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Re: [stoics] Re: The Personal and the Universal in Ethics

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  • jan.garrett
    You can distinguish between a personal standard you set for yourself (or believe appropriate for yourself and other Stoics or Pagans or whatever) and what is
    Message 1 of 21 , Jun 1, 2008
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      You can distinguish between a personal standard you set for yourself (or believe appropriate for yourself and other Stoics or Pagans or whatever) and what is strictly moral. I guess I am (roughly) following Rawls here: in his distinction between duties implied by a political conception of justice and norms that one might adopt personally or as an adherent to a "comprehensive (religious or philosophical) view."
       
      To be a bit more complete regarding Kant's approach: Kant himself distinguishes between duties corresponding to two applications of his  Categorical Imperative. If your attempt to conceive the action of your maxim as universal law leads to a contradiction (as he thinks "I may make a false promise . . . " and "I may tell a lie . . . " do), then there is one kind of duty.
       
      If the universalized version of the maxim is conceivable but not something you wish to happen (as he thinks is the case with the maxim "I may ignore the desperate need of another even if assistance would cost me little"), then there is another kind of duty. There is a more subjective and personal element of the second approach than the first, but it would still relate a person's conception of duty to the universal.  I may be able to conceive a world in which people do little to develop (at least some of) their (beneficial) talents but if it is the case upon reflection that I would not wish everyone not to do so, then I should not fail to try to develop my own. Kant thinks everyone who reflects on this case and the Bad Samaritan maxim mentioned earlier will reach the same conclusion. He would say: if I am right about this, then we all have the duty to try to develop at least some of our beneficial talents and we all have a duty not to be go through life as Bad Samaritans. 
       
      Is that imposing one's values on another or not? Kant would probably say No, because moral duty is rooted in the wills of each and every one of us. However, the similarly rational character of the will in each of us leads to uniform results.
       
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Amos
      Sent: Saturday, May 31, 2008 9:07 PM
      Subject: [stoics] Re: The Personal and the Universal in Ethics

      Jan: I understand what Kant is saying, but isn't it possible that
      I have a stricter moral code for myself than I expect of others?
      I may believe that I do not have the right to impose my moral code on
      others. Let's say that I have decided not to eat meat out of
      concern for the suffering of animals. I may feel that I don't have
      the right to interfere with the desire of others to eat meat. In
      fact, it may be that in many cases my respect for the right of
      others to decide for themselves may trump my sense of what is good or
      bad in specific cases, such as eating meat or not. That would
      not be true in other cases, say, slavery or genocide. Be well,
      Amos

      --- In stoics@yahoogroups. com, "jan.garrett" <jan.garrett@ ...> wrote:
      >
      > The following is a very modern explanation (inspired by Kant).
      >
      > Moral principles are rooted in the individual will but at the same
      time they
      > are general in form. P is a moral rule (in a person's mind) just in
      case the
      > person thinks that every rational being should follow it. Thus, I
      regard "do
      > not lie" as a moral principle if I think that no rational being
      should lie.
      > (You can qualify P however you want, excluding certain
      circumstances; but if
      > P is a moral principle for you, then, logically, Kant thinks, you
      are
      > committed to thinking that everybody should adhere to it.)
      >
      > Notice that this account does not say what the content of moral
      principles
      > are. "Do not lie" is just an example. However, Kant thinks that
      this
      > abstract "truth" about morality is logically sufficient to lead us
      to moral
      > principles with content and "do not lie" is one such that he
      mentions.
      >
      > There are other ways in which a link may be made between the moral
      and the
      > social or universal, but this will do for now. (The Kantian
      approach is not
      > without problems, but there does seem to be something right about
      it.)
      >
      > ----- Original Message -----
      > From: "Menno Rubingh" <mr_lists1@. ..>
      > To: <stoics@yahoogroups. com>
      > Sent: Saturday, May 31, 2008 5:30 PM
      > Subject: [stoics] Re: Why should there be a "purely personal" work
      ethic?
      >
      >
      > > Hello Stoics,
      > >
      > > Thanks much to you all for your continued views on the "work
      ethic"
      > > thing.
      > >
      > > ---
      > > Jan Garrett wrote:
      > >> I am puzzled, Menno, as to why you are seeking a personal (as
      > >> distinct from a social) work ethic? Even if morality is not
      > >> something imposed by a society, or something that varies from one
      > >> society to the next, even if doing what is right is not
      > >> essentially tied to reward and/or punishment in the afterlife,
      why
      > >> should individuals somehow need or require a work ethic at all?
      > >> Perhaps you have decided that your life would be more interesting
      > >> if you structured it in terms of certain goals and you devote
      your
      > >> effort toward the achievement of those goals, living a strenuous
      > >> life (eating and sleeping only as much as you absolutely have to,
      > >> taking no more breaks from your efforts toward you goals than you
      > >> absolutely have to). Isn't this a personal aesthetic choice,
      which
      > >> is compatible with morality insofar as it does not violate the
      > >> rights of others (present and future generations) , rather than a
      > >> moral issue?
      > >>
      > >> To put it in different terms, if you want to devote your entire
      > >> life (work, work, work) in attempting to prove some as yet
      > >> unproven mathematical conjecture, why should another person (who
      > >> does his or her part for society and earns a living without
      > >> violating the rights of others) not retire as soon as she is
      > >> financially able and devote her time to watching soap operas and
      > >> playing an occasional game of Scrabble? (I assume that she
      > >> continues to do the socially responsible thing even in
      retirement,
      > >> but that does not occupy a large part of her time.)
      > >
      > > Does the word "ethics" imply that one is talking about rules that
      > > hold for EVERYONE ? I had thought (so far) that that is not
      > > (necesarily) the case. If it did, then wouldn't that imply that
      > > there exists ONLY ONE ethics -- namely the "right" ethics for
      > > everyone ? Personally, I don't find people who believe that very
      > > pleasant to interact with; and I'd be inclined to say that I find
      > > such a belief "unethical".
      > >
      > > Therefore I think that to some degree, "ethics" must (should,
      ought)
      > > be rooted in PERSONAL views, and in the view that different people
      > > can follow (and "believe in") different ethical systems, and in
      the
      > > view that it is right when people do so.
      > >
      > > I repeat that I'm not a trained philosopher. Is my take on the
      word
      > > "ethics" completely untenable and irreconcilable with how the
      concept
      > > "ethics" is defined in the world (discipline) of philosophy ?
      > >
      > > As to the question WHY I seek a personal work ethic, I'll answer
      > > that together with replying to Amos, below. (I hope that the
      below
      > > simultaneously also answers Robin Turner's question.)
      > >
      > > ---
      > > Amos wrote:
      > >> It would be nice if the mass of people could have the leisure and
      > >> the psychic energy (it's difficult to have much energy after
      > >> having commuted two hours in traffic jams.) that the elite of
      > >> ancient Greece had.
      > >
      > > I agree very much. This is exactly what drives me here and what
      > > makes me seek this "personal" work ethic. By it, I mean an ethic
      > > that says it's Good to stand up as an individual against things
      > > (instead of meekly doing only as the boss says or the prevailing
      > > opinions say); and I mean an ethic that drives people to work
      > > "hard" NOT in the first place in unpleasant drudge jobs but
      instead
      > > to work hard at their own "life projects" (= that what they feel
      > > worthwhile doing).
      > >
      > > Working hard at whatever a person considers worth doing may seem
      > > too much of an automatic thing to require an "ethic" (= an
      explicit
      > > "belief" that it's good to work hard at what you find worth
      doing).
      > > I thought about that for a while, but I don't agree with that
      view.
      > > My counterargument against that view is: There seem to be so
      > > many people who have ideas for projects, and ideas for changing
      > > their job to find one that matches their interests more and where
      > > they can develop themselves more in areas thta interest them, but
      > > of these people so few have the energy or "drive" to actually WORK
      > > at achieving these desires. From this I conclude that in very
      many
      > > people there is an inclination to stay put in an unpleasant,
      > > uninteresting situation even when with a little "sweat" they may
      > > well be able to work themselves out of it and into something
      > > better. This is why I think people (myself quite very much
      > > included) often seem to NEED some kind of "impulse" or "prod" to
      > > make them work actively at their own "life project", instead of
      > > choosing always the way of least resistance (= stay with their
      > > drudge jobs and with all status quo).
      > >
      > > ---
      > > Mark Travis wrote:
      > >> I think that's exactly Max Weber's starting point, and it's also
      a
      > >> direct conseq uence of one of Calvin's 5 innovations, I think
      that
      > >> the select can know each ot her by way of worldly success
      combined
      > >> with reserved demeanor. Benjamin Franklin embodied the
      > >> Protestant Work Ethic according to Weber, even though Franklin ca
      > >> red for none of Calvin's assumptions about the afterlife or
      > >> religious dogma. Franklin was like many of his contemporaries in
      > >> believing that religion in general is good as it is a possible
      > >> vehicle for moral instruction, but that doctrines p articular to
      > >> any one denomination were insignificant.
      > >>
      > >> Ben Franklin was not a Christian, but a Humanist who emerged from
      > >> an overwhelmin gly Christian culture. If you are seeking a
      > >> rationale for the merits of fruitfu l productivity from a barely
      > >> theistic (Deistic) standpoint, then look no further than
      Franklin.
      > >>
      > >> "I conceiv¢d the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral
      > >> perfection. I wish¢d to live without committing any fault at any
      > >> time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination,
      custom,
      > >> or company might lead me into."
      > >>
      > >> Here are his 13 virtues:
      > >> [...]
      > >> Good luck with all of that. Keep us informed on your progress.
      > >
      > > That's very cool and absolutely interesting, thank you for this.
      > > I've now moved up Max Weber to the very top of my library list,
      and
      > > added B. Franklin with him @ shared "1st place".
      > >
      > > At the moment, I get the feeling I may have exhausted Stoicism a
      > > bit for now, and that I am running too much into its limits (= all
      > > the many points where it falls short of modern liberal and
      > > "industrialized" views/ethics and modern scientific views) ...
      > > I still regard Stoicism very highly indeed, and think that
      > > many of its ingredients are hugely useful in modern life and a
      > > great enrichment to it; and I am very glad to have learned of
      > > Stoicism. But I can not agree with the view that LIMITING oneself
      > > to Stoicism is a viable way to live in (and contribute to) modern
      > > society; on the contrary, I think that when one limits oneself to
      > > Stoicism, one throws away many of the cultural/intellectu al
      > > achievements of the 1700 years that have elapsed since Stoicism,
      > > and thus relapses into something more crude and primitive.
      > > [ I also am despairing, alas, of the viability of the
      > > possibility of upgrading Stoicism to a modern version. Reason:
      the
      > > sheer bulk of all the extra concepts/views that such an upgraded
      > > Stoicism should adopt, which seems greater than what Stoicism
      > > itself encompasses. At the moment the opposite approach seems
      more
      > > viable to me, namely the approach of integrating aspects of
      > > Stoicism into modern views. ]
      > > I acknowledge that there is wisdom in the philosophers of the
      > > past, but I don't think that they have any better claim
      at "knowing
      > > it all" than anyone else has; and I think that acknowledging the
      > > ancient philosophers and partly adopting their "wisdoms" does not
      > > exclude thinking simultaneously that my modern shoes are better
      > > than their sandals.
      > >
      > >
      > > ---
      > > With best regards,
      > >
      > > Menno Rubingh
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > ------------ --------- --------- ------
      > >
      > > Yahoo! Groups Links
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      >

    • Amos
      Jan: The example of false promises is clear. I would not want to live in a world in which no one kept their promises nor would anyone who thought about it.
      Message 2 of 21 , Jun 1, 2008
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        Jan: The example of false promises is clear. I would not want to
        live in a world in which no one kept their promises nor would anyone
        who thought about it. However, I think that it's up to each
        person if he or she wants to develop their talents or spend all day
        watching TV. Maybe the world would be a better place if everyone
        developed their talents; I'm not sure, since not all talents add
        much to the world. In fact, if my next door neighbor's talents
        involve playing amplified heavy metal music, I'd prefer that she
        not develop her talents. So I think that there are two groups of
        ethical decisions. 1. Ethical decisions which I want to be a
        general law: keeping promises, not killing, not enslaving,
        not torturing, not raping, etc. 2. Ethical decisions which
        should be left up to each person: developing one's talents, not
        eating meat, not being sexually promiscuous (unless that would
        involve breaking a promise), being involved in good causes (human
        rights, the environment, etc.). I think that in class 2 ethical
        decisions, the right of people to decide for themselves outweighs
        the ethical importance of making it a general law. To clarify:
        when I say that people should decide for themselves if they want to
        get involved in good causes or not, the alternative is not
        between good causes (human rights) or bad causes (neo-Nazism), but
        between good causes and watching TV, that is, passivity. Be
        well, Amos



