Is Morality Objective?

Discuss and vote on debates.
Forum rules
Debate participants, please wait until your debate is over before engaging in discussion about your debate.

Is Morality Objective?

Postby Carleas » Fri Nov 09, 2012 9:45 pm

Challenge is here.
Debate is here.
User Control Panel > Board preference > Edit display options > Display signatures: No.
Carleas
Magister Ludi
 
Posts: 5666
Joined: Wed Feb 02, 2005 8:10 pm
Location: Washington DC, USA

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby Moreno » Sat Nov 10, 2012 6:40 am

One question + follow ups so far - so far in my reading of the debate, not so far in the debate:
fj wrote:you make examples of things that you think, as far as I can tell, are "immoral" but you DON'T refer to how those actions relate to the expected utility of the actor as all, as if that relationship doesn't matter for morality.


As far as I can tell, this is your major problem with what I wrote. So let's address it. The example in question is one of me stabbing someone's eyes out with a fork. And you want to know why doing so is not going to "maximize expected utility for me". I wonder if my back is against the wall here, and that carving someone's eyes out with a fork really is what's best for me. I think you should recognize that the issue in this thread is with whether or not there's an objective answer to that question, not whether it's objectively true or objectively false in this case. But regardless, I think carving someone's eyes out with a fork is usually against your self interest (or "maximized...etc).


Mo, It seems like the objective criterion would be what maximizes utillity for the agent. This is FJ's definition or paraphrase, I think, but you work with it, so I am taking it as accepted (to some degree) so far.

So it is not prudent more generally. Actions are not judged on how they affect the group, say along the lines of that old consequentialist 'greatest good....' etc.

Is this the case in your position? Or do you assume that actually if one does what is prudent for oneself this will always at least not be wrong for the group? (so we don't have to concern ourselves with a group consequences level evaluation, this will always be part of the consequences of the individual)

Does this mean that a sociopath cannot be immoral or is immoral only if caught or when taking some degree of risk of getting caught? (note: I am assuming that the state of being a sociopath will lead to actions that others might punish if they found out, but that also many of those punishments might mean nothing to a sociopath but are very effective with other people) The sociopath probe may seem unfair, since they are a minority, but it seems like a nice test case, since forms of sociopathy are much more rampant in society, nevertheless feedback is not reaching some people and or is not effective. Sure, the eye removers with forks tend to end up in the justice system if not shot, but they are very crass examples - which I understand is useful in certain contexts in this argument.
User avatar
Moreno
ILP Legend
 
Posts: 10305
Joined: Sat Nov 24, 2007 5:46 pm

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby von Rivers » Sat Nov 10, 2012 7:15 pm

Moreno wrote:Mo, It seems like the objective criterion would be what maximizes utillity for the agent. This is FJ's definition or paraphrase, I think, but you work with it, so I am taking it as accepted (to some degree) so far.

So it is not prudent more generally. Actions are not judged on how they affect the group, say along the lines of that old consequentialist 'greatest good....' etc.

Is this the case in your position?


I think what's good for the individual is tied to what's good for the group, generally. Not always, perhaps. Is that what you're asking? Socrates thought that it was better to suffer harm than to cause harm, because to cause harm was a greater damage to your own psyche, which was somehow greater or more important than whatever bodily harm you were to suffer if someone else caused it. When I look back, I think that position has some truth to it---as far as my own experience goes. When I think about bad times in the past, I never really think of having been badly hurt---I mainly just cringe at the times I hurt someone else.

Or do you assume that actually if one does what is prudent for oneself this will always at least not be wrong for the group? (so we don't have to concern ourselves with a group consequences level evaluation, this will always be part of the consequences of the individual)
I actually think that something like that is accurate, which may seem false in cases about some tragedy of the commons. But the tragedy of the commons is still a tragedy, and people tend to have cares and concerns beyond themselves, affected by the tragedy, or going to be. And if someone is a complete narcissist, I just think he misses out on a range of the kinds of relationships he could otherwise have, which is bad for him to do.

The sociopath probe may seem unfair, since they are a minority, but it seems like a nice test case, since forms of sociopathy are much more rampant in society, nevertheless feedback is not reaching some people and or is not effective. Sure, the eye removers with forks tend to end up in the justice system if not shot, but they are very crass examples - which I understand is useful in certain contexts in this argument.

Are you saying that a sociopath cares about what is good for him, or others? Perhaps he's just proof that some people act immorally. This probably isn't your point, but I missed it.
User avatar
von Rivers
ILP Legend
 
Posts: 5792
Joined: Sun May 09, 2004 4:24 am

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby Carleas » Sat Nov 10, 2012 7:38 pm

Mo_, this conclusion does not follow:
Mo_ wrote:P1. A or B
P2. If A then C (and C is clearly true)
C. You should think A true.

You are committing the fallacy of affirming the consequent. To adapt an example from that article:
Either Bill Gates owns Fort Knox or he doesn't.
If Bill Gates owned Fort Knox then he would be rich (and he is clearly rich)
Therefore, Bill Gates owns Fort Knox.

As that example shows, it's not even true in the weaker statement that "you should think that Bill Gates owns Fort Knox."

To the discussion of value vs. morality and circularity:
The statement, "Water is H2O" is not circular. But if I'm trying to prove that water is present on earth, and the argument is made that we know water is present on earth because H2O is present on earth, it should be clear that pointing out that water and H2O are the same thing will not satisfy someone who challenges the notion that H2O is present on earth.

To apply this analogy in the debate, at times Mo_ seemed to make an argument that morality is objective because values are objective. If he were making that argument, it would makes sense to say the argument is circular if morality = value: morality is objective because value is objective, and we know value is objective because it's the same as morality, which we just proved was objective.

Looking back, I don't know that this was the argument that he was trying to make, but it often seemed that way. Take this syllogism, which is the one which most closely associates morality and value (I've altered the syllogism slightly because the conclusion didn't actually follow from the premises):
Mo_ wrote:P1. You experience that pain is irreducibly bad.
(In other words, pain itself isn’t bad because of something else; it’s simply bad.)
P2. Pain is real.
P3. If pain is bad, and real, then there is at least one thing intrinsically disvaluable.
C. Therefore, [there is at least one thing intrinsically disvaluable].

The assumption that values are objective is injected in two of the premises: The first and the third. If the premise were, "pain is subjectively bad to person X," it doesn't seem that simply combining that with the reality of that subjective experience would lead to the conclusion that there is one thing intrinsically disvaluable. So, either we're assuming in P1 that the pain we're talking about is already objectively bad, or we're assuming in P3 that a subjective bad that is real proves an objective bad. Neither is necessary, and either seems to assume that the value of pain is objectively determined. I don't think it's exactly assuming that values are objective, but it is very close.

FJ, I'd like to push back on you about the line-drawing question I asked. It seems that a thing can be objective when averaged across many instances, even though it is not objective in any specific case. Take, for example, the value of a stock (this is a different meaning of 'value'). A stock's value is in some sense what someone will pay for it, and that's a subjective decision based on a subjective evaluation and weighting of a company's expected returns, the goodness the buyer sees in the company, and the value of the power to influence the company. And yet, across the whole market, the price of a stock is objectively established, and stocks can be ranked by price such that everyone will agree that the ranking is correct.

There are many similar phenomena where we can't say for sure what the answer is in a specific case, but that across all the cases we can say with a high degree of accuracy. And indeed, this seems to be how morality works: we say things like "thou shalt not kill," but it is also well accepted that e.g. killing in self defense is acceptable, or killing by accident, or technical killing after some test for morally worthy life has been failed. That is to say, all specific examples will be difficult to assess, and the moral maxims will have an error rate, but that they are nontheless objective to the same extent to which facts are objective in many other fields.
User Control Panel > Board preference > Edit display options > Display signatures: No.
Carleas
Magister Ludi
 
Posts: 5666
Joined: Wed Feb 02, 2005 8:10 pm
Location: Washington DC, USA

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby Flannel Jesus » Sat Nov 10, 2012 7:51 pm

Sorry Carl, I'm having a hard time parsing your last two paragraphs into a coherent thesis. Could you make your point a bit more explicit in relation to the things I said in the argument?

[edit]
on second read, what it seems like you're saying is that it's objective because people tend to have similar subjective values. I of course agree that by and large, in many areas, people tend to have similar subjective values, but I don't agree that that's a good basis for calling them objective. It may be a basis for saying, "it's an objective fact that humans tend to value X," but not, "X' is an objective value." I don't think those two statements are equivalent.

And, while we're on the topic of lines and spectrum, there was one argument I hadn't made in the thread:

What does it mean for two things to be on the same spectrum? Well, as far as I can tell, it means that they're measurable by the same unit of measurement. Eg the length of a football field and the length of a street can both be measured in feet (distance, more generally), so they're on the same spectrum -- the "length" spectrum. Etc Etc a billion examples like that. The most obvious use of the word "spectrum" I can think of is "electro-magnetic spectrum." Everything in the electromagnetic spectrum is made of photons (I'm pretty sure), and they're all measurable via either wavelength or frequency (take you're pick, they map onto each other 1-to-1 so it doesn't matter which you choose). So, the unit of measurement is again the same for all of them, whether it be visible light, UV, X-ray, radio, infra-red, microwave, gamma radiation, they're ALL at different places on the same spectrum because they're all measurable by the same unit of measurement.

So, when it's said that morality and prudence are on the same spectrum...well, the only way to verify that is to figure out what the unit of measurement was. Now, you'll notice in the entire thread that he wouldn't commit himself to any given unit of measurement -- I suggested enjoyment, expected utility, expected value, and maybe some other ones. Those are the sorts of things we use to measure prudence.

So, if we cannot even say what unit of measurement prudence or morality are measured by, how can we agree that they're on the same spectrum? The only way to agree to that is if I know they use the same unit of measurement, and the way he approached the thread left the 'unit-of-measurement' question unanswered. So no, I can't agree that they're on the same spectrum. Not with the level of vaguity and pussy-footing at play.
User avatar
Flannel Jesus
For Your Health
 
Posts: 5161
Joined: Thu Mar 31, 2011 11:32 pm

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby von Rivers » Sat Nov 10, 2012 8:02 pm

Carleas wrote:Mo_, this conclusion does not follow:
Mo_ wrote:P1. A or B
P2. If A then C (and C is clearly true)
C. You should think A true.

You are committing the fallacy of affirming the consequent.


There's no fallacy of affirming the consequent here, because A (morality being objective) really is the only sufficient condition for C (talking as if morality was objective). In other words, there's no way to consistently talk as if morality were objective without supposing that morality is objective. Thus, there's no fallacy of affirming the consequent in that argument.

The statement, "Water is H2O" is not circular. But if I'm trying to prove that water is present on earth, and the argument is made that we know water is present on earth because H2O is present on earth, it should be clear that pointing out that water and H2O are the same thing will not satisfy someone who challenges the notion that H2O is present on earth.

In the debate, FJ did the equivalent of challenging that water was present on earth, without challenging any of the arguments for thinking that H20 was present. Clearly, equating water and H20 doesn't prove that either exists---and I never took myself to be saying that.

To apply this analogy in the debate, at times Mo_ seemed to make an argument that morality is objective because values are objective. If he were making that argument, it would makes sense to say the argument is circular if morality = value: morality is objective because value is objective, and we know value is objective because it's the same as morality, which we just proved was objective.

Clearly, what I did in one of my arguments was demonstrate that pain is intrinsically disvaluable. That's the concluson of one of the arguments. And with the equation between morality and value, I've thereby shown that morality is objective. It wasn't as if there was no argument for thinking value was objective, if that's what you're suggesting.

So, either we're assuming in P1 that the pain we're talking about is already objectively bad, or we're assuming in P3 that a subjective bad that is real proves an objective bad. Neither is necessary, and either seems to assume that the value of pain is objectively determined. I don't think it's exactly assuming that values are objective, but it is very close.

In the argument you're referring to, I can take myself to be arguing from experience to the conclusion that pain is bad. For example:
You see a tree in the yard.
That gives you a reason to think the tree is in the yard.

It's entirely open to you to go more extreme in your subjectivism, and claim you're a brain in a vat or something. Nobody did that though.
User avatar
von Rivers
ILP Legend
 
Posts: 5792
Joined: Sun May 09, 2004 4:24 am

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby Carleas » Sat Nov 10, 2012 10:08 pm

Flannel Jesus wrote:It may be a basis for saying, "it's an objective fact that humans tend to value X," but not, "X' is an objective value." I don't think those two statements are equivalent.

They aren't, but only because the second statement is more general. In a limited sense of objectivity, something like the scientific objectivity in which I characterized Mo_'s argument, an objectively verifiable tendency to value X is a the same as an objective value of X. It is certainly limited in terms of what can follow from it, but it is meaningful, consequential, and objective.

The demand for a unit in which we would describe the spectrum takes us beyond the scope of the question, because it asks for a definition of morality. Here, we're dealing with the meta-ethical question of whether or not morality is objective. And it does seem we can know something to be objective without knowing the unit with which to quantify it. To take your example of the light spectrum, scientists studied light and organized it as a spectrum long before they were able to quantify it in terms of wavelength. To do so, they observed that when white light passes through a prism, it is arranged in a spectrum from red to violet. They did not need to quantify that spectrum in order to know that the spectrum was there, or that red light and yellow light were both on the light spectrum. Similarly, we can intuitively see that theft and murder are on the moral spectrum, and we don't need to quantify the spectrum in order to know where they fall relative to each other.

Mo_ wrote:There's no fallacy of affirming the consequent here, because A (morality being objective) really is the only sufficient condition for C (talking as if morality was objective). In other words, there's no way to consistently talk as if morality were objective without supposing that morality is objective. Thus, there's no fallacy of affirming the consequent in that argument.

In that case, P2 should be "If C then A, and C is clearly true." And in either case, P1 "A or B" doesn't seem to be doing any work in this syllogism. As written, the conclusion does not follow from the premises.

Mo_ wrote:In the argument you're referring to, I can take myself to be arguing from experience to the conclusion that pain is bad. For example:
You see a tree in the yard.
That gives you a reason to think the tree is in the yard.

It's entirely open to you to go more extreme in your subjectivism, and claim you're a brain in a vat or something. Nobody did that though.

Disliking pain and seeing a tree are very different things. FJ challenged this type of comparison by suggesting that masochists enjoy pain. You suggested that a masochist enjoying pain is like you enjoying hockey, where you feel pain. But that is not my understanding of masochism. As I understand a masochist, given two otherwise equal experiences, one in which he feels pain and one in which he doesn't, the masochist would prefer the one where he feels pain.

But perhaps a stronger response to this is that, if I told you that I enjoy pain, that given two otherwise equal experiences, I would prefer the one where I feel pain, can you really tell me I'm wrong? It doesn't seem so. Not being a masochist, you don't know what about the pain the person likes. Perhaps you're right that they only like pain because of something else, but you can't know that or tell a masochist that he's wrong if he disagrees. If I evaluate pain as good, you can't tell me I'm wrong.

One last argument re: pain. There are people who don't feel pain, and they are much worse off than normal people. They rarely live past childhood. Pain is very useful. I suspect you'll respond that it's not the pain but the not-dying that we appreciate, but this seems pedantic. Given the choice between having a child who never feels pain and a child who does feel pain, I would want my child to feel pain. Pain is good because it protects from injury, and while that may be a second order good, it is still certainly not an intrinsic bad.

Question: how are values different from preferences? If I prefer chocolate to vanilla, am I not more likely to give up more to get it? Maybe I would put my hand on a hot plate for marginally longer for chocolate ice cream than for vanilla ice cream. It certainly seems like I can substitute pain, something I value, for chocolate, something I prefer, and vice versa. In what sense are preferences not values?
User Control Panel > Board preference > Edit display options > Display signatures: No.
Carleas
Magister Ludi
 
Posts: 5666
Joined: Wed Feb 02, 2005 8:10 pm
Location: Washington DC, USA

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby Flannel Jesus » Sat Nov 10, 2012 10:12 pm

Carleas wrote:Similarly, we can intuitively see that theft and murder are on the moral spectrum, and we don't need to quantify the spectrum in order to know where they fall relative to each other.

That you had to use two classically moral questions as an example, instead of one moral one and one prudential one, is telling. Of course classically moral questions can intuitively be seen to be on a moral spectrum.

But what about prudential ones? It's prudent to find a parking space close to the entrance of whatever building you're going in. Are parking prudentially and murder on the same spectrum? That's a bit less intuitive. Most people would ask totally different sorts of questions to figure out if a given parking space is prudent than they would to determine if a given murder was morally acceptable. Different sorts of questions means different units of measurement (in a lightly metaphorical way, of course). People don't measure the prudent-ness of a parking space and the morality of a murder in the same way, using the same tools, the same types of questions, etc.
User avatar
Flannel Jesus
For Your Health
 
Posts: 5161
Joined: Thu Mar 31, 2011 11:32 pm

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby von Rivers » Sat Nov 10, 2012 10:57 pm

Carleas wrote:In that case, P2 should be "If C then A, and C is clearly true." And in either case, P1 "A or B" doesn't seem to be doing any work in this syllogism. As written, the conclusion does not follow from the premises.

The conclusion follows from the premises because I've included in P2 that we do in fact have productive discussions, etc. The argument as it is would be clearer if I had just put that in a new premise. And P1 probably doesn't need to be there either.

Disliking pain and seeing a tree are very different things. FJ challenged this type of comparison by suggesting that masochists enjoy pain. You suggested that a masochist enjoying pain is like you enjoying hockey, where you feel pain. But that is not my understanding of masochism. As I understand a masochist, given two otherwise equal experiences, one in which he feels pain and one in which he doesn't, the masochist would prefer the one where he feels pain.
No, the masochist gets a type of pleasure from physical pain---call it a psychological pleasure. Nothing about this is inconsistent, or grounds for an objection to thinking that pain itself counts against an action. Thinking that pain itself is pleasurable is incoherent.

But perhaps a stronger response to this is that, if I told you that I enjoy pain, that given two otherwise equal experiences, I would prefer the one where I feel pain, can you really tell me I'm wrong?
Yes, you're wrong. I'm tempted to think that if a masochist thinks he prefers pain itself, then he's confused about what pain is, and he's actually just getting pleasure. Appearances are deceiving. I get pleasure out of scratching myself really hard. Someone might think I'm a masochist. But I'm not feeling pain---it's pleasure.

One last argument re: pain. There are people who don't feel pain, and they are much worse off than normal people. They rarely live past childhood. Pain is very useful. I suspect you'll respond that it's not the pain but the not-dying that we appreciate, but this seems pedantic. Given the choice between having a child who never feels pain and a child who does feel pain, I would want my child to feel pain. Pain is good because it protects from injury, and while that may be a second order good, it is still certainly not an intrinsic bad.
If you want to argue that there are other intrinsic bads than pain, or other intrinsic goods than pleasure---giddy up. I'm all for it. I'm down with pluralism. Anytime you say something like, "pain is good because it brings this greater good that outweighs the badness of pain"----I've no beef with claims like that, at all.

Question: how are values different from preferences? If I prefer chocolate to vanilla, am I not more likely to give up more to get it? Maybe I would put my hand on a hot plate for marginally longer for chocolate ice cream than for vanilla ice cream. It certainly seems like I can substitute pain, something I value, for chocolate, something I prefer, and vice versa. In what sense are preferences not values?

Imagine a bunch of really hungry people are sitting around a massive hunk of broccoli. And everyone around the table thinks its poison. The broccoli is valuable to them, but nobody prefers it. If they knew what it was, they'd prefer it----but that's because they recognize what it is.
User avatar
von Rivers
ILP Legend
 
Posts: 5792
Joined: Sun May 09, 2004 4:24 am

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby Moreno » Sun Nov 11, 2012 12:37 am

Mo_ wrote:I think what's good for the individual is tied to what's good for the group, generally. Not always, perhaps. Is that what you're asking?
IN part. If we work with formulation FJ gave, then morality is an assessment of what works well for the individual person - when we look at a particular act. There are a couple of possibilities if this is the case. 1) if individuals do what benefits them (in some comprehensive sense), then this will also benefit other people in the group. That this is an assumption of causation. Or 2) if individuals do what benefits them (in some comprehensive sense), it may not be good for the group, but still you think that a good act can be determined this way. All this if in fact you accept his formulation. If you do, then I think it needs to be demonstrated that there is this line of causation from what benefits the individual to the group. I do note that you include effects from these acts such as the reactions of the community. So obviously there are potential lines of causation that instantly link the self-interest of the individual to the group's well being. I still think it needs to be fleshed out - which you may do later in the debate. IOW I am skeptical.

Socrates thought that it was better to suffer harm than to cause harm, because to cause harm was a greater damage to your own psyche, which was somehow greater or more important than whatever bodily harm you were to suffer if someone else caused it. When I look back, I think that position has some truth to it---as far as my own experience goes. When I think about bad times in the past, I never really think of having been badly hurt---I mainly just cringe at the times I hurt someone else.
I think, though I am not sure, that I am the same. I do think about having been hurt by others and some teeth gnashing can occur much later in the game than I am proud of, but when I have been an asshole, that sticks in the sticking point.

However...perhaps not everyone is like us. Perhaps one could argue that it might be prudent for individuals NOT to notice this as much as we might or some might. Something along the line of N's pride and memory.

And it is my experience that at least many seem to function this way. If they noticed and could face, then, yes, perhaps they would also cringe and find this worse, but they do not seem to register.

And frankly this does seem to give them an advantage, as long as they keep focus mainly on people who don't have much power over them or other kinds of direct unpleasant influence. (there are cultural structures that also protect such patterns of not noticing)

I actually think that something like that is accurate, which may seem false in cases about some tragedy of the commons. But the tragedy of the commons is still a tragedy, and people tend to have cares and concerns beyond themselves, affected by the tragedy, or going to be. And if someone is a complete narcissist, I just think he misses out on a range of the kinds of relationships he could otherwise have, which is bad for him to do.
Right and good, this was clear to me and it seems to be inherent in your view. It raises the issue of us all being the same and you know I don't think this is the case. I don't want to pursue a parallel debate with you, but I am trying to get clear what your position is, in a sense so that it can be communicated very clearly.

Are you saying that a sociopath cares about what is good for him, or others? Perhaps he's just proof that some people act immorally. This probably isn't your point, but I missed it.
If you judge an act immoral then you should be able to demonstrate how it was not in the best interests of the one who performed that act. Of course some people can act against their own self-interests, I know this too well from my own experience. I bring up the sociopath precisely because a lot of the feedback from the community means nothing to him or her. And they do seem to have different brains, so this may not be simply an example of them not knowing what is best for them.

Let me jump to another probe....

Female genital mutilation.

To claim that this is wrong to do, one must be able to demonstrate that it goes agazinst the interests of the ones who carry it out. If we focus on the mothers who generally arrange these things, to not get their daughters 'changed' is to set up all sorts of suffering both for themselves and for their daughters. This would include economic problems, social pain and perhaps even violence directed at them. If they are in a culture where FGM is an accepted part. Their daughters very long term survival may be connected to performing this act. (I realize you allow very much for context factors and I do think a consistent position can be held here, but I think it might be useful to put it out very clearly ((and perhaps you have, I have to take these things piecemeal and I have only gotten so far in the debate. Here's the thing Mo, I think your conception of morality is so different to modern ears that it might be good to start with the ways in which what the modern ears is straining to hear can hear up front. Perhaps you have done this, but that is what is setting up my probes.)))

If I look at this example one thing it entails is pockets where acts, given the generalized contexts can make acts that elsewhere in the world would be considered immoral, moral.

IOW this is different from a lot of moral squeeze analyses, where the context factors are within a larger context that generally weighs against such acts.

Generally it is bad to put out someone's eye with a fork, but a child who is being held captive by a serial rapist and gets to eat a meal with the rapist before being raped which he has heard happen to other kids....etc.

Here the factors are individual-focused and create exceptions to rules of thumb (or eye).

I think this is one area where people will get confused about context and objective morality. Because pockets - cultures, subcultures - may lead to acts which would be judged elsewhere as immoral, not getting that judgment in a local, but general way.

Here we have a hope that whole cultures can be moved towards states where all members are more able to pursue their self-interest and that some faulty ideas about certain things being necessary can be defeated. So the objectivity from an outside vantage is aimed at the whole culture, rather than judging individual acts in the ways we are used to them being judged morally and especially when there are claims to objective morality.

Now, please, Mo, let's not get too bogged down in the particular example. Perhaps you think that the negatives on the mother of that girl if she does not carry out the FGM cannot possibly outweigh the negatives of performing that act. I don't want to get in that argument.

I think you can imagine at least some acts where a culture's norms make them no longer bad, whereas if they happened to you on main street wherever you are, you would think, shit, that was immoral of X. Perhaps something less horrific like bribes and other forms of what we would call corruption and what are like waiters' tips in many places to the other mindset.

The cultural relativist, while seeming to share your position here, is at a dead end at this point. They simply have to respect the other culture's norms. You on the other hand, need not respect the culture's norms and can still try to demonstrate, both to members of your own culture and that other culture, that the acts are wrong and perhaps part of some more complicated web of morally incorrect ideas and behaviors.

It seems to me that to be consistent, you would have to not judge the mother or at least some actors as behaving immorally. The shift of the judgment is up to culture level. This does not leave your kind of objective moralist hands-tied in interpersonal discussions with such a person. One can still present a case and in fact this could be part of a complex problem solving approach - though conversations with men would likely be even more important.

I think this may be an area where people get confused in relation to your position. Because, I believe, it entails, a withholding of judgment from actors in certain contexts, while allowing for, demanding judgments of the contexts. This is something foreign to most conceptions of objective morality.

If my example was a poor one for you, please try to think of others where you would withhold judgement, even from acts that in your home town you would easily call the act immoral and even if the act is widespread in the other context.

You may think there are no such examples. If that is the case, I think there is a problem with the model and I can try to pursue that. If you agree there are examples, then I think this whole issue should be up front, to make it very clear to readers that this is something other.

I did not read your whole OP in the debate. Sorry, that's just more than what I come for when I come here. I want something more like ping pong than postal chess or whatever a good analogy would be. If I end up managing to get somethign useful across for you great. If not, just ignore those parts or the whole thing. This was a sincere attempt to engage and see how your position can be put out more clearly and perhaps consistantly.
User avatar
Moreno
ILP Legend
 
Posts: 10305
Joined: Sat Nov 24, 2007 5:46 pm

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby von Rivers » Sun Nov 11, 2012 2:00 am

Moreno wrote:There are a couple of possibilities if this is the case. 1) if individuals do what benefits them (in some comprehensive sense), then this will also benefit other people in the group. That this is an assumption of causation. Or 2) if individuals do what benefits them (in some comprehensive sense), it may not be good for the group, but still you think that a good act can be determined this way. All this if in fact you accept his formulation. If you do, then I think it needs to be demonstrated that there is this line of causation from what benefits the individual to the group. I do note that you include effects from these acts such as the reactions of the community. So obviously there are potential lines of causation that instantly link the self-interest of the individual to the group's well being. I still think it needs to be fleshed out - which you may do later in the debate. IOW I am skeptical.


I'm not sure what you think I need to flesh out. What's your basic question? Is this is: "Should everyone act selfishly?"
If that's the question, my answer might be yes, so long as you recognize who you are, and how that's shaped and bound up with the community you're apart of, and facts about your nature, as a microcosm of the greater whole.

However...perhaps not everyone is like us. Perhaps one could argue that it might be prudent for individuals NOT to notice this as much as we might or some might. Something along the line of N's pride and memory.

Yea, I just think that as a factual claim, for a person to not care about others shuts him off from some possibilities and opportunities that he would do well not to ignore. If you shut yourself inside, you'll never catch a cold in the rain... but you'll be shut inside. Maybe nothing about the outdoors, or the kinds of relationships with others that are possible when you care about others, "registers" in a narcisistic person. But that there's a wall in front of some people won't register to them, and they'll walk into it... I don't see an objection to objectivity here.

If you judge an act immoral then you should be able to demonstrate how it was not in the best interests of the one who performed that act. Of course some people can act against their own self-interests, I know this too well from my own experience. I bring up the sociopath precisely because a lot of the feedback from the community means nothing to him or her. And they do seem to have different brains, so this may not be simply an example of them not knowing what is best for them.

Yes, but this debate wasn't about which acts to judge immoral. It was about whether, if we ever try to do that, we could be right or wrong. Are you saying that a sociopath has flourished along the widest ranges open to a creature such as us? ---Because that strikes me as intuitively false.

Female genital mutilation.

To claim that this is wrong to do, one must be able to demonstrate that it goes agazinst the interests of the ones who carry it out. If we focus on the mothers who generally arrange these things, to not get their daughters 'changed' is to set up all sorts of suffering both for themselves and for their daughters. This would include economic problems, social pain and perhaps even violence directed at them. If they are in a culture where FGM is an accepted part. Their daughters very long term survival may be connected to performing this act. (I realize you allow very much for context factors and I do think a consistent position can be held here, but I think it might be useful to put it out very clearly ((and perhaps you have, I have to take these things piecemeal and I have only gotten so far in the debate. Here's the thing Mo, I think your conception of morality is so different to modern ears that it might be good to start with the ways in which what the modern ears is straining to hear can hear up front. Perhaps you have done this, but that is what is setting up my probes.)))

If I look at this example one thing it entails is pockets where acts, given the generalized contexts can make acts that elsewhere in the world would be considered immoral, moral.


Oh of course it can. Some acts in some places, in some contexts, may be required or permissible, but not ideal, a means, and inexcusable elsewhere, in other circumstances. I will let my drunken neighbour remove a tooth of mine with handheld pliars, if keeping the tooth somehow means I'll die of starvation, know no one else, and so on. I don't know anything about what goes on in FGM, or the context, but I tend to think any sort of mutilation should be stopped urgently. I think you're asking me if there's a situation in which FGM has to be done---and by extension, it seems, whether anything is universally wrong or right. And the answer is clearly no. ---Even you recognize that there's a set of circumstances in which you're a coward not to skull fuck a rotting corpse in the eye socket to save the world. That said, sometimes major changes that need to be made need to be initiated at smaller levels.

I think this is one area where people will get confused about context and objective morality. Because pockets - cultures, subcultures - may lead to acts which would be judged elsewhere as immoral, not getting that judgment in a local, but general way.
As you know I agree with this. I just don't think it means that when you call someone else immoral, you'd necessarily be wrong.

The cultural relativist, while seeming to share your position here, is at a dead end at this point. They simply have to respect the other culture's norms. You on the other hand, need not respect the culture's norms and can still try to demonstrate, both to members of your own culture and that other culture, that the acts are wrong and perhaps part of some more complicated web of morally incorrect ideas and behaviors.

It seems to me that to be consistent, you would have to not judge the mother or at least some actors as behaving immorally. The shift of the judgment is up to culture level. This does not leave your kind of objective moralist hands-tied in interpersonal discussions with such a person. One can still present a case and in fact this could be part of a complex problem solving approach - though conversations with men would likely be even more important.

I think this may be an area where people get confused in relation to your position. Because, I believe, it entails, a withholding of judgment from actors in certain contexts, while allowing for, demanding judgments of the contexts. This is something foreign to most conceptions of objective morality.

If my example was a poor one for you, please try to think of others where you would withhold judgement, even from acts that in your home town you would easily call the act immoral and even if the act is widespread in the other context.

I read through this chunk of text and I thought that I agreed with everything in it. So obviously I read it again because that couldn't be possible. But yea, I think I agree with it. You're asking a question at the end; you want a case where I'd withhold judgement about some act. FGM certainly fits that bill, just because I know nothing about the context, maybe only that it would be like permanently wrapping my dick in sandpaper, so that I could never use it. I don't think you can demand that an individual take a step that would ruin their life just to be the first step in a slow change to an oppressive society they'll never see or realize. I mean, you can't really demand that people be heroes.

You may think there are no such examples. If that is the case, I think there is a problem with the model and I can try to pursue that. If you agree there are examples, then I think this whole issue should be up front, to make it very clear to readers that this is something other.

Examples of when I would withold judgment of some act, thought it was immoral in my own context... yea, FGM might work. I think you can probably think up a number of examples. I was just thinking of a case of theft.

I did not read your whole OP in the debate. Sorry, that's just more than what I come for when I come here. I want something more like ping pong than postal chess or whatever a good analogy would be. If I end up managing to get somethign useful across for you great. If not, just ignore those parts or the whole thing. This was a sincere attempt to engage and see how your position can be put out more clearly and perhaps consistantly.

lol. I didn't think my OP was that long. The first and last lines here make me laugh for some reason. Is this your sense of humor again? Or has it sunk so far into you that you can't tell when you're using it.
User avatar
von Rivers
ILP Legend
 
Posts: 5792
Joined: Sun May 09, 2004 4:24 am

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby phyllo » Sun Nov 11, 2012 5:24 am

Imagine a bunch of really hungry people are sitting around a massive hunk of broccoli. And everyone around the table thinks its poison. The broccoli is valuable to them, but nobody prefers it. If they knew what it was, they'd prefer it----but that's because they recognize what it is.

:-k The objective facts are:
People need food to survive.
These people are hungry and need to eat.
Broccoli is a potential food.
These people think that this broccoli is poison.

It is certainly true that this broccoli is either food or poison. But they don't know which it is. And they have no way of finding out... short of biting a piece and possibly dying.
It doesn't help that a hyper-intelligent telepathic snail in the 43rd dimension knows.
It doesn't help that a thousand years in the future, archeologists will analyze the fossilized broccoli remains and determine for certain whether it was poison or not.

This group will end up making a very subjective human decision based on whatever facts, beliefs, lies, misinformation they have. And another group of people placed in exactly the same situation, could very well make a different decision. One group values broccoli and the other doesn't. The fact that Mo knows something(or thinks he knows) doesn't change anything for them.
phyllo
ILP Legend
 
Posts: 10875
Joined: Thu Dec 16, 2010 1:41 am

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby von Rivers » Sun Nov 11, 2012 7:02 am

phyllo wrote:It is certainly true that this broccoli is either food or poison. But they don't know which it is. And they have no way of finding out... short of biting a piece and possibly dying.
It doesn't help that a hyper-intelligent telepathic snail in the 43rd dimension knows.
It doesn't help that a thousand years in the future, archeologists will analyze the fossilized broccoli remains and determine for certain whether it was poison or not.

This group will end up making a very subjective human decision based on whatever facts, beliefs, lies, misinformation they have. And another group of people placed in exactly the same situation, could very well make a different decision. One group values broccoli and the other doesn't. The fact that Mo knows something(or thinks he knows) doesn't change anything for them.


phyllo, you're a gentleman and a scholar, and the fact is that if this group is wise, then they'll justify their decision based on the objective facts they have at hand, and investigate the situation in the most objective way possible. It would really be a shame for these hungry people, if they justified their decision based on the subjective view that each of them had about whether the broccoli was pretty or not. But make no mistake, that any decision is made with limited knowledge, and entirely fallible, need not make it in the least bit subjective.
User avatar
von Rivers
ILP Legend
 
Posts: 5792
Joined: Sun May 09, 2004 4:24 am

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby Carleas » Sun Nov 11, 2012 4:57 pm

Mo_ wrote:P1. A or B
P2. If A then C (and C is clearly true)
C. You should think A true.

Mo_ wrote:The conclusion follows from the premises because I've included in P2 that we do in fact have productive discussions, etc. The argument as it is would be clearer if I had just put that in a new premise. And P1 probably doesn't need to be there either.

OK, let's leave off P1 and split out C from P2. The new syllogism will read:

P1*. If A then C
P2*. C
C*. You should think A to be true.

This conclusion does not follow from the premises. It is the classical fallacy of affirming the consequent. A different syllogism, with additional or changed premises as I have offered previously, might work, but it would be a different syllogism. As this syllogism stands, it is invalid.

This is sort of tangential, but it's important to discussions of philosophy generally for two possible reasons:
1) If you are under the belief that the conclusion follows from the premises, it is important to explain why that isn't the case because this is a pseudo-logical form that comes up often.
2) If you are not under the belief that the conclusion follows from the premises, it is important that you concede the point, because without a concession on a rigorously demonstrable fact of formal logic, it is difficult to maintain a presumption of good faith.

Flannel Jesus wrote:That you had to use two classically moral questions as an example, instead of one moral one and one prudential one, is telling.

Yep, I flubbed that one, let me try again using you example of finding a close parking space and not murdering.

Both seem to be clearly on a spectrum of things that you should do when you can. And the ranking can be in terms of how much it matters that you do one or the other. And there is an inuitive sense in which if you fail to not murder, it matters a whole lot, while if you fail to find a close parking space, it matters only a very little. We might ask some different questions when evaluating whether or not to murder versus whether or not to find a close parking space, but we will also ask different questions about murder and theft.

It's a difficult comparison, because murder and parking are at completely different ends of the spectrum. But there is a cognizable spectrum. It's also worth noting that the theory I'm espousing, that there is a generally objective ranking but not objective truth in any individual case, already explains a phenomenon of how our oughts work: choices at the lower end of the spectrum are less clearly ranked than those at the high end. If we're ranking murder against theft, there's a clear and seemingly objective order. But if we're ranking parking versus wearing a blue tie, it becomes harder to rank them. But this is to be expected, because, mattering so little, context drowns out the ranking in virtually every case. If you think of the spectrum in units of oughtness, the lower will have so few oughtness units that every experience of the question will be surrounded by other questions that together swamp the oughtness. If I'm determining where to park, am I running late? am I out of shape or injured? Am I driving someone else who I want to convenience? Am I the owner or employee of the place I'm going such that I don't want to block spots for customers? Similarly, in picking a tie, what other ties do I have? What color is my shirt/jacket/eyes? Am I testifying in court, or am I the lawyer, and if the latter, plaintiff or defense? These questions have so much more oughtness in them that the oughtness in the question itself are within the margin of error. Similar questions about the oughtness of murder or theft don't tip the balance, because the oughtness of murder is enough to make the influence of most other ought questions insignificant.
User Control Panel > Board preference > Edit display options > Display signatures: No.
Carleas
Magister Ludi
 
Posts: 5666
Joined: Wed Feb 02, 2005 8:10 pm
Location: Washington DC, USA

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby phyllo » Sun Nov 11, 2012 5:19 pm

But make no mistake, that any decision is made with limited knowledge, and entirely fallible, need not make it in the least bit subjective.
Objectivity has to remain pure. As soon as you inject even a little bit of subjectivity, you taint objectivity and have to call all of it subjective.

The thing is ... you can't help applying subjectivity.

Let's say the broccoli is tested for poison. Subjective judgements will still be used.
"I was there at the testing and the technicians seemed to be careless."
"The lab was run down and the equipment looked old, I don't think that it was calibrated properly."
"That test does not detect the kind of poison which is in the broccoli."
"We don't know anything about that lab, can we really trust the results?"

The risk assessment has subjective elements even though the underlying reality is entirely objective.

Shift to the domain of morality. Here we are talking about not just physical atoms but also about human feelings and reactions. The assessments are even more subjective.
phyllo
ILP Legend
 
Posts: 10875
Joined: Thu Dec 16, 2010 1:41 am

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby von Rivers » Sun Nov 11, 2012 6:06 pm

Carleas wrote:P1*. If A then C
P2*. C
C*. You should think A to be true.

This conclusion does not follow from the premises. It is the classical fallacy of affirming the consequent.

I repeat: This is not a fallacy, or the fallacy of affirming the consequent, because A really is the only sufficient condition for C. Formally, the argument is invalid. But informally, it's valid---and that's because A (morality being objective) is the only sufficient condition for A (talking as if morality were objective).

This is sort of tangential, but it's important to discussions of philosophy generally for two possible reasons:
1) If you are under the belief that the conclusion follows from the premises, it is important to explain why that isn't the case because this is a pseudo-logical form that comes up often.
2) If you are not under the belief that the conclusion follows from the premises, it is important that you concede the point, because without a concession on a rigorously demonstrable fact of formal logic, it is difficult to maintain a presumption of good faith.


No, it is time for you to recognize that when the antecedent is the only sufficient condition for the consequent, then what looks like hte fallacy of affirming the consequent is not a fallacy... BECAUSE THE ANTECEDENT IS THE ONLY SUFFICIENT CONDITION FOR THE CONSEQUENT. It's time for you to recognize that some invalid forms are valid informally---i.e., by the meaning of the terms.

1. If you are under the belief that the conclusion follows from the premises, it is important that you concede the point, because without a concession on a rigorously demonstrable fact of formal logic, it is difficult to maintain a presumption of good faith.

The argument is not fallacious. But whenever you do find a fallacious argument, and the fix is just inserting a biconditional in the first premise, rather than a conditional, you would do well---**if you're philosophizing in good faith**---to insert the biconditional, and read charitably.
User avatar
von Rivers
ILP Legend
 
Posts: 5792
Joined: Sun May 09, 2004 4:24 am

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby Carleas » Sun Nov 11, 2012 7:30 pm

OK, Mo_, then we agree. As written, your syllogism is formally invalid, i.e. the conclusion does not follow from the stated premises.

Additional premises can certainly be added to make it work. Changed as you suggested, the argument is this:

P1: If and only if morality is objective, we can consistently have productive discussions with other people/cultures and speak meaningfully (without talking past each other). We can even criticize each other, legitimately. We can do things we should be able to do, like reflect on our past, claim to have grown, etc.
P2: In fact, we do these things anyways.
C: Morality is objective.

This strikes me as a weak argument. One can reject the idea that we can legimately criticize others' conduct; moral relativists would disagree that such criticism is legitimate, as would anyone with any theory of a subjective morality. In addition, the initially unstated premise that being able to do these things entails that morality is objective (If C then A, the other half of the biconditional) also seems suspect. It's quite possible that it's best to treat morality as though it's objective, even if it is in fact subjective, e.g. because it only really matters that everyone agrees on morality and treating it as objective encourages broad agreement.

phyllo wrote:Objectivity has to remain pure. As soon as you inject even a little bit of subjectivity, you taint objectivity and have to call all of it subjective.

Phyllo, I encourage you to read my exchange with Flannel Jesus in this thread, as I am challenging exactly this notion. Here is another example that I think makes a strong case for top-level objectivity with significant underlying subjectivity:

Language is at base subjective. If I decide to myself to call a rock a shporkle, that word will have subjective meaning for me, but when I ask someone to pass me a shporkle, no meaning will be exchanged. And yet, at the highest level, when the language is examined across all of its speakers, we can and do make objective statements about whether or not someone is using or pronouncing a word incorrectly. There is an objectively true meaning to words that emerges despite the subjectivity of any individual's use of that lanuage. There's fuzziness and error rates, but it would be hard to argue that the english language doesn't exist objectively.
User Control Panel > Board preference > Edit display options > Display signatures: No.
Carleas
Magister Ludi
 
Posts: 5666
Joined: Wed Feb 02, 2005 8:10 pm
Location: Washington DC, USA

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby von Rivers » Sun Nov 11, 2012 7:45 pm

Carleas wrote:OK, Mo_, then we agree. As written, your syllogism is formally invalid, i.e. the conclusion does not follow from the stated premises.
I think the argument as I wrote it is valid. When you formalize it, and ignore the meanings of the terms, it becomes formally invalid. That happens, often. But I'm not aware of a thing that needs to be changed from the argument, except to make it clearer.

This strikes me as a weak argument. One can reject the idea that we can legimately criticize others' conduct; moral relativists would disagree that such criticism is legitimate, as would anyone with any theory of a subjective morality.
Of course they can. Anyone can deny the truth of any premise... but they need good reasons for doing so, (*none provided), because when they reject my premise, they commit themselves to a host of wildly implausible things, namely, the denial of everything in that premise.

In addition, the initially unstated premise that being able to do these things entails that morality is objective (If C then A, the other half of the biconditional) also seems suspect. It's quite possible that it's best to treat morality as though it's objective, even if it is in fact subjective, e.g. because it only really matters that everyone agrees on morality and treating it as objective encourages broad agreement.
If you treat morality as objective, when you think that it is subjective, then you are behaving inconsistently. Your theory doesn't match your practice, which begs the question of why your theory is the way it is, or why your practice is the way it is. Of course, most of what's gone on in this debate is just someone denying some premise here or there, without feeling the need to bolster that denial with any kind of support. Yes, if this is what you're asking, it's possible that morality could be subjective----that's possible, I'm just not sure what reason we have to think so, or what's wrong with any of the reasons against thinking so. Really, I'm not aware of a single one having been provided.
User avatar
von Rivers
ILP Legend
 
Posts: 5792
Joined: Sun May 09, 2004 4:24 am

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby Carleas » Mon Nov 12, 2012 5:48 am

Mo_ wrote:Of course they can. Anyone can deny the truth of any premise... but they need good reasons for doing so, (*none provided), because when they reject my premise, they commit themselves to a host of wildly implausible things, namely, the denial of everything in that premise.

Depending on where the burden of proof lies initially, and on how reasonable the premise is, the burden doesn't have to shift. After all, the premise itself is not an argument for it, so if after simply stating the premise, someone who disagrees simply rejects it, the person who bore the burden initially probably still bears the burden of defending their position. If you make an argument that involves a truly outlandish premise, it would be strange if including that premise in a syllogism shifted the burden of disproving it to the person who quite reasonably rejected it, right?

Mo_ wrote:it's possible that morality could be subjective----that's possible, I'm just not sure what reason we have to think so, or what's wrong with any of the reasons against thinking so. Really, I'm not aware of a single one having been provided.

I agree that that morality is objective (although I think I mean that differently than you do), but I think the burden of proof is on us to prove that. A premise is not a reason, so if a premise necessary to reach a conclusion is denied, even without any supporting argument, it could well be the case that the person who presented the premise still bears the burden of proving it. In this case, where the premise in question is almost equivalent to the conclusion (the ability to legitimately criticize on moral grounds is nearly the same as morality being objective), putting the premise out there does little to shift the burden. If the person you're trying to convince would be willing to accept that, they're not likely to disagree with you in the first place.
User Control Panel > Board preference > Edit display options > Display signatures: No.
Carleas
Magister Ludi
 
Posts: 5666
Joined: Wed Feb 02, 2005 8:10 pm
Location: Washington DC, USA

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby von Rivers » Mon Nov 12, 2012 6:19 am

Carleas wrote:Depending on where the burden of proof lies initially, and on how reasonable the premise is, the burden doesn't have to shift. After all, the premise itself is not an argument for it, so if after simply stating the premise, someone who disagrees simply rejects it, the person who bore the burden initially probably still bears the burden of defending their position. If you make an argument that involves a truly outlandish premise, it would be strange if including that premise in a syllogism shifted the burden of disproving it to the person who quite reasonably rejected it, right?

In general, this is right. A few points:
1. You can't reasonably reject something without giving reasons. You can withold judgment if the burden's not in your court.
2. What's most plausible is to think that if you're going to discuss morality with some other culture then there would have to be some objective domain with which to appeal. If taste is subjective, (for example), then we look ridiculous to have a debate about whether apples taste better than oranges. And if we do discuss it, then we're doing nothing more than voicing opinions, without any reason for the other to care or consider anything. Imagine that if the truth of what I'm saying (about morality, or any topic) is relative to me, then why should I care about whatever objections you have to what I'm saying---because what I'm saying is already true!
3. I think this is what I took myself to be saying when I made the section on the list of reasons why claiming objectivity is a good thing.

I agree that that morality is objective (although I think I mean that differently than you do), but I think the burden of proof is on us to prove that.

I don't think you believe that. When you hear of an Iranian girl who is stoned to death because she ran away from a forced marriage at the age of 13... do you immediately say, "Well, different strokes for different folks"? Because if not, then intuitively you think morality is objective. You might have some explanation about it being illusory, but you'd at least recognize that some explanation is required. None has ever been provided in this thread. And yes, I have made some burden shifting arguments. Usually what happens now is that someone will scoff and then bring up a legitimate cultural difference revolving around an incredibly complex issue for which we couldn't know the answer. If I say here that it might be that we disagree and neither of us is wrong, that's no threat to objectivity, either.

putting the premise out there does little to shift the burden. If the person you're trying to convince would be willing to accept that, they're not likely to disagree with you in the first place.

Agreed. I think I did a fair bit in my original post. There was a list of 5 points toward the end of the post. And of course I argued from extreme cases to shift the burden as well---you know, forks in eyes and stuff like that.
User avatar
von Rivers
ILP Legend
 
Posts: 5792
Joined: Sun May 09, 2004 4:24 am

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby phyllo » Mon Nov 12, 2012 4:11 pm

Phyllo, I encourage you to read my exchange with Flannel Jesus in this thread, as I am challenging exactly this notion.
I skimmed it. Are you referring to a specific post(s)?
There's fuzziness and error rates, but it would be hard to argue that the english language doesn't exist objectively.
English exists objectively as does morality. But not all English words or sentences have objective meaning. Words which refer to physical objects can generally be thought of as having objective meaning. Word which refer to abstract concepts are not objective. The meaning of these words exists only in human minds and does not exist as an archetype in any one accessible location. The word 'dog' is very different from the word 'value'. People will agree to what a dog is and will be able to say, when shown a picture, whether it is a dog or not. Now show them another picture and ask if the object is valuable and there will be a much greater variety of responses. And then ask about the value of another abstract concept -love,pain,pleasure,honor - and you will have still greater variety. Introduce another abstract word 'equal' and ask them to balance love and honor and pain and suffering. There will be huge range of opinions. Morality deals largely with these kinds of abstractions. There is a physical act and an evaluation of the act. Iambiguous often posts about that - Mary had an abortion versus the morality of Mary's abortion.
phyllo
ILP Legend
 
Posts: 10875
Joined: Thu Dec 16, 2010 1:41 am

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby Moreno » Mon Nov 12, 2012 6:14 pm

Mo,
in a sense I am thinking that when presenting your idea of objective morality, first put the ideas in a grid with other objective moralities, compare and contrast. I think your position will get can't see the forest for the trees resistance when you begin with supporting your position.
User avatar
Moreno
ILP Legend
 
Posts: 10305
Joined: Sat Nov 24, 2007 5:46 pm

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby von Rivers » Mon Nov 12, 2012 6:26 pm

Moreno wrote:Mo,
in a sense I am thinking that when presenting your idea of objective morality, first put the ideas in a grid with other objective moralities, compare and contrast. I think your position will get can't see the forest for the trees resistance when you begin with supporting your position.


What?
User avatar
von Rivers
ILP Legend
 
Posts: 5792
Joined: Sun May 09, 2004 4:24 am

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby Only_Humean » Tue Nov 13, 2012 1:20 pm

Carleas wrote:Language is at base subjective. If I decide to myself to call a rock a shporkle, that word will have subjective meaning for me, but when I ask someone to pass me a shporkle, no meaning will be exchanged. And yet, at the highest level, when the language is examined across all of its speakers, we can and do make objective statements about whether or not someone is using or pronouncing a word incorrectly. There is an objectively true meaning to words that emerges despite the subjectivity of any individual's use of that lanuage. There's fuzziness and error rates, but it would be hard to argue that the english language doesn't exist objectively.


Hi Carleas, I think the parallel with language is a very good one. No-one's going to argue that English doesn't exist, and no-one will argue that people don't behave morally. But similarly, there is a gap that needs crossing between the social conventions of a language and the world to which it refers. I can be correct that a sentence in English should start with a capital letter. That has nothing to do with meaning, or anything about the way the world is, it's a convention. If everyone decided to drop the convention, the language would be no less meaningful or relevant or usable.

Similarly, Paris is the capital of France - very few people would say this is a subjective fact. Yet if everyone decided tomorrow that Lyons were the capital of France, Lyons would be the capital of France. People who thought Paris were the capital would be flat out wrong; books that stated it as such would be considered outdated. "Paris is the capital of France" is true by virtue of it being held to be true by people - no redefinition of terms is necessary. Compare that to "Everest is the highest peak in the world" - public consensus can't alter that, except by redefining the words as commonly understood.

If you want to make an objective statement about pronunciation or grammar, you have to limit your pronouncement to a particular language/dialect at a particular time. We no longer pronounce "nothing" as "no-thing", as English-speakers did in the past. And we don't pronounce "dog" as "Hund", as they do in Germany - and I don't think anyone would hold that "dog" is objectively the right word for it and that the Germans are wrong to use the word "Hund", nor that they are objectively wrong to capitalise their nouns.

So how mind-independent are linguistic facts? Why should mind-independence be a prerequisite of holding something to be right or wrong, having established a context? Why should a "cultural relativist" who sees language as a series of social conventions be committed to disallowing criticisms of poor grammar by an English speaker - or for that matter, why should they not criticise other languages' conventions on the grounds of unclarity, inefficiency, over-/undercomplexity or misleading conceptual structures? We can learn from other languages, talk meaningfully about differences and confusions and assess the effects of changes on our own language with time.

Flannel Jesus wrote:But what about prudential ones? It's prudent to find a parking space close to the entrance of whatever building you're going in. Are parking prudentially and murder on the same spectrum? That's a bit less intuitive. Most people would ask totally different sorts of questions to figure out if a given parking space is prudent than they would to determine if a given murder was morally acceptable. Different sorts of questions means different units of measurement (in a lightly metaphorical way, of course). People don't measure the prudent-ness of a parking space and the morality of a murder in the same way, using the same tools, the same types of questions, etc.


It would be clearer to show examples of choices where there is a potential conflict between prudence and morality. Hiding a Jewish neighbour from the Gestapo would be considered by many to be hands-down the moral choice, but the consequences of his being discovered on you and your family, as against any personal benefit, would arguably make it highly imprudent. A soldier taking a stand against overwhelming odds may be driven by morality, but certainly not prudence. They're clearly not equivalent, although they are very often associated.
Image

The biology of purpose keeps my nose above the surface.
- Brian Eno
User avatar
Only_Humean
ILP Legend
 
Posts: 6194
Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 10:53 am
Location: Right here

Re: Is Morality Objective?

Postby anon » Tue Nov 13, 2012 1:38 pm

A bit between Mo & myself on prudence and morality from another thread here:

anon wrote:
Mo_ wrote:
anon wrote:"I ought to know better than to post here, even occasionally" is a matter of prudence. Let's say uncontrolled harsh language is morally wrong. Let's assume that I have trouble controlling my language when I speak with you. So I wonder whether I can fruitfully take part in a conversation with you, in this thread, without doing something morally wrong. I'm feeling good, and in control, so I post something nice and straightforward. I've just done something morally right, but imprudent. Because I've misjudged my abilities and the first time you say to me "you know where you can shove it", I lose control and rage against you.


Posting here is not imprudent, nor is it immoral (whatever you think the distinction is). If you can't control your language, then posting here is both imprudent and immoral---i.e., something you ought not do. If you get into a conversation knowing you can't always control your language, then posting here is both imprudent and immoral. You haven't explained whatever you take the distinction to be. I've feigned that there is a distinction in what I just wrote---but there actually is none to be had, at least not one that you've made clear.

Your example is a bad one. And if you had spent some time reading past posts, you'd have realized that I've already dealt with bad examples. Perhaps you could just say what you think the distinction is...

Let me repeat what I've already said, for you:

Being prudent is never immoral, and being immoral is never prudent. They are not just conceptually linked, they are two concepts for the same thing (i.e., what you 'ought' to do). Your intelligence has been bewitched and confused by means of an error in language. I can tell you how it happened, if you want. The error, at least, reached prominence when Kant divorced empirical self-interest ('happiness') from morality, in order to find a non-contingent, universal ground of morality. He rendered the concept unintelligible when he placed its necessary postulates in the unintelligible realm---the noumenal realm. When he tried to solve the problem of motivation (i.e., "Why be moral?"), that answer, too, was likewise placed in the unanswerable category. This is all fundamentally religious thinking. You can separate prudence from morality if you say "prudence is this-worldly self-interest", and "morality is other-worldly self-interest" (i.e., getting into heaven, and not hell)... but there is no other-world. I don't make a fiction and a show of my concepts, and neither should you. You can always uphold a distinction when you render one half of it meaningless---but it'll be a meaningless distinction.

Thus I'm in the tradition of the philosophical greats... Socrates, Nietzsche, Hobbes, and Dan~

Another thing you'll surely be tempted to do (as others have), is to say things like, "So brushing your teeth is something moral"? And my answer is clearly yes. You ought to take care of yourself. But don't mistake degrees of importance (e.g., brushing your teeth vs. saving a life) with a fundamental difference in concepts.

But if my post here is morally positive, then how could you say it is morally wrong? You can't. What is wrong about it? Should I always assume I won't be able to handle myself appropriately in some particular person's presence? How do you ever know, if you don't try? In fact, you may have to be imprudent in order to cultivate moral character. You've got to be daring, and do something positive in the world.

If you can't distinguish different kinds of actions because you insist on their connections to each other, then you can't talk about anything at all, let alone morality or prudence. You can't talk about what you ought to do, at all. You can't talk about necks, and you can't talk about heads.

Anyway, let's stick with this concept you just brought up - "degrees of importance". So there is a spectrum, and prudence is to the left, while morality is to the right. It's all the same thing, but it's a matter of degree of "oughtness". Just like the difference between the neck and the head, in Loki's case. Where is the line drawn? Inability to draw a clear line doesn't mean there is no difference between "neck" and "head". Same with prudence and morality, given your own definitions.

I like my example of the difference between prudence and morality because prudence here isn't about something unrelated to the question of how one ought to act. A bit later, I also offered this...

anon wrote:By the way, according to your logic the only proper moral decision is to not engage with others at all. Absolute prudence. 'Cause I might fuck up.

...which I stand by. I think this is the end result of Mo's packaging of prudence with morality.
"Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries." - Blaise Pascal

"The bombs we plant in each other are ticking away." - Edward Yang

"To a fly that likes the smell of putrid / Meat the fragrance of sandalwood is foul. / Beings who discard Nirvana / Covet coarse Samsara's realm." - Saraha
User avatar
anon
ILP Legend
 
Posts: 8274
Joined: Fri Nov 09, 2007 7:59 pm
Location: In the meantime.

Next

Return to Discussion



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users