What a great season we have had. We’ve discussed personhood, morality, moral theories, Nietzsche’s critique of morality, free will, a conversation about objective vs subjective morality, ethics in politics, etc.
Personhood was the characteristics that make us a person, and what that applied to.
Aspects of Personhood
- Life – intrinsic value
- Physical Feeling, from basic reactionary feeling to a variety of physical stations
- Emotional Feeling
- Reasoning Skills (rational, logical, conceptual etc)
There are different theories of personhood, some more binary than others which I think we should visit in the future.
What is morality?
Behaviours of Good and Bad, Right and wrong behaviour.
A moral is a judgment on a behaviour as moral (good), immoral (bad), amoral (neither)
What is morality’s purpose?
Speaking Normatively, Morality’s purpose is human flourishing which is does through building a collaborative, stable and cohesive society which in turn will bring the society together and enable survival.
There may be others that say it is something else, but they are speaking descriptively. They could say that morality is eating cheese sandwiches, and anyone not eating cheese sandwiches is therefore immoral. Descriptively they would be correct, normatively they would not.
When we speak about Normative vs Descriptive
Normative is the way things ought to be, the way any logical or rational person would describe them given the same information, it is what IS right regardless of what people BELIEVE. Consider how theory or evolution ought to be described in the realm of science, there are normative uses for these terms that might not reflect how it is used in the real world with colloquial definitions and the like. This brings us on to Descriptive.
Descriptive is speaking of the way things might work in practice. Consider again how someone might say theory only means idea, or evolution is a change in kind.
One of the common issues we find is many of our fellow atheists will insist theist use the normative definitions for things like theory, evolution etc, and then when it suites them, will switch to descriptive definitions of atheism, morality, subjective etc
An oversimplification of the moral theories we have walked through in our episodes
Hedonism is mostly about seeking pleasure
Utilitarianism is about Maximising Pleasure & Wellbeing (maximising utility)
- Act Utilitarianism is judging the acts that get us there
- Preference satisfaction utilitarianism is more “first order” preferences being maximised
- Rule utilitarianism is a set of rules designed to maximise utility, but it is deontological so following the rules is what is important rather than the consequences
Welfarism is about wellbeing, but it isn’t about maximising it, it is more “first order” wellbeing
Kantianism is looking at a situation and saying, “if everybody did this would it be good/bad” and making a rule.. e.g. if everyone killed everyone else, if everyone raped everyone else, if everyone was kind to everyone else etc.
Divine Command Theory is following God’s laws, usually spoke about in terms of the Bible or Quran.
Virtue Ethics is acting in accordance with virtues and how we can make ourselves the best selves we can be.. a super version of us.
Moral Relativism is the society gets to decide what is moral, and therefore it is moral for that society regardless of what any other society or individual might think
Moral Subjectivism is the individual gets to decide what is moral for them, and therefore it is moral for them to do regardless of what any other individual or society might thing. E.g. if someone thought it was moral to rape, murder, steal, etc it would be moral for them to do so.
Nietzsche’s Critique can’t really be summarised much but he definitely got you thinking about the power struggle and reasons certain morals came to be and in fact if society needs to have different types of morality applied to different folks, e.g. an artist in pain vs someone doing a 9-5 might actually both benefit from different types of morality. Consider you wouldn’t want a surgeon drunk doing your surgery at 11am, but for an artist it might be part of their inspiration of great works.
Honestly, it is an episode that I think everyone should check out if they haven’t already.
- Hedonism – Fresh AiR – S02:E02:C03
- Act Utilitarianism – Fresh AiR – S02:E02:C04
- Preference Satisfaction Utilitarianism – Fresh AiR – S02:E02:C05
- Welfarism – Fresh AiR – S02:E02:C06
- Kantianism – Fresh AiR – S02:E02:C07
- Rule Utilitarianism – Fresh AiR – S02:E02:C08
- Divine Command Theory – Fresh AiR – S02:E02:C09
- Virtue Ethics – Fresh AiR – S02:E02:C10
- Moral Subjectivism and Relativism – Fresh AiR – S02:E02:C11
- Nietzsche’s Critique – Fresh AiR – S02:E02:C12
We discussed the different definitions of free will and its impact on morality if we have no real choice
In conclusion, if there is no free will then morality has no real meaning as there is no agency or intent and we are nothing more than an avalanche destroying a village. However, even if there is no free will, it is better that we act that there is and that morality has meaning.
