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兩個關於「道德基礎」的不同認知 ----- J. Gailef/M. Pigliucci
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On The Bases For Morality: An Exchange

 

Massimo Pigliucci, 01/23/10

 

[this is a post in two sections, the first by my friend Julia Gailef, a journalist, the second being my response, below]

 

Julia Gailef

 

I hope Massimo won't start regretting his generous invitation for me to co-blog with him (hi readers! great to be here!) if I kick things off by immediately and publicly disagreeing with him. He and I have been having a debate on moral philosophy for the last few weeks, and after the twentieth iteration of the same arguments we decided it makes sense to invite you all to weigh in, at the very least because we're tired of the sound of our own voices by now. Massimo asked me to lay out the debate, and then he'll follow up with his own post next week.

 

So, I agree with Massimo that moral reasoning is possible, given a set of initial axioms. (Axioms are the starting assumptions on which all of your moral judgments are based, like the concept of certain fundamental rights, or tit-for-tat justice, or protecting individual liberty, or maximizing total happiness). Where I disagree with him is over his belief that it is possible to use scientific facts to justify selecting one particular set of initial axioms over another.

Roughly speaking, Massimo starts with biological and neuroscientificfacts such as "Human welfare requires things like health, freedom, etc." and "Humans are wired to care about each other's welfare," and from these he derives the conclusion, "Therefore, it is moral to act in a way that increases those things which are necessary for human welfare." In my opinion, this is an example of what is sometimes called the naturalistic fallacy: telling me scientific facts doesn't tell me how to act on those facts, and the alleged point of moral principles is to tell me how to act. Science can tell me that if I want to make other people happier, then treating them in certain ways -- giving them health, freedom, and so on -- will accomplish that goal. But science can't tell me whether making other people happier should be my goal.

Alternately, you could use evolutionary biology and
neuroscience to argue that being kind to others is the best way to maximize one's own happiness, thanks to the way our brains have become wired over the course of our evolution as social animals. I agree that there's some truth to this claim, but I deny that we can derive any moral principles from it -- it implies only an appeal to self-interest that happens, through lucky circumstances, to have positive consequences for others. (Furthermore, if your moral imperative takes this form, the implication is that if for some reason I were wired differently, then being unkind would not be immoral.)

The difficulty of deriving facts about how people ought to behave from facts about how the world is was most famously articulated by David Hume in his
A Treatise of Human Nature (1739):

"In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remark'd, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surpriz'd to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, 'tis necessary that it shou'd be observ'd and explain'd; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it."

This is called the "
is-ought problem", or sometimes "Hume's Guillotine" (because it severs any connection between "is"- and "ought"-statements). My understanding is that Hume is generally believed to have meant not just that people jump from "is to "ought" without sufficient justification, but that such a jump is in fact logically impossible. There have been a number of attempts to make that jump (here's a famous one by John Searle), though I've found them pretty weak, as have other people with much more philosophical expertise than me.

With that in mind, I can't see any way in which a claim of the kind Massimo is making -- "doing X increases human welfare, therefore X is the moral thing to do" -- could logically hold, unless you're simply defining the word "moral" to mean "that which increases human welfare," in which case the statement is tautologically true. But I'm not sure what we gain by simply inventing a new word for a concept that already exists.

Fortunately, even though I think the blade of Hume's guillotine is inescapably sharp in the philosophical world, I don't think it has the power to sever much in the real world. Because, thanks to some combination of evolutionary biology and social conditioning, I do enjoy being kind, and I do want to reduce other people's suffering -- and I would want to do those things even without a rational justification for why that's "moral." And I believe most people would feel the same way.

But if someone didn't care about other people's welfare, I couldn't accuse him of irrationality. He would be committing no fallacy in his reasoning, nor would he be acting against any of his own preferences. (If he wanted to increase human welfare and yet he knowingly acted in a way that reduced human welfare, then I could legitimately call him irrational.)

Massimo, I believe I've represented our disagreement accurately, but please correct me if I haven't! *thwack* Ball's in your court!

 

Massimo's response

 

I want to thank Julia, our new regular contributor to Rationally Speaking for an honest and clear presentation of her doubts about the possibility of moral philosophy. Judging from the comments to her post, a good number of our readers seem to agree with her position, which is essentially one of moral skepticism, inevitably leading to a morally relativistic position (although she says that she gets her own moral sense from the way she is wired as a social primate, she also admits that she could not honestly blame someone who acted differently and had no inclination to be kind to others or help human welfare).

 

First off, then, let me suggest that I don’t think anyone is really a moral relativist, not even Julia. Moral relativism, or moral skepticism, is akin to skepticism about the existence of the world: it may be ultimately impossible to conclusively refute in an air-tight logical manner, but no one actually lives in this way, and no one really believes it. (Bertrand Russell once famously said that he wished that all those people who deny the existence of a wall would get into a car and drive straight into the wall at a speed proportional to their lack of belief in the existence of said wall. I am not aware of the actual experiment ever having been carried out, but of course, as any good skeptic knows, even if the people in the car all died this would not prove the existence of the wall — though as Russell remarked rather drily, we would get rid of a number of bad philosophers... But I digress.)