        --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, "jan.garrett" <jan.garrett@...> wrote:
        >
        > You can distinguish between a personal standard you set for
        yourself (or believe appropriate for yourself and other Stoics or
        Pagans or whatever) and what is strictly moral. I guess I am
        (roughly) following Rawls here: in his distinction between duties
        implied by a political conception of justice and norms that one might
        adopt personally or as an adherent to a "comprehensive (religious or
        philosophical) view."
        >
        > To be a bit more complete regarding Kant's approach: Kant himself
        distinguishes between duties corresponding to two applications of
        his Categorical Imperative. If your attempt to conceive the action
        of your maxim as universal law leads to a contradiction (as he
        thinks "I may make a false promise . . . " and "I may tell a
        lie . . . " do), then there is one kind of duty.
        >
        > If the universalized version of the maxim is conceivable but not
        something you wish to happen (as he thinks is the case with the
        maxim "I may ignore the desperate need of another even if assistance
        would cost me little"), then there is another kind of duty. There is
        a more subjective and personal element of the second approach than
        the first, but it would still relate a person's conception of duty to
        the universal. I may be able to conceive a world in which people do
        little to develop (at least some of) their (beneficial) talents but
        if it is the case upon reflection that I would not wish everyone not
        to do so, then I should not fail to try to develop my own. Kant
        thinks everyone who reflects on this case and the Bad Samaritan maxim
        mentioned earlier will reach the same conclusion. He would say: if I
        am right about this, then we all have the duty to try to develop at
        least some of our beneficial talents and we all have a duty not to be
        go through life as Bad Samaritans.
        >
        > Is that imposing one's values on another or not? Kant would
        probably say No, because moral duty is rooted in the wills of each
        and every one of us. However, the similarly rational character of the
        will in each of us leads to uniform results.
        >
        > ----- Original Message -----
        > From: Amos
        > To: stoics@yahoogroups.com
        > Sent: Saturday, May 31, 2008 9:07 PM
        > Subject: [stoics] Re: The Personal and the Universal in Ethics
        >
        >
        > Jan: I understand what Kant is saying, but isn't it possible that
        > I have a stricter moral code for myself than I expect of others?
        > I may believe that I do not have the right to impose my moral
        code on
        > others. Let's say that I have decided not to eat meat out of
        > concern for the suffering of animals. I may feel that I don't
        have
        > the right to interfere with the desire of others to eat meat. In
        > fact, it may be that in many cases my respect for the right of
        > others to decide for themselves may trump my sense of what is
        good or
        > bad in specific cases, such as eating meat or not. That would
        > not be true in other cases, say, slavery or genocide. Be well,
        > Amos
        >
        > --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, "jan.garrett" <jan.garrett@> wrote:
        > >
        > > The following is a very modern explanation (inspired by Kant).
        > >
        > > Moral principles are rooted in the individual will but at the
        same
        > time they
        > > are general in form. P is a moral rule (in a person's mind)
        just in
        > case the
        > > person thinks that every rational being should follow it. Thus,
        I
        > regard "do
        > > not lie" as a moral principle if I think that no rational being
        > should lie.
        > > (You can qualify P however you want, excluding certain
        > circumstances; but if
        > > P is a moral principle for you, then, logically, Kant thinks,
        you
        > are
        > > committed to thinking that everybody should adhere to it.)
        > >
        > > Notice that this account does not say what the content of moral
        > principles
        > > are. "Do not lie" is just an example. However, Kant thinks that
        > this
        > > abstract "truth" about morality is logically sufficient to lead
        us
        > to moral
        > > principles with content and "do not lie" is one such that he
        > mentions.
        > >
        > > There are other ways in which a link may be made between the
        moral
        > and the
        > > social or universal, but this will do for now. (The Kantian
        > approach is not
        > > without problems, but there does seem to be something right
        about
        > it.)
        > >
        > > ----- Original Message -----
        > > From: "Menno Rubingh" <mr_lists1@>
        > > To: <stoics@yahoogroups.com>
        > > Sent: Saturday, May 31, 2008 5:30 PM
        > > Subject: [stoics] Re: Why should there be a "purely personal"
        work
        > ethic?
        > >
        > >
        > > > Hello Stoics,
        > > >
        > > > Thanks much to you all for your continued views on the "work
        > ethic"
        > > > thing.
        > > >
        > > > ---
        > > > Jan Garrett wrote:
        > > >> I am puzzled, Menno, as to why you are seeking a personal (as
        > > >> distinct from a social) work ethic? Even if morality is not
        > > >> something imposed by a society, or something that varies
        from one
        > > >> society to the next, even if doing what is right is not
        > > >> essentially tied to reward and/or punishment in the
        afterlife,
        > why
        > > >> should individuals somehow need or require a work ethic at
        all?
        > > >> Perhaps you have decided that your life would be more
        interesting
        > > >> if you structured it in terms of certain goals and you
        devote
        > your
        > > >> effort toward the achievement of those goals, living a
        strenuous
        > > >> life (eating and sleeping only as much as you absolutely
        have to,
        > > >> taking no more breaks from your efforts toward you goals
        than you
        > > >> absolutely have to). Isn't this a personal aesthetic choice,
        > which
        > > >> is compatible with morality insofar as it does not violate
        the
        > > >> rights of others (present and future generations), rather
        than a
        > > >> moral issue?
        > > >>
        > > >> To put it in different terms, if you want to devote your
        entire
        > > >> life (work, work, work) in attempting to prove some as yet
        > > >> unproven mathematical conjecture, why should another person
        (who
        > > >> does his or her part for society and earns a living without
        > > >> violating the rights of others) not retire as soon as she is
        > > >> financially able and devote her time to watching soap operas
        and
        > > >> playing an occasional game of Scrabble? (I assume that she
        > > >> continues to do the socially responsible thing even in
        > retirement,
        > > >> but that does not occupy a large part of her time.)
        > > >
        > > > Does the word "ethics" imply that one is talking about rules
        that
        > > > hold for EVERYONE ? I had thought (so far) that that is not
        > > > (necesarily) the case. If it did, then wouldn't that imply
        that
        > > > there exists ONLY ONE ethics -- namely the "right" ethics for
        > > > everyone ? Personally, I don't find people who believe that
        very
        > > > pleasant to interact with; and I'd be inclined to say that I
        find
        > > > such a belief "unethical".
        > > >
        > > > Therefore I think that to some degree, "ethics" must (should,
        > ought)
        > > > be rooted in PERSONAL views, and in the view that different
        people
        > > > can follow (and "believe in") different ethical systems, and
        in
        > the
        > > > view that it is right when people do so.
        > > >
        > > > I repeat that I'm not a trained philosopher. Is my take on
        the
        > word
        > > > "ethics" completely untenable and irreconcilable with how the
        > concept
        > > > "ethics" is defined in the world (discipline) of philosophy ?
        > > >
        > > > As to the question WHY I seek a personal work ethic, I'll
        answer
        > > > that together with replying to Amos, below. (I hope that the
        > below
        > > > simultaneously also answers Robin Turner's question.)
        > > >
        > > > ---
        > > > Amos wrote:
        > > >> It would be nice if the mass of people could have the
        leisure and
        > > >> the psychic energy (it's difficult to have much energy after
        > > >> having commuted two hours in traffic jams.) that the elite of
        > > >> ancient Greece had.
        > > >
        > > > I agree very much. This is exactly what drives me here and
        what
        > > > makes me seek this "personal" work ethic. By it, I mean an
        ethic
        > > > that says it's Good to stand up as an individual against
        things
        > > > (instead of meekly doing only as the boss says or the
        prevailing
        > > > opinions say); and I mean an ethic that drives people to work
        > > > "hard" NOT in the first place in unpleasant drudge jobs but
        > instead
        > > > to work hard at their own "life projects" (= that what they
        feel
        > > > worthwhile doing).
        > > >
        > > > Working hard at whatever a person considers worth doing may
        seem
        > > > too much of an automatic thing to require an "ethic" (= an
        > explicit
        > > > "belief" that it's good to work hard at what you find worth
        > doing).
        > > > I thought about that for a while, but I don't agree with that
        > view.
        > > > My counterargument against that view is: There seem to be so
        > > > many people who have ideas for projects, and ideas for
        changing
        > > > their job to find one that matches their interests more and
        where
        > > > they can develop themselves more in areas thta interest them,
        but
        > > > of these people so few have the energy or "drive" to actually
        WORK
        > > > at achieving these desires. From this I conclude that in very
        > many
        > > > people there is an inclination to stay put in an unpleasant,
        > > > uninteresting situation even when with a little "sweat" they
        may
        > > > well be able to work themselves out of it and into something
        > > > better. This is why I think people (myself quite very much
        > > > included) often seem to NEED some kind of "impulse" or "prod"
        to
        > > > make them work actively at their own "life project", instead
        of
        > > > choosing always the way of least resistance (= stay with their
        > > > drudge jobs and with all status quo).
        > > >
        > > > ---
        > > > Mark Travis wrote:
        > > >> I think that's exactly Max Weber's starting point, and it's
        also
        > a
        > > >> direct conseq uence of one of Calvin's 5 innovations, I
        think
        > that
        > > >> the select can know each ot her by way of worldly success
        > combined
        > > >> with reserved demeanor. Benjamin Franklin embodied the
        > > >> Protestant Work Ethic according to Weber, even though
        Franklin ca
        > > >> red for none of Calvin's assumptions about the afterlife or
        > > >> religious dogma. Franklin was like many of his
        contemporaries in
        > > >> believing that religion in general is good as it is a
        possible
        > > >> vehicle for moral instruction, but that doctrines p
        articular to
        > > >> any one denomination were insignificant.
        > > >>
        > > >> Ben Franklin was not a Christian, but a Humanist who emerged
        from
        > > >> an overwhelmin gly Christian culture. If you are seeking a
        > > >> rationale for the merits of fruitfu l productivity from a
        barely
        > > >> theistic (Deistic) standpoint, then look no further than
        > Franklin.
        > > >>
        > > >> "I conceiv¢d the bold and arduous project of arriving at
        moral
        > > >> perfection. I wish¢d to live without committing any fault at
        any
        > > >> time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination,
        > custom,
        > > >> or company might lead me into."
        > > >>
        > > >> Here are his 13 virtues:
        > > >> [...]
        > > >> Good luck with all of that. Keep us informed on your
        progress.
        > > >
        > > > That's very cool and absolutely interesting, thank you for
        this.
        > > > I've now moved up Max Weber to the very top of my library
        list,
        > and
        > > > added B. Franklin with him @ shared "1st place".
        > > >
        > > > At the moment, I get the feeling I may have exhausted
        Stoicism a
        > > > bit for now, and that I am running too much into its limits
        (= all
        > > > the many points where it falls short of modern liberal and
        > > > "industrialized" views/ethics and modern scientific views) ...
        > > > I still regard Stoicism very highly indeed, and think that
        > > > many of its ingredients are hugely useful in modern life and a
        > > > great enrichment to it; and I am very glad to have learned of
        > > > Stoicism. But I can not agree with the view that LIMITING
        oneself
        > > > to Stoicism is a viable way to live in (and contribute to)
        modern
        > > > society; on the contrary, I think that when one limits
        oneself to
        > > > Stoicism, one throws away many of the cultural/intellectual
        > > > achievements of the 1700 years that have elapsed since
        Stoicism,
        > > > and thus relapses into something more crude and primitive.
        > > > [ I also am despairing, alas, of the viability of the
        > > > possibility of upgrading Stoicism to a modern version.
        Reason:
        > the
        > > > sheer bulk of all the extra concepts/views that such an
        upgraded
        > > > Stoicism should adopt, which seems greater than what Stoicism
        > > > itself encompasses. At the moment the opposite approach seems
        > more
        > > > viable to me, namely the approach of integrating aspects of
        > > > Stoicism into modern views. ]
        > > > I acknowledge that there is wisdom in the philosophers of the
        > > > past, but I don't think that they have any better claim
        > at "knowing
        > > > it all" than anyone else has; and I think that acknowledging
        the
        > > > ancient philosophers and partly adopting their "wisdoms" does
        not
        > > > exclude thinking simultaneously that my modern shoes are
        better
        > > > than their sandals.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > ---
        > > > With best regards,
        > > >
        > > > Menno Rubingh
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > ------------------------------------
        > > >
        > > > Yahoo! Groups Links
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > >
        >
      • Grant Sterling
        ... I think there may be a confusion here about universality . We must distinguish: 1) Principles that I believe everyone should follow. 2) Principles that I
        Message 3 of 21 , Jun 1, 2008
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          ----- Amos <vivepablo@...> wrote:
          > Jan: The example of false promises is clear. I would not want to
          > live in a world in which no one kept their promises nor would anyone
          > who thought about it. However, I think that it's up to each
          > person if he or she wants to develop their talents or spend all day
          > watching TV. Maybe the world would be a better place if everyone
          > developed their talents; I'm not sure, since not all talents add
          > much to the world. In fact, if my next door neighbor's talents
          > involve playing amplified heavy metal music, I'd prefer that she
          > not develop her talents. So I think that there are two groups of
          > ethical decisions. 1. Ethical decisions which I want to be a
          > general law: keeping promises, not killing, not enslaving,
          > not torturing, not raping, etc. 2. Ethical decisions which
          > should be left up to each person: developing one's talents, not
          > eating meat, not being sexually promiscuous (unless that would
          > involve breaking a promise), being involved in good causes (human
          > rights, the environment, etc.). I think that in class 2 ethical
          > decisions, the right of people to decide for themselves outweighs
          > the ethical importance of making it a general law. To clarify:
          > when I say that people should decide for themselves if they want to
          > get involved in good causes or not, the alternative is not
          > between good causes (human rights) or bad causes (neo-Nazism), but
          > between good causes and watching TV, that is, passivity. Be
          > well, Amos

