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    (Original post by TCovenant)
    As that quote and my previous reply specifies, “relative preferentiality of things is transitive”, as in the Socrates example. However, your formulaic representation only holds “so long as that representation accurately represents the relative preferentiality,”
    Sorry, that's just weasel talk. You can't have "X is taller and Y and Y is taller than Z, but X is only taller than Z iff he's taller than Z" and still claim transitivity. It's just dodging the issue. If you want to retain intellectual integrity, you'll have to abandon any claims to coherency.
    a reasonable qualify to denote that you cannot apply the relation outside of that “single scenario.” (i.e. ‘a specific theft may be better than a specific killing’ and ‘a killing better than 100 such killings,’ but one can only extrapolate from this that a theft is better than 100 killings providing the situation is closed, as in a separate situation where one chooses between the theft and the 100 killings, it may be that this theft may bring about much worse consequences than the 100 killings.)
    So you're saying that it's no actual use whatever. Each situation and the criteria to judge it will apply solely to that situation and will vary from case to case. That's not a system - it's anarchy. Nothing is closed - no real world situation can ever be exactly like another.

    I mean, it's OK, if you're having an external referent, like God's will, since that gives a baseline (within the constraints already discussed), but your 'system' is incoherent. No-one can use it, except in the vaguest of terms. No-one can ever condemn a war criminal by it, since the ethics are malleable and non-transferable. AAll you're arguing for is expediency, not morality.
    Bacteria in the view of myself and most of the scientific community, do not hold preferences,
    At what point did the scientific community appoint you as their representative? There's a lot of evidence that 'lower' creatures prefer not to die. Whether it extends to bacteria is a matter for conjecture, however it's no less a conjecture to make such an absolute pronouncement.
    they do not conceive of themselves as beings existing through time, and thus are not persons- they cannot suffer, benefit, hold preferences.
    Maybe. Perhaps you can give me some evidence as to why personhood is defined by your narrow terms, or why only fully-paid-up persons are entitled to preferences. I've kept pigs, so I may know a little more about them that you might expect. I also keep chickens, who are a lot dumber, but most definitely express their preferences.
    obviously which animals hold preferences and to what extent is a question for scientists, not one for an ethical theory.
    Do all people have equal rights to preferences (including the mentally handicapped, aged, unborn) etc. Or is that also for scientists to decide?
    More persons getting their preferences isn’t preferable to fewer per se; it is the net preference, now how many persons hold preferences that counts.
    I understand your attempt to cover over this weakness, but you're just expressing the calculus you previously wanted to avoid.

    If X people want a single person Y to die for their own amusement, what values are valid for X and Y?
    it is invariably the case that the preference to remain alive outweighs the preference to kill another person, if it were other than this case then the persons holding the murderous preference would actually be willing to kill themselves to avoid the suffering caused by not being able to kill.
    No, that's a simple logical error. You can have a desire to kill me and none to kill yourself without any contradiction. A desire to kill Other is not identical with a desire to kill yourself (because you aren't Other to yourself).

    However, you've said that it's "inavariably" the case, so you're making that a rule in the calculus. If we take X as the number of people and Px as their preference for Y to die and Py as Y's preference not to die then:

    For all finite values of X: Py > X Px (Edit: Px, Px and X are all greater than zero)

    For that to be the case, Py must be infinite (or Px must be infinitesimal). A preference of such strength would have to be a moral rule, all of its own, since it cannot be derived from any utility calculation.
    The utilitarian principle is solely that one should act so as to best fulfil/bring about the greatest utility,
    The problem is that you haven't come close to a coherent definition of what this 'utility' is. Itr's a mutable word in your formulation.
    all their assertions regarding the ethical good were only worthwhile insofar as they reflected the original ethical assertion.
    No, they subtly imported a load of baggage (like higher and lower pleasures) while trying to maintain that it was all about utility.

    Ultimately, all ethical systems attempt to maximise something. It might be "individual freedom" or "conformity with God's will". I guess you could call that 'utility', since that's a valid usage in an economic model. However, that doesn't mean that utility is nor a magical potion - it's just a word game. I obtain utility by describing how utilitarianism is a hollow doctrine, for example.

    My challenge to you has been to understand that "preferences" are not useful in this context without a lot of other qualifiers. It's those qualifiers which mark it out as an ethical system.

