Re: Responsibility - love, morals, values & government

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From: Ernest N. Prabhakar (
Date: Thu Sep 14 2000 - 09:38:26 PDT

NOW we're getting somewhere!

> Not at all. I'm arguing -
> legal institutions and govt's should not encode any particular preference for
> one system of values over another, excepting the minimal agreeable set that
> incents cooperative behavior and respects individual sovreignty.

Okay, so we're talking a theory of government here, not a moral system. If
I read that correct, you are making a value judgement that the *only* values
worth defending/promoting at the governtment-level are "cooperative behavior
and individual sovereignty."

Even assuming that, I would argue that promoting long-term socially
reinforced cohabitation linked to procreation and caregiving creates
citizens who are better able to engage in cooperative behavior (e.g., raise
children). Whether or not you agree with that argument - would that be
sufficient to warrant government preferences?

> I think the point of disagreement is just in whether or not "arguments about
> morals" are worthwhile as opposed to simple "statements of values," and
> whether and how much one person's choices in the matter should impact
another's. Finally, I think
> the only defensible "morally superior" position one can take is to simply not
> make moral or value judgements about others.
> The only thing that's intolerable is intolerance itself. (Think about that
statement; it's Godel-like. Actually rather more Chaitin-like.)

I can accept paradox (we have two Dr. in my house already :). However, the
question that's always fascinated me is whether anyone can live that
philosophy in an consistent manner. Is this the Buddhist ideal of
renunciation, where you simply ignore the entire world? What actions equate
to value judgements - killing? enslaving? marrying? paying? Ignoring? Or
just talking?

My suspicion has always been that those who preach tolerance have a specific
idiosyncratic set of actions they consider intolerable, with no ideological
cohesion behind it. That is, there's no coherent way to use it to determine
a priori the value of something under that system.

I think this ties to the idea of values vs. morals. I think of values as
the outworking of some sort of moral code - even purely secular ones.
Even "If it feels good, do it" is a moral code, in that sense.

If you're actually advocating "tolerate anything but intolerance" as a moral
code/value system, I'd be curious whether you actually try to live up to
that in practice. Or whether its just an excuse to yell at religious
fundamentalists who are yelling at you. ;-)

Ernest N. Prabhakar, Ph.D.

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