Wednesday, August 06, 2014

scientific morality: hard in the paint where the cathedral dares YOU to go

churchandstate | Are there kingdoms of emotion where logic is taboo, dare not show its face, zones where reason is too intimidated to speak?
Moral philosophers make full use of the technique of thought experiment. In a hospital there are four dying men. Each could be saved by a transplant of a different organ, but no donors are available. In the hospital waiting room is a healthy man who, if we killed him, could provide the requisite organ to each dying patient, thereby saving four lives for the price of one. Is it morally right to kill the healthy man and harvest his organs?

Everyone says no, but the moral philosopher wants to discuss the question further. Why is it wrong? Is it because of Kant’s Principle: “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.” How do we justify Kant’s principle? Are there ever exceptions? Could we imagine a hypothetical scenario in which . . .

What if the dying men were Beethoven, Shakespeare, Einstein and Martin Luther King? Would it be then right to sacrifice a man who is homeless and friendless, dragged in from a ditch? And so on.
Two miners are trapped underground by an explosion. They could be saved, but it would cost a million dollars. That million could be spent on saving the lives of thousands of starving people. Could it ever be morally right to abandon the miners to their fate and spend the money on saving the thousands? Most of us would say no. Would you? Or do you think it is wrong even to raise such questions?

These dilemmas are uncomfortable. It is the business of moral philosophers to face up to the discomfort and teach their students to do the same. A friend, a professor of moral philosophy, told me he received hate-mail when he raised the hypothetical case of the miners. He also told me there are certain thought experiments that divide his students down the middle. Some students are capable of temporarily accepting a noxious hypothetical, to explore where it might lead. Others are so blinded by emotion that they cannot even contemplate the hypothetical. They simply stop up their ears and refuse to join the discussion.

“We all agree it isn’t true that some human races are genetically superior to others in intelligence. But let’s for a moment suspend disbelief and consider the consequences if it were true. Would it ever be right to discriminate in job hiring? Etcetera.” My friend sometimes poses this very question, and he tells me that about half the students are willing to entertain the hypothetical counterfactual and rationally discuss the consequences. The other half respond emotionally to the hypothetical, are too revolted to proceed and simply opt out of the conversation.

Could eugenics ever be justified? Could torture? A clock triggering a gigantic nuclear weapon hidden in a suitcase is ticking. A spy has been captured who knows where it is and how to disable it, but he refuses to speak. Is it morally right to torture him, or even his innocent children, to make him reveal the secret? What if the weapon were a doomsday machine that would blow up the whole world?
There are those whose love of reason allows them to enter such disagreeable hypothetical worlds and see where the discussion might lead. And there are those whose emotions prevent them from going anywhere near the conversation. Some of these will vilify and hurl vicious insults at anybody who is prepared to discuss such matters. Some will pursue active witch-hunts against moral philosophers for daring to consider obnoxious hypothetical thought experiments.

49 comments:

Constructive_Feedback said...

[quote]The mammal mother works hard to stop her children from taking more than she is willing to give.[/quote]

Brother CNu - do you or the author of this piece have a means of substantiating this claim?

Dale Asberry said...

I've long thought that pregnancy was a specialized case of viral gene transfer with these bodies being nothing more than packages to protect and transport said viruses.

Constructive_Feedback said...

I listened to "Black Wing Grievance & Political Opportunism Talk Radio" yesterday.
I lost confidence in "Americans".


DESPITE the fact that we have a "Black President" - who the CDC ultimately reports up through and provides their funding............


THIS EBOLA OUTBREAK IS A PLOT TO KILL "UNWANTED PEOPLE OF COLOR" - just as the US Government has been plotting for centuries.
(NOTE - NOT ONE OF THEM correlated their claims in this domain with the mention that "WE MUST STOP OBAMA FROM 'UNIFYING THE AFRICAN LEADERS THAT HE IS MEETING WITH' because it is all a trick to KILL THEM)


* Why is it that the TWO WHITE PEOPLE got Ebola and then got the serum? How did they catch it IF they are experts? Why didn't they die?
(Note a Black African physician who is an expert in Ebola caught it a few weeks ago and died. This did not come up in their conspiracy)


THIS IS A TRICK to have African people beg for the VACCINE that they have not tested on humans. Black Africans are to be the human guinea pigs because they will be so desperate with the FAKE EBOLA threat that has been built up.




