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#1 Old 10-04-2009, 04:36 PM
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Is a high degree of intelligence required for cruelty? I guess I can define cruelty in different ways. Lions often eat the cubs of prides that they join to manipulate their mothers into creating new offspring with them (is this their conscious intention or do they just eat these cubs for it's own sake?) but I don't think they take pleasure in causing death, even if they are indifferent to the interests of their victims. I remember reading that chimpanzees (obviously not my beloved bonobos), on the other hand, might experierience some pleasure when causing another to suffer. I know they're capable of premeditated murder, the males often bully wandering males who aren't members of their group, often beating him senselessly before killing him etc. Do they view their victims as a threat or do they just enjoy being mean?
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#2 Old 10-04-2009, 05:13 PM
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I think cruelty is mainly a moral quality that necessitates the understanding of moral norms.

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#3 Old 10-04-2009, 09:19 PM
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As much as I hate to admit this, several times that I happened to catch Oprah she would have a young guest that was incredibly intelligent, genius-level, prodigy types. One thing that I found that they all had in common was a desire to use their talents, knowledge, and skills to benefit mankind. It was as though their natural advantage led them to have more compassion to those less fortunate. I know I'm displaying full frontal nerdity in this post but I'm reminded of the quote from Spiderman, "With great power comes great responsibility."



So to answer your question more directly, no, I think just the opposite is true.
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#4 Old 10-04-2009, 09:24 PM
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So to answer your question more directly, no, I think just the opposite is true.

Whether we support or participate in cruelty depends on what kind of ideologies, and to what extent, we have adopted from our social environment. Intelligence is really no protection from that. I'm reminded of the fact that Stephen Hawking is an outspoken defender of vivisection, for example.



It might be the case that many highly intelligent people will want to do what they find morally ideal, but there are different values about what constitutes morally ideal. I'm sure there were some highly intelligent people in Nazi Germany.

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#5 Old 10-04-2009, 09:31 PM
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Whether we support or participate in cruelty depends on what kind of ideologies, and to what extent, we have adopted from our social environment. Intelligence is really no protection from that. I'm reminded of the fact that Stephen Hawking is an outspoken defender of vivisection, for example.



It might be the case that many highly intelligent people will want to do what they find morally ideal, but there are different values about what constitutes morally ideal. I'm sure there were some highly intelligent people in Nazi Germany.



I'll feel free to disagree with you to an extent. I think the higher our intelligence, the less likely we are to align with any particular ideology. I believe that a trademark of intelligence is being able consider and weigh the merits of an opposing idea without adopting it.
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#6 Old 10-04-2009, 09:38 PM
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I think the higher our intelligence, the less likely we are to align with any particular ideology.

On some specific questions, some ideology will eventually have to adopted, whether it's one of two extremes or a compromise between them. To be otherwise would be to have no moral/political views about a particular issue at all.



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I believe that a trademark of intelligence is being able consider and weigh the merits of an opposing idea without adopting it.

That might be partially correct but I also believe it's a matter of personality -- whether one is stubborn, non-prejudiced, narrow-minded, narcissistic etc.



People may also not apply their intelligence in the same way to moral and political ideas as they do to scientific theories, engineering, math problems or whatever.

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#7 Old 10-04-2009, 09:46 PM
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On some specific questions, some ideology will eventually have to adopted, whether it's one of two extremes or a compromise between them. To be otherwise would be to have no moral/political views about a particular issue at all.



I think you've actually stated what I wanted to say better than I did. To rephrase my prior post, I think that highly intelligent people are able to hold opposing viewpoints at the same time without being beholden to either one.



In essence that is the similar to saying that they have no moral/political views at all. Or at least they value looking at the world in a more holistic sense.
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#8 Old 10-04-2009, 09:53 PM
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To rephrase my prior post, I think that highly intelligent people are able to hold opposing viewpoints at the same time without being beholden to either one.

But I think that easily leads to contradictions/inconsistencies and I think one skill that highly intelligent people are likely to have is an awareness of inconsistencies.



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In essence that is the similar to saying that they have no moral/political views at all. Or at least they value looking at the world in a more holistic sense.

