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>From: Tim May <[log in to unmask]>
>
>  >
>  > In short, wisdom.  Ultimately, I think a minimal number of laws,
>axioms, or
>  > precepts are required for any society - but the idea is that moral
>behavior
>  > is a skill rather than a set of principles or guidelines for action.
>Moral
>  > action becomes more like riding a bicycle than like programming a
>computer;
>  > but as such, it is sticky and hard to talk about.  Fortunately, its
>easier
>  > to learn than to talk about I think - which seems to be what Socrates,
>the
>  > Stoics, Taoists, Buddhists, etc. were all on about - even if we can't
>define
>  > what is right, people can learn how to act rightly.  Partly I think it
>comes
>  > from a sort of Socratic dialog, but it also comes from training
>attention so
>  > that we learn to observe and consider our own thoughts and emotions
>better,
>  > before they can become harmful actions that we'll regret later.
>  >
>I don't understand what this can mean.
>
>In my view, morality can be reduced to the following:
>
>A) A (probably fairly short) list of what is to be considered
>    fundamentally desirable/undesirable, and the order of precedence of
>    these things should they conflict.
>
>B) Judgements on how best to behave in order that the universe should
>    be in as desirable a state as possible.
>
>A cannot be justified, and must be taken as axiomatic.  Anyone
>attempting to formulate A will be guided by the existing A that they
>have inherited from biology and society, but it's not possible to say
>that any A is right or wrong without reference to some A, and from a
>purely objective viewpoint A is arbitrary, all you can ask for is that
>it be self-consistent.
>
>B cannot be complete, probably, as any set of rules will fail to cover
>some circumstances.  In such circumstances individual judgement must
>be exercised.  This is a seperate issue to the unjustifiable nature of
>A; there is no theoretical difficulty in justifying B, it's justified
>with respect to A.
>
>In some circumstances B will be extremely complex, and hard to define,
>but we can judge its rightness by whether it succeeds in acheiving A.
>In riding a bicycle, B may be so complex as to be uncommunicable, but
>it's easy to judge whether one can ride a bicyle or not, because we
>judge it by A: did you reach your destination without falling off?
>

Essentially that's what I meant, except for three things:

1) Axioms are derived from judgements.  Our axioms are just reflections
about our experiences / actions in particular situations with respect to our
social and biological circumstances.

2) The difference between judgements and axioms is a difference of kind
rather than of complexity.  Moral judgements are ineffable the same way the
taste of ice cream is impossible to describe to somebody who has never eaten
it - they are purely qualitative.

3) The kind of judgement you do in (B) is a skill that can be trained and
improved.

On points one & two: Consider boxing.  Axioms are useful in boxing, but
really rely on judgements to make them relevant to a specific circumstance.
The coach saying "remember to duck" is useful, but it really doesn't mean
much until you actually get smacked in the face a few times - and then you
remember to duck.  However, exactly when and how you duck is always a matter
for judgement.  The axiom is really only a reminder which is meaningless
without the actual experience.

So, when you're riding your moral bicycle (LOL) - you know you've fallen,
not by thinking about your actions compared to axioms, but because you
experience yourself to have fallen (falling in this case meaning having hurt
somebody or society).  Of course this assumes some measure of empathy on the
part of the perpetrator of the act - in order to notice that he or she has
caused damage.  This is where part three comes in.

Our emotions often conflict - and often anger, fear, basic needs, etc. can
blossom into rage, anxiety, greed, etc. which tends to blind us to a lot of
things, such as the harm that an action may cause to another.  If we can
learn to step back from the blind impulse, room is made for us to consider a
wider picture.  We can be more empathic and we can learn to differentiate
between a justifiable emotion and a neurotic one, and we have greater
freedom in being able to express emotions constructively rather than
destructively.  IMHO, this means we can be more moral, even if we can only
express it through axiomatic statements.

This kind of training is like the boxing again - you can only learn it by
doing it - and you have two choices - try to learn boxing when somebody
jumps you in the park (i.e. wait for a situation requiring moral judgement),
or go down to the gym and train so that when that guy jumps you, you'll be
prepared (or at least, better prepared than without the training).

Andy






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