The thing that pisses me off about this foolishness is that these are the very same people who seek to induce Black people to get on GOVERNMENT/SINGLE PAYER SOCIAL JUSTICE HEALTH CARE - while at the same time believing that THE GOVERNMENT IS TRYING TO KILL BLACK PEOPLE.

CNu said...

I think what's special about the sexual mode of reproduction period is the sheer volume and diversity of what all bridges the reproductive gap.

CNu said...

See my response to Dale below.

CNu said...

Well, it is a fact that outside the arctic on which Canada, Russia, and Norway have primary and primarily enforceable claims, the African continent is the last great resource frontier. The Great Game is on in earnest between China and the West for cultural and economic supremacy on the African continent, and infectious disease has become a centerpiece of the Western approach to narratizing and rationalizing its increasing presence on and involvement with the continent.

Dale Asberry said...

As well as justification for the application of culltech.

CNu said...

Rest assured, "biological terrorism" will serve as the scapegoat point-source for the event(s) - leaving the unspeakable to serve as the good guys just heroically struggling to control the epidemic(s).

Vic78 said...

Dawkins is stuck on situational ethics. You aren't supposed to try to build anything off of it. The purpose was to demonstrate the difficulty of devising ethical theories. It doesn't make for interesting discussion. Dawkins' stupidly holding on to it makes him look bad. All he's doing is trying to justify being an asshole. He should stick to his day job. Moral philosophy just isn't for him.

CNu said...

I don't find anything objectionable about a single thing Dawkins wrote here. The assholes are the cowards looking to prohibit, obstruct, or tar and feather the interrogation of "emotionally" forbidden topics.

If your emotions wrt a person, place, or thing are that strong, then treat it like a big spider that ran across your living room floor. Hunt it down, find it, and kill it. Everything else is open to discussion...,

ken said...

At least for the scenarios presented, except for the spy one, they aren't very realistic and don't give all the alternatives. For the first one, I would determine which transplant has the least chance of the patient surviving and use the organs from that patient to save the others and let the healthy person in the waiting room remain healthy. It wouldn't matter who they were, I could only make the determination on best chance of survival.


The miner question... what's the condition of the miners, what is the actual chance of saving them, is there any risk to persons trying to save them? As for the idea of the million could be used for the savings of thousands of others...we could break that moral dilemma right on down to every single purchase one makes for himself. Should I buy an ice cream cone or buy somebody whose starving a meal? All day long people opt for the cone, why now with 2 dying men in mine would we contemplate their lives worthiness, clearly we take care of what is in front of us.


For the spy, he knows the info, he is willing to kill masses of people, and we are worried about how we might react morally to this person willing to let the masses that he has the power to stop. If we had the ability to stop the mass killing at the expense to cause the one who is willing to let it happen, I would consider that a pretty acceptable trade.

CNu said...

No, not going there. Here's the money shot:There are those whose love of reason allows them to enter such
disagreeable hypothetical worlds and see where the discussion might
lead. And there are those whose emotions prevent them from going
anywhere near the conversation. Some of these will vilify and hurl
vicious insults at anybody who is prepared to discuss such matters. Some
will pursue active witch-hunts against moral philosophers for daring to
consider obnoxious hypothetical thought experiments.I have been following some massive debates about multi-level selection theory for the past couple of weeks on a couple of academic lists. THESE discussions are hard in the paint where the faint-hearted and fake are terrified to tread. In each instance, the side of truth, justice, and good is prevailing handily over the scientific racists on the merits of proven newly emerging science.

BigDonOne said...

"Witch hunt against moral philosophers...",,,!!????
http://hotair.com/archives/2014/08/06/fair-share-al-sharpton-and-his-organizations-owe-4-7-million-in-unpaid-taxes/

Vic78 said...

Wow, all that charity goes out of the window when your safety is threatened. Thanks for proving me right.

ken said...