Subjective vs Objective Morality, a Discussion
Dave and Kriss discussed morality at length (with Me[Joe] unable to prevent myself from butting in occasionally). There were some atypical definitions around ethics and morality, and we summarised that descriptively, morality has subjective, relative, and objective elements to it and is not wholly subjective as many would proclaim. Normatively, morality is objective, though Kriss does not feel that we can have a normative approach to morality due to the rationality debate.
- On Morality: Subjective vs Objective – A Discussion – Fresh AiR – S02:E04
- On Morality: Part 2 – Subjective Morality
- Objective / Subjective – Morals / Morality – Conflated and Misunderstood Terms – Volume 3
Martijn hosted a number of chapters around political ethics around legitimacy, obligation, justice, freedom, and ideologies.
I think we all learned a fair bit and we should definitely delve deeper in to some of those topics in future episodes.
- An Intro to Political Ethics – Fresh AiR – S02:E05:C01
- Obligation – Political Ethics – Fresh AiR – S02:E05:C02
- Legitimacy – Fresh AiR -S02:E05:C03
- Justice – Fresh AiR – S02:E05:C04
- Freedom – Fresh AiR – S02:E05:C05
- Legislation – Fresh AiR – S02:E05:C06
- Ideologies – Fresh AiR – S02:E05:C07
We’ve actually had a lot of feedback on this season, a lot of love and shares.
One bit of feedback we had was that we should cover virtue ethics in more detail at some point, with both aristotalean and contemporary views.
Another was that we were a bit harsh on deontology, which I explained we were discussing the problems with both consequentialist and deontological moral theories.
We’ve had some odd responses from folks who seem to have not listened to the podcasts before responding to, and the standard array of ‘morality is subjective’ from folks who haven’t taken the time to actually learn the topic.
Summary of the Season
I’ve enjoyed having a focus this season, but felt that an entire season on one topic is a bit much, moving forward I would personally like to diversify again. We could even create playlists on places like Spotify, or an Index of topics the podcasts relate to, so if someone was interested in just ethics and morality they could listen to all of those episodes from all seasons, as am sure we will be discussing this sort of thing again in the future.
The multiple chapters made it much easier for me to edit, so if we do want to cover a big topic on the future I would suggest we do it in 30-60 minute segments. How did you guys find them?
I personally would love to cover off; New Atheism, Value, Conspiracies theories and Theoriests, argumentation styles, scepticism, beliefs, knowledge, logic, certainty, Philosophy of Science, Issues with the scientific method, and a deeper look into virtue ethics.
Do you guys have any other topics you think would be great for the coming seasons?
Ideas: Power, dirty hands, philosophy of mind, self, free speech, gender, sexuality etc.
Fresh AiR Season 3
Fresh AiR takes a lot of work, both to plan and produce great episodes. When we haven’t had as much planning, the episdoes are not as structured and are open to wild tanjents. Whilst this can be fun, it also makes them even harder to produce.
From season 3 we will be releasing our polished episodes MONTHLY, however, if you would like access to the unedited podcasts then please join our Patreon page, tier 3 and up: https://www.patreon.com/AnswersinReason
Fresh AiR’s SciPhi Show
Dave and Joe have started a live streaming show! These are short snappy episodes usually on tuesdays and thursdays at 8pm GMT discussing science, philosophy and current events, as well as the enjoying a Mix of DnB/Glitch/House/Trance before the show (and sometimes during it at lower volumes).
We would really appreicate any follows, likes, subscribes etc at the following links: