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Old 02-29-2016, 05:13 AM
 
Location: Missouri, USA
4,357 posts, read 2,977,723 times
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I want to design an outline of a formula for morality. Anyone who wants to help through checking it, critiquing it, or adding to it, is welcomed too. We can argue about who is right and if we come to a consensus, we can add other people's ideas to it. If we disagree, I'm leaving other people's ideas out. I decide what goes in or stays out though.

The goal will be to begin very, very vaguely and get progressively more specific. I'll be working from the atheistic perspective, but the beginning stages should be true regardless of whether or not an afterlife or god exists too.

I'll begin at the most basic level. This is probably the most important part, because if there are any mistakes to this they'll ripple throughout the rest of this thread, corrupting it.

First of all, I think morality is binary. It stems from our emotions. Emotions are the only way we can distinguish between right and wrong. Emotions act as positive and negative feedback, urging us to repeat behaviors or avoid behaviors, so I think it would make sense that they could be divided into good and bad, positive and negative, right and wrong, etc.

I'd like to get disagreement about this...keeping in mind if no arguments convince me morality is not binary, I'll ignore them and assume it is.

Surely, rational people will ask themselves questions like "I just cried at a wedding. Half the time I enjoy being tickled. Half the time I don't. Also some serial killers enjoy murdering people. Also, serial killers' victims' families will feel a sense of release and safety at the catching of the murderer...but the murderer generally won't like being caught. How then, is morality binary?"

I suspect the pieces that compose the feelings like crying at a wedding are binary. There'd be a certain amount of positive "points" and a certain amount of negative "points" and presumably more positive than negative points because it would be, overall most likely, a positive feeling.

What about that murderer though? I would say achieving the joy of murdering people is actually a good thing. It's the murdering people that's the bad thing. That's why we have videogames and before that, wooden sword fights. I would say any of those videogames are better than even harming real outdoor insects...unless it motivates people to violence, but even if it does the level of violence should outweigh the joy of the videogames for them to be considered harmful. Alternatively videogames could be able to be replaced by something that provides an equal amount of joy but results in less harm, and if we can find a suitable replacement, we should. Note that some people argue that videogames actually reduce crime...but this thread is not about videogames, at least for now.

Some reasonable people will also say "But I exercise frequently, and I think that produces more negativity than positivity. Are you saying I should stop exercising?" The exercising might produce negative emotions, but does it help you to lose weight so you can likely live longer and achieve more of your dreams and assist your loved ones for longer? Those could be positive consequences that could override the negative ones. Does it improve your willpower in a way that will likely result in long term rewards? Those long term rewards could also help override then negativity of exercising. It would therefore seem reasonable that, if you have a week to live and you don't like exercising, don't exercise. Instead, eat mostly chocolate and drink mostly wine. If you have twenty years or more to live though, or you'd like to, exercise can be advantageous. Also note that we can adapt to negativity at times. Maybe the exercise could even become enjoyable if we get used to it.

I don't want to distract from the foundation of the formula too much...which is simply that morality is binary. Every action results in a positive emotion score that subtracts from or increases the total. What behavior is morally right would be the behavior that produces the highest "score". Note that the emotional benefits aren't necessarily merely to the person who is considering a behavior, but can be to all feeling life, or even to feeling life that doesn't exist yet...and possibly even to past life in some ways, but that's questionable and let's avoid thinking too much about which life factors into the equation now.

I think the basic outline for the formula is A-B=Z. A is positive emotion. Never mind whose or what's positive emotion we're talking about for now. B is negative emotion. Never mind whose or what's negative emotion we're talking about for now, or even how to give an emotion a numerical value for now. Z would be the total. The goal is to achieve a higher total. We'll get more specific in future posts.

So again, the outline of the formula is A-B=Z. A is positive emotion. B is negative emotion. Z is the total. Our behavior should ideally result in Z being as high as possible.

Note that as we build this, anyone who contributes in any way, even if I ignore their advice, should consider this formula ours rather than mine if they want to.

Last edited by Clintone; 02-29-2016 at 05:31 AM..
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Old 02-29-2016, 06:36 AM
 
Location: Missouri, USA
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Yes...I know there are actual philosophers who do this, who are probably considerably better at it, but there is no screening system for philosophical arguments. Biologists, mathematicians, chemists and other scientists have a screening system. When we research biology, we can be relatively confident we're researching truthful, sensible conclusions. With philosophy, philosophers begin their thought processes with different assumptions about the nature of reality, so they'll arrive at different conclusions. Researching philosophy will therefore be far more likely to be a waste of time than researching biology.