          I think there may be a confusion here about "universality".
          We must distinguish:
          1) Principles that I believe everyone should follow.
          2) Principles that I believe everyone should follow and
          which I think I ought to actively encourage them to
          follow.
          3) Principles that I believe everyone should follow and
          which I think I ought to actively encourage them to
          follow, and which I think ought to be enforced with
          the power of law (or other authority).
          4) Principles which are not _ethical_ principles, and
          which are not universal, but which I decide for myself
          as an expression of my personality.
          If the suffering of animals really does make it right
          to refrain from eating meat, then I don't see how
          this could be anything other than a universal principle
          in the first sense. [Barring exceptional circumstances
          where refraining from meat would result in serious
          physical harm or something--say, surviving a plane
          crash in the jungle and finding unspoiled food from
          the plane that contains meat products.] In other
          words, I don't see what could be so different for
          you from me that would make it wrong for you to
          eat meat but not wrong for me.
          But you may think that it is wrong for you to
          try to force me to obey the vegetarian principle.
          You may think that this is a moral principle that
          I must see and embrace for myself. You may think
          that I _ought_ to embrace it, but that you ought
          not try to force me to embrace it.

          Also, there are ethical rules that are universal
          in principle but not in application. As I have
          noted many times, there is a universal requirement
          to lend aid to those in need, but if you and I
          both pass by an automobile accident with injured
          drivers, but you have EMT training and I don't,
          the right specific action for you may not be the
          same as the right action for me. Etc. In fact,
          there are very few specific actions that everyone
          ought to engage in (except perhaps some of the
          negative duties you listed above--I am still not
          convinced that there are cases where I ought to
          rape someone, for example).

          But I don't see how anyone can say "here is
          a genuine _moral_ or _ethical_ principle that
          applies to me, but I don't think it applies to
          other people even if they're in relevantly
          similar situations as myself". I can't even
          make sense of that claim.

          Regards,
          Grant
        • Amos
          Grant: The whole problem seems to revolve around your category 4: principles, which are not ethical principles and which are not universal, but which I
          Message 4 of 21 , Jun 1, 2008
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            Grant: The whole problem seems to revolve around your category 4:
            principles, which are not ethical principles and which are not
            universal, but which I decide for myself as an expression of my
            personality. We agree about categories: 1, 2 and 3. I
            believe that there are principles, which are ethical principles and
            which are not universal, but which I decide for myself as an
            expression of my personality. For you, for something to be
            ethical it must be necessarily universal. I think that some
            ethical principles are universal: do not kill, do not break
            promises, do not rape, do not torture, etc. However, other
            principles, which appear to be ethical to me, are personal. I
            treat the people who I live with according to a fairly strict ethical
            code, which has to do with the distinct personalities and needs of
            the household members and which may have nothing to do with the needs
            and personalities of the members of your household. Similarly, I
            conduct my friendships according to an ethical code, which may not
            apply to your friendships. Being different people. entering into
            different human relationships, we necessarily, in my opinion,
            develop an ethical fine tuning, an ethical code which applies to the
            subtleties of life, which is different. For example, how I
            treat a guest is an ethical issue for me, but my rules for treating
            a guest may be very different than yours. Be well,
            Amos

            --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, Grant Sterling <gcsterling@...> wrote:
            >
            >
            > ----- Amos <vivepablo@...> wrote:
            > > Jan: The example of false promises is clear. I would not want
            to
            > > live in a world in which no one kept their promises nor would
            anyone
            > > who thought about it. However, I think that it's up to each
            > > person if he or she wants to develop their talents or spend all
            day
            > > watching TV. Maybe the world would be a better place if
            everyone
            > > developed their talents; I'm not sure, since not all talents
            add
            > > much to the world. In fact, if my next door neighbor's talents
            > > involve playing amplified heavy metal music, I'd prefer that
            she
            > > not develop her talents. So I think that there are two groups
            of
            > > ethical decisions. 1. Ethical decisions which I want to
            be a
            > > general law: keeping promises, not killing, not
            enslaving,
            > > not torturing, not raping, etc. 2. Ethical decisions
            which
            > > should be left up to each person: developing one's talents,
            not
            > > eating meat, not being sexually promiscuous (unless that would
            > > involve breaking a promise), being involved in good causes
            (human
            > > rights, the environment, etc.). I think that in class 2
            ethical
            > > decisions, the right of people to decide for themselves
            outweighs
            > > the ethical importance of making it a general law. To
            clarify:
            > > when I say that people should decide for themselves if they want
            to
            > > get involved in good causes or not, the alternative is not
            > > between good causes (human rights) or bad causes (neo-Nazism),
            but
            > > between good causes and watching TV, that is, passivity.
            Be
            > > well, Amos
            >
            > I think there may be a confusion here about "universality".
            > We must distinguish:
            > 1) Principles that I believe everyone should follow.
            > 2) Principles that I believe everyone should follow and
            > which I think I ought to actively encourage them to
            > follow.
            > 3) Principles that I believe everyone should follow and
            > which I think I ought to actively encourage them to
            > follow, and which I think ought to be enforced with
            > the power of law (or other authority).
            > 4) Principles which are not _ethical_ principles, and
            > which are not universal, but which I decide for myself
            > as an expression of my personality.
            > If the suffering of animals really does make it right
            > to refrain from eating meat, then I don't see how
            > this could be anything other than a universal principle
            > in the first sense. [Barring exceptional circumstances
            > where refraining from meat would result in serious
            > physical harm or something--say, surviving a plane
            > crash in the jungle and finding unspoiled food from
            > the plane that contains meat products.] In other
            > words, I don't see what could be so different for
            > you from me that would make it wrong for you to
            > eat meat but not wrong for me.
            > But you may think that it is wrong for you to
            > try to force me to obey the vegetarian principle.
            > You may think that this is a moral principle that
            > I must see and embrace for myself. You may think
            > that I _ought_ to embrace it, but that you ought
            > not try to force me to embrace it.
            >
            > Also, there are ethical rules that are universal
            > in principle but not in application. As I have
            > noted many times, there is a universal requirement
            > to lend aid to those in need, but if you and I
            > both pass by an automobile accident with injured
            > drivers, but you have EMT training and I don't,
            > the right specific action for you may not be the
            > same as the right action for me. Etc. In fact,
            > there are very few specific actions that everyone
            > ought to engage in (except perhaps some of the
            > negative duties you listed above--I am still not
            > convinced that there are cases where I ought to
            > rape someone, for example).
            >
            > But I don't see how anyone can say "here is
            > a genuine _moral_ or _ethical_ principle that
            > applies to me, but I don't think it applies to
            > other people even if they're in relevantly
            > similar situations as myself". I can't even
            > make sense of that claim.
            >
            > Regards,
            > Grant
            >
          • Menno Rubingh
            Hello Stoics, ... Yes, very good. This is also how I look at things. Asserting that some precepts hold for OTHER people than myself I find problematic, in the
            Message 5 of 21 , Jun 2, 2008
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              Hello Stoics,

              Amos wrote:
              > 2. Ethical decisions which should be left up to each person:
              > developing one's talents, not eating meat, not being sexually
              > promiscuous (unless that would involve breaking a promise),
              > being involved in good causes (human rights, the environment,
              > etc.). I think that in class 2 ethical decisions, the right
              > of people to decide for themselves outweighs the ethical
              > importance of making it a general law. To clarify: when I say
              > that people should decide for themselves if they want to get
              > involved in good causes or not, the alternative is not between
              > good causes (human rights) or bad causes (neo-Nazism), but
              > between good causes and watching TV, that is, passivity.

              Yes, very good. This is also how I look at things.

              Asserting that some precepts hold for OTHER people than myself I
              find problematic, in the sense that at the very least I feel that
              one "ought" to be careful about doing so, and should try to limit
              the set of precepts one feels hold for others to the absolute
              minimum. Whatever "moral" views one may have on this, I think
              there is a good PRACTICAL reason for doing so, namely commercial
              cooperation -- if I'm too critical of other people's morals, then
              that IMO limits the degree to which I'm able to cooperate with
              them. (In this sense, I value commerce for the effect it has on
              people of making them less fundamentalist, and less scary of other
              people's views.)

              I'd like to make more explicit one aspect that you, Amos, touched
              upon there : namely, personal talents. I think it's very clear
              that the talents of different people differ considerably. This
              implies (for me) that I myself have a very limited view of the
              skills and capabilities of other people, which implies that I have
              a limited view of how these people look at the world (since
              worldview is affected by the "tools" one has developed to look at
              the world). Reasoning on from this, I feel that therefore the
              conclusion is unavoidable that it is best if each person mainly [*]
              determines for himself which ethical rules to follow.

              [*] Up to the points that Amos mentioned, i.e. up to where
              the actions of person A begin to infringe seriously on
              person B. Hence I agree with Amos' view on sexually
              promiscuity: For me, person A is allowed to do anything in
              his own home (so far as all participants are willing and
              are adults), i.e. I allow him to do things that I forbid
              myself to do because my own personal ethics says so.

              I feel it is VERY LIKELY that because of my limited view on the
              capabilities of others, I can not judge accurately what is for
              other people the "right" thing to do in all cases. Maybe my
              neighbour, who seems very introverted and who I find it hard to
              come in contact with, is an extremely talented painter, who in his
              home creates paintings that most people might find disturbing but
              whose painings in 50 years will be discovered and celebrated as
              major works of art. Now how can it be right for me to judge him by
              my own limited standards ?

              I'd suggest that religious freedom could be viewed in much the
              same terms. Maybe some people really are happier following some
              weird religion X that I personally find distasteful; and maybe this
              religion X is for some people, given their personality, the best
              way for them to live a good/effective/fruitful/satisfying life.
              I'd go so far as to say that maybe the behaviour of my neighbor
              (who follows religion X) could be better FOR ME when he follows
              religion X rather than my own religion, since religion X is adapted
              better to the views/needs/perceptions/etc of my neighbour. So
              maybe it's even selfishly USEFUL for me to leave people their own
              choice of religion.

              Attempting to judge others on things/behaviours that do not
              annoy others (other than inveterate moralists) is therefore for me
              not only "morally wrong" but also wrong because it is a brake the
              individual development and individual projects of people. I feel
              it is (morally and practically) very very Good that people can
              pursue their own projects without too much moral scrutiny.
              I don't want a "supervision society" in which people's behaviour,
              as far as it doesn't seriously infringe others, is all the time
              morally scrutinized -- indeed, what Ethical basis could there be for
              choosing who should do the scrutinizing ? Some kind of "elite" ?
              The Church ? Someting like the former communist East-German STASI ?
              I feel therefore that one should be very careful about, and
              even suspicious about, "generalistic" or "universalistic"
              moral/ethical assertions (IMO arrived at generally from pure theory
              in combination with one's own personal feelings of "what must be
              right"). I feel that such universalistic ethical views are
              generally in need of looking more at how the world (= other people)
              really works before one starts judging things.


              ---
              Reading what you, Mr Garrett, wrote on Kant, the following doubt
              or criticism comes up with me : Kant seems to view everything from
              a theorethical viewpoint in which there is no attention paid to the
              possibility that different people may be different (may have
              different talents). I.e. he views things from a simplified,
              abstracted. theoretical viewpoint in which it is one of the axioms
              that au fond all people are the same (i.e. have basically the same
              talents and basically the same psychology and therefore that the
              views of different people are not significantly colored by these
              different talents). Is this a valid criticism of Kant ?


              ---
              With best regards,

              Menno Rubingh



              "Of what use is it to pit such puny and trivial things as FACTS
              against rock-ribbed, iron-bound, entrenched AUTHORITY ?"
              -- E.E. "Doc" Smith, _Subspace Survivors_ (ironically)
            • Grant Sterling
              ... I guess I don t understand in what sense these are _ethical_ codes. If they re ethical codes, then you don t merely choose to follow them, you _ought_ to
              Message 6 of 21 , Jun 2, 2008
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                At 07:10 PM 6/1/2008, Amos wrote:
                >Grant: The whole problem seems to revolve around your category 4:
                >principles, which are not ethical principles and which are not
                >universal, but which I decide for myself as an expression of my
                >personality. We agree about categories: 1, 2 and 3. I
                >believe that there are principles, which are ethical principles and
                >which are not universal, but which I decide for myself as an
                >expression of my personality. For you, for something to be
                >ethical it must be necessarily universal. I think that some
                >ethical principles are universal: do not kill, do not break
                >promises, do not rape, do not torture, etc. However, other
                >principles, which appear to be ethical to me, are personal. I

                I guess I don't understand in what sense these are _ethical_
                codes. If they're ethical codes, then you don't merely choose to
                follow them, you _ought_ to follow them. But if you ought to
                follow them, then why shouldn't I, also, follow them?
                Again, we must leave out cases where the reason I'm under
                no obligation to follow them is because I am in circumstances that
                differ from yours in a morally relevant way. If I have promised to
                care for my mother-in-law if she becomes ill, and you have made
                no such promise, then of course there will be actions that will be
                right for me to perform (ones connected with keeping that promise)
                that will not be right for you to perform. If I have a wife and children
                and you are single, there may be times when an action is approprioate
                for me but not for you. Etc., etc., etc.
                But I honestly do not understand how something can be
                an ethical principle that holds for one person but not for another.

                >treat the people who I live with according to a fairly strict ethical
                >code, which has to do with the distinct personalities and needs of
                >the household members and which may have nothing to do with the needs
                >and personalities of the members of your household. Similarly, I

                This I have no problem with--if there are relevant differences
                between the needs and personalities of two households, then of
                course the appropriate way for one person to act will be different
                from another person. [Even within the household, a father has
                different duties from a son.] But the duties do not differ merely
                because I am in a household with Juan and you're in a household
                with John--they differ to the degree that each is a response to
                different real needs of others.

                >conduct my friendships according to an ethical code, which may not
                >apply to your friendships. Being different people. entering into
                >different human relationships, we necessarily, in my opinion,
                >develop an ethical fine tuning, an ethical code which applies to the
                >subtleties of life, which is different. For example, how I
                >treat a guest is an ethical issue for me, but my rules for treating
                >a guest may be very different than yours. Be well,

                But, again, I don't understand this. On what basis would
                they differ? They may differ because our friends have come to
                us in different contexts, or because they react differently to
                different situations, etc. But they cannot differ merely because
                you have _picked_ one way or treating others and I have _picked_
                another. I don't think anyone can pick ethical codes in this
                way. [Well, not equally valid ethical codes. Of course the
                thief can choose to be a thief, and can even try to claim that
                stealing is a moral code, but it would be an invalid one.]

                >Amos

                Regards,
                Grant
              • Grant Sterling
                ... Are we talking about what ethical precepts I believe do in fact hold for other people, or what precepts I should explicitly tell other people apply to
                Message 7 of 21 , Jun 2, 2008
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                  At 12:20 PM 6/2/2008, Menno Rubingh wrote:
                  > Hello Stoics,
                  >
                  > Asserting that some precepts hold for OTHER people than myself I
                  > find problematic, in the sense that at the very least I feel that
                  > one "ought" to be careful about doing so, and should try to limit
                  > the set of precepts one feels hold for others to the absolute
                  > minimum. Whatever "moral" views one may have on this, I think
                  > there is a good PRACTICAL reason for doing so, namely commercial
                  > cooperation -- if I'm too critical of other people's morals, then
                  > that IMO limits the degree to which I'm able to cooperate with
                  > them. (In this sense, I value commerce for the effect it has on
                  > people of making them less fundamentalist, and less scary of other
                  > people's views.)

                  Are we talking about what ethical precepts I believe
                  do in fact hold for other people, or what precepts I should
                  explicitly tell other people apply to them? I have no problem
                  with someone who thinks "What that person is doing is wrong,
                  but it's inappropriate or counter-productive for me to criticize
                  them right now for doing it." [That is, there are _some_ circumstances
                  where this is an appropriate response to a situation.] But
                  I still do not understand the assertion "This _really is_ a true moral
                  precept for me, but it doesn't apply to that guy over there, even if
                  he and I were in relevantly similar circumstances".

                  > I'd like to make more explicit one aspect that you, Amos, touched
                  > upon there : namely, personal talents. I think it's very clear
                  > that the talents of different people differ considerably. This

                  I agree.

                  > implies (for me) that I myself have a very limited view of the
                  > skills and capabilities of other people, which implies that I have
                  > a limited view of how these people look at the world (since
                  > worldview is affected by the "tools" one has developed to look at
                  > the world). Reasoning on from this, I feel that therefore the
                  > conclusion is unavoidable that it is best if each person mainly [*]
                  > determines for himself which ethical rules to follow.

                  The conclusion is not unavoidable. E=mc(2) for the
                  guy I've never met on the island off the coast of New Guinea
                  just as much as it does for me. He may see the world differently,
                  understand the world differently, but it makes no difference to
                  the laws of Physics. 2+2 is just as much 4 for him as for me.
                  [Even if he insists that it's 5.] I think ethical rules are just the
                  same.
                  Now of course it's not always appropriate for me to
                  correct him if he makes a mathemetical error, or misunderstands
                  or is ignorant of a law of Physics...or if he behaves immorally.
                  But it is often...indeed, I would say _usually_ appropriate for me
                  to correct those errors.
                  {Now in one sense, it's trivially true that everyone always
                  determines for himself which ethical rules to follow, since everyone
                  makes their own choices, and I cannot force anyone to choose
                  differently. I cannot force someone not to choose to "circumcise" his
                  daughter to prevent her from receiving sexual pleasure. I cannot
                  force my neighbor to choose not to molest his sister. I cannot force
                  the Chinese leaders to free Tibet. But I can say that all these
                  practices are wrong.}

                  > [*] Up to the points that Amos mentioned, i.e. up to where
                  > the actions of person A begin to infringe seriously on
                  > person B. Hence I agree with Amos' view on sexually
                  > promiscuity: For me, person A is allowed to do anything in
                  > his own home (so far as all participants are willing and
                  > are adults), i.e. I allow him to do things that I forbid
                  > myself to do because my own personal ethics says so.

                  Why do you call it _ethics_? What makes it _wrong_
                  for you to engage in some practice but not wrong for your
                  neighbor to do so? {And, just out of curiousity, why do you
                  stipulate that they must be adults? Suppose person A wishes
                  to engage in sex with his underage daughter, and she claims
                  to be a willing participant. Neither he nor his daughter have
                  no-incest or no-sex-with-minors clauses in their personal ethical
                  codes. What right have you to impose your ethical code on
                  them?}

                  > I feel it is VERY LIKELY that because of my limited view on the
                  > capabilities of others, I can not judge accurately what is for
                  > other people the "right" thing to do in all cases. Maybe my
                  > neighbour, who seems very introverted and who I find it hard to
                  > come in contact with, is an extremely talented painter, who in his
                  > home creates paintings that most people might find disturbing but
                  > whose painings in 50 years will be discovered and celebrated as
                  > major works of art. Now how can it be right for me to judge him by
                  > my own limited standards ?

                  Judge him for what? If he treats you unfairly or cruelly, you
                  can judge his unfaiorness or cruelty wrong regardless of his skill
                  as a painter. If he is merely introverted, then do you mean that
                  you think you are _morally required_ to be extroverted? In any event, the
                  vast majority of the time we have no need to judge the behavior of
                  others at all, even if we think the same moral rules apply to them as
                  to us.

                  > I'd suggest that religious freedom could be viewed in much the
                  > same terms. Maybe some people really are happier following some
                  > weird religion X that I personally find distasteful; and maybe this
                  > religion X is for some people, given their personality, the best
                  > way for them to live a good/effective/fruitful/satisfying life.

                  But, again, is this a case where the weird religious
                  people are engaged in behaviors that you think it would be
                  _morally wrong_ for you to engage in, but you think those
                  same behaviors may not be morally wrong for them? I
                  find this incomprehensible.

                  > I'd go so far as to say that maybe the behaviour of my neighbor
                  > (who follows religion X) could be better FOR ME when he follows
                  > religion X rather than my own religion, since religion X is adapted
                  > better to the views/needs/perceptions/etc of my neighbour. So
                  > maybe it's even selfishly USEFUL for me to leave people their own
                  > choice of religion.

                  Quite possibly. Indeed, quite probably (in general). But
                  not relevant, I
                  think, to the question of whether moral rules are universalizable.

                  > Attempting to judge others on things/behaviours that do not
                  > annoy others (other than inveterate moralists) is therefore for me
                  > not only "morally wrong" but also wrong because it is a brake the
                  > individual development and individual projects of people. I feel

                  But that's exactly what inveterate moralists like myself
                  _want_. I _want_ to put limits on the individual development
                  and individual projects of people. I have a 13 year old daughter.
                  I know the girls in her class at school pretty well, and I can
                  say with some confidence that certain of them will become
                  sexually promiscuous within the next 3 years, risking disease
                  and unwanted pregnancy. Some that I know of are very intelligent,
                  but they will make no effort at all to study anything. One is well
                  on her way to being an insufferable spoiled bitch. I dearly wish
                  that I had the power to stop them from developing in these
                  ways and forming these projects.

                  > it is (morally and practically) very very Good that people can
                  > pursue their own projects without too much moral scrutiny.

                  On the contrary--the less moral scrutiny of people
                  in their own projects, the more immorality their projects
                  will contain.

                  > I don't want a "supervision society" in which people's behaviour,
                  > as far as it doesn't seriously infringe others, is all the time
                  > morally scrutinized -- indeed, what Ethical basis could there be for
                  > choosing who should do the scrutinizing ? Some kind of "elite" ?
                  > The Church ? Someting like the former communist East-German STASI ?

                  Are you saying that ordinary people are incapable
                  of moral knowledge? I think that each and every person should
                  scrutinize the behavior of each and every other person all
                  the time. We shouldn't always vocalize what we find, and
                  we should be very open to the possibility that the way the
                  other person is behaving is the right way and our way is
                  the wrong way. But the least desirable feature of modern American
                  society is the total unwillingess of people to say "Hey, that's
                  not the way a good person should behave".

                  > Reading what you, Mr Garrett, wrote on Kant, the following doubt
                  > or criticism comes up with me : Kant seems to view everything from
                  > a theorethical viewpoint in which there is no attention paid to the
                  > possibility that different people may be different (may have
                  > different talents). I.e. he views things from a simplified,
                  > abstracted. theoretical viewpoint in which it is one of the axioms
                  > that au fond all people are the same (i.e. have basically the same
                  > talents and basically the same psychology and therefore that the
                  > views of different people are not significantly colored by these
                  > different talents). Is this a valid criticism of Kant ?

                  I don't think so--Kant thinks that we have a duty to
                  develop our talents, but he doesn't argue that everyone's
                  talents are the same, or are developed in the same ways.