I'm not sure what you're talking about, the point is, why aren't we taking care of all those people we could save with the million dollars now? The million dollars that has the possibility to be used to save the miners should only be decided to be used because of the situation involved with the miners right there at that moment. Like will others lives be at risk to get them out, what is there condition, what are the chances of actually saving them, stuff like that. The idea there is only this million in the world to either save the miners, or feed thousands is not a real world choice, so therefore that is why if the miners were in front of us and it was viable to save them that's what should be done.

Vic78 said...

You're doing the obtuse thing again, Rev. My point was you've proven what I've been saying about apologetics and conservatism.

Rev Ken
"For the spy, he knows the info, he is willing to kill masses of people, and we are worried about how we might react morally to this person willing to let the masses that he has the power to stop. If we had the ability to stop the mass killing at the expense to cause the one who is willing to let it happen, I would consider that a pretty acceptable trade."

Your own words convict you. You let a bullshit thought experiment kill your faith? You can keep pretending to not get it if you like. The truth is right here. The Holy Spirit is far from you.

ken said...

ok, sorry, I didn't realize that was the one you had the problem with. I am fine with my answer, except of course for my wording here, like "at the expense...." it should be a given the spy wasn't be killed, or how else could we get the info, but I didn't make that clear. But generally I am fine with my choice to save thousands at the cost of causing discomfort to the spy to the point he reveals the saving information.

Naive Tom said...

What is truth?

ken said...

Are you asking in a context like Pilate asked? Or is your question of truth more like the high priest court?

Vic78 said...

"Why don’t we eat human road-kills? Yes, it would be horrible for the friends and relatives of the dead person, but suppose we hypothetically know that this person has no friends or relatives of any kind, why wouldn’t we eat him? "

If it gets that bad, I'll move on to worms, fish, grasshoppers, ants, termites, locusts, etc. His crazy ass can eat all the road kill he wants to. He can't roll with me doing that shit. This guy really wants to eat human road kill. What if he's a healthy loser and the truck just hit him while we were hungry?

I always had a flippant attitude toward goofy thought experiments. His wanting to dwell on them to me comes across like the kid that just discovered masturbating. He can't wait for school to end so he can go to town on that pillow.

Vic78 said...

"I didn't realize that was the one you had the problem with. I am fine with my answer,"

Of course you're fine with your answer. It's funny seeing you act like you don't get it. You've been God bothering for a while now and with that comes expectations. You're supposed to be a witness for the King. You can't even hack a silly thought experiment. Maybe The Lord was testing your faith. If that was the case, you failed in a way you weren't supposed to. You are cool with torturing someone or tormenting his/her family if you think it would save your ass. You shouldn't feel too bad, many 'Christians' are on the same level.

CNu said...

The 800lb gorilla in that entire rhetorical exercise is eugenics, of the population reduction and genetic engineering varieties. Everything else is merely conversation.

ken said...

Say again, what do you think God's will is for coming to the aid of the defenseless? What is your view how that should look when one steps in and defends for the sake of those who can't defend themselves against the evil doer and his or her plan? Is protection part of provision?

1 Timothy 5:8 "But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel."

The unrealistic part of course is the family element, the spy has already decided his family is going up in smoke too, so I really hadn't mentioned anything of the family. The spy's family would be among the helpless and likely not able to provoke any sympathy to extract information.

Vic78 said...

As in how do we deal with climate change and peak oil if things follow projections? Hell, why didn't he say so? He's up here playing. Nobody gives a fuck about 'degrees of rape' and all that other shit.

Vic78 said...

What makes you think you'll break someone that was willing to kill his family? He forfeited his life for the cause. This guy has real conviction. The thought experiment was a failure from the start. It's a fantasy to justify sadism. You jumped right in without thinking. "Hell yeah, I'd torture that bitch."

"What is your view how that should look when one steps in and defends for the sake of those who can't defend themselves against the evil doer and his or her plan? Is protection part of provision?"