    One can only state that the system ‘act in order to best fulfil preferences’ can’t work, if one if is of the opinion that doing so is impossible
    Of course it's impossible, otherwise you'd have set out such a thing a long time ago. Indeed you admit that people often don't even know their own 'real' preferences, such as children bunking off school. So your system of prefernece is nothing of the sort - you believe that you know what's best for them, irrespective of their actual preferences. Incidentally, that goes against the conventional understanding of utility in decision theory - where it's people's actions which show their 'true' preferences.
    The comparison of preferences is done based on speculation drawn from observation, behaviourism and other relevant scientific theory,
    Which versions of those theories? Given that each of those has changed dramatically over the last 100 years, what makes you think that we now have knowledge that won't be similarly overturned? Or are your ethics simply conditioned in the present?
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    (Original post by grumballcake)
    “Sorry, that's just weasel talk. You can't have "X is taller and Y and Y is taller than Z, but X is only taller than Z iff he's taller than Z" and still claim transitivity. It's just dodging the issue. If you want to retain intellectual integrity, you'll have to abandon any claims to coherency.”
    As I’ve stated each time you’ve asked, relative preferences are transitively related.

    As the last unquoted passage makes abundantly clear, the X-Y-Z relation would only fail to hold were it being applied outside of a single scenario, i.e. claiming a transitive relation between objects/scenarios of preference not preference themselves.

    While I’ve repeated my argument three or four times time, you haven’t yet demonstrated the significance of your asking about transitivity, are you suggesting that preferences aren’t transitive, or that another significant point related to this needs to be made.

    “So you're saying that it's no actual use whatever. Each situation and the criteria to judge it will apply solely to that situation and will vary from case to case. That's not a system - it's anarchy. Nothing is closed - no real world situation can ever be exactly like another.”
    That is clearly not what I’m saying. The quoted paragraph simply states that preferences must be compared relative to each other, not actions. The significance of the ‘specific situation’ is that only in such a situation can actions-consequences be compared themselves, because a specific action results in specific consequences and thus vicariously, specific preferences. As ever, the sole ethically relevant aspect is preference.

    The criteria to judge each situation don’t change, because the judgement is always solely based on the fundamental utilitarian principle. That cases ‘vary from case to case’ is quite true, but only relevant if preferences also change from case to case. Similarly ‘no real world situation can ever be exactly like another,’ but what of it- situations need not be identical to each other for one to judge likely consequences of action and the likely view other people will take of these consequences. The fact that different scenarios are different to each other, in that different causes lead to different consequences does not suggest anarchy; in any case the utilitarian principle is a constant and absolute.

    ”I mean, it's OK, if you're having an external referent, like God's will, since that gives a baseline (within the constraints already discussed), but your 'system' is incoherent. No-one can use it, except in the vaguest of terms. No-one can ever condemn a war criminal by it, since the ethics are malleable and non-transferable. AAll you're arguing for is expediency, not morality.”
    In what sense would ‘God’s will’ change the situation you’ve outlined above? Unless you are asserting that the ‘God’s will’ constitutes an external reference that can be known directly and absolutely, without supposition, both as an absolute law in itself, and applied to contingent scenarios, then it is in no manner distinct from the project of speculating as to the consequences one’s actions will have on other people.

    “At what point did the scientific community appoint you as their representative? What papers have you published (ore even read) on the subject? There's a lot of evidence that 'lower' creatures prefer not to die. Whether it extends to bacteria is a matter for conjecture, however it's no less a conjecture to make such an absolute pronouncement.”
    If we were discussing ‘lower creatures’ then your point would be pertinent, but obviously we’re not. It is a common scientific view that there is a strong correlation between an organism possessing a brain and their capacity to think. Bacteria, being simple organisms which lack a brain, cannot hold preferences.
    “Maybe. Perhaps you can give me some evidence as to why personhood is defined by your narrow terms, or why only fully-paid-up persons are entitled to preferences. I've kept pigs, so I may know a little more about them that you might expect. I also keep chickens, who are a lot dumber, but most definitely express their preferences.”
    I don’t need to offer “evidence” for using the term “person,” because we’re discussing the capacity to hold preferences, (which I term ‘personhood’) not arguing about what "personhood is", I could call it anything at all, perfectly validly.

    We’re not discussing “entitlement” to preferences, rather, by definition, only persons can hold preferences. For an organism to prefer certain consequences to others, they must be aware of themselves as existing and be able to prefer certain consequences.

    I’m quite aware that chickens etc. seem to express preferences, it is certainly Singer’s view that such creatures can suffer, hence exhibiting the capacity to attack themselves in ‘frustration.’ Obviously whether this appraisal is correct is a solely scientific debate, not an ethical one.

    “Do all people have equal rights to preferences (including the mentally handicapped, aged, unborn) etc. Or is that also for scientists to decide?”
    “Rights to preferences” is an incoherent concept, clearly the only question is whether or any given organism actually does hold preferences, and to what extent. If we accept as an position, that our being conscious persons depends on certain factors- being alive, other physiological factors- the sole question is identifying to what extent other beings accord with these factors. Thus any appraisal of the capacity of others to hold preferences is a solely scientific question; the only ethical question is how we ought to take, taking into account the fact that others hold preferences.
    “I understand your attempt to cover over this weakness, but you're just expressing the calculus you previously wanted to avoid.”
    Not at all. How is the quoted statement (or any others I’ve made) at all distinct from my any other position I’ve asserted?

    ”If X people want a single person Y to die for their own amusement, what values are valid for X and Y?”
    What do you mean, ‘what values are valid?’ The only significant value is net. preference.

    “No, that's a simple logical error. You can have a desire to kill me and none to kill yourself without any contradiction. A desire to kill Other is not identical with a desire to kill yourself (because you aren't Other to yourself).

    However, you've said that it's "inavariably" the case, so you're making that a rule in the calculus. If we take X as the number of people and Px as their preference for Y to die and Py as Y's preference not to die then:

    For all finite values of X: Py > X Px

    For that to be the case, Py must be infinite (or Px must be infinitesimal). A preference of such strength would have to be a moral rule, all of its own, since it cannot be derived from any utility calculation.”
    That isn’t a logical error, you’ve merely failed to understand the assertion. The point is not that for X to kill Y, X must desire to kill X. Rather the point is that for X’s preference outweigh Y’s, more net preference must be fulfilled by killing Y than not. Assuming that X and Y have the same preference for their continued lives- in the absence of a declaration that there is a distinction, it would have to be demonstrated that X loses more from not killing Y than Y does from the loss of his life. Were the suffering of X from not being able to kill Y greater than the suffering caused from being killed, the optimum situation wouldn’t be X killing Y, but X killing X.

    By invariable, I’m not suggesting that, that people suffer more from being murdered than people suffer from having their desire to murder frustrated, is a logical necessity. In the same way, we invariably read each other’s posts left to right, nevertheless it is a theoretical possibility that one day one of us could read each post backwards. Thus, as stated very often previously, all that is significant is maximising preference, any other ‘rule’ such as ‘murder is bad’ or ‘kids are more valuable than very old people’, are rules only insofar as their application brings better consequences than not, they do not form a ‘calculus’ in themselves.

    “The problem is that you haven't come close to a coherent definition of what this 'utility' is. Itr's a mutable word in your formulation.”
    I’ve stated that utility net fulfillment of preferences. If this formulation is incoherent or mutable then demonstrate what distinctions there are to be made.
    “No, they subtly imported a load of baggage (like higher and lower pleasures) while trying to maintain that it was all about utility.”
    Then what is the distinction between their “baggage” and the original formulation?
    ”Ultimately, all ethical systems attempt to maximise something. It might be "individual freedom" or "conformity with God's will". I guess you could call that 'utility', since that's a valid usage in an economic model. However, that doesn't mean that utility is nor a magical potion - it's just a word game. I obtain utility by describing how utilitarianism is a hollow doctrine, for example. ”
    That doesn’t make any difference, given that whatever definition of utility you’re using is distinct from the definition of utility as net fulfillment of preferences. In what sense is this a “word game” or hollow, or otherwise wrong? You presumably accept that persons do hold preferences, therefore it is entirely coherent to state that ethically their fulfillment is preferable to their non-fulfillment, even if you disagree with the statement.