                  >---
                  > With best regards,
                  >
                  > Menno Rubingh

                  Regards,
                  Grant, inveterate moralist :)
                • Menno Rubingh
                  Mr Sterling, It s very clear that we have strongly different views on this question. I ll attempt to address below only the things that go beyond merely
                  Message 8 of 21 , Jun 2, 2008
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                    Mr Sterling,

                    It's very clear that we have strongly different views on this
                    question. I'll attempt to address below only the things that go
                    beyond merely rehashing the differences in our views.

                    ---
                    Firstly, it seems good if I confirm explicitly that I too think
                    that there are SOME moral/ethical rules that hold for EVERYONE
                    indiscriminately, such as: Avoid *unnecessary* cruelty; Don't
                    meddle with things that are not your business; and the like.
                    I expect we'd probably be in agreement, Mr Sterling, that
                    some rules concerning children fall into this category (referring
                    to what you wrote on teenagers); that is, I'd agree that -- up to a
                    certain point -- it is Good to "supervise" children.


                    ---
                    The next most basic issue seems to be about how the word "Ethics"
                    is defined.
                    You seem to say that Ethics is always universal, i.e. that it
                    is always only about rules that hold for all people.
                    I think that there is a need for an "ethics" [*] that is personal,
                    i.e. that there is a need for systems of rules which, like a religion,
                    a person can choose to follow (or not). [I remember here, Mr
                    Sterling, that earlier we had differences on the word "choose",
                    which I suspect could originate from the same difference in views.]

                    [*] I _do not know_ whether "ethics" is the correct word for
                    this -- I'm attempting here to ask people who're more
                    knowledgeable than me whether this is the right word. Since
                    using the word "ethics" when one means "personal ethics" seems
                    confusing, I'm quite eager to learn of a better term for it.

                    For me, such "personal ethics" is the whole reason for looking
                    into Stoicism and for being on this list. I want to learn of ideas
                    that could help me shape the set of rules that I apply to myself.
                    I am NOT here for the goal of absorbing rules/systems that tell me
                    what I should think of other people's behaviour.

                    I looked up the entry "Ethics" on Wikipedia : I was surprised that
                    that article never seems to define explicitly whether the word
                    "ethics" means something that is thought to apply universally to
                    all people of whether it can (also) be a personal choice. I wonder
                    whether this is simply a generally unexamined question, and wonder
                    whether most people (now and in the past) generally have
                    automatically taken ethics to imply "universal". However, that
                    must not be the whole picture, since under the heading "Descriptive
                    Ethics", the Wikipedia article writes the following :--

                    <begin of quote>

                    Descriptive ethics is a /value-free/ approach to ethics which
                    examines ethics not from a top-down /a priori/ perspective but
                    rather /observations of actual choices/ made by moral agents
                    in practice. [...]
                    This can lead to /situational ethics/ and /situated ethics/.
                    These philosophers often view /aethetics/, /etiquette/, and
                    /arbitration/ as more fundamental [...]

                    <end of quote>

                    ( I wonder if this is what Mr Garrett referred to when he brought
                    up the term "aesthetics" in this thread; I hadn't made that
                    connection earlier. )

                    On the basis of the above Wikipedia quote, I can define wnat I
                    mean by the "personal ethics" that I feel the world is in need
                    of : namely, a situated ethics (or situational ethics) that takes
                    into account the fact that different people have different
                    "built-in" mechanisms, built in so deeply that an attempt to change
                    them is useless. These "built-in mechanisms" include e.g.
                    different talents, and different psychological preferences.

                    I say that any ethical/moral code, if it is to be applied
                    meaningfully by a person, has to be understandable to that person,
                    given that person's way of looking at things. For example, I think
                    it's useless to expound Zen (as it seems is often done) to a modern
                    Westerner via concepts/examples that draw on an experience with
                    15th-17th century Chinese/Japanese society. Similarly, I feel that
                    Epictetus should be "translated" to expressing Stoic thought in
                    concepts that are more familiar to modern people.
                    But I think that *cultural* differences are not the only type
                    of difference that there is between people. I think that the
                    above-mentioned "different talents, and different psychological
                    preferences" are differences that are close to as important.
                    Really, I think it is quite URGENT that society comes to the view
                    that what is truly right for person A need not (always) be truly
                    right for person B.


                    ---
                    Grant Sterling wrote:
                    > Are we talking about what ethical precepts I believe do in fact
                    > hold for other people, or what precepts I should explicitly tell
                    > other people apply to them?

                    We're talking about the first: what ethical precepts I believe do
                    in fact hold for other people. My assertion (thesis) on that is
                    that -- to a large degree -- the moral/ethical rules that hold for
                    person P should be determined by person P himself, and not by me.
                    That is, P is free to choose what ethical system he applies to
                    himself.


                    ---
                    Grant Sterling wrote:
                    > E=mc(2) for the guy I've never met.

                    I think you can not generalize the fact that mathematical
                    certainties are universally true to the conclusion that one set of
                    ethical rules is universally applicable to all people.
                    Mathematics is independent of subjectivity. The thesis that
                    ethics is also independent of subjectivity IMO needs a good proof
                    (and I think that that thesis is false).


                    ---
                    Grant Sterling wrote:
                    > (Now in one sense it's trivially true that everyone always
                    > determines for himself which ethical rules to follow [...]

                    I "invoke":-) Epictetus on this, with his rule to leave be what is
                    outside your power. I think it leads to better eudaimonia if one
                    leaves off of inclinations to judge other people's views on ethics.



                    ---
                    Grant Sterling wrote:
                    > On the contrary--the less moral scrutiny of people in their own
                    > projects, the more immorality their own projects will contain.

                    Well, I can not disagree more strongly. I believe that people, if
                    their are let be, are capable of living (morally) good lives.

                    Our difference seems to reduce to the question of individuality:
                    I say that individuality is good and that people can behave
                    well in their private lives and in whatever situations where there
                    is no moral supervision by others. You seem to say that people
                    ALWAYS need to be constantly kept on a sort of moral leash by
                    society.
                    Or put in another way: You *like* society to tell you what is
                    Right and Wrong (correct?). I do not: I like people to be
                    individualists who determine for themselves what they regard as
                    right and wrong.



                    ---
                    With best regards,

                    Menno Rubingh (inveterate individualist:-))
                  • Amos
                    Grant: Let s take Sartre s example of the young student who comes to him and asks whether it is better to stay home to care for his sick mother or to join
                    Message 9 of 21 , Jun 2, 2008
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                      Grant: Let's take Sartre's example of the young student who comes
                      to him and asks whether it is better to stay home to care for his
                      sick mother or to join the French resistance forces. Sartre replies
                      that the question has no answer: that the student has to decide
                      what is good according to his own standards. I agree with
                      Sartre. Would you say that there is one good that the student
                      should choose? Note: the student does not ask if he should care
                      for his mother or spend the money his mother has saved for the doctor
                      on beer. Be well, Amos


                      --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, Grant Sterling <gcsterling@...> wrote:
                      >
                      > At 07:10 PM 6/1/2008, Amos wrote:
                      > >Grant: The whole problem seems to revolve around your category 4:
                      > >principles, which are not ethical principles and which are not
                      > >universal, but which I decide for myself as an expression of my
                      > >personality. We agree about categories: 1, 2 and 3. I
                      > >believe that there are principles, which are ethical principles
                      and
                      > >which are not universal, but which I decide for myself as an
                      > >expression of my personality. For you, for something to be
                      > >ethical it must be necessarily universal. I think that some
                      > >ethical principles are universal: do not kill, do not break
                      > >promises, do not rape, do not torture, etc. However, other
                      > >principles, which appear to be ethical to me, are personal. I
                      >
                      > I guess I don't understand in what sense these are
                      _ethical_
                      > codes. If they're ethical codes, then you don't merely choose to
                      > follow them, you _ought_ to follow them. But if you ought to
                      > follow them, then why shouldn't I, also, follow them?
                      > Again, we must leave out cases where the reason I'm under
                      > no obligation to follow them is because I am in circumstances that
                      > differ from yours in a morally relevant way. If I have promised to
                      > care for my mother-in-law if she becomes ill, and you have made
                      > no such promise, then of course there will be actions that will be
                      > right for me to perform (ones connected with keeping that promise)
                      > that will not be right for you to perform. If I have a wife and
                      children
                      > and you are single, there may be times when an action is
                      approprioate
                      > for me but not for you. Etc., etc., etc.
                      > But I honestly do not understand how something can be
                      > an ethical principle that holds for one person but not for another.
                      >
                      > >treat the people who I live with according to a fairly strict
                      ethical
                      > >code, which has to do with the distinct personalities and needs
                      of
                      > >the household members and which may have nothing to do with the
                      needs
                      > >and personalities of the members of your household.
                      Similarly, I
                      >
                      > This I have no problem with--if there are relevant
                      differences
                      > between the needs and personalities of two households, then of
                      > course the appropriate way for one person to act will be different
                      > from another person. [Even within the household, a father has
                      > different duties from a son.] But the duties do not differ merely
                      > because I am in a household with Juan and you're in a household
                      > with John--they differ to the degree that each is a response to
                      > different real needs of others.
                      >
                      > >conduct my friendships according to an ethical code, which may
                      not
                      > >apply to your friendships. Being different people. entering into
                      > >different human relationships, we necessarily, in my opinion,
                      > >develop an ethical fine tuning, an ethical code which applies to
                      the
                      > >subtleties of life, which is different. For example, how I
                      > >treat a guest is an ethical issue for me, but my rules for
                      treating
                      > >a guest may be very different than yours. Be well,
                      >
                      > But, again, I don't understand this. On what basis would
                      > they differ? They may differ because our friends have come to
                      > us in different contexts, or because they react differently to
                      > different situations, etc. But they cannot differ merely because
                      > you have _picked_ one way or treating others and I have _picked_
                      > another. I don't think anyone can pick ethical codes in this
                      > way. [Well, not equally valid ethical codes. Of course the
                      > thief can choose to be a thief, and can even try to claim that
                      > stealing is a moral code, but it would be an invalid one.]
                      >
                      > >Amos
                      >
                      > Regards,
                      > Grant
                      >
                    • Grant Sterling
                      ... My view is certainly that either: 1) It was best, all things considered, for him to care for his Mom, or 2) It was best for him to join the Resistance, or
                      Message 10 of 21 , Jun 3, 2008
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                        ----- Amos <vivepablo@...> wrote:
                        > Grant: Let's take Sartre's example of the young student who comes
                        > to him and asks whether it is better to stay home to care for his
                        > sick mother or to join the French resistance forces. Sartre replies
                        > that the question has no answer: that the student has to decide
                        > what is good according to his own standards. I agree with
                        > Sartre. Would you say that there is one good that the student
                        > should choose? Note: the student does not ask if he should care
                        > for his mother or spend the money his mother has saved for the doctor
                        > on beer. Be well, Amos

                        My view is certainly that either:
                        1) It was best, all things considered, for him to
                        care for his Mom, or
                        2) It was best for him to join the Resistance, or
                        3) The two moral requirements were exactly balanced,
                        in which case he was not required to do either one
                        (though he was required, presumably, to do one or the
                        other).
                        Certainly he had to weigh the duties involved for
                        himself to try to figure out which was best. But
                        Sartre's view, I believe, was even stronger--Sartre's
                        view is that he himself _creates_ what it is right for
                        him to do. That is the view that I find (literally)
                        incomprehensible. I don't not understand how any
                        ever can _make_ something right or wrong by their
                        own choice. Sartre was at least willing to go all
                        the way and claim that _all_ values are self-created
                        in this way. I find that view absurd but at least
                        consistent. I don't know how anyone can hold that
                        I can create _some_ values but others are out of my
                        control. Why couldn't I create them, as well? Why
                        not make it right for myself to help the Nazis?
                        {I agree that it may be _difficult_ to figure out
                        which action was best, and I agree that it may be
                        inappropriate for others to criticize the decision
                        which is finally made. But neither of those change
                        the fact that, on my view, there _is_ a right answer
                        to the question.}

                        More when I have time to reply to Menno.