Could you give an example of what such a more holistic viewpoint would amount to in the case of, say, animal rights vs. speciesism?

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#9 Old 10-04-2009, 10:04 PM
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But I think that easily leads to contradictions/inconsistencies and I think one skill that highly intelligent people are likely to have is an awareness of inconsistencies.



Could you give an example of what such a more holistic viewpoint would amount to in the case of, say, animal rights vs. speciesism?



You are quite right to say that leads to contradictions and inconsistencies but I don't feel as though that's wrong. I'll use a coin as an analogy. There are two sides to it but neither side is better than the other. You can value each side equally as together it makes up a complete picture. In fact, neither side can exist without the other. I'm suggesting that highly intelligent people are more likely so see the duality of the world without making judgments that this is better than that.
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#10 Old 10-04-2009, 10:27 PM
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I'll use a coin as an analogy. There are two sides to it but neither side is better than the other. You can value each side equally as together it makes up a complete picture.

But if we apply that analogy to some real moral issue, what is the complete picture that is formed? If you combine the idea that animals are inherently value individuals with the idea that they are resources and outside the only inherently valuable species, man, what do you get? Or how do the views that the death penalty is never okay and the view that the state has the obligation to implement "eye for an eye" complete each other?

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#11 Old 10-04-2009, 10:37 PM
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But if we apply that analogy to some real moral issue, what is the complete picture that is formed? If you combine the idea that animals are inherently value individuals with the idea that they are resources and outside the only inherently valuable species, man, what do you get? Or how do the views that the death penalty is never okay and the view that the state has the obligation to implement "eye for an eye" complete each other?



Believe it or not Sevenseas I'm not arguing with you. Its the whole concept of yin and yang. Both are part of the whole. Neither viewpoint can exist in isolation.
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#12 Old 10-04-2009, 10:40 PM
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Yeah I think I get what you mean, but the reason I'm asking about it is because I think it's a sort of vague idea that doesn't really have an application to real life (or one's views about real issues).

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#13 Old 10-04-2009, 10:46 PM
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Yeah I think I get what you mean, but the reason I'm asking about it is because I think it's a sort of vague idea that doesn't really have an application to real life (or one's views about real issues).



Well that is the trick isn't it? Is life just deciding that this is right and that is wrong? Can both sides have value? Does one have to take a side? I'm not sure.
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#14 Old 10-04-2009, 10:50 PM
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With some issues, I think there may be no really valid way to choose between two positions. I tend to think this way e.g. about feeding meat to companion animals. But then there are some grave injustices where I don't think anyone should have the luxury of remaining neutral -- as they say, neutrality helps the oppressor not the victim.



Sometimes expressing neutrality or indecisiveness is already by itself a pretty decisive stance on the issue -- imagine how most people will react to someone who'd say "yeah, that Holocaust, I don't really know what to think about its justification, I kind of see both sides of that issue".

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#15 Old 10-04-2009, 10:57 PM
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With some issues, I think there may be no really valid way to choose between two positions. I tend to think this way e.g. about feeding meat to companion animals. But then there are some grave injustices where I don't think anyone should have the luxury of remaining neutral -- as they say, neutrality helps the oppressor not the victim.



Sometimes expressing neutrality or indecisiveness is already by itself a pretty decisive stance on the issue -- imagine how most people will react to someone who'd say "yeah, that Holocaust, I don't really know what to think about its justification, I kind of see both sides of that issue".



And that's where the moral compass you referenced earlier comes in. But morality is a societal value and and its heart, a judgment. A different time, a different place, the Holocaust could have been seen from an entirely different viewpoint.
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#16 Old 10-04-2009, 11:01 PM
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A different time, a different place, the Holocaust could have been seen from an entirely different viewpoint.

Yeah well that was precisely my point earlier: highly intelligent people might want what they consider best for humanity, or want to promote their moral ideals, but no matter a person's intelligence, he/she will be trapped in his/her social context, which context may approve of cruelty. It seems to me that Aristotle was a pretty damn intelligent guy, but he also supported some moral ideas that, if not cruelty by themselves, would quickly lead to it.

