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 A moral obligation to be rational
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26016 Posts

Posted - 05/27/2014 :  14:23:39  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
At least when it counts. That's the gist of Greta Christina's article, Can We Rationally Accept Our Irrationality? She's basically making the case for evidentialism - that it's immoral to ignore or deny evidence when making choices - without using that word.

It's a position I've held for some years now, though I know it makes some others here uncomfortable. The idea that (for example) an old man is acting immorally when he opts to plan his meager charitable giving via horoscope seems somehow wrong itself. But not all immoral acts are equally bad. Sending $20 to a charity because Venus was in Sagittarius isn't at the same level of immorality as, say, a priest raping a child.

Besides, we all blast the same kind of ignorance displayed by that old guy when the harm it causes is more readily demonstrable. Like, perhaps, a U.S. President using horoscopes to make policy decisions. The difference is in degree, not kind.

Actually, it's more than that. I'm sure we can all agree that any reasonable adult should know that horoscopes are baloney, but we're willing to say something like, "well, maybe the guy has never been exposed to the idea that horoscopes don't work. Maybe his community has been insular and supportive of the nonsense. Is he really to blame for his ignorance?" While at the same time, we'd expect that a sitting President would have dozens of highly intelligent, world traveling advisers telling him that horoscopes are crap, so we think that he cannot possibly be ignorant of it, and thus chooses to willfully deny reality.

Eh. Immoral acts can be accidental, so I'm back at the difference-of-degree position again.

I actually think what's more important that labeling an act 'moral' or 'immoral' is how the actor responds when it's pointed out that their action was immoral. Much can be forgiven if the result is apology and course-correction proportionate to the degree of potential harm caused. If, on the other hand, the response is an angry backlash and denials, it's not hard for me to go from "that was a bad thing you did" to "you're a bad person."

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.

LizW
Skeptic Friend

USA
113 Posts

Posted - 05/29/2014 :  11:24:34   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send LizW a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I am not sure where this topic has been so I am sort of afraid to touch it but...

Morality and immorality are not rational. Morality is subjective. It is strictly a mental construct. Trying to define morality for others is one of the biggest problems with most religions.

My own subjective view of what is moral or immoral is dependent on whether it causes harm to others and on the intent of the person initiating the action.

The example you gave of an old man using a horoscope to determine where his charitable deduction would be used doesn't seem to be a question of morality to me, unless his choices intentionally include organizations that cause harm to others. Even given that, his choices would probably have been based on his own definition of what is moral. The use of the horoscope doesn't really come into it.

There can be irrational acts and decisions that are initiated with positive intent and produce positive outcomes, just as there are rational decisions that can create negative outcomes (now if we play the percentages, I am going to put money on rationality every time.)

As to the last point...as you well know, I have more respect for someone who truly believes something and is willing to make an argument for that belief, than for someone who will just roll over because they are not willing to defend a unpopular position. It doesn't mean I agree with them or believe they are correct. If someone is truly swayed by the evidence and arguments presented to them and they apologize, that is one thing. If they just say "I'm sorry" without an actual change of their beliefs, that is just hypocritical.


You learn something new every g****mn day!
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