 

Second, although this discussion is fascinating and I think useful for our readers, neither Julia nor I can possibly hope to settle in this context a complex issue that defines a whole field, that of metaethics, or the rational justification of ethical thinking. Despite the fact that both Julia and several of our readers are dismissive of philosophy as a type of inquiry (a rather curiously anti-intellectual position, in my opinion), I urge the rest of you to read this excellent introductory essay in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy to begin to dig deeper.

 

All of the above said, let me finally get to the meat of Julia’s essay. Let’s start with this business of “axioms.” During one of our discussions over dinner I brought up the idea of axioms in ethics to refute a point that moral skeptics never fail to bring up, despite its obvious weakness: ethical reasoning is fluff because there are no moral empirical facts. But the skeptics curiously seem to miss an obvious case study which reveals the hollowness of their position. There are in fact well established and unquestionably serious areas of human endeavor for which “facts” are irrelevant. Consider the entire field of mathematics, for instance. I hope no one here will suggest that mathematical reasoning is arbitrary or without foundations. And yet mathematical theorems are valid / invalid regardlessof any empirical fact abut the world.

 

This example should not be taken lightly, because it is a devastating objection to the moral skeptic, although we need to understand exactly what I am saying here. I am not suggesting that ethics and math are on the same footing, far from it. Rather, I am demonstrating beyond doubt that lack of empirical facts per se in no way precludes the ability of the human mind to reason rigorously about certain entities. It is an interesting philosophical (imagine that!) discussion whether mathematicians discovermathematical truths or they invent them, but in either case such inventions or discoveries are both rigorous and non-arbitrary.

 

It is of course true that the early 20th century quest for an ultimate, self-contained logical foundation for mathematics failed (see Russell and Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica) and was ultimately shown to be a mirage by Godel with his incompleteness theorem. Still, no one would argue that because of that mathematics is an arbitrary castle built on clouds. (Indeed, if we take that sort of skeptical position, then even Julia’s much touted empirical science gets into deep trouble, as rather ironically shown by Hume himself with his problem of induction.)

 

Indeed, I think that ethics is in some sense on a firmer foundation than math, because we can use empirical data from evolutionary biology andcognitive science to provide us with relevant empirical facts in which to ground our enterprise. As I will argue in a minute, this is not at all an instance of Hume’s naturalistic fallacy.

 

To begin with, I define ethics as that branch of philosophy that deals with the maximization of human welfare and flourishing. I’m sure this will disappoint Julia and others, but I simply don’t understand what else they might possibly wish to include in a talk about ethics. Neither Julia nor I believe in morality as imposed by a god, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that there is not a shred of evidence in favor of the existence of any gods, but more importantly because of the decisive (again, philosophical!) argument known as Euthyphro’s dilemma, in which Plato showed that gods are simply irrelevant to the question of morality.

 

So yes, for me morality is neither arbitrary (the relativist position) norabsolute (the typical religionist position, though Kant also famously attempted to arrive at a logically necessary ethics via an entirely secular route — and failed). Rather, I think of morality as something that makes sense only for human beings and other relevantly similar species. By relevantly similar, I mean social animals with brains complex enough to be able to reflect on what they are doing and why they are doing it (that is, being able to philosophize!). As far as I know, Homo sapiens is currently the only such species on planet Earth, though of course there may be others elsewhere in the cosmos.

 

By definition, then, something is moral in my book if it increases human welfare and flourishing (I am leaving aside for the moment the issue of animal rights, which would be an unnecessary distraction at this point. Interestingly, consequentialists like Peter Singer have tackled that problem, and Julia presented herself to me once as a consequentialist — apparently without realizing that a moral skeptic cannot also coherently endorse a particular school of ethics. For the record, I incline toward virtue ethics.)

 

It is at this point that Julia accuses me of committing the naturalistic fallacy, that is of deriving an “ought” from an “is.” There are several issues to be considered here. First, contrary to what Julia maintains, it is not at all clear that Hume argued that the is/ought connection is impossible, he may simply have been saying that if one wishes to make that connection the project has to be pursued by explicitly unpacking how said connection works or can be justified. Second, of course, as much as I myself love Hume, I don’t think the guy was infallible, and generally speaking invoking authority truly is a logical fallacy.

 

To be as clear as possible, then, I define as moral an action that increases human welfare and/or flourishing (and yes, I’m aware that the latter two also need to be discussed and unpacked, but this is a blog post, not a treatise), and then ask biologists and cognitive scientists to provide me with some empirical points of reference so that my concept of human flourishing is based as much as possible on the so highly valued empirical data.

 

Here is where Julia makes a subtle, but revealing, shift: she writes that “science can tell me that if I want to make other people happier, then treating them in certain ways — giving them health, freedom, and so on — will accomplish that goal. But science can't tell me whether making other people happier should be my goal.” But ethics is not about what an individual may or may not want, it is about the species as a whole (and possibly beyond, see my comment on Singer above). Julia of course may reject the idea of behaving herself so as to increase human flourishing, but then she is by definition acting immorally (or at least amorally). She may shrug her shoulders and keep going with her life, of course, but most of us are going to think of her as immoral (she isn’t, by the way, she is one of the nicest people I’ve met).