What's a principle if you can't hold to it when it's tested? You're looking for loopholes to get out of your moral straight jacket. Should I start calling you Ken the Inquisitor? You're in league with those guys. My bad for questioning your Christianity. You're following the tradition.

Constructive_Feedback said...

Dr King's organs have been harvested for repurposing by the 'Tomb Raiders" who have made him into a "patron saint", all critical analysis of the applicability of his message to today. If you checked inside of the tomb on "Aurburn Avenue" in Atlanta - you will no doubt find the body of Mrs King laying beside a lump of pillows carefully stuffed with newspapers.

Instead those who "Stand With The Mantle Of 'King'" command the MORAL AUTHORITY as they run their "Fraud And Hokum" at the expense of their followers.


"Why can't we criticize Israel" can be answered by noting how "Democracy Now" which has been using 90% of their air time to cover 'Israel atrocities" against the Palestinians did not see fit to dedicate similar time to the people being killed in far larger numbers in Syria, in Iraq by ISIS and in the heart of Africa (Central African Republic and The Congo)


Just as a Police/White man killing a Black America as the daily serial killings of Chicago and elsewhere can't seem to rile up the usual suspects............................


IT IS NO DOUBT TRUE that Richard Dawkings "MEME THEORY" is seen in this domain.
The cultural/psychological assignment of bifurcated VALUABLE upon "human life" and "The Chosen People" per their VICTIM STATUS is indeed a shared cultural/social/political construct which strips away ACCOUNTABILITY.

ken said...

In this case what principle are you referring to? The thought experiment has a guy who has the knowledge to stop masses of people from being killed, the people it seems have no idea what is about to happen. It is implied the spy's desire is to go forward with this mass murder, and can only be stopped by getting information out of him involuntarily. You have been put in a position where you may be able to make a difference and save the masses.


How about Proverbs 31: Open your mouth for the speechless, In the cause of all who are appointed to die. Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And plead the cause of the poor and needy.


How about Isaiah: Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.


What will be our guiding principle that will trump your responsibility here. This isn't a loop hole but instead it seems if given this position you have an obligation to the masses in the current danger to do everything you can to save them from the current threat.

woodensplinter said...

Interesting how your regular chatterers seem very content to play situational make-believe, snipe at one another, and otherwise avoid and evade eliminationism and the collective "terror of our situation".

Vic78 said...

Be safe, dude.

Vic78 said...

It's terrifying that people justify torture because of a bullshit thought experiment. It happened then and now for the same reason, we have to keep people safe. Your number can be called one day because some asshole out there thinks you know something. The cops can move from stupid and incompetent to legally sanctioned savagery because torture 'works.' It all starts because enough people believe in a ticking bomb. We already know who's going to end up in the interrogation room.

woodensplinter said...

Our host has quite cleverly pointed your attention in the direction of a fairly recent actual holocaust enacted against "others". What was the gedanken used to justify the slaughter of millions in southeast asia? http://subrealism.blogspot.com/2014/08/a-mere-forty-five-years-ago-we-didnt.html

woodensplinter said...

Speaking of torture and purportedly ticking time bombs, how many deaths and tortures have happened in Iraq? What is the accepted thought experiment used to account for that still ongoing holocaust? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casualties_of_the_Iraq_War


Please tell me Vic, who is going to end up in the torture room?

Vic78 said...

I look at the thought experiment and it falls apart when you check the assumptions. Someone has a doomsday weapon and you can stop him by torturing him. Somebody willing to use such a weapon is a special character and the chances are high that he will take the pain long enough or would lie to stop the pain and throw you off track. The bomb's going off. You aren't saving shit. Another assumption is that torture works. What we know is a person would say anything to stop the pain. What we're seeing in Iraq right now is due to 'intelligence' from tortured operatives. They told the interrogators they had weapons in Iraq. Then we have history. There's present day Israel that decided to use the ticking bomb for justification. They lost their minds shortly afterwards. We had apartheid South Africa. There was the French in Algeria. There was the Inquisition. The assumption was that they were protecting the community in every case. All it did was worsen the situation.

So being accepted doesn't mean it's not bullshit. It's just a sign of depravity

Vic78 said...

Being the accepted rationale doesn't mean it's not bullshit; it's just a sign of a given culture's depravity.

ken said...

Well here's a real life thought experiment...

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2729287/ISIS-beheads-journalist-James-Wright-Foley-warning-US.html

CNu said...

lol, why do you and Feed go all ineffable/inscrutable when it comes to some pretty basic material? This is not a thought experiment. This is an overt and across the bow provocation. ISIS HATES the U.S. and wants to draw it into a conflict that will further undermine its already tenuous financial and military position.

Constructive_Feedback said...

[quote]draw it into a conflict that will further undermine its already tenuous financial and military position.[/quote]

My dear Brother CNu:



I will pay your fare on "The Mega Bus" for you to travel from KC to STL this weekend if you agree to compel the "Freedom Fighters" to begin speaking in terms of "EVERY BOMB DROPPED ON ISIS In Iraq To Protect Americans In The Embassy from being flooded in a dam breach in Mossel - COSTS THE SAME AMOUNT to furnish iPads and software licences for several MOOCs for schools in Ferguson, Normandy, Kinloch, St Louis, Kansas City and Topeka




GUNS or BUTTER & BOOKS?

Vic78 said...

Thought experiments are tools primarily used by philosophers to devise new theories and challenge ideas. They're imagined scenarios that can be plausible but used to make a point. Gettier used a thought experiment to challenge knowledge's definition. Plato used them quite a bit.

The reason I came down on the torture experiment the way I did was because it was as ridiculous as pushing a fat man to save a train. The difference was that torture was taken seriously and was given policy consideration.

ken said...

"The difference was that torture was taken seriously and was given policy consideration."

Well surely it has, sorry I came back to this late. For a little real life history though experiment, would you think it would have been better not to torture these 19 Nazi spies in the story?

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2009/05/13/how-torture-helped-win-wwii.html

Vic78 said...

You just won't let it go. Oh well, it's your system. Then again, I've read the Bible a little so there may be room for torture. God was not playing in that Old Testament. Wasn't playing much in the New one either. If you look at some computer porn and don't say sorry you're going to hell. One can imagine what that type of thinking does to a young mind. Teaching our children the absolute truth of God's word could be considered a form of torture. They're just as broken as the German spies when the Truth is accepted.

As for the link, the writer's a putz.

ken said...

Actually I was just going to put a link here for a totally different matter, it was really this one. It was going introduced like this: ISIS starting to take partisan shots...

https://www.vocativ.com/isis-2/uncategorized/steven-sotloff/

But then I saw your post and I got sidetracked with your ideas of surprise that torture was ever a policy consideration.

Vic78 said...

My attitude was one of disdain; not surprised at all. What does the ISIS link prove?

ken said...

The ISIS link proves nothing in our discussion, I was explaining why I responded to your post 6 days later, I didn't see it until I went back here just to leave this link as a thought for this topic. Nothing more than that.

Vic78 said...

Okay.

Vic78 said...

It's Sunday and I'm in a good mood. I look at what Dawkins is doing and it puts people in a bad spot. How do you justify killing defective people? Who's defective? Was Khalid Muhammed right about Truth and Reconciliation? There are a lot of places you can go with this.

CNu said...

In 2006, The Texas Academy of Science named Eric Pianka "Distinguished Scientist." He received a standing ovation for his acceptance speech on the Vanishing Book of Life on Earth, which was unfortunately misinterpreted by an intelligent design advocate in the audience (to read about this vilification, slander, and resulting controversy, click here).

Vic78 said...

I remember Snoop from 'The Wire' "...deserve don't got nothing to do with it." The bronies are going after every perceived threat. All one can do is accept them for what they are and find out how to beat them. Academians really need to learn how to fight or find some allies that can fight on their behalf. The opposition isn't playing right now.

CNu said...

So Pianka is a threat because he spoke out loud work long and quietly in progress which suddenly erupted into the light of day this year? Kind of a patsy of convenience as it were? What does that make Francis A. Boyle spitting the hottest heat every which-a-way? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Boyle

Vic78 said...

I'd call Boyle an 80s Mike Tyson.