Is there anything objective about morality?

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elasto
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby elasto » Mon Jun 08, 2015 6:37 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Usually, however, such a disagreement is not about trying to determine facts. It is a matter of expressing your preferences, and wanting your preferences to have more weight than those of another.

Exactly. Who is to say that ethics isn't just a matter of expressing your preference?

Tyndmyr wrote:Unspecified, it is likely that each person is talking about themselves. So person A thinks that sensory pleasure is more important to them. Person B thinks that nutrition is more important to them. And by "more important", they mean "I like this more". Great, we're just stating opinions here, not expressing a factual difference.

Exactly. Who is to say that ethics isn't just stating opinions?

Tyndmyr wrote:If we want to determine which of the two is more important to say, maximizing human lifespan, we can test that.

Sure. But then we're outside of ethics and into the realm of science. Ethics is about whether maximizing human lifespan is intrinsically a good thing, not whether policy A or B is better at doing so.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby brenok » Mon Jun 08, 2015 6:41 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Relative importance to what?

See, the ambiguity here is the object that it is important to.

Unspecified, it is likely that each person is talking about themselves. So person A thinks that sensory pleasure is more important to them. Person B thinks that nutrition is more important to them. And by "more important", they mean "I like this more". Great, we're just stating opinions here, not expressing a factual difference.

Doesn't that just mean that taste (or morality) varies depending on the person, and is therefore subjective?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby 44 stone lions » Mon Jun 08, 2015 7:01 pm UTC

brenok wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Relative importance to what?

See, the ambiguity here is the object that it is important to.

Unspecified, it is likely that each person is talking about themselves. So person A thinks that sensory pleasure is more important to them. Person B thinks that nutrition is more important to them. And by "more important", they mean "I like this more". Great, we're just stating opinions here, not expressing a factual difference.

Doesn't that just mean that taste (or morality) varies depending on the person, and is therefore subjective?


But then taste (or morality) is heavily influenced by the culture you grew up in. The rather bland food of the diet I was brought up on may seem disgusting to someone who was brought up in China, while their food seems to OTT with the spices to me. Thus I would argue, although it is a generalisation, that your subjective view is in fact relative to where you came from, and is not necessarily something unique to you.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Mon Jun 08, 2015 7:25 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Good is merely a summary of various traits.
But it carries prescriptive moral and ethical baggage. "Is good" has a very different connotation from "tastes good" or "looks good". It's like using "right" to mean "correct", but in a context that pits it against "unethical" rather than "incorrect". It's disingenuous.

Tyndmyr wrote:Likewise, morality is objective. When you say "capitalism is bad", you really have some more specific complaint regarding capitalism. Perhaps you feel it is inferior to another system in regards to accomplishing x. We can study that, and determine if that is true or false.
If I feel capitalism is inferior to another system in regards to accomplishing x, and I state that, then I am speaking clearly and narrowly. If I instead merely say "capitalism is bad", then I am painting in overly broad strokes while eliciting an emotional reaction based on the baggage that the word "bad" carries. The statement is so overly broad as to be meaningless, and it implies "immoral", whereas "inferior to another system in regards to accomplishing x" does not carry that implication. (Of course x can be immoral itself, but that doesn't make a system that is inferior in accomplishing it moral or immoral).

I'll even concede that matters of taste have an objective basis in an individual case. I can like anchovies, and it can be shown that consuming anchovies activates my pleasure center. It would be objectively true for me that anchovies taste good. That however does not make anchovies objectively taste good. To you they might taste gross, also provable by PET scans and whatnot. Were the two of us to argue that anchovies taste good (or not), there would be no absolute objective answer.

And this is in a case of descriptive qualities. Ethics and morals are not descriptive however, they are prescriptive. They are an "ought" question, and that is a fundamental difference. "Capitalism is bad" is a value judgment - leading to an "ought" statement: "One ought not pursue capitalism". However, "Capitalism is inferior to another system in regards to accomplishing x" is not a value judgment (between good and evil). It is a description of likely consequences. It's the difference between "Pushing your sister off a cliff will cause her to plummet to the ground at 16 ft/sec/sec, neglecting air friction, and given the height of the cliff will likely cause her to be smashed into bits upon impact, ending her life unpleasantly", and "Pushing your sister off a cliff is an evil, dastardly, wicked thing to do". The fact that the first is objective does not make the second objective.

Tyndmyr wrote:If we want to determine which of the two is more important to say, maximizing human lifespan, we can test that.
Sure, but that's not the point. The point is that the ethical value of "maximizing human lifespan" is an ethical platform. You are still measuring the value of some action with respect to an ethical platform, and thus it is not an absolute.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Mon Jun 08, 2015 7:32 pm UTC

ucim wrote:This does not sound like a meaning of "good" that has any moral implications. It just duplicates the meaning of "effective". It is not what I mean when I use the word "good" in an ethical sense.
I'll move back and approach it differently. You want to make a judgement about the relative comparison between any two individuals. I on the other hand say that it doesn't matter, as long as one or both prosper. Of any generation that has ever existed you remember certain ones because they caught your attention in some fashion, but the only relevance of merit that remains is the fact that they lived long enough to reproduce, not as individuals, but as groups. Good or bad in the way it is being discussed here assumes that mortality and ethics are only of immediate value as compared to the longer term value of future generations. The fact that thousands are dying in the Middle East daily will be of no importance if we get past it and those same groups prosper in the future. The problem of a metric like happiness is that it has immediacy, but that it neglects the future. Which leads to things like the tragedy of the commons.

What I have suggested is that what is objective is the base system. A metric for defining good. One that is complete and concise. Good is continuing and bad isn't continuing. I could expound but I don't see the point.
elasto wrote:If I say big macs are good because they're tasty, and you say big macs are bad because they taste gross, which one of us is 'objectively right'?
Neither. The only objective good is that if you are starving to death a Big Mac will keep you alive.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Mon Jun 08, 2015 7:42 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:I'll move back and approach it differently. You want to make a judgement about the relative comparison between any two individuals. I on the other hand say that it doesn't matter, as long as one or both prosper.
Ethics is not about making sure one, both, or the group prospers. Ethics is about "right" and "wrong". It deals with questions like: "Is it ok to steal from the rich?", "Is it ok to deface somebody else's property?", "Is it ok to kill all the folk on welfare so that the economy can prosper?", "Is it ok to kill me because you think I just might do that?" "Is it ok to torture me first, because I'm going to die anyway?".

So, even if your definition of "good" were objective, it is not useful in this context.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jun 08, 2015 7:50 pm UTC

elasto wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Usually, however, such a disagreement is not about trying to determine facts. It is a matter of expressing your preferences, and wanting your preferences to have more weight than those of another.

Exactly. Who is to say that ethics isn't just a matter of expressing your preference?

Tyndmyr wrote:Unspecified, it is likely that each person is talking about themselves. So person A thinks that sensory pleasure is more important to them. Person B thinks that nutrition is more important to them. And by "more important", they mean "I like this more". Great, we're just stating opinions here, not expressing a factual difference.

Exactly. Who is to say that ethics isn't just stating opinions?

Tyndmyr wrote:If we want to determine which of the two is more important to say, maximizing human lifespan, we can test that.

Sure. But then we're outside of ethics and into the realm of science. Ethics is about whether maximizing human lifespan is intrinsically a good thing, not whether policy A or B is better at doing so.


Good in what way? Answer that, and we're suddenly back to answering real question objectively.

Ethics in the sense that is "outside the realm of science" is meaningless. It is also not differentiable from concepts such as "religion".

brenok wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Relative importance to what?

See, the ambiguity here is the object that it is important to.

Unspecified, it is likely that each person is talking about themselves. So person A thinks that sensory pleasure is more important to them. Person B thinks that nutrition is more important to them. And by "more important", they mean "I like this more". Great, we're just stating opinions here, not expressing a factual difference.

Doesn't that just mean that taste (or morality) varies depending on the person, and is therefore subjective?


Just because something varies does not make it subjective. The philosophical definition of this is reliant on mind/body dualism which I do not believe to be a thing.

Yes, your brain may be different than (random other person)'s brain. This is not different from differences in height or any number of other properties, yet philosophers do not seem to agonize over people saying "I am tall", "you are short", or "people are tall". In all of those cases, there is an implicit comparison that can be, once identified, evaluated for objective truth.

Why should morality be special compared to anything else?

ucim wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Good is merely a summary of various traits.
But it carries prescriptive moral and ethical baggage. "Is good" has a very different connotation from "tastes good" or "looks good". It's like using "right" to mean "correct", but in a context that pits it against "unethical" rather than "incorrect". It's disingenuous.


Good and bad are used to describe a great many properties. What of it? Why can we not even talk about mental traits in the same way that we talk about any other? Why the belief that a human mind is somehow subject to special laws, somehow?

I'll even concede that matters of taste have an objective basis in an individual case. I can like anchovies, and it can be shown that consuming anchovies activates my pleasure center. It would be objectively true for me that anchovies taste good. That however does not make anchovies objectively taste good. To you they might taste gross, also provable by PET scans and whatnot. Were the two of us to argue that anchovies taste good (or not), there would be no absolute objective answer.


You could objectively answer that approximately 45% of humanity(or some other number) finds anchovies to taste good, per testing. Stating that they taste "good" or "bad" with the implication that this is the general case is reasonably accurate in some cases where humanity has generally similar preferences. There is no reason why this must be the case for everything.

Sure, but that's not the point. The point is that the ethical value of "maximizing human lifespan" is an ethical platform. You are still measuring the value of some action with respect to an ethical platform, and thus it is not an absolute.


Sure, you can compute the value of maximizing human lifespan in a number of other quantifiable traits. You can test longevity and get data. Why not?

Remove the human element, and it becomes patently clear. How would you measure the desirability of selecting apple trees for longevity? Suddenly, unbiased testing methods occur, and you consider various ways by which to measure the utility of an apple tree. But mention people, and everyone suddenly acts as if it's "deep" or "immoral" or something.

And yet, we are not so different from the apple tree.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Jun 08, 2015 7:58 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Ethics in the sense that is "outside the realm of science" is meaningless. It is also not differentiable from concepts such as "religion".
You keep claiming this, but so far I haven't seen any real support apart from your obstinate denial that the word "good" means anything.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jun 08, 2015 8:07 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Ethics in the sense that is "outside the realm of science" is meaningless. It is also not differentiable from concepts such as "religion".
You keep claiming this, but so far I haven't seen any real support apart from your obstinate denial that the word "good" means anything.


What differentiates untestable, unscientific concepts? Why is an unscientific "ethics" categorically on par with "religion" and not with "christianity" or "catholicism"?

Good is a general term. It is not entirely meaningless, but it is important to determine which specific meaning is being discussed. Otherwise, it is possible for people to talk past each other all day. It's a perfectly fine shorthand word where no significant disagreement exists as to the topic, but expecting all uses of "good" to be universally the same isn't really a moral statement. It's just a misunderstanding of language. The idea that objective truth is proposing that is a grave misunderstanding. Objective truth does not center on the language that you use to describe things, it centers on the facts of reality.

You can describe a turtle using any number of methods or words, but the turtle is still a turtle. You may measure the turtle imprecisely, but that does not change it's dimensions. People may have many different thoughts regarding the turtle, but the turtle is unchanged by any of them. If a difference exists, the error is on the part of the observer, not on the part of reality. All beliefs not corresponding to reality are errors.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Mon Jun 08, 2015 9:01 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Why should morality be special compared to anything else?
Because morality is prescriptive. Measuring a turtle, or the lifespan of a tree, is descriptive. It is passive. It contains no implications for action on our part. Being descriptive, it merely reports on the way things are. It is objective. Even "you are young", while a relative measure, is objective, in that age is a measurable quantity, and your age can be unambiguously determined (in four-space if you want to get picky about relativity). "You are black" is also objective, if broad. Skin color is measurable on a colorimeter, and once categories are set up, people can be sorted into them.

Now a person wants to go into a bar.

"Sorry, you can't, because you are black".
"Sorry, you can't, because you are young."

Some people would say that one of these statements/actions/attitude is "wrong" and the other isn't.

On what basis would you ascribe "right" and "wrong" to them? On what basis would you defend the thesis that the "rightness" or "wrongness" is objective?

Suppose that young people statistically tend to be more vulnerable to alcohol. Suppose that black people statistically tend to get more violent when liquored up. (It doesn't matter why; black is still a marker for this trait.) In both cases, letting the person in would tend to reduce the survivability of the group. Would this lead you to the conclusion that it is right to discriminate against black people and young people for admission to a tavern? Would that make it "objective"?

Would somebody who does not ascribe to the notion that all actions which improve the survivability of the group are "good" be objectively wrong? How would you (objectively) defend against the claim that it is you that was wrong in adopting that notion?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Copper Bezel » Mon Jun 08, 2015 9:18 pm UTC

ucim wrote:Ethics is not about making sure one, both, or the group prospers. Ethics is about "right" and "wrong". It deals with questions like: "Is it ok to steal from the rich?", "Is it ok to deface somebody else's property?", "Is it ok to kill all the folk on welfare so that the economy can prosper?", "Is it ok to kill me because you think I just might do that?" "Is it ok to torture me first, because I'm going to die anyway?".

It's a consequence of the concept of autonomy that there's any distinction between the kinds of questions or goals. It is also perhaps easier to mandate very specific prohibitions than broad responsibilities to pursue this or that goal. But the only reason anything can be right or wrong is in its impact on others (basically regardless of your moral system.)

I honestly don't understand the need for the extra layer of abstraction that moral relativism imposes. So far as I can tell from the argument thus far, that is quite literally all it does - it imposes an extra layer of abstraction that requires some extra circumlocution to say what you actually mean. The point at which you introduce a metaethical system where one ethical system can be superior to another, then you're not doing relativism anymore. And if you can't do that, and can only say that you find one system or another more amenable to your taste, and would advocate for it and so on, but that it's not more "right" ... well, once again, we're talking about the same thing using different language, except that the language at this point has gone from needless abstraction to straight-up obfuscation.

Everyone is doing the same things for the same reasons. The only difference is in what words we use to describe it and the fuzzy-logic philosophical rationalizations we use to prop it up. And morality doesn't actually need those things, or really base in those things, any more than it needs a god. It isn't true that the "real reason" Christians don't randomly kill everyone they meet is because Moses was all so very clever as to include a prohbition against murder, and metaethical shenanigans have zero bearing on whether you do, too.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Mon Jun 08, 2015 9:23 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:I honestly don't understand the need for the extra layer of abstraction that moral relativism imposes.
It doesn't do that. It merely denies that there is a One True Ethic.

At least I am denying that, whatever label it has.

Copper Bezel wrote:Everyone is doing the same things for the same reasons.
No, people do different things for different reasons, but they all think they're right. That is why there is so much conflict.

Jose
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jun 08, 2015 9:54 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Why should morality be special compared to anything else?
Because morality is prescriptive. Measuring a turtle, or the lifespan of a tree, is descriptive. It is passive. It contains no implications for action on our part. Being descriptive, it merely reports on the way things are. It is objective. Even "you are young", while a relative measure, is objective, in that age is a measurable quantity, and your age can be unambiguously determined (in four-space if you want to get picky about relativity). "You are black" is also objective, if broad. Skin color is measurable on a colorimeter, and once categories are set up, people can be sorted into them.

Now a person wants to go into a bar.

"Sorry, you can't, because you are black".
"Sorry, you can't, because you are young."

Some people would say that one of these statements/actions/attitude is "wrong" and the other isn't.

On what basis would you ascribe "right" and "wrong" to them? On what basis would you defend the thesis that the "rightness" or "wrongness" is objective?


Based on data, of course. Is a society that denies enterance to black folks worse than one that does not? Ask the same question for young folks.

It becomes clear that despite their similarity, differentiating by age is somewhat different than differentiating by race, and will have different effects.

What you should do is determined by the data. If you are determining what you should do for reasons OTHER than support from data...I can't imagine why you would want to do that. Well, I can, but I don't imagine that this would be reliable for determining the best way to do something. If your morals of "what to do
" do not match up with results from reality, reality will not change to match your beliefs. Your beliefs should change to match reality.

Would somebody who does not ascribe to the notion that all actions which improve the survivability of the group are "good" be objectively wrong? How would you (objectively) defend against the claim that it is you that was wrong in adopting that notion?

Jose


Survivability is generally selected for. Natural selection and all that. So, pretty universally strived for, sure. More survivability is generally desirable.

But the selection of the "group" as an entity is arbitrary, and natural selection works on many levels. The individual as well as the group normally wishes to survive. Tradeoffs exist. The effectiveness of these tradeoffs can be studied, and routinely are in biology. The effectiveness of various strategies can be determined and compared, and the most effective one for a given situation found, at least in theory. This is not really controversial if you are studying beetles, and nobody is fussed over if the beetle has free will or any of that.

Why are people different from beetles?

ucim wrote:
Copper Bezel wrote:I honestly don't understand the need for the extra layer of abstraction that moral relativism imposes.
It doesn't do that. It merely denies that there is a One True Ethic.


Why is such a thing impossible? Yes, we may not actually know it, having imperfect and incomplete knowledge. But, as we learn more, our perception of reality becomes more accurate and we are able to make better decisions.

Taken to it's extreme, a sufficiently informed being must be able to make decisions extremely well. I must suppose that if advancement in knowledge, etc continues, future generations will be better at a wide range of topics than I, including those we define as "ethics" or "morality". Why is it impossible that they will find an ideal method?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Mon Jun 08, 2015 10:04 pm UTC

ucim wrote:Suppose that young people statistically tend to be more vulnerable to alcohol. Suppose that black people statistically tend to get more violent when liquored up. (It doesn't matter why; black is still a marker for this trait.) In both cases, letting the person in would tend to reduce the survivability of the group. Would this lead you to the conclusion that it is right to discriminate against black people and young people for admission to a tavern? Would that make it "objective"?

Would somebody who does not ascribe to the notion that all actions which improve the survivability of the group are "good" be objectively wrong? How would you (objectively) defend against the claim that it is you that was wrong in adopting that notion?
In my case it would be just peachy to let them in. The good is relative to producing the next generation. It isn't important to do anything in this case. How much it either causes or fails to cause the group to prosper can only be determined after the fact. We will do what we always do, make it up as we go along. An example of this type of behavior is alcohol. We have tried this and that and have come to the conclusion that control, in alcohols case, is better than prohibition.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Mon Jun 08, 2015 10:08 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Based on data, of course. Is a society that denies enterance to black folks worse than one that does not?
Based on what data? What data indicates that something is "worse"? What, exactly, is being measured, and why is this the right thing to measusre in the first place?

Tyndmyr wrote:Why are people different from beetles?
Because people are the ones asking the questions.

Tyndmyr wrote:Why is such a thing impossible?
I don't know if it is possible or not. Russel's teapot is not impossible either. But it's an Extraordinary Claim, and I see no evidence to support it. But in any case, there is a fundamental difference between descriptive and prescriptive claims.
Spoiler:
Prescriptive claims are of the form "You should do this. Period." A claim of the form "You should do this if you want to achieve that." is really a descriptive claim, easily rewritten into the form of "if you don't do this, you are unlikely to achieve that."
Tyndmyr wrote:Why is it impossible that they will find an ideal method?
Because such a thing does not exist - especially in the case of "ideal" (unspecified).

I can't prove it doesn't exist, but the existence of The One True Ethic is an Extraordinary Claim. How would you even know it if it bit you in the backside?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby PeteP » Mon Jun 08, 2015 10:09 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
Based on data, of course. Is a society that denies enterance to black folks worse than one that does not? Ask the same question for young folks.

It becomes clear that despite their similarity, differentiating by age is somewhat different than differentiating by race, and will have different effects.

What you should do is determined by the data. If you are determining what you should do for reasons OTHER than support from data...I can't imagine why you would want to do that. Well, I can, but I don't imagine that this would be reliable for determining the best way to do something. If your morals of "what to do
" do not match up with results from reality, reality will not change to match your beliefs. Your beliefs should change to match reality.

Worse for whom? Society in general? The person asking the question? The emperor of morality? If not worse for the person trying to determine the morality, why should said person care about the results for others. And what is if somebody decides to make minimizing the number of rules and doesn't care whether the results are good or bad. Why should that goal matter less than making things better for society?


Also about the evolution stuff. Evolution is just a thing that happens. A species dying or a species surviving are just things that happen. They have no inherent value, one isn't inherently better than the other. Someone could have as an ethical system that the world is best when there is no life anywhere and consider it their moral duty to try to reach that state. If you have clear goals you can optimize for them. But the goals aren't objective.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Mon Jun 08, 2015 10:13 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:In my case it would be just peachy to let them in. The good is relative to producing the next generation.
... but by hypothesis the black folk get violent, which interferes with producing the next generation. The young get sick and crash cars, which does the same thing. This is peachy?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jun 08, 2015 10:19 pm UTC

PeteP wrote:Worse for whom? Society in general? The person asking the question? The emperor of morality? If not worse for the person trying to determine the morality, why should said person care about the results for others. And what is if somebody decides to make minimizing the number of rules and doesn't care whether the results are good or bad. Why should that goal matter less than making things better for society?


If you're in "doesn't care if the results are good or bad", you're outside the bounds of ANY kind of morality, objective or not.

If the question is "is this good for ME", well...that's a degree of precision, but it still leaves "good" remarkably vague.

"Will it please prohibitionists" is a more concrete question. We can go with "yes", as a pretty accurate summary of their expected reaction.

"Will it solve problems resulting from alcohol consumption" is a very different, those also fairly concrete question. And given the real-world data from prohibition, the answer is no. In fact, additional problems were created.

Then you get to answer questions like "is it better to pursue irrational happiness based on incorrect data, or a data-based solution". Fortunately, we can again compare data from history, and look at the results of pursuing the former vs the latter. Reality is objective. Your actions should be driven by it.

Now, there are certainly situations where insufficient data is known to us at present, and we do not know what the ideal choice is, but that does not negate it's existence. Existence is not determined by our knowledge.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jun 08, 2015 10:20 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
morriswalters wrote:In my case it would be just peachy to let them in. The good is relative to producing the next generation.
... but by hypothesis the black folk get violent, which interferes with producing the next generation. The young get sick and crash cars, which does the same thing. This is peachy?

Jose


In an alternative universe where everything is different than ours, morality might be different. Racism might be justified, or whatever. But we're not in that universe.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby PeteP » Mon Jun 08, 2015 10:23 pm UTC

You have provided no reason why one should value specific things. Even if an optimal solution for a goal exists, for morality to be objective the choice of goals/values needs to be objective.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jun 08, 2015 10:32 pm UTC

PeteP wrote:You have provided no reason why one should value specific things. Even if an optimal solution for a goal exists, for morality to be objective the choice of goals/values needs to be objective.


Why do you care about a "should"? People do value certain things, regardless of "should". People do not sit down and decide they wish to live. They just live, because that's how natural selection works. The desire to live is not common because of some philosophical breakthrough, but because that instinct is selected for.

One might as well ask if a plant should grow to maximize sunlight.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby PeteP » Mon Jun 08, 2015 10:33 pm UTC

Because we are speaking about morality, if you aren't speaking about should you aren't speaking about morality.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Mon Jun 08, 2015 10:36 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:In an alternative universe where everything is different than ours, morality might be different. Racism might be justified, or whatever. But we're not in that universe.
Yes we are. Perhaps not with that specific example (although maybe yes with that specific example; are blacks more likely to be arrested? Convicted? Remember, I'm not controlling for other variables like income level, education level, employment, etc., which may well be a causative factor.) Point is, by hypothesis, it is objective data, even if you don't like it.

Given this data, is it right to deny them entrance? Is it wrong to interfere and thus cause societal unrest by investigating further? I mean, who knows what might happen if these undesirables are allowed the same freedoms as regular folk? Gotta protect our group, right?

This is where morals and ethics enter. I am not at all convinced that what you are using for "right" or "wrong" has any ethical component at all. By your definition, you pretty much set it up that way: Practicality above all, ethics be damned. Genghes Khan probably felt the same way.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jun 08, 2015 10:41 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:In an alternative universe where everything is different than ours, morality might be different. Racism might be justified, or whatever. But we're not in that universe.
Yes we are. Perhaps not with that specific example (although maybe yes with that specific example; are blacks more likely to be arrested? Convicted? Remember, I'm not controlling for other variables like income level, education level, employment, etc., which may well be a causative factor.) Point is, by hypothesis, it is objective data, even if you don't like it.

Given this data, is it right to deny them entrance? Is it wrong to interfere and thus cause societal unrest by investigating further? I mean, who knows what might happen if these undesirables are allowed the same freedoms as regular folk? Gotta protect our group, right?

This is where morals and ethics enter. I am not at all convinced that what you are using for "right" or "wrong" has any ethical component at all. By your definition, you pretty much set it up that way: Practicality above all, ethics be damned. Genghes Khan probably felt the same way.

Jose


Again, the choice of group level is fairly arbitrary. Why group based on color, and not based on some other factor for "our group"?

There are always various tiers of groups that are closer to you, and of more importance to your well being. Color is...fairly arbitrary. And if you are only looking for correlation, not causes, you aren't REALLY looking to understand what the right decision is, you're just looking for an excuse for something you want to pursue for other reasons. That's not data-driven at all.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby doogly » Mon Jun 08, 2015 10:42 pm UTC

PeteP wrote:Because we are speaking about morality, if you aren't speaking about should you aren't speaking about morality.

As an aside,
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Mon Jun 08, 2015 11:22 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Again, the choice of group level is fairly arbitrary.
That makes morals derived from this fairly arbitrary.

Tyndmyr wrote:And if you are only looking for correlation, not causes, you aren't REALLY looking to understand what the right decision is...
Correct. I'm not looking for the "right decision" in my artificially set up illustration. Rather, I'm looking for the thinking behind the idea that morals are absolute. I'm not finding it.

Morality is not objective. There is no One True Moral System. That said, you can certainly decide what your goals are, and (in theory) come up with an optimum strategy to get you there. That, however, is not what morals and ethics are about.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Tue Jun 09, 2015 12:03 am UTC

(Sorry for the late and wide-ranging responses. I've been busy for the past couple days.)

Quercus wrote:If however your premise is the intutitve reasonableness of the belief that "Genghis Khan was wrong and would have been wrong even if we thought otherwise.", then, IMO, you have provided an argument. In my view it's not an excellent argument, as there is nothing compelling intuitivly reasonable things to be real, but it isn't begging the question.

I think the intuitive reasonableness is a good reason for believing the thing about Genghis Khan, and then the thing about Genghis Khan entails objectivism (even if simply by being an instance of an existential generalization). Whether you want to say that the intuition is part of the argument or the intuition is some non-propositional support for the premise is tomayto-tomahto, as far as I'm concerned.

You say that the argument isn't good because intuitively reasonable things could be false. You are correct that intuitively reasonable things could be false, but this is only a problem if we demand that our evidence be such that it guarantees the truth of the thing in question. This does not seem to be the case when it comes to other sorts of knowledge. Further, I contend that a great deal of our knowledge requires us to appeal to intuitions at some point, so it would be a bad thing if intuitions couldn't lend good support for a premise. For example, scientific theories are generally underdetermined by the evidence. Faced with multiple theories that are logically consistent with the evidence, we make a decision based on theoretical virtues such as simplicity and explanatory power. If you lay out a piece of scientific reasoning in full, you will find lots of points where the only thing to say is that one option seems simpler than another, and that simplicity seems like a good reason for preferring the theory. And even when it comes to things that are logically determined by the evidence, our judgments of logical consequence ultimately rest on intuition. (Down the thread, ucim writes "This of course relies on the idea that (P and ~P) is always false, but if that's the showstopper, then pretty much all bets are off." How do we know that (p and -p) is always false if we can't appeal to intuition?)

PeteP wrote:My stance is that Moral Objectivism is akin to arguing for the existence of a soul or God or any undetectable supernatural claim. That it is a positive claim about something unobservable which without additional claims has no effect on the world you can check while relativism is the corresponding negative claim. Moral relativism is true if there is no objective morality.

Not at all. Nihilism and non-cognitivism would also be options.

PeteP wrote:Thus arguing for it runs into the same problems as arguing for the non existence of a god.

Yeah, I just don't get this idea that you can't argue for negatives or you can't argue for nonexistence or whatever. I'm happy to assert that God doesn't exist, and I can give arguments to that effect as well. I also believe such negative existentials as: [There's no star besides the Sun in the solar system] and [There's no group with two distinct identity elements]. And I can argue for those as well.

Zamfir wrote:In short, our culture does support this military tactic. Everyone knows the arguments. The Japanese started it and were horrible, it shortened the war, millions of Japanese would have died from starvation otherwise, hundreds of thousands of Americans would have died in the invasion of Japan, etc. So, fairly similar to the arguments of Ghengis.

I'm not sure if the atomic bombings were justified, but if they were, it was only because (among other things) it would have been far worse either to go the conventional warfare route or to back off and let Japan do its thing. To the extent that the US was just acting as an empire, that counts against the bombings. To the extent that the bombings were justified, there had to be very good reasons besides American ambition. I'm pretty comfortable with saying that a line was crossed somewhere between the point where Genghis Khan was organizing independent tribes in Mongolia and the point where he was ruling most of Asia.

Of course, there are other, clearer examples of historical atrocities, but I have other reasons for not wanting to drag those into the thread.

Tyndmyr wrote:Good is a general term. It is not entirely meaningless, but it is important to determine which specific meaning is being discussed. Otherwise, it is possible for people to talk past each other all day.

Your picture seems to be something like: When people disagree about a sentence, either they disagree about what the empirical facts are or they disagree about how the empirical facts relate to the truth of the sentence - and in the latter case they are just using words with different meanings and talking past each other.

It's hard to see the attractiveness of this as a description for ordinary moral conversations. People use the word "good" all the time and seem perfectly well capable of understanding what each other are talking about. People also have disagreements over goodness even when they agree about all the empirical facts. Perhaps this is only apparent disagreement, but you do not say why we should reject this appearance. When these disagreements come up, people seem to view them as real disagreements (Doesn't your view require saying that people don't really know what their words mean?). It feels different to disagree over whether it's OK to eat meat (even if we agree about all the costs environmental consequences and so on) than it does to disagree over whether 0 counts as a natural number. And people are perfectly capable of coming up with arguments, counterexamples, and so on which are capable of pushing back on their opponents' views - the way that they talk to each other looks like what people do when they disagree over a matter of fact, not what they do when they are agreeing on a vocabulary.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby PeteP » Tue Jun 09, 2015 12:16 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Not at all. Nihilism and non-cognitivism would also be options.

? Why do you consider this two positions as incompatible with moral relativism?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Tue Jun 09, 2015 12:33 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:I think the intuitive reasonableness is a good reason for believing the thing about Genghis Khan...
[...]
(Down the thread, ucim writes "This of course relies on the idea that (P and ~P) is always false, but if that's the showstopper, then pretty much all bets are off." How do we know that (p and -p) is always false if we can't appeal to intuition?)


Depends at what stage the appeal to intuition comes. Intuition can be very self-serving, especially when applied to a specific case ("It's my intuition that gays are defective human beings, so I'm not letting them into my restaurant"). Intuition is useful when it's all you have to go on ("I can't prove I'm not a brain in a box, but I will live my life as if I'm not because it just seems more likely.")

Morality is in many ways an antidote to intuition, because intuition can be so self-serving (leading to consequences that your cohorts don't want). Slavery is fine (those people are inferior anyway - I can tell). Eating meat is fine, cows are just animals. It's wrong to show your legs because it drives men crazy with lust. America has built the strongest, freest country, it's our duty to bring Truth, Justice, and the American Way to the entire world. Some things are just obvious.

But when people disagree, they are disagreeing because of the values they are working from. Given a set of values, one can construct a moral system that makes sense under them. But when values conflict, and thus the moral systems conflict, I do not see any way to choose one over the other without matching them up to my values (which may or may not include one that says that I should maximize the likelihood that this particular group should flourish, even if at the expense of that other group).

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Tue Jun 09, 2015 12:58 am UTC

ucim wrote:
morriswalters wrote:In my case it would be just peachy to let them in. The good is relative to producing the next generation.
... but by hypothesis the black folk get violent, which interferes with producing the next generation. The young get sick and crash cars, which does the same thing. This is peachy?

Jose
Answer the question according to the metric I supplied. The answer would be yes. I'll be happy to make a moral argument that once a person is hooked on heroine that as a matter of course we should house them, feed them, and supply them with all the drugs they can tolerate, gratis. But any system of morality could be as objective as concrete. But that doesn't mean that behavior would change. Or that people would act any differently, or even know that it existed as something tangible and real.

I just handed you a definition of good. How I feel about about individual situations is an emotional response. Happy isn't a state of life. It isn't measurable. Best outcomes are guesses we make about behavior we can't follow over time. The most generally accepted concepts of morality are are distillations of experience over long spans of time. For instance thou shalt not murder, I consider it axiomatic. No society that made it moral within itself would last. Unlike Genghis Khan I'm pretty sure that there is no doubt about it. And for very practical reasons.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Copper Bezel » Tue Jun 09, 2015 1:44 am UTC

ucim wrote:No, people do different things for different reasons, but they all think they're right. That is why there is so much conflict.

I disagree. Any functional moral system is interchangeable with any other but for superficial details. It does not matter whether you believe yourself to begin with God, common sense, or the categorical imperative; you'll come to the same general conclusions, because the thing that you're inventing to justify your moral system ("objectively" or otherwise) is tailored to the purpose of justifying your preexisting morality. Our big signature differences go as far as dietary prohibitions, all the way up to vegetarianism in some contemporary moral codes, which has all the moral weight of a boycott on Apple products.

Actions that work against the social good or abridge human autonomy are immoral whether they're done in the name of morality or not. A society that kills its Jews and gays or makes some suffer for the pleasure of others is immoral. We still have to do the hard work of solving out how to actually encourage a moral society and make all the tough little moral decisions we make on a daily basis, create rights and decide when they apply, and so on and so forth. And of course, a part of that is our ongoing experience with and adjustments within the body of knowledge of morality itself and what it entails.

As for prescription vs. description, we use plenty of other terms that walk that line - prosocial, effective, profitable. It's semantic. If you want to treat "moral" as descriptive, then you can simply say, "X is moral, therefore I will pursue it," and the only prescriptive step is to prefer actions within the set of moral behaviors you're invented / found / identified / whatever.

PeteP wrote:? Why do you consider this two positions as incompatible with moral relativism?

If nihilism is compatible with moral relativism, you may as well say that objectivism is also a subset of moral relativism. Moral relativism makes a positive statement that moral codes exist and are applicable.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby PeteP » Tue Jun 09, 2015 2:18 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:
ucim wrote:No, people do different things for different reasons, but they all think they're right. That is why there is so much conflict.

I disagree. Any functional moral system is interchangeable with any other but for superficial details. It does not matter whether you believe yourself to begin with God, common sense, or the categorical imperative; you'll come to the same general conclusions, because the thing that you're inventing to justify your moral system ("objectively" or otherwise) is tailored to the purpose of justifying your preexisting morality. Our big signature differences go as far as dietary prohibitions, all the way up to vegetarianism in some contemporary moral codes, which has all the moral weight of a boycott on Apple products.

Actions that work against the social good or abridge human autonomy are immoral whether they're done in the name of morality or not. A society that kills its Jews and gays or makes some suffer for the pleasure of others is immoral. We still have to do the hard work of solving out how to actually encourage a moral society and make all the tough little moral decisions we make on a daily basis, create rights and decide when they apply, and so on and so forth. And of course, a part of that is our ongoing experience with and adjustments within the body of knowledge of morality itself and what it entails.

As for prescription vs. description, we use plenty of other terms that walk that line - prosocial, effective, profitable. It's semantic. If you want to treat "moral" as descriptive, then you can simply say, "X is moral, therefore I will pursue it," and the only prescriptive step is to prefer actions within the set of moral behaviors you're invented / found / identified / whatever.

First whether you consider killing animals for food wrong is a pretty major difference, that you consider it so very unimportant is in itself a demonstration that there are significant differences. Also for contemporary differences: Death penalty. Or as Zamfir mentioned whether the atom bombs on japan were an acceptable tactic (and thus there is likely a difference on whether doing something like that in big future wars is acceptable) I really wouldn't say that the acceptability of killing hundreds of thousands is superficial. The acceptability of torture.
And I see no reason to ignore past moralities in regard to slavery. Or the old stance that you can't rape someone you are married to. Or is your argument that they didn't function in some way?
PeteP wrote:? Why do you consider this two positions as incompatible with moral relativism?

If nihilism is compatible with moral relativism, you may as well say that objectivism is also a subset of moral relativism. Moral relativism makes a positive statement that moral codes exist and are applicable.

Nihilism does not deny that people have moral codes. And Moral relativism does not say you have to give a shit about any of the moral codes that exist or have on yourself.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby doogly » Tue Jun 09, 2015 2:21 am UTC

I think nihilism is compatible with moral relativism. Once you observe that there are no objective morals, you can say "Well! Let's roll up our sleeves and make due, it's up to us to define meaning and value in the world!" or you can just not.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Cradarc » Tue Jun 09, 2015 2:42 am UTC

Consider these claims:
1. "I don't think X is right."
2. "I think X is wrong."
3. "X is wrong."
4. "There is no doubt that X is wrong."
5. "It is impossible for X to not be wrong."
6. "Nobody can think X is not wrong."

Are they all conveying the same information?
If you want to know how "objectivist" or "relativist" you are regarding a certain issue, identify the statement that best fits how you would convey your attitude towards the issue.
The liberal society that most (if not all) of us live in has conditioned us to favor the top options. Even when we relate more to the bottom responses, there is a social obligation to voice our thoughts in more "moderate" ways. In the case of morality, "moderate" requires the acceptance of other beliefs, which naturally encourages relativism.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Tue Jun 09, 2015 2:59 am UTC

PeteP wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Not at all. Nihilism and non-cognitivism would also be options.

? Why do you consider this two positions as incompatible with moral relativism?

They're pretty much defined that way. Relativists hold that moral judgments are true relative to a framework. Nihilists hold that moral judgments are all false (modulo some funny business about negation). Non-cognitivists believe moral judgments aren't true or false. I suppose there's also room for, e.g., relativists who think moral judgments can have some other sort of validity besides truth (e.g. justification). But really what matters is not that the positions are incompatible, but that there are other anti-objectivist options besides relativism.

ucim wrote:But when people disagree, they are disagreeing because of the values they are working from. Given a set of values, one can construct a moral system that makes sense under them. But when values conflict, and thus the moral systems conflict, I do not see any way to choose one over the other without matching them up to my values (which may or may not include one that says that I should maximize the likelihood that this particular group should flourish, even if at the expense of that other group).

With one qualification, I agree with this. The qualification is that I think there's room for other things besides values that can push against your values. For example, if you notice you're the only person you know who thinks it's OK to kill people for fun, you might be less confident in that belief. Similarly, you might be born rich, go to a fancy school, and wind up working at Goldman Sachs surrounded by people who were also born rich and went to fancy schools. In such a situation you could recognize that you're in a position that comes with a certain amount of bias, and that gives you reason to be less confident about what seems obvious to you, and more receptive to what people outside your group have to say. Edit: Another example I meant to include is religion. A lot of people think, for example, that God exists and Jesus rose from the dead, and then they buy into a host of moral views as part of a package view. If you lose your belief in God, you might no longer see the force of some of those moral views, even if there's no other change in your values.

But with that qualification aside, I think you are both correct, and picking up on a more general phenomenon. Not only do I have to choose values by reference to the values that I already have, but I have to choose all my beliefs by reference to what I already believe. There is no way to get outside my own perspective, gaze into the noumenal, and adjust my beliefs to The Facts. If you're going to believe anything at all, you're going to have to live with the fact that your beliefs are coming from your perspective and your initial beliefs.

Two relevant upshots:

First, if we can know any objective truths, then we can know some objective truths in spite of the fact that we're perspective-bound in this way. You say it seems that you're not a brain in a box. It seems that way to me, too. But it's hardly a subjective matter whether this is the case. Either you're a brain in a box, or your not. Another example: above, I argued that scientific theories are underdetermined by the evidence and require intuitions about theoretical virtues for support. The same goes for intuitions about logical truths and logical consequence. There are objective matters of fact here, and we are presumably justified in choosing some over others (e.g., quantum mechanics vs. the theory that says quantum mechanics applies *except* for five seconds in a five cubic foot box on a remote corner of Antarctica in 1325). Anything in philosophy would have to work this way as well. For example, if anyone is justified in believing moral relativism, they're justified because of things made available to them by their perspective. Since all knowledge requires prior belief and intuition, we can't reject intuition without rejecting knowledge altogether.

Second, following on the previous point, it's not the case that I'm arguing from intuition and relativists are arguing from somewhere else. Relativists have their own intuitions, which is why they believe in relativism in the first place. For example, they might have the intuition that there couldn't be the types of disagreement that exist if objectivism is true (or maybe objectivism is true but nobody actually knows any moral truths). Or they might have an intuition that there's a burden of proof on objectivism, such that they're justified in being relativists by default. In any case, these intuitions are the same sort of thing as the intuitions behind objectivism, and I think it's perfectly fair to ask why they should win out. As it seems that I'm not a brain in a vat, it also seems that whether it's wrong to kill people for fun has nothing to do with what I think about the matter. If I'm going to give up that intuition, it's going to be because some relativist argument appealed to intuitions that were harder to give up. And, if I find myself considering relativism, I should ask myself whether the ultimate premises of the argument are more plausible than the view that it's wrong to kill people for fun no matter what I think.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Cres » Tue Jun 09, 2015 3:10 am UTC

doogly wrote:Metaethical relativism would deny that there is an objective notion of progress, but not that there is a sense of progress at all! I happen to quite prefer living in our current society to ancient Rome. I would also have preferred ancient Greece.


Having a preference for our current society is not the same as seeing our current moral thinking as progress from previous thinking. If I used to like chocolate ice cream best, but now prefer vanilla, you wouldn't call this 'progress': neither state of affairs is better than the other. I wasn't 'wrong' to like chocolate ice cream. But something different is going on if I used to believe that racism was OK, and now I see that it is not (eg after being convinced by the sorts of moral reasoning and arguments developed and deployed in the civil rights movement). Not only do I have different beliefs now, I also believe that I was previously mistaken. This is why a change in moral beliefs (eg among reformed criminals, or former racists) is so often accompanied by a powerful sense of regret, and a desire to 'turn back the clock' and change past actions.

doogly wrote:tl;dr: there is more to onotology than "objective reality" and "meaningless crap." Metaethical relativism posits that morality is neither of these two.


If by "objective reality" you mean the natural world of physical objects and causal relations, then we agree. My claim is that there are other true, subject-independent (which is what I am understanding by 'objective'?) statements, and that this set includes some irreducibly normative truths.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Copper Bezel » Tue Jun 09, 2015 3:43 am UTC

PeteP wrote:First whether you consider killing animals for food wrong is a pretty major difference,

No, it's really not. Literally no one values the life of a non-human animal at zero or at equivalence with their own conspecifics. Anyone who says otherwise is making an abstract argument they'd almost certainly not enact in practice. There's a pretty big range left between 0 and "1", but I'd wager that most people fall into a much narrower range that we could identify with some behavioral testing.

And I see no reason to ignore past moralities in regard to slavery. Or the old stance that you can't rape someone you are married to. Or is your argument that they didn't function in some way?

The fact that they failed to function wrt the people being so exploited is too obvious to state and requires no defense, and is in fact the reason you bring them up.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Tue Jun 09, 2015 4:00 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:Answer the question according to the metric I supplied.
Sorry, I'm getting lost. The fundamental question (of this thread) is whether or not there exists an objective ONE TRUE MORALITY, which perhaps we struggle to find.

Now, what is "the question"? In my example, it is "is this peachy?" (letting the folk into the bar who are objectively more prone to interfere with the health, safety, welfare, and propagation of the Group to which you belong). Is that the question you would answer with "yes"? If so, you contradict your own definition of "good" (here:" And for any group to exist and prosper certain things have to occur. Good is when those things occur and bad is when they don't. There is no reason to favor one or the other that exists outside the need to form groups to survive."
Spoiler:
While looking for the quote, I came across
Good or bad in the way it is being discussed here assumes that mortality and ethics are only of immediate value as compared to the longer term value of future generations. also, btw, heroin is a drug. Heroine is a female hero. Some would say they are the same, but... well, maybe they have a point. :)
...which seems to contradict what you are saying above.
Rather than point by point, let's start again, remembering the fundamental question above, for which I claim there is no One True Morality, and for which (I think) you claim there is.

I will even stipulate that given a set of goals, there is a One True Method of achieving those goals. My issue with the question is that the selection of goals is arbitrary, and therefore the One True Method Of Achieving These Goals does not constitute a One True Moral System. This holds true even if the (arbitrarily selected) goal happens to coincide with things that happen anyway (like natural selection).

morriswalters wrote:For instance thou shalt not murder, I consider it axiomatic.
Consider that the way to win a war is to be ruthless. Those who are too squeamish to Do Horrible Things to the enemy will lose to those who do not have this inhibition; they will probably surrender, rather than Do Horrible Things. The willingness to Do Horrible Things makes you likely to prevail.

Does that make Doing Horrible Things In Wartime objectively moral? I think there is plenty of room for differences of opinion; it doesn't matter what your (or my) view on the matter is; the question is whether or not there is a One True Morality which could answer the question (and still line up, even if it doesn't agree, with conventional concepts of "right" vs "wrong").

Again, I'm not arguing for any particular moral system. I'm arguing that there isn't any One True Moral System.

morriswalters wrote:Happy isn't a state of life. It isn't measurable. Best outcomes are guesses we make about behavior we can't follow over time.
My issue is the word "Best". Different people have different ideas of what the "best" outcome would be. However, a One True Moral System would not permit this.

Copper Bezel wrote:Any functional moral system is interchangeable with any other but for superficial details
This sounds suspiciously like "No True Scotsman". I don't buy it. Differences between moral systems are not (to my eye) superficial. Eating meat is/isn't moral. Holding slaves is/isn't moral. Killing three to save one is/isn't/is_sometimes moral. Indoctrinating children with superstition is/isn't moral. Dropping the atomic bomb was/wasn't moral. Flying airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was/wasn't moral.

One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. These are not superficial details.

Copper Bezel wrote:Actions that work against the social good or abridge human autonomy are immoral whether they're done in the name of morality or not.
That is a moral stance. It is not evidence that that particular moral stance is part of the One True Moral System.

Copper Bezel wrote:As for prescription vs. description, we use plenty of other terms that walk that line - prosocial, effective, profitable. It's semantic.
What do you mean by "it's semantic"? In common parlance the phrase is used as a synonym for "a difference that makes no difference", but it's actual meaning is "of or pertaning to meaning", which is the opposite of the dismissive way it's often used.

Copper Bezel wrote:...you can simply say, "X is moral...
That's the part of interest. How do you know it's even possible to be correct when making a statement like this? You can only do so if there is a One True Moral System. But that's the part I don't accept.

Cradarc wrote:Consider these claims:[...]
I was wondering when you would get here. :)

For me, the boundary is between.

2. "I think X is wrong."
3. "X is wrong."

... but it's because I hold that "wrong" is not an absolute. It is a product of a moral system. I might say "X is wrong", but it's a shorthand for "In my moral system, X is wrong". My moral system is the one I use to run my life, but I don't think it's Objectively True. I don't even think a statement like that makes any sense.

(I'll respond to other posts later - I just got off the phone with Amazon in a one hour completely unhelpful situation where they sent cups but no saucers as a wedding gift, and there's nothing they are willing to do about it.)

Jose
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Tue Jun 09, 2015 10:21 am UTC

My apologies for confusing you. That may indicate that I'm chasing a phantom, however one last try. I propose that there is one moral statement you can make about humans in general. That continuing to live is desirable and dying is not. So anything that extends the life of the human population overall would be called good.

This is also an individual feature. But on an individual level what that means is much cloudier. So while violent black or white men reducing their chances to survive and reproduce is important on one level it isn't as important on another. Because in aggregate it gets lost in the numbers.

Think of morality in this case as being like your cup of coffee in the morning. It's good that it is hot and less good if it goes cold. But what that means is different when looking at the coffee as a unit and then looking at each molecule separately. So the temperature of the whole cup might be represented as morality on a macro level. However the goal is the same in both cases, but what that means may be different on the macro versus the micro level. However on a macro level life prospering is moral is an objective statement. It is always true. This would be a foundational statement.

Everything after follows from that. Now some axiom like statements.

What is true for all people may not be true for all groups of people. So while a moral truth may exist for each of us, that moral truth may conflict when groups are involved.

The value of a moral statement can't be known completely. The best description I can come up with is a comparison to natural selection, each mutations value is only known after the fact unless it kills the organism outright.

So my thesis is, that while day to day ethics and morals for individuals are subjective and relative, the foundation for those morals isn't. That the difference lies in the desirable outcomes happening on different levels.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby PeteP » Tue Jun 09, 2015 10:46 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:My apologies for confusing you. That may indicate that I'm chasing a phantom, however one last try. I propose that there is one moral statement you can make about humans in general. That continuing to live is desirable and dying is not. So anything that extends the life of the human population overall would be called good.

This is also an individual feature. But on an individual level what that means is much cloudier. So while violent black or white men reducing their chances to survive and reproduce is important on one level it isn't as important on another. Because in aggregate it gets lost in the numbers.

Think of morality in this case as being like your cup of coffee in the morning. It's good that it is hot and less good if it goes cold. But what that means is different when looking at the coffee as a unit and then looking at each molecule separately. So the temperature of the whole cup might be represented as morality on a macro level. However the goal is the same in both cases, but what that means may be different on the macro versus the micro level. However on a macro level life prospering is moral is an objective statement. It is always true. This would be a foundational statement.


Many people consider suicide morally acceptable. Or sacrificing your life to safe others, for something with less baggage. Similarly not everybody would do everything to prevent humanity from disappearing. For instance take this scenario: After something killed every human except two, I was left in a still intact clone factory (let's say it run on it's own solar farm or something) with which an expert can produce healthy human from just a bit of genetic material (and the world is still full of genetic material). I lack the expertise to use it and there isn't enough documentation to realistically learn it either. But there is someone beside me who is an expert, but for some reason refuses to do it. (And all other circumstances are positive enough that project mass cloning could be successful.) I might try to persuade them but I would feel no need to force them (say with violence or by trying to get control of food and drink resources and refusing to give them any if they don't do it.)

In short I don't value survival over all else neither mine nor the one of humanity. Why should I?


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