Objective vs Subjective Morality

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Judaka
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Re: Objective vs Subjective Morality

Post by Judaka » January 23rd, 2018, 2:36 am

Can you provide an example of a moral distinction that does not involve well-being?
I can only give examples where well-being is not the motivation behind the existence of the moral distinction, you can always tie it back to the well-being of one of the parties. If I said cheating was wrong because people thought it was unfair - you could make an argument for how that unfairness impacts on peoples well-being. If I said premarital sex is immoral in many cultures, you could make an argument about spiritual well-being. If I talked about Sati, where wives follow their deceased husband into death through self-immolation or hanging, could you make some argument about the well-being of the family or something? Perhaps, since you don't need evidence or anything you can make an argument. Is that really the reason people care about these issues? No, it isn't. The origins are cultural/religious, many moral actions don't explicitly have anything to do with morality, many actions are not cared about due to their relevance to well-being.

I could make an argument that your every action is related to well-being very easily. You eat, walk, talk, breathe, drive, think, act - all for well-being - I can argue. Will you say "No actually I do this out of a sense of duty" or "I do this because I believe in principles x and y" probably, but I can still argue it's for well-being. It's not a compelling argument.
I'm not sure why this is your reply, what I said was that if that distinctions about the morality of behaviour are dictated solely by motivations to preserve well-being then you get behaviours which dilute the meaning of morality.
Such as?
Would things like brushing your teeth, eating healthily, getting a good job, socializing, eating healthily, dealing with depression and so on, not become moral imperatives? If what is required for something to be moral is how it relates to well-being?

Also morality is not fundamentally, an interpretation of how best to spread well-being across peoples. We've seen morality function in religions, societies and states as being ways of controlling the masses. We've seen morality functioning to maintain groups of people to live together in harmony. We've seen morality used in revenge, capital punishment, capitalism-style each man for himself, only the strong survive and so on. To simply all of this to "maximize well-being" is a misrepresentation of history. Once again I must say, although it's being ignored that while this is an interesting conversation I don't see the relevance to the topic. You think if you can simplify morality into a functional definition, that you are demonstrating objective morality? More on this later.
Plausible reasoning will always be necessary
Morality is itself an interpretation, I don't think you appreciate how dysfunctional what you've said about morality has been so far. You told me that all there is to morality is differing interpretations about how to preserve well-being, you've made a definition for well-being that with suitable interpretation is applicable to nearly every possible action. People need to prioritise their well-being, the well-being of others, the different types of well being against each other, to determine what constitutes their actual moral distinctions. The only thing that saves me from completely flipping this moral compass on its head by saying "my well-being or the well-being of my people takes complete priority" is your claim that some interpretations can be wrong without really elaborating.

What meaning does objective morality have, when my moral distinctions are completely subjective? I don't know the first thing about physics but in morality, interpreting what to do with existing things and options is the quintessential aspect of what morality is. Morality is about what you should be doing, morality is the reasoning that guides us between right and wrong. To define morality as objective, you need to say which interpretations are right and wrong, if you aren't doing that and instead letting people decide then it's relative.
I'm not really sure I understand what you're getting at here. If you think that epistemic objectivity is irrelevant to objective moral law, then you are either not understanding the difference between epistemic and ontological objectivity or are asking about an ontologically objective moral law, which seems incoherent. In what sense are you using the term "objective"?
There is no epistemic objectivity in making a distinction between behaviours, there is only possible validity for subjective premises (like well-being). Epistemic means relating to knowledge, what can be known - no? How can you call a distinction between behaviour knowledge? It's inherently an opinion. Well it's true maybe I am misunderstanding the term honestly I don't even know what ontologically objective means - I thought an ontological experience was inherently subjective as it related to our experience which is known only to us.

Here's how I defined objective morality in my OP:
Objective morality claims that there is inherent value, worth and correctness in particular moral positions. There may be causal benefits but they are not responsible for the value or worth of those moral positions. Naturally there are different arguments for how objective morality came to be, what positions have inherent value and so on. The word objective in objective morality means it is not subject to opinion, the actual moral claim is objectively valid and true.
Hopefully this will clarify why allowing for interpretations and being able to assert our own moral positions wouldn't be what I would call objective morality. Hopefully it will also clarify why demonstrating positions on morality across humans to be like minded does not affect the actual moral claim which needs to be objectively valid and true. To be clear my position is that objective morality cannot possibly exist - I agree interpretation is always going to be relevant no matter how demonstrated an objective fact is.

Londoner
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Re: Objective vs Subjective Morality

Post by Londoner » January 23rd, 2018, 6:20 am

Frost wrote:
January 22nd, 2018, 6:09 pm

I’m not sure what a “complete” science is supposed to be or why it would be a requirement, as physics, chemistry, etc. is not complete yet that obviously does not preclude the accumulation of knowledge. I can say that the field of positive psychology has been successful in that decades of research is accumulating evidence as to what constitutes well-being and how certain behaviors impact it, and the evidence has a weak epistemic objectivity. This provides rational grounds for moral judgments that have weak epistemic objectivity.
In science we are dealing with things we can objectively measure, so we can say we have made progress when we can predict empirical observations. If we had an objective measurement for 'well-being', then we could say we are making progress towards it.

But with 'well-being' we are trying to find that unit of measurement. Until we have it, we cannot get started on the 'science of well-being'.

That unit has to be compelling in the same way that empirical observations are compelling. Indeed, it would have to reduce to some empirical fact; 'well-being' is the term for a quantity of...x. But now it just becomes a synonym for 'quantity of x' and no longer has a moral dimension. For example, we might decide 'well-being' means 'capacity to sustain a marriage, measured in years' But now 'well-being' just means 'years married'. But now the definition is both too limited to cover how we understand 'morality' and there is no reason why anyone should agree that 'years married' is a measurement of morality.

