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I referenced him because I recall that he comes to a very strong conclusion- that a moral society should have agreed-upon laws based on the premise of the "original position". He was the first philosopher that came to mind when I was trying to think of examples of a hard statement that is neither a "proposition" to be explored, nor the conclusion from an observable fact.

Sometimes you want people to suffer. For example, if one fellow caused all the suffering of the rest, moving him to less suffering than everyone else would be a move to a worse universe.

...because doing so would create incentive to not cause suffering to others. In the long run, that would result in less universal suffering overall. Isn't this correct?

Thanks for taking the time to read and respond to the article, and for the critique; you are correct in that I am not well-versed in Greek philosophy. With that being said, allow me to try to expand my framework to explain what I'm trying to get at:

  • Scientists, unlike mathematicians, don't always frame their arguments in terms of pure logic (i.e. If A and B, then C). However, I believe that the work that comes from them can be treated as logical statements.

Example: "I think that heat is transferred between two objects via some sort of matter that I will call 'phlogiston'. If my hypothesis is true, than an object will lose mass as it cools down." 10 days later: "I have weighed an object when it was hot, and I weighed it when it was cold. The object did not lose any mass. Therefore, my hypothesis is wrong".

In logical terms: Let's call the Theory of Phlogiston "A", and let's call the act of measuring a loss of mass with a loss of heat "C".

  1. If A, then C.

  2. Physical evidence is obtained

  3. If Not C, then Not A.

Essentially, the scientific method involves the creation of a hypothesis "A", and a logical consequence of that hypothesis, "If A then C". Then physical evidence is presented in favor of, or against "C". If C is disproven, then A is disproven.

This is what I mean when I say that hypotheses are "axioms", and physical experiments are "conclusions".

  • In response to this statement:

Socrates, in the Platonic dialogues, is unwilling to take the law of non-contradiction as an axiom. There just aren't any axioms in Socratic philosophy, just discussions. No proofs, just conversations. Plato (and certainly not Socrates) doesn't have doctrines, and Plato is totally and intentionally merciless with people who try to find Platonic doctrines.

"No proofs, just conversations". In the framework that I'm working in, every single statement is either a premise or a conclusion. In addition, every single statement is either a "truth" (that we are to believe immediately), a "proposition" (that we are to entertain the logical implications of), or part of a "hypothesis/implication" pair (that we are suppose to believe with a level of skepticism until an experiment verifies it or disproves it). I believe that every single statement that has ever been made in any field of study falls into one of those 3 categories, and I'm saying that we need to discuss which category we need to place statements that are in the field of ethics.

In the field of philosophy, from my limited knowledge, I think that these discussions lead to conclusions that we need to believe as "truth", whether or not they are supported by evidence (i.e. John Rawl's "Original Position").

I just stumbled into this discussion after reading an article about why mathematicians and scientists dislike traditional, Socratic philosophy, and my mindset is fresh off that article.

It was a fantastic read, but the underlying theme that I feel is relevant to this discussion is this:

  • Socratic philosophy treats logical axioms as "self-evident truths" (i.e. I think, therefore I am).

  • Mathematics treats logical axioms as "propositions", and uses logic to see where those propositions lead (i.e. if you have a line and a point, the number/amount of lines that you can draw through the point that's parallel to the original line determines what type of geometry you are working with (multidimensional, spherical, or flat-plane geometry)).

  • Scientists treat logical axioms as "hypotheses", and logical "conclusions" as testable statements that can determine whether those axioms are true or not (i.e. if this weird system known as "quantum mechanics" were true, then we would see an interference pattern when shooting electrons through a screen with 2 slits).

So I guess the point that we should be making is this: which philosophical approach towards logic should we take to study ethics? I believe Wei_Lai would say that the first approach, treating ethical axioms as "self-evident truths" is problematic due to the fact that a lot of hypothetical situations (like my example before) can create a lot of contradictions between various ethical axioms (i.e. choosing between telling a lie and letting terrorists blow up the planet).

Every act of lying is morally prohibited / This act would be a lie // This act is morally prohibited.

So here I have a bit of moral reasoning, the conclusion of which follows from the premises.

The problem is that when the conclusion is "proven wrong" (i.e. "my gut tells me that it's better to lie to an Al Qaeda prison guard than to tell him the launch codes for America's nuclear weapons"), then the premises that you started with are wrong.

So if I'm understanding Wei_Lai's point, it's that the name of the game is to find a premise that cannot and will not be contradicted by other moral premises via a bizarre hypothetical situation.

I believe that Sam Harris has already mastered this thought experiment. Paraphrased from his debate with William Lane Craig:

"There exists a hypothetical universe in which there is the absolute most amount of suffering possible. Actions that move us away from that universe are considered good; actions that move us towards that universe are considered bad".