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RETRIBUTIVISM

ruby sparks

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As I understand it, Retributive Justice is a theory of punishment that when an offender causes harm, justice requires that he or she suffer harm in return.

Ok, so, I get it. The basis is justice. But I also don't get it. From where does this sense of justice come from? My guess is it's an evolved (now innate) trait.

But it's not the only evolved (innate) trait. There's its antonym, forgiveness.

Isn't it more likely to be the case that whether retribution or forgiveness (much like competition or its antonym, co-operation) is appropriate, is situation-dependent?

Which, if true, would suggest that adhering strictly and only to retribution is at best simplistic and at worst an unsuitable approach?

Also, retribution is usually (I think) described by retributivists as being morally right regardless of consequences. I really don't get that part. Surely consequences are an integral part of the equation? How else could we measure (or even know) whether something is 'right' or 'wrong', 'good' or 'bad', useful or not?

Evolution is blind and natural selection is ruthless. What works survives, in the long term. As such, retribution is surely based on consequences?
 
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steve_bank

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It is retribution/punishment vs rehabilitation.

Here in Seattle it has gone from punishment to little or no incarceration's/punishment. The result is a mass shooting a few weeks ago by two people with a long list of felonies, arrests, and releases.
 

rousseau

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In a world where we're essentially trying to survive and reproduce, the tit-for-tat strategy makes sense. People who contribute to society and personal relationships typically get a return, people who detract from society are punished. This has the effect of filtering out bad actors, and making it such that most of us behave in a fair way, allowing us to cooperate.

Rising above this is an even more effective strategy for the individual, but evolution is a numbers game and oriented to the individual - not the greater good of a community. In that context retribution is a more powerful force because it's a behavior that filters out malevolent, and morally inept people. If we're forgiving to our dickhead boyfriend, and take him back, we produce more dickhead boyfriends. Whereas if we believe he deserves to be let go for his behavior, we find a more suitable mate.
 

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Aside from its Mumbo-Jumbo the Hebrew Kabbalah has it about right. But who decides what is "extreme"?


............ different aspects of Morality. Loving-Kindness is a possible moral justification found in Chessed, and Gevurah is the Moral Justification of Justice and both are mediated by Mercy which is Rachamim. However, these pillars of morality become immoral once they become extremes. When Loving-Kindness becomes extreme it can lead to sexual depravity and lack of Justice to the wicked. When Justice becomes extreme, it can lead to torture and the Murder of innocents and unfair punishment.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabbalah#Divine_Feminine
 
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ruby sparks

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In a world where we're essentially trying to survive and reproduce, the tit-for-tat strategy makes sense. People who contribute to society and personal relationships typically get a return, people who detract from society are punished. This has the effect of filtering out bad actors, and making it such that most of us behave in a fair way, allowing us to cooperate.

Rising above this is an even more effective strategy for the individual, but evolution is a numbers game and oriented to the individual - not the greater good of a community. In that context retribution is a more powerful force because it's a behavior that filters out malevolent, and morally inept people. If we're forgiving to our dickhead boyfriend, and take him back, we produce more dickhead boyfriends. Whereas if we believe he deserves to be let go for his behavior, we find a more suitable mate.

I generally agree, and good example at the end there. How about if it's not a boyfriend but a cheating husband that you already have children with. Then, forgiveness, even unconditional forgiveness without retribution, might, of itself, better ensure the survival (or just the meeting of the needs) of the existing children (and possibly the creation of more, which is good news for the species in numbers terms, even allowing for the increased possibility of passing on a 'cheating dickhead gene', if there is such a thing) as well as being better (healthier, physiologically) for the forgiving partner and possibly even the transgressing one (which could then feed in as a benefit to the offspring). And indeed in groups and perhaps even societies where collectivist, cooperative and interdependent principles are either dominant or a significant feature, there might also be at least some long term group benefits. That might have been particularly the case when we lived in small groups, where cooperative reciprocity, altruism and close, permanent/ongoing group relationships mattered more.

I'm not saying forgiveness is necessarily a moral 'good' that trumps retribution, I would doubt it is, just that it could perhaps be part of the mix, that it can (at times) be an adaptive trait, that the 'rights' and 'wrongs' (of retribution versus non-retribution) are situation-dependent, and various factors may be interacting in different ways in different situations.

Regarding tit-for-tat, I read that there are 'prisoner's dilemma' game theory iterations where inclusion of forgiveness in the game strategy outperforms tit-for-tat based strategies. But I think it's fair to say that the success of game strategies depends on various factors. It is said that there really is no "best" strategy for prisoner's dilemma. Each individual strategy will apparently work best when matched against a "worse" strategy. In order to win, a player must figure out his opponent's strategy and then pick a strategy that is best suited for the situation.

I also read that retribution can facilitate forgiveness. This makes sense. It often or generally seems (is) easier to forgive someone after they have been punished first, after they have paid the price of atonement.
 
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ruby sparks

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It is retribution/punishment vs rehabilitation.

Here in Seattle it has gone from punishment to little or no incarceration's/punishment. The result is a mass shooting a few weeks ago by two people with a long list of felonies, arrests, and releases.

Yes, but one interesting aspect of retributivism, as I understand it, is that punishment in the form of retribution is held to be morally right of itself, regardless of other considerations such as deterrence, isolation from (and protection of) other citizens & rehabilitation, and indeed regardless of any consequences. The last one in particular makes no sense to me at this point.
 
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ruby sparks

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The other thing that seems to me to matter, as well as consequences, are antecedents.

So let's say someone breaks into your home while you are asleep upstairs and steals all your food.

I am tempted to make the thief 'one of your own daughters' to see how that affects things, but I won't. I'll just say that the thief is someone that you know (or find out after) is penniless and starving, through what I am going to call 'no fault of their own'. You come to believe that you have a lovely house full of nice stuff for reasons that are not entirely to do with your own efforts, you are in some ways lucky, or the beneficiary of a system that favours your kind.

Is retribution or forgiveness more appropriate in that situation? I can see how a case could be made either way, but I can't see that either is necessarily morally right of itself.

I would however tend to think that consequences would overrule antecedents in the long run. In other words a policy of forgiveness in situations like that, even if it were or seemed morally right (in the moment, at the time, given the antecedents), would likely not survive in the long run if the consequences for such an approach generally tended to be overall adverse for the forgiver and/or their tribe or society.

Does it matter what the damage was? Food is one thing (and possibly also property and even money) and so is personal harm that will heal (eg a bruising injury of some sort caused by the intruder after they have woken you and you confront them) but what if the thief blinded you (eg with strong acid) and you did not and weren't ever going to recover your eyesight? So that is probably going to make forgiveness harder (though not impossible) but does it then make retribution morally right? And if it did, would that just be one possible view and not an objective moral principle?
 
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rousseau

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In a world where we're essentially trying to survive and reproduce, the tit-for-tat strategy makes sense. People who contribute to society and personal relationships typically get a return, people who detract from society are punished. This has the effect of filtering out bad actors, and making it such that most of us behave in a fair way, allowing us to cooperate.

Rising above this is an even more effective strategy for the individual, but evolution is a numbers game and oriented to the individual - not the greater good of a community. In that context retribution is a more powerful force because it's a behavior that filters out malevolent, and morally inept people. If we're forgiving to our dickhead boyfriend, and take him back, we produce more dickhead boyfriends. Whereas if we believe he deserves to be let go for his behavior, we find a more suitable mate.

I generally agree, and good example at the end there. How about if it's not a boyfriend but a cheating husband that you already have children with. Then, forgiveness, even unconditional forgiveness without retribution, might, of itself, better ensure the survival (or just the meeting of the needs) of the existing children (and possibly the creation of more, which is good news for the species in numbers terms, even allowing for the increased possibility of passing on a 'cheating dickhead gene', if there is such a thing) as well as being better (healthier, physiologically) for the forgiving partner and possibly even the transgressing one (which could then feed in as a benefit to the offspring). And indeed in groups and perhaps even societies where collectivist, cooperative and interdependent principles are either dominant or a significant feature, there might also be at least some long term group benefits. That might have been particularly the case when we lived in small groups, where cooperative reciprocity, altruism and close, permanent/ongoing group relationships mattered more.

I'm not saying forgiveness is necessarily a moral 'good' that trumps retribution, I would doubt it is, just that it could perhaps be part of the mix, that it can (at times) be an adaptive trait, that the 'rights' and 'wrongs' (of retribution versus non-retribution) are situation-dependent, and various factors may be interacting in different ways in different situations.

Regarding tit-for-tat, I read that there are 'prisoner's dilemma' game theory iterations where inclusion of forgiveness in the game strategy outperforms tit-for-tat based strategies. But I think it's fair to say that the success of game strategies depends on various factors. It is said that there really is no "best" strategy for prisoner's dilemma. Each individual strategy will apparently work best when matched against a "worse" strategy. In order to win, a player must figure out his opponent's strategy and then pick a strategy that is best suited for the situation.

I also read that retribution can facilitate forgiveness. This makes sense. It often or generally seems (is) easier to forgive someone after they have been punished first, after they have paid the price of atonement.

IMO I'd forget any notions of evolution and good for the species, at least any further than it takes to create a cooperative enough species to create stable conditions to reproduce.

But yea, forgiveness would be a thing too, but instead of calling it forgiveness I'd call it psychological flexibility. Think of retribution as something like a visceral, lizard brain response, and forgiveness as something that would come from higher order thinking to override the visceral reaction. For many, there's mostly just a lizard brain response and that serves them well enough, but when the situation is dire enough a little bit of psychological flexibility helps too in cases like you mention. If my husband cheats but he's my only chance in finding a partner, better to stay with him than leave, for example. The ultimate goal is always to produce a baby / survive, so when retribution stops serving that goal we may use psychological flexibility instead. Unless we're too dumb to do so, then our lack of that behavior gets filtered out of the gene pool.
 

ruby sparks

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But yea, forgiveness would be a thing too, but instead of calling it forgiveness I'd call it psychological flexibility. Think of retribution as something like a visceral, lizard brain response, and forgiveness as something that would come from higher order thinking to override the visceral reaction. For many, there's mostly just a lizard brain response and that serves them well enough, but when the situation is dire enough a little bit of psychological flexibility helps too in cases like you mention. If my husband cheats but he's my only chance in finding a partner, better to stay with him than leave, for example. The ultimate goal is always to produce a baby / survive, so when retribution stops serving that goal we may use psychological flexibility instead. Unless we're too dumb to do so, then our lack of that behavior gets filtered out of the gene pool.

Ok, but maybe calling forgiveness the flexibility not to punish is robbing it of being something in its own right, as it were. As would, I think, calling cooperation merely the flexibility not to compete.

As far as I know, both retribution and forgiveness have neural correlates, but I don't think one is in the primitive part of the brain and the other isn't?

Also, when you said, "If my husband cheats but he's my only chance in finding a partner, better to stay with him than leave, for example" that didn't seem to imply actual forgiveness. :)

Otherwise, I largely agree. It does feel as if a retributive urge comes more readily and obviously, in more situations. On the other hand, I read that forgiveness (and cooperation) have only been extensively studied more recently than retribution and competition, so maybe they have been somewhat neglected phenomena.
 

rousseau

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But yea, forgiveness would be a thing too, but instead of calling it forgiveness I'd call it psychological flexibility. Think of retribution as something like a visceral, lizard brain response, and forgiveness as something that would come from higher order thinking to override the visceral reaction. For many, there's mostly just a lizard brain response and that serves them well enough, but when the situation is dire enough a little bit of psychological flexibility helps too in cases like you mention. If my husband cheats but he's my only chance in finding a partner, better to stay with him than leave, for example. The ultimate goal is always to produce a baby / survive, so when retribution stops serving that goal we may use psychological flexibility instead. Unless we're too dumb to do so, then our lack of that behavior gets filtered out of the gene pool.

Ok, but maybe calling forgiveness the flexibility not to punish is robbing it of being something in its own right, as it were. As would, I think, calling cooperation merely the flexibility not to compete.

As far as I know, both retribution and forgiveness have neural correlates, but I don't think one is in the primitive part of the brain and the other isn't?

Maybe as a behavior they have an independent existence, and it's certainly possible that they have a neural correlate, I really have no idea. But my guess would be that their root cause would come from a more general intelligence quotient. Where the brain is a kind of multi-purpose tool, the tool manifesting itself in different behaviors, but where the cause is just intelligence and ability for higher order thinking. IOW, the smarter someone is, the easier they're able to use logic to identify workable life pathways and take them. This would manifest itself in distinct behaviors like forgiveness and cooperation, which each need to be categorized with language.

Also, when you said, "If my husband cheats but he's my only chance in finding a partner, better to stay with him than leave, for example" that didn't seem to imply actual forgiveness. :)

Otherwise, I largely agree. It does feel as if a retributive urge comes more readily and obviously, in more situations. On the other hand, I read that forgiveness (and cooperation) have only been extensively studied more recently than retribution and competition, so maybe they have been somewhat neglected phenomena.

Depends on your definition of forgiveness, whether that's an emotional or material one. In a certain perspective as long as we change courses that could be considered forgiveness. A change of attitude rather than a change of feeling.
 

ruby sparks

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.....the smarter someone is, the easier they're able to use logic to identify workable life pathways and take them. This would manifest itself in distinct behaviors like forgiveness and cooperation, which each need to be categorized with language.

Possibly. I'm not sure. Both could be instinctive. I think cooperation is, in several other species of ape, especially bonobos. Apparently, they resolve disputes by having sex. Rather a handy trait in my opinion, that humans might benefit from adopting more often. Other than after a burglary or a rape, obviously.
 

ruby sparks

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What I thought was an interesting account of forgiveness:

(1) A believes that X is wrong.

(2) A believes that X is an action of B.

(3) A believes that B is a moral agent.

(4) A believes that there are no excuses, justifications or other circumstances which would preclude blame.

(5) A believes that the world would have been a better place had B not done X.

(6) A believes that the world would be a better place if something would happen to B, something which would somehow offset B’s Xing.

(7) B’s having Xed tends to make A feel something negative, i.e., a reactive emotion, like outrage, indignation or resentment.

A forgives B (as a pure mental phenomenon) when, in addition:

(8) A believes that the world would in fact be a worse place if she did some- thing to B in response to her wrongdoing, and thus she deliberately refuses to try to offset B’s wrongdoing.

A forgives B (in the communicative sense) when, finally:

(9) A communicates to B, or to someone else, that she has forgiven (in the sense of a pure mental phenomenon) B.


The Paradox of Forgiveness
http://minerva.union.edu/zaibertl/zaibert the paradox of forgiveness.pdf

I guess an account of retribution would be the same up to and including (7). In such an alternative account, (8') would be "A punishes B" (perhaps because A believes that the world would in fact be a worse place if they did not).
 

Angra Mainyu

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ruby sparks said:
As I understand it, Retributive Justice is a theory of punishment that when an offender causes harm, justice requires that he or she suffer harm in return.
There are different theories. My position is that whether the offender causes harm is not the issue. They deserve to suffer in retribution for their wrongdoing, regardless of whether they managed to cause harm. And justice does not 'require' things except in the sense that it is not just if they get away with it.

ruby sparks said:
Ok, so, I get it. The basis is justice. But I also don't get it. From where does this sense of justice come from? My guess is it's an evolved (now innate) trait.
Yes, it's part of our moral sense. It allows us not only to make assessments of desert, but also of moral permissibility, praiseworthiness, impermissibility, and so on.

ruby sparks said:
But it's not the only evolved (innate) trait. There's its antonym, forgiveness.