My example may seem to have been chosen to be deliberately weak, but what would a better one be? As soon as you mention something measurable (as opposed to another synonym for 'well-being') I think the same problem will arise.
Me: “The reason it is unlikely to be successful is that moral issues are precisely those in which humans have different opinions. If those disagreements could be reduced to something objective, some question of fact, I think they would have done so by now.

Disagreement is, in and of itself, irrelevant and can in no way be used as an objection. This is because the fact that there is disagreement does not change that there may be a fact of the matter regarding a particular question. There is incredible disagreement in fundamental physics over how to interpret quantum theory, but I don’t think that anyone would argue that there is not a correct answer.
But, as I say above about science, quantum theory describes empirical observations. A theory is good as far as it is empirically testable. I predict that if we do X the outcome will be Y.

But with moral issues there is no disagreement about the empirical observations. The soldier and the pacifist do not disagree about what happens in a war. They both agree the outcome will be Y. But they do not agree on the morality of Y, and there is no experiment we can conduct that would resolve that disagreement.

Now it is true one could also form un-testable theories about science, for example that all empirical events are willed by God. But then we are no longer doing science, we are doing metaphysics. I would say moral questions are of that type, there is no empirical observation that can resolve them.

(From what you wrote next - not quoted here - I think you take my point in a general sense)
Me: “Meanwhile, I certainly would claim they are vague. Even if we could define what constituted something like 'spiritual well-being' we would then have to weight it against all the other types of 'well-being'. How much spiritual well-being is the equivalent of how much material well-being, etc.?”

That is an empirical question. There is no a priori answer and it does not change the philosophical argument. Weak epistemic objectivity permits valid moral claims but also permits valid subjective valuation on part of the individual, so there cannot be any exact answer to anything. That’s the nature of weak epistemic objectivity, yet at the same time it provides valid, epistemically objective guidance for action and a basis for moral judgment.
I do not see that it is an empirical question. What possible observation could answer my question about 'How much spiritual well-being is the equivalent of how much material well-being?'

I really do not understand this term 'weak epistemic objectivity'.
Me: “Surely this continues to beg the question. Certainly 'murder' has a legal definition, but that does not solve the question of its morality because we can disagree with that law.”

Since you are insisting on this, then please provide a valid argument with the statement that murder is not harmful to the well-being of persons. This is not referring to war, abortion, etc., but in the sense of first-degree murder. An actual argument in favor of how murder is not harmful to well-being would help to clarify this.
But what constitutes first degree murder in any given society is a sociological observation, not a moral one. I do not see why you exclude abortion or war/terrorism, since these are premeditated acts and certainly have been treated as first degree murder. (We could add euthanasia.)

In answer to your question, suppose a slave kills their master and runs away. Certainly, that is 'harmful to the well-being of persons' in the person of the master, and the working of the slave-owning society. If they catch him, the slave will be hung for first-degree murder. But the slave sees what is 'harmful to the well-being of persons' in his condition of slavery. Must we say that the slave is morally wrong because he is breaking the law, given that the laws of that society are drawn up by the slave owners?
That is my point to weak epistemic objectivity. There is room for valid moral disagreement at the same time as valid moral judgment. Whose judgment is determined to be superior would depend on many factors, and requires plausible reasoning to determine, and certainly others could also validly disagree on whose judgment is superior. However, the beauty is that this does not change the epistemic status of the moral judgment and it is valid in that sense.
You would need to explain this further. You emphasise the word 'valid'. I understand that something is valid if it correctly follows a set of rules, as in a piece of logic. But that something is valid does not make it sound, because the premises may not be true. Isn't that the problem? The meat eater and the Vegan disagree on the premises. The meat eater would agree that it is 'valid' to say that if it is wrong to kill animals it is wrong to eat meat, but they do not agree on the initial premise. So to say a moral judgement is 'valid' does not solve the problem.
It’s pretty straightforward. Murdering a person is harmful to their well-being. I’m really not understanding how you are objecting to this. Please provide an actual argument as to how murdering a person is not harmful to their well-being, since I am evidently not understanding how you could even make such an argument.
I gave the example of the slave murdering their master, there are also the example of soldiers/terrorists/freedom fighters. All these may or may not be called 'murderers' by those who are opposed to them.

Do you take a pacifist position? That the harm in killing always outweighs every other consideration when it comes to well-being? If not, then the matter is no longer straightforward.
Me: “If we are using concrete examples, then consider abortion. The law on abortion is different in different countries and has changed over time. What was once a form of murder is sometimes now permitted. It would be hard to argue that the morality of abortion is something decided by geography or time, that it used to be immoral but has now become moral, or can become moral/immoral if you take a plane to a nation with different laws.

This is changing the subject. I never mentioned abortion, war, or the death penalty. I am referring to first-degree murder.
But these are moral issues, the ones we have moral arguments about. If the system for discovering morality via well-being cannot address such questions, what is its use?

(If there was a society in which everybody shared an identical opinion on a subject, then it would not be seen as a moral issue and there would be no problem to solve.)

As you say:
Me: “And if you are right in that psychologists are going to come up with an objective standard for well-being and hence morality, given the variation in laws around the world, in some cases the law must already be immoral.”

Indeed.
In that case, I do not see how observations of what a particular society happens to class as first-degree murder is any help in deciding questions of morality.

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Frost
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Re: Objective vs Subjective Morality

Post by Frost » January 23rd, 2018, 11:43 am

Judaka wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 2:36 am
I can only give examples where well-being is not the motivation behind the existence of the moral distinction, you can always tie it back to the well-being of one of the parties. If I said cheating was wrong because people thought it was unfair - you could make an argument for how that unfairness impacts on peoples well-being. If I said premarital sex is immoral in many cultures, you could make an argument about spiritual well-being. If I talked about Sati, where wives follow their deceased husband into death through self-immolation or hanging, could you make some argument about the well-being of the family or something? Perhaps, since you don't need evidence or anything you can make an argument. Is that really the reason people care about these issues? No, it isn't. The origins are cultural/religious, many moral actions don't explicitly have anything to do with morality, many actions are not cared about due to their relevance to well-being.