 

What I’ve got so far, then, is a working definition of morality and some empirical evidence (from science) of what helps human beings flourish. Why do I need philosophy? Because biology provides us only with a very limited sense of morality, an instinct that there are right and wrong things. But that instinct was shaped — slowly and inefficiently — by a blind natural process that simply maximized survival and reproduction. Once human beings became able to reflect on what they were doing they immediately developed an enlarged sense of flourishing that is not limited to personal safety, food and sex. We also want to enjoy life, be free to explore opportunities, to speak our mind, to admire art, to pursue knowledge, and so on.

 

Our instincts become a less and less reliable guide when the circle of flourishing is thus enlarged. For instance, it is a universal moral intuitionamong human cultures that randomly killing members of your group is bad (psychopaths, or to put it as Julia does, people with a different wiring, are not exceptions, they prove the rule: we put them away whenever we encounter them). But natural selection probably also bred into us an instinctive distrust of outsiders. It has taken thousands of years of moral progress (not an oxymoron!) to slowly realize that there is no rationally defensible distinction between in-group and out-group, which means that we need philosophical reflection to build on our natural biological instinct and come up with the humanity-wide rule that it is wrong to randomly kill anyone, regardless of which group s/he happens to belongs to as a matter of accident of birth.

 

To summarize, then, I think that:

 

1. The objection that moral reasoning is not based on empirical facts is irrelevant, since there are other non-arbitrary human endeavors that are also so characterized and yet we do not reject them on those grounds (mathematics, logic itself).

2. I define ethics/morality as concerned with exploring the sort of behaviors that augment human (and possibly beyond human) welfare and flourishing. Since this is a definition, it cannot be argued for, only either accepted or rejected. And yes, definitions are tautologies, but they are nonetheless very useful (all of math can be thought of as a tautology, and so is every single entry in a dictionary).

3. Some empirical facts from evolutionary biology and cognitive science inform us as to where and why we have a moral instinct to begin with, and also about what sort of behaviors do in fact increase human flourishing. It is because of this that I can confidently say, for instance, that genital mutilation of small girls is wrong regardless of which culture practices it and why.

4. To move beyond the narrow sense of flourishing that generated our moral instincts we need to be able to reflect about these issues in a rational and empirically-informed manner. That is, we need to do science-informed philosophy (or what I call sci-phi).

 

One more thing: I really don’t think Hume would be upset with any of the above, and I believe he would invite me over for a meal (he enjoyed dinner parties) to amicably explore our differences of opinion. As he famously put it: “Truth springs from argument amongst friends.”

 

http://www.science20.com/rationally_speaking/bases_morality_exchange

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The Moral Sciences Are Back

 

Jag Bhalla, 02/28/15

 

Natural laws of ethics, envisioned early in the Enlightenment, can now be objectively studied. Game Theory is reviving old wisdoms, while suggesting a “Golden Punishment Rule,” and a Naturalistic Fallacy reform (via “negative telos”).

 

1. Humans, being social, can’t thrive without rules. Certain rules work better than others. Game theory provides “behavioral telescopes” to study this.

2. The naturalistic fallacy says nature provides no ethical lessons. But without seeking good and evil in nature, we can compare the viability and productivity of behavioral rules. And we can map negative ethical spaces that are counterproductive or self-undermining.

3. Comparing how ethical traditions perform in Prisoner’s Dilemmas, against Tit-For-Tat, the best current strategy, shows: Rationalists do worse than the Golden Ruled. And Jewish norms beat Christian ethics.

4. So-called rationalists, dominated by dire untrusting logic, produce no cooperation. Golden Ruled players cooperate, thus beating rationalists. But Christian turning-the-other-cheek is exploitable (as Machiavelli and Nietzsche complained). Old Testament eye-for-an-eye is more Tit-For-Tat-like, provided forgiveness follows (however divine, forgiveness can be evolutionarily adaptive).

5. A Tit-For-Tat-like “Golden Punishment Rule” enables cooperation by preventing viable exploitation (likely applying to any game structure). But punishment that prevents profitable cheating must also avoid escalating revenge (e.g., hunter gatherers avoid kin feuds by delegating executions to relatives).

6. Darwin, being un-Darwinian, believed “social instincts … naturally lead to the golden rule.” Game theory shows how such “evolutionarily stable” cooperative rules can emerge. Indeed, evolution is nature’s game theorist, endlessly testing behavioral strategies and naturally selecting the more productive.

7. Social species' behavioral patterns can be self-maximizing or co-maximizing. In Prisoner’s Dilemmas, that’s the lower-productivity “rationalist” approach vs. the higher-productivity Tit-For-Tat (Golden Punishment Ruled) cooperation. Let’s not forget we’re the most self-deficient, most other-dependent, species alive.

8. Co-maximization defines a win-win evolutionary space that can outperform “pure” short-term self-maximizing (see Dawkins' selfishness vs. altruism error).

9. Life might not have a “telos,” (a grand purpose), but it has a kind of “negative telos.” Nature eliminates behavioral patterns that damage what they depend on. That’s a yet unnamed natural principle (I’ve suggested calling it needism), which even “survival of the fittest” must yield to.

 

We’d better adjust what’s deemed rational, to prevent self-maximization from becoming self-undermining (in economics, and politics).