I heard of utilitarianism on another thread. That seemed sensible, so I looked up information on it on Wikipedia. I was not impressed. I briefly skimmed part of a Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on it. Jeremy Bentham sounded bright, until the article mentioned that humans are ruled by two sovereign masters: pleasure and pain. Pain is not one of the two sovereign masters because of the existence of masochists. That is the extent of my philosophical research. I think that was a reasonable amount of research to do, and I hypothesize that we on City-Data will be able to do a better job putting together a moral formula than many philosophers because I'm not going to spend all my time fruitlessly researching vocabulary. This formula will surge forth with all the subtlety of an off-rail train. It will be filled with spelling errors and incorrect vocabulary...but its creation will be efficient. If philosophers want people to research their views, they need to get a better screening system so readers don't need to wade through so much junk. Until then, I hypothesize that it'll be better for individuals or small groups to think about the big questions life offers on their own...so that's what I'm going to attempt to instigate here. That's the end of the rant.

Last edited by Clintone; 02-29-2016 at 07:24 AM..
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Old 02-29-2016, 11:47 AM
 
40 posts, read 19,286 times
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Quote:
First of all, I think morality is binary. It stems from our emotions. Emotions are the only way we can distinguish between right and wrong. Emotions act as positive and negative feedback, urging us to repeat behaviors or avoid behaviors, so I think it would make sense that they could be divided into good and bad, positive and negative, right and wrong, etc.

I'd like to get disagreement about this...keeping in mind if no arguments convince me morality is not binary, I'll ignore them and assume it is.
First you probably need to define morality. I see no reason to accept that morality "stems from our emotions". Emotions tie in to virtually everything in cognition, but if you want to make the case that emotions cause conceptions of morality it seems to me you've already stacked the deck in favor of an atheistic viewpoint.
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Old 02-29-2016, 02:19 PM
 
Location: Whittier
3,007 posts, read 5,107,386 times
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Clintone, I know you'll hate to hear this but you should really check out a Philosophy class at your local college if you have the time. If anything just sit in on one and see how academic philosophy is done.

I majored in Philosophy years ago (I wouldn't necessarily call myself a Philosopher), however it gave me the means to make sense of thoughts like these.

In most cases although exercising the mind is a great thing, sometimes it isn't necessary to reinvent the wheel.

The only thing we'll really get from this is, a folk philosophy that is a hodgepodge of ideas that would most likely be strong armed by one or two posters. A democratic-ish morality that really doesn't hold any real philosophical weight. I think it would be far from efficient given the lack of desire or lack of focus.

---

As much as you disagree with Bentham, he is just one voice out of many. There are many, many theories out there on what makes a moral human and it is from learning and disagreeing with those minds, that ultimately creates a better theory on morality.


Again, not trying to shoot you down, but there is both, no easy way to do philosophy, but there are easier ways.

----

With all of that being said morality and moral behavior certainly isn't binary and can't be reduced to points. There are long term, and short term goals. Different cultures, different underlying rules of those cultures, etc... There's the self and the other. Are my happiness points greater than the other's? Shouldn't my happiness trump someone else's?

What brain states lead to emotions? Are our emotions reliable?

Are we assuming that the Qualia of a toestub is equal for all?

Are we even responsible for our actions? Do we have free will, I'm assuming this assumes so?

What makes me happy is good?

So action is not required for morality, just thought?

If it makes me feel good to murder and I murder then it would follow that I fulfilled my ultimate happiness. Who is to say that whatever/whoever I killed loss of life was worth more than my happiness? What if I'm never caught? Does the formula balance out? Is there an end number to the formula? Why is murder then bad, that is, why is killing bad?

Assuming there is more suffering in the world than happiness? At any given time are more people acting morally or immorally under your formula, does it matter?