I could make an argument that your every action is related to well-being very easily. You eat, walk, talk, breathe, drive, think, act - all for well-being - I can argue. Will you say "No actually I do this out of a sense of duty" or "I do this because I believe in principles x and y" probably, but I can still argue it's for well-being. It's not a compelling argument.
You claim they are not acting for well-being because they are not consciously acting upon the reason of well-being, i.e., they are not considering the reason "well-being" and acting upon it to make it an effective reason. This is often true. However, to then say that they are then not acting for their well-being is not a correct inference. This misses the biological nature of persons as organisms. Ultimately, why does anyone act? They act due to felt uneasiness, which is code for homeostasis. What creates this motivation? Emotion and the resulting feeling states. All cognition is valanced. When a person does something for a reason, that reason is valanced which contributes to a feeling that motivates action. Neurobiologically, the recognition of a state of affairs, a reason, etc., is valanced as it relates to the homeostasis of one's organism. Homeostasis is often inaccurately conceived in terms of survival, but homeostasis, in conscious organisms such as man, is code for well-being. That is the very motivation for any action, and reasons are valanced in that respect. It is the very reason man acts.
Judaka wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 2:36 am
Would things like brushing your teeth, eating healthily, getting a good job, socializing, eating healthily, dealing with depression and so on, not become moral imperatives? If what is required for something to be moral is how it relates to well-being?
First, morality generally involves some form of harm. Following Haidt, these break down into categories of harm, unfairness, oppression, betrayal, subversion, and degradation. Furthermore, morality is mostly to do with other people, although it can involve oneself. What is most important to your point is that considering that not brushing your teeth regularly may have an impact on long-term well-being, it is not significantly impacting others or oneself to the point where moral judgment/sanction is appropriate. Why? Because hypermoralization is itself immoral. Not getting a job if one is able would indeed be immoral, however. Virtue ethics is another consideration that is salient here, since it generally involves character which is good or bad.
Judaka wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 2:36 am
Also morality is not fundamentally, an interpretation of how best to spread well-being across peoples. We've seen morality function in religions, societies and states as being ways of controlling the masses. We've seen morality functioning to maintain groups of people to live together in harmony. We've seen morality used in revenge, capital punishment, capitalism-style each man for himself, only the strong survive and so on. To simply all of this to "maximize well-being" is a misrepresentation of history. Once again I must say, although it's being ignored that while this is an interesting conversation I don't see the relevance to the topic. You think if you can simplify morality into a functional definition, that you are demonstrating objective morality? More on this later.
Why are you attempting to deny morality as a method of improving well-being just because historically there have been abuses and flat out mistaken conceptions of it? Using that reasoning, then medicine is not the best way to spread well-being across peoples because we've seen it use mercury, electroshock therapy, and lobotomies. It's not a matter of something being the single best method, either; morality is an essential method of maintaining social well-being.
Judaka wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 2:36 am
Morality is itself an interpretation, I don't think you appreciate how dysfunctional what you've said about morality has been so far. You told me that all there is to morality is differing interpretations about how to preserve well-being, you've made a definition for well-being that with suitable interpretation is applicable to nearly every possible action. People need to prioritise their well-being, the well-being of others, the different types of well being against each other, to determine what constitutes their actual moral distinctions. The only thing that saves me from completely flipping this moral compass on its head by saying "my well-being or the well-being of my people takes complete priority" is your claim that some interpretations can be wrong without really elaborating.
Do I really need to elaborate how it would be harmful to the well-being of many people if you took the position that "the well-being of my people takes complete priority"?
Judaka wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 2:36 am
What meaning does objective morality have, when my moral distinctions are completely subjective? I don't know the first thing about physics but in morality, interpreting what to do with existing things and options is the quintessential aspect of what morality is. Morality is about what you should be doing, morality is the reasoning that guides us between right and wrong. To define morality as objective, you need to say which interpretations are right and wrong, if you aren't doing that and instead letting people decide then it's relative.
That moral distinctions are completely subjective is obviously false. You mean to tell me that first-degree murder and genocide are moral distinctions that are epistemically subjective, i.e., a mere opinion, whim, or preference?
Judaka wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 2:36 am
There is no epistemic objectivity in making a distinction between behaviours, there is only possible validity for subjective premises (like well-being). Epistemic means relating to knowledge, what can be known - no? How can you call a distinction between behaviour knowledge? It's inherently an opinion. Well it's true maybe I am misunderstanding the term honestly I don't even know what ontologically objective means - I thought an ontological experience was inherently subjective as it related to our experience which is known only to us.
If there "is no epistemic obejctivity in making a distinction between behaviours," then you mean to say that there is no epistemic objectivity between first-degree murder and a person giving food to a homeless person? It's mere subjective premises? Of course distinctions between behaviors are knowledge.

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Frost
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Re: Objective vs Subjective Morality

Post by Frost » January 23rd, 2018, 12:37 pm

Londoner wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 6:20 am
“In science we are dealing with things we can objectively measure, so we can say we have made progress when we can predict empirical observations. If we had an objective measurement for 'well-being', then we could say we are making progress towards it.

But with 'well-being' we are trying to find that unit of measurement. Until we have it, we cannot get started on the 'science of well-being'.

That unit has to be compelling in the same way that empirical observations are compelling. Indeed, it would have to reduce to some empirical fact; 'well-being' is the term for a quantity of...x. But now it just becomes a synonym for 'quantity of x' and no longer has a moral dimension. For example, we might decide 'well-being' means 'capacity to sustain a marriage, measured in years' But now 'well-being' just means 'years married'. But now the definition is both too limited to cover how we understand 'morality' and there is no reason why anyone should agree that 'years married' is a measurement of morality.