 

Illustration by Julia Suits, The New Yorker Cartoonist & author of The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions.

 

http://bigthink.com/errors-we-live-by/moral-sciences-are-back

 

 

 

 



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評阿倫特的「善惡觀」
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對哲學家或神學家來說,論證「邪惡」是否具有「存在性(Being)或「實體性(Substantiality)或許有其「意義」或「學術價值」。但是,對於受到「邪惡」行為傷害的人來說,她/他們不會因為「邪惡」不具有「存在性」或「實體性」而減輕了被傷害的程度或從痛苦中得到某種解脫。從法哲學觀點來看,我們如何處理或處罰一個不具有「存在性」或「實體性」的概念?

 

阿倫特和奧古斯丁的思考盲點在於:

 

兩位把一般人當做形容詞使用的觀念轉化成一個(/他們認為)有所指」的概念(名詞)

 

脫離了造成具體結果的「行為」,「邪惡」並無「所指」。因此,我們不能只討論「邪惡」這個「概念」的「存在性」;我們討論「邪惡」這個「概念」時,需要同時討論構成「X邪惡。」這個判斷的「行為」以及它所造成的具體結果。



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詮釋漢娜‧阿倫特的善惡觀 -- R. Barron
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Hannah Arendt, Augustinian      

 

Robert Barron, 09/14/13

 

The appearance of an art house film on the philosopher Hannah Arendt has sparked renewed interest in an old controversy.

 

In 1961, Arendt went to Jerusalem as a correspondent for the New Yorker magazine to cover the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the notorious Nazi colonel accused of masterminding the transportation of millions of Jews to the death camps. Arendt was herself a Jew who had managed to escape from Nazi Germany and who had been, years before, something of an ardent Zionist. But she had since grown suspicious of the Israeli state, seeing it as un-self-critical and indifferent to the legitimate concerns of the Palestinians. I think it is fair to say, therefore, that she came to the trial with a complicated set of assumptions and a good deal of conflicting feelings.

 

As the trial unfolded, Arendt was massively put off by what she saw as the grandstanding of the prosecutors. Their irresponsible, even clownish, antics were, she concluded, the public face of the Israeli state, which had determined to make of the Eichmann proceedings a show trial. But what struck her most of all was Eichmann himself. Sequestered in a glass box for his own protection, squinting behind owlish spectacles, screwing up his mouth in an odd, nervous tic, trading in homespun expressions, pleading that he was just a middle-level bureaucrat following orders, Eichmann was neither impressive nor frightening nor sinister. Arendt never doubted that Eichmann was guilty of great wickedness, but she saw the Nazi functionary as the very incarnation of what she famously called "the banality of evil." (平庸的邪惡)

 

One of the distinctive marks of this banality Arendt characterized as Gedankenlosigkeit, which could be superficially rendered in English as "thoughtlessness," but which carries more accurately the sense of "the inability to think." Eichmann couldn't rise above his own petty concerns about his career and he couldn't begin to "think" along with another, to see what he was doing from the standpoint of his victims. This very Gedankenlosigkeit is what enabled him to say, probably with honesty, that he didn't feel as though he had committed any crimes.

 

The film to which I referred at the outset very effectively portrays the firestorm of protest that followed Arendt's account of the Eichmann trial. Many Jews, both in Israel and America, thought by characterizing Eichmann the way she did, she had exonerated him and effectively blamed his victims. I won't descend into the complexity of that argument, which rages to some degree to the present day. But I will say that I believe Arendt's critics missed the rather profound metaphysical significance of what the philosopher was saying about the Nazi bureaucrat.

 

In a text written during the heat of bitter controversy surrounding her book, Arendt tried to explain in greater detail what she meant by calling evil banal:

 

"Good can be radical; evil can never be radical, it can only be extreme, for it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension, yet -- and this is its horror! -- it can spread like a fungus over the surface of the earth and lay waste the entire world."

 

The young Hannah Arendt had written her doctoral dissertation under the great German philosopher Karl Jaspers, and the topic of her work was the concept of love in the writings of Saint Augustine. One of the most significant intellectual breakthroughs of Augustine's life was the insight that evil is not something substantial, but rather a type of non-being, a lack of some perfection that ought to be present. Thus, a cancer is evil in the measure that it compromises the proper functioning of a bodily organ, and a sin is evil in the measure that it represents a distortion or twisting of a rightly functioning will. Accordingly, evil does not stand over and against the good as a kind of co-equal metaphysical force, as the Manichees would have it. Rather, it is invariably parasitic upon the good, existing only as a sort of shadow.

 

J.R.R. Tolkien gave visual expression to this Augustinian notion in his portrayal of the Nazgul in The Lord of the Rings. Those terrible and terrifying threats, flying through the air on fearsome beasts, are revealed, once their capes and hoods are pulled away, to be precisely nothing, emptiness. And this is exactly why, to return to Arendt's description, evil can never be radical. It can never sink down into the roots of being; it can never stand on its own; it has no integrity, no real depth or substance. To be sure, it can be extreme and it can, as Arendt's image suggests, spread far and wide, doing enormous damage. But it can never truly be. And this is why, when it shows up in raw form, it looks, not like Goethe's Mephistopheles or Milton's Satan, but rather like a little twerp in a glass box.

 

Occasionally, in the course of the liturgical year, Catholics are asked to renew their baptismal promises. One of the questions, to which the answer "I do" is expected, is this: "Do you reject the glamor of evil and refuse to be mastered by sin?" Evil can never truly be beautiful, for beauty is a property of being; it can only be "glamorous" or superficially attractive. The great moral lesson -- articulated by both Augustine and Hannah Arendt -- is that we must refuse to be beguiled by the glittering banality of wickedness and we must consistently choose the substance over the shadow.

 

Father Robert Barron is the founder of the global ministry, Word on Fire, and the Rector/President of Mundelein Seminary.

 

http://www.realclearreligion.org/articles/2013/09/14/hannah_arendt_augustinian.html



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你舉的第一個例子說明了「『資源』不敷『應用』」。爭奪「資源」以及如何爭奪「資源」是生存問題,不是「道德」問題。此之謂:「衣食足,而後知榮辱。」

 

你舉的第二個例子正是個別「社會」有不同「社會規範」的應用。也說明了:「同一個社會中的不同時代,可能有不同的『人際行為規範』。」

 


我同意你所說的:「研究倫理道德必然要先由生活方式差異開始。」或許「研究各社會倫理道德的差異必然要先由它們生活方式的差異開始。」更為嚴謹。

 

把你這個觀點表達最為清楚的莫過於L. 史特勞斯所說的:「離開『社會』,『道德』並無意義。」

 

但此處的「道德」,相當於我所說的「社會規範」。它並非「倫理學基礎論」和「理論倫理學」所研究的「道德」。「倫理學基礎論」和「理論倫理學」所研究的主題是:

 

a.     人類社會需要「道德」這個「概念」嗎?如果需要,為什麼需要?

 

有很多(分析)哲學家,A. J. 愛爾是其中之一,認為:「所有『道德命題』只是人情緒的表達。」或「凡『道德命題』皆無實際意義。」從而,對愛爾及其同伴來說,「道德」是個「無所指」的「概念」。自然也就沒有單數或複數的用法。

 

b.     如果人類社會需要「道德」這個「概念」,建構它的「理論基礎」是什麼?

 

J. Gailef/M. Pigliucci, S. Novella的文章都討論這個議題。這不是說,我們有三種不同「基礎」的「道德」;而是說,我們有三種不同做為建構「道德」基礎的「理論」。但只有一種或兩種(相容的理論)結合起來,才是說得通的「理論」。但這個議題並無定論。我們可以說,There are different theories of morality in metaethics. 但這不相當於,Metaethics discuss different moralities.

 

c.     如果人類社會需要「道德」這個「概念」,建構它的「方法」是什麼?

 

這兩個「倫理學」次學門所研究的主題,不是「應用倫理學」所研究的:

 

「我們應該遵守那些具體的行為規範?」

 

請再思考:「凡『抽象概念』皆不可數,故無單數、複數之別。」這個「文法」規則。



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還是應該
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比如說,在五千年前,人們開墾的土地很少。當時,  遊牧的人們希望有廣大的草地讓牛馬羊活動;但農耕的人們卻把土地挖好多水溝,還讓種稻種麥的地方都變成軟泥。如此一來,這兩群人肯定不會喜歡彼此的,因為他們對土地所作的處置不同,也就是所崇尚的生活有差異。而在開墾更多土地或改變生活形態之前,甚至會彼此爭吵打架。

一直到雙方都各自焚燒樹叢、抽乾沼澤、聯合更遠的部族……,但問題仍然沒有結束。隨著雙方的生產方式差異加上語言、文化等更多差異,越過鴻溝變得更難了。

如此一來,雙方的生活道德也有不同之處。以中國而言,長期以來在農、牧雙方生活方式的拉鋸中有分有合,一直到17世紀之後才稍稍定下來。但是過了一百多年後因工業革命打破了平衡,最后變成外蒙脫離、西方社會老拿遊牧地區的自主權說事的狀態。

現在的中國,房地產商想要蓋更多利潤高的豪宅,平民想保護自己的宅基地。在這樣的新時代,生活方式的差異仍然是社會動力的其中一個來源,但是我們應該如何駕馭它?這就是洒家認為,研究倫理道德必然要先由生活方式差異開始的理由。也就是它可能要加上複數。

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關於「道德」這個概念
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「道德」一詞有兩個層次的意義:做為指導人類行為的原則;以及在個別社會中該社會成員們經過約定俗成過程所形成的人際行為規範(我有時簡稱之為「社會規範」)

 

前者是「倫理學基礎論」和「理論倫理學」兩個次學門所研究的主題;它是一個「抽象的」概念。凡「抽象概念」皆不可數,故無單數、複數之別。後者則是「應用倫理學」這個次學門所研究的主題;由於它只有在個別社會中有「意義」或應用,它的確只有複數的意義或用法。本欄所轉貼的三篇文章,都屬於「倫理學基礎論」或「理論倫理學」的領域。

 

「道德」的功能不在「增進人類福祉」,而在幫助維持社會的穩定運作。使得各社會成員有一個適當的發展機會。從而,間接的有助於「增進人類繁衍」。

 