    “My challenge to you has been to understand that "preferences" are not useful in this context without a lot of other qualifiers. It's those qualifiers which mark it out as an ethical system.”
    Surely the challenge is for you to demonstrate this, not for you to challenge me to accept that your conclusions are right? If you were to simply state that preferences don’t exist, any state of affairs is as preferable as another to people, then it might be pertinent for me to try to prove you wrong. However you clearly do not believe that anything that might happen is as desirable as anything else to people, therefore you can’t simply state that preferences aren’t useful or cannot constitute an ethical system, a priori.
    “Of course it's impossible, otherwise you'd have set out such a thing a long time ago. Indeed you admit that people often don't even know their own 'real' preferences, such as children bunking off school. So your system of prefernece is nothing of the sort - you believe that you know what's best for them, irrespective of their actual preferences…”
    I have set already stated that one ought to “act in order to best fulfil preferences.” By demanding that I “set out” the system, I assume that you are therefore calling for a set of rules or a “calculus.” Obviously I have already addressed the fact that by definition no such “system” can ever add anything to the utilitarian principle, so I ask again how you propose such a system could be delineated without being either identical to or different to the utilitarian principle.

    It clearly isn’t impossible to act in order to best fulfil preferences, because one can reasonably speculate as to what people prefer. You’ve already stated that “I believe that happiness should be maximised… I believe that suffering should be minimised,” so given this assertion how can you maintain that it is impossible to act on this basis?

    That persons can incorrectly speculate as to what they or others will prefer is irrelevant, providing it is possible that persons can endeavour to speculate as to preferences as correctly as possible. Children might indeed incorrectly think that they’d enjoy bunking off school and spending the rest of their lives, not working, not eating, living in a tent in the garden; nevertheless you surely accept that this supposition is incorrect based on clearly identifiable reasons?

    What can you conceivably mean by stating that “your system of prefernece is nothing of the sort -you believe that you know what's best for them, irrespective of their actual preferences?” To what do you object- to the assertion that one can speculate as to what persons prefer, or to the distinction between a person’s avowed preference at a given time, and that which will actually best serve their preferences?

    “…Incidentally, that goes against the conventional understanding of utility in decision theory - where it's people's actions which show their 'true' preferences.”
    The manner in which a person acts only indicates that which they prefer at that moment, based on their current knowledge. If a person states that they’re superman and tries to fly off a roof, it clearly indicates their current preference. What would best fulfil their preference in actuality, would depend on different factors entirely- whether their doing so will actually lead to them flying or whether it will lead to them plummeting to the ground, and whether they would prefer falling to the ground to being restrained and escorted from the roof.

    “Which versions of those theories? Given that each of those has changed dramatically over the last 100 years, what makes you think that we now have knowledge that won't be similarly overturned? Or are your ethics simply conditioned in the present?”
    All of our suppositions about cause and consequence are clearly speculative, in judging what persons prefer clearly one cannot do any better than the best possible. It is assumed, based on observation of behaviour, that a person howling in pain when they touch a hot object, suffers from the heat; obviously future analysis might suggest that actually many people howl ‘in agony’ as a response to heat to demonstrate to nearby members of their social group that they have discovered a pleasant object that may provide utility for the group. In the absence of a perfect system for direct acquisition of another person’s experience, clearly this speculation is the best process to judging another person’s preferences.

    The ethic ‘it is better that a persons preferences is satisfied than not, a priori; therefore one ought to act so as to best fulfil preferences’ is not contingent. Nevertheless our judgement of whether a certain action will bring certain consequences, and whether these consequences will impact harmfully or beneficially on persons, is clearly based solely upon our best current knowledge.
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    Jeese the Academic Phil forum is mental right now. I've never seen so many people confused about so many issues, and talking past each other about completely different things.
    And who was the total idiot who decided the private language argument was appropriate for A-level responses to Descarte... :rolleyes:
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    (Original post by Calvin)
    Jeese the Academic Phil forum is mental right now. I've never seen so many people confused about so many issues, and talking past each other about completely different things.
    And who was the total idiot who decided the private language argument was appropriate for A-level responses to Descarte... :rolleyes:
    Why not? Its an argument against scepticism, Cartesian doubt is a basis for scepticism (sure, Descartes thought he had a way out, but its hardly one many people would accept now).

    EDIT - Grumballcake + TCovenant, on your 'X and Y' argument, I don't think many moral systems claim you have moral obligations to yourself. Certainly Mill didn't think so. Suicide only has moral status insofar as it affects others (oh, and in Christian ethics it can be construed as a sin against God because your life belongs to him etc, but he's still an other). So X has no moral obligation to choose death if he would suffer less than otherwise.
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    So X has no moral obligation to choose death if he would suffer less than otherwise.
    My assertion was based on the assumption of the utilitarian principle however, obviously it is impossible to demonstrate the moral necessity of non-egoistic behaviour at all. The point was that, judging which course of action would result in less suffering, it would be possible for the persons who are possessed by an all-consuming need to murder others, to simply kill themselves, thus relieving themselves of the immense suffering they experience when not murdering others. It is of course immediately apparant that this whole scenario is fantastical nonsense, but this is hardly surprising since hypothesising about a world where the suffering caused by not-murdering outweighs that caused by murder clearly inverts the normal moral status of behaviour.
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    (Original post by wanderer)
    Why not? Its an argument against scepticism, Cartesian doubt is a basis for scepticism (sure, Descartes thought he had a way out, but its hardly one many people would accept now).
    Because when it comes to reading around the subject, and discussing it with each other you're stuck bang in the middle of Later-Wittgenstein thinking which links in heavily with Rule Following, Kripke, Frege, Grice etc. It's never a case of just teaching one topic, you have to be able to go away and revise it. And that usually means extra reading. Point me in the direction of an A-level book on Wittgenstein.
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    (Original post by Calvin)
    Because when it comes to reading around the subject, and discussing it with each other you're stuck bang in the middle of Later-Wittgenstein thinking which links in heavily with Rule Following, Kripke, Frege, Grice etc. It's never a case of just teaching one topic, you have to be able to go away and revise it. And that usually means extra reading. Point me in the direction of an A-level book on Wittgenstein.
    But thats completely unnecessary to actually get an A at A level. God forbid that you'd actually have to understand what you're talking about to do well! I think I probably nailed the philosophy of religion paper this morning despite turning my revision time entirely over to maths and ignoring my essay subjects.

    Anyway, I do A level and I have an interest in Wittgenstein. Although what I know of him probably comes more from bits and bobs read in various summaries and things than any specific book. Well, actually, most of it probably comes from you.
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    I had a philosophy religion exam today too, there was a question on faith and religion, religious language and miracles in terms of whether they exist- hadn't really revised miracles so had to do first 2- one of the subparts of a question was about language games and Wittgenstein which I think I did okay- whole exam went okay I think so I'm happy
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    (Original post by jmj)
    I had a philosophy religion exam today too, there was a question on faith and religion, religious language and miracles in terms of whether they exist- hadn't really revised miracles so had to do first 2- one of the subparts of a question was about language games and Wittgenstein which I think I did okay- whole exam went okay I think so I'm happy
    Good good! Obviously on a different board from me - I'm on OCR, did "Disembodied existence is an incoherent concept. Discuss." and "The falsification principle fails to provide a valid challenge to religious belief. Discuss."

    First one was a very nice question, I got to plug idealism in an A level exam!
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    Yeah, I'm with WJEC (but it's confusing because last year, the entire syllabus changed so now WJEC does Hinduism and coursework AS whereas I did New TEstament so the A2 course will have also completely changed, I posted a thread recently asking if anyone did WJEC and they started talking about Hinduism, I think my school might've changed the topics for the syllabus a year late or something ) but yeah, I think I did okay.
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    im with the OCR board, doing AS at the moment, had my exam on 8th june.guess it went ok



    its a shame really, because we dont have coursework to do
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    (Original post by TCovenant)
    you haven’t yet demonstrated the significance of your asking about transitivity, are you suggesting that preferences aren’t transitive, or that another significant point related to this needs to be made.
    There are a couple of things. Firstly, there's a lot of experimental evidence that preferences are not transitive in the real world. Partly that's because of probability. It's easy to make decisions under certainty, but decisions under risk are more problematic. Nobody wants to get AIDS and it's relatively easy for most people to avoid catching it (blood transfusions & needle-sticks aside). However a large number of people still contract the disease every year. Likewise, it's easy to avoid car accidents by not driving beyond your abilities, but again many people fail to express their preferences in this matter.

    So a system which relies on maximally fulfilling preferences must first establish that it can identify those preferences. Since we can't necessarily derive them from induction of observed behaviour because of the problems cited above, it leaves your system in a mess. You end up having to invent 'higher' principles of your own to justify the system. So you might argue that people 'really' want to avoid AIDS, even if the empirical evidence is that they indulge in behaviour contrary to that.

    If your system is to be more than a platitude ("do your best") then it must have a concrete basis for making decisions. So far, you've retreated to the platitude on every occasion when you've been challenged to provide some sort of useful system that might guide actions. Let's be clear, no despot in history has seen themselves as a bad guy. They all justify what they do as being in the best interests of everyone. So, for Hitler, it was in the best interests of Germany that it should conquer the world, since German culture was clearly superior to the alternatives. He doubtless felt that everybody would want to be German, if only they knew enough about German culture. He also felt that the Jews were dragging down Germany and that it would be in everyone's best interests (i.e maximise net utility) if they were eradicated. He may have been insane, but there's actually a logic within those arguments which is hard to refute from a utilitarian approach. If you genuinely believed that Jews were evil, then all sorts of things becaome justified. They were declared non-people, so their views did not count equally with non-Jews. That's a point which you've argued for on a per-species basis, so why not on a per-race basis? After all, there's a difference in DNA between Jews and Gentiles, isn't there?

    Do I therefore support the Holocaust? No, it was a terrible atrocity and an awful warning about what happens when a people's morals are defined solely by their current preferences.

    That is clearly not what I’m saying. The quoted paragraph simply states that preferences must be compared relative to each other, not actions.
    How? You simply haven't got the faintest idea how we'll establish these preferences in order to make decisions which maximise their fulfillment. It's only actions which we can observe - speech and writing are both actions.
    The significance of the ‘specific situation’ is that only in such a situation can actions-consequences be compared themselves, because a specific action results in specific consequences and thus vicariously, specific preferences.
    OK, you agree with me - you can only get at preferences through actions, but that's a bit too late, isn't it? If actions in one scenario do not give a reliable guide as to actions in another, then the underlying preferences become veiled in mystery.
    In what sense would ‘God’s will’ change the situation you’ve outlined above? Unless you are asserting that the ‘God’s will’ constitutes an external reference that can be known directly and absolutely, without supposition, both as an absolute law in itself, and applied to contingent scenarios, then it is in no manner distinct from the project of speculating as to the consequences one’s actions will have on other people.
    A revelatory faith (like Islam) does believe exactly that. I've already raised the fact that there are problems with that approach, which I admitted in my posting, didn't I? If only you could step back and view your pet dogma in the same impartial light.

    A belief in a deity who both sets the standard for morality and informs us as to its application is a reasonable foundation. Christianity goes on to explain why our pereception of this morality is less than perfect and why there are problems in our grasp of it. You may not accept those reasons, but they are at least coherent. The moral code also allows for decision making. Coupled with abiding divine guidance it deals with a very wide range of scenarios with confidence.
    If we were discussing ‘lower creatures’ then your point would be pertinent, but obviously we’re not. It is a common scientific view that there is a strong correlation between an organism possessing a brain and their capacity to think. Bacteria, being simple organisms which lack a brain, cannot hold preferences.
    What has 'thinking' got to do with preferences? Woodlice prefer to be in damp, dark places, they don't have to think about it. Why do you prefer not to be in pain? I'm betting there's little conscious thought when you pull your hand off a hot stove. Anyway, why should thought be privileged over action? You've already admitted that you determine preferences by observed actions.
    We’re not discussing “entitlement” to preferences, rather, by definition, only persons can hold preferences. For an organism to prefer certain consequences to others, they must be aware of themselves as existing and be able to prefer certain consequences.
    OK, so you now have a moral code which allows torture of chimpanzees (or mice, if you prefer), the metally handicapped and children under the age of one. Well done. All you need is to tweak it a little to define a particular ethnic grouping into that class and you're well on your way to the natural consequences of utilitarianism.
    Thus any appraisal of the capacity of others to hold preferences is a solely scientific question; the only ethical question is how we ought to take, taking into account the fact that others hold preferences.
    Why is science privileged in this respect? They've been wrong about pretty much everything for most of the last ten thousand years. Just as an aside, you're digging a hole for yourself here. Nazi scientists did advance evidence for why Jews, homosexuals etc. were not true people.
    What do you mean, ‘what values are valid?’ The only significant value is net. preference.
    Yeah, yeah. That's what you always say. the only problem is that you've failed to establish what preference is, who holds valid preferences and how we calculate the net value. Apart from those minor flaws, it's impregnable.
    That isn’t a logical error, you’ve merely failed to understand the assertion. The point is not that for X to kill Y, X must desire to kill X. Rather the point is that for X’s preference outweigh Y’s, more net preference must be fulfilled by killing Y than not. Assuming that X and Y have the same preference for their continued lives- in the absence of a declaration that there is a distinction, it would have to be demonstrated that X loses more from not killing Y than Y does from the loss of his life. Were the suffering of X from not being able to kill Y greater than the suffering caused from being killed, the optimum situation wouldn’t be X killing Y, but X killing X.
    Try writing that out as a mathematical equation - you are the spokeman for scientists, after all . Put some units in it as you go. Note that the units for "killing myself" and "killing someone else" are not the same (unless you can propose a common denominator).
    Then what is the distinction between their “baggage” and the original formulation?
    The problem is that its axioms don't work without appeal to other axiomatic systems. So you end up adding 'higher' goals and qualifiers which get smuggled in under the hood of 'utility' or 'preferences'. For example, you've appealed to an axiom of personhood as giving legitimacy to preferences.
    In what sense is this a “word game”
    This is a classic word game where you mutate 'preferences' into whatever point you want to make at the time. So, if I show that peoples preferences are not capable of being ascertained, you'll mutate it to talk about their 'real' preferences, or require that preferences can only be held by people (moreover, only people who have certain minimum criteria for acceptance). You seem completely unaware that it's what you're doing.

    So, for the avoidance of doubt - I do not believe that you can establish preferences well enough for them to form any sort of useful ethical system. Even if you could, such preferences, would simply be a reflection of the social milieu in which they arose. they would be the zeitgeist without any power to bind any other culture or time. It's just moral relativism.
    The ethic ‘it is better that a persons preferences is satisfied than not, a priori; therefore one ought to act so as to best fulfil preferences’ is not contingent. Nevertheless our judgement of whether a certain action will bring certain consequences, and whether these consequences will impact harmfully or beneficially on persons, is clearly based solely upon our best current knowledge.
    I agree. My children did not want to be vaccinated and they protested at their MMR jabs. Now there's a measles & mumps epidemic, they feel differently. That's because purely because I ignored their preferences. So sadly, your a priori statement falls flat on its face.
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    (Original post by rahmara)
    im with the OCR board, doing AS at the moment, had my exam on 8th june.guess it went ok



    its a shame really, because we dont have coursework to do
    Hey I did OCR! I really liked that course. There's quite a lot of coursework next year tho' I though?
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    (Original post by Calvin)
    Hey I did OCR! I really liked that course. There's quite a lot of coursework next year tho' I though?
    coooooool :cool:

    yh, its very interesting and enjoyable

    are you sure there's coursework?

    :confused:
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    (Original post by Calvin)
    Hey I did OCR! I really liked that course. There's quite a lot of coursework next year tho' I though?
    I think she's doing the same course as me - R.S (philosophy of religion/ethics) - not the philosophy course.

    One of the A2 modules can be done as coursework (we did) but doesn't have to be, its up to your school.
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    Ah ok that explains it.
    Yeah OCR was good. I like the fact we avoided every single potentially R.E. like discussion in favour of extra epistemology and discussion.

    Oh btw, may I take this opportunity to congratulate our invisible leader, the High Chair of the Phil Soc, on her damn impressive grade this year, and all those other Cambridge philosophers who frequent and did similarly admirably. In short: Nice!
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    (Original post by Calvin)
    Ah ok that explains it.
    Yeah OCR was good. I like the fact we avoided every single potentially R.E. like discussion in favour of extra epistemology and discussion.

    Oh btw, may I take this opportunity to congratulate our invisible leader, the High Chair of the Phil Soc, on her damn impressive grade this year, and all those other Cambridge philosophers who frequent and did similarly admirably. In short: Nice!
    You get results that quickly? Another reason to be at uni! Well done Ema, anyway. How did you do?
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    yh i think the uni resuklts come out tomorrow

    :confused:
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    (Original post by wanderer)
    You get results that quickly? Another reason to be at uni! Well done Ema, anyway. How did you do?
    My results have been delayed becuase of the darn strike.

    mid July now...
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    Yeek. And I thought having to wait till thursday was sucky...
 
 
 
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