Is there anything objective about morality?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Sat Jun 13, 2015 3:38 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Everyone can agree that murder is wrong without any pair of them actually agreeing about what constitutes murder...
I don't think that's true. I don't even think that's sensible. If there's no agreement on what murder means, then the furst statement reduces to "everyone can agree that {something they think is wrong} is wrong.

morriswalters wrote:The OP was the question "can there be anything objective about morality", not is all morality objective. Where I to continue I would argue that the value function represented by that basic imperative is foundational. Representing the need to establish specific ethics and broader morals once sentience arrives. And in turn representing the line that morality must follow. The basic should is that life wants to continue. That is my opinion about the OP.

I don't think that life "wants" anything.

Living things may want something, if they are sentient. But saying "life wants to continue" is akin to saying "rocks want to fall". It stretches the concept of desire beyond reality into the metaphorical. Continuing the metaphor, I should push rocks over cliffs so that they can fall and consummate their ultimate desire. This is what "morals are based on the desire to live" comes out sounding like.

As to the OP, it can be rephrased as "is any morality objective", of which I am still unconvinced. There is a fundamental difference between is and should. You seem to be of the view that, on some level, is implies should. Am I reading this right?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Jun 13, 2015 5:33 am UTC

It's not that there's no overlap, I just meant that no two people need agree on exactly the boundaries of murder. Obviously all of therm agree that murder is some manner of killing a person, and there's probably a decent range of scenarios in the intersection of everyone's definition.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Sat Jun 13, 2015 10:06 am UTC

A rock will never walk up to the edge and jump. And why do you think that sentience makes any difference? And you may or may not be correct in your interpretation. I only know what he wrote.

Desire or value function or whatever it is that you wish to call it in any specific sense is a mirage of language. An animal will chew it's leg off to escape a trap and survive. If that isn't desire I'm not sure that anyone can offer any definition that will satisfy it. Everything after that is an abstraction. Anything we do as humans, we do out of that basic desire.
gmalivuk wrote:It's not that there's no overlap, I just meant that no two people need agree on exactly the boundaries of murder. Obviously all of therm agree that murder is some manner of killing a person, and there's probably a decent range of scenarios in the intersection of everyone's definition.
There is one obvious definition that is the same for everyone. Murder is you killing me. The discrepancy arises out of the same type of things the subjectivity of morals do, POV. What is murder to the everyone else?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Jun 13, 2015 12:51 pm UTC

Yes, nearly everyone would agree with the statement, "People should not kill me for no reason."

But so what? What does that demonstrate? In the real world, how many people kill someone for no reason?

Once you start adding reasons, you get back to subjective values, and most people probably *do* have some set of circumstances in which they would agree that someone else killing them is the correct action.

Edit: also, "life wants to continue" is not the same as "living things want to continue". Also also, universality still doesn't get you normativity without some additional premises.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Sat Jun 13, 2015 2:25 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:A rock will never walk up to the edge and jump.
Nor will it hover.

morriswalters wrote:I only know what he wrote.

presumed quoted: {Desire or value function or whatever it is that you wish to call it in any specific sense is a mirage of language.}


If it is a mirage of language, then it has no use in an argument about Objective Truth, especially Objective Truth in Morality.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Sat Jun 13, 2015 4:48 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Once you start adding reasons, you get back to subjective values, and most people probably *do* have some set of circumstances in which they would agree that someone else killing them is the correct action.
I don't think that anybody wants to be killed, any more than I wanted stitches when I got them. But I needed to do it. Two very different statements. And no matter what they think about what or who, the dilemma revolves around living and dying. If life doesn't matter than why do we chase it so hard, why is it that we consider it something of value? All I've offered is a raison d'être for an objective basis of morals and a possible definition of good.
ucim wrote:
morriswalters wrote:I only know what he TheGrammarBolshevik wrote.(corrected for clarity)


presumed quoted: {Desire or value function or whatever it is that you wish to call it in any specific sense is a mirage of language.}
ucim wrote:If it is a mirage of language, then it has no use in an argument about Objective Truth, especially Objective Truth in Morality.
We have been participating in different discussion as I have already noted. My apologies.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby elasto » Sat Jun 13, 2015 8:21 pm UTC

I'm not sure if you've even noticed it, mw, but you've shifted stance.

Originally you said: "There is one obvious definition that is the same for everyone. Murder is you killing me."

Translation: "Me being killed is immoral (in my own moral code)."

Then you switched to: "I don't think that anybody wants to be killed, any more than I wanted stitches when I got them. But I needed to do it."

Translation: "Me being killed is unwanted (by me)."

I hope it's clear that wanting or not wanting X is nothing to do with X being moral or immoral. Was getting stitches a moral or immoral act?

I think the point is that there's almost nothing that can be agreed upon as absolutely moral/immoral - not even someone's death from their own point of view.

More than 1000 people have travelled to Dignitas in Switzerland to have their lives taken away - and I'm sure many if not most of them believed the workers there were doing something moral by honouring their wish to die.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Sat Jun 13, 2015 8:59 pm UTC

elasto wrote:Originally you said: "There is one obvious definition that is the same for everyone. Murder is you killing me."

Translation: "Me being killed is immoral (in my own moral code)."
Translate it to me being killed is bad. Not immoral.
elasto wrote:Then you switched to: "I don't think that anybody wants to be killed, any more than I wanted stitches when I got them. But I needed to do it."

Translation: "Me being killed is unwanted."
Me being killed is still bad, even if necessary. And assisted suicide is bad, not immoral. Murder was a poor choice and in hindsight I should have used kill. Murder has baggage. My apologies.

As an additional statement about assisted suicide, ending your life isn't a good thing by any definition, but one of the better things about sentience is that it gives you a choice if age, disease or infirmity leave you in a bad place. Life is good isn't in and of itself a moral statement. It's a reference point. And at this point I'm out of ideas.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Cradarc » Sat Jun 13, 2015 9:09 pm UTC

elasto wrote:I think the point is that there's almost nothing that can be agreed upon as absolutely moral/immoral

Keywords "agreed upon". Nobody can make a public case for objective morality because any argument made can be countered with "But that's only what you think".

I touched on this on the first page:
Cradarc wrote:In a social setting, there is always going to be someone who will dispute with you, there is always someone who will not see what you think is obvious. In that sense, we can never be objective. When we throw around "objective" in everyday speech, we are actually referring to group consensus. If the plurality think something is obvious, it becomes objectively obvious.

Objective morality in a social context is just one which is based on a common framework. It's not objective in the sense that it must "exist", but in the sense that nobody challenges it's existence.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby elasto » Sat Jun 13, 2015 9:12 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Translate it to me being killed is bad. Not immoral.

...

Me being killed is still bad, even if necessary. And assisted suicide is bad, not immoral. Murder was a poor choice and in hindsight I should have used kill. Murder has baggage. My apologies.

It's not just that it has baggage - morality is the topic of this thread! If you're discussing things that are good/bad but not in a moral sense, then, really, why are you even bringing them up?

Obviously some things are more desirable than others, but sometimes (often?) the less desirable thing is the more moral thing. Self-sacrifice is archetypal morality, but is rarely the desired course by anyone...

Cradac wrote:Objective morality in a social context is just one which is based on a common framework. It's not objective in the sense that it must "exist", but in the sense that nobody challenges it's existence.

Can you name anything which noone challenges? It's such a small subset as to be worthless really.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Jun 13, 2015 9:24 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote: Murder was a poor choice and in hindsight I should have used kill.
morriswalters wrote:Murder, not kill.
So then will you readdress doogly's question?
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Sun Jun 14, 2015 1:18 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Why do you privilege what you call "typical human behaviors"? Murder is also pretty typical of humans, after all.
This brought murder into it.
doogly wrote:You don't have to place no value on your own life in order to murder.

Are you sure you don't know anyone who's killed someone? No older relatives, maybe? Have you just not been asking the right questions?

This was doogly's question. To which the answer is no, I don't. My father was a vet, as such it isn't out of the realm of possibility that he did. If he did he never shared. I have known no veterans who saw combat other than him. And in so far as I know no one in my circle has killed anyone. And I know no law enforcement officers. I may have casually meant someone who had, but again they didn't share. Have I covered the topic sufficiently? If I missed a post let me know. I looked through all six pages but I may have missed something. To his first statement I would say it's true and ask if it was responsive to what I asked?

As to the question of is killing typical, The Wikipedia list deaths in a category called intentional deaths at about 2.84 percent out of a population of 7 billion. So is killing typical? Should I expect most people I meet to have killed someone intentionally?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Cres » Sun Jun 14, 2015 3:06 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Once you start adding reasons, you get back to subjective values

As an interesting aside, for a lot of moral realists, far from taking you back to subjectivity, reasons are actually how their account of objectivity is grounded.
To steal some examples from Tim Scanlon:

(1) For a person in control of a fast moving automobile, the fact that if the steering wheel is not turned the car will injure and perhaps kill a pedestrian, but if the wheel is turned the car will hit no one, is a reason to turn the wheel.

(2) The fact that a person's child has died is a reason for that person to feel sad.

(3) The fact that is would be very enjoyable to listen to some music is a reason to do this, or continue to do it.

These reasons would seem to remain reasons whether or not they are recognised as such by the subject in question. And they are irreducible: you're not going to be able to give a sensible answer to the question of why one of these is a reason, they just transparently are.

There's an assumption behind a lot of the posts in this thread that, if two people disagree about whether something is wrong, that that's the end of the conversation: they are at loggerheads, with no way to bridge the divide, and it's all just opinion anyway. But I just don't think that that holds up as an account of what we actually do when this happens: in many cases, disagreements can be resolved and consensus reached. And appealing to, exploring and analysing reasons is generally how we go about it.

Often there will be reasons that one or both sides are not recognising, or under-appreciating. And strategies like putting yourself in another's shoes, looking at analogous cases where the right/wrong judgment is more obvious etc. etc. can uncover these. I know that this has often been how I personally have changed my mind about moral issues ('Oh I didn't think about that. Of course the fact that this will hurt their feelings is a reason not to do it. And I didn't realise how unfair this arrangement is.') I would expect that, if you thought back to the last time you changed your mind about a question of morality, a similar process might have been involved.

(By the way, I don't think this process is fundamentally different - it's just a different type of evidence - from the process a scientist might take with someone denying the reality of climate change, or evolution. That would involve presenting various pieces of evidence, and explaining why those create reasons to believe in the reality of climate change, or evolution. Of course, their interlocutor can keep coming back with the infuriating reply, 'that's just what you think'. But hopefully it's obvious that that's not enough to establish that the truths in question really are just subjective.)

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby doogly » Sun Jun 14, 2015 12:01 pm UTC

Cres wrote:There's an assumption behind a lot of the posts in this thread that, if two people disagree about whether something is wrong, that that's the end of the conversation: they are at loggerheads, with no way to bridge the divide, and it's all just opinion anyway. But I just don't think that that holds up as an account of what we actually do when this happens: in many cases, disagreements can be resolved and consensus reached. And appealing to, exploring and analysing reasons is generally how we go about it.

This is the point of frameworks and related discussion though - if there is a disagreement about a point, you have to move back 'up the chain' to your reasoning, framework, values, etc. If I bump heads with someone who is basing all their morality around holiness and I around happiness, we have incompatible reference systems to resolve the disagreement in, as such. Maybe we agree that ok, this won't work, but let's talk about our shared value of liberty, or civic responsibility, or the like.

Your (3) is very telling. I'd hesitate to call it (and the others) objective, I'd say it's a rational bit of reasoning within a subjective value system. "Objective" has a lot more metaphysical baggage than "reasonable."
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Sun Jun 14, 2015 3:42 pm UTC

Cres wrote:As an interesting aside, for a lot of moral realists, far from taking you back to subjectivity, reasons are actually how their account of objectivity is grounded.
But that's not what "objective" means.

Cres wrote:These reasons would seem to remain reasons whether or not they are recognised as such by the subject in question. And they are irreducible: you're not going to be able to give a sensible answer to the question of why one of these is a reason, they just transparently are.
No, these are not irreducible at all. They all depend on other (unstated) goals... goals that the speaker expects the listener to agree with.

Being able to give reasons for a moral (or any other) stance is not the same as giving a justification for why that stance is objective (by which I mean something like "existing independent of any frame or any observer")

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Sun Jun 14, 2015 5:04 pm UTC

Cres wrote:(3) The fact that is would be very enjoyable to listen to some music is a reason to do this, or continue to do it.
This is a hijacking of a biological response system, the idea of enjoyable is a product of intellect, it exists as that because you labeled it that. A dog would salivate when presented with food assuming that his body required it. He can't call it tasty because he can't call it anything. That would be subjective in a nutshell. Language requires that you agree to share a frame of reference. But that agreement is limited because the connection is lossy. Not everything that is transmitted is received. Basic information theory.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Sun Jun 14, 2015 6:49 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote: Not everything that is transmitted is received.
Not everything that exists is transmitted. That the dog can't "call it tasty" does not mean that the emotional/intellectual response of the dog isn't one of tastiness. It just doesn't speak English. However, it can certainly express a preference for tasty things, and preferentially consume them.

But this is getting off the track of morality.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Sun Jun 14, 2015 10:28 pm UTC

This is exactly on point. You've chosen to embrace the idea of subjectivity. This is what it is. You may think the dogs believes something is tasty and that is all you can say. You may be able to show that the dog has a preference but it still doesn't tell you that he thinks anything about it at all. You share no common frame of reference do you? You use a heuristic to make a judgement about something you can't know. I think of my car in much the same way. All these things, morals, tasty, murder are words that we have agreed have meaning. For doogly's frame of reference to mean anything we have to share some commonality. Some common point of reference. If that commonality doesn't exist you can't share anything.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:41 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:If that commonality doesn't exist you can't share anything.
It's not about sharing, it's about existing - in an Objective sense.

If that commonality is necessary, then the thing under discussion is not Objective. That's why I claim that morals are not Objective.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Mon Jun 15, 2015 3:15 am UTC

More often however, it is used to support moral subjectivism. This is a belief that moral truths are subjective and oftentimes based on cultural norms, thoughts, and attitudes towards a subject matter rather than a set of mind-independent truths.[11] Evolutionary ethics assumes we have a set of basic underlying morals, such as not killing another person. This stems from the evolutionary need to allow the species to survive. However some of the finer points of our disagreements in ethical conduct comes from the differences in cultural upbringings and backgrounds, and thus would be considered subjective.
I believe this sums up what I think. This from the Wikipedia article Evolutionary ethics. With the proviso that it isn't all about humans. Which allows me to answer this question with "why would you expect it to be?"
Evolutionary theory, however, tell us only that altruism is good for the survival of our species, not that the survival of the human species is good.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:44 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:[...wikiquote...]I believe this sums up what I think.

From the same article, right nearby:

wiki article on Evolutionary Ethics wrote:Evolutionary ethics struggles [...] due to the logical fallacy of turning a statement about what is, into one about what we ought to do (see naturalistic fallacy). [...]it does not tell us what is right and wrong, but rather that the origin of our ethical practices come from our evolutionary history.[...]

However other philosophers [with whom I disagree] [...] will argue that there is a set of moral truths and that our behavior naturally tend towards moral truths because of evolution.

More often however, it is used to support moral subjectivism. [in a manner with which I do agree] [...] Evolutionary ethics assumes we have a set of basic underlying morals, such as not killing another person. This stems from the evolutionary need to allow the species to survive. However some of the finer points of our disagreements in ethical conduct comes from the differences in cultural upbringings and backgrounds, and thus would be considered subjective.

So, after all those fancy words, it looks like we're on the same page after all.

The origin of ethics may be objective, but the ethics themselves, while thus useful, are not objective.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jun 15, 2015 3:59 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Yes, nearly everyone would agree with the statement, "People should not kill me for no reason."

But so what? What does that demonstrate? In the real world, how many people kill someone for no reason?

Once you start adding reasons, you get back to subjective values, and most people probably *do* have some set of circumstances in which they would agree that someone else killing them is the correct action.

Edit: also, "life wants to continue" is not the same as "living things want to continue". Also also, universality still doesn't get you normativity without some additional premises.


Most people would probably want to generalize that significantly further. "People should not kill me" is probably a more accurate summary of desires. The exceptions where death is desired are few, and tend to involve overwelming weight on other factors. Like "I'm going to die anyway, and in the meantime, I will experience a great deal of pain".

Wishing to not experience pain is also an extremely normal thing, and follows from basic biological urges. It's also pretty universal. The existence of cases where one priority outweighs another, usually stronger priority does not change the objectivity of them, any more than the various physical laws having different outcomes in specific circumstances(say, the special case of a black hole) makes reality subjective.

Cres wrote:There's an assumption behind a lot of the posts in this thread that, if two people disagree about whether something is wrong, that that's the end of the conversation: they are at loggerheads, with no way to bridge the divide, and it's all just opinion anyway. But I just don't think that that holds up as an account of what we actually do when this happens: in many cases, disagreements can be resolved and consensus reached. And appealing to, exploring and analysing reasons is generally how we go about it.


Precisely. We're not always good at this, because sometimes folks are stubborn, or mistaken about basic facts, or whatever else, but reality is not subjective, and thus incorrect knowledge is objectively wrong. If you got every person on earth to believe that pumping CO2 into the atmosphere in arbitrarily large amounts is always good....they would just all be wrong. Reality works the same way regardless.

It is to our advantage to seek to understand reality accurately and make decisions accordingly.

If your "morality" differs from reality, it is incorrect.

ucim wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Websites are not people
...but they are created and maintained by people. It's still very much a question of differing values between people. The fact that an answer could be complex does not make it Objective. However, it does make it easier to hide the places where subjectivity enters. I'm not arguing that answers are simple or concise. I'm arguing that they are not Objective - that is, they depend on a value system that is chosen first; a value system with which you may disagree.


Objectivity is not merely the order in which people choose things. Objectivity is about truth. There is one objective truth, which is reality. There are a great many opinions, beliefs, etc.

There are many reasons why someone's worldview, morals, and beliefs might be incorrect. However, there is one objective truth.

Subjectivity is about hedging, and giving validity to many different worldviews. Not to all, generally. But to a whole bunch based on fuzzy criteria which usually boils down to "how much I like them". Some folks stop short of saying that reality is subjective. Some don't. But regardless, it's a bunch of untestable crap.

Rationality is about pursuing objective truth, and learning how to discover and fix errors in understanding, belief, etc. The fact that we have information that predates any given level of rationality is true, but it's trivial. It's understood by literally everyone on all sides of this.

Again, the question isn't whether {moral system} is one to which you or I cotton. It's whether it even makes sense that a moral system could be an Objective Truth Of The Universe, in the sense that the ratio of charge to mass of an electron does, or in the sense that Euclidean Geometry does.


Of course. If reality is objective, then the best way of dealing with any given question of reality is also objective. It's merely that reality is sufficiently complicated that it is not intuitive to understand the best ways of dealing with literally everything. If you boil it down to very simple situations and decisions, a single best answer is clear. Somewhat more complex answers can be understood using more powerful tools(statistics, etc).

However, someone or something much, much smarter than I would be able to, bluntly, crunch the outcomes much better than I, and be better able to act correctly. A hard problem for me is a trivial problem given adequate information and computational resources.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Jun 15, 2015 5:24 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:Yes, nearly everyone would agree with the statement, "People should not kill me for no reason."

But so what? What does that demonstrate? In the real world, how many people kill someone for no reason?

Once you start adding reasons, you get back to subjective values, and most people probably *do* have some set of circumstances in which they would agree that someone else killing them is the correct action.

Edit: also, "life wants to continue" is not the same as "living things want to continue". Also also, universality still doesn't get you normativity without some additional premises.
Most people would probably want to generalize that significantly further. "People should not kill me" is probably a more accurate summary of desires. The exceptions where death is desired are few, and tend to involve overwelming weight on other factors. Like "I'm going to die anyway, and in the meantime, I will experience a great deal of pain".
My point was that things like "overwhelming" and "great deal of" are themselves pretty subjective, personal evaluations.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jun 15, 2015 5:47 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:My point was that things like "overwhelming" and "great deal of" are themselves pretty subjective, personal evaluations.


They are imprecise terms for the purpose of casual discussion. Scientific studies have been done, and if you disagree with my casual summaries, we can look at the data to determine in a more objective fashion what is correct.

And even if our data is, somehow, incorrect, reality is still objective. We just misunderstood it. The fact that we are not yet good at precisely measuring pain does not mean that pain does not exist, or is not an objective fact.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Jun 15, 2015 6:15 pm UTC

What data are you imagining, which could be correct or incorrect about whether some amount of pain is "overwhelming"?

Also note that I'm not talking about suicide here, but about the "people shouldn't kill me" statement.

The relative value people place on their own lives versus other factors is completely subjective and I can't imagine what "data" you think could make it otherwise.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Mon Jun 15, 2015 6:51 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:If your "morality" differs from reality, it is incorrect.
But morality does not have a "reality". You have yet to demonstrate that it does.

The fact that rocks fall, or that life "wants to continue", does not make it a moral imperative to help rocks to fall, or to help life to continue. Nor does it make it morally wrong to prevent rocks from falling, or life from continuing.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jun 15, 2015 8:03 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:If your "morality" differs from reality, it is incorrect.
But morality does not have a "reality". You have yet to demonstrate that it does.

The fact that rocks fall, or that life "wants to continue", does not make it a moral imperative to help rocks to fall, or to help life to continue. Nor does it make it morally wrong to prevent rocks from falling, or life from continuing.

Jose


It isn't "morality has a reality". It's "There is a singular reality". Morality doesn't have an anything, because it isn't an entity.

Morality is merely a label we use to categorize a class of actions, and "good" and "bad" are merely shorthand for describing the relative merits of different actions, because it's tedious to state "going rock climbing alone without telling people where you are going is bad if you wish to continue living as doing so increases your probability of death due to a longer average time to find you if a rocks-falling mishap should occur".

Instead, we say "yeah, telling someone where you're going would be good". It means the same thing. It's just way shorter.

Some might say "That's not a question of morals".

Well, thievery is commonly held to be, and one can give advice against thievery on the same grounds. What is or is not moral is merely a label we slap on something. It doesn't change the logic underlying the decision, or how reality translates into what you should do to avoid undesirable outcomes.

And desires are not so very different. Sure, biological differences do exist, but they are very tightly clustered around the same things. People wish to live. They wish to avoid pain. They wish to be loved and accepted. And hell, it's not like biology is immutable anyway, so we need not accept a few biological quirks as tying us into hopeless subjectivity.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Mon Jun 15, 2015 8:20 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:What is or is not moral is merely a label we slap on something. It doesn't change the logic underlying the decision...
Perhaps you are using the word "moral" differently than I am. If you are, I think you are using it differently from most here. As I use the word, morality not only does change the logic underlying decisions, in some cases it is the logic underlying the decisions. That is its purpose.

If you use morality as merely an after-the-fact label on actions that statistically help you along (or help some, possibly other group along), then it's not a very useful concept, and it's not the one I have in mind when I use the word.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby elasto » Mon Jun 15, 2015 8:46 pm UTC

Yeah, Tyndmyr, what you're describing is more akin to 'rationality' or even 'wisdom'. It can be irrational and unwise to do a moral thing, and it can be rational and wise to do an immoral thing.

I mean, in an ideal universe the most rational and wise action would also happen to be the most moral, but there's no a-priori reason for any correlation.

Tyndmyr, it almost sounds like it'd be more correct to describe your position as not believing in morality. Which is ok.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Mon Jun 15, 2015 9:07 pm UTC

Good or bad and the distinction between them. According to my favorite, the Wikipedia.
gmalivuk wrote:but about the "people shouldn't kill me" statement.
There was never anything to talk about.
ucim wrote:But morality does not have a "reality". You have yet to demonstrate that it does.
How could he demonstrate it, even supposing it were true. Morality describes an effect having no measurable physicality at any given instant. However over time even a subjective morality can change reality in measurable ways. Much in the way a rock moving through space is impacted by gravity. But to this point you can't measure gravity directly. We measure gravity by looking at things after the fact.

Define good or bad in any way that you please. Where you choose your endpoints when you measure will define what you see. The question only truly becomes meaningful if there is some endpoint where whatever there was to be achieved is concluded. Until that point in time the meaning is a subjective evaluation for a given moment.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Copper Bezel » Mon Jun 15, 2015 9:17 pm UTC

ucim wrote:If you use morality as merely an after-the-fact label on actions that statistically help you along (or help some, possibly other group along), then it's not a very useful concept, and it's not the one I have in mind when I use the word.

I think my view of morality is closer to Tyndmyr's than others so far. I would say that morality is a fuzzy region of reasoning that shows up around the area where it's hardest to say which outcome is better or worse for an individual or society. I would consider it an extension of wisdom, probably entirely within the domain of wisdom.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Jun 15, 2015 9:27 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Good or bad and the distinction between them. According to my favorite, the Wikipedia.
gmalivuk wrote:but about the "people shouldn't kill me" statement.
There was never anything to talk about.
Then why the fuck did you bring it up?
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby elasto » Mon Jun 15, 2015 9:47 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
ucim wrote:But morality does not have a "reality". You have yet to demonstrate that it does.
How could he demonstrate it, even supposing it were true. Morality describes an effect having no measurable physicality at any given instant. However over time even a subjective morality can change reality in measurable ways. Much in the way a rock moving through space is impacted by gravity. But to this point you can't measure gravity directly. We measure gravity by looking at things after the fact.

Define good or bad in any way that you please. Where you choose your endpoints when you measure will define what you see. The question only truly becomes meaningful if there is some endpoint where whatever there was to be achieved is concluded. Until that point in time the meaning is a subjective evaluation for a given moment.

That would be reasonable if Tyndmyr were claiming morality was relative, but they are trying to claim it's absolute.

I'd be more sympathetic to a claim of rationality being absolute: One would think there is always a most rational course to take - though even there it depends on the goal being agreed upon - but perhaps perfectly rational beings would always agree upon what goal is the most rational to have.

Morality being absolute though? Seems to me that isn't the case unless morality is really 'rationality', 'wisdom' or something similar in disguise.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Copper Bezel » Mon Jun 15, 2015 10:18 pm UTC

You could make an argument that many things fall into subdomains of "wisdom" or "rationality." Personally, I think morality is a bit beyond the scope of rationality, which I'd associate with reasoning from only those concretely measurable things that exist outside the subject doing the measuring (but I've already backed off of the "objective" argument and conceded that the morality I'd see contained in a subdomain of wisdom is merely a subjective universal.)

I'd think of aesthetics as another domain of wisdom that isn't rationally provable in the "objective" Garfield-minus-Garfield world of "everything but the people perceiving the things" (which arguably is as much a fanciful construction as the P-zombie world it implies) but within the domain of "wisdom."
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Cradarc » Mon Jun 15, 2015 10:22 pm UTC

Aren't all abstract concepts the same?
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It's like the "tree falls in the forest" question. Certainly, you can find situations in which the tree makes a sound and situations when it doesn't (such as in a vacuum). However, the common experience is that trees make sounds when they fall over. The objectivist is the person who says the tree will either make a sound or not make a sound, regardless if there is something to detect it or not. The relativist is the person who thinks the question is meaningless because there is no detector.
"tree falling" -> "murder" (or some other controversial action of choice)
"produces sound" -> "is immoral"
"detect sound" -> "believe is immoral"
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Mon Jun 15, 2015 10:43 pm UTC

elasto wrote:That would be reasonable if Tyndmyr were claiming morality was relative, but they are trying to claim it's absolute.
As an absolute we would have to know the endpoint. That we don't know the endpoint doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. And just because we can't answer the question doesn't mean the question isn't meaningful. Our value as individuals may be meaningless in the long haul for humanity. If there is a reason or an imperative, our lack of knowledge is a problem of our short life span as compared to humanity, even in this iteration.
gmalivuk wrote:Then why the fuck did you bring it up?
I brought it up to make a point. The fact that nobody wants to die isn't really up for discussion. As an experiment I suggest holding your breath until you pass out, I doubt you'll die. The minute your intellect loses control your body will start to breath. That you or any other animal that is capable of an action that would cause its own death is not the point. And it says absolutely nothing about how you might feel about murdering other people. The idea that you are driving the train for all things is the source of confusion, there is no want about living, not in the sense of conscious control. You are primed to do everything it is that you do, by a response system evolved to make sure you eat, breathe, sleep and consume water.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Tue Jun 16, 2015 4:49 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:Aren't all abstract concepts the same?
No.

Cradarc wrote:It's like the "tree falls in the forest" question.
No, it's nothing like that question. "Tree falls/sound" depends on a definition of the word "sound".
Spoiler:
(either vibrations in a medium coupled to the tree, or brain microstate upon sensing these vibrations)
For one definition, the answer is "yes". For the other definition, the answer is "no". Be fuzzy about it or switch definitions in the middle, Hilarity Ensues.

as part of the analogy setup, Cradarc wrote:"produces sound" [is analogous to] "is immoral"
Analogy fails here, for that reason. "Produces sound" is an objective thing. For either definition of sound, it will either be TRUE or FALSE (that a tree produces "sound"). It won't necessarily have the SAME truth value independent of the definition, but it will HAVE a truth value, independend of the definition.

However, "is immoral" is not an objective thing. Putting it in an analogy as one doesn't make it one.

morriswalters wrote:As an experiment I suggest holding your breath until you pass out, I doubt you'll die.
This experiment would demonstrate that holding your breath is a poor way to commit suicide. Your intellect is housed in a body whose autonomous functions do a good job of preserving it. But your brain is also part of your body. It is capable of using its higher order functions to override trump them. And the fact that people do commit suicide is evidence that it is false that nobody wants to die.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Cradarc » Tue Jun 16, 2015 5:59 am UTC

ucim wrote:"Produces sound" is an objective thing

Can you prove this? Because it sounds awfully like what moral objectivists are expected to prove.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Copper Bezel » Tue Jun 16, 2015 7:28 am UTC

I call rabbit hole. The sound is hearable by any individual present with the power of hearing and measurable by independent instrumentation. Moral right is not. Sound is defined against a narrow and specific definition of a measurable phenomenon that does not easily break down in a discussion thread. Three very recent and entirely independent threads brought us to this one about the objective measure, if there is one, of morality. The kinds of definitions we have for each of these things are not the same, and one is far more strictly tied to a physical phenomenon. At least until you get into "that was technically a sound, but it wasn't a proper sound," which is where you're in subjective space again.

ucim wrote:
morriswalters wrote:As an experiment I suggest holding your breath until you pass out, I doubt you'll die.
This experiment would demonstrate that holding your breath is a poor way to commit suicide. Your intellect is housed in a body whose autonomous functions do a good job of preserving it. But your brain is also part of your body. It is capable of using its higher order functions to override trump them. And the fact that people do commit suicide is evidence that it is false that nobody wants to die.

Right, I mean, it's important to recognize that you can't isolate the brain or "will" or whatever else from "the body," and feel you've solved it, but people regularly choose to blow past the subconscious and physical safeguards that are built into them to prevent suicide. The sum decision of that human agent was to die.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Tue Jun 16, 2015 12:12 pm UTC

I believe that there is a certain amount of intellectual dishonesty in the statement that people who commit suicide show that there are people who want to die. However true it might be it is an abuse of the metaphor. You might as well say that a heart attack is proof that people want to die. All suicide shows is that complex systems fail in complex ways. Whatever your intellect allows you to do, it was selected for, because in some fashion or another, it served to do something that caused the life that developed it to survive to breed and pass those genes on to the next generation. Intellect is a product of life, life is not a product of intellect.
Copper Bezel wrote:brought us to this one about the objective measure
If that is what it is than I wish TGB would change the title to reflect it. The question as stated doesn't require, on its face, anyone to produce any kind of objective measure. The question could be as well served by showing that there is a need that will always exist for some type of moral framework, irrespective of what it is, for groups of sentients, who must act together. Assuming a non deterministic framework, at least locally.


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