在同一個社會中,大家通常需要遵守「約定俗成」的行為規範。不因張三、李四、或王二痲子各自所屬地區、職業、性別、(收入)階層、或宗教信仰而有這種或那種「豁免權」。其次,由於其「約定俗成」性,同一個社會中的不同時代,可能有不同的「人際行為規範」。最後,所謂「規範」,表示它不是「法律」或「戒條」,也就缺乏強制性。一個人願不願意遵守該社會的「行為規範」,由他/她是否能夠面對違反此「規範」的可能後果而定。此之謂:「只要我喜歡,有什麼不可以。」

 

不過,在某行為所能取得的利益、興奮、和/或快感之外,凡行為必有後果。我們必須了解以上最後一個命題中「喜歡」一詞的受詞,除了利益、興奮、和/或快感之外,也要包括如果某「行為」違反了「社會規範」,它可能衍生的種種後果。



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討論到人類的道德時,應該使用複數名詞。
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因為,就生物學的定義而言,人類的群體已經如此巨大。許多原先看起來是增進人類福祉與繁衍的行為,都只有局部的效果——也就是在某個地區增進了人類福祉,但對其他地區的正面效果可忽略。

問題就來了。“哪種行為能增進人類的福祉?”有時候,需要在問這個問題時附加其他的問題——增進哪些人的福祉?特別是在哲學家判定的行為,有具體的施力方向、起點、終點時。比方說,開發某某地區的能源礦藏,如此問題就具有局部效果的特徵。

而有些問題的施力起點終點具有代數性質。例如,是否應該付給離婚配偶贍養費這樣的問題是對象未定的,暫時不能決定是否有局部效果特性的討論。

如果在討論道德時能區分這兩種問題,應該是不錯的進展!

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什麼才是「道德」的「基礎」? - S. Novella
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Morality – Religion, Philosophy and Science

 

Steven Novella, 01/07/13

 

What is the proper basis for morality? This question comes up frequently in skeptical circles for various reasons – it tests the limits of science, the role of philosophy, and is often used as a justification for religion. There has been a vibrant discussion of the issue, in fact, on my recent posts from last week. The comments seemed to contain more questions than anything else, however.

 

Religion and Morality

 

Often defenders of religion in general or of a particular set of religious beliefs will argue that religion is a source of morality. They may even argue that it is the only true source of morality, which then becomes defined as behavioral rules set down by God.

 

There are fatal problems with this position, however. The first is that there is no general agreement on whether or not there is a god or gods, and if there is what is the proper tradition of said god. There are scores of religions in the world, each with their own traditions. Of course, if god does not exist, any moral system based upon the commandments of god do not have a legitimate basis (at least not as absolute morality derived from an omniscient god).

 

Related to this is the issue of religious freedom. It is impossible to base laws on religious beliefs without oppressing the religious freedom of those who do not share those religious beliefs.

 

Another fatal problem is that, even if we lived in a universe where there is a god who has moral commandments, nobody knows what those are. There is no one who objectively and verifiably knows the will of God, and God has not seen fit to unambiguously make their will known to all of humanity. We are therefore left with the interpretation of God’s will by people, and therefore at best all we know are the interpretations by very fallible and culturally biased people. If the multitude of religious traditions is any indication, this is an extremely variable and flawed filter through which to see the will of God.

 

Finally there is a philosophical dilemma inherent in basing absolute morality on religious faith. If God’s morality is perfect and absolute, is it so because it comes from God, or is it inherently perfect and God, who is omniscient, is simply able to discern it as so? The latter seems like an untenable position – morality is whatever God says it is, without any appeal to logic or any objective criteria of what a good moral rule would be.

 

This position, however, seems to fit the evidence from ancient religious texts. As many have pointed out, the morality of the god of the old testament was brutal and even evil by today’s standards – God apparently thought it was OK to murder children for poking fun at his prophets, to rape women, to engage in slavery, and to commit genocide.

 

If, on the other hand, morality is itself absolute and God simply knows what absolute morality is, then shouldn’t we strive to understand morality and derive proper moral decision-making on our own? If a moral position is objectively correct, then we can demonstrate that objective without appeal to religious faith, avoiding any problems with freedom of religion.

 

Science, Philosophy, and Morality

 

To what extent is our moral decision-making, including laws that derive from it, based upon science vs philosophy? I agree with the position, articulated by Massimo Pigliucci, that both science and philosophy are needed for moral reasoning. The other position, defended by Sam Harris in The Moral Landscape, is that we can develop an objective morality based entirely on science.

 

The problem with the science-only position is that it is dependent upon taking a particular philosophical position – that of consequentialism (also called utilitarianism). This is the philosophical position that the best moral decision is the one that maximizes human happiness. For distinction there is also deontological theory of morality, which states that an ethical system derives from rules. These rules are based upon the most fundamental assumptions possible. An example would be – it is unethical to deliberately deceive another human.

 

A third system is that of value ethics, which considers the effect of specific moral decision on the values of the person who makes them. This system essentially asks – what kind of people do we want to be, and what kind of society do we want to have?