Isn't it more likely to be the case that whether retribution or forgiveness (much like competition or its antonym, co-operation) is appropriate, is situation-dependent?
There is a difference between whether retribution is deserved, just, etc., and what is appropriate to do. It is not appropriate to do justice if doing so results in aliens killing off humanity in retaliation and one knows that (for example). The point is that if the wrongdoer gets away with it, then justice was not done, and that is a negative, but then, there might be other positives in other responses.

At any rate, justice is a good in an of itself. But there might be some bads that justify refraining from doing justice, or even make it obligatory not to do it.

ruby sparks said:
Also, retribution is usually (I think) described by retributivists as being morally right regardless of consequences.
No, that is not true at all. Could you link to any retributivists who do that?

Whenever we act, we need to consider the expected consequences. The actual consequences are not relevant to whether our action is permissible, etc., but the predictable and predicted consequences, as well as the intent, etc., are. If we intend to do justice, we intend a good, and we do not need further justification, as long as there is no bad that also results from our action. Otherwise, it depends on the bad.

ruby sparks said:
I really don't get that part.
Neither do I. It would be absurd.


ruby sparks said:
Surely consequences are an integral part of the equation? How else could we measure (or even know) whether something is 'right' or 'wrong', 'good' or 'bad', useful or not?
Surely they are, but not in the sense you seem to propose. We figure it out thinking about an action - including, yes, its consequences - and using our moral sense. The actual consequences are irrelevant, as they cannot retroactively make our action more or less immoral.


ruby sparks said:
Evolution is blind and natural selection is ruthless. What works survives, in the long term. As such, retribution is surely based on consequences?
There is a big difference between what caused an adaptation - which always has to do with its consequences, in some environments - and our motivation to act. Regardless, consequences are important in a sense (see above).

But regarding consequences, let me ask you: do you have any final goals, i.e., any goals that you seek for their own sake, rather than as means to some other, further goal? If so, can you identify at least one?
 
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ruby sparks

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ruby sparks said:
Also, retribution is usually (I think) described by retributivists as being morally right regardless of consequences.
No, that is not true at all. Could you link to any retributivists who do that?

Yes, you: "The actual consequences are irrelevant".

See also my further thoughts towards the end of this reply.

At any rate, justice is a good in an of itself.

We're doing retribution specifically, not justice generally. The two aren't synonymous or interchangeable, and it might say something about your underlying approach if you think they are.

But there might be some bads that justify refraining from doing justice, or even make it obligatory not to do it.

Setting aside that you said 'justice' again there instead of 'retribution', that could be restated as "in some instances, non-retribution is good". Which would mean that the claim "retribution is good" would not be universally true, and should be amended to, "retribution is sometimes (or more likely often) a good, but not always". I'm not sure that's a maxim of retributivism.

Whenever we act, we need to consider the expected consequences. The actual consequences are not relevant to whether our action is permissible, etc., but the predictable and predicted consequences, as well as the intent, etc., are. If we intend to do justice, we intend a good, and we do not need further justification, as long as there is no bad that also results from our action. Otherwise, it depends on the bad.

Ok that's basically consequentialism though. Retributivism is often set against that, because the latter claims that retribution is morally good/right of itself. The bolded part is a simple and stringent justification, and it's arguably the key claim of retributivism and the most difficult to justify.

Now maybe, as with most things, there are weak and strong varieties. If there is a weak form of retributivism which only claims "retribution is sometimes or often, possibly very often indeed, a good, but not always", then ok. If I was going to call myself a retributivist I think I'd definitely be that sort. The strong/absolutist sort seems almost impossible to defend.

We figure it out thinking about an action - including, yes, its consequences - and using our moral sense. The actual consequences are irrelevant, as they cannot retroactively make our action more or less immoral.

Actual consequences in any particular instance (and these are the further thoughts I referred to at the start of this reply) may only seem to be irrelevant. Actual consequences, in evolutionary history, are likely what underlie and inform our judgements and possibly what caused a moral sense to emerge in our species in the first place, and they may now be built-in to our probabilistic, predictive assessments and are thus relevant factors, psychologically (consciously or otherwise), perhaps also genetically, and so on. We are arguably probabilistic prediction machines in many fundamental ways. That does not mean the predictions always have to be accurate in each and every individual case.

That would still mean that our moral sense is essentially consequentialist (based on actual, evolutionarily historic consequences) and not based on some hypothetical or abstract principle about things being right or wrong 'of themselves'.

But regarding consequences, let me ask you: do you have any final goals, i.e., any goals that you seek for their own sake, rather than as means to some other, further goal? If so, can you identify at least one?

I'm not sure what that has to do with the topic? I can't readily think of one. Staying alive perhaps?
 
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Angra Mainyu

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ruby sparks said:
Yes, you: "The actual consequences are irrelevant".

I said the actual consequences are irrelevant (but the expected consequences, etc., matter), but I did not say retribution was morally right in all cases. So, rather than retribution being morally right regardless of consequences, it is morally right or morally not right regardless of consequences.

ruby sparks said:
We're doing retribution specifically, not justice generally. The two aren't synonymous or interchangeable, and it might say something about your underlying approach if you think they are.
The word 'justice' has more than one meaning. One of them - I would say the central and most important - is just retribution.
ruby sparks said:
Setting aside that you said 'justice' again there instead of 'retribution', that could be restated as "in some instances, non-retribution is good". Which would mean that the claim "retribution is good" would not be universally true, and should be amended to, "retribution is sometimes (or more likely often) a good, but not always". I'm not sure that's a maxim of retributivism.
I said justice - i.e., retribution - is a good in an of itself. The problem is that sometimes, it is not possible to mete out retribution without bringing about some bad things. Depending on the case, it would not be justified to do justice because of those other, further consequences.

I'm not married to a word, but if that's not what retributivism is (at least the correct variant of it), then too bad for retributivism (whatever that means). Still, you should know most retributivists accept that sometimes it is reasonable and acceptable not to do justice.

ruby sparks said:
Ok that's basically consequentialism though. Retributivism is often set against that, because the latter claims that retribution is morally good/right of itself. The bolded part is a simple and stringent justification, and it's arguably the key claim of retributivism and the most difficult to justify.
That is not consequentialism, in any usual sense of the term.

ruby sparks said:
The strong/absolutist sort seems almost impossible to defend.
Who defends it?

ruby sparks said:
Actual consequences, in evolutionary history, are likely what underlie and inform our judgements and possibly what caused a moral sense to emerge in our species in the first place, and they may now be built-in to our probabilistic, predictive assessments and are thus relevant factors, psychologically (consciously or otherwise), perhaps also genetically, and so on. We are arguably probabilistic prediction machines in many fundamental ways. That does not mean the predictions always have to be accurate in each and every individual case.
You're conflating what caused our faculty or what gives us information to make judgments with what matters morally when it comes to making those judgments.

ruby sparks said:
That would still mean that our moral sense is essentially consequentialist (based on actual, evolutionarily historic consequences) and not based on some hypothetical or abstract principle about things being right or wrong 'of themselves'.
No, our moral sense is not like that. Our judgments and motivation are not like that. The fact that results from evolution does not support the idea that it is like that. Whether something is sexually attractive does not depend on their actual fertility. Whether a food item is of the sort that is disgusting to all humans (save for illness) does not depend on whether it is actually not nutritious or poisonous. And whether something is morally wrong does not depend on its actual consequences.

ruby sparks said:
I'm not sure what that has to do with the topic? I can't readily think of one. Staying alive perhaps?
Great, so staying alive is a final goal. You do not seek it for a further goal, but for its own sake. But that does not mean that you will put that goal above everything else. You probably will not, as there are worse things. Similarly, we humans seek justice (i.e., retribution) for its own sake, but that does not mean that it is put above everything else. That would be nuts. But it does not change the fact that we seek retribution for its own sake (save for illness/damage).
 

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So, rather than retribution being morally right regardless of consequences, it is morally right or morally not right regardless of consequences.

Ok I think I understand you a bit better. You are saying for example that if it is morally wrong to exceed the road speed limit because you might hit someone, it is morally wrong to exceed the road speed limit even if you don't hit anyone. I think most laws already recognise that, yes.

The word 'justice' has more than one meaning. One of them - I would say the central and most important - is just retribution.

Exactly. One of them. Possibly the most common, but that doesn't justify using 'justice' for 'retribution' since there are other forms of justice.

I said justice - i.e., retribution - is a good in an of itself.

Justice is not 'ie retribution'. I think you should say 'retributive justice' is a good in an of itself, or 'retribution' is good in and of itself.

Whether it necessarily is or not is what we are discussing, not assuming.

The problem is that sometimes, it is not possible to mete out retribution without bringing about some bad things. Depending on the case, it would not be justified to do justice because of those other, further consequences.

The problem, for retribution, as I see it is that sometimes, by the same token and on the same terms, non-retribution can be said to be a good thing, or just the lesser claim that sometimes retribution is not a good thing.

Still, you should know most retributivists accept that sometimes it is reasonable and acceptable not to do justice.

That's useful to know, but it does not seem to be on the basis of accepting that sometimes non-retribution can be a good thing or that sometimes, retribution is not a good thing.

That is not consequentialism, in any usual sense of the term.

It's based on consequences.

ruby sparks said:
The strong/absolutist sort seems almost impossible to defend.
Who defends it?

At the moment, I'm still thinking you do, despite the caveats about not being retributive because of consequences. You seem to be reluctant to say 'non-retribution can sometimes be a good thing' or 'sometimes retribution is not a good thing.'

You're conflating what caused our faculty or what gives us information to make judgments with what matters morally when it comes to making those judgments.

I don't think I am. What I am saying is that when you make any individual moral judgement, the antecedent (in evolutionary terms for example but also just historical) actual consequences (consequences that actually happened, in the past, to your ancestors, and possibly even to you) are effectively actively in play (in your brain, one way or another, often by being 'encoded information that is called upon') each time, and therefore matter, each time. How could that be something that doesn't matter in any given instance?

No, our moral sense is not like that. Our judgments and motivation are not like that.

Says you, via analogies that may or may not be pertinent. Your analogies could be apples. Morality could be an orange.

I'm not even sure saying, "whether a food item is of the sort that is disgusting to all humans (save for illness) does not depend on whether it is actually not nutritious or poisonous" is correct. As far as I know the most commonly cited elicitors of disgust, across cultures, are all things that can potentially transmit infections.

And whether something is morally wrong does not depend on its actual consequences.

Not the ones that are the outcome in a particular case perhaps, yes, but in the end it depends on actual (albeit previous) consequences from past judgements, in the way I am saying. So we can say moral judgements are ultimately the result of things called consequences.

Great, so staying alive is a final goal. You do not seek it for a further goal, but for its own sake. But that does not mean that you will put that goal above everything else. You probably will not, as there are worse things. Similarly, we humans seek justice (i.e., retribution) for its own sake, but that does not mean that it is put above everything else. That would be nuts. But it does not change the fact that we seek retribution for its own sake (save for illness/damage).

Well, now I know your motivation (even though I think I already knew it). You, Angra, seek retribution for its own sake or because you believe it is good, of itself. I'm not sure all humans do, always. Some seem to think that forgiveness is good instead, in certain situations. I would guess that nearly everyone thinks that at least some of the time, depending on the situation. In fact, it's often regarded as a virtue, something admirable to aspire to.
 
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ronburgundy

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Those who've wronged us are likely to so again. So, an aggressive response to those who have wronged us is very often protective, preventative, and highly adaptive, as are the the feelings of anger and hate that fuel those actions. Of course, some of those who wrong us are our gene-sharing kin, and thus some degree of moderation or forgiveness in our response is also adaptive. And even less related people in our social network are allies whose net benefit to us often outweighs their wrongdoing. Thus, a measured response that corresponds to the context of the severity of the wrong and what it reflects about the danger the person poses is the most adaptive.

But in the long run, what matters is not what is optimal for a specific wrong doing, but what has the greatest net benefit in the long term. People engage in actions that harm others based upon anticipated consequences that determine the cost-benefit ratio to themselves. There are situations where forgiveness and lack of retribution would be most beneficial in the short run, such as an otherwise positive contributor who you have reason to suspect was just reacting to a rare specific situation . However, context-dependent responses create ambiguity and uncertainty in the minds of others as to whether "immoral" harmful acts will result in negative consequences to themselves. This would decrease the anticipated costs of immoral actions and thus increase their prevalence in the long term. Thus, clear-cut predictable punishments for a given infraction, regardless of some extenuating circumstances, may have the greatest long term benefit of reducing such harmful actions.

Of course, all of this is couched within a presumption that being caught for infractions is probable. In the small clans within which most of human evolution occurred this was often the case. But in massive modern societies where most people are strangers to each other, the odds of getting caught are much lower. IF the odds of getting caught are low, then there is no incentive for people to consider the level of punishment when caught into their decision on how to act. In that case, punishments have less general deterrence effect, so then making case-specific reactions and context-dependent forgiveness may be the best option.
 

4321lynx

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Forget the philosophizing please. Give some answers instead, please. Forgive or not? And if yes, who is to do the forgiving?

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-51458949

I know there are many ways to weasel out of an answer. Just hopin'...

Then this:

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-46292919

An average of 137 women across the world are killed by a partner or family member every day, according to new data released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

They say it makes "the home the most likely place for a woman to be killed".

More than half of the 87,000 women killed in 2017 were reported as dying at the hands of those closest to them.

Of that figure, approximately 30,000 women were killed by an intimate partner and another 20,000 by a relative

Thank you for reading this far.
 

Angra Mainyu

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ruby sparks said:
Ok I think I understand you a bit better. You are saying for example that if it is morally wrong to exceed the road speed limit because you might hit someone, it is morally wrong to exceed the road speed limit even if you don't hit anyone. I think most laws already recognise that, yes.
Yes, but I also think that provided that the mental behavior is the same (that part is crucial), the degree of immorality would be the same. The law does not seem to reflect that, for a number of reasons, perhaps related to social peace, limited resources and stuff like that.

ruby sparks said:
Exactly. One of them. Possibly the most common, but that doesn't justify using 'justice' for 'retribution' since there are other forms of justice.
Suppose word A has meanings M1 and M2, it is proper to use it to mean M1. Now suppose word B means M1. Is it proper to use A rather than B to mean M1? Sure, it's one of the meanings of A, so provided that one is clear (and that is usually given by context), that's okay.

ruby sparks said:
Justice is not 'ie retribution'. I think you should say 'retributive justice' is a good in an of itself, or 'retribution' is good in and of itself.
Well, justice is retribution in one of the meanings of the word - possibly the most common -, so using that word in that sense is proper.

