What is morality to you? The Objective Basis of Morality by Thomas Nagel

How do you determine and gauge morality and what factors do you think can influence your perspective? In this post, I summarize an article by Thomas Nagel titled The Objective Basis of Morality. His argument in this article is that, If you resent it when other people hurt you, then you will think you have a good reason not to hurt others. With that said, he goes on to prove the belief that morality exists. Additionally, he gives reasons and explains why people should follow a golden rule that will be a benchmark for morality and why he doesn’t believe ethical obligations can be reduced by religious or legal ones. He uses numerous examples to solidify his argument. He begins with a scenario where someone works at a library (person 1), and has a friend (person 2) come in and says he or she wants to smuggle out references. Any logical person would feel uncomfortable about the situation because even if they can deliver what their friend wants through unethical ways, they would want to prevent their friend from getting in trouble and jeopardizing their job. Plus it would result in other people not having the opportunity to use the missing resource. So it’s a lose-lose situation and no one wins. In addition, he posed questions, “what makes the action wrong? And “where does the idea to not help your friend come from”? For one, what makes the action wrong is the dire ramifications for the friend (person 2) once it’s committed. Secondly, the idea not to help comes from knowing the negative effects the action has on others that will be hurt once they find they’ve been wronged and their perception of the employee (person 1) will change for allowing it to happen. Furthermore, the idea that the employee (person 1) agrees to smuggle references for their friend (person 2) and doesn’t prevent his or her unethical actions shows their selfish intentions since they want to gain pleasure from assisting with the theft. In other words, whatever they help with stealing they’ll see it as worthwhile for their amusement. 

man and woman kissing in grayscale photography

Nagel further explains his argument by explaining the reason religious beliefs cannot correlate to one deciding to do good or bad. Additionally, even if a person is an atheist he or she still would have a sense of discernment of what’s right and wrong. Moreover, the third objection he talks about is the cliche line that is reminiscent of the golden rule in the Bible “if you treat someone with the consideration they’ll do the same for you”. This statement has merit because your action towards others will decide how they’ll react towards you. Nagel concludes with a final scene that deals with signs of remorse being absent from hurting people. The scenario he described was of a person stealing someone’s belongings and not taking into account how much it might hurt a person, and the self-centered mindset would cause no moral decisions to be made due to the selfish determination that negates any consideration for the victim and the psychological damage it would cause. In summary, moral relativism can be subjective for the fact that what is deemed as moral is determined by an individual’s beliefs and conventional moral standards are understood and agreed on within a specific society and vary from culture to culture. In the example where the employee (person 1) helped the friend (person 2) steal references from a book, if a focus group of individuals was asked what they felt about it, they would come up with different answers and might even justify the stealing if what they stole was for greater means (i.e. discovering a solution to global warming. There are always exceptions relative to the situation on what is considered moral because the intentions of the person and the consequences from their actions will vary depending on the situation they’re in. 

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How can you not see that? (Wednesday Wisdom)

There are those who immediately see something when paying attention 

Then there are those who have to be shown something in order for them to give attention to what they’re seeing 

Lastly, there are the ones who are oblivious to what they’re seeing and repeatedly question it for its validity – TheRhymeRula 

You know what? You’re right. The Nature of Great Persuasion

Before you tell someone they’re wrong, first tell them they’re right. This is easier said than done when you’re in a conversation about a topic that becomes contentious but I believe it can be done with much practice and patience. In this post I will be presenting a philosopher’s 350 year old trick to get people to change their minds is now backed up by psychologists. 

Blaise Pascal is a 17th-century philosopher that is best known for Pascal’s Wager which in its first formal use of decision theory argued that believing in God is the most pragmatic decision. In regards to this, to get a better understanding of this click on the link below of this post. When it comes to interpersonal situations that can become contentious, Pascal set out the most effective way to get someone to change their mind, centuries of experimental psychologists began to formally study persuasion. 

“When we wish to correct with advantage, and to show another that he errs, we must notice from what side he views the matter, for on that side it is usually true, and admit that truth to him, but reveal to him the side on which it is false. He is satisfied with that, for he sees that he was not mistaken, and that he only failed to see all sides. Now, no one is offended at not seeing everything; but one does not like to be mistaken, and that perhaps arises from the fact that man naturally cannot see everything, and that naturally he cannot err in the side he looks at, since the perceptions of our senses are always true”. 

Pascal added : People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others. 

Put simply, Pascal suggests that before disagreeing with someone, first point out the ways in which they’re right. Viewing the argument from all sides and respecting one another’s perspectives without making it personal will allow for the following to occur… Pascal suggests that to effectively persuade someone to change their mind they would have to be to discover a counterpoint of their own accord. This will open new sides for them to acknowledge your perspective and have an affable exchange. If I were to tell you that what your telling me is wrong then there is no reason for you to cooperate because I’ve ignored to acknowledge your points and what you might contribute that I might find interesting and agree with. 

The art of Persuasion - Creativedge Training

“One of the first things you have to do to give someone permission to change their mind is to lower their defenses and prevent them from digging their heels into the position they already staked out,” he says. “If I immediately start to tell you all the ways in which you’re wrong, there’s no incentive for you to co-operate. But if I start by saying, ‘Ah yeah, you made a couple of really good points here, I think these are important issues,’ now you’re giving the other party a reason to want to co-operate as part of the exchange. And that gives you a chance to voice your own concerns about their position in a way that allows co-operation.” 

Soft Skills: The Art of Persuasion

“If I have an idea myself, I feel I can claim ownership over that idea, as opposed to having to take your idea, which means I have to explicitly say, ‘I’m going to defer to you as the authority on this.’ Not everybody wants to do that,” he adds. 

“If I have an idea myself, I feel I can claim ownership over that idea, as opposed to having to take your idea, which means I have to explicitly say, ‘I’m going to defer to you as the authority on this.’ Not everybody wants to do that,” he adds. 

Pascal’s Wager About God : https://iep.utm.edu/pasc-wag/

The Two Evils: An Analysis of “Why God allows evil” and “Religion without God”

    Richard Swinburne’s “Why God allows evil” and Steven M. Cahn “Religion without God” explains how religion is interpreted and understood in Philosophy. Both have solid points with their stances on Theism and Atheism, and how God supposedly perpetrates the two evils of moral and natural. Both texts are very informative on the relation between Religion and Philosophy.

    Swinburne defends his views on how both evils moral and natural are connected and exist through the omnipotent perfectly good God. In order for good to be present in this world it requires that substantial evil to exist for it to be possible. He first describes the two evils in detail, and how God is associated with both. Moral evils are evils that are committed by humans through doing evil actions. These actions are seen as not moral in any sane society like murder, rape, stealing, adultery etc… These evils can bring extreme consequences to the perpetrator like if a person murders they’ll get sentenced to prison if they’re caught by authorities and found guilty. To understand why moral evils exist or why they’re even necessary, Swinburne wonders what kind of goods a generous God would give to humans. Some would say pleasure and happiness, but he believes that he should give us responsibility in determining how this world should operate.  This kind of responsibility requires that humans have free will. Swinburne suggests that if humans act badly that will be like a blueprint for opening up choices on either wanting to act good or evil.

grayscale photography of woman praying while holding prayer beads


    Equally important, Swinburne explains the second evil called “Natural Evils”. These evils even though are never created or controlled by humans can be understood more on how to approach them. People do have the ability and opportunities to show responsibility on how to solve these evils which are necessary for trying to live good lives. First, Natural evils allow humans to either exploit other humans or try to harm others or help and look to create a solution to fight for good. For example, if there is a contagious disease spreading around one’s country, humans have the choice to either help fight the disease or continuously spread it all over with no regard. Secondly, when Natural evils occur humans are made to think instantly about how to stop them before it gets out of hand. In addition humans have the opportunity to act in significant moral ways.  Pain and suffering come to mind when thinking about the emotions that are created from Natural evils, and it becomes difficult when humans do not know how to endure it. Feeling pain can help one overcome the adversities they are in, or they can show empathy and help those enduring the same pain. These feelings caused by Natural evils do have some positive aspects. The reason being, Swinburne believes that since both moral and natural evils require responsibility, it can bring good to the world if people are aware of the evils around them and not be so oblivious. This will thus cause them to act for the betterment of their lives. In addition, since God is believed to be benevolent and omnipotent, he provides the best possible life for humans and sees how humans would react through hardships and rejoicing moments. This kind of good would allow for evil to emerge because the opposite has to appear to see how people act in certain circumstances. In terms of free will, it seems to be a blessing and a curse. This is because people are blessed and fortunate they have the ability to choose how they want to live their lives and determine what choices they want to make. That’s the premise of free will. The reason it is a curse is that people may manipulate their given free will and use it to harm others or try to be infamous by committing moral evils.

grayscale photography of praying hands

    Furthermore, “Religion without God” by Steven M. Cahn, examines the views and understandings of Cahn’s beliefs that people can be believers without actually believing in the existence of a God or deity. He believes that one can be religious adherent, and actions such as rituals, prayers, metaphysics, and morality are independent of theism, and can be observed and practiced by those who are not super naturalistic believers.  Cahn explains the actions that are done by people who are devout believers in a supernatural God, and those who are not in greater detail. First, rituals are prescribed actions that are symbolic, and are in relation to that religion’s prescribed organization (Cahn 315). The act symbolizes aspects of that specific religion’s belief. For example, prayers are rituals in certain religions such as Islam. Muslims pray five times a day to Allah (God), and that connects them spiritually to their God, and this ritual is done routinely. In addition, these actions are not relevant to those who disregard a supernatural deity. They might see that rituals are irrational, if it’s done for the sake of pleasing or worshipping a God.  However, the practices of rituals are anything but irrational. Equally important, he distinguishes and explains naturalistic, and super naturalistic. Naturalistic or in other words a non-super naturalistic belief doesn’t utilize or need any type of ritual to please or anger a God (Cahn 316). Rituals are perceived as a means to help achieve goals, and it is “the enhancement of life through the dramatization of great ideals (Cahn 316). Additionally, there’s misconception when it comes to morality and how it’s solely based on believing in a supernatural God. It’s believed that people who reject God such as Atheists are immoral. This belief can be refuted and doesn’t make sense if one really thinks about. For instance, Plato’s teacher Socrates asked him if morality completely rests on belief then how can he know if what he’s doing is right and who can determine what’s right and wrong. “Are actions right because God says they are right, or does God say actions are because they are right”? To put it simply, as are actions made right or wrong because God decides that it is? Or are our actions independent regardless of God commands on what’s right. Naturalistic religion is reasonable and a possibility for people who are skeptical of religion. Naturalistic believers perform the same actions supernaturalistic believers do such as prayer, rituals, commit to following their moral principles, and there are little confusion and less doubt.  In summary, both readings seem to share one aspect from relativism, where all personal or societal opinions and options open. The reason being, it can apply to Cahn’s reading because people that believe in or view religion from a naturalistic stance, can have choices and options on ideas regarding religion and they can come to conclusion on how beneficial it will be if they introduce it into their life. 

The Conditioning : An Analysis of “Condition for Knowledge by Robert Nozick

Conditions for Knowledge

Conditions for Knowledge by Robert Nozick analyzes the conditions of knowledge that are sufficient and necessary for propositional knowledge. He uses two letters to express each argument. Those two letters are “S” and “P”. “S” refers to the subject of the argument, while “P” is the proposition. The three conditions of knowledge are the following Truth, Justified (Evidence), and Belief. Once all three conditions are congruent, knowledge is, therefore, a “True Justified Belief”. He claims that S knows that P if and only if P follows a criterion. For instance, P is true therefore S believes that P is. However, if P weren’t true S wouldn’t believe P. Lastly if P is true, S would believe that P is in fact. When the 3rd and 4th criteria are fulfilled S’s belief is said to “track the truth”. One example he uses can help bring a better understanding. Suppose that S believes that (P): someone in the office owns a ford. Based on this belief supposedly a coworker named Brown owns the ford. However, it is not Brown who owns the ford but it is Jones, another coworker. So S would have failed to satisfy the subjunctive condition because if P weren’t true S wouldn’t believe P, but it would continue to believe (P, someone in the office owning a ford) even if Jones didn’t own the ford. The conditions of knowledge seem to follow the critical philosophy criteria, because there isn’t always a certainty to all the facts, definitions, etc.… Also, since there isn’t much certainty, skepticism can arise even if there is much analysis.

woman in dress statue in grayscale photography

An Analysis on “The Experience Machine” by Robert Nozick

Robert Nozicks “The Experience Machine” explains the importance of making decisions by using a machine that can help one create experiences. Sounds kind of absurd right? Well, allow me to delve deep into explaining it to you. In the beginning, he makes a profound statement that would warn a person who would ever think of using the machine. “All the time you would be floating in a tank with electrodes attached to your brain. “Should you plug into the machine for life, preprogramming your life experiences” (Nozick)? In regards to that, this is a recurring theme in the 1999 science fiction film The Matrix. The early history of the Matrix included the idea that humans reject a virtual reality that offers them paradise. Cypher (Joe Pantoliano) a redpill member of the Nebuchadnezzar had enough of being jaded and would make a deal and betray his colleagues and be reinserted in a less than perfect Matrix as a successful man than live in a harsh reality outside of the simulation. In hindsight, watching the film, viewers would be irate that he would betray his team but the way I perceive it is, depending on the individual and how dire they think their circumstances are for them to find an escape, being “connected” to a machine to experience happiness whenever they want doesn’t sound that bad right? Well, even though one would think he or she is seeing a certain thing, in reality they’re not physically doing anything while in the machine, because they’re just “floating in a tank making experiences”. So therefore it’s indistinguishable for one to realize if what they’re in is a reality or some kind of dream world. After analyzing Nozick’s statement on how the machine can create these simulated experiences that feel real, it seems that it all follows a relativism view. The reason being, there isn’t any certainty or validity to the machine for all we know it could do the opposite of creating experiences, it could ruin them or create undesirable ones that borderline on nightmarish. In addition, there is no objective truth to the machine, and outcomes will differ from person to person. Since this machine is programmed to create or even relive experiences it would be incomplete without knowing about oneself. In other words, one should understand that knowing oneself is more important than searching for experiences that merely show how one’s time was spent. What’s more important is what they gained from those experiences and found from that pleasure and enjoyment. In conclusion, find yourself first, and then you’ll be able to live out your experiences without assistance from a machine.

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