SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:Truth isn't subjective, something is true when it corresponds with the objective world - whether or not we can attain this is another question but the definition of truth itself is objective. I do not have to personally believe that killing people is not bad, jack the ripper, Hitler, Stalin, Charles Manson, Pol Pot et al clearly did not believe that killing people was bad. It is entirely possible for someone to not think killing people is bad - show me where in your magic objective moral code that it says killing a human being is and always will be an objectively bad thing to do. My personal beliefs have nothing whatsoever to do with this argument.
So morality isn't objective unless I have a magic moral wand, but truth gets to be objective despite the admitted lack of existence of a magic truth wand? Where is the objective standard of objectivity that is being used here?
This is exactly what I am talking about when I say that truth is just as subjective as morality. These days we largely rely on the scientific method and statistics to get at truth, but both of those things were invented in the last few centuries. Without either the ancient Greeks managed to do an awful lot of architecture. Their buildings didn't fall down, so they knew something, but by modern standards of knowledge they knew practically nothing. In fact, almost everything they regarded as true was objectively false - and spectacularly so - but they got a lot done with it.
If you are a dualist then the idea that there objectively exists morality should be pretty easy to understand, so I'll assume you aren't. If you are a materialist and you want to explain the idea of truth without needing a magic wand then, assuming you think that thoughts and ideas are *something* and not nothing, you must think that they are made of stuff. That stuff is the same stuff that comprises the objective morality (this is what being a materialist means, if you don't think this then why isn't morality the same kind of stuff as thoughts are?). What we call the "truth" of something (again, unless we are just talking nonsense) would have to be an object composed of matter/energy, having a volume and mass (I'm not going to make any suggestions about what that object would be like, it wouldn't necessarily have to be contiguous, it could be very big or very small, inside a brain or made of stuff outside of brains as well) that would have to be constructed by the things that call it the truth - those things being in this case humans (again, using the idea of "constructed" pretty liberally here). When you say that the truth would have to "correspond" to the objective world, we are talking (again, if about anything) about a physical relationship between two objects.
There may be different kinds of relationships that objects can have with one another. For example, some things are bigger than one another (have a large diameter, say) and we tend to think that these things would be bigger than one another whether we were there to notice it or not. Furthermore, we tend to think that things being bigger or smaller is an actual relationship between the things themselves (there are different ways of measuring it, but whatever system you used to observe the universe you would notice something like momentum, which corresponds to a kind of bigness). One thing can also be tastier than another. We recognize that this is a relationship that we have constructed, it is an idea. So the question is, do you think that the relationship between ideas that are true and the things they are true about is like electrical charge, size, mass, etc. That is, do you think that in a pre-big-bang state of infinite heat, infinite density and maximal entropy (or even in a quantum-of-time-post-big-bang state) that the physical factors which define a relationship between two things that makes one of them a true idea about the other existed?
If so, that sounds an awful lot like magic to me. But whether I think this is reasonable or not, the idea that such a property of matter/energy exists is not less ludicrous than the supposition that a property of matter/energy defining morality exists, especially if you consider the possibility that our current understanding or morality bears no more resemblance to the underlying fact we are trying to describe than phlogiston bore a resemblance to heat.
If not then the relationship between two things that makes one a true idea of the other is itself a construction, what's more, it is a construction that has demonstrably changed in recorded history (as I have noted above). I think that it is safe to say that (People made it) + (It changes) + (It is what we would call an idea rather than what we would call an object) => It is subjective (that last clause is there because we don't call cars or pens subjective, they just aren't the right kind of thing).
The idea that we know morality is subjective because some people were very immoral is just assuming the conclusion. People think a lot of false things are true, but this doesn't make them true, nor does it make truth subjective (truth is subjective, but this is definitely not why). People think a lot of bad things are perfectly fine, but that doesn't necessarily do anything about the fact that they are bad things. I suppose you will tell me that strength is subjective because some people can't lift very much?
To be clear, I'm not being facetious here: I think that on the balance of probabilities (I'm not certain or committed to the idea, but it seems more reasonable to me than the alternative) that all these ages that people have talked about being good and bad we have been talking about *something*. While I can't rule out the possibility that truth is objective and morality is subjective when you get right down to the base facts of existence, (which would sort of necessitate the fact that objectivity and subjectivity were themselves both objective, that is, all this time we have grasped at those ideas we have been trying to understand an underlying property of matter/energy that divides objective matter/energy from subjective matter/energy just as electrical charge divides positively and negatively charges elementary particles) this seems to be about the least plausible of the alternatives.
Do you kill a billion people because you are pretty sure that it will be better in the long run? Only if you really want to get the trophy for most evil person ever to live
Really? Just curiously, do you believe Harry Truman to be one of the most evil people to ever live? Going even further, do you believe every single military leader in history to be entirely evil whether they were fighting for your freedom or not?
First of all, wars are desperately terrible things. That doesn't mean that everyone who participates in them on either side is necessarily evil. We have some idea of the standards that we need to apply to determine whether killing someone is really justified in a situation. In our laws we give someone a pass on killing another person if the killer very reasonably believed that the victim posed an immediate risk to someone else's life and if there was no reasonable option available to stop that aside from killing the person. I would say that killing the person is still bad. As I said, saying that sometimes there is a justification for doing something is not the same as saying that the thing isn't bad.
Killing a billion or more people who do not pose an *immediate* risk to anyone else when almost any reasonable person would be able to think of alternatives to accomplish your goal that fall well short of killing the people is stupendously evil. Killing people out of conceit that you *know* about the bad things that will happen if you don't when those things don't fall into the reasonable and well accepted norm of how to tell when someone is going to cause the death of other people is ridiculously evil.
Let's look at the question we have been asked to answer: Why shouldn't we kill off a large percentage of the Earth?
I stand by the fact that "Killing people is bad" is a sufficient answer to that question; sufficient, at least, to point out that the burden of proof is left sorely in the wrong camp. If you want to justify killing off a large percentage of the Earth's population, then you have to make a damn convincing argument for it (and it's probably pretty safe to say that you shouldn't do it no matter how convincing you think the argument is).