                        Regards,
                        Grant
                      • Amos
                        Grant: Sartre did believe that each person creates or is responsible for his own moral code. He doesn t elaborate much about the questions that you bring
                        Message 11 of 21 , Jun 3, 2008
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                          Grant: Sartre did believe that each person creates or is
                          responsible for his own moral code. He doesn't elaborate much about
                          the questions that you bring up (why couldn't that code include being
                          a Nazi?), since he never published the work on ethics that he
                          promises at the end of Being and Nothingness. I think that in some
                          sense Sartre is correct: each one of us is responsible for his or
                          her ethical code. Obviously, in formulating an ethical code,
                          one doesn't begin at point zero. One learns from one's parents,
                          from teachers, from philosophers, from one's life experience.
                          One begins to think about what kind of society one wants to live
                          in: do I want to live in a society where people break
                          promises? No. One empathizes with others, and one sees
                          torture as atrocious because of one's ability to put oneself in the
                          position of the person being tortured. I know that you disagree
                          with that position and that you think that ethical rules have some
                          kind of metaphysical status, that they are objective. I would
                          say that they are objective in the sense that all rational or
                          thoughtful people will come to the conclusion that murder is wrong,
                          but finally, as Sartre says, we are responsible for that decision
                          that murder is wrong. Be well, Amos


                          --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, Grant Sterling <gcsterling@...> wrote:
                          >
                          > ----- Amos <vivepablo@...> wrote:
                          > > Grant: Let's take Sartre's example of the young student who
                          comes
                          > > to him and asks whether it is better to stay home to care for his
                          > > sick mother or to join the French resistance forces. Sartre
                          replies
                          > > that the question has no answer: that the student has to decide
                          > > what is good according to his own standards. I agree with
                          > > Sartre. Would you say that there is one good that the student
                          > > should choose? Note: the student does not ask if he should
                          care
                          > > for his mother or spend the money his mother has saved for the
                          doctor
                          > > on beer. Be well, Amos
                          >
                          > My view is certainly that either:
                          > 1) It was best, all things considered, for him to
                          > care for his Mom, or
                          > 2) It was best for him to join the Resistance, or
                          > 3) The two moral requirements were exactly balanced,
                          > in which case he was not required to do either one
                          > (though he was required, presumably, to do one or the
                          > other).
                          > Certainly he had to weigh the duties involved for
                          > himself to try to figure out which was best. But
                          > Sartre's view, I believe, was even stronger--Sartre's
                          > view is that he himself _creates_ what it is right for
                          > him to do. That is the view that I find (literally)
                          > incomprehensible. I don't not understand how any
                          > ever can _make_ something right or wrong by their
                          > own choice. Sartre was at least willing to go all
                          > the way and claim that _all_ values are self-created
                          > in this way. I find that view absurd but at least
                          > consistent. I don't know how anyone can hold that
                          > I can create _some_ values but others are out of my
                          > control. Why couldn't I create them, as well? Why
                          > not make it right for myself to help the Nazis?
                          > {I agree that it may be _difficult_ to figure out
                          > which action was best, and I agree that it may be
                          > inappropriate for others to criticize the decision
                          > which is finally made. But neither of those change
                          > the fact that, on my view, there _is_ a right answer
                          > to the question.}
                          >
                          > More when I have time to reply to Menno.
                          >
                          > Regards,
                          > Grant
                          >
                        • Grant Sterling
                          ... One can always choose arbitrarily to adopt a set of rules for oneself. I can choose to adopt the rule never wear green shirts , or always leave a house
                          Message 12 of 21 , Jun 3, 2008
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                            > The next most basic issue seems to be about how the word "Ethics"
                            > is defined.
                            > You seem to say that Ethics is always universal, i.e. that it
                            > is always only about rules that hold for all people.
                            > I think that there is a need for an "ethics" [*] that is personal,
                            > i.e. that there is a need for systems of rules which, like a religion,
                            > a person can choose to follow (or not). [I remember here, Mr

                            One can always choose arbitrarily to adopt a set of rules
                            for oneself. I can choose to adopt the rule "never wear
                            green shirts", or "always leave a house from the same
                            door you used to enter it". [My mother actually does that.]
                            The problem is that I don't see how anyone could claim that
                            such a set of rules was a matter of _ethics_. I mean that
                            not because I wish to use the word "ethics" in a narrow
                            sense--I don't see how such a set of rules could even be
                            anything vaguely like prototypical ethical rules. Such a set
                            of rules would be purely arbitrary, purely irrational, and
                            entirely lacking in _obligation_. I may choose not to wear
                            green shirts, but I cannot choose to be obligated not to
                            wear them.
                            Stoicism emphasizes the use of _reason_. So I ask, "On
                            what basis do you imagine a person choosing these optional
                            principles?" See the last paragraph, below.

                            > For me, such "personal ethics" is the whole reason for looking
                            > into Stoicism and for being on this list. I want to learn of ideas
                            > that could help me shape the set of rules that I apply to myself.
                            > I am NOT here for the goal of absorbing rules/systems that tell me
                            > what I should think of other people's behaviour.

                            I don't see how the two can be divorced. If you really
                            find some idea that makes it clear that you ought to do
                            X, then it will immediately follow that people who do
                            not-X (yourself included) are doing something wrong.

                            > I looked up the entry "Ethics" on Wikipedia : I was surprised that
                            > that article never seems to define explicitly whether the word
                            > "ethics" means something that is thought to apply universally to
                            > all people of whether it can (also) be a personal choice. I wonder
                            > whether this is simply a generally unexamined question, and wonder
                            > whether most people (now and in the past) generally have
                            > automatically taken ethics to imply "universal". However, that

                            No, there have been several ethical theories (almost all
                            of them of recent vintage) that deny universality in ethics.
                            I just think they're all obviously false. :)

                            > Descriptive ethics is a /value-free/ approach to ethics which

                            "Descriptive color theory is a color-free approach to colors...."

                            > On the basis of the above Wikipedia quote, I can define wnat I
                            > mean by the "personal ethics" that I feel the world is in need
                            > of : namely, a situated ethics (or situational ethics) that takes
                            > into account the fact that different people have different
                            > "built-in" mechanisms, built in so deeply that an attempt to change
                            > them is useless. These "built-in mechanisms" include e.g.
                            > different talents, and different psychological preferences.

                            Can you give us some concrete examples of what sort of
                            thing you have in mind here?
                            Consider a very simple ethical system--Benthamite
                            Utilitarianism. According to this theory, the right thing
                            for me to do is to perform the action which would maximize
                            the pleasure-minus-pain total.
                            This theory is purely universal--Bentham thinks it
                            applies to every single action of every person.
                            In another sense, it is not universal at all. If,
                            given my current situation, including the desires and
                            interests of all persons affected by my choice, I
                            would maximize pleasure by performing action X, then
                            I am obligated to X. If, in your situation, you would
                            maximize pleasure by doing not-X, then you are obligated
                            to do not-X.
                            In the sense you're interested in, is this the kind
                            of theory you're looking for? [I don't mean specifically
                            this exact theory, but a theory that is situation-responsive
                            in this way?} If that's all you want, then you've come to
                            the right place, because Stoicism certainly teaches that
                            our obligations vary according to the situations we're
                            in and the people we're interacting with and our own talents
                            and abilities. But for that matter, virtually all ethical
                            theories allow for this sort of situationalism.
                            Notice that this in no way suggests that I can _choose_
                            my obligations.


                            > ---
                            > Grant Sterling wrote:
                            > > Are we talking about what ethical precepts I believe do in fact
                            > > hold for other people, or what precepts I should explicitly tell
                            > > other people apply to them?
                            >
                            > We're talking about the first: what ethical precepts I believe do
                            > in fact hold for other people. My assertion (thesis) on that is
                            > that -- to a large degree -- the moral/ethical rules that hold for
                            > person P should be determined by person P himself, and not by me.
                            > That is, P is free to choose what ethical system he applies to
                            > himself.

                            Please disambiguate your use of the words "determine" and
                            "choose".
                            I choose and determine which ethical theory I will apply to
                            myself. I choose and determine which religion I will follow.
                            I choose and determine whether to believe that 2+2=4. I choose
                            and determine whether to believe in evolution, whether to believe
                            that E=mc(2), whether to think the sun revolves around the Earth,
                            whether to believe that the earth is flat or spherical, etc. I
                            choose all my beliefs about every subject whatsoever.
                            What I cannot do, ever, is choose which of these things are
                            actually true and which are false. If I choose to worship the
                            Cosmic Wombat, that won't make the CW exist. If I choose to
                            join the Flat Earth Society, it won't make the earth flat. If
                            I choose to believe that it's OK for me to forcibly sodomize a
                            4-year-old girl, that won't make it OK.
                            Your position appears to be that I can somehow _make it true_
                            that I have certain ethical obligations merely by choosing to
                            believe it. I find such a view bizarre. It's a view some
                            others have held, but none of them have ever been able to
                            explain it to me in a way that made the slightest bit of
                            sense to me.

                            > Grant Sterling wrote:
                            > > E=mc(2) for the guy I've never met.
                            >
                            > I think you can not generalize the fact that mathematical
                            > certainties are universally true to the conclusion that one set of
                            > ethical rules is universally applicable to all people.
                            > Mathematics is independent of subjectivity. The thesis that
                            > ethics is also independent of subjectivity IMO needs a good proof
                            > (and I think that that thesis is false).

                            On the contrary. There is no subject whatsoever where you
                            can make something true by believing it. Why should ethics
                            be any different?
                            But to make matters worse, you yourself accept the existence
                            of some mandatory, universal ethical principles. What is the
                            basis or foundation of _those_ principles?

                            > Grant Sterling wrote:
                            > > On the contrary--the less moral scrutiny of people in their own
                            > > projects, the more immorality their own projects will contain.
                            >
                            > Well, I can not disagree more strongly. I believe that people, if
                            > their are let be, are capable of living (morally) good lives.

                            My experience is that people who are told to choose
                            their own values in an environment that is free of
                            supervision invariably choose value-systems that
                            say "do whatever you happen to want to do at the time".
                            Such a value-system does not lead to virtue or happiness.
                            It is the greatest plague in American society today.

                            > Our difference seems to reduce to the question of individuality:
                            > I say that individuality is good and that people can behave
                            > well in their private lives and in whatever situations where there
                            > is no moral supervision by others. You seem to say that people
                            > ALWAYS need to be constantly kept on a sort of moral leash by
                            > society.

                            Again, this introduces a separate question--to what
                            degree should society actively criticize and constrain
                            people? I don't pretend to be answering that question
                            here.

                            > Or put in another way: You *like* society to tell you what is
                            > Right and Wrong (correct?). I do not: I like people to be
                            > individualists who determine for themselves what they regard as
                            > right and wrong.

                            Exactly--I regard having people determine for themselves what
                            they regard as right and wrong as making exactly as much sense
                            as telling people to choose for themselves their own mathematics
                            and Physics.

                            > With best regards,
                            >
                            > Menno Rubingh (inveterate individualist:-))

                            If you think of ethics as not involving truth, then of
                            course ethical principles can be chosen by each person--
                            I just don't see how any of them can be more binding than
                            "don't wear green shirts".
                            If ethics is based on the characteristics of the actions
                            involved [rape is wrong because it is inherently a kind of
                            action that ought not be done], then ethical principles
                            are subject to reason, but are necessarily universal. If
                            ethics is based on general facts about human nature, it
                            will be subject to reason and universal. What theory of
                            ethics can you present that is subject to reason [we
                            can think rationally about it, learn about it, inform
                            others about it, etc.] but is not universal? I still
                            don't see how this is supposed to work.

                            Regards,
                            Grant
                          • Stoic Stoic
                            If you fancy some really dumbed down Stoicism, theres a piece by me in the new issue of Psychologies (for those of you in the UK) on Stoicism as therapy. it
                            Message 13 of 21 , Jun 4, 2008
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                              If you fancy some really dumbed down Stoicism, theres a piece by me in the new issue of Psychologies (for those of you in the UK) on Stoicism as therapy.

                              it fails, im sure, as a perfect summary of stoicism, but maybe it acts as a bit of an intro, and hopefully it will encourage one or two people to go out and read the original texts...

                              one of the things i mention in the article is albert ellis and CBT's relationship to stoicism, something i go on about a bit. as ive said before, i see ellis as the modern  heir to stoic therapy, and the guy we have to thank for popularizing stoic therapy's cognitive insights and making them mainstream in western therapy. if you want to see a video of him talking about epictetus and showing his therapy in action, its on the homepage of my blog, www.politicsofwellbeing.com

                              Jules


                            • Grant Sterling
                              ... I think he never wrote it because he realized that his system gave him nothing to say. He does try somewhere to give a no-Nazi argument, but unfortunately
                              Message 14 of 21 , Jun 9, 2008
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                                ----- Amos <vivepablo@...> wrote:
                                > Grant: Sartre did believe that each person creates or is
                                > responsible for his own moral code. He doesn't elaborate much about
                                > the questions that you bring up (why couldn't that code include being
                                > a Nazi?), since he never published the work on ethics that he
                                > promises at the end of Being and Nothingness. I think that in some

                                I think he never wrote it because he realized that his
                                system gave him nothing to say.
                                He does try somewhere to give a no-Nazi argument, but
                                unfortunately it fails. The argument is "freedom is the
                                basis of all morality, so it is contradictory to uphold
                                a moral system that restrains freedom". The problem is that
                                this is an equivocation--'freedom' means 'freedom of the
                                will' in the first clause, but 'political freedom' in the
                                second.
                                When you deny the validity of all objective standards
                                of morality, as Sartre does, then you are left with no
                                way of outlawing the choice of any moral system whatsoever,
                                including the worst sort of Nazism, or total selfishness.

                                > sense Sartre is correct: each one of us is responsible for his or
                                > her ethical code. Obviously, in formulating an ethical code,
                                > one doesn't begin at point zero. One learns from one's parents,

                                One can only 'learn' _facts_, things that are objectively
                                true.

                                > from teachers, from philosophers, from one's life experience.
                                > One begins to think about what kind of society one wants to live
                                > in: do I want to live in a society where people break
                                > promises? No. One empathizes with others, and one sees

                                "Do I want to live in a society where other people keep
                                their promises to me, but I'm free to break mine whenever
                                it's convenient? Yes."

                                > torture as atrocious because of one's ability to put oneself in the
                                > position of the person being tortured. I know that you disagree

                                "Being tortured in atrocious, torturing others is perfectly
                                ok."
                                What makes your way of thinking any better than the
                                way of thinking in quotation marks?

                                > with that position and that you think that ethical rules have some
                                > kind of metaphysical status, that they are objective. I would
                                > say that they are objective in the sense that all rational or
                                > thoughtful people will come to the conclusion that murder is wrong,

                                Why? What makes it _rational_ to come to that conclusion?
                                If there is no sort of metaphysical moral truth, then there
                                are no moral truths, and without truth there's no reason.

                                > but finally, as Sartre says, we are responsible for that decision
                                > that murder is wrong. Be well, Amos

                                I quite agree that we are responsible for the moral
                                code we choose to uphold. But that responsibility is
                                more robust on my view, because we can choose well or
                                badly. On Sartre's view, if he were consistent, he
                                would have to admit that it's a choice I couldn't
                                possibly get wrong.

                                Regards,
                                Grant
                              • Amos
                                Grant: Sorry to take so long to reply. The fact that Sartre did not find a solution to the problem of how to find a base for an ethical code does not
                                Message 15 of 21 , Jun 11, 2008
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                                  Grant: Sorry to take so long to reply. The fact that Sartre did
                                  not find a solution to the problem of how to find a base for an
                                  ethical code does not imply that there is an objective base, which
                                  you have found. Ethics seems to me to be the accumulated wisdom of
                                  humanity. Ethics are fragile; they are not written in stone, as
                                  Sartre points out. However, that all moral traditions seem to
                                  prohibit certain things, murder, lying, robbing, etc., points
                                  to the fact that rational or thoughtful people come to the same
                                  conclusions about ethics, and in that sense, ethics are
                                  objective. Unfortunately, not all people are rational or
                                  thoughtful, and our ethical heritage can easily break down into
                                  phenomena like Nazism. Nonetheless, that thinkers as different
                                  as Grant Sterling and Jean Paul Sartre would probably agree on what
                                  is right and what is wrong, although they reach their conclusions
                                  in different ways, indicates our common ethical heritage. Be
                                  well, Amos

                                  --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, Grant Sterling <gcsterling@...> wrote:
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > ----- Amos <vivepablo@...> wrote:
                                  > > Grant: Sartre did believe that each person creates or is
                                  > > responsible for his own moral code. He doesn't elaborate much
                                  about
                                  > > the questions that you bring up (why couldn't that code include
                                  being
                                  > > a Nazi?), since he never published the work on ethics that he
                                  > > promises at the end of Being and Nothingness. I think that in
                                  some
                                  >
                                  > I think he never wrote it because he realized that his
                                  > system gave him nothing to say.
                                  > He does try somewhere to give a no-Nazi argument, but
                                  > unfortunately it fails. The argument is "freedom is the
                                  > basis of all morality, so it is contradictory to uphold
                                  > a moral system that restrains freedom". The problem is that
                                  > this is an equivocation--'freedom' means 'freedom of the
                                  > will' in the first clause, but 'political freedom' in the
                                  > second.
                                  > When you deny the validity of all objective standards
                                  > of morality, as Sartre does, then you are left with no
                                  > way of outlawing the choice of any moral system whatsoever,
                                  > including the worst sort of Nazism, or total selfishness.
                                  >
                                  > > sense Sartre is correct: each one of us is responsible for his
                                  or
                                  > > her ethical code. Obviously, in formulating an ethical
                                  code,
                                  > > one doesn't begin at point zero. One learns from one's
                                  parents,
                                  >
                                  > One can only 'learn' _facts_, things that are objectively
                                  > true.
                                  >
                                  > > from teachers, from philosophers, from one's life
                                  experience.
                                  > > One begins to think about what kind of society one wants to live
                                  > > in: do I want to live in a society where people break
                                  > > promises? No. One empathizes with others, and one sees
                                  >
                                  > "Do I want to live in a society where other people keep
                                  > their promises to me, but I'm free to break mine whenever
                                  > it's convenient? Yes."
                                  >
                                  > > torture as atrocious because of one's ability to put oneself in
                                  the
                                  > > position of the person being tortured. I know that you
                                  disagree
                                  >
                                  > "Being tortured in atrocious, torturing others is perfectly
                                  > ok."
                                  > What makes your way of thinking any better than the
                                  > way of thinking in quotation marks?
                                  >
                                  > > with that position and that you think that ethical rules have
                                  some
                                  > > kind of metaphysical status, that they are objective. I
                                  would
                                  > > say that they are objective in the sense that all rational or
                                  > > thoughtful people will come to the conclusion that murder is
                                  wrong,
                                  >
                                  > Why? What makes it _rational_ to come to that conclusion?
                                  > If there is no sort of metaphysical moral truth, then there
                                  > are no moral truths, and without truth there's no reason.
                                  >
                                  > > but finally, as Sartre says, we are responsible for that
                                  decision
                                  > > that murder is wrong. Be well,
                                  Amos
                                  >
                                  > I quite agree that we are responsible for the moral
                                  > code we choose to uphold. But that responsibility is
                                  > more robust on my view, because we can choose well or
                                  > badly. On Sartre's view, if he were consistent, he
                                  > would have to admit that it's a choice I couldn't
                                  > possibly get wrong.
                                  >
                                  > Regards,
                                  > Grant
                                  >
                                • Amos
                                  Grant: One more point. There is an error in your argument. You say that one can only learn facts. Quite the contrary. One can also learn habits,
                                  Message 16 of 21 , Jun 11, 2008
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                                    Grant: One more point. There is an error in your argument. You
                                    say that one can only learn facts. Quite the contrary. One can
                                    also learn habits, customs, traditions, stories, and even
                                    affirmations which are not true. In my opinion, ethical learning
                                    involves learning habits, customs, traditions, and stories. It
                                    also involves learning to empathize with others, to put oneself in
                                    the shoes of the other. Finally, it involves reasoning or
                                    thinking about all that one has learned, trying to make a coherent
                                    vision out of what one has learned and trying to adapt what one has
                                    learned to concrete and complex situations. However, I cannot see
                                    that there are ethical facts, as you maintain, which are similar
                                    to facts about the temperature. In descriptive ethics, there are
                                    facts of course: we can describe factually the ethical code of an
                                    Orthodox Jew. However, in normative ethics, there are no facts
                                    in my opinion, just a rich collective tradition, one of the great
                                    achievements of humanity. I know that you do not agree. Be
                                    well, Amos



                                    --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, "Amos" <vivepablo@...> wrote:
                                    >
                                    > Grant: Sorry to take so long to reply. The fact that Sartre
                                    did
                                    > not find a solution to the problem of how to find a base for an
                                    > ethical code does not imply that there is an objective base,
                                    which
                                    > you have found. Ethics seems to me to be the accumulated wisdom
                                    of
                                    > humanity. Ethics are fragile; they are not written in stone, as
                                    > Sartre points out. However, that all moral traditions seem to
                                    > prohibit certain things, murder, lying, robbing, etc., points
                                    > to the fact that rational or thoughtful people come to the same
                                    > conclusions about ethics, and in that sense, ethics are
                                    > objective. Unfortunately, not all people are rational or
                                    > thoughtful, and our ethical heritage can easily break down into
                                    > phenomena like Nazism. Nonetheless, that thinkers as different
                                    > as Grant Sterling and Jean Paul Sartre would probably agree on what
                                    > is right and what is wrong, although they reach their conclusions
                                    > in different ways, indicates our common ethical heritage. Be
                                    > well, Amos
                                    >
                                    > --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, Grant Sterling <gcsterling@> wrote:
                                    > >
                                    > >
                                    > > ----- Amos <vivepablo@> wrote:
                                    > > > Grant: Sartre did believe that each person creates or is
                                    > > > responsible for his own moral code. He doesn't elaborate much
                                    > about
                                    > > > the questions that you bring up (why couldn't that code include
                                    > being
                                    > > > a Nazi?), since he never published the work on ethics that he
                                    > > > promises at the end of Being and Nothingness. I think that in
                                    > some
                                    > >
                                    > > I think he never wrote it because he realized that his
                                    > > system gave him nothing to say.
                                    > > He does try somewhere to give a no-Nazi argument, but
                                    > > unfortunately it fails. The argument is "freedom is the
                                    > > basis of all morality, so it is contradictory to uphold
                                    > > a moral system that restrains freedom". The problem is that
                                    > > this is an equivocation--'freedom' means 'freedom of the
                                    > > will' in the first clause, but 'political freedom' in the
                                    > > second.
                                    > > When you deny the validity of all objective standards
                                    > > of morality, as Sartre does, then you are left with no
                                    > > way of outlawing the choice of any moral system whatsoever,
                                    > > including the worst sort of Nazism, or total selfishness.
                                    > >
                                    > > > sense Sartre is correct: each one of us is responsible for
                                    his
                                    > or
                                    > > > her ethical code. Obviously, in formulating an ethical
                                    > code,
                                    > > > one doesn't begin at point zero. One learns from one's
                                    > parents,
                                    > >
                                    > > One can only 'learn' _facts_, things that are objectively
                                    > > true.
                                    > >
                                    > > > from teachers, from philosophers, from one's life
                                    > experience.
                                    > > > One begins to think about what kind of society one wants to
                                    live
                                    > > > in: do I want to live in a society where people break
                                    > > > promises? No. One empathizes with others, and one sees
                                    > >
                                    > > "Do I want to live in a society where other people keep
                                    > > their promises to me, but I'm free to break mine whenever
                                    > > it's convenient? Yes."
                                    > >
                                    > > > torture as atrocious because of one's ability to put oneself in
                                    > the
                                    > > > position of the person being tortured. I know that you
                                    > disagree
                                    > >
                                    > > "Being tortured in atrocious, torturing others is perfectly
                                    > > ok."
                                    > > What makes your way of thinking any better than the
                                    > > way of thinking in quotation marks?
                                    > >
                                    > > > with that position and that you think that ethical rules have
                                    > some
                                    > > > kind of metaphysical status, that they are objective. I
                                    > would
                                    > > > say that they are objective in the sense that all rational or
                                    > > > thoughtful people will come to the conclusion that murder is
                                    > wrong,
                                    > >
                                    > > Why? What makes it _rational_ to come to that conclusion?
                                    > > If there is no sort of metaphysical moral truth, then there
                                    > > are no moral truths, and without truth there's no reason.
                                    > >
                                    > > > but finally, as Sartre says, we are responsible for that
                                    > decision
                                    > > > that murder is wrong. Be well,
                                    > Amos
                                    > >
                                    > > I quite agree that we are responsible for the moral
                                    > > code we choose to uphold. But that responsibility is
                                    > > more robust on my view, because we can choose well or
                                    > > badly. On Sartre's view, if he were consistent, he
                                    > > would have to admit that it's a choice I couldn't
                                    > > possibly get wrong.
                                    > >
                                    > > Regards,
                                    > > Grant
                                    > >
                                    >
                                  • verbalcartoonist
                                    The ethical is the human-beautiful and by definition orderly - it is a logical passion i.e. art and acquired by mimesis from the sage or by the imitation
                                    Message 17 of 21 , Jun 11, 2008
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                                      The ethical is 'the human-beautiful' and by definition orderly - it is
                                      a 'logical passion' i.e. 'art' and acquired by mimesis from the sage
                                      or by the imitation of our own sagacious moments as Epictetus recommends.