My example may seem to have been chosen to be deliberately weak, but what would a better one be? As soon as you mention something measurable (as opposed to another synonym for 'well-being') I think the same problem will arise.”
You’re conflating epistemic and ontological objectivity. It is not the case that science requires only ontologically objective variables. The psychological, sociological, neurobiological, and medical sciences clearly refute any such claim. Ontological subjectivity does not preclude epistemic objectivity.
Londoner wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 6:20 am
“But, as I say above about science, quantum theory describes empirical observations. A theory is good as far as it is empirically testable. I predict that if we do X the outcome will be Y. But with moral issues there is no agreement about the empirical observations.”
This is an entirely inaccurate caricature of physics. The history of physics, contemporary physics journals, and philosophy of science clearly refute this. It’s not as if in physics there is just clear agreement on observations. Everything requires interpretation and there can be tremendous disagreement on how to interpret data. What data means is not somehow presented in awareness without the need for interpretation just because it involves ontologically objective phenomena. Furthermore, science is not a democratic process; there is no voting on a consensus. That people disagree in no way changes the facts of the matter.
Londoner wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 6:20 am
“I do not see that it is an empirical question. What possible observation could answer my question about 'How much spiritual well-being is the equivalent of how much material well-being?'”
You’re once again conflating epistemic objectivity with ontological objectivity. I never claimed that well-being can be quantified; ontological subjectivity does not preclude epistemic objectivity!
Londoner wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 6:20 am
“I really do not understand this term 'weak epistemic objectivity'.”
I was hoping that the example provided of the research into promiscuity before marriage would help to elucidate the concept. Weak epistemic objectivity involves ontologically subjective human action, unlike the physical sciences which only deal with the ontologically objective, which creates strong objectivity. It is also the difference between class and case probability. It is in the very nature of weak epistemically objective evidence that it cannot directly predict behavior of persons since it involves case probability rather than the class probability of the physical sciences. In this way it can provide valid reasons for judgment while also permitting valid disagreement and leeway for subjective valuation. This is purely an epistemic argument.
Londoner wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 6:20 am
“But what constitutes first degree murder in any given society is a sociological observation, not a moral one. I do not see why you exclude abortion or war/terrorism, since these are premeditated acts and certainly have been treated as first degree murder. (We could add euthanasia.)”
The malicious killing of a person with no justification such as self-defence is pretty straight-forward. For example, walking up to a random person and intentionally brutally stabbing them to death is first degree murder. So please answer the original question as to how murder in this way is not epistemically objectively harmful to the well-being of the victim.
Londoner wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 6:20 am
“You would need to explain this further. You emphasise the word 'valid'. I understand that something is valid if it correctly follows a set of rules, as in a piece of logic.”
Well that’s a problem, because logic obviously doesn’t follow rules. The semantic content determines valid inferences, not further rules, otherwise you end up with the Lewis-Carroll paradox. I think we are dealing with epistemological problems here.

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Frost
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Re: Objective vs Subjective Morality

Post by Frost » January 23rd, 2018, 1:09 pm

Maxcady10001 wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 12:59 am
“How does memory come into play here, as there must be a guide to the probing action, because if it's not governed by any rules what reason is there to act? Why is there action? And would it be correct to say there is the probing action, and then nature's answer in process 2 and 3? So process 1 is the probe, 2 is nature, and 3 is the collapse of 1 and 2 and the probability of correct probing action?”
Why must it be governed by rules? I think it is precisely the case that Intentional causation is not rule-governed. In conscious organisms such as man the reasons are what are acted upon.

As to what action is, I think that requires some explanation. Action, as I see it, is only in conscious organisms as it is purposeful behavior to remove felt uneasiness. Felt uneasiness is a feeling state generated as it relates to the homeostasis of the organism, or well-being as properly understood rather than mere survival. The nature of action also involves the psycho-physical interaction between the ontologically subjective informational feeling states of the organism and the ontologically objective informational state of the physical world. Feeling states are essential to action in conscious organisms; they are what move us.

Technically speaking, the “answer on the part of nature” in Dirac’s terminology is only in process 3. Process 2 is the purely deterministic wave equations, which include not only the Schrödinger, but also the Dirac and Klein-Gordon relativistic wave equations. But otherwise, yes, you are correct. However, the “answer on the part of nature” I think is also involved in process 1 in the sense of actualizing the state of the organism. I see process 1 as using the leeway found in the lack of causal closure which can guide the evolution of the physical system, but it still requires actualization or nothing ever happens. In other words, the conscious agent is not causa sui, but is part of the natural system.
Maxcady10001 wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 12:59 am
“Correct, meaning in accordance with nature. Could it be physical stimulus that guides probing action? I feel hungry so I reach for a sandwich. Or is this just the same as causality? I don't understand how anything can be unrestrained.”
Feeling states, which are ontologically subjective, interact with the physical system, which is ontologically objective. I think in non-conscious organisms these feeling states are mechanistic (not mechanical) in the sense that they react to feeling states, while in conscious organisms action emerges as purposeful behavior related to feeling states.
Maxcady10001 wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 12:59 am
“Also, what qualifies as a probing action?”
There is a distinction between the quantum Zeno probing action that can be accomplished using some type of physical system or measuring device, and there is the probing action which occurs through the observation of conscious organisms due to their non-physical experiential states. The distinction here is between decoherence and state vector reduction.

Londoner
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Re: Objective vs Subjective Morality

Post by Londoner » January 23rd, 2018, 2:06 pm

Frost wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 12:37 pm
You’re conflating epistemic and ontological objectivity. It is not the case that science requires only ontologically objective variables. The psychological, sociological, neurobiological, and medical sciences clearly refute any such claim. Ontological subjectivity does not preclude epistemic objectivity.
The subjects you mention involve science but they are not distinct sciences. That is indeed because they involve concepts like 'health' which are not objectively quantifiable.
Me: “But, as I say above about science, quantum theory describes empirical observations. A theory is good as far as it is empirically testable. I predict that if we do X the outcome will be Y. But with moral issues there is no agreement about the empirical observations.”

This is an entirely inaccurate caricature of physics. The history of physics, contemporary physics journals, and philosophy of science clearly refute this. It’s not as if in physics there is just clear agreement on observations. Everything requires interpretation and there can be tremendous disagreement on how to interpret data. What data means is not somehow presented in awareness without the need for interpretation just because it involves ontologically objective phenomena. Furthermore, science is not a democratic process; there is no voting on a consensus. That people disagree in no way changes the facts of the matter.
There may be disputes how you should interpret data, but at least you have data. We do not have data when it comes to 'well-being'. We can determine the weight of something by putting it on a scale and comparing it to the weight of some standard. We cannot do that with well-being.
You’re once again conflating epistemic objectivity with ontological objectivity. I never claimed that well-being can be quantified; ontological subjectivity does not preclude epistemic objectivity![

Me: “I really do not understand this term 'weak epistemic objectivity'.”

I was hoping that the example provided of the research into promiscuity before marriage would help to elucidate the concept. Weak epistemic objectivity involves ontologically subjective human action, unlike the physical sciences which only deal with the ontologically objective, which creates strong objectivity. It is also the difference between class and case probability. It is in the very nature of weak epistemically objective evidence that it cannot directly predict behavior of persons since it involves case probability rather than the class probability of the physical sciences. In this way it can provide valid reasons for judgment while also permitting valid disagreement and leeway for subjective valuation. This is purely an epistemic argument.
I still do not understand what is meant by 'weak epistemic objectivity' and I do not understand the term 'ontologically subjective' in that explanation.

I do not see how an ability to predict the behaviour of people tells us anything about whether that behaviour is moral or contributes to 'well-being', given that we still haven't defined 'well-being'.
Londoner wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 6:20 am
“But what constitutes first degree murder in any given society is a sociological observation, not a moral one. I do not see why you exclude abortion or war/terrorism, since these are premeditated acts and certainly have been treated as first degree murder. (We could add euthanasia.)”
The malicious killing of a person with no justification such as self-defence is pretty straight-forward. For example, walking up to a random person and intentionally brutally stabbing them to death is first degree murder. So please answer the original question as to how murder in this way is not epistemically objectively harmful to the well-being of the victim.
I notice you ignore all my examples of killing, where somebody might commit first-degree murder and yet have a moral defence, in favour of this highly restricted and artificial example. So artificial is it that in real life I do not think it would count as first-degree murder, since the killing is irrational. I think we would conclude the perpetrator was insane and therefore morally without guilt.

And once again, nobody disputes killing is 'harmful' to the thing that is killed. (I do not see what your adding 'epistemically objectively' to the word 'harmful' signifies.) But moral questions arise because we sometimes judge that the harm to the victim is outweighed by other considerations, as in the many examples I have given.
Me: “You would need to explain this further. You emphasise the word 'valid'. I understand that something is valid if it correctly follows a set of rules, as in a piece of logic.”

Well that’s a problem, because logic obviously doesn’t follow rules. The semantic content determines valid inferences, not further rules, otherwise you end up with the Lewis-Carroll paradox. I think we are dealing with epistemological problems here.
That is an interesting view of logic, but my question was what you meant. When you emphasised the word 'valid', what did you mean?

But rather than pursue this further, wouldn't it be easier to give an example of a moral issue that has been solved through psychology or some other method? Then it might become clearer what a claim of 'weak epistemic objectivity' amounts to.

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Frost
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Re: Objective vs Subjective Morality

Post by Frost » January 23rd, 2018, 2:59 pm

Londoner wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 2:06 pm
“The subjects you mention involve science but they are not distinct sciences. That is indeed because they involve concepts like 'health' which are not objectively quantifiable.”
Neuroscience is not distinct from psychology? Tell that to a neuroscientist. That’s a rather absurd claim. You continue to err by conflating the epistemic and ontological sense of the term objective.
Londoner wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 2:06 pm
“There may be disputes how you should interpret data, but at least you have data. We do not have data when it comes to 'well-being'. We can determine the weight of something by putting it on a scale and comparing it to the weight of some standard. We cannot do that with well-being.”
That’s a rather naive view of science. Many sciences operate just fine without entirely ontologically objective variables. Ontological subjectivity does not preclude gathering of data. The sciences mentioned clearly demonstrate this.
Londoner wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 2:06 pm
“I still do not understand what is meant by 'weak epistemic objectivity' and I do not understand the term 'ontologically subjective' in that explanation.

I do not see how an ability to predict the behaviour of people tells us anything about whether that behaviour is moral or contributes to 'well-being', given that we still haven't defined 'well-being'.”
Thank goodness we do not need to establish a complete explicit definition before doing science which helps us to better understand both well-being and what contributes to it. That’s what the field of positive psychology does, and that’s what science in general does. We were able to learn about gravity before we could define it, and frankly, we still cannot define it completely. Would you have told Newton that we cannot learn about gravity until he could describe how there could be action at a distance with gravity?

Perhaps the difference between class and case probability is not clear? I’m not sure what part needs to be explained.
Londoner wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 2:06 pm
“I notice you ignore all my examples of killing, where somebody might commit first-degree murder and yet have a moral defence, in favour of this highly restricted and artificial example. So artificial is it that in real life I do not think it would count as first-degree murder, since the killing is irrational. I think we would conclude the perpetrator was insane and therefore morally without guilt.”
First-degree murder is “restricted” and “artificial”? The FBI stats for 2015 put the estimated murder rate for the U.S. at 15,696. Again, murder is defined explicitly. There are valid reasons to kill such as self-defense due to a physical aggression on the part of the other person. These are pretty well-defined and nothing artificial. Sickening numbers of people are killed “irrationally.” That you think killing a person unprovoked is not murder is just absurd.
Londoner wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 2:06 pm
“And once again, nobody disputes killing is 'harmful' to the thing that is killed. (I do not see what your adding 'epistemically objectively' to the word 'harmful' signifies.) But moral questions arise because we sometimes judge that the harm to the victim is outweighed by other considerations, as in the many examples I have given.”
Moral questions do not arise only when there are other considerations. Unprovoked murder is morally bad.
Londoner wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 2:06 pm
“That is an interesting view of logic, but my question was what you meant. When you emphasised the word 'valid', what did you mean?

But rather than pursue this further, wouldn't it be easier to give an example of a moral issue that has been solved through psychology or some other method? Then it might become clearer what a claim of 'weak epistemic objectivity' amounts to.”
I provided the example of the research on sexual promiscuity prior to marriage. I am not sure what you mean by “solved” because that assumes something that cannot occur in areas of weak epistemic objectivity. The very point is that there is scientific research that suggests such behaviour is harmful to the long-term well-being of women in particular. This provides a valid reason (i.e., epistemically objective) to morally judge sexual promiscuity in women prior to marriage. But again, due to the nature of the evidence, it can only be case probability, so there is room for valid disagreement and individual valuation. There is simply no epistemic contradiction between having valid reasons for disagreement and non-absolute epistemic objectivity.

Judaka
Posts: 233
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Re: Objective vs Subjective Morality

Post by Judaka » January 24th, 2018, 4:40 am

They act due to felt uneasiness, which is code for homeostasis
I always get uneasy when we start throwing out what appears to be the case for an interpretation of what's happening. Looking at "internalized racism" as examples of where, you just can't seem to escape a certain premise regardless of what occurs in reality. So you agree that well-being is not the reasoning behind all moral distinctions but you believe all actions are the result of uneasiness. Morality is a distinction and not an action but I digress. Uneasiness and homeostasis are both extremely vague terms in the ways you've used them, just as well-being was. You mentioned Locke before, do you have any reading to recommend to perhaps understand where you are coming from? There's no value in dismissing your ideas from a position of ignorance and honestly I just feel you've cast a wide net without any real empirical basis for doing so.
Why are you attempting to deny morality as a method of improving well-being just because historically there have been abuses and flat out mistaken conceptions of it? Using that reasoning, then medicine is not the best way to spread well-being across peoples because we've seen it use mercury, electroshock therapy, and lobotomies.
You keep comparing morality to the sciences, an understandable comparison seeing as you're trying to demonstrate objective morality but it's a false comparison. The science of medicine has continually demonstrated the untruthfulness of past practices using recognised modes of presenting evidence and proof. The way we demonstrate untruthfulness in science is clear, since science is essentially a series of claims about causality and nature, you are right if you can demonstrate the validity of your claims in conjunction with evidence and you are wrong if you can't do one of those things. So where's the comparison with morality?

Morality is not a claim about causality or nature, it's a distinction between behaviour which cannot be categorized as right or wrong - it's inherently subjective. You cannot demonstrate truthfulness because evidence and validity don't actually achieve anything, there's no possible evidence and validity without evidence is no argument for truthfulness. You can't compare old practices which have been demonstrated to be false with past moral distinctions which have lost attractiveness due to changing values.

If I recall, when you sought to prove that murder and rape were wrong you've said things like "Well it's obvious that those things are wrong". That's what you compare with the decades of scientific advancement, testing and demonstrations that overturned the practices you mentioned.

What's most funny is that you don't think in Turkmenistan, North Korea, Russia and so many other countries - morality is no longer used to control the people? You think it's a thing of the past? Even in the west, capitalism is responsible for commercialising Christmas and marriage - in Australia where I live, it's quite frowned upon to be too stingy in such contexts. Christmas Grinch, a story about a man who didn't celebrate christmas by sharing his wealth - a tale about morality. In Australia there is phenomenon called king hitting (Not unique here I know) where a person strikes an unsuspecting pedestrian. In the media, they called it the "coward's punch", a clear message being sent to reverse how people thought about the act. From being a demonstration of power and courage, to being a display of cowardice, a pathetic showing by someone who can't fight fairly. To me, it's just an example of countless in my country alone where morality is used by communities, the media, the government to influence how people behave.

We have many advertisements about speeding, drink driving and so on - all doing the same thing. From my perspective, morality is very purposefully used as a tool for influencing people and it has been for thousands of years across all cultures. It's real, it happens and it's a part of what morality is. It's never going to be a redundant component of morality and it's never going to be proven wrong - so where's the similarity with bad medical science?
That moral distinctions are completely subjective is obviously false. You mean to tell me that first-degree murder and genocide are moral distinctions that are epistemically subjective, i.e., a mere opinion, whim, or preference?
I'm not denying that people have reasons for thinking the way they do that are the results of nature/nurture influences, in fact I am very cynical about how many of what people believe actually came from exercising their free will. So people have preferences in all kinds of things, foods, people, characteristics, morals, activities and so on. So if you're asking me - do they believe murder is wrong because they simply decided it? No I don't believe that. If you're asking me - do I think whether warm or cold is the objectively best temperature because people prefer it to be warm? No, I think it's a matter of opinion. It doesn't matter that people desire warmth for good reasons, clearly some animals prefer the cold but they can't speak - it's just the weakest argument for objective truth a person could ever make, in my opinion.
If there "is no epistemic obejctivity in making a distinction between behaviours," then you mean to say that there is no epistemic objectivity between first-degree murder and a person giving food to a homeless person? It's mere subjective premises? Of course distinctions between behaviors are knowledge.
As far as morality goes, there is absolutely no epistemic objectivity between first-degree murder and a person giving food to a homeless man. Objective morality cannot be dependent upon the sensibilities of men, it cannot be relative to the nature of the whatever living intelligent creatures happen to think. Distinctions between behaviour are as much knowledge as it is knowledge to know that person A loves singer Y's music. There's knowledge about how to make distinctions between behaviour, what distinctions exist and even our own. However as far as a distinction being comparable to finding a new species of animal or a new star, no. It's an opinion with no basis in epistemic objectivity.

Londoner
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Re: Objective vs Subjective Morality

Post by Londoner » January 24th, 2018, 6:47 am

Frost wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 2:59 pm
Neuroscience is not distinct from psychology? Tell that to a neuroscientist. That’s a rather absurd claim. You continue to err by conflating the epistemic and ontological sense of the term objective.
Since I did not say it I have no need to respond.

And perhaps I would no longer err if you explained what you meant by 'the epistemic and ontological sense of the term objective' In the last few posts I have asked you to explain what you mean several times.
Me: “There may be disputes how you should interpret data, but at least you have data. We do not have data when it comes to 'well-being'. We can determine the weight of something by putting it on a scale and comparing it to the weight of some standard. We cannot do that with well-being.”

That’s a rather naive view of science. Many sciences operate just fine without entirely ontologically objective variables. Ontological subjectivity does not preclude gathering of data. The sciences mentioned clearly demonstrate this.
It is a scientist's view of science. Again, it is difficult to reply because you always frame your answers around phrases like 'ontologically objective variables' which you never clarify.

In my last post I again asked a straight question:
Me: “I still do not understand what is meant by 'weak epistemic objectivity' and I do not understand the term 'ontologically subjective' in that explanation.
Your reply was:
Thank goodness we do not need to establish a complete explicit definition before doing science which helps us to better understand both well-being and what contributes to it. That’s what the field of positive psychology does, and that’s what science in general does. We were able to learn about gravity before we could define it, and frankly, we still cannot define it completely. Would you have told Newton that we cannot learn about gravity until he could describe how there could be action at a distance with gravity?

Perhaps the difference between class and case probability is not clear? I’m not sure what part needs to be explained.
Your response seems to be unrelated to my question. Do I conclude from this that you do not know what 'weak epistemic objectivity' and 'ontologically subjective' and the rest mean? If you cannot say what you mean, then you can hardly say that I err if I conflate them!

(Regarding Newton, what Newton meant by 'gravity' was a consistency within measurements of empirical events. It was expressed in a mathematical formula, and formulas are about numbers, not 'data' in a vague sense. It describes what things do and it is true if it is an accurate description, accuracy again being about measurement. He did not theorise about the 'cause of gravity' because such a theory would be metaphysical and outside science.)
First-degree murder is “restricted” and “artificial”? The FBI stats for 2015 put the estimated murder rate for the U.S. at 15,696. Again, murder is defined explicitly. There are valid reasons to kill such as self-defense due to a physical aggression on the part of the other person. These are pretty well-defined and nothing artificial. Sickening numbers of people are killed “irrationally.” That you think killing a person unprovoked is not murder is just absurd...
When posts start to contain phrases like 'that you think' it is a sign that a straw man is being deployed as a diversion. Let us stick to the subject of morality. My point is that what legally counts as 'murder' varies so nobody is obliged to think that the current US laws are any guide to what is moral.

And you do not address my point that if a killing really is 'irrational', then it would not be simple first-degree murder because people who act irrationally might not be considered responsible for their actions. So even there, the moral issue is not as simple as you suggest.
Moral questions do not arise only when there are other considerations. Unprovoked murder is morally bad.
On the contrary, that is precisely when they arise. If everyone agrees that unprovoked murder is bad then they would not see it as a moral problem.

As I keep saying, war, abortion, capital punishment etc. all involve killing, but they also involve other considerations. These are examples of real moral issues, ones where people disagree.
Me: But rather than pursue this further, wouldn't it be easier to give an example of a moral issue that has been solved through psychology or some other method? Then it might become clearer what a claim of 'weak epistemic objectivity' amounts to.”

I provided the example of the research on sexual promiscuity prior to marriage. I am not sure what you mean by “solved” because that assumes something that cannot occur in areas of weak epistemic objectivity. The very point is that there is scientific research that suggests such behaviour is harmful to the long-term well-being of women in particular. This provides a valid reason (i.e., epistemically objective) to morally judge sexual promiscuity in women prior to marriage. But again, due to the nature of the evidence, it can only be case probability, so there is room for valid disagreement and individual valuation. There is simply no epistemic contradiction between having valid reasons for disagreement and non-absolute epistemic objectivity.
I do wish you would stop using phrases like 'non-absolute epistemic objectivity' until we have worked out what they mean. As I say above, until you do, they make it impossible to pin down what you are saying.

What it seems to amount to is the claim that if unmarried women have a lot of sex then this harms their 'well-being'. You do not specify what this harm is, or whether it is always the case. But then you take it all back by saying 'But again, due to the nature of the evidence, it can only be case probability, so there is room for valid disagreement and individual valuation.' So, is this an example? Or not?

But let us simply assume that there definitely is some sort of harm. That still gets us nowhere since (as with the example of killing above) the woman can admit that it has a downside, but point out there will also be an upside, which they consider makes it worth it. Or that they consider the alternative - no sex - is even more harmful to their 'well-being'.

If you are going to declare the woman is morally wrong then you must be asserting that the woman does not have the right to make her own choice. That there exists some criteria that trumps her own wishes. What is it?