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#17 Old 10-04-2009, 11:11 PM
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Yeah well that was precisely my point earlier: highly intelligent people might want what they consider best for humanity, or want to promote their moral ideals, but no matter a person's intelligence, he/she will be trapped in his/her social context, which context may approve of cruelty. It seems to me that Aristotle was a pretty damn intelligent guy, but he also supported some moral ideas that, if not cruelty by themselves, would quickly lead to it.



Perhaps I'm looking at it from a Buddhist point of view rather than a "highly intelligent" point of view. Not that they are mutually exclusive.
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#18 Old 10-05-2009, 12:51 AM
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I personally doubt that there is any type of correlation between intelligence and cruelty.
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#19 Old 10-05-2009, 08:17 AM
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As much as I hate to admit this, several times that I happened to catch Oprah she would have a young guest that was incredibly intelligent, genius-level, prodigy types. One thing that I found that they all had in common was a desire to use their talents, knowledge, and skills to benefit mankind. It was as though their natural advantage led them to have more compassion to those less fortunate. I know I'm displaying full frontal nerdity in this post but I'm reminded of the quote from Spiderman, "With great power comes great responsibility."



So to answer your question more directly, no, I think just the opposite is true.



If they didn't want to use their intelligence to benefit mankind, I doubt Oprah would have had them on her show.



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I'm reminded of the fact that Stephen Hawking is an outspoken defender of vivisection, for example.



That's disappointing.



Aside from his first post, I agree with Seven's position (assuming he's saying what I think he is). Nobody is 'tolerant' of every possible world view or opinion, nobody that I'd want to know.



It might have been better if I asked "are non-human animals capable of cruelty?", I never wanted to imply that more intelligent humans might be crueler than less intelligent humans. All other factors considered, I think compassionate humans tend to be more intelligent than single-minded or aggressive humans.



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A different time, a different place, the Holocaust could have been seen from an entirely different viewpoint.



I'm sure the victim's viewpoint would remain the same. Regardless of cultural norms, there have always been and always will be people (aside from the victims themselves) who are/were opposed to slavery, genocide, torture etc.
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#20 Old 10-05-2009, 09:31 AM
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I'm not sure about varying animals' realms of comprehension. As far as humans go, I don't believe there's any correlation between intelligence and cruelty. Adolf Hitler (He and/or the Holocaust can be brought up in some form in any conversation.) was a highly intelligent man, but he was obviously very cruel [Can one inherently even commit a cruel act? If one knows that something they are going to do, say, or think is "wrong" (by their own terms; not society's) they wouldn't do it. (Anything they do, they find justification in doing, therefore it isn't "wrong.")]



It has to do with brain chemistry and experiences. Some people are empathetic; others are simply not. Ones intelligence has no bearing on that.



Though... I guess that it really depends on how we define intelligence. Being educated neither makes you smart nor perceptive. It only means you've aspired to and struggled with a task that a computer completes with ease: the memorization of facts and algorithms.



I dunno, I agree with everything Sevenseas said (as usual.) *shrugs*
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#21 Old 10-05-2009, 09:32 AM
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If they didn't want to use their intelligence to benefit mankind, I doubt Oprah would have had them on her show.







That's disappointing.



Aside from his first post, I agree with Seven's position (assuming he's saying what I think he is). Nobody is 'tolerant' of every possible world view or opinion, nobody that I'd want to know.





I'm sure the victim's viewpoint would remain the same. Regardless of cultural norms, there have always been and always will be people (aside from the victims themselves) who are/were opposed to slavery, genocide, torture etc.



^^
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#22 Old 10-05-2009, 09:45 AM
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If one knows that something they are going to do, say, or think is "wrong" (by their own terms; not society's) they wouldn't do it. (Anything they do, they find justification in doing, therefore it isn't "wrong.")]



I was thinking the exact same thing just yesterday! It's a good point but some people do mistreat others, and they do consider this to be wrong, and it comforts them to know that if anyone mistreats them they can't really complain because they 'deserve' it after all. Then again, they can feel emotionally justified even if they regard it, intellectually, as 'wrong'. Then again X2, how do you explain guilt?
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#23 Old 10-05-2009, 10:24 AM
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Whether we support or participate in cruelty depends on what kind of ideologies, and to what extent, we have adopted from our social environment. Intelligence is really no protection from that. I'm reminded of the fact that Stephen Hawking is an outspoken defender of vivisection, for example.



Doesn't Stephen Hawking want humans to move to another planet to prolong our species. I don't know why an intelligent human would want humans to devastate another planet personally lol.
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#24 Old 10-05-2009, 03:42 PM
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I think cruelty is mainly a moral quality that necessitates the understanding of moral norms.



Agreed.
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#25 Old 10-05-2009, 04:13 PM
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Agreed.



I think cruelty is driven by malice, a feeling. 'Moral norms' are socially dictated, someone feels malice or compassion regardless of the moral norms of the culture they were socialized in.
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#26 Old 10-05-2009, 04:23 PM
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I think cruelty is driven by malice, a feeling. 'Moral norms' are socially dictated, someone feels malice or compassion regardless of the moral norms of the culture they were socialized in.



IMO, this is a very simplistic view. Do you think that the human species has really evolved to be intrinsically more compassionate in the few hundred years since people routinely attended public executions as a form of entertainment? Unless you think that such a quick evolution has occurred, you are discounting the role of moral norms in the face of evidence to the contrary.
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#27 Old 10-05-2009, 05:18 PM
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I think cruelty is driven by malice, a feeling. 'Moral norms' are socially dictated, someone feels malice or compassion regardless of the moral norms of the culture they were socialized in.

I think the word 'cruelty' is a morally evaluative word, and thus I wouldn't use it to characterize the actions of someone who I don't consider a moral agent, and I consider someone a moral agent based on his/her understanding of moral norms.

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#28 Old 10-05-2009, 06:14 PM
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I was thinking the exact same thing just yesterday! It's a good point but some people do mistreat others, and they do consider this to be wrong, and it comforts them to know that if anyone mistreats them they can't really complain because they 'deserve' it after all. Then again, they can feel emotionally justified even if they regard it, intellectually, as 'wrong'. Then again X2, how do you explain guilt?



But that's exactly my point. If they're emotionally justified, they apparently don't feel it wrong. They may know society as a whole would think it's wrong, but they don't feel that way. Let's say someone said or did something bad to me. If I punch them in the face, I would feel that they deserved it, therefore I wouldn't think my actions "wrong," even though I know that society may think my actions to be wrong. My perception of the situation would make me feel like I was doing something right. People who feel guilty obviously didn't feel that way at the time; they felt their actions justified at before and during, and probably for a while after, the act. Guilt is more or less sudden awareness of society's disapproval, a shift in perceptions of "right and wrong," or an unforeseen outcome.
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#29 Old 10-05-2009, 06:39 PM
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Guilt is more or less sudden awareness of society's disapproval, a shift in perceptions of "right and wrong," or an unforeseen outcome.



I could agree up until here. Societal disapproval doesn't necessarily have anything to do with it. It could simply be that (for example, if someone punches someone else in the nose out of anger) once the anger fades away the person feels remorse at having punched someone because they come to realize, through their own change of heart and not due to societal disapproval, that their victim's interests matter. They feel compassion for their victim, they wouldn't want to be punched themselves, and their guilt is a result of their compassion.
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#30 Old 10-06-2009, 05:12 AM
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I could agree up until here. Societal disapproval doesn't necessarily have anything to do with it. It could simply be that (for example, if someone punches someone else in the nose out of anger) once the anger fades away the person feels remorse at having punched someone because they come to realize, through their own change of heart and not due to societal disapproval, that their victim's interests matter. They feel compassion for their victim, they wouldn't want to be punched themselves, and their guilt is a result of their compassion.



Right, and I listed other reasons also (shifted perceptions or perhaps an unforeseen outcome.) But I'm more inclined to believe that guilt is usually more shame-based, which is where societal disapproval comes in. I understand what you're saying though and I do agree.
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