                                      --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, "Amos" <vivepablo@...> wrote:
                                      >
                                      > Grant: One more point. There is an error in your argument. You
                                      > say that one can only learn facts. Quite the contrary. One can
                                      > also learn habits, customs, traditions, stories, and even
                                      > affirmations which are not true. In my opinion, ethical learning
                                      > involves learning habits, customs, traditions, and stories. It
                                      > also involves learning to empathize with others, to put oneself in
                                      > the shoes of the other. Finally, it involves reasoning or
                                      > thinking about all that one has learned, trying to make a coherent
                                      > vision out of what one has learned and trying to adapt what one has
                                      > learned to concrete and complex situations. However, I cannot see
                                      > that there are ethical facts, as you maintain, which are similar
                                      > to facts about the temperature. In descriptive ethics, there are
                                      > facts of course: we can describe factually the ethical code of an
                                      > Orthodox Jew. However, in normative ethics, there are no facts
                                      > in my opinion, just a rich collective tradition, one of the great
                                      > achievements of humanity. I know that you do not agree. Be
                                      > well, Amos
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, "Amos" <vivepablo@> wrote:
                                      > >
                                      > > Grant: Sorry to take so long to reply. The fact that Sartre
                                      > did
                                      > > not find a solution to the problem of how to find a base for an
                                      > > ethical code does not imply that there is an objective base,
                                      > which
                                      > > you have found. Ethics seems to me to be the accumulated wisdom
                                      > of
                                      > > humanity. Ethics are fragile; they are not written in stone, as
                                      > > Sartre points out. However, that all moral traditions seem to
                                      > > prohibit certain things, murder, lying, robbing, etc., points
                                      > > to the fact that rational or thoughtful people come to the same
                                      > > conclusions about ethics, and in that sense, ethics are
                                      > > objective. Unfortunately, not all people are rational or
                                      > > thoughtful, and our ethical heritage can easily break down into
                                      > > phenomena like Nazism. Nonetheless, that thinkers as different
                                      > > as Grant Sterling and Jean Paul Sartre would probably agree on what
                                      > > is right and what is wrong, although they reach their conclusions
                                      > > in different ways, indicates our common ethical heritage. Be
                                      > > well, Amos
                                      > >
                                      > > --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, Grant Sterling <gcsterling@> wrote:
                                      > > >
                                      > > >
                                      > > > ----- Amos <vivepablo@> wrote:
                                      > > > > Grant: Sartre did believe that each person creates or is
                                      > > > > responsible for his own moral code. He doesn't elaborate much
                                      > > about
                                      > > > > the questions that you bring up (why couldn't that code include
                                      > > being
                                      > > > > a Nazi?), since he never published the work on ethics that he
                                      > > > > promises at the end of Being and Nothingness. I think that in
                                      > > some
                                      > > >
                                      > > > I think he never wrote it because he realized that his
                                      > > > system gave him nothing to say.
                                      > > > He does try somewhere to give a no-Nazi argument, but
                                      > > > unfortunately it fails. The argument is "freedom is the
                                      > > > basis of all morality, so it is contradictory to uphold
                                      > > > a moral system that restrains freedom". The problem is that
                                      > > > this is an equivocation--'freedom' means 'freedom of the
                                      > > > will' in the first clause, but 'political freedom' in the
                                      > > > second.
                                      > > > When you deny the validity of all objective standards
                                      > > > of morality, as Sartre does, then you are left with no
                                      > > > way of outlawing the choice of any moral system whatsoever,
                                      > > > including the worst sort of Nazism, or total selfishness.
                                      > > >
                                      > > > > sense Sartre is correct: each one of us is responsible for
                                      > his
                                      > > or
                                      > > > > her ethical code. Obviously, in formulating an ethical
                                      > > code,
                                      > > > > one doesn't begin at point zero. One learns from one's
                                      > > parents,
                                      > > >
                                      > > > One can only 'learn' _facts_, things that are objectively
                                      > > > true.
                                      > > >
                                      > > > > from teachers, from philosophers, from one's life
                                      > > experience.
                                      > > > > One begins to think about what kind of society one wants to
                                      > live
                                      > > > > in: do I want to live in a society where people break
                                      > > > > promises? No. One empathizes with others, and one sees
                                      > > >
                                      > > > "Do I want to live in a society where other people keep
                                      > > > their promises to me, but I'm free to break mine whenever
                                      > > > it's convenient? Yes."
                                      > > >
                                      > > > > torture as atrocious because of one's ability to put oneself in
                                      > > the
                                      > > > > position of the person being tortured. I know that you
                                      > > disagree
                                      > > >
                                      > > > "Being tortured in atrocious, torturing others is perfectly
                                      > > > ok."
                                      > > > What makes your way of thinking any better than the
                                      > > > way of thinking in quotation marks?
                                      > > >
                                      > > > > with that position and that you think that ethical rules have
                                      > > some
                                      > > > > kind of metaphysical status, that they are objective. I
                                      > > would
                                      > > > > say that they are objective in the sense that all rational or
                                      > > > > thoughtful people will come to the conclusion that murder is
                                      > > wrong,
                                      > > >
                                      > > > Why? What makes it _rational_ to come to that conclusion?
                                      > > > If there is no sort of metaphysical moral truth, then there
                                      > > > are no moral truths, and without truth there's no reason.
                                      > > >
                                      > > > > but finally, as Sartre says, we are responsible for that
                                      > > decision
                                      > > > > that murder is wrong. Be well,
                                      > > Amos
                                      > > >
                                      > > > I quite agree that we are responsible for the moral
                                      > > > code we choose to uphold. But that responsibility is
                                      > > > more robust on my view, because we can choose well or
                                      > > > badly. On Sartre's view, if he were consistent, he
                                      > > > would have to admit that it's a choice I couldn't
                                      > > > possibly get wrong.
                                      > > >
                                      > > > Regards,
                                      > > > Grant
                                      > > >
                                      > >
                                      >
                                    • Grant Sterling
                                      ... I acknowledge the point-- we do talk about learning in that sense as well. I assumed you meant it in the other sense, but that was an unreasonable
                                      Message 18 of 21 , Jun 11, 2008
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                                        ----- Amos <vivepablo@...> wrote:
                                        > Grant: One more point. There is an error in your argument. You
                                        > say that one can only learn facts. Quite the contrary. One can
                                        > also learn habits, customs, traditions, stories, and even
                                        > affirmations which are not true. In my opinion, ethical learning

                                        I acknowledge the point-- we do talk about "learning"
                                        in that sense as well. I assumed you meant it in the
                                        other sense, but that was an unreasonable assumption
                                        on my part, as I now see.

                                        > involves learning habits, customs, traditions, and stories. It
                                        > also involves learning to empathize with others, to put oneself in

                                        Why? Why should I learn to empathize with others?

                                        > the shoes of the other. Finally, it involves reasoning or

                                        Reasoning, how? I don't know how to _reason about_ habits
                                        or customs, without employing moral norms to do so. I have
                                        a friend who was raised by racist parents. As an adult, she
                                        is convinced that her upbringing was wrong. But if ethics is
                                        merely a matter of learning customs and habits, how can the
                                        customs and habits you learn be wrong? Suppose she had been raised
                                        in a society that was virulently racist, so that her personal
                                        upbringing would coincide with her culture's norms. While
                                        I can understand that in such a case it would be _hard_ for
                                        her to realize that her learned habits were wrong, wouldn't
                                        it still be the case that these are morally bad customs? Isn't
                                        there some culture-independent standard of good behavior?
                                        The same with stories. If the stories are not thought of
                                        as conveying _facts_ about reality, then what makes any
                                        one set of stories any better than any other? If I grow up
                                        learning Hitler's stories about how all good things in the
                                        world have come from the Aryan people, and all other races
                                        are subhuman...why aren't those stories just as good as
                                        stories about empathy and helping one's neighbor?
                                        Can one _reason_ about things where there is no truth?

                                        > thinking about all that one has learned, trying to make a coherent
                                        > vision out of what one has learned and trying to adapt what one has
                                        > learned to concrete and complex situations. However, I cannot see
                                        > that there are ethical facts, as you maintain, which are similar
                                        > to facts about the temperature. In descriptive ethics, there are
                                        > facts of course: we can describe factually the ethical code of an
                                        > Orthodox Jew. However, in normative ethics, there are no facts
                                        > in my opinion, just a rich collective tradition, one of the great
                                        > achievements of humanity. I know that you do not agree. Be
                                        > well, Amos

                                        Regards,
                                        Grant
                                      • Amos
                                        Grant: I think that there is a moral culture, just as there is a culture of music. One reasons about that culture utilizing the tools and codes that one
                                        Message 19 of 21 , Jun 13, 2008
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                                          Grant: I think that there is a moral culture, just as there is a
                                          culture of music. One reasons about that culture utilizing the
                                          tools and codes that one learned as a child or youth. If one were
                                          raised in a country without that culture, say, in Nazi
                                          Germany, one would sadly lack the codes and tools. Empathizing
                                          with others is part of our moral culture, just as reasoning and
                                          not breaking promises are. That the greatest thinkers of human
                                          history have constructed that ethical culture in some sense assures
                                          its objectiveness. Enjoy your trip. Amos



                                          --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, Grant Sterling <gcsterling@...> wrote:
                                          >
                                          >
                                          > ----- Amos <vivepablo@...> wrote:
                                          > > Grant: One more point. There is an error in your argument.
                                          You
                                          > > say that one can only learn facts. Quite the contrary. One
                                          can
                                          > > also learn habits, customs, traditions, stories, and even
                                          > > affirmations which are not true. In my opinion, ethical
                                          learning
                                          >
                                          > I acknowledge the point-- we do talk about "learning"
                                          > in that sense as well. I assumed you meant it in the
                                          > other sense, but that was an unreasonable assumption
                                          > on my part, as I now see.
                                          >
                                          > > involves learning habits, customs, traditions, and stories.
                                          It
                                          > > also involves learning to empathize with others, to put oneself
                                          in
                                          >
                                          > Why? Why should I learn to empathize with others?
                                          >
                                          > > the shoes of the other. Finally, it involves reasoning or
                                          >
                                          > Reasoning, how? I don't know how to _reason about_ habits
                                          > or customs, without employing moral norms to do so. I have
                                          > a friend who was raised by racist parents. As an adult, she
                                          > is convinced that her upbringing was wrong. But if ethics is
                                          > merely a matter of learning customs and habits, how can the
                                          > customs and habits you learn be wrong? Suppose she had been raised
                                          > in a society that was virulently racist, so that her personal
                                          > upbringing would coincide with her culture's norms. While
                                          > I can understand that in such a case it would be _hard_ for
                                          > her to realize that her learned habits were wrong, wouldn't
                                          > it still be the case that these are morally bad customs? Isn't
                                          > there some culture-independent standard of good behavior?
                                          > The same with stories. If the stories are not thought of
                                          > as conveying _facts_ about reality, then what makes any
                                          > one set of stories any better than any other? If I grow up
                                          > learning Hitler's stories about how all good things in the
                                          > world have come from the Aryan people, and all other races
                                          > are subhuman...why aren't those stories just as good as
                                          > stories about empathy and helping one's neighbor?
                                          > Can one _reason_ about things where there is no truth?
                                          >
                                          > > thinking about all that one has learned, trying to make a
                                          coherent
                                          > > vision out of what one has learned and trying to adapt what one
                                          has
                                          > > learned to concrete and complex situations. However, I cannot
                                          see
                                          > > that there are ethical facts, as you maintain, which are
                                          similar
                                          > > to facts about the temperature. In descriptive ethics, there
                                          are
                                          > > facts of course: we can describe factually the ethical code of
                                          an
                                          > > Orthodox Jew. However, in normative ethics, there are no
                                          facts
                                          > > in my opinion, just a rich collective tradition, one of the
                                          great
                                          > > achievements of humanity. I know that you do not agree. Be
                                          > > well, Amos
                                          >
                                          > Regards,
                                          > Grant
                                          >
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