But if you prefer another term, how about 'just retribution'?

ruby sparks said:
The problem, for retribution, as I see it is that sometimes, by the same token and on the same terms, non-retribution can be said to be a good thing, or just the lesser claim that sometimes retribution is not a good thing.
Things other than just retribution can be good things, but the lack of just retribution per se is a bad thing. It's a form of injustice.

ruby sparks said:
That's useful to know, but it does not seem to be on the basis of accepting that sometimes non-retribution can be a good thing or that sometimes, retribution is not a good thing.
An act of unjust retribution is not a good thing. As for just retribution, that is not bad, but the act can have other, bad characteristics, like lack of precaution.

ruby sparks said:
It's based on consequences.
That's extremely ambiguous 'based on'. Consequentialisms (there are several) says we have an obligation to maximize happiness or the good, or minimize suffering, things like that (or minimum) X, where X is something like happiness, or even good, or (suffering). I do not believe we have that obligation in general. I do think sometimes we have obligations to prevent bad things or to bring about good ones, depending on the case. In particular, while I think just retribution is a good, we often do not have an obligation to inflict it on others we don't have an obligation not to, either, and sometimes we have an obligation not to because it would (based on the info available to use) bring about very bad things.


ruby sparks said:
At the moment, I'm still thinking you do, despite the caveats about not being retributive because of consequences. You seem to be reluctant to say 'non-retribution can sometimes be a good thing' or 'sometimes retribution is not a good thing.'
Assuming by 'retribution' you mean 'just retribution' (which is okay; it's a common usage of the term), I'm reluctant to make ambiguous statements - actually I choose not to -, and those would be ambiguous.

Imagine the king's son raped a poor woman, for fun. The father has a chance to get close enough to beat him up in retaliation. But he knows based on previous events that if he does that, his family will be round up and burned alive. Sure, it would be immoral on his part to bring about just retribution in that context. But what makes his action - or rather his decisions, but they are intertwined with the actions in most cases - immoral is that he is acting despite the terrible consequences for innocent people. The fact that it is an act of retribution does not make it wrong - since it is just retribution.

ruby sparks said:
I don't think I am. What I am saying is that when you make any individual moral judgement, the antecedent (in evolutionary terms for example but also just historical) actual consequences (consequences that actually happened, in the past, to your ancestors, and possibly even to you) are effectively actively in play (in your brain, one way or another, often by being 'encoded information that is called upon') each time, and therefore matter, each time. How could that be something that doesn't matter in any given instance?

Because that is not what makes the behavior of the person we are judging morally wrong, morally praiseworthy, or whatever it is.

ruby sparks said:
Says you, via analogies that may or may not be pertinent. Your analogies could be apples. Morality could be an orange.
What analogies? No, actually, I say that our moral sense is not like that based on observations of how people behave and make moral judgments. Consequentialism - in any form that makes predictions - is falsified by testing it against our intuitive moral sense.


ruby sparks said:
I'm not even sure saying, "whether a food item is of the sort that is disgusting to all humans (save for illness) does not depend on whether it is actually not nutritious or poisonous" is correct. As far as I know the most commonly cited elicitors of disgust, across cultures, are all things that can potentially transmit infections.
But it does not depend on whether it is nutritious or poisonous, but rather, on whether it has other properties that usually go together with those things, and prompted the evolution of our sense of taste. Let me put it this way: you can get a very nutritious food, put it a disgusting artificial flavor, and it will be disgusting even if not poisonous and very nutritious. Of course, it is also possible to make things that taste very well - to all normal humans - but are lethal.

ruby sparks said:
Not the ones that are the outcome in a particular case perhaps, yes, but in the end it depends on actual (albeit previous) consequences from past judgements, in the way I am saying. So we can say moral judgements are ultimately the result of things called consequences.
That's the conflation I'm talking about.
The consequences of long past judgments only matters in the sense that that - together with a number of other factors - contributed causally to our having the moral sense we have. On the other hand, nothing that happened millions of years ago is a factor when assessing whether McConnell behaved immorally. The factors are all mental properties of McConnell.

ruby sparks said:
Well, now I know your motivation (even though I think I already knew it). You, Angra, seek retribution for its own sake or because you believe it is good, of itself. I'm not sure all humans do, always. Some seem to think that forgiveness is good instead, in certain situations. I would guess that nearly everyone thinks that at least some of the time, depending on the situation. In fact, it's often regarded as a virtue, something admirable to aspire to.
I did not say all humans do, always. My position is that all humans do, sometimes, unless something is wrong with some part of their brains.

As for forgiveness, it depends on the circumstances, but sure, an act of forgiveness can be good overall due to such-and-such results, though I do not think it is good on its own - of course, we are talking about forgiving someone who deserves to be punished. But it's not the lack of just retribution that makes it good - in fact, that is a negative -, but other things that sometimes might outweigh that negative enough to justify the action.
 

ruby sparks

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Yes, but I also think that provided that the mental behavior is the same (that part is crucial), the degree of immorality would be the same. The law does not seem to reflect that, for a number of reasons, perhaps related to social peace, limited resources and stuff like that.

Yes, we could say that if it is immoral to do it, it should be as immoral even if there are no actual adverse consequences in a particular case, and we might even say that if we are going to punish, the punishment should be the same. But as you say, it doesn't seem to work like that. It may be because of the things you suggest. Personally I would think that what's happening is that laws treat actual and potential consequences (in this case actual and potential damage or harm) differently. When there is actual damage or harm resulting from a particular act, this is seen to be worthy of more severe punishment. In some ways, the distinction makes sense. And in the end it's all consequence-based (whether actual or potential consequences).


But if you prefer another term, how about 'just retribution'?

Possibly, I'm not sure. The prefix seems to imply that that sort of retribution is necessarily just, which is the claim we are disagreeing about. If we say 'just retribution is just' it's merely a tautology. So because I think it might be confusing, I'm going to use the term retribution. I understand that there could be both just and unjust types. I'm not sure what word I would prefer for the type you are calling 'just'. Perhaps 'accurate retribution', in that it punishes the person who did the act in question, not someone else? We could also bring in whether it's proportionate or not but I think that's slightly secondary, albeit related.

I think I'm ok with saying 'retributive justice' instead of 'justice' because that doesn't seem to imply that the justice is in fact just. Or maybe it does. I'm a bit confused. You could even merely say 'justice' so long as we both know you mean what it claims to be rather than what it necessarily is. In the main, our justice system is retributive (or has that component) so it's understandable to colloquially equate the two, but bear in mind that our system is not necessarily the best one possible, though I am not claiming it does not work well, only that it might hypothetically work better, perhaps. Iow, ours might be too retributive.

..... the lack of just retribution per se is a bad thing. It's a form of injustice.

It would be, if what I called accurate retribution were always just, in the sense of being the right thing. In the case of a particular just retribution it would be a tautology.

ruby sparks said:
It's based on consequences.
That's extremely ambiguous 'based on'.

I don't see how it's ambiguous at all, given everything I said about it. Our morality, an evolved trait/capacity, is based on, exists because of, consequences.

Consequentialisms (there are several) says we have an obligation to maximize happiness or the good, or minimize suffering, things like that (or minimum) X, where X is something like happiness, or even good, or (suffering). I do not believe we have that obligation in general. I do think sometimes we have obligations to prevent bad things or to bring about good ones, depending on the case. In particular, while I think just retribution is a good, we often do not have an obligation to inflict it on others we don't have an obligation not to, either, and sometimes we have an obligation not to because it would (based on the info available to use) bring about very bad things.

It slightly baffles me why you can't just say non-retribution (eg forgiveness), as an alternative to retribution, can sometimes be a good thing. I think it's because you are assuming something about what I called accurate retribution.

I'm not sure I need to get into things like maximising or minimising good. Isn't that more like Utilitarianism?

Imagine the king's son raped a poor woman, for fun. The father has a chance to get close enough to beat him up in retaliation. But he knows based on previous events that if he does that, his family will be round up and burned alive. Sure, it would be immoral on his part to bring about just retribution in that context. But what makes his action - or rather his decisions, but they are intertwined with the actions in most cases - immoral is that he is acting despite the terrible consequences for innocent people. The fact that it is an act of retribution does not make it wrong - since it is just retribution.

I'm not sure I'm following that. It seems to be a scenario in which even the king himself feels that retribution would be the morally right thing to do. So it's merely not acting on a moral judgement (for whatever reasons) rather than not making the judgement regarding the essential rightness of retribution.

I offered a scenario in which a starving person steals some food. Would retribution or forgiveness be right in that case?

I also mentioned Gordon Wilson, the man who, apparently immediately, forgave the terrorists who killed his daughter. He even used the term 'dirty words' to describe what he was eschewing (retibution). There are other cases of forgiveness like that. It is as if those doing the forgiving believe it is a virtue, a good and right thing to do, of itself.

Now, maybe they are deceiving themselves. I think they are, in the end. Because as with punishment, I am bound to say that forgiveness is merely a tool in an evolved/learned toolbox, and neither right nor wrong, of itself, and in the end, consequence-based (in the way I am talking about). I think I would have to say that, in order to be consistent.

ruby sparks said:
I don't think I am. What I am saying is that when you make any individual moral judgement, the antecedent (in evolutionary terms for example but also just historical) actual consequences (consequences that actually happened, in the past, to your ancestors, and possibly even to you) are effectively actively in play (in your brain, one way or another, often by being 'encoded information that is called upon') each time, and therefore matter, each time. How could that be something that doesn't matter in any given instance?

Because that is not what makes the behavior of the person we are judging morally wrong, morally praiseworthy, or whatever it is.

I think it is what makes it morally right or wrong. I don't accept that there is an independent truth of the matter. There is only our evolved sense of what is right and wrong, and that is based on consequences that have actually happened in evolutionary history and possibly to some extent personal history. How could it be otherwise?

What analogies?

With gustatory taste for example. That's an analogy to morality. I'm not saying it's not a good analogy, it might be, but I don't know.

No, actually, I say that our moral sense is not like that based on observations of how people behave and make moral judgments.

I'm not following. Sometimes people forgive. Are you not observing that? :)

Consequentialism - in any form that makes predictions - is falsified by testing it against our intuitive moral sense.
How so? I'm not seeing that at all. Or are you merely discounting forgiveness from being an intuitive moral sense?

I think I'm on the brink of calling myself a type of consequentialist. I'd be willing to be the subject of an attempt to falsify that. :)

That's the conflation I'm talking about.

I don't think it's a conflation. I'm making a distinction. There are the actual consequences that result in any one case and there are (or rather were) the actual consequences that formed the morality. As regards a particular moral judgement, the latter are encoded (whether perceived consciously or not) as 'potential consequences' that the system (your brain) factors in during its processes. Your moral sense is the output of those brain processes.

The consequences of long past judgments only matters in the sense that that - together with a number of other factors - contributed causally to our having the moral sense we have.

Exactly. And the moral senses we have are effectively the moral judgements, so they are the result of actual consequences that happened.

On the other hand, nothing that happened millions of years ago is a factor when assessing whether McConnell behaved immorally

I disagree, the assessment of whether M acted immorally is in the brain of the assessor(s) of M, and the way their brains work in that regard is a physical manifestation of the outcome of all the consequences that happened in evolutionary terms, and possibly to some extent personal history terms. Now, a caveat might be that M also has a brain, so that brain is also making judgements (assessing itself) by the same processes.

The factors are all mental properties of McConnell.

I agree that M is probably judging his own actions, but to say that all the relevant factors are in his head seems very odd.

ruby sparks said:
Well, now I know your motivation (even though I think I already knew it). You, Angra, seek retribution for its own sake or because you believe it is good, of itself. I'm not sure all humans do, always. Some seem to think that forgiveness is good instead, in certain situations. I would guess that nearly everyone thinks that at least some of the time, depending on the situation. In fact, it's often regarded as a virtue, something admirable to aspire to.
I did not say all humans do, always. My position is that all humans do, sometimes, unless something is wrong with some part of their brains.

All ('non-defective') humans do what sometimes? Seek retribution for it's own sake, because they feel it is good of itself? Sure. It's probably fair to say that all humans do that, sometimes. Other times, they seem to forgive instead. That would leave us with the claim that retribution is (or is deemed, which would be a lesser claim, and probably more correct, imo) good/right of itself except when it isn't.

As for forgiveness, it depends on the circumstances, but sure, an act of forgiveness can be good overall due to such-and-such results, though I do not think it is good on its own - of course, we are talking about forgiving someone who deserves to be punished. But it's not the lack of just retribution that makes it good - in fact, that is a negative -, but other things that sometimes might outweigh that negative enough to justify the action.

I know you don't think forgiveness is a good on its own, and that you think (accurately-targeted) retribution is a good on its own, but at the moment, both of those just seems to be merely your personal claims, albeit shared by other people, but not all people in all circumstances.


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Let me sum up my claims. Human morality exists in the brains of humans. It consists of the moral judgements those brains make. As such they are things that are deemed (regarded or considered by human brains) to be, not things that have an independent existence. Those brains, and therefore the moral judgements they make, are the results of both evolutionary and personal history, which consisted (past tense) of actual outcomes (consequences) and consists (present tense) of the responses of physical brain structures to certain situations. The capacity to punish and the capacity to forgive are both capacities that have evolved and/or been learned, and are widespread (exist in all 'properly-functioning' humans, temporarily assuming there is such a thing*). They are two 'tools in our toolbox'. They will manifest at different times in different scenarios. One is as intrinsically as valid as the other, but there may be far fewer situations in which forgiveness is and has been the more useful tool. But it is likely that both are adaptive as part of complicated, nuanced strategies that either work well or don't work well. In the end, the relative success or failure of all strategies is subject to blind processes such as natural selection. There is no independent or non-naturalistic moral right or wrong beyond that.




* On which point, it may be interesting to note that there are gender differences in morality, it seems. In some situations, women are (at least somewhat) more prone to forgive rather than punish, and in some situations men are more prone to do that. This may throw up the issue of which gender has the 'properly functioning' brain in each type of situation. :)

That is one reason I am not sure about the term 'properly functioning brain'.
 
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ruby sparks

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ruby sparks said:
I'm not even sure saying, "whether a food item is of the sort that is disgusting to all humans (save for illness) does not depend on whether it is actually not nutritious or poisonous" is correct. As far as I know the most commonly cited elicitors of disgust, across cultures, are all things that can potentially transmit infections.
But it does not depend on whether it is nutritious or poisonous, but rather, on whether it has other properties that usually go together with those things, and prompted the evolution of our sense of taste. Let me put it this way: you can get a very nutritious food, put it a disgusting artificial flavor, and it will be disgusting even if not poisonous and very nutritious. Of course, it is also possible to make things that taste very well - to all normal humans - but are lethal.

I did not want to explore this because I am not sure if morality and gustatory taste are equivalent issues. But it won't do any harm if I explore with that caveat.

Ok, so, what might be happening there (where non-harmful food is disgusting because of artificial flavours or where harmful food is appealing) is that there is a flaw in our imperfect systems.

How do you think that might translate to morality?

I am going to guess that you might say that there is an objective truth about a particular moral judgement just as there is an objective truth about the harmfulness of a particular food. Hm. I'm not sure. I think it's just a claim. An interesting one, I'll give you that. I have a feeling that even if it were true, there might be so many varied, complicating factors in so many varied situations that it is almost impossible to find the kernel of truth. Iow, there may be a multitude of kernels, even in one situation (real life situations are arguably infernally complicated and humans extremely capricious). That may be where the analogy (with food) is effectively lacking.

