are just soooo many moving pieces. And Maverick4 has made an excellent suggestion for another topic dealing with ethics.

So what do you guys think? Has this epistemology question runs its course, or should we keep hammering away? Or maybe this thread just isn't working :)

 

Posted Jul 4, '13 at 2:29pm

MageGrayWolf

MageGrayWolf

9,676 posts

Knight

Maybe to answer the question properly we need to clarify what kind of knowledge we're talking about (testimonial, a priori, a posteriori, even intuitions) before we can even start to give an answer.

That may depend on the nature of the question being asked.

Though maybe we should move on to a new topic to keep things fresh.

 

Posted Jul 4, '13 at 3:23pm

Moegreche

Moegreche

2,801 posts

Moderator

Okay then! This question was suggested by Maverick4 and it has to with Ethics.

The question is: What kind of ethical system is stronger: deontological theories or consequentialist theories?

I guess some definitions are in order.
Deontology: theories that determine right and wrong based on the nature of the action; that is, it's something about the act itself that makes it good or bad
The SEP article

Consequentialism: theories that determine right and wrong based on the consequences of an action; if it has positive consequences then it's good, if it has negative consequences then it's bad
SEP article on consequentialism

*Only read those SEP articles if you're super interested. Just a basic understanding of these theories will be enough for a good discussion.

For our purposes, the stronger theory will do a better job telling us which of the following 4 categories an act fits into:

(1) Morally impermissible: these are acts that the ethical theory forbids, such as murder or theft; the bad things. Doing these acts results in a negative moral judgement.

(2) Morally permissible: these are acts that aren't forbidden, but aren't required either. So, ordinary mundane tasks like shutting the door or eating a raisin would fall into here. There might also be 'bad' acts that are permitted - such as stealing a loaf of bread to feed one's family (even though stealing is wrong). These acts (usually) confer no moral judgement.

(3) Morally obligatory: These are acts that are required, for example saving a drowning child. Failing to do these acts results in a negative moral judgement.

(4) Morally superogatory: Think of these as 'super hero' acts. So jumping in front a train to save someone or donating a huge amount of cash to charities. Doing these acts confers moral praise - but failing to do them results in no judgement.

There's a lot more to say, but I'll leave it at that. Both views have their problems, but which one is stronger (by our current definition)?

 

Posted Jul 4, '13 at 5:41pm

MageGrayWolf

MageGrayWolf

9,676 posts

Knight

One thing that stands out right away. Using the example of theft. We have it as both permissible and impermissible. This can be applied to any act really given the situation. So doesn't that go against the idea that an act by nature is right or wrong? Again using the example of stealing, if it were wrong by nature it would be wrong regardless of the situation. Further more the idea is subjective. Someone might still find stealing bread to feed ones family wrong. This would seem to give weight to the consequence of the act rather than the act itself.

Though measuring the level of harm vs. the level of positive effects can also be subjective in nature.

 

Posted Jul 5, '13 at 12:39pm

Zahz

Zahz

48 posts

Oh. We're done with the knowledge thing? Darn. I had stuff to jabber on about. On to ethics then: The answer as it seems to me to the question of the strength of the two systems of ethics above (To clarify I'm going to talk about morality and ethics interchangeably even though they aren't in the hopes of making any ethicists in the room twitchy.) is that neither is more strong than the other because neither of them have the proverbial leg to stand on. As the esteemed MGW has pointed out above code based nature of the act morality falls into the twofold trap of never ever accounting for every situation, one could in principle conceive of such a code of course but that brings me to the next part of the trap, at no point does this nature of the act make itself evident. Put simply good acts don't justify themselves anymore than evil acts demonize themselves save in axiomatic fashion. To use the theft example: stealing is bad. Fine, for the moment we'll accept that. Stealing to live on the other hand is good. Wrong! In the words of a certain mountain man to a certain archer concerning a boar: Why did you defend yourself? You would only have died! Indeed it seems that any code based system falls into consequentialism in this way unless they go all dharma on us in which case our example of theft is both good and bad and everyone just has to live with it. But that offends my binary sensibilities.

The purely utilitarian (using that word in a much broader sense than I should but hey, internet.) view fails for much the same reason. At no point do the good or bad results justify the action not at least because of the inherent relativism involved that MGW pointed out. Indeed it seems that any utilitarian theory must by nature slide into nature of the result moral systems and we're back in Kantian good-or-evil-for-it's-own-sake territory. At least I think that was Kant. Anyway, the big problem is not the relative moral value of the results of any action. That can be axiomatic if it needs to be (it does). The problem arises in that the action is not and cannot be judged by the consequences of said action because they are simply not connected to each other in any relevant sense and wow proving the negative is hard but I'm going to try. Think of it like this: Ignore everything you've ever learned about action and reaction and consequence and result and linear function of experience and then tell me why the results of an action shed any light on the morality of an action. Can't do it. Trust me. I've tried. It's an axiom too. That means we got more layers of axioms on this side and more numerous axioms on the other. I guess that also... means nothing at all. Great. I uh... I guess the daoists are right again. But thems be drinkin' thoughts and I try not to think those unless I have enough vodka on hand to wash away the stench of existentialism.

Pertaining to the knowledge thing: Knowledge and justification aren't things, empiricism fails, value ain't a thing either, and truth values aren't always binary. Oh crap the daoists are right everybody drink.

 

Posted Jul 5, '13 at 6:47pm

Maverick4

Maverick4

3,707 posts

Something I thought I'd throw out:

I won't speak for other countries, since I don't live in them (even though most others would apply) but the justice system in the US is a very prime example of Deontological Ethics in action. Why? Because the entire practice of determining an individual's guilt or innocence is based on Mens Rea. If the mind was not guilty when the crime was committed (IE, the individual had no intent to commit the crime), then the individual is not guilty of commiting any crime. The difference between homicide and man slaughter is this one minute detail.

Food for thought really.

As for the question, I support a more consequentialist take on things. Not in so much as Deontology has its perks, but more because any action committed without regards to its consequences is a very poor way of determining what ought to be done. For example, suppose a runner was given the choice between two marathons. Upon completing the first marathon, the runner would get nothing. Upon the completing of the second marathon 500 dollars would be donated to a charity. The runner can only choose one marathon to run. If the marathon is to be run, then its more advantegeous for the second marathon to be run; the runner can bring about more collective good by completing the second race rather than the first. He gets all the health benefits of exercise, plus helps out a noble cause.

Pose the same question, but this time completing the first race results in a puppy being killed, and the second a donation to charity. Again, the second race is better to run because more collective good occurs as a result of the action. I suppose now would be a good time to go into whether or not hedonism can justify the commiting of actions, but I suppose that should be saved for later.

Of course, consequentialism has its faults. If a cure for every disease could be found, but you had to kill one person to recieve it, should it be done? Deontology would say no; the commiting of even one "bad" act (killing) is never justified. On the other hand, consequentialists would say yes, as the collective good in the system is being raised by the removal of all disease. IN this regard, consequentialism can be used to justify the commiting of morally repulsive acts, so long as the ultimate ending is the raising of the collective good.

And more food for thought: To really answer this question, a rather consequentialist approach has to be taken: We're deciding which system is the most good, most of the time. ^^

 

Posted Jul 6, '13 at 12:52pm

Moegreche

Moegreche

2,801 posts

Moderator

Using the example of theft. We have it as both permissible and impermissible. This can be applied to any act really given the situation. So doesn't that go against the idea that an act by nature is right or wrong?

When we think about the nature of the act, there are lots of things that we consider. It's not just a state of affairs that occurs in isolation. So from a deontological point of view, we might look at the agent's motives, whether the rights of any other people were violated, whether there was moral justification for the act, and so on. There are lots of flavours of deontological theories out there, but they all consider a wealth of things beyond just an isolated event.

Again using the example of stealing, if it were wrong by nature it would be wrong regardless of the situation.

This could be the case, but there's going to have to be a bit more to the story. A good ethical theory will tell us whether something is impermissible, but it should also offer a story as to why this is the case.

Put simply good acts don't justify themselves anymore than evil acts demonize themselves save in axiomatic fashion.

I think I see what you're getting at here, but the notion of an act conferring justification on itself is very strange. Now I think you're right to challenge whether we can ever genuinely have access to the nature of an act, but this doesn't stop us from making an assessment on a theoretical level. So if you want to show that neither theory has a leg to stand on, you'd need cases that demonstrate that both of them get a commensurable amount of things wrong. But if you were to use cases that are vague (thus bringing out the opacity of the nature of an act) you'd be charged with presenting cases that are just underdescribed. The challenge would come back to you to provide a compelling case with an adequate description that undermines one or the other of these theories.

Indeed it seems that any utilitarian theory must by nature slide into nature of the result moral systems and we're back in Kantian good-or-evil-for-it's-own-sake territory.

I can't quite tell what you're getting at here. It looks like it could be compelling, but I'm just not following.

Ignore everything you've ever learned about action and reaction and consequence and result and linear function of experience and then tell me why the results of an action shed any light on the morality of an action. Can't do it. Trust me. I've tried.

There's an important piece of the story missing here. Ethical theories are theories of right action, sure. But in order to get off the ground they need a theory of value to plug in. So a utilitarian says that the right act is the one that maximises utility. Why is this? Because there's a hedonistic value system supporting the claim.

If the mind was not guilty when the crime was committed (IE, the individual had no intent to commit the crime), then the individual is not guilty of commiting any crime.

A strong point, and one that sheds light on some of the intuitive appeal of deontological ethics. We care about the motives behind the act, not just the consequences.

Of course, consequentialism has its faults. If a cure for every disease could be found, but you had to kill one person to recieve it, should it be done? Deontology would say no; the commiting of even one "bad" act (killing) is never justified. On the other hand, consequentialists would say yes, as the collective good in the system is being raised by the removal of all disease. IN this regard, consequentialism can be used to justify the commiting of morally repulsive acts, so long as the ultimate ending is the raising of the collective good.

Excellent! These are exactly the kinds of cases I'm hoping to draw out. Good philosophy is about finding the right questions to ask, and the above quote leaves us with a lot of interesting questions. There are tons and tons of these kinds of cases out there, and I think they're one of the most valuable tools in assessing an ethical theory.

To really answer this question, a rather consequentialist approach has to be taken: We're deciding which system is the most good, most of the time. ^^

Hehe :) I tried to be super careful with the question to avoid an outcome like this. So looking back to the opening post for this topic (p. 3) the question is a bit different. We're assessing which one is better based on how it sorts out different cases into the 4 categories I listed above. This is a completely formal analysis, although we can draw non-formal conclusions if an answer can be reached.

So let's keep thinking! Are there some real problem cases for either theory? Does one theory handle a certain area better than the other? Are there cases that neither theory can really get the right answer?

 

Posted Jul 6, '13 at 5:37pm

Salvidian

Salvidian

3,950 posts

So you're basically considering Machiavelli's ideals? "The end justifies the means," right?

 
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