Saturday, July 31, 2010

Moral Structure. Part 1 by Drafterman of AvC

This is very long but in my opinion an excellent read, so I'll be publishing it in several parts.


Definition of Morality
For the purposes of this paper, morality will be defined as a normative “code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.”[1] This definition establishes a goal of a pragmatic universal ethic. It is pragmatic in that this code can be used, in practice, as a guideline for determining what should and should not due. It is universal in that it applies to all people.

In attainment of the above goal, this paper will deal with meta-ethics. Associations between specific simple actions (killing, stealing, lying, etc) and their moral values are beyond the scope of this paper. This paper will discuss the morality of how people go about realizing their moral goals. The existence of a moral dictionary, where specific actions are assigned moral values, will be assumed. The actions discussed will reference the assumed moral value of their components, without reference to specific acts. The purpose in doing so is to provide a way of answering such questions as: “Do the ends justify the means?” and “Are intentions all that matter?” Given the intention, the means, and the consequences of an action, this paper will present a method for judging their overall morality.

Moral Values
The moral values used in this paper will be: Moral, nonmoral, and immoral. In the context of universal pragmatism, these values are defined as such:

Moral – Actions people are encouraged to take and praised or rewarded for taking.

Immoral – Actions people are dissuaded from taking and punished or scolded for taking.

Nonmoral – Actions that are neither encouraged nor dissuaded and neither rewarded or punished.

Composition of an Action
It is necessary to define what constitutes an action in the context paper. Actions will consist of the following components: Intention, Forethought, Outcome/Consequences and Outside Influences. For each action a Judgment will be rendered as to its overall morality.

Intention, will, or desire, is the cause of all morally relevant actions. For all such actions that people engage in, there is an intended goal. The morality of the intention is the perceived morality of the goal. If the actor has failed to consider the morality of their action, or is unable to determine the moral value of their intended goal, then their intentions are considered nonmoral, though the outcome and subsequent judgment may be different.

Forethought involves reasoning that goes into the decision to engage upon an action beyond the trivial desire to do it. This includes validating, through rational means, the judgment of the morality of the goal; the consideration of what actions are required to bring about that goal, what other consequences those actions may have, as well as the direct consequences of achieving this goal; and what factors beyond our ability to directly control could affect the goal and how those factors can be mitigated.

The outcome, or consequences, of the act pertains to the overall, net morality of the action with regards to its consequences, direct or indirect; intended or unintended.

Influence of Misjudgment, Neglect, and Chance
Of the factors ideally considered in adequate forethought, which affected the outcome of the action? Did the actor misjudge the morality of his goal? Did the actor neglect to consider certain side-effects? Did chance or other factors outside the actor’s control interfere?

Judgment of Actions
Finally, the purpose is to take, as input, all of the above components of an action and to judge the action as a whole as moral, nonmoral, or immoral. In the following sections a method will be devised to this.

Based on the above components, we can construct all possible actions. Intentions have three possibilities: moral, nonmoral, or  immoral; Forethought can be performed or not; The outcome can be moral, nonmoral, or immoral; and misjudgment, neglect, and chance can each have an impact or not. This results in 144 possible combinations of actions, though not all are logically coherent.[2]

In regarding forethought and the consideration of consequences we are limited by practical measures such as time and knowledge. For the purposes of this paper we will define forethought taken to be of a reasonable degree, such that if misjudgment and neglect are a factor, they should instead be considered elements of chance, outside the control of the actor. Consequences are a similar manner. Consequences don’t exist in a vacuum; for any given action the number of consequences can be considered infinite, depending on the degrees of indirectness that are factored. Again, we will use an undefined standard of reason and assume that the outcome has been defined as moral, nonmoral, or immoral in accordance with this standard.

To Be Continued With ...

References, Part 4.