I should warn you that If I come to agree, it will likely be on the basis of my newly-discovered consequentialism (the version I have recently been using). :)

It may be very interesting to note that disgust and morality are related feelings/emotions, we seem to find many disgusting things immoral, raising the possibility that they are deemed immoral because they disgust ('offend') us. This has been studied by psychologists and neuroscientists. I believe the neural correlates are at least in some cases similar for both, though I would need to read up on that.

I want to say one more thing, even though we disagree (which is mostly what we have been doing) and sometimes that we don't agree is very frustrating, for both of us I'm sure, I am nonetheless finding the discussion very interesting and thought-provoking, and sometimes that is all one can expect, and people (including myself) don't tend to change their minds so as to agree, especially on the internet perhaps. Tammuz has recently started a thread on this entitled "Why you should hold your beliefs at arm’s length" which links to a short article entitled, "We don't change our minds as often as we think we do".

And of course, in the end I don't actually know which one of us is correct. So, thanks for your inputs, and indeed those of anyone who has posted, whether they be in opposition to or in agreement with my own views. For those who disagree with me where they are incorrect, I forgive you. For those who disagree with me where I am incorrect, I forgive myself. :innocent1:

That's probably just part of my strategy.
 
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Angra Mainyu

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ruby sparks said:
Yes, we could say that if it is immoral to do it, it should be as immoral even if there are no actual adverse consequences in a particular case, and we might even say that if we are going to punish, the punishment should be the same. But as you say, it doesn't seem to work like that. It may be because of the things you suggest. Personally I would think that what's happening is that laws treat actual and potential consequences (in this case actual and potential damage or harm) differently. When there is actual damage or harm resulting from a particular act, this is seen to be worthy of more severe punishment. In some ways, the distinction makes sense. And in the end it's all consequence-based (whether actual or potential consequences).
But it is not worthy of more severe punishment. Consider this: suppose Ahmed and Ahmad want to blow up a train full of people. They learn how to do it in the same manner. They independently acquire materials from the same places. They do all of the same stuff (not connected to each other). They plant the bombs. At that point, their participation ends. What happens later cannot retroactively make them any more or less guilty. And what happens later is that Ahmed's bomb goes of killing 200 people, whereas Ahmad's bomb fails to go off due to a defect in a circuit which was exactly the same model as that used by Ahmed, and even bought in the same place, with the same degree of care, etc.

The point is: they are both equally guilty, because events that happen after their guilty behavior cannot retroactively change the degree of immorality of said behaviors.
ruby sparks said:
Possibly, I'm not sure. The prefix seems to imply that that sort of retribution is necessarily just, which is the claim we are disagreeing about. If we say 'just retribution is just' it's merely a tautology. So because I think it might be confusing, I'm going to use the term retribution. I understand that there could be both just and unjust types. I'm not sure what word I would prefer for the type you are calling 'just'. Perhaps 'accurate retribution', in that it punishes the person who did the act in question, not someone else? We could also bring in whether it's proportionate or not but I think that's slightly secondary, albeit related.
The reason I oppose to use the term 'retribution' only is that I do not thing all retributions are a good thing in and of themselves. Only just retributions are.

As for 'accurate retribution', that does not work, either. If Bob nonviolently stole a coke from a store for fun, and in retribution, the guards beat him up to death, they got the right person, but the retribution was very unjust: Bob deserved punishment, but definitely not that degree of punishment. I don't want to be seen as supporting what you describe 'accurate retribution' in general, as that is way too broad.

Now, if you do bring in whether it's proportionate, then maybe: by that, do you mean 'just'? If so, good to me. Else, what do you mean?

ruby sparks said:
I think I'm ok with saying 'retributive justice' instead of 'justice' because that doesn't seem to imply that the justice is in fact just. Or maybe it does. I'm a bit confused. You could even merely say 'justice' so long as we both know you mean what it claims to be rather than what it necessarily is. In the main, our justice system is retributive (or has that component) so it's understandable to colloquially equate the two, but bear in mind that our system is not necessarily the best one possible, though I am not claiming it does not work well, only that it might hypothetically work better, perhaps. Iow, ours might be too retributive.
To avoid ambiguity, I call that system the judiciary system. When I talk about justice, I mean something else.

ruby sparks said:
I'm not sure I need to get into things like maximising or minimising good. Isn't that more like Utilitarianism?
Sometimes they are used interchangeably, and sometimes, utilitarianism can be seen as the paradigmatic case of consequentialism, and the latter is broader (terminology is variable). However, in any case, it's also about bringing about the consequences that are - in one sense or another - the best. I do not believe we have that obligation.

ruby sparks said:
I'm not sure I'm following that. It seems to be a scenario in which even the king himself feels that retribution would be the morally right thing to do. So it's merely not acting on a moral judgement (for whatever reasons) rather than not making the judgement regarding the essential rightness of retribution.
The point is that what makes the act of retribution wrong is not the fact that it is an act of retribution nor the form the retribution takes, but rather, that the person acting knew of the terrible consequences this action predictably would bring, and went for it anyway.

ruby sparks said:
I offered a scenario in which a starving person steals some food. Would retribution or forgiveness be right in that case?
Probably neither. If he had no moral obligation to steal the food (because he needed it to survive and no one would suffer any serious loss as a result of the theft), then retribution would be unjust, and forgiveness out of place - nothing that can be properly forgiven.
If he had a moral obligation not to steal, why was that? How wrong was it? What are the predictable consequences of retribution vs. forgiveness, based on the info available to the person making the decision? I need more information.

ruby sparks said:
I also mentioned Gordon Wilson, the man who, apparently immediately, forgave the terrorists who killed his daughter. He even used the term 'dirty words' to describe what he was eschewing (retibution). There are other cases of forgiveness like that. It is as if those doing the forgiving believe it is a virtue, a good and right thing to do, of itself.
Maybe forgiveness is a good thing for him, psychologically, if something is wrong with his head - which might very well be, as a result of the trauma. I'm not criticizing the man.
However, the terrorists still deserve to be punished and it would be just that they get punished. On this, the law (in the UK) gets it right: the parents of a murder victim is not allowed to prevent prosecution of the murderer. Prosecution goes on, even if the parents chooses to forgive. So, here, forgiveness is not an alternative to retribution. It's something else that happens.

ruby sparks said:
I think it is what makes it morally right or wrong. I don't accept that there is an independent truth of the matter. There is only our evolved sense of what is right and wrong, and that is based on consequences that have actually happened in evolutionary history and possibly to some extent personal history. How could it be otherwise?
What makes a person with cancer ill are some properties of some of that person's cells. That's different from the evolutionary facts that caused us to care about illness.
What makes a person an evil person are some mental properties of that person. That's different from the evolutionary facts that caused us to care about evil.
ruby sparks said:
I'm not following. Sometimes people forgive. Are you not observing that?:)
Sure, but I'm not following. How is that related to my points? You were questioning my assessment of the moral judgment that it was not consequentialist. How does whether people forgive have to do with it?

ruby sparks said:
I think I'm on the brink of calling myself a type of consequentialist. I'd be willing to be the subject of an attempt to falsify that. :)
Before I go on, I would need to know more about what you mean by that. I was talking about the theories that I know of and are classified as such. But I'm not sure you're talking about the same thing here.
ruby sparks said:
I don't think it's a conflation. I'm making a distinction. There are the actual consequences that result in any one case and there are (or rather were) the actual consequences that formed the morality. As regards a particular moral judgement, the latter are encoded (whether perceived consciously or not) as 'potential consequences' that the system (your brain) factors in during its processes. Your moral sense is the output of those brain processes.
See my illness example above.

ruby sparks said:
Exactly. And the moral senses we have are effectively the moral judgements, so they are the result of actual consequences that happened.
The moral senses are not the moral judgments. The moral sense is what we use to make moral judgments. The moral judgments are, well, the judgments we make.


ruby sparks said:
I disagree, the assessment of whether M acted immorally is in the brain of the assessor(s) of M, and the way their brains work in that regard is a physical manifestation of the outcome of all the consequences that happened in evolutionary terms, and possibly to some extent personal history terms. Now, a caveat might be that M also has a brain, so that brain is also making judgements (assessing itself) by the same processes.
That seems irrelevant. When people assess whether he behaved immorally, they consider factors such as what information he had, what he believed, what he intended to do, and so on. Again, what happened millions of years ago is not a factor as to whether the behavior is immoral. It is a causally contributing factor to our having the moral sense we have, but that's a very different matter.

ruby sparks said:
I agree that M is probably judging his own actions, but to say that all the relevant factors are in his head seems very odd.
No, I wasn't saying that he is doing that. Probably he is, but was not my point. The relevant factors are things like what he intended to do, what he believed he would accomplish, what he believed about other people involved, the information available to him, whether he was careful in studying that information before acting, and so on. All mental properties of M.

ruby sparks said:
All ('non-defective') humans do what sometimes? Seek retribution for it's own sake, because they feel it is good of itself?
Seek retribution for its own sake (even if they seek it also for other secondary reasons). Well, I guess people who are never wronged and never see a wrongful behavior would not, but that's not realistic.

ruby sparks said:
That would leave us with the claim that retribution is (or is deemed, which would be a lesser claim, and probably more correct, imo) good/right of itself except when it isn't.
Sure, unjust retribution is not good. And acts of just retribution might be not good, but in that case, what makes them not good is not the retribution but other factors (see my example of the king).


ruby sparks said:
I know you don't think forgiveness is a good on its own, and that you think (accurately-targeted) retribution is a good on its own, but at the moment, both of those just seems to be merely your personal claims, albeit shared by other people, but not all people in all circumstances.
But that is always the case. If I claim that humans and fruit flies had a common ancestor, you can say that that is the personal claim of a gazillion people who other gazillion people do not share. Evidence? It does not logically imply that there is a common ancestor. I would say deniers are on the wrong, but of course, I can do also an intuitive probabilistic assessment to say that.


ruby sparks said:
Let me sum up my claims. Human morality exists in the brains of humans. It consists of the moral judgements those brains make. As such they are things that are deemed (regarded or considered by human brains) to be, not things that have an independent existence. Those brains, and therefore the moral judgements they make, are the results of both evolutionary and personal history, which consisted (past tense) of actual outcomes (consequences) and consists (present tense) of the responses of physical brain structures to certain situations. The capacity to punish and the capacity to forgive are both capacities that have evolved and/or been learned, and are widespread (exist in all 'properly-functioning' humans, temporarily assuming there is such a thing*). They are two 'tools in our toolbox'. They will manifest at different times in different scenarios. One is as intrinsically as valid as the other, but there may be far fewer situations in which forgiveness is and has been the more useful tool. But it is likely that both are adaptive as part of complicated, nuanced strategies that either work well or don't work well. In the end, the relative success or failure of all strategies is subject to blind processes such as natural selection. There is no independent or non-naturalistic moral right or wrong beyond that.
You're conflating a bunch of things here, but let me go with an analogy:

You might as well make the same claims about mental illnesses. But of course there is a fact of the matter as to whether a lunatic in an asylum is mentally ill, and those who say otherwise are in error. I say the same goes for morality.


ruby sparks said:
* On which point, it may be interesting to note that there are gender differences in morality, it seems. In some situations, women are (at least somewhat) more prone to forgive rather than punish, and in some situations men are more prone to do that. This may throw up the issue of which gender has the 'properly functioning' brain in each type of situation.:)
Not really. That would require a difference in terms of judgments - what they deserve, etc. -, not about what to do. That would be a matter of motivation, which only comes into play as an example of disagreement when they disagree about whether there is an obligation to punish or forgive.
 

Angra Mainyu

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ruby sparks said:
Ok, so, what might be happening there (where non-harmful food is disgusting because of artificial flavours or where harmful food is appealing) is that there is a flaw in our imperfect systems.
The person who finds the disgusting food disgusting does not have a flawed system...unless you say our systems are flawed in the sense they fail to detect all poisonous or nutritious foods? If that's what you say, sure.

ruby sparks said:
I am going to guess that you might say that there is an objective truth about a particular moral judgement just as there is an objective truth about the harmfulness of a particular food. Hm. I'm not sure. I think it's just a claim. An interesting one, I'll give you that.
Well, it's like the interesting claim that other humans have minds, that they can and sometimes feel pain, that humans have the power to move small objects around them, etc. (save for malfunction). :)

ruby sparks said:
I have a feeling that even if it were true, there might be so many varied, complicating factors in so many varied situations that it is almost impossible to find the kernel of truth. Iow, there may be a multitude of kernels, even in one situation (real life situations are arguably infernally complicated and humans extremely capricious). That may be where the analogy (with food) is effectively lacking.
If that were true, human society would have collapsed. Disagreement is salient, but it happens over a background of massive agreement. For example, I go to the supermarket, and I put the groceries in the cart, but then someone at the supermarket reckons it's very immoral to put bananas next to yoghurt, so he punches me in retribution! Well, that does not happen normally. In general, we do not go after each other for behaviors that other people do not expect to be problematic. That is because the massive background of agreement.


ruby sparks said:
I should warn you that If I come to agree, it will likely be on the basis of my newly-discovered consequentialism (the version I have recently been using).:)
Well, maybe it's an improvement. Or maybe not. :) I would need more info on that version.

ruby sparks said:
It may be very interesting to note that disgust and morality are related feelings/emotions, we seem to find many disgusting things immoral, raising the possibility that they are deemed immoral because they disgust ('offend') us. This has been studied by psychologists and neuroscientists.
Yes, and the claims that were made could not be replicated iirc, but look it up if you like. At any rate, that would suggest something akin to an optical illusion. It happens (like with your colored squares example, but on paper).


ruby sparks said:
I want to say one more thing, even though we disagree (which is mostly what we have been doing) and sometimes that we don't agree is very frustrating, for both of us I'm sure, I am nonetheless finding the discussion very interesting and thought-provoking, and sometimes that is all one can expect, and people (including myself) don't tend to change their minds so as to agree, especially on the internet perhaps. Tammuz has recently started a thread on this entitled "Why you should hold your beliefs at arm’s length" which links to a short article entitled, "We don't change our minds as often as we think we do".
Interesting yes, though somewhat frustrating because I keep repeating the same points I thought had worked. :(

But yes, people usually do not change their beliefs, though in case of disagreement, one of the sides is definitely mistaken. :)
I did change my beliefs on this matter long ago. I thought the argument from disagreement to no fact of the matter was very strong, but now I realize it is not. I had misunderstood both the massive agreement in the background and the usual causes of disagreement.

ruby sparks said:
And of course, in the end I don't actually know which one of us is correct.
But if you do not know that you are correct in your belief that X, and you know that you do not know, then it would be puzzling that you kept believing X.:confused: (in this case, X=there is no fact of the matter when it comes to moral assessments).
 

ruby sparks

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But it is not worthy of more severe punishment. Consider this: suppose Ahmed and Ahmad want to blow up a train full of people. They learn how to do it in the same manner. They independently acquire materials from the same places. They do all of the same stuff (not connected to each other). They plant the bombs. At that point, their participation ends. What happens later cannot retroactively make them any more or less guilty. And what happens later is that Ahmed's bomb goes of killing 200 people, whereas Ahmad's bomb fails to go off due to a defect in a circuit which was exactly the same model as that used by Ahmed, and even bought in the same place, with the same degree of care, etc.

The point is: they are both equally guilty, because events that happen after their guilty behavior cannot retroactively change the degree of immorality of said behaviors.

I agree it's an interesting question. Yes, they do seem equally guilty, and yet in most cases the punishment is more severe if the actual consequences are more harmful.

But here's a thing. We might say there is what you have called 'massive background agreement' that adverse consequences deserve greater punishment. Why are you then not bound by your own approach to treat that as a fact? :)

The reason I oppose to use the term 'retribution' only is that I do not thing all retributions are a good thing in and of themselves. Only just retributions are.

As for 'accurate retribution', that does not work, either. If Bob nonviolently stole a coke from a store for fun, and in retribution, the guards beat him up to death, they got the right person, but the retribution was very unjust: Bob deserved punishment, but definitely not that degree of punishment. I don't want to be seen as supporting what you describe 'accurate retribution' in general, as that is way too broad.

Now, if you do bring in whether it's proportionate, then maybe: by that, do you mean 'just'? If so, good to me. Else, what do you mean?

If I were to say 'accurately-targeted (properly attributed) and proportionate' it would still say nothing about whether, in a certain situation, the retribution was the right thing. To me there is no objective or independent right thing, of itself, other than what is deemed to be the right thing, and there is disagreement about that. I am offering forgiveness as an alternative to retribution. Of course, that would not be the objective or independent right thing either.

To avoid ambiguity, I call that system the judiciary system. When I talk about justice, I mean something else.

Ok.

Sometimes they are used interchangeably, and sometimes, utilitarianism can be seen as the paradigmatic case of consequentialism, and the latter is broader (terminology is variable). However, in any case, it's also about bringing about the consequences that are - in one sense or another - the best.

Ok.

I do not believe we have that obligation

And there we have it. That is what you believe. Others believe differently. Who is right?

ruby sparks said:
I offered a scenario in which a starving person steals some food. Would retribution or forgiveness be right in that case?
Probably neither. If he had no moral obligation to steal the food (because he needed it to survive and no one would suffer any serious loss as a result of the theft), then retribution would be unjust, and forgiveness out of place - nothing that can be properly forgiven.
If he had a moral obligation not to steal, why was that? How wrong was it? What are the predictable consequences of retribution vs. forgiveness, based on the info available to the person making the decision? I need more information.

I offered you a scenario and a binary choice (forgive or punish). How can it be 'probably neither'? Are you merely reluctant to acknowledge that forgiveness can be as valid a response as retribution?

Maybe forgiveness is a good thing for him, psychologically, if something is wrong with his head - which might very well be, as a result of the trauma. I'm not criticizing the man.

Forgiveness is not that unusual, so the idea that it happens because of a mental defect is not a strong claim.

However, the terrorists still deserve to be punished and it would be just that they get punished.

In our opinion and in the opinion of most, in that case, yes. In other cases, not so much.

On this, the law (in the UK) gets it right: the parents of a murder victim is not allowed to prevent prosecution of the murderer. Prosecution goes on, even if the parents chooses to forgive. So, here, forgiveness is not an alternative to retribution. It's something else that happens.

Yes, in that case it's something else that happens. But in many cases it is the only thing that happens, for example wrongs that are forgiven and not reported to authorities, such as theft of my food by a starving person. And in many other cases where one person eschews retribution for a harm and forgives the other person instead.

What makes a person with cancer ill are some properties of some of that person's cells. That's different from the evolutionary facts that caused us to care about illness.
What makes a person an evil person are some mental properties of that person. That's different from the evolutionary facts that caused us to care about evil.

The evolutionary facts are, I am saying, what causes us to label something wrong (or a person evil).

As to an analogy with illness, it could be that there are facts about that but not about morality. That is what we are debating.

ruby sparks said:
I'm not following. Sometimes people forgive. Are you not observing that?:)
Sure, but I'm not following. How is that related to my points? You were questioning my assessment of the moral judgment that it was not consequentialist. How does whether people forgive have to do with it?

My point was that you observe retribution and you observe forgiveness. How are they not both equally morally valid options?

The moral senses are not the moral judgments. The moral sense is what we use to make moral judgments. The moral judgments are, well, the judgments we make.

It's very debatable whether at least in many cases there is a difference between having a moral sense about something and making a moral judgement about it. When it comes to instincts and intuitions, they are effectively the same thing.

Again, what happened millions of years ago is not a factor as to whether the behavior is immoral. It is a causally contributing factor to our having the moral sense we have, but that's a very different matter.

But what is immoral is what we deem to be immoral, so it's not a different matter.

And by the way it doesn't have to be millions of years ago, it could be thousands, hundreds or even just years. Possibly less, I don't know. But we are a social species of learning machines. Morality has demonstrably changed over time and across cultures and zeitgeists. That is evidence that morality is relative. Rape seems a good example. Until very recently, marital rape was not considered a wrong, and still isn't, in many cultures. Slavery might be another example. Perhaps also sodomy. And that's only to do with humans. On such things as animal rights (by which we mean other animals) there is still much disagreement. That said, I know you are only doing human morality about humans. I'm not sure why.

No, I wasn't saying that he is doing that. Probably he is, but was not my point. The relevant factors are things like what he intended to do, what he believed he would accomplish, what he believed about other people involved, the information available to him, whether he was careful in studying that information before acting, and so on. All mental properties of M.

Those are things that would make him responsible, they are not necessarily things that would make the act immoral, or more to the point make retribution the right thing. The starving man who stole my food might have been responsible, let's say, but forgiveness rather than retribution could still be the right response.

.... I guess people who are never wronged and never see a wrongful behavior would not, but that's not realistic.

People can see a transgression and still forgive it.

Sure, unjust retribution is not good. And acts of just retribution might be not good, but in that case, what makes them not good is not the retribution but other factors (see my example of the king).

The king did not forgive.

But that is always the case. If I claim that humans and fruit flies had a common ancestor, you can say that that is the personal claim of a gazillion people who other gazillion people do not share. Evidence? It does not logically imply that there is a common ancestor. I would say deniers are on the wrong, but of course, I can do also an intuitive probabilistic assessment to say that.

Again, whether there is a moral fact just as there are facts about other things, such as fruit flies, is what we are debating. Analogies with things where there are facts does not necessarily advance the case that there is a moral fact about something.


You might as well make the same claims about mental illnesses. But of course there is a fact of the matter as to whether a lunatic in an asylum is mentally ill, and those who say otherwise are in error. I say the same goes for morality.

In the first instance I would not say it is in fact easy in many cases to be able to say that someone who is in a mental institution is in fact mentally ill or not. Sanity is a slippery concept.

But let's say there are clearly mentally ill people (they see things which are not there), again whether mental illness is a good analogy for morality is up for debate.


ruby sparks said:
* On which point, it may be interesting to note that there are gender differences in morality, it seems. In some situations, women are (at least somewhat) more prone to forgive rather than punish, and in some situations men are more prone to do that. This may throw up the issue of which gender has the 'properly functioning' brain in each type of situation.:)
Not really. That would require a difference in terms of judgments - what they deserve, etc. -, not about what to do. That would be a matter of motivation, which only comes into play as an example of disagreement when they disagree about whether there is an obligation to punish or forgive.

I don't understand what you are saying there. Yes, it would be a difference about the judgements about deserts. Is that not what we are mainly talking about?

So, that there are gender differences about moral judgements would mean that under your explanation, one gender has defects in certain situations. That seems dubious.
 
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ruby sparks

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The person who finds the disgusting food disgusting does not have a flawed system...unless you say our systems are flawed in the sense they fail to detect all poisonous or nutritious foods? If that's what you say, sure.

Yes that's what I meant.

If that were true, human society would have collapsed.

Many human societies have collapsed.

Disagreement is salient, but it happens over a background of massive agreement.

So what? That would only say that morality is what people agree it is. And that has changed in many ways over time and across cultures.

Yes, and the claims that were made could not be replicated iirc, but look it up if you like. At any rate, that would suggest something akin to an optical illusion. It happens (like with your colored squares example, but on paper).

I have looked it up and there does not seem to be a problem with replication. I'm not sure what you mean about it being an illusion.

Interesting yes, though somewhat frustrating because I keep repeating the same points I thought had worked. :(

Me too.

ruby sparks said:
And of course, in the end I don't actually know which one of us is correct.
But if you do not know that you are correct in your belief that X, and you know that you do not know, then it would be puzzling that you kept believing X.:confused: (in this case, X=there is no fact of the matter when it comes to moral assessments).

Beliefs can have different strengths. We could say that in this case I am more skeptical of one claim than of another.


Angra, in all of this, it seems to me that your claim that there are moral facts is still questionable. You have not advanced it, except by repeating it and using analogies that may or may not be relevant.

Can you cite one moral fact?

If "retribution ('properly attributed and carried out with proportion') is a moral good" has been the one you are citing, then that there is in many cases the binary alternative, forgiveness, and that it is widespread (exists in all 'non-defective' humans) would seem to undermine it.

Do you have another?
 
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Angra Mainyu

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ruby sparks said:
I agree it's an interesting question. Yes, they do seem equally guilty, and yet in most cases the punishment is more severe if the actual consequences are more harmful.

But here's a thing. We might say there is what you have called 'massive background agreement' that adverse consequences deserve greater punishment. Why are you then not bound by your own approach to treat that as a fact?:)
By 'massive background agreement' I mean that on the vast majority if issues, there is nearly (human) universal agreement on whether something is wrong, very wrong, etc. This is an argument against the claim that disagreement is so prevalent. It is not an argument supporting the idea that the majority got it right. It is easy to find examples of majorities getting some moral facts wrong (as evidenced by the fact that majorities in different places and/or times sometimes have mutually incompatible moral beliefs), though of course, those are a tiny minority of moral facts.

That aside, when it comes to moral assessments, our assessments are intuitive (we use our moral sense), but that does not mean our intuitions after considering the matter carefully will be the same as the immediate ones. I don't think the majority of the people who have considered scenarios such as the one I presented, believe that greater consequences deserve greater punishment.

ruby sparks said:
If I were to say 'accurately-targeted (properly attributed) and proportionate' it would still say nothing about whether, in a certain situation, the retribution was the right thing. To me there is no objective or independent right thing, of itself, other than what is deemed to be the right thing, and there is disagreement about that. I am offering forgiveness as an alternative to retribution. Of course, that would not be the objective or independent right thing either.
But then, what do you mean by "proportionate"? If it's something like 'in proportion to the consequences', then no, I definitely do not want to be seen as saying that that is a good thing in general.
I'm afraid I do not have a term to describe my view other than saying that just retribution is a good thing in an of itself - though an act that involves just retribution might be wrong because of other factors; I provided examples.

ruby sparks said:
And there we have it. That is what you believe. Others believe differently. Who is right?
I am. :)
The thing is, any moral theory needs to be tested against moral intuitions - how else would you go about testing it? And those theories do not pass the test, even by the very intuitions of the people supporting them. So, they amend them, or say that some particular subset of our moral intuitions is faulty, etc., but I think it's pretty much debunked (I'm thinking of addressing the matter in the other thread, though time is limited).

ruby sparks said:
I offered you a scenario and a binary choice (forgive or punish). How can it be 'probably neither'? Are you merely reluctant to acknowledge that forgiveness can be as valid a response as retribution?
No, the choice was not binary. You asked " Would retribution or forgiveness be right in that case?". A proper response is: neither of them would be right. Let me give you an example. I offer the following scenario: "Joe's son Adam has consensual sex with Bob". Would retribution or forgiveness be right in that case? Neither of them, because there was no wrongful behavior involved.

But I say 'probably', because the scenario is under determined.

ruby sparks said:
Forgiveness is not that unusual, so the idea that it happens because of a mental defect is not a strong claim.
Forgiveneess for the evil murderers that murdered his son is, I'm pretty sure, very unusual. But in a population of billions, no doubt you will find cases.

ruby sparks said:
In our opinion and in the opinion of most, in that case, yes. In other cases, not so much.
It's the correct opinion. As for other cases, which ones? (I was considering your example).


ruby sparks said:
Yes, in that case it's something else that happens. But in many cases it is the only thing that happens, for example wrongs that are forgiven and not reported to authorities, such as theft of my food by a starving person. And in many other cases where one person eschews retribution for a harm and forgives the other person instead.
If the person truly is starving, I do not think that that is a wrong, at least as long as the person had no good reason to suspect it would inflict significant hardship on you, and as long as it is a nonviolent theft.

But sure, there is plenty of cases of forgiveness. What is your point? I think the perpetrators still deserve punishment, unless the forgiveness happens after the perpetrators have changed significantly (no longer the same guilty mind). But I'm not saying people generally have an obligation to punish, just as I am not saying that we generally have an obligation to maximize good things, including just retribution.


ruby sparks said:
The evolutionary facts are, I am saying, what causes us to label something wrong (or a person evil).
That is true, but then again, some other evolutionary facts are also what causes us to label something 'ill' (those facts among other causes one can pick).
ruby sparks said:
As to an analogy with illness, it could be that there are facts about that but not about morality. That is what we are debating.
You are missing my point, which is that your argument against moral facts apply to illness just as much as it does to morality. Why then, do you keep accepting the fact that there are illness facts, but not moral ones? Do you have an argument that works against moral but not illness facts?

ruby sparks said:
My point was that you observe retribution and you observe forgiveness. How are they not both equally morally valid options?
Morally valid? What is that, morally permissible? Well, it depends on the case. Sometimes both are permissible. Sometimes, only one. Sometimes, neither. It's a matter to be assessed on a case by case basis, as always. That is not a problem for my position. I hold that just retribution is a good in an of itself, but not that we have an obligation always to bring about that good. Not even that it is always permissible. I've given examples of all of this already.

ruby sparks said:
It's very debatable whether at least in many cases there is a difference between having a moral sense about something and making a moral judgement about it. When it comes to instincts and intuitions, they are effectively the same thing.
We do not have a moral sense "about something", just as we do not have a color vision-visual processing system "about something", or a probabilistic sense "about something". We have systems with which we make assessments about morality, color, probability, etc.


ruby sparks said:
But what is immoral is what we deem to be immoral, so it's not a different matter.
No, we can be mistaken, so conceptually they are different. Moreover, what we deemed to be immoral is also not what happened millions of years ago (or thousands, or just years, whatever).

ruby sparks said:
Possibly less, I don't know. But we are a social species of learning machines. Morality has demonstrably changed over time and across cultures and zeitgeists. That is evidence that morality is relative. Rape seems a good example. Until very recently, marital rape was not considered a wrong, and still isn't, in many cultures. Slavery might be another example. Perhaps also sodomy. And that's only to do with humans. On such things as animal rights (by which we mean other animals) there is still much disagreement. That said, I know you are only doing human morality about humans. I'm not sure why.
Well, again, I disagree about the degree of disagreement. You say marital rape was not considered a wrong. Well, was it not considered a wrong by whom? By the women getting raped? I'm pretty sure it was considered a wrong by most of them. But to the extent it was not considered a wrong, why was it? If you take a look at the arguments, what they had was:

1. Disagreement about nonmoral facts. You would not say that there is a difference in people's color vision because one sees red and the other green if the latter looked 1 second later when the light had changed. That's because their visual systems got different inputs (different light, in this case). Disagreement about nonmoral facts often results in disagreements about morality but that's not because of differences in the moral senses, but because of different inputs.

2. Improper instrument. Instead of their moral sense, they use religion, at least in part, or some ideology, etc. We already know that these things are not conducive to truth - we can see that in nonmoral matters too -, but additionally, their moral senses can be damaged through indoctrination from childhood in many cases.

ruby sparks said:
Those are things that would make him responsible, they are not necessarily things that would make the act immoral, or more to the point make retribution the right thing.

Yes, those are the things that would make the act immoral, and the proper retribution a good. Whether the retributive act is the right thing is another matter. Sometimes it is not right to bring about a good (e.g., when it is predictable a much bigger bad will come alongside it).

ruby sparks said:
The starving man who stole my food might have been responsible, let's say, but forgiveness rather than retribution could still be the right response.
I need more information, but I think forgiveness is the wrong response, as it assumes there is something to forgive in the first place, but there isn't if, by hypothesis, he was starving - with some caveats.

ruby sparks said:
People can see a transgression and still forgive it.
Sure, but it is unrealistic that a human never seeks retribution, barring incapacitating illness.


ruby sparks said:
The king did not forgive.
The king was not explicitly mentioned and had nothing to forgive. I'm not getting your point. The king may well be as evil as his son.

ruby sparks said:
Again, whether there is a moral fact just as there are facts about other things, such as fruit flies, is what we are debating. Analogies with things where there are facts does not necessarily advance the case that there is a moral fact about something.
The analogies show that your argument apply as much to moral facts as they do to the other things. What they do is debunk your arguments against moral facts.


ruby sparks said:
In the first instance I would not say it is in fact easy in many cases to be able to say that someone who is in a mental institution is in fact mentally ill or not. Sanity is a slippery concept.
Okay, so sometimes, the facts of the matter are difficult to figure. However, in other cases, they are pretty easy to figure: there are examples of people in mental institutions who are very, very obviously mentally ill. And the fact remains that there is a fact of the matter about those things.


ruby sparks said:
But let's say there are clearly mentally ill people (they see things which are not there), again whether mental illness is a good analogy for morality is up for debate.
What I'm doing is presenting analogies to show that your arguments do not apply to morality any more than they would apply to cases where you accept that there are facts of the matter. My goal is to get you to stop making those arguments (if you realize they are not good), or at least get readers to realize they're not good.


ruby sparks said:
I don't understand what you are saying there. Yes, it would be a difference about the judgements about deserts. Is that not what we are mainly talking about?
Would there be? I do not know about that. What is your evidence? That some want to punish, other forgive? But do the latter not believe that punishment is deserved? Again, what is your evidence?

But if there is a difference about the preliminary judgments, what of it?

Those are not the judgments after considering the matter.

ruby sparks said:
So, that there are gender differences about moral judgements would mean that under your explanation, one gender has defects in certain situations. That seems dubious.
Assuming the results exist (about what they deserve, not about whether to punish or forgive, which is a very different matter), it might mean that in some cases, the moral sense of people of one sex is on average more accurate than the moral sense of the people of the other sex when it comes to making fast judgments with no time to think about the situation. Moreover, it might be that females are better at fast judgments overall in some cases, and males in some other cases. It does not tell us of course that judgments would not converge after pondering the matter.

But what of it? There are differences between the brains of females and those of males. It might be that, on average, females are better at verbal communication, and males better at spacial reasoning. It might be - though, again, I would like to see your evidence, as this is suspect given how you seem to be interpreting the evidence - that females are on average better at making fast moral judgments about some situations, and males about others. While I am skeptical without seeing the evidence and given that you seem to be misinterpreting it, this certainly would be much less dubious than the entire species having a sense that is completely faulty, and does nothing but lead us to false beliefs all the time . That is the really extraordinary claim here.
 

Angra Mainyu

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ruby sparks said:
Many human societies have collapsed.
No, I mean that human social structures would just crumble, or not even be formed. Humans could not be social animals like that. They would be fighting each other all the time (and fighting is salient, the reality is that the vast majority of human interactions are not fights).


ruby sparks said:
So what? That would only say that morality is what people agree it is. And that has changed in many ways over time and across cultures.
So, the argument from disagreement is very weak. And 'many' is a relative term. Morality is still mostly agreement across cultures.


ruby sparks said:
I have looked it up and there does not seem to be a problem with replication. I'm not sure what you mean about it being an illusion.
Link?


ruby sparks said:
Angra, in all of this, it seems to me that your claim that there are moral facts is still questionable. You have not advanced it, except by repeating it and using analogies that may or may not be relevant.
As I have repeatedly argued, I do not need to advance it. I do not need to advance my claim that other humans have minds too and are not P-zombies, or my claim that there are color facts, or the claim that humans can and sometimes do feel pain (save for illness, etc-), or that humans can move small objects in their vicinity (save for illness, etc.), and so on.
Those are default beliefs based on ordinary human experience. There no burden on my side. :)


ruby sparks said:
Can you cite one moral fact?
Sure, plenty:


1. Jack the Ripper was a bad person.
2. Luis Garavito was a bad person.
3. Gary Ridgway was a bad person.
4. Ted Bundy was a bad person.

I can make a very, very long list. But if you like a more general one:

5. It is always immoral for a human being to kill another for fun.
 

ruby sparks

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ruby sparks said:
I offered you a scenario and a binary choice (forgive or punish). How can it be 'probably neither'? Are you merely reluctant to acknowledge that forgiveness can be as valid a response as retribution?
No, the choice was not binary. You asked " Would retribution or forgiveness be right in that case?". A proper response is: neither of them would be right. Let me give you an example. I offer the following scenario: "Joe's son Adam has consensual sex with Bob". Would retribution or forgiveness be right in that case? Neither of them, because there was no wrongful behavior involved.

I even included that the thief physically injured me during the theft.

But I say 'probably', because the scenario is under determined.

I think you are dodging. Forgiveness is the fly in the ointment of your claim that retribution is good and you are pretending it isn't there.


But sure, there is plenty of cases of forgiveness. What is your point? I think the perpetrators still deserve punishment....

We already knew what you think.


You are missing my point, which is that your argument against moral facts apply to illness just as much as it does to morality. Why then, do you keep accepting the fact that there are illness facts, but not moral ones? Do you have an argument that works against moral but not illness facts?

There is a biological fact about whether there is a physical illness. There do not seem to be any moral facts. Even if there were not, in the end, objective facts about a physical illness it still would not show that there are facts about morality.

I hold that just retribution is a good in an of itself....

We already know what you think.


ruby sparks said:
The starving man who stole my food might have been responsible, let's say, but forgiveness rather than retribution could still be the right response.
I need more information, but I think forgiveness is the wrong response, as it assumes there is something to forgive in the first place, but there isn't if, by hypothesis, he was starving - with some caveats.

I think your trying to claim there was no transgression is only a way to dodge the issue around forgiveness.

ruby sparks said:
People can see a transgression and still forgive it.
Sure, but it is unrealistic that a human never seeks retribution, barring incapacitating illness.

It is not unrealistic at all. People eschew retribution and forgive each other all the time.

The analogies show that your argument apply as much to moral facts as they do to the other things. What they do is debunk your arguments against moral facts.

I'm not seeing that.

It would help a lot if you went beyond the vague claim 'there are moral facts' and cited one. Until you do, there is nothing to apply an argument to, about moral facts.

What I'm doing is presenting analogies to show that your arguments do not apply to morality any more than they would apply to cases where you accept that there are facts of the matter.

Your analogies all seem to be about things for which there are facts. It is at this point only your (vague) claim that there are moral facts.

But if there is a difference about the preliminary judgments, what of it?

Those are not the judgments after considering the matter.

The differences are not because of brain defects, that is the point. This goes for disagreements also. You have been suggesting that the opposite of retribution is the result of some sort of defect, or is a mistake.

(In any case, I would very much doubt that people who forgive only do it without considering the matter).
 
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ruby sparks

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No, I mean that human social structures would just crumble, or not even be formed. Humans could not be social animals like that. They would be fighting each other all the time (and fighting is salient, the reality is that the vast majority of human interactions are not fights).

Your point eludes me. A functional level of agreement might be needed, yes.

So, the argument from disagreement is very weak. And 'many' is a relative term. Morality is still mostly agreement across cultures.

Disagreement is nonetheless common, and morality varies across history and culture.

"Mostly agreement". Is that your basis, about things such as facts?

It is always immoral for a human being to kill another for fun.

Now at last we're getting somewhere. That is similar to the one I myself offered quite a while ago ("It is wrong to kill (or harm) another human without justification").

Either version is a good candidate for being a moral fact, imo.
 
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ruby sparks

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Angra, this may be a good time to make an important distinction or two.

A. Retributive urge: the urge to retribute.
B. Retribution: the carrying out of retribution.

Which one is it that retributivists (or you) claim is right? I had been assuming the latter, in the final analysis. In fact it must be, because you said, "I hold that just retribution is a good in an of itself."

Also bear in mind that retribution (the OP topic) is a response to what is deemed an immoral act, so that is another important distinction, because it is slightly separate from the question of whether the act is immoral or not.

1. It is a fact that X is immoral.
2. It is a fact that retribution is the right response.

Two different, albeit related claims.
 
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aupmanyav

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I would not get into the discussion about whether it is moral or not. For me, the first concern will be the safety of my society. Any heinous crime, robbery (leaving aside petty thievery as someone said, a hungry thief taking some food items) must be strictly dealt with. India has a population of 1350 million people. If we are not strict the society will go to dogs. And don't spend public money for their upkeep in jail. Ask them to pay for it or shoot them if they can't.
 

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ruby sparks said:
I even included that the thief physically injured me during the theft.
No, you did not include that. The only scenario you present involving injuries is the one in the OP, and had no reference to a starving man.

In that case, yes, I would say that what he did was immoral. He deserves retribution. I do not believe, generally, that you have an obligation to seek retribution. What is better for you to do depends on the case. What is overall better also depends on the case. There are a gazillion variables that our moral sense picks intutively, in actual cases, based on the amount of information available. This one is underdetermined (though in most cases, I'd say retribution is better).

ruby sparks said:
I think you are dodging. Forgiveness is the fly in the ointment of your claim that retribution is good and you are pretending it isn't there.
You really are bad at getting in my head. :)
That's not even close.

ruby sparks said:
There is a biological fact about whether there is a physical illness. There do not seem to be any moral facts.
That is just made up. :)

First, of course, there appear to be moral facts. There appear to be to any normal human being. You claim otherwise, the burden is on you.

Second, I did not say 'physical' illness. I said 'illness'. What would a nonphysical illness even be?

Third, again, it appears to the ordinary experience of humans beings that some humans are ill, and some humans are bad people.

ruby sparks said:
We already knew what you think.
You do not appear to, as you keep misconstruing my views.

ruby sparks said:
Even if there were not, in the end, objective facts about a physical illness it still would not show that there are facts about morality.
I'm not trying to show that! For that matter, I'm not trying to show that there are illnesses, or pain, or other minds!
Again, the burden is not on my side. It's on your. :)
What I am saying is that the argument you offer against moral facts would be just as applicable to illness facts, but you reject the former and not the latter. Why?


ruby sparks said:
I think your trying to claim there was no transgression is only a way to dodge the issue around forgiveness.
You are just completely mistaken about me. Regretably, you charicaturize my position and do not understand that the nuances are not remotely a dodge, but a central part of it.

ruby sparks said:
It is not unrealistic at all. People eschew retribution and forgive each other all the time.
Again, it is unrealistic that a human being never seeks retribution. You seem to have lost the meaning of the exchange. I am not suggesting that it is unrealistic that a person forgives. I'm saying that it is unrealistic that a person never seeks retribution.

ruby sparks said:
I'm not seeing that.

It would help a lot if you went beyond the vague claim 'there are moral facts' and cited one. Until you do, there is nothing to apply an argument to, about moral facts.
No, I do not need to do that. I did it, but that will not help at all. Rather, your reply tells me that you do not understand why your arguments fail (else, you would see that demanding that I state a moral fact just misses the point).


ruby sparks said:
Your analogies all seem to be about things for which there are facts. It is at this point only your (vague) claim that there are moral facts.
My analogies are all about things where you realize that there are facts. What I am saying is that your arguments against moral facts would similarly apply to those things. But in those cases, you accept there are facts, where you deny it about morality.


ruby sparks said:
The differences are not because of brain defects, that is the point. This goes for disagreements also. You have been suggesting that the opposite of retribution is the result of some sort of defect, or is a mistake.
No, I did not suggest that. I said in some cases. In others, it is not. But here, we do not even know there is disagreement about whether someone is guilty. And if there is, again, someone might have a moral sense that in some particular situations works better at first. But that also would not tell us about whether their verdict would be different after considering the matter.


ruby sparks said:
Your point eludes me. A functional level of agreement might be needed, yes.
My point is that that functional level is enough to make the disagreement a minuscule proportion of all cases, given that humans interact all the time.


ruby sparks said:
Disagreement is nonetheless common, and morality varies across history and culture.
Is it? Does it?
Again, disagreement with different inputs is irrelevant, just as disagreement between a person who says the light was red and one who says it was green because they looked at it at different times is irrelevant to the question of the existence of color facts.

Again, disagreement is also irrelevant when it comes to using improper instruments, e.g., if the person looks at the traffic light through a colored glass (e.g., similar to religions, ideologies, and the like).

The disagreement that would matter would be persistent disagreement when people use their respective moral senses, enter the same input (i.e., no disagreement about relevant nonmoral facts), and they're not being hampered by religion and the like. If that sort of disagreement persisted after deliberation, then you would have a case against there being a fact of the matter in the specific case under consideration.

ruby sparks said:
Now at last we're getting somewhere. That is similar to the one I myself offered quite a while ago ("It is wrong to kill (or harm) another human without justification").

Either version is a good candidate for being a moral fact, imo.
There is a crucial point here. We have an instrument - our moral sense - that gives us specific verdicts in specific cases. But learning general facts about morality is difficult. The candidates we can offer are those in which we have not found exceptions after testing specific hypothetical scenarios vs. our moral sense - which will happen rarely -, and also the negation of other candidates that one can rule out. That is why moral facts like:


1. Jack the Ripper was a bad person.
2. Luis Garavito was a bad person.
3. Gary Ridgway was a bad person.
4. Ted Bundy was a bad person.
are not only excellent candidates, but also the sort of moral facts we should expect to generally find and deal with during our lives.

Of course, one can present other, more general facts, like:

6. It is sometimes but not always immoral for a human to kill another.
7. It is sometimes but not always immoral for a human to hurn another.
8. It is sometimes but not always immoral for a human to steal from another.
9. It is always immoral for a human to rape another for fun.
and so on. But we are only learning those facts by testing hypotheses against our moral sense, whereas 1.-4. are directly apprehended by looking at the behavior of the people in question.
 

Angra Mainyu

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ruby sparks said:
Angra, this may be a good time to make an important distinction or two.

A. Retributive urge: the urge to retribute.
B. Retribution: the carrying out of retribution.

Which one is it that retributivists (or you) claim is right?
That does not seem to be very related to my position. What I am saying is that retributivism is correct, i.e., it is true that wrongdoers deserve to suffer something negative as retribution for what they did.

That it what I believe. Humans have a natural inclination to justly punish wrongdoers. Whether it's an 'urge' I do not know. That sounds like something is not working.
As for carrying out the just retribution, again whether it is permissible depends on the case. It might be permissible to do it in some ways, but not in others. Still, I think very often it is permissible.

ruby sparks said:
I had been assuming the latter, in the final analysis. In fact it must be, because you said, "I hold that just retribution is a good in an of itself."
I have already explained that part of my position several times. I'm beginning to think it's pointless. Yes, that is a good in and of itself. It is not something that is only good for something else. It just is good.

However, an act of carrying out retribution might also contain bad things, which might make it unacceptable. I have provided several examples.

ruby sparks said:
Also bear in mind that retribution (the OP topic) is a response to what is deemed an immoral act, so that is another important distinction, because it is slightly separate from the question of whether the act is immoral or not.

1. It is a fact that X is immoral.
2. It is a fact that retribution is the right response.

Two different, albeit related claims.
Indeed, as I have been pointing out in both threads, those are two very different claims. I have provided several examples in which I hold that the behavior is immoral, the perpetrator deserves retribution, but it would be immoral to impose retribution on the perpetrator due to very bad predictable consequences of the act of retribution.
(the OP topic is retributivism, to be precise).
 

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No, you did not include that. The only scenario you present involving injuries is the one in the OP, and had no reference to a starving man.

I did. On page 1. Check back. It's ok, I forgive you. :)

In that case, yes, I would say that what he did was immoral.

It's interesting that you now think him injuring me makes his actions immoral. Why do you not say that action, as with the theft, is also under-determined?

Possibly you feel a line has been automatically crossed?

You have not just been applying the maxim 'retribution is good and right' to killing and personal physical injury.

He deserves retribution.

That's your view.

What I am saying is that the argument you offer against moral facts would be just as applicable to illness facts, but you reject the former and not the latter. Why?

You might need to recap on that. I don't know what you mean.


.. your reply tells me that you do not understand why your arguments fail.

Recap?

My analogies are all about things where you realize that there are facts. What I am saying is that your arguments against moral facts would similarly apply to those things. But in those cases, you accept there are facts, where you deny it about morality.

That doesn't make sense to me.


My point is that that functional level is enough to make the disagreement a minuscule proportion of all cases, given that humans interact all the time.

Disagreement is arguably not a miniscule proportion. Cases where one person thinks the other person is wrong and not themselves are commonplace.

Moreover, it appears that two people from different cultures or different points in history would disagree even more than two extant people from the same culture.


Again, disagreement with different inputs is irrelevant, just as disagreement between a person who says the light was red and one who says it was green because they looked at it at different times is irrelevant to the question of the existence of color facts.

Possibly, but are there moral facts as there are facts about colour and illness?

We agree there is at least one 'moral fact', but that only covers something very specific and relatively uncommon (killing for fun) so it's not much use for the majority of moral disagreements.

Nor does it seem to be a fact in the same way that having cancer is a fact, which is why I'm having trouble with your comparison with illness.

The disagreement that would matter would be persistent disagreement when people use their respective moral senses, enter the same input (i.e., no disagreement about relevant nonmoral facts), and they're not being hampered by religion and the like. If that sort of disagreement persisted after deliberation, then you would have a case against there being a fact of the matter in the specific case under consideration.

For example, if after agreeing on all the facts, one non-religious person wanted to forgive and the other wanted to seek retribution? That happens. I honestly don't even know what your point is. You think retribution is the right thing of itself. At some point you're going to have to explain why that's necessarily the case, as opposed to the alternative, and not just what you personally think or what most people usually think.

There is a crucial point here. We have an instrument - our moral sense - that gives us specific verdicts in specific cases. But learning general facts about morality is difficult. The candidates we can offer are those in which we have not found exceptions after testing specific hypothetical scenarios vs. our moral sense - which will happen rarely -, and also the negation of other candidates that one can rule out. That is why moral facts like:


1. Jack the Ripper was a bad person.
2. Luis Garavito was a bad person.
3. Gary Ridgway was a bad person.
4. Ted Bundy was a bad person.
are not only excellent candidates, but also the sort of moral facts we should expect to generally find and deal with during our lives.

Of course, one can present other, more general facts, like:

6. It is sometimes but not always immoral for a human to kill another.
7. It is sometimes but not always immoral for a human to hurn another.
8. It is sometimes but not always immoral for a human to steal from another.
9. It is always immoral for a human to rape another for fun.
and so on. But we are only learning those facts by testing hypotheses against our moral sense, whereas 1.-4. are directly apprehended by looking at the behavior of the people in question.

So how about, 'Often, retribution is the right response'?

I've lost track of what your claim actually amounts to.
 
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ruby sparks

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What I am saying is that retributivism is correct, i.e., it is true that wrongdoers deserve to suffer something negative as retribution for what they did.

What you are saying is that just retribution is a good in an of itself.

But what about forgiveness instead?

Imagine you have a binary choice.

That it what I believe.

I know that.

Humans have a natural inclination to justly punish wrongdoers.

Which is not the same as saying it is right to punish, which is the relevant point here.


As for carrying out the just retribution, again whether it is permissible depends on the case. It might be permissible to do it in some ways, but not in others. Still, I think very often it is permissible.

Ok I'm losing track of what your claim actually is. Something that you claim is necessarily a good of itself should not always be carried out. Why would it not be permissible if it was in fact a good thing? If you are making a moral argument from consequences, that's a shift away from retributivism.


Yes, that is a good in and of itself. It is not something that is only good for something else. It just is good.

In your opinion.
 
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Angra Mainyu

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ruby sparks said:
I did. Check back.

I had it but missed it, and now checked again and take it you are referring to this post, where you added to the scenario questions about the damage. Well, in that description, the thief acted in a clearly immoral manner. He broke into your house - already immoral - and then assaulted you, with intent to injure perhaps horribly (even with acid!). That is a very evil thief indeed. If he knew you and wanted food, he could have asked you. If you said 'no', he could have asked other people, or go to a place where the homeless are fed, or whatever. Did all of that fail? Then he could have obtained food from trash, or hunted, or even stolen food non-violently, from one of many, many markets rather than break into a house, willing to injure people.

So, okay, here's my judgment: based on what you said, he deserves to be punished, almost certainly ('almost' because you can add further conditions to the scenario so that he did not act immorally, but those further conditions would be extremely improbable at least in our world).

ruby sparks said:
It's ok, I forgive you.
For missing one of your points after checking it? Was that immoral? I do not think so. But if it was, you misrepresented my views repeatedly, so I guess I would accuse you as well (side note: an "I forgive you" without prompting or any indication that the other person wants forgiveness often looks like an accusation of immoral behavior, and as such, a form of...retribution;)).

But regardless, this brings about a very interesting issue. Assuming there are no moral facts, there is no fact of the matter as to whether retribution is just, whether forgiveness is ever appropriate.

ruby sparks said:
It's interesting that you think him injuring me now makes his actions immoral.
His actions are radically different from what I had in mind. It's not the end result, it's what he intended. The very fact that he intended to break into your house for money is very immoral.

ruby sparks said:
That's your view.
Which you asked about.
Also, it is true.


ruby sparks said:
You might need to recap on that. I don't know what you man.

ruby sparks said:

Okay, here goes again:

ruby sparks said:
I think it is what makes it morally right or wrong. I don't accept that there is an independent truth of the matter. There is only our evolved sense of what is right and wrong, and that is based on consequences that have actually happened in evolutionary history and possibly to some extent personal history. How could it be otherwise?
You are questioning that there is a fact of the matter (which somehow you qualified as 'independent') on the basis of there being 'only' our evolved sense, etc. Now here is an analogy, using the very same sort of argumentation.


I don't accept that there is an independent truth of the matter about illness and health. There is only our evolved sense of what is healthy and what is ill, and that is based on consequences that have actually happened in evolutionary history and possibly to some extent personal history. How could it be otherwise?​

My point is that the evolutionary argument does nothing to challenge the obvious fact that there are illness facts. The same evolutionary argument - same structure, everything - does nothing to challenge the obvious fact that there are moral facts, either. If you think there is a difference, you would need a different argument, not the same.

ruby sparks said:
Angra Mainyu said:
My analogies are all about things where you realize that there are facts. What I am saying is that your arguments against moral facts would similarly apply to those things. But in those cases, you accept there are facts, where you deny it about morality.
That doesn't make sense to me.
I'm afraid I do not understand how it can possibly make no sense to you. :confused:
It is an explanation of the way I've been arguing for many posts. Let me try in other words:

You do realize that there are illness facts. You do not realize that there are moral facts. In fact, you question that there are moral facts on the basis of arguments such as the following one:


ruby sparks said:
I think it is what makes it morally right or wrong. I don't accept that there is an independent truth of the matter. There is only our evolved sense of what is right and wrong, and that is based on consequences that have actually happened in evolutionary history and possibly to some extent personal history. How could it be otherwise?

Again, that argument applies just as well to illness facts (see above), and yet, you do not doubt that there are illness facts. I am saying you should not doubt that there are moral facts on the basis of that argument, either. Why not? Because it's the same argument, just substituting 'moral' for 'illness', or the other way around.

ruby sparks said:
Disagreement is arguably not a miniscule proportion. Cases where one person thinks the other person is wrong and not themselves are commonplace.
It is still a minuscule proportion (see my supermarket example), but for the most part, disagreement is of the nonrelevant kind anyway (see different inputs).

ruby sparks said:
Possibly, but are there moral facts as there are facts about colour and illness?
Sure. That there are such facts is part of ordinary human experience. If you claim otherwise, the burden is on you. And you do not have a good argument against moral facts.

ruby sparks said:
For example, if after agreeing on all the facts, one person wanted to forgive and the other wanted to seek retribution? That happens.
No, that would not be an example. It would be an example if, after agreeing on all the nonmoral facts relevant to the moral assessment, they disagreed on whether the person behaved immorally, deserves punishment, and so on, under conditions in which they are not using the wrong instrument (e.g., following a religion or ideology). Do you have many examples of that?

ruby sparks said:
I honestly don't even know what your point is. You think retribution is the right thing of itself. At some point you're going to have to explain why that's necessarily the case and not just what you personally think.
No, I do not believe it is the right thing, or even always not wrong. I believe it is usually permissible, not obligatory.
I do believe it is a good thing, in an of itself. How do I know that? My moral sense of course, and that is the usual way of doing something. What if someone disagrees? It happens. Then I take a look at what might be going wrong with their brain or with mine. In this case, it seems something is clearly going wrong with their minds, as they usually have either an inconsistent ideology on the matter, they are accepting bad arguments they wouldn't accept on other matters, they demonize people who engage in just retribution and badly mischaracterize what they intend to do, things like that.

ruby sparks said:
So how about, 'Often, retribution is the right response'?

'The right response' suggests an obligation. I would go with 'Often, even very often, deserved retribution is morally permissible'.


ruby sparks said:
I've lost track of what your claim actually amounts to.
Unfortunately you have misunderstood, it seems, several of my points. I'm trying to clarify, but I don't have unlimited time and it's a bit frustrating. :(
 

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Ask them to pay for it or shoot them if they can't.

According to Angra, you are either factually right or factually wrong.

I would say you are merely expressing your own opinion.

Therein lies the whole difference between Angra and me.
 
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Angra Mainyu

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ruby sparks said:
What you are saying is that just retribution is a good in an of itself.
No, that is not what I was saying in that part of my post (though I also say that, yes). I was saying that wrongdoers deserve to suffer something negative as retribution for what they did. I was not at that point making an assessment as to whether it is a good in an of itself (though, again, I also make the assessment that it is, but you are misreading that part of my post too).


ruby sparks said:
But what about forgiveness instead?

Imagine you have a binary choice.

It is easy to find cases of forgiveness that are not good at all, like, say, Jack decides to forgive Joseph, who raped his daughter Mary for fun, because Jack reckons Joseph is well connected and that that will benefit him economically. Note that this is not like a case in which an act that contains just retribution (which is a good) is immoral because of a big bad result that the agent predicts will happen, or things like that. No, in the Jack and Joseph case, the central problem with Jack's act is the forgiveness itself. It is immoral to forgive in that case (he may well forgo retribution to prevent bad consequences, which is another matter).

And generally, in other cases, forgiveness may be a good for some end, but a good in an of itself? It does not look like it. It seems to be good for reconciliation (i.e., as a means to an end), keeping social peace, things like that.

At any rate, I do not see what your point is. I'm not saying forgiveness is never permissible. Of course, that would be a mistake. It depends on the case.
ruby sparks said:
I know that.
As you continue to misconstrue my beliefs, I continue to explain them, in the hope you will understand them and stop misconstruing them. If you continue to say "I know that", that is not helpful.

ruby sparks said:
Which is not the same as saying it is right to punish, which is the relevant point here.
No, the relevant point in that particular part of my post was explaining what I believe, so that you would not ask questions about my beliefs given two options neither of which is what I believe.


ruby sparks said:
Ok I'm losing track of what your claim actually is. Something that you claim is necessarily a good of itself should not always be carried out. Why would it not be permissible if it was in fact a good thing? If you are making a moral argument from consequences, that's a shift away from retributivism.
No, retributivism says wrongdoers deserve to be punished, not that other people always have an obligation to punish those who deserve it, or even that it is permissible to punish those who deserve it in all cases (though I think usually it is permissible).

As I have already explained several times, even though just retribution is a good in itself, it might be that other things would predictably result from that act, some of which are very bad and make it impermissible. Again, look at the king example.

Imagine the king's son Jacobo raped a poor woman, Maria, for fun. Maria's father José has a chance to get close enough to Jacobo and beat him up in retaliation, break some bones, and really give him what he deserves. But he knows based on previous events that if he does that, his family will be round up and burned alive.

Now, if José goes ahead, beats Jacobo up, breaks his arm, jaw and a few ribs, then it is a good thing that Jacobo suffers like that for raping Maria for fun, but it is a very bad thing that José's family is burned alive. José predicts the consequences, and for that reason, he has a moral obligation not to act.


ruby sparks said:
In your opinion.
Yes, and it is also in my opinion that humans with cancer are ill. In both cases, my opinions are correct.
 

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But regardless, this brings about a very interesting issue. Assuming there are no moral facts, there is no fact of the matter as to whether retribution is just, whether forgiveness is ever appropriate.

More or less, yes, in my view. Though you used just in one case and appropriate in the other. I think you should have used the same word for both, whatever that word might be (one of those two or another).

I would say, 'there is no fact of the matter that retribution is good (or just or appropriate) of itself, or that forgiveness is good (or just or appropriate) of itself.'

Both depend on other things.

You do realize that there are illness facts. You do not realize that there are moral facts. In fact, you question that there are moral facts on the basis of arguments such as the following one:


ruby sparks said:
I think it is what makes it morally right or wrong. I don't accept that there is an independent truth of the matter. There is only our evolved sense of what is right and wrong, and that is based on consequences that have actually happened in evolutionary history and possibly to some extent personal history. How could it be otherwise?

Again, that argument applies just as well to illness facts (see above), and yet, you do not doubt that there are illness facts. I am saying you should not doubt that there are moral facts on the basis of that argument, either. Why not? Because it's the same argument, just substituting 'moral' for 'illness', or the other way around.

?

let me try:

There is only our evolved sense of what is ill and not ill, and that is based on consequences that have actually happened in evolutionary history and possibly to some extent personal history. How could it be otherwise?

I am not making that argument?

It is still a minuscule proportion

Disagreement is commonplace. Your point about a supposed proportion eludes me.

but for the most part, disagreement is of the nonrelevant kind anyway (see different inputs).

Separate hypothetical issue to whether disagreement is minuscule.

Sure. That there are such facts is part of ordinary human experience. If you claim otherwise, the burden is on you. And you do not have a good argument against moral facts.

There is a difference between what humans ordinarily think, and facts, as has been demonstrated numerous times throughout history.

ruby sparks said:
For example, if after agreeing on all the facts, one person wanted to forgive and the other wanted to seek retribution? That happens.
No, that would not be an example. It would be an example if, after agreeing on all the nonmoral facts relevant to the moral assessment, they disagreed on whether the person behaved immorally, deserves punishment, and so on, under conditions in which they are not using the wrong instrument (e.g., following a religion or ideology). Do you have many examples of that?

Forgiveness. It happens.

No, I do not believe it is the right thing, or even always not wrong.

I think I can accept that weaker claim.

I would go with 'Often, even very often, deserved retribution is morally permissible'.

I'll not disagree.
 
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ruby sparks

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No, that is not what I was saying in that part of my post (though I also say that, yes). I was saying that wrongdoers deserve to suffer something negative as retribution for what they did. I was not at that point making an assessment as to whether it is a good in an of itself (though, again, I also make the assessment that it is, but you are misreading that part of my post too).

That's just confusing. I was addressing the underlying claim you had made, even if not in that part of your post.

It is easy to find cases of forgiveness that are not good at all...

Yes but so what?

And generally, in other cases, forgiveness may be a good for some end, but a good in an of itself? It does not look like it. It seems to be good for reconciliation (i.e., as a means to an end), keeping social peace, things like that.

Same for retribution?

I'm not saying forgiveness is never permissible. Of course, that would be a mistake. It depends on the case.

Same for retribution?

No, retributivism says wrongdoers deserve to be punished,...

It says more. It says retribution is a good thing. You say that.

ruby sparks said:
In your opinion.
Yes, and it is also in my opinion that humans with cancer are ill. In both cases, my opinions are correct.

Says you. Others would disagree.
 

Angra Mainyu

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ruby sparks said:
I am not making that argument?
You are not making that argument as an argument against illness facts (well, actually, you weren't making that argument at all though you were not arguing against it, either, but not the point; the point is that you do not count it against illness facts, but count the same argument for the moral case against moral facts, without offering a good reason).

ruby sparks said:
Disagreement is commonplace. Your point about a supposed proportion eludes me.
Imagine I go to the supermarket, and I put the groceries in the cart, but then someone at the supermarket reckons it's very immoral to put bananas next to yoghurt, so he punches me in retribution! Well, that does not happen normally. In general, we do not go after each other all the time in retribution. And it's not out of fear. People actually do not reckon that it is immoral to put bananas next to yoghurt, things like that. My point is that there is agreement about nearly all behaviors, because in number, those behaviors vastly outnumber disagreement. They're all over the place, in every single small thing in our lives. We just do not realize how much agreement there is, because we take it for granted.

ruby sparks said:
Separate hypothetical issue to whether disagreement is miniscule.
Indeed.

ruby sparks said:
There is a difference between what humans ordinarily think, and facts, as has been demonstrated numerous times throughout history.
Again, as I explained in detail in the other thread, you would need a very good amount of specific evidence to raise reasonable doubts about ordinary facts of human experience, such as the existence of other minds, that humans can and sometimes feel pain, that they have the ability to move small objects around them, that there are bad people, etc., are all part of ordinary human experience. But generally, you do not do that. You do that in the specific case of morality, though you do not give a good reason to doubt it.

ruby sparks said:
Forgiveness. It happens.
That is not at all an example. In fact, I was explaining to you why it is not, in the very part of my post to which you reply.

Again, that forgiveness happens is not at all an example of disagreement about the moral facts of the matter, let alone one in which they agree about the nonmoral facts relevant to the moral assessment, and they are not using an improper instrument.



ruby sparks said:
That's just confusing. I was addressing the claim you had made.
No, you were saying that my claim was something other than what it was, and you were saying it was another claim I made elsewhere in the posts.


ruby sparks said:
Yes but so what?
That the forgiveness itself is bad. The deserved retribution itself isn't, but what makes the act bad is (in the example; others are similar) some predicted consequences other than the deserved retribution.

ruby sparks said:
Same for retribution?
No; while deserved retribution also can be good for some other goal, it is also good in an of itself. When people seek deserved retribution, normally they want it for its own sake, even if they might or might not (depending on the case) wanted for something else.

ruby sparks said:
Same for retribution?
Yes, clearly.

ruby sparks said:
It says more. It says retribution is a good thing.
Does it? Well, it depends on your definition. I'm not married to a word.

ruby sparks said:
Says you.
Yes, and I also say that 30+5=35, that whales are not fish, and that the Moon is less massive than the Sun. I say many true things. :D
 

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That the forgiveness itself is bad.

Says you.

The deserved retribution itself isn't...

Says you.

while deserved retribution also can be good for some other goal, it is also good in an of itself.

Says you.

When people seek deserved retribution, normally they want it for its own sake, even if they might or might not (depending on the case) wanted for something else.

Some people apparently feel the same about forgiveness though, when they forgive. 'I forgave because it is right to forgive people, because we are all flawed'.

I might even question whether people do normally want retribution merely for its own sake.

Either way, the two are in principle on a par, valid options, even if one works better than the other more often (retribution).

ruby sparks said:
It says more. It says retribution is a good thing.
Does it? Well, it depends on your definition.

It's your definition.

I say many true things. :D

I'm prepared to accept the fact that you seem very sure about that. :D
 
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Bomb#20

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I would not get into the discussion about whether it is moral or not. For me, the first concern will be the safety of my society. Any heinous crime, robbery (leaving aside petty thievery as someone said, a hungry thief taking some food items) must be strictly dealt with. India has a population of 1350 million people. If we are not strict the society will go to dogs. And don't spend public money for their upkeep in jail. Ask them to pay for it or shoot them if they can't.
That's a very bad idea. If you shoot people for robbery, what are you going to do to people for murder? If it's worse than shooting, murderers will simply shoot themselves to avoid being taken alive. So you've effectively made the penalty for robbery the same as the penalty for murder. A robber will want very much not to be caught, but there's a witness to his crime: the person he robbed. The simplest way for a robber to minimize the chance of being caught is to kill the robbery victim; but robbers don't usually do that because the punishment for murder is usually a lot worse than the punishment for robbery. If you shoot people for robbery you are incentivizing murder. Speaking on behalf of all of India's potential robbery victims, please don't do that.
 

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And you do not have a good argument against moral facts.
What would you consider a "good" argument against moral facts?

It seems to me the claim that moral facts exist, independent of our beliefs, feelings or other attitudes, is unfalsifiable.
 

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I don't think he's saying that moral facts exist independently of our beliefs, feelings or other attitudes. I think he's only saying that there are facts about human moral beliefs/attitudes/feelings (in other words facts about our sense of morality).

Maybe it would be more accurate (if a bit more of a mouthful) to call them "human moral-sense facts" or "human moral-attiudes facts".

In a way, I think it's obvious that there are. But they generally seem to be 'sometimes facts' not 'always facts'. The fact "it is morally wrong to kill another human for fun" might be an exception. I'm not sure. I think it's the best candidate so far.

One problem I have is the appeal to inherently 'good/right' things and 'bad/wrong' things. What does 'inherently' mean? At best it's surely only 'deemed to be' (by whatever percentage of humans doing the deeming).

That could allow for things like "most humans deem X to be bad/wrong (some or all of the time) either of itself or depending on other things". That could easily be a fact about human moral sense, and it could, conceivably, apply throughout human history and across cultures. Someone once said that in order not to be wrong, just be as vague as necessary. :)

In such cases, where it's most humans, the idea that the remaining (minority of) humans' sense is necessarily defective or mistaken is, I think, at least questionable. I think it's more likely to represent the tails of a bell-curve (normal) distribution of moral sense-data, that's all. Something such as 'variations in temperament' (which might be related to chemicals such as oxytocin for example, since that seems to affect levels of trusting and cooperation) might explain many differences, for example, especially when it comes to retributive urges.
 
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As for 'of itself', that's another tricky one, imo.

I think that's 'merely deemed' also.

Doesn't it just mean, 'for no other reason that I am aware of' rather than 'for no other reason'?

It activating the chemical reward parts of our brain would be a reason, or the equivalent, but not one we may be particularly aware of.

Interestingly, retribution appears to do that, apparently, via dopamine. Apparently, forgiveness does too, but the processes do not appear to be the same. If I had to guess, I'd guess that the rewards of the latter might have something to do with delaying gratification (the immediate gratification of what might be the more innate urge to retribute). Or it may gradually allow for raised, stable levels (of, say, dopamine) over time, as opposed to short bursts or swings to high and low levels.

But reward/gratification in both cases.

And saying that something is more 'right' merely because it shows up earlier in human development (as retributive urges seem to, being present in infants as early as 8 months old) would seem questionable. Forgiveness turning up later, because of cognitive development, and being an inhibitor to the earlier (more innate) urge of retribution would not make it any less.......'right'. It might even be considered a more mature, flexible, developed and cognitively sophisticated option.

And the first/innate one is probably the result of antecedent consequences anyway.
 
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Angra Mainyu

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And you do not have a good argument against moral facts.
What would you consider a "good" argument against moral facts?

It seems to me the claim that moral facts exist, independent of our beliefs, feelings or other attitudes, is unfalsifiable.


Plenty of philosophers gave arguments. I just don't find them persuasive at all. But for example, suppose someone claimed that there is a fact of the matter as to whether tomatoes are tasty. How could I go about challenging the claim?

Well, first I would go with linguistic evidence. People generally would say things like 'there is no fact of the matter', and refrain from debating the point. That shows they do not understand themselves to be talking about something about which there is a fact of the matter. Given that, it is hard to see how there could be any fact of the matter. A similar argument would work in the moral case, if people generally talked like that. But they do not. The evidence goes in the other direction.

Now you might say some people would debate about the tomato. Well, that is rare, so at least, it would seem in the vast majority of cases, there is no fact of the matter given what people mean. But okay, let us consider the small proportion of people who would debate it. What fact of the matter might that be? It would seem to be it's whether tomatoes cause some gustatory pleasurable sensations in humans who taste them. It is clearly not about the taste of all animals. Yet, we see that humans make pretty different evaluations about tomatoes. Some say they're tasty, others that they're not. Those humans are not getting different inputs: they're all eating tomatoes of the same kind (you can ask them to eat parts of the same tomato as an experiment, but that is not needed). So, this isn't like two people who disagree about whether Joe acted immorally because their moral senses get different inputs (in the form of different beliefs about what Joe intended, expected, believed, etc.). Here, you have same input-> different outcome. Moreover, this happens often with people who appear healthy, and no matter how hard you try, you find no good reasons to think their gustatory taste has been compromised (as in by religion or ideology in the moral case; we know these things compromise human faculties even in non-moral cases). So, it appears humans do not give a same verdict on the taste of (the same) tomatoes, even given the right input (namely, tasting the tomatoes), and with no malfunctioning.

Now, if there were a fact of the matter, then how does the word 'tasty' got that single referent? Meaning is given by usage, and it seems humans have different tastes when it comes to tomatoes, even under normal functioning and same input...then again, this might provide evidence instead that the tomato debaters who say there is a fact of the matter are in a sense correct: the fact of the matter is that it is not the case tomatoes are tasty to all normally functioning humans. So, it's a question of whether this would result in 'no fact of the matter' or an error theory. But you could argue for both; there are linguistic arguments in either direction.

Anyway, that I think would be a pretty good argument against the claim that there is a fact of the matter as to whether tomatoes are tasty, or else that an error theory holds for the tomato debaters (otoh, there is a fact of the matter when it comes to some gustatory statements; whether there is depends on the specific case, counting both what the people making the assessments mean and whether there is universal (normal) human taste on the matter). If someone can make similar cases for ordinary moral assessments, that I think would be a pretty good argument, not against all moral facts, but about enough to establish a partial substantive and epistemic moral error theory, either due to error as to whether there is a fact of the matter, or that some things are wrong, etc.

So, if you or ruby sparks or someone else wants to make a case like that, I'm listening. If, on the other hand, you or someone else prefers to make a different case, I'm listening, though I'm not sure what else would work for 'no fact of the matter'. A different line of argumentation would hold that there are no moral properties, though there are moral facts, namely the fact that nothing is immoral, or morally right, etc. There are ways to make the case for that - I just reckon none of those succeed, either, but I'm willing to listen to arguments.

I do not think any of this is unfalsifiable. Rather, attempts to falsify it have failed - because, well, it's true...but I'm willing to listen to arguments (many years ago, I used to think the argument from apparent disagreement to miscommunication was much stronger than it is, but I was mistaken).

All that said, and for the sake of clarity, you say 'independent of our beliefs, feelings or other attitudes'. Well, in a relevant sense, yes. In another, no. For example, consider illness facts. Do they exist independently of our beliefs, etc.? In a way, sure: if everyone came to believe - say, due to some religion/ideology - that people with cancer are not ill, they would be mistaken. However, whether cancer is an illness depends in an indirect sense on our faculties: the meaning and referent of the words (including 'illness') is given by usage, and the manner we choose to use words depends on our the different faculties, attitudes, etc., that we humans have (save for malfunctioning, etc.). So, it is in that sense in which you can find a dependency. Suffice it to say, this applies to illness/health or redness/greenness as much as it does to immorality/permissibility, etc.
 

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ruby sparks said:
In a way, I think it's obvious that there are. But they generally seem to be 'sometimes facts' not 'always facts'.
Actually, the most obvious facts we encounter are neither of those, but the 'specific facts', like 'Ted Bundy was a bad person', or generally 'what such-and-such person did in such-and-such situation was immoral', etc. The reason is that we have an instrument for finding moral facts (i.e., our human moral sense) that gives verdicts in pretty specific situations, not in much general ones. In the general ones, what we can do is test the hypotheses by trying to find exceptions, but those exceptions are of course in specific cases.

ruby sparks said:
One problem I have is the appeal to inherently 'good/right' things and 'bad/wrong' things.
That conflates two pairs of very different concepts: good and right, and bad and wrong.

ruby sparks said:
At best it's surely only 'deemed to be' (by whatever percentage of humans doing the deeming).
Why?
Do you think it's surely only whether cancer is deemed to be an illness by whatever percentage of humans, etc.?
If not, what is the difference? Why do you single out morality?
 
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