We have been talking around this subject for a while; you have asserted the existence of some sort of moral methodology based on 'well-being', but when it comes to concrete examples all we have come up with is a very tentative suggestion that (maybe) too much sex can cause some problems. It seems a bit thin!

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Frost
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Re: Objective vs Subjective Morality

Post by Frost » January 24th, 2018, 1:02 pm

Judaka wrote:
January 24th, 2018, 4:40 am
I always get uneasy when we start throwing out what appears to be the case for an interpretation of what's happening. Looking at "internalized racism" as examples of where, you just can't seem to escape a certain premise regardless of what occurs in reality. So you agree that well-being is not the reasoning behind all moral distinctions but you believe all actions are the result of uneasiness. Morality is a distinction and not an action but I digress. Uneasiness and homeostasis are both extremely vague terms in the ways you've used them, just as well-being was. You mentioned Locke before, do you have any reading to recommend to perhaps understand where you are coming from? There's no value in dismissing your ideas from a position of ignorance and honestly I just feel you've cast a wide net without any real empirical basis for doing so.
It’s not just an interpretation of an epistemically subjective phenomena like implicit racism. Homeostasis is meant in the biological sense, and removal of felt uneasiness is the very biological basis for action. That feeling state is neurobiologically generated by mapping the state of the organism in the orientation association area in man. This felt uneasiness is the detection of imbalance which prompts action, and action in conscious organisms is necessarily purposeful. That purpose is to reduce felt uneasiness, which again is code for homeostasis (although feeling states are primary). This implies that man acts for his well-being. This is implied in the very category of action. There are four and only four categories of well-being, which are material, psychological, social, and spiritual. There is a temporal aspect to well being, which can be roughly considered short and long-term well-being. When one refers to well-being, it is more precisely a temporal harmony of the four categories, which I would refer to as General Well-Being.

The field of positive psychology has decades of research at this point learning about and refining conceptions of well-being, although the field focuses on psychological and social well-being. Material Well-Being involves economic theory, and Spiritual Well-Being involves an area that has little research, although there is some pioneering research in this area.

For example, from the book mentioned below:

“Keyes (1998) argued that positive functioning consists of more than psychological well-being. Functioning well in life includes social challenges and tasks that reflect an individual’s social well-being (Keyes, 1998). Whereas psychological well-being represents more private and personal criteria for the evaluation of functioning, social well-being epitomizes the more public and social criteria whereby people evaluate their functioning in life. These social dimensions consist of social coherence, social actualization, social integration, social acceptance, and social contribution. Individuals are mentally healthy when they view social life as meaningful and understandable, when they see society as possessing potential for growth, when they feel they belong to their communities, are able to accept all parts of society, and when they see their lives as contributing to society.” (Keyes, 2002: 300)


I don’t have a particular book or article on this because it includes so many areas, but for an academic review of positive psychology I would recommend Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-Lived edited by Corey Keyes and Jonathan Haidt (2002).
Judaka wrote:
January 24th, 2018, 4:40 am
You keep comparing morality to the sciences, an understandable comparison seeing as you're trying to demonstrate objective morality but it's a false comparison. The science of medicine has continually demonstrated the untruthfulness of past practices using recognised modes of presenting evidence and proof. The way we demonstrate untruthfulness in science is clear, since science is essentially a series of claims about causality and nature, you are right if you can demonstrate the validity of your claims in conjunction with evidence and you are wrong if you can't do one of those things. So where's the comparison with morality?
I’m sorry to tell you that’s not how science works. There is no “proof” in science, nor is it the case that “The way we demonstrate untruthfulness in science is clear.” It appears you are making a basic epistemological error in your concept of truth, where you think there is false dichotomy of either being 100% accurate or 0% accurate, or entirely inaccurate. I think this probably comes from errors in ontology, of what it means to say something exists. To say something exists is a real pattern, not objects in the Newtonian metaphysical sense. There are no “things,” and an epistemology involves representations and degrees of accuracy of their correspondence. Furthermore, there are simply errors in science, but that is corrected over time and does not detract from the level of epistemic objectivity of the evidence.

The comparison with morality is simply that we can empirically investigate what has beneficial and adverse consequences to well-being. Depending on the degree of confidence of the evidence, we can begin to draw tentative conclusions while continuing to improve our understanding of what is beneficial or harmful.
Judaka wrote:
January 24th, 2018, 4:40 am
Morality is not a claim about causality or nature, it's a distinction between behaviour which cannot be categorized as right or wrong - it's inherently subjective. You cannot demonstrate truthfulness because evidence and validity don't actually achieve anything, there's no possible evidence and validity without evidence is no argument for truthfulness. You can't compare old practices which have been demonstrated to be false with past moral distinctions which have lost attractiveness due to changing values.
Yes, morality is in fact about causation and nature since it is regarding well-being. When you say “it’s inherently subjective” you are still conflating the epistemic and ontological sense. When well-being is studied, there are various measures, both ontologically objective and ontologically subjective, but ontological subjectivity does not preclude epistemic subjectivity.
Judaka wrote:
January 24th, 2018, 4:40 am
If I recall, when you sought to prove that murder and rape were wrong you've said things like "Well it's obvious that those things are wrong". That's what you compare with the decades of scientific advancement, testing and demonstrations that overturned the practices you mentioned.
I’m still waiting for an argument on how first-degree murder is not devastatingly harmful to the well-being of the victim.
Judaka wrote:
January 24th, 2018, 4:40 am
What's most funny is that you don't think in Turkmenistan, North Korea, Russia and so many other countries - morality is no longer used to control the people? You think it's a thing of the past? Even in the west, capitalism is responsible for commercialising Christmas and marriage - in Australia where I live, it's quite frowned upon to be too stingy in such contexts. Christmas Grinch, a story about a man who didn't celebrate christmas by sharing his wealth - