Is there anything objective about morality?

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Tyndmyr
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jun 10, 2015 7:16 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:If it makes you feel better, define good as increasing complexity and bad as reducing it. I believe that is measurable and concrete. The assumption normal logic imposes is that the conditions can be stated in language. And since only a small component of the universe uses language that would seem to anthropocentric. If you wanted to be poetic you could say that the universe is at war with entropy. It constantly creates entities that increase local complexity while entropy works to decrease it.


That seems...odd. Complexity would not seem inherently desirable or undesirable. I can easily describe many circumstances where either is preferable.

The universe isn't really at war with entropy or anything else. It simply is. It has certain properties, one of which is happens to be that, as time progresses, overall entropy increases. We can perhaps postulate a universe without entropy, but it would be a very strange and different place indeed. Morals, in any meaningful definition, only exist as a subset of this universe, just as we exist as a subset of this universe. The various physical laws allow us to exist, which allows various human goals to exist. (or dolphins and dolphin goals, whichever). There's a causal chain there, and one objective reality of which everything is a part, but it isn't one where morality is the originating force.

You CAN postulate a world run by belief. This comes up a fair bit in fantasy, where when enough people believe in a god, bam, you get a god. It's a cool idea, and by definition, reality in such a place is subjective, and causality works kind of differently than here. In such a world, it might make sense to view the universe as an entity, or entropy as an entity, because why not? But, in reality, that does not seem to be the case. It seems that humans are just really fond of ascribing meaning to and anthropomorphizing frigging everything.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Wed Jun 10, 2015 7:45 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:That seems...odd. Complexity would not seem inherently desirable or undesirable. I can easily describe many circumstances where either is preferable.
Really, can you explain your presence?
Tyndmyr wrote:The universe isn't really at war with entropy or anything else.
It was a metaphor. But if you want to have fun with it, consider the universe itself as a life form who doesn't want to cease, who arranges conditions so that life will form more often than not within it, on the off chance that life will figure a way to do what the universe can't do for itself. Figure out how to reverse entropy.:D
gmalivuk wrote:we have to address the fact that eventually we'll all be dead and everything we have done or will ever do will have zero effect on the vast majority of the universe.
Considering that man as he exists today hasn't been around too long that is a massive understatement.
gmalivuk wrote:Between that useless extreme and the absolutely egoist opposite (where I am the only thing that matters at all, according to my own ethical system), there's a wide range of ethical views that may differ only in how quickly importance decreases away from oneself, even when all other premises are agreed upon.
It's worse than that, since we move through time as well. In one direction I might add. And while we move at the same rate we all start at different times. So decisions we make can have ramifications on events that won't occur in our lifetime. Or impact people who exist but who don't have a voice.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Cradarc » Wed Jun 10, 2015 7:46 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:There's some "importance function" that can't be everywhere constant and can't be too diffuse before it loses any normative usefulness. Between that useless extreme and the absolutely egoist opposite (where I am the only thing that matters at all, according to my own ethical system), there's a wide range of ethical views that may differ only in how quickly importance decreases away from oneself, even when all other premises are agreed upon.

Agreed. But all all of those views moral? That is the conundrum. Each person can assert a different moral position, but those positions need a reference to be compared to. Relativists think there is no reference, and morality is intrinsically relative. Objectivists think a true reference exists, but is out of the reach of human reasoning.

It's not so much about what people think is moral or immoral as it is about people's stance on truth (specifically, moral truth).
"Does truth exist outside the context of human reasoning?"
More generally, pick any idea and ask: "Does ___ exist outside the context of human reasoning?"

But why stop there? You can keep on going:
Is there only one correct answer to: "Does truth exist outside the context of human reasoning?"?
Is there only one correct answer to the above question?
etc.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Copper Bezel » Thu Jun 11, 2015 2:23 am UTC

PeteP wrote:Anyway questions so that I am actually sure what your stance is:
Is morality for you based on underlying values?
If so is your argument that everyone shares the important underlying values and gives them the same weight in relation to each other and you can just as well treat them as objective. Or is your stance that if someone doesn't share them they should because the value/goal choice is objective?

Honestly? I think I'm out of my depth in this conversation. I think I've learned some useful things from it, both definitional things and conceptual things. I think I've tended to place myself as an objectivist more as a result of having some reservations about how "objective" and "subjective" are often used and how "objective" seems to so very many people to be the preferred status.

From everything I've said in this discussion, I can't help coming to the conclusion that my morality is subjectivist and only quasi-universalist, and that that is not because I think that there's some preferred goal out in the universe, but because I think that it is possible to define a (not necessarily "the") ideal moral "health" state (I shudder to use that word, but) in the way that it's possible to define an ideal physical health state.

I don't think there are natural rights or anything ridiculous like that. I do think, for instance, that it's possible to take the state of the world, the mass of things that humans are inclined to value, and so on and solve out whether or not is is better or worse that we feel entitled to kill animals for food. Point of fact, I eat meat, and I believe that it's a practice that will disappear within a couple of centuries and that we'll be better for it. I mean, really better, morally better. I think it's a conclusion we'll come to as 1) more information is gathered scientifically, 2) that information reaches a saturation point and normalization in society, and 3) we more fully probe the moral universals drawn from the experience of our history and our understanding of our own cognition and behavior in light of new information as we go.

There's a part of me that finds this way of thinking somewhat uncomfortable, because it relates morality with an idea of "maturity" that really depends on science and written (or preserved, rather, in whatever form) history. This is the same old idea that led Europe to attempt cultural world domination. It's the idea of "enlightened sensibilities." The only thing that I think ameliorates the arrogance of that perspective is, well, the unpleasant experience that came with steamrolling most of the world when that idea was taken to its greatest extremes.

But ... yeah. Education and experience make for wiser and more moral individuals, and I think they make for wiser and more moral societies. On a societal level, they take time. So I do end up with a teleological notion of social progress, just with an indefinitely deferred end, and that implies that there are better and worse places to be in that space.

But insofar as it's possible to say that a society has an ethos, I think human society en masse, with the whole of its history, has a collective ethos as well, and that there's a best and most refined possible expression of it.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Thu Jun 11, 2015 2:58 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Point of fact, I eat meat, and I believe that it's a practice that will disappear within a couple of centuries and that we'll be better for it. I mean, really better, morally better. I think it's a conclusion we'll come to as 1) more information is gathered scientifically, 2) that information reaches a saturation point and normalization in society, and 3) we more fully probe the moral universals drawn from the experience of our history and our understanding of our own cognition and behavior in light of new information as we go.
I think it also depends on our resources - we still need animal protein and want those flavors and textures (some people more than others), and if technology gives them to us without killing animals, and we can afford the technology and have the resources to use it, we'll move to that. But if the scientific and technological infrastructure collapses, or we use up the resources needed for production of artificial meat (or whatever), we'll be back to hunting and killing animals before you can put up a protest sign.
Copper Bezel wrote:But insofar as it's possible to say that a society has an ethos, I think human society en masse, with the whole of its history, has a collective ethos as well, and that there's a best and most refined possible expression of it.
But this necessitates thinking of society en masse. One size fits all. Different societies with different needs may well have very different ethos that are equally "good" in the abstract. And the ethos actually shapes society as well. So, saying that there is one "best" ethos implies saying that there is one "best" society.

I'm not sure I'm good with that.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Copper Bezel » Thu Jun 11, 2015 6:34 am UTC

But I think it's actually good that we have some diversity of social norms and try different things in a global sense. At the same time, I don't think it's escapable anymore that we're a global society and that we can't really fully categorize ourselves into any truly distinct and discrete groups, so there's really no comparing between contemporary societies; we're really talking about populations or power structures within our own. Morally judging ourselves against the past or future is kind of a non-starter - useful only in hypotheticals for testing our own merits in the present. I don't think there's actually any frame of comparison where it's useful to talk about bests.

And I really do think things vary most in means to ends and least in the ends themselves (not the consciously intended outcomes, but what actually shakes out in practice.) It's possibly somewhat facile, but even in something like, say, individualist vs. collectivist societies, I still think of it as being a bit like traffic laws: it's arbitrary which side of the road you're mandated to drive on, but we mandate one or the other in service of the zeroth traffic law of "don't run into other people's cars at high speed." (Where necessary, I mean, as in where that kind of auto traffic infrastructure actually exists.)

But ... yeah, on the whole, I'm not entirely comfortable with the teleological or vaguely colonialist implications there, either. I just can't actually get around them. If you don't actually feel that your values are better than alternative ones, then you shouldn't be working to advance or advocate them in the first place.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Jun 11, 2015 2:03 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:That seems...odd. Complexity would not seem inherently desirable or undesirable. I can easily describe many circumstances where either is preferable.
Really, can you explain your presence?


Not sure I'm following, but I exist because my parents decided having all the babies was a good idea, and biology happened. This doesn't seem difficult to explain, but the connection is not obvious.

Tyndmyr wrote:The universe isn't really at war with entropy or anything else.
It was a metaphor. But if you want to have fun with it, consider the universe itself as a life form who doesn't want to cease, who arranges conditions so that life will form more often than not within it, on the off chance that life will figure a way to do what the universe can't do for itself. Figure out how to reverse entropy.:D


Life is sometimes a vague term, sure. But attributing choice to the universe is something of a stretch. The universe doesn't necessarily have thoughts or make decisions. Sure, I've seen interesting "what if"s that compare the universe to a brain or whatever, but I've not seen anything like a satisfactory mechanism proposed for it to actually BE a brain. The universe does not appear to actually be an entity.

Copper Bezel wrote:There's a part of me that finds this way of thinking somewhat uncomfortable, because it relates morality with an idea of "maturity" that really depends on science and written (or preserved, rather, in whatever form) history. This is the same old idea that led Europe to attempt cultural world domination. It's the idea of "enlightened sensibilities." The only thing that I think ameliorates the arrogance of that perspective is, well, the unpleasant experience that came with steamrolling most of the world when that idea was taken to its greatest extremes.


If some moralities are better than others, then progress is possible. Not guaranteed, but I dare say that even among the moralities found on earth today, some are substantially less wrong than others.

Also, coming from a natural selection perspective, extremely poor ideologies will be selected against. So, regardless of your personal agonizing over if cultural displacement should happen, it will anyway.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jun 11, 2015 3:06 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Not sure I'm following, but I exist because my parents decided having all the babies was a good idea, and biology happened. This doesn't seem difficult to explain, but the connection is not obvious.
When I said a drive to complexity what I meant is the the universe increases complexity at the expense of the system. Within the biosphere we call home, things started from a simple state and evolved to a more complex state. No life, then whatever step that led to the most simple forms of first life and then eventually to your birth. All at increasing levels of overall complexity inside this system. All this spontaneously with the benefit of any guidance. That tendency allowed all this to take place. The same is true of stars and galaxies and the other detritus of the universe.
Tyndmyr wrote:If some moralities are better than others, then progress is possible. Not guaranteed, but I dare say that even among the moralities found on earth today, some are substantially less wrong than others.
Given the reason why this thread was started that seems to a value judgement.
Tyndmyr wrote:Life is sometimes a vague term, sure. But attributing choice to the universe is something of a stretch. The universe doesn't necessarily have thoughts or make decisions. Sure, I've seen interesting "what if"s that compare the universe to a brain or whatever, but I've not seen anything like a satisfactory mechanism proposed for it to actually BE a brain. The universe does not appear to actually be an entity.
I couldn't even begin to think of a test.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Jun 11, 2015 6:10 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Not sure I'm following, but I exist because my parents decided having all the babies was a good idea, and biology happened. This doesn't seem difficult to explain, but the connection is not obvious.
When I said a drive to complexity what I meant is the the universe increases complexity at the expense of the system. Within the biosphere we call home, things started from a simple state and evolved to a more complex state. No life, then whatever step that led to the most simple forms of first life and then eventually to your birth. All at increasing levels of overall complexity inside this system. All this spontaneously with the benefit of any guidance. That tendency allowed all this to take place. The same is true of stars and galaxies and the other detritus of the universe.


So? People die, too. The volume of life does not always increase. I mean, it had to in our case for us to be able to observe and comment on this, but even on earth, there have been plenty of past incidents of life decreasing significantly.

And life does not seem guaranteed to exist basically everywhere. We haven't yet established that it is common...but from what we do know, Earth is definitely an exception. Extrapolating from Earth to all of nature everywhere seems a stretch.

Nature has no particular drive towards creating complexity or life, unless you wish to label entropy as complexity...but those concepts do not seem exactly the same.

Tyndmyr wrote:If some moralities are better than others, then progress is possible. Not guaranteed, but I dare say that even among the moralities found on earth today, some are substantially less wrong than others.
Given the reason why this thread was started that seems to a value judgement.


Yes. There's a lot of implicit meaning in there, and better is, granted, fairly undefined. But it's still a pretty safe statement, because moralities in practice vary so much. Even if we take a strictly natural selection based look at them, some ideologies are significantly more likely to harm you. Say...suicide bombing as a legitimate strategy. That's going to be rough on the ol' lifespan...and it's a component of some views on morality.

It's also a bit hard on it's own practitioners. Such a belief has to spread faster to compensate for it's reduced lifespan if it is to continue to exist.

Tyndmyr wrote:Life is sometimes a vague term, sure. But attributing choice to the universe is something of a stretch. The universe doesn't necessarily have thoughts or make decisions. Sure, I've seen interesting "what if"s that compare the universe to a brain or whatever, but I've not seen anything like a satisfactory mechanism proposed for it to actually BE a brain. The universe does not appear to actually be an entity.
I couldn't even begin to think of a test.


Communication. Much as your neurons firing affect each other, you'd want to show a similar mechanism. If the various bits are not actually communicating in any meaningful way, it really can't be a brain.

At a certain scale, expansion of the universe actually prohibits this.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jun 11, 2015 7:09 pm UTC

Rare earth theory, interesting.

Suicide bombers don't die fast enough to make a difference. However as moral choices go, all they represent on one level is the belief that their life is given meaning by what they do. I mean how really different is that then any other soldier who dies? It's all relative isn't it?

Tyndmyr wrote:Communication.
I find this most interesting. Why would you believe that anything has to happen in any way we might find meaningful?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Jun 11, 2015 7:34 pm UTC

This isn't strictly the rare earth theory. It's merely acknowledgement of the entire range of rarities that fall short of "life MUST inevitibly exist".

There may be other earths out there. The universe is big, after all. That's not particularly important. What's important is there is not evidence of the universe somehow intervening to force life to exist. That's...hard to test regardless, so as a theory it's kind of out there, but if that's the case, then the universe isn't trying very hard, because it's definitely not maximizing it's resources to this end.

morriswalters wrote:Rare earth theory, interesting.

Suicide bombers don't die fast enough to make a difference. However as moral choices go, all they represent on one level is the belief that their life is given meaning by what they do. I mean how really different is that then any other soldier who dies? It's all relative isn't it?


It's simply one example. One of a near endless list of possibilities. It's likely neither the fastest nor slowest dying belief, it's merely one that seems unlikely to be maximally efficient at propagating itself.

Sure, other self-destructive beliefs exist. In general, one would expect self-destructive behavior to be somewhat self-limiting. If the practitioners kill themselves off, that's usually going to impede growth. Thus, all else being equal, you'd expect non-self destructive ideologies to be "better".

Tyndmyr wrote:Communication.
I find this most interesting. Why would you believe that anything has to happen in any way we might find meaningful?


Not meaningful in the sense of "this picture has a lot of 'meaning'". Meaningful in that it is processing data. If it is not processing data, then it is not making choices like choosing to create life. A brain implys thinking. A brain may not need to be made of meat(silicon seems just fine), but it DOES need to process data.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jun 11, 2015 8:02 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Thus, all else being equal, you'd expect non-self destructive ideologies to be "better".
I haven't any expectations at all. I'm trying to get a handle on why it matters at all. The question is, is there anything objective about morality. Not ideology. Is the purpose of morality to preserve ideology?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Copper Bezel » Thu Jun 11, 2015 8:40 pm UTC

I would say that morality is just the "phenotype" to ideology's ... what, memeotype? So it might not be useful to talk about which is the purpose of the other. In an evolutionary sense, genes treat us poor little organisms as vehicles, but we're only programmed as organisms to care about the expressions and had to figure out about genes ourselves....

There's an implied ideology in every morality, and there is an expressed morality consequent of every ideology.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Jun 11, 2015 9:16 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Thus, all else being equal, you'd expect non-self destructive ideologies to be "better".
I haven't any expectations at all. I'm trying to get a handle on why it matters at all. The question is, is there anything objective about morality. Not ideology. Is the purpose of morality to preserve ideology?


What constitutes "morality" in terms of ideology is kind of fuzzy. I don't think you can draw a distinct boundary between morality and ideology. Ideology is usually used as the broader term, but all kinds of crap gets labeled as morality or is affected by moral distinctions.

I view it as simply one big mass of ideas. There is an ideal system in there somewhere. Mostly, we just hope to/work at getting kind of closer to it.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Copper Bezel » Thu Jun 11, 2015 9:45 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:If some moralities are better than others, then progress is possible. Not guaranteed, but I dare say that even among the moralities found on earth today, some are substantially less wrong than others.

Also, coming from a natural selection perspective, extremely poor ideologies will be selected against. So, regardless of your personal agonizing over if cultural displacement should happen, it will anyway.

Going to jump back to this and say - well, first, I think "hand-wringing" might be a better characterization than "agonizing" in this case. Second, ideologies can be locally beneficial and globally damaging, or they can persist parasitically and spread without any benefit to the host; I don't disagree with the characterization of religion as a memetic virus, for instance.

Third and most important, I just don't think natural selection is any kind of moral guide in any context. It is, as folks have said repeatedly, just a thing that happens. It isn't applicable to talk about natural selection at the level of individuals within a species when considering the morality of murder, and it isn't applicable here at this ... much as I hate to concede the point and call it as much, "meta-ethical" level.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Jun 11, 2015 9:59 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:If some moralities are better than others, then progress is possible. Not guaranteed, but I dare say that even among the moralities found on earth today, some are substantially less wrong than others.

Also, coming from a natural selection perspective, extremely poor ideologies will be selected against. So, regardless of your personal agonizing over if cultural displacement should happen, it will anyway.

Going to jump back to this and say - well, first, I think "hand-wringing" might be a better characterization than "agonizing" in this case. Second, ideologies can be locally beneficial and globally damaging, or they can persist parasitically and spread without any benefit to the host; I don't disagree with the characterization of religion as a memetic virus, for instance.


Hand wringing is a better term, yes.

But anyway, the parasitic meme, while possible, seems limiting. Look at infectious disease which definitely is a frequently used metaphor for memes....the most infectious diseases tend to not be quickly lethal to the host. You just get much, much better infection rates if the host lives longer, and is functioning normally enough to not be shunned/isolated.

So yeah, maybe you have flare-ups of cultish behavior or whatever that's way outside the norm, but generally that's pretty self-limiting, and culturally we're evolving away from extremely self-harming behaviors.

But...you get stuff like genetic drift happening basically constantly. You can never *really* preserve cultures. You can write books and keep records and so on, but the cultures themselves are always changing, and it's basically unstoppable. You can try to find ways to optimize this or that, but the ideologies are always being selected against on many levels...so it's only really a question of what should we change to, not if we should change. There's little use getting upset over something that's quite literally impossible.

Third and most important, I just don't think natural selection is any kind of moral guide in any context. It is, as folks have said repeatedly, just a thing that happens. It isn't applicable to talk about natural selection at the level of individuals within a species when considering the morality of murder, and it isn't applicable here at this ... much as I hate to concede the point and call it as much, "meta-ethical" level.


Why not? Murder's a pretty good example. You and I, we don't want to get murdered. Probably quite strongly. Much more so than we want to murder folks*. Therefore, it is rational to pursue a minimization of murder. Cultures we see as "more civilized" mostly are those that have adopted conflict minimization to a large degree. Sure, there's other things we all want too, but not being murdered is kind of a biggie.

*Except possibly when in heavy traffic.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jun 11, 2015 10:09 pm UTC

My ignorance is giving me fits into trying to make sense of what you wrote.
Copper Bezel wrote:There's an implied ideology in every morality, and there is an expressed morality consequent of every ideology.
This expression seems to be the root of my confusion. I understand the last, I'm working on the first. I see why it could be true, but not why it must be.
Copper Bezel wrote:I just don't think natural selection is any kind of moral guide in any context.
If I've left you with the impression that my moral beliefs are based off the notion of natural selection than I've communicated poorly.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Thu Jun 11, 2015 10:14 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:I view it as simply one big mass of ideas. There is an ideal system in there somewhere. Mostly, we just hope to/work at getting kind of closer to it.
You see, that's the part for which I don't see any justification at all. What would make a system "ideal", without any reference to anybody's idea what "ideal" is?

Looking at evolution or the laws of physics is a nonstarter for this, because that degenerates into some form of "ideal means getting it to do what it already does".

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Jun 11, 2015 10:27 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:I view it as simply one big mass of ideas. There is an ideal system in there somewhere. Mostly, we just hope to/work at getting kind of closer to it.
You see, that's the part for which I don't see any justification at all. What would make a system "ideal", without any reference to anybody's idea what "ideal" is?

Looking at evolution or the laws of physics is a nonstarter for this, because that degenerates into some form of "ideal means getting it to do what it already does".

Jose


There's probably a point beyond which we can improve no further. It's not terribly important, because we're certainly not there at present, and progress often gets increasingly difficult after you've done the easy bits. So, it probably is very very far out of reach at present indeed. But at least in theory, various goals have endpoints where progress ceases. If your murder rate actually hits zero and stays there, you're done improving that.

Even for more esoteric things...there are limits in terms of information density, there are limits on travel speed, there are limits on just about everything. We merely happen to operate so far away from the limits that they are usually not of importance at present. But, as reality is objective, ideals do exist.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Thu Jun 11, 2015 11:05 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:There's probably a point beyond which we can improve no further. [...] If your murder rate actually hits zero and stays there, you're done improving that.
Well, sure. But this is presuming that murders should be minimized, and it is that statement, that goal, which is in question. Many goals are a balance between competing desires, and it's not clear at all that there is a "best" compromise. Like finding the number that's less than four and greater than six, there may be no answer.

Personally, I happen to agree with you that murder isn't very nice. I also think that websites stalking me on the internet is not very nice, and should be reduced to zero. But my colleague thinks that websites have the right to know who is using their data and in what manner, so that they and their partners can offer me the most "compelling" experience. It doesn't matter where you stand on the matter, the question for you is why do you think there is a perfect one-size-fits-all answer? And that there is a perfect and ideal answer for all such questions.

Jose
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Fri Jun 12, 2015 10:05 am UTC

ucim wrote:But this is presuming that murders should be minimized, and it is that statement, that goal, which is in question.
I'm curious. Does your life have value to you? Can you think of anyone who exhibits behaviors that fall in the range of the bell curve of typical human behaviors, who wouldn't agree with the statement that their life has value to them? Would the answer to that question represent an objective statement?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jun 12, 2015 12:34 pm UTC

Why do you privilege what you call "typical human behaviors"? Murder is also pretty typical of humans, after all.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Jun 12, 2015 12:54 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:There's probably a point beyond which we can improve no further. [...] If your murder rate actually hits zero and stays there, you're done improving that.
Well, sure. But this is presuming that murders should be minimized, and it is that statement, that goal, which is in question. Many goals are a balance between competing desires, and it's not clear at all that there is a "best" compromise. Like finding the number that's less than four and greater than six, there may be no answer.


No, we're not presuming that murders should be minimized. It follows as a logical consequence of our desire to not be murdered. This stems from fairly obvious biological selectors. There's a pretty solid logical chain that gets you to trying to reduce rates of murder in the absence of any particular religion, morality, or ideology.

Personally, I happen to agree with you that murder isn't very nice. I also think that websites stalking me on the internet is not very nice, and should be reduced to zero. But my colleague thinks that websites have the right to know who is using their data and in what manner, so that they and their partners can offer me the most "compelling" experience. It doesn't matter where you stand on the matter, the question for you is why do you think there is a perfect one-size-fits-all answer? And that there is a perfect and ideal answer for all such questions.

Jose


Websites are not people, so we're dealing with a layer of abstraction here. It's really about what rights the viewers have vs what rights the website OWNERS have.

The existence of an answer does not mean that answer is necessarily concise. Complex questions may require complex answers.

gmalivuk wrote:Why do you privilege what you call "typical human behaviors"? Murder is also pretty typical of humans, after all.


In terms of time spent, we spend a lot less time murdering each other than we do striving to live. Yes, sometimes the striving to live includes a willingness to kill. But the number of people who value killing above their own life is quite small.

Not all behaviors are equally typical or important.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Fri Jun 12, 2015 1:01 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Why do you privilege what you call "typical human behaviors"? Murder is also pretty typical of humans, after all.
Is it? I know a few people and none of them have murdered anyone. However I don't place any importance on any particular behavior. They are a statistical representation of what I can expect when I interact with anyone. How likely it is that I will encounter a particular behavior. So where does the classification of people who place no value on their lives lie? Should I expect to meet people on a daily basis who place no particular value on their own lives? Or is that a rare event?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby doogly » Fri Jun 12, 2015 1:05 pm UTC

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?
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jun 12, 2015 3:10 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Should I expect to meet people on a daily basis who place no particular value on their own lives? Or is that a rare event?
I'm sure you encounter people on a daily basis who are suicidal or who have attempted suicide, yes.

Also what Doogly said.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Jun 12, 2015 3:22 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
morriswalters wrote:Should I expect to meet people on a daily basis who place no particular value on their own lives? Or is that a rare event?
I'm sure you encounter people on a daily basis who are suicidal or who have attempted suicide, yes.

Also what Doogly said.


I'm not sure I would describe someone feeling suicidal as "placing no particular value on their own lives". More of other considerations being viewed as larger issues.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Fri Jun 12, 2015 3:41 pm UTC

Murder, not kill. And that wasn't what I asked. I asked if people who place no particular value on their life were common.
gmalivuk wrote:I'm sure you encounter people on a daily basis who are suicidal or who have attempted suicide, yes.
Well, no. But even had I, I'm not sure it meets my definition. I said no particular concern. Suicide is an endpoint, where events and human emotion reach an ending. It takes some work to get to that point. I phrased it as no particular concern to indicate a lack of emotion about it.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby doogly » Fri Jun 12, 2015 3:54 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Murder, not kill.

:roll:
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Fri Jun 12, 2015 4:08 pm UTC

If you say so. My personal credo places them in different categories. But to keep it fair and balanced. Since I'm from the US I suppose I have to account for war dead. And drone killings. Ok. I'll take non US casualties into the count and omit not US combatants. Do those represent a significant number as compared to the population? :roll:
Looking at this I see suddenly that I'm getting drug down a unresponsive path. I'll stick with the original question I think.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Copper Bezel » Fri Jun 12, 2015 7:00 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:My ignorance is giving me fits into trying to make sense of what you wrote.
Copper Bezel wrote:There's an implied ideology in every morality, and there is an expressed morality consequent of every ideology.
This expression seems to be the root of my confusion. I understand the last, I'm working on the first. I see why it could be true, but not why it must be.

Technically, I think it's true only in the abstract or with a very broad definition of "ideology." But we could get into a rabbit hole on what constitutes a thing with a morality, too. It is certainly not necessary to have a fully realized and avowed ideology to have a morality, more that every morality is going to correspond to an ideology and vice versa. So, yeah, if ideology is the formalization of a moral or ethical strategy, then it's certainly true that not everyone has one, and to say that we could describe an ideology to correspond to any given morality doesn't add anything (you can be given a camera and photograph anything in a given room, but it's meaningless to say that the photographs already exist and you just need to go and find them as a result - I mean, it might be a meaningful description of the subjective experience, but there's no world-of-forms Platonic sense in which it's literally true.)

morriswalters wrote:
Copper Bezel wrote:I just don't think natural selection is any kind of moral guide in any context.
If I've left you with the impression that my moral beliefs are based off the notion of natural selection than I've communicated poorly.

I got that vibe earlier, but you clarified it, and this time I got that vibe from Tyndmyr, who also clarified.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jun 12, 2015 8:41 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Murder, not kill.
You're begging the question there.

gmalivuk wrote:I'm sure you encounter people on a daily basis who are suicidal or who have attempted suicide, yes.
Well, no.
Unless you're a shut-in, yes.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Fri Jun 12, 2015 9:26 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
ucim wrote:But this is presuming that murders should be minimized, and it is that statement, that goal, which is in question.
I'm curious. (1) Does your life have value to you? (2) Can you think of anyone who exhibits behaviors that fall in the range of the bell curve of typical human behaviors, who wouldn't agree with the statement that their life has value to them? (3) Would the answer to that question represent an objective statement?

(1) Yes, but that's irrelevant. My personal values are of no consequence in this discussion, which is about whether there exists a Moral Objective Truth, or whether the idea that there could be one even makes sense.
(2) Yes. But that's also irrelevant. It's basing morality on "what most people do", which does not imply that it's an Objective Truth.
(3) I'm not sure what you mean. {Life having/not having value to a given person} can be an objective statement. Even {Nobody holding a certain moral view} can be an objective statement. However, {Nobody holding a certain moral view} does not make that view FALSE. It merely makes the statement {Somebody holds that moral view} FALSE.

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.

One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

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.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Fri Jun 12, 2015 11:18 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
morriswalters wrote:Murder, not kill.
You're begging the question there.

gmalivuk wrote:I'm sure you encounter people on a daily basis who are suicidal or who have attempted suicide, yes.
Well, no.
Unless you're a shut-in, yes.
No I'm stating an opinion to murder. Obviously you have super powers that allow you to see into the hearts and the minds of people. I lack that capacity. However that is a side issue to my point. Suicide occurs when the cognitive side of the brain is overwhelmed. And it takes a positive cognitive act to do it. And given sufficient support they won't, and continue to live a full life.
ucim wrote:I'm not sure what you mean.
I'm sorry I haven't been able to make it clear.
ucim wrote:Yes, but that's irrelevant. My personal values are of no consequence in this discussion
That value function that I have been trying to establish isn't representative of any opinion on your part. Your body continues to function even if cognition has ceased. Lacking cognition there can be no bias or opinion. 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. As usual thanks for the discussion. I learn a little more every time.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sat Jun 13, 2015 12:21 am UTC

Sorry, again, I've been busy.

PeteP wrote:A question (caused but not part of the truth debate):

1. To qualawababel is eralotatel
2. what is eralotatel is also mamapel
3. Therefore, to qualawababel is mamapel

Talking about syllogism you can of course put anything in that form even if it is meaningless nonsense like above.

Well, nobody can stop you from writing that, but I don't buy that what you've written is a valid syllogism.

Syllogisms are ordinarily thought of as sequences of propositions. If the premises are true, then the conclusion is false; if the premises are false, god knows what could happen.

If you put in something that isn't a proposition, then it's unclear in what sense you've written is a truth-preserving sequence. If what you've written looks valid, I think that's because we read those sentences are naturally read as if "qualawababel" names some action-type, while "eralotatel" and "mamapel" name properties of actions. If, however, you insist on denying that that's what's going on (which is what the non-cognitivist does for moral langauge) then that appearance goes away. Cf. the spelling-out of the Frege-Geach problem where you have nonsense sentences like "If boo murder!, then boo Aaron Hernandez!"

Another related point: A valid argument needs not to equivocate. "A sandwich better than nothing; nothing is better than God; so, a sandwich is better than God" is an equivocal argument, but you can't tell that just by looking at the words in the absence of any understanding of what they mean. Since "mamapel" is nonsense, there are no facts about whether the argument equivocates or not.

PeteP wrote:If I describe an action as being mamapel that means nothing though. So my question is what does it mean to say an action is morally wrong?

I don't know why we should expect to be able to give some sort of informative, reductive definition. For one thing, it doesn't seem to be a precondition on understanding a word that we be able to give an explicit, non-circular, etc. etc. definition. Example: Everyone knows what the color blue is, but I don't know how you could try to define it. Nowadays we know certain things about the characteristics of blue light waves, but we knew what blue was long before we knew any of that.

As you point out, there's something problematic with trying to define words in a circle, where a word X is defined in terms of words that themselves require X in order to be defined. But there seem to be only two other options: infinite non-repeating sequences of definitions, or words that we can use without explicit definition. The former possibility isn't going to work because we don't have an infinite number of words to work with. So, we should expect to be able to use some words without defining everything into oblivion.

doogly wrote:No, I think the point that moral truth values are like mathematical ones is apt, because you *can* be true or false, but only *relative to a framework.*

This is about as controversial a thing to say about mathematics as it is to say about morality.

doogly wrote:You also always need a framework for natural science, I suppose. You need one for everything or you're just stabbing around in a cave. ...
So I still think there is some ranking to the ontology. Putting natural science at a "perfectly objective" pillar top is probably a bit too aspirational. I simply cannot perform an experiment that would convince someone they should care about the results of experiments!

This seems to conflate the epistemology and metaphysics. Of course you need a framework to do science, and to reason in general, in the sense that reasoning requires starting assumptions. But that is a far cry from saying that those assumptions themselves constitute truth or falsehood concerning the things that you're reasoning about.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Jun 13, 2015 12:26 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
morriswalters wrote:Murder, not kill.
You're begging the question there.

gmalivuk wrote:I'm sure you encounter people on a daily basis who are suicidal or who have attempted suicide, yes.
Well, no.
Unless you're a shut-in, yes.
No I'm stating an opinion to murder. Obviously you have super powers that allow you to see into the hearts and the minds of people. I lack that capacity.
You're stating an opinion about murder, which is a specific type of killing a person. Everyone can agree that murder is wrong without any pair of them actually agreeing about what constitutes murder, so you can't just pretend like the distinction is already decided and cut and dried.

And I don't need to look into anyone's hearts, I just need a basic knowledge of statistics and probability.

The point is well made that not everyone who attempts or completes suicide places "no particular value" (whatever you've decided "particular" means) on their life, but the fact remains that you almost certainly encounter people who have attempted suicide on a pretty regular basis.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Jun 13, 2015 12:31 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
doogly wrote:No, I think the point that moral truth values are like mathematical ones is apt, because you *can* be true or false, but only *relative to a framework.*

This is about as controversial a thing to say about mathematics as it is to say about morality.
So are there people saying mathematical statements can be true or false independent of a framework, or that mathematical statements can't be true or false at all?

And how much do the people saying those things actually know about mathematics?
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sat Jun 13, 2015 12:38 am UTC

The former. How much do "those people" know about mathematics? It depends on the person, of course.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby doogly » Sat Jun 13, 2015 1:22 am UTC

I mostly just wanted to give some epistemological hedging about the metaphysics my frameworks imply.

As for math having truth independent of a framework, what the shit.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Sat Jun 13, 2015 1:29 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:You're stating an opinion about murder
As it turns out I wasn't somebody else was. This is what started it.
morriswalters wrote:Is it? I know a few people and none of them have murdered anyone. However I don't place any importance on any particular behavior. They are a statistical representation of what I can expect when I interact with anyone. How likely it is that I will encounter a particular behavior. So where does the classification of people who place no value on their lives lie? Should I expect to meet people on a daily basis who place no particular value on their own lives? Or is that a rare event?
I stand by that statement. In that case I don't care about murder other than as one particular human behavior, I was talking about the value of individuals to themselves. In terms of suicide quote all the statistics you want. If I can't see into their hearts I can tell when they fall out of sight. Had someone killed themselves that I knew, I would have known of it. This isn't rocket science. If you placed zero value on your life there would be no anguish or emotion to go with it. No pain. If I handed you a gun and said shoot yourself what would keep you from doing so? A suicide has made a value judgement that stopping the pain has greater value then continuing, not that life has no value. And that's close enough to what actually happens from my perspective.


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