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    mutton mutton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yrogerg123 View Post
    I know this was directed at gwahir, but this possibility seems not inconceivable but rather inconsequential. Why would we treat such a god differently we treat, say, Da Vinci or Einstein? As in, respected, perhaps revered, but not worshiped. To the extent that a God does not expect anything of believers and punish non-believers, I'm not sure there is a difference between God and no-God other than simple curiosity and the quest for knowledge about the nature of reality.

    To put it simply: if God is just there, a being floating around, maybe the spiritual energy in the universe, maybe occupying another dimension we can't conceive of (however one defines god, and however god could possibly exist), I would be interested to know that such a God existed, I would find it fascinating, but ultimately it would be like finding out that there was another type of galaxy we didn't know about. Obviously proving the existence of a God would be significantly more profound than that, but it would not change my life at all. I would imagine most atheists are significantly more non-religious than they are atheistic. I can't speak for everybody, it's just the nature of atheism that you are open to and interested in scientific possibilities (if I am generalizing too much about atheism here let me know, I can really only speak for myself and the few atheists have had real conversations with about the subject). That being the case, my life would remain the same in the presence of a God that is not attached to any religion.

    Of course, if it were PROVEN to me without a shadow of a doubt that one of the religions actually has it right (let's call that extremely unlikely), then I would willingly follow that religion as closely as I could. But to be blunt, I don't see that happening, so it's not something I have to worry about.
    That's fine. I'm talking purely theoretically. I'm not really interested in the religion discussion.



    Quote Originally Posted by Think View Post
    I don't agree that utlitarianism is a moral theory. Morality has to be about bringing in a transcendental operator to arbitrate between competing desires; utilitarianism is a theory giving a means of arbitration WITHOUT any transcendental operators. For example, if there is a woman in a cave on a hill who has a child, and nobody knows of her existence, and an infertile couple desperate for a child come along and decide to steal the baby from her, there's no clear reason why that would be objectionable to utilitarianism - you'd have to show that somehow the one woman's suffering was greater than the couples' -and their families'- joy. I don't think this can be done without question begging, and yet I find the scenario abhorrent. Utilitarianism is mostly a heuristic that describes what we view as ideal in non-moral situations - i.e. if a pregnant lady and I stumble across a chocolate bar in the desert after days of starvation I don't believe it is morally imperative for me to do more than share the bar with her - but I like to think I would, because it benefits her and the child more than it would me. But in a moral situation - i.e. My pregnant wife and I discover that our desert companion has a chocolate bar saved in his backpack and so we steal it so that she can eat it- a distinction creeps in for me precisely because I think that the situation cannot be reduced to maximising benefits for participants considered collectively.
    If it can, that's not morality - that's the ideal way to act in its absence.
    Utilitarianism is a moral theory—it posits what morality is. There are different types of utilitarianism that tell you what the transcendental operators are like, that you're supposed to follow to compare the mother's suffering and the couple's happiness in order to figure out which is greater. I agree that this methodology is all unclear, but that's not a problem with the moral theory itself—utilitarianism can be true without us being able to determine the correct moral choice in every scenario (similarly, maybe God can exist without us being able to know of it).

    The first desert situation is a moral situation under utilitarianism (and many other moral theories). The relevant moral question is: How should the chocolate bar be divided between the two of you? Why do you think the situation is non-moral?

    For the second desert situation, consider the possible actions you can take and see which results in the maximal overall—not collective—happiness. Some outcomes favour you and your wife, and some favour your companion—not everyone has to benefit. You're supposed to just pick the best outcome in terms of overall happiness, and act on that.



    Quote Originally Posted by Think View Post
    Which leads me to this - I think Gwahir's a little lower on this scale than you're arguing precisely because utilitarianism doesn't require anything transcendental or ontological and because it's considerably more parsimonious - ostensibly just one principle, "maximise wellbeing", albeit that I think that "wellbeing" often stands in for a multitude of assumptions - than the sort of thing most people mean by "morality".
    Utilitarianism or not has no bearing on the position on the scale because I was talking about belief in the existence of true moral propositions, which is a meta-ethical issue independent of any moral theory. The scale could expand thus, with my bias:

    1. ???
    2. Belief in moral nihilism, i.e. there's no such thing as morality
    3. Belief in the existence of true moral propositions (opposite of #2)
    4. ???
    5. Belief in expressivism (an example of #2)
    6. Belief in consequentialism (an example of #3)
    7. Belief in egoism (an example of #6)
    8. Belief in altruism (an example of #6)
    9. Belief in utilitarianism (an example of #6)
    10. Belief in virtue ethics (an example of #3)
    11. Belief in deontology (an example of #3)
    12. ???
    13. Belief in common sense morality (an example of #3)
    Last edited by mutton; 12-14-2011 at 05:00 PM.

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