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Re: [stoics] Re: The Power of Habit

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  • robin
    ... Ah, but I reach for my gun dispassionately ;-) Commonly `oughts come from some external authority to the ... [lots of good stuff snipped] I think there s
    Message 1 of 19 , Aug 1, 2006
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      marquis95960 wrote:
      > Robin writes:
      > ___________________
      >
      > Whenever I hear the word "ought", I reach for my gun ;-)
      > __________________
      >
      > Now Robin, why would you do that? Your therapist would have a field
      > day :).

      Ah, but I reach for my gun dispassionately ;-)

      Commonly `oughts' come from some external authority to the
      > agent and if that's what you're reacting to I can sympathize. Those
      > external imperatives would be unconsidered by the agent, and this may
      > be why you are suspicious of duties (ie, `oughts') defined by
      > societal roles (referring to Jan's recent thread on that subject).

      [lots of good stuff snipped]

      I think there's a disparity between the semantic and affective content
      of "ought". Semantically, "ought" means something like "performing this
      action will significantly increase the chances of some other (intended)
      state/event occurring." But you are right that in practice we tend to
      feel it as some kind of external imperative.

      Robin




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    • Grant Sterling
      ... Of course, I disagree. Not all oughts are identical. I think that when used morally ought means this must be done, period . ... There are two kinds
      Message 2 of 19 , Aug 1, 2006
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        At 05:54 AM 8/1/2006, robin wrote:
        >marquis95960 wrote:
        >
        >Commonly `oughts' come from some external authority to the
        > > agent and if that's what you're reacting to I can sympathize. Those
        > > external imperatives would be unconsidered by the agent, and this may
        > > be why you are suspicious of duties (ie, `oughts') defined by
        > > societal roles (referring to Jan's recent thread on that subject).
        >
        >[lots of good stuff snipped]
        >
        >I think there's a disparity between the semantic and affective content
        >of "ought". Semantically, "ought" means something like "performing this
        >action will significantly increase the chances of some other (intended)
        >state/event occurring." But you are right that in practice we tend to

        Of course, I disagree. Not all "oughts" are identical. I
        think that when used morally "ought" means "this must be done,
        period".

        >feel it as some kind of external imperative.

        There are two kinds of 'external imperatives': ones
        that come from external authorities based solely on their
        power, and ones that come from the nature of things. _Real_
        moral oughts are of the latter sort. They are external imperatives,
        on my view, in the same sense that it is an external [epistemic]
        imperative that I believe that there is a Pepsi can in front of
        me. I am presented with powerful evidence of this external
        reality, and it is clearly incumbent upon me to believe that
        it is there whether I like it or not. Of course, the act of assent
        is mine--I could deny the existence of the Pepsi can if I
        so chose. But it is presented to me as a fact. By the same
        token, it is presented to me as a fact that I ought to help my
        neighbor, who had a tree limb fall on his car and who is
        physically unable to remove it. I don't relish climbing a tree
        with a saw in 98 degree heat, and I don't even like my
        neighbor very much, but this is presented to me as a moral
        fact. I could deny it--rationalize it away somehow. But
        I'll climb the tree instead.

        >Robin

        Regards,
        Grant
      • robin
        ... If that were the case, there would be no need for the word ought . And to say that something must be done, period, is semantically empty. It s like the
        Message 3 of 19 , Aug 1, 2006
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          Grant Sterling wrote:
          > At 05:54 AM 8/1/2006, robin wrote:
          >> marquis95960 wrote:
          >>
          >> Commonly `oughts' come from some external authority to the
          >>> agent and if that's what you're reacting to I can sympathize. Those
          >>> external imperatives would be unconsidered by the agent, and this may
          >>> be why you are suspicious of duties (ie, `oughts') defined by
          >>> societal roles (referring to Jan's recent thread on that subject).
          >> [lots of good stuff snipped]
          >>
          >> I think there's a disparity between the semantic and affective content
          >> of "ought". Semantically, "ought" means something like "performing this
          >> action will significantly increase the chances of some other (intended)
          >> state/event occurring." But you are right that in practice we tend to
          >
          > Of course, I disagree. Not all "oughts" are identical. I
          > think that when used morally "ought" means "this must be done,
          > period".

          If that were the case, there would be no need for the word "ought". And
          to say that something must be done, period, is semantically empty. It's
          like the example I gave earlier about giving a book without there being
          someone to give it to.

          >> feel it as some kind of external imperative.
          >
          > There are two kinds of 'external imperatives': ones
          > that come from external authorities based solely on their
          > power, and ones that come from the nature of things. _Real_
          > moral oughts are of the latter sort. They are external imperatives,
          > on my view, in the same sense that it is an external [epistemic]
          > imperative that I believe that there is a Pepsi can in front of
          > me. I am presented with powerful evidence of this external
          > reality, and it is clearly incumbent upon me to believe that
          > it is there whether I like it or not. Of course, the act of assent
          > is mine--I could deny the existence of the Pepsi can if I
          > so chose. But it is presented to me as a fact. By the same
          > token, it is presented to me as a fact that I ought to help my
          > neighbor, who had a tree limb fall on his car and who is
          > physically unable to remove it. I don't relish climbing a tree
          > with a saw in 98 degree heat, and I don't even like my
          > neighbor very much, but this is presented to me as a moral
          > fact. I could deny it--rationalize it away somehow. But
          > I'll climb the tree instead.

          You seem to be conflating the epistemic and deontic senses of "ought"
          and "must". There is a sense in which these modals do indeed have the
          kind of objectivity you assign to them; i.e., sentences like "The cake
          out to be ready by now," or "Tom must be in the shower." However, I
          can't see what this epistemic sense has to do with morality.

          But anyway, we've been through all of this before, so I suppose we'll
          never agree!

          Robin


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        • Keith Seddon
          Hello Robin,
          Message 4 of 19 , Aug 1, 2006
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            Hello Robin,

            <<<However, I can't see what this epistemic sense [of ought] has to do with
            morality.>>>

            The Stoic says that if you want to flourish as a human being and enjoy
            eudaimonia then, amongst other things, you ought (for example) to behave
            justly towards other people. This strikes me as logical similar to saying,
            'If you want to get clean, then you ought to take a shower.'

            No Stoic, teacher, Sage, or otherwise is laying down some king of moral law.
            They are simply advising people how to throw off their misery and make
            progress towards happiness. It makes no difference to them if anyone heeds
            them or not.

            Best wishes,

            Keith
          • marquis95960
            Grant writes: ___________________ There are two kinds of external imperatives : ones that come from external authorities based solely on their power, and ones
            Message 5 of 19 , Aug 1, 2006
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              Grant writes:
              ___________________

              There are two kinds of 'external imperatives': ones that come from
              external authorities based solely on their power, and ones that come
              from the nature of things. _Real_ moral oughts are of the latter
              sort.
              __________________

              Grant, I agree that _real_ oughts would be derived from the facts
              concerning something's nature. But, a normative ought only makes
              sense if the descriptive facts of how things are could be different.
              And that potential can only be co-located with agency. So, facts can
              certainly be external to an agent, but I'm not sure _real_ oughts
              can. And that is a big hole in any authoritative claim on what one
              agent dictates another agent `ought' to do, regardless of the facts.
              No agent can choose virtue for another. Only the facts can be
              presented. It is the individual agent's correct understanding of the
              facts, the `well considered opinion', that is necessary for virtue
              (technically, the Classical Stoics would say `scientific certain
              knowledge', or the cognitive impression, is necessary for virtue).

              I guess what I am saying is that only conscious agency can come up
              with _real_ oughts, and then only for itself. Rules are a two edged
              sword in this regard and must be transcended if one is to be
              virtuous. Understanding the purpose of the rule opens the door to
              the moral choice whereas `right' behavior alone, just following what
              someone else says we `ought' to do, in and of itself may set the
              stage for understanding, but that is all.

              Of course we can and do use `ought' all the time to describe some
              proposed optimum path from A to B from amongst several alternatives.
              But that is a different usage. A synonym for how I used ought at the
              beginning of this thread is `consciously choosing'. Each choice we
              make may or may not have the motivational power of our affective
              habit behind it. To the degree that it does not is the internal
              conflict I was attempting to describe.

              Live well,
              Steve
            • robin
              ... In that case there s no problem, since you re describing hypothetical imperatives, which are, IMHO, the only valid deontic modals. Incidentally, I find
              Message 6 of 19 , Aug 2, 2006
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                Keith Seddon wrote:
                > Hello Robin,
                >
                > <<<However, I can't see what this epistemic sense [of ought] has to do with
                > morality.>>>
                >
                > The Stoic says that if you want to flourish as a human being and enjoy
                > eudaimonia then, amongst other things, you ought (for example) to behave
                > justly towards other people. This strikes me as logical similar to saying,
                > 'If you want to get clean, then you ought to take a shower.'
                >
                > No Stoic, teacher, Sage, or otherwise is laying down some king of moral law.
                > They are simply advising people how to throw off their misery and make
                > progress towards happiness. It makes no difference to them if anyone heeds
                > them or not.

                In that case there's no problem, since you're describing hypothetical
                imperatives, which are, IMHO, the only valid deontic modals.

                Incidentally, I find this style of if-clause argument useful on those
                occasions when I presume to give advice. For example, I recently found
                myself saying "You really need to stop doing X ... if you want to be
                happy, that is. If you don't, then sure, carry on." This is not really
                different from the kind of advice I give my students when I say things
                like "If you want to get a good grade on this course, you ought to edit
                your work more carefully." Of course there is a significant contextual
                difference, in that I am an expert in my field (at least vis a vis my
                students) whereas I am not an expert on the good life, but I usually
                manage to bluff my way through ;-)

                Robin


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