Also what about situations where we have to make a choice?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

If I lie to save a life is that a good thing?
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Old 02-29-2016, 02:26 PM
 
10,538 posts, read 15,605,797 times
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Formula and eloquent finesse of assumptions?
Here's simple formula: live your life moment by moment obeying your voice of conscience.
Done. Nothing else needed. Very similar concept is in the bible, btw.
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Old 02-29-2016, 02:42 PM
 
Location: Missouri, USA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anomaly75 View Post
First you probably need to define morality. I see no reason to accept that morality "stems from our emotions". Emotions tie in to virtually everything in cognition, but if you want to make the case that emotions cause conceptions of morality it seems to me you've already stacked the deck in favor of an atheistic viewpoint.
Well...being an atheist, that's definitely my bias...but even if there's a god, what good is heaven without it being of positive emotional benefit? How would a god communicate to us right and wrong without our emotions to guide us? Doing god's will would be good because either the god wants us to (which would count as an organism experiencing positive emotions) or because we'll be punished for not doing it or, or because we'd be rewarded for doing it, in addition to regular organic life getting emotional benefits from whatever we do.

You'd just treat a god like a bigger, more important, more influential type of organism it's in your best interest to do the will of.

Eventually, I might break away and drag this thread into atheism whether its contributors like it or not...but I don't think that's necessary for now though.

If you believe morality must come from an authority though, and the only reason a sense of right and wrong exists is because of that authority...that type of god-belief cannot coexist with emotions being the source of morality. However, not all views of a god cannot coexist with morality stemming from emotion.

I'm pretty confident I can refute the idea that morality must come from an authority though. It's easy. The reason why morality does not necessarily come only from an authority is simply because there is no innate advantages to being an authority when it comes to creating moral codes. A teacher isn't going to necessarily be any better at creating moral codes than a student, I think.

Thanks for the response.

Last edited by Clintone; 02-29-2016 at 02:55 PM..
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Old 02-29-2016, 02:45 PM
 
Location: Missouri, USA
4,357 posts, read 2,977,723 times
Reputation: 2031
Quote:
Originally Posted by harhar View Post
Clintone, I know you'll hate to hear this but you should really check out a Philosophy class at your local college if you have the time. If anything just sit in on one and see how academic philosophy is done.

I majored in Philosophy years ago (I wouldn't necessarily call myself a Philosopher), however it gave me the means to make sense of thoughts like these.

In most cases although exercising the mind is a great thing, sometimes it isn't necessary to reinvent the wheel.

The only thing we'll really get from this is, a folk philosophy that is a hodgepodge of ideas that would most likely be strong armed by one or two posters. A democratic-ish morality that really doesn't hold any real philosophical weight. I think it would be far from efficient given the lack of desire or lack of focus.

---

As much as you disagree with Bentham, he is just one voice out of many. There are many, many theories out there on what makes a moral human and it is from learning and disagreeing with those minds, that ultimately creates a better theory on morality.


Again, not trying to shoot you down, but there is both, no easy way to do philosophy, but there are easier ways.

----

With all of that being said morality and moral behavior certainly isn't binary and can't be reduced to points. There are long term, and short term goals. Different cultures, different underlying rules of those cultures, etc... There's the self and the other. Are my happiness points greater than the other's? Shouldn't my happiness trump someone else's?

What brain states lead to emotions? Are our emotions reliable?

Are we assuming that the Qualia of a toestub is equal for all?

Are we even responsible for our actions? Do we have free will, I'm assuming this assumes so?

What makes me happy is good?

So action is not required for morality, just thought?

If it makes me feel good to murder and I murder then it would follow that I fulfilled my ultimate happiness. Who is to say that whatever/whoever I killed loss of life was worth more than my happiness? What if I'm never caught? Does the formula balance out? Is there an end number to the formula? Why is murder then bad, that is, why is killing bad?

Assuming there is more suffering in the world than happiness? At any given time are more people acting morally or immorally under your formula, does it matter?

Also what about situations where we have to make a choice?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

If I lie to save a life is that a good thing?
Good questions. I should get to them all in time. Thanks. It won't be in my next response though. It'll be throughout this thread.
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Old 02-29-2016, 02:52 PM
 
Location: Missouri, USA
4,357 posts, read 2,977,723 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ukrkoz View Post
Formula and eloquent finesse of assumptions?
Here's simple formula: live your life moment by moment obeying your voice of conscience.
Done. Nothing else needed. Very similar concept is in the bible, btw.
I think that's about as close to a good idea as is likely to be useful. One of my favorite books is "The Tao of Pooh" by Benjamin Hoff, which essentially says the same thing, but with more emphasis on being yourself and using your weaknesses as strengths and things like that.