 

Personally, I do not think there is any one ethical system that always works. It is legitimate to consider consequences, but also to have a system of rules, and to consider the bigger question of individual and societal values. These get mixed together in a complex way in order to make individual moral decisions. But there is no algorithm or method to always derive the right answer.

 

Science plays a role in all this – science can tell us about why we have the moral senses that we do. This is based mostly on evolutionary theory and on neuroscience. For example, most humans seem to have an inherent sense of reciprocity and justice. We feel that if we do something good for someone else, they should give back to a similar degree. Further, if someone does something bad against another person or (worse) the group, they should be punished in some way. These are evolved senses, based in the hardwiring of our brains.

 

None of this, however, can tell us if we should punish those who commit crimes.

 

Another contribution of science, however, is to tell us about outcomes. If we create certain laws or rules of behavior, what is the outcome? This type of evidence informs ethical decision making, but cannot makes the decisions for us. We still have to decide what outcomes we want, and how to value different outcomes when they conflict. How do we balance freedom and safety, for example? And how do we account for the fact that different individuals would draw the line in different places? How do we balance the rights of different individuals when they conflict?

 

Science cannot answer these question for us – it can only inform our choices by telling us what the likely outcomes will be.

 

Those defending science as the final arbiter of ethics either knowingly or unknowingly are taking a consequentialist view. Even if this view can be defended as the best system of ethics (and I do not believe it can), that is still a philosophical choice that needs to be defended philosophically.

 

Here is an example of why consequentialism breaks down. Would you consider it ethical to take someone against their will, kill them, and harvest their organs in order to save the lives of 5 people (or 6, or some other arbitrary number)? Most people would say no. However, you are saving 5 lives at the expense of 1, and it can be demonstrated that this will maximize happiness all around.

 

Ethicists would argue that the right not to be killed (a negative right) outweighs the right to be saved with a medical intervention – but this is now invoking ethical rules, not just considering outcomes. Further, we might argue that we would not want to live in a society in which one can be forcibly taken and murdered to have their organs harvested (a value ethics position).

 

Pure consequentialism, in my opinion, is not a tenable position. In any case, there is simply no way to avoid doing philosophy when thinking ethically.

 

By the same token it is difficult, and in some cases impossible, to apply moral thinking without having information provided by science. The two disciplines are complementary.

 

Conclusion

 

The best approach to morality and ethics, in my opinion, is a thoughtful blend of philosophy and science. I do not see a legitimate role for religion itself, however, cultural traditions (many of which may be codified in religious belief) are a useful source of information about the human condition and the effect of specific moral behaviors. There may be wisdom in such traditions – but that is the beginning of moral thinking, not the conclusion. Religious traditions also come with a great deal of baggage derived from the beliefs and views of fairly primitive and unenlightened societies.

 

http://www.skepticblog.org/2013/01/07/morality-religion-philosophy-and-science/



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近親交媾曾在早期人類社會盛行 - B. Smith
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Ancient Human Skulls Show Evidence Of Prevalent Inbreeding

 

Brett Smith, RedOrbit, 03/19/13

 

Although it is considered completely taboo in most modern societies, an ancient human skull found in northern China suggests inbreeding could have been prevalent among ancient peoples around 100,000 years ago, according to a report in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

 

The skull – which was found at Xujiayao (許家窯), a mountainous excavation site several hundred miles from the Mongolian border – contained an enlarged parietal foramen (EPF), or “hole in the skull,” typically diagnosed as a rare genetic mutation in modern humans.

 

Using CT scans and 3-D imaging technology, the team was able to successfully produce a model of the highly fractured and fragmented skull. After the model was created, the team was clearly able to see the results of the congenital condition.

 

EPF, which appears in one out of every 25,000 modern human births, prevents the closure of the skull bones that typically occur within the first five months of fetal development. Based on the exceptionality of the genetic condition and other fossil evidence found in skulls from the same time period, the researchers theorized the genetic pools were very small in many Pleistocene communities.

 

“The probability of finding one of these abnormalities in the small available sample of human fossils is very low, and the cumulative probability of finding so many is exceedingly small,” said co-author Erik Trinkaus of Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL).

 

“The presence of the Xujiayao and other Pleistocene human abnormalities therefore suggests unusual population dynamics, most likely from high levels of inbreeding and local population instability,” Trinkaus added.

 

The skull, dubbed Xujiayao 11, was found in 1977 at the Xujiayao site on the west bank of the Liyi River. A radioactive dating analysis of the skull and other specimens at the site found them to be around 100,000 years old. The researchers noted these specimens are morphologically different from Homo erectus and other modern humans.

 

Because of the individual’s approximate age-of-death, the researchers said they do not believe the congenital defect significantly impacted the person’s life. Although EPFs “have been associated with a variety of other developmental abnormalities and symptoms, including cranial bifida, cleft palate, scalp defects, headaches and seizures,” the authors said they could not determine if this particular individual suffered from any of them because of lack of evidence.

 

The authors added that previous research has pointed to inbreeding as a major cause for the condition.

 

“Multiple studies have documented familial associations for EPF leading to inferences of their being inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion,” they wrote.

 

Inbreeding amongst early human population would not be surprising if the numbers of individuals became small enough. Previous research has suggested a “population bottleneck,” which would have happened before the Xujiayao 11 skull, may have driven humans to as many as 2,000 individuals worldwide. Without a proper knowledge of the risks of inbreeding or the societal norms, early humans would probably not have hesitated when it came to breeding with relatives. In fact, the survival of our species could have depended on our ancestors procreating amongst family members.

 

http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1112806541/inbreeding-common-ancient-human-skulls-evidence-031913/

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道德來自生存本能 - L. Dye
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Do We Need God to be Moral?

 

LEE DYE, ABC News, 04/07/13 

 

One of the world's leading primatologists believes his decades of research with apes answers a question that has plagued humans since the beginning of time.

 

Are we moral because we believe in God, or do we believe in God because we are moral?

 

Frans de Waal argues in his latest book that the answer is clearly the latter. The seeds for moral behavior preceded the emergence of our species by millions of years, and the need to codify that behavior so that all would have a clear blueprint for morality led to the creation of religion, he argues.

 

Most religious leaders would argue it's the other way around: Our sense of what's moral came from God, and without God there would be no morality.

 

But this is a column about science, not religion, so it's worth asking if de Waal's own research supports his provocative conclusions, documented in the newly released book, "The Bonobo and the Atheist."

 

Just the title answers one question: he is an atheist, although he disparages the efforts of other atheists to convince the public to abandon all beliefs in the supernatural. Religion serves its purpose, he argues, especially through the rituals and body of beliefs that help strengthen community bonds.

 

De Waal is a biology professor at Emory University and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes Primate Center in Atlanta. He is widely regarded as one of the world's top experts on primatology, especially the sometimes violent chimpanzees and their fun-loving sexually obsessed cousins, the bonobos, sometimes called the forgotten apes because they have become so rare.

 

Through years of research all over the world, de Waal has reached these basic conclusions: Chimps and bonobos and other primates clearly show empathy with others who are suffering. They have a sense of fairness, they take care of those in need, and they will share what they have with others who are less fortunate.

 

Those and other human-like characteristics, that have been clearly documented by other researchers as well, at least show they have some grasp of morality. It doesn't mean they are moral -- especially chimps, which can be very violent -- but they have the "basic building blocks" for morality, de Waal argues.

 

Chimps, he says, "are ready to kill their rivals. They sometimes kill humans, or bite off their face." So he says he is "reluctant to call a chimpanzee a 'moral being.'"

 

"There is little evidence that other animals judge the appropriateness of actions that do not directly affect themselves," he writes. Yet, "In their behavior, we recognize the same values we pursue ourselves.

 

"I take these hints of community concern as a sign that the building blocks of morality are older than humanity, and we don't need God to explain how we got to where we are today," he writes.

 

Our sense of morality, he continues, comes from within, not from above. Many activities he has witnessed show that apes feel guilt and shame, which also suggest a sense of morality. Why should anyone feel guilty if they don't know the difference between right and wrong?

 

For example, Lody, a bonobo in the Milwaukee County Zoo, bit the hand -- apparently accidentally -- of a veterinarian who was feeding him vitamin pills.

 

"Hearing a crunching sound, Lody looked up, seemingly surprised, and released the hand minus a digit," de Waals writes.

 

Days later the vet revisited the zoo and held up her bandaged left hand. Lody looked at the hand and retreated to a distant corner of the enclosure where he held his head down and wrapped his arms around himself, signs of both grief and guilt.

 

And here's the amazing part. About 15 years later the vet returned to the zoo and was standing among a crowd of visitors when Lody recognized her and rushed over. He tried to see her left hand, which was hidden behind the railing. The vet lifted up her incomplete hand and Lody looked at it, then at the vet's face, then back at the hand again.

 

Was he showing shame and grief? Or was it fear of a possible reprisal? The ape at least realized he had done something wrong, de Waal argues, showing the seeds of moral behavior.

 

There are scores of other examples showing deep grief over a dying colleague and compassion for a mother ape that has lost her young and care for young apes that have lost their parents. All those things are signs of what we would call unmistakable morality, if the subjects were humans, not apes.

 

"Some say animals are what they are, whereas our own species follows ideals, but this is easily proven wrong," de Waals writes. "Not because we don't have ideals, but because other species have them too."

 

When an ape expresses grief or guilt or compassion he is living out the blueprint for survival in a culture that is becoming more complex, and possibly more dangerous. He is acting from within, not because he believes in God who defined right and wrong. De Waal puts it this way:

 

"The moral law is not imposed from above or derived from well-reasoned principles; rather it arises from ingrained values that have been there since the beginning of time."

 

He cites at least one instance when those "ingrained values" led to action among bonobos that seems like a divine solution to a nasty problem that confronts human society around the world.

 

Bonobos, according to his research, know how to avoid war.

 

Over and over he has seen neighboring bonobo colonies gather near a common border as the males prepare to do battle. Ape warfare can indeed be violent. But when the bonobos are ready to fight, the females often charge across the boundary and start making out with both genders on the other side.

 

Pretty soon, the war has degenerated to what we humans would call an orgy, after which both sides are seen grooming each other and watching their children play.

 

So an orgy is moral? Maybe these guys understand it really is better to make love, not war.

 

http://news.yahoo.com/god-moral-093606607--abc-news-tech.html



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