53 | Solo -- On Morality and Rationality

53 | Solo -- On Morality and Rationality

Update: 2019-07-0123
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What does it mean to be a good person? To act ethically and morally in the world? In the old days we might appeal to the instructions we get from God, but a modern naturalist has to look elsewhere. Today I do a rare solo podcast, where I talk both about my personal views on morality, a variety of “constructivism” according to which human beings construct their ethical stances starting from basic impulses, logical reasoning, and communicating with others. In light of this view, I consider two real-world examples of contemporary moral controversies: Is it morally permissible to eat meat? Or is there an ethical imperative to be a vegetarian? Do inequities in society stem from discrimination, or from the natural order of things? As a jumping-off point I take the loose-knit group known as the Intellectual Dark Web, which includes Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris, Ben Shapiro, and others, and their nemeses the Social Justice Warriors (though the discussion is about broader issues, not just that group of folks). Probably everyone will agree with my takes on these issues once they listen to my eminently reasonable arguments. Actually this is a more conversational, exploratory episode, rather than a polished, tightly-argued case from start to finish. I don’t claim to have all the final answers. The hope is to get people thinking and conversing, not to settle things once and for all. These issues are, on the one hand, very tricky, and none of us should be too certain that we have everything figured out; on the other hand, they can get very personal, and consequently emotions run high. The issues are important enough that we have to talk about them, and we can at least aspire to do so in the most reasonable way possible.   Support Mindscape on Patreon or Paypal.
Comments (9)

Jarle Vikshåland

With regard to IDW It seems Sean is misrepresenting a bit. Read eg. Sam Harris own comment on being associated wtih IDW on https://www.google.no/amp/s/amp.reddit.com/r/samharris/comments/b2ovhq/interesting_sam_harris_comment_on_how_he_feels/

Jul 26th
Reply

Jeannette Spohn

Of the commenters I'm probably the only who listened to all two hours. While knitting a blanket for my vanity chair and doing the dishes bc I'm a WAMAN. Anyhoodle, I definitely think Sean is coming at this from the perspective of a white cishet male and being so he's done the absolute best job he could with understanding his own bias, sexism, and racism. You really can't ask for more than being open to appending your beliefs with the input of new information. The fact that he has a brilliant wife probably doesn't hurt. There's great points of discussion here. I enjoyed the whole podcast. I will say there's one thing I disagree with. I don't think ppl who are not welcomed on campuses (usually conservative speakers) should be allowed to speak. Freedom of speech in the United States means the government can't harm you, jail you or otherwise relatilate against you for criticizing it. Freedom of speech does not guarantee you a platform. Allowing speakers to speak is tacit approval by the college/uni. This could create a dangerous environment for some people. Emboldening racists/sexists isn't a great idea. In the same way conservative colleges wouldn't be expected to host a gay speaker talking about how homosexuality isnt a sin. (I mean... Its not, I'm atheist and queer). People don't deserve platforms for their ideas.

Jul 5th
Reply

Raúl Beristáin

Jeannette Spohn I don't know what side I fall on this, but my interpretation of free speech is that it guarantees one the *possibility* of a platform, but it doesn't offer one any protection against the consequences of our words, and also doesn't guarantee an audience. I kind of think that people should be allowed to say what they want to say, but they can't force us to listen to them, nor can they demand that we accommodate them or provide them with a space to speak. so on the specific case of universities, they just need to adhere to their charter. If it allows for free discussion of ideas, then people that want to listen to racists should be able to bring them in, and those who oppose should be free to avoid them or confront them with their own free speech. People that join those Universities should do their homework beforehand and realise that this kind of situation is a possibility, and make a choice whether to enroll or not in the first place. But like Sean, this is what I think off the cuff and I'm happy to learn and evolve my thinking

Jul 17th
Reply

Moe Town

Jeannette Spohn What about colleges and universities that use public funds, should those colleges ban speakers?

Jul 8th
Reply

Ru Kwa

kantian rule issue mentioned: what about lying if you hiding a refugee and a murderer wants to come and murder them -> does not seem like an issue to me since then according to the kantian rule the rule could be: lie for protection if a murderer wants to murder a refugee. of course if you make a general rule "dont lie" this would not work - but why make this general rule in the first place respectively why not "update" it if a case like this is discovered where it does not work without conditions?

Jul 4th
Reply

Ru Kwa

Ru Kwa I think actually neither main rules nor subsets of rules are required to work with the Kantian rule on a personal level. so neither a rule like "don't lie" nor "lie for protection from evil" (whatever evil is...) or similar rules are required - just base a decision how to act on the kantian rule thinking if it would be good for society if everyone would do what you do (on a situation to situation basis). so if someone thinks lying to save a refugee would be good if everyone does it it should be done by this person that way. I see the issues you are describing not with the kantian rule on a personal level, but with rules / laws which are supposed to be for more than one person / on societal level.

Jul 20th
Reply

Raúl Beristáin

Ru Kwa I think the issue with rules is that they always have exceptions, so either you end up with infinite number of sub rules for every case, or more likely, people simply break the rules

Jul 17th
Reply

Adtonitus Maiusculus

Oh a self righteous virtue-signaling scientist? How novel!

Jul 3rd
Reply

Ramon Rodriguez

he gives a fan made mission statement for the IDW( which wasn't great) that he disagrees with and in the next breath says that he may ruffle some feathers but we need to have these hard conversions which is the most basic version of the real IDW mission statement. Then he goes on to describe a case of sexism in science from someone who is not in the IDW and I've never heard them defend. They have spent time on the he gives a fan made mission statement for the IDW( which wasn't great) that he disagrees with and in the next breath says that he may ruffle some feathers but we need to have these hard conversions which is the most basic version of the real IDW mission statement. Then he goes on to describe a case of sexism in science from someone who is not in the IDW and I've never heard them defend. He also uses Jorden Peterson's views as if they represented the entirety of the group. Overall I think this wasn't a very good critique and will mislead people as to who people like Sam Harris and Eric Weinstein really are. Also its worth noting that the IDW wasnt really a thing and is fast fading. Which i think is for the best

Jul 2nd
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53 | Solo -- On Morality and Rationality

53 | Solo -- On Morality and Rationality