However, I'm not trying to create a formula to help anyone. I'm doing this more as an intellectual exercise.
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Old 02-29-2016, 04:25 PM
 
Location: Missouri, USA
4,357 posts, read 2,977,723 times
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To continue this, so far the contributors have been ukrkoz, harhar, Anomaly75, and myself.

So, how do I know morality is binary? Note that many would say I don't know that. For all I know they're right. Oh well.

Anyway, here's how I know morality is binary:

We have things that feel good and things that feel bad and we have no way of determining morality besides those two categories of feelings. They don't have be our feelings. For example, when I had a dog I'd feed it, not for my benefit but its benefit. They have to be something's feelings though.

We're going to want to avoid unpleasant feelings and strive to achieve pleasant ones. Therefore we have a goal in life of A-B=Z.

I did end up researching a little more.

I like the idea of utilitarianism. Jeremy Bentham, according to Wikipedia, defined the "utility" part of utilitarianism as "the aggregate pleasure after deducting suffering of all involved in any action." That sounds wonderful to me. I definitely agree with Bentham up to that point.

Anyway...before we use the formula A-B=Z we have to specify what the heck we're talking about when we say that. Human beings are not cells in one organism. We are billions of individuals with billions of identities and billions of brains. Therefore, total utilitarianism (the idea that we should add the total positivity of a community together and attempt to achieve more) and average utilitarianism (the idea that we should strive to achieve a higher average positivity and lower negativity) can fail hilariously in certain contexts. Average utilitarianism can imply that we should nuke the squirrels because they are inferior life forms that are bringing down our average. Total utilitarianism can imply that, given infinite expansion room and resources, we should endlessly exponentially procreate. Actually...that's not nearly as hilarious as the failure of average utilitarianism, but it still does fail if, say, the children are each being sent into their own universe where they'll never contact humanity again and can't contribute anything to it no matter what.

So, the solution is to treat human beings and feeling life as what it is: organisms, each having their own brain and own identity. We, or I consider what behavior we can engage in to increase our contribution to the group total. Our goal is to achieve the maximum positivity score per action. We never even need to know the total we're collectively dumping those positivity points into, and in fact knowing the amount of positivity we've added together can be misleading. It can lead us to pop out babies like Pez for no reason, for example. We can compare all potential actions and determine which results in the highest positivity score, and that would be the best action to engage in.

For example, should I shoot the president? To answer that, I'd estimate all the negativity and all the positivity caused by that action. Then I'd estimate all the negativity and all the positivity caused by an action that might replace shooting the president, such as peacefully protesting some law the president signed. I'd simply see which action has the highest score and do that.

Now what about more complicated issues? That's when we begin to complicate the formula. The original formula of A-B=Z remains, but the determination of A, B, or Z can become quite complex. For example, is it wise to offer to buy a stranger's groceries at Christmas? It might flatter them, or it might freak them out. If it flatters them it will result in bonus positivity. If it freaks them out, it will result in additional negativity. Let's say the stranger appears to have an approximately equal yearly salary as you based on how they dress. However, you don't know how they'll spend that money. Maybe they'll spend it on drugs or rotten, spoiled kids. You have your own bonds, and the breaking or harming of those bonds results in a kind of bonus damage. You better have enough money to take care of your own family first. Long term social bonds are very important to humans. The shattering of them can be devastating.

I'm beginning to get too far away from the simple math formula I'm interested in though. It will involve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. It will be inaccurate, but it will be a rough outline.
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Old 02-29-2016, 04:33 PM
 
Location: Missouri, USA
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Note that someone, if they're thinking about this enough, will probably comment "but every action has loads and loads of future consequences, dummy!"

Except that they would probably not use the word "dummy" because the moderators could have a problem with that, but they'd be thinking it.

Whatever likely long term consequences there are would also factor into each decision, just like common sense tells us. So, should I shoot the president? Well, the short term gain might be the stopping of a law. The long term consequences could be things like beginning a trend of presidential assassinator copycat killers or something.

I think I'll get back to the math though soon...probably. Maybe math isn't the best way to do this. I'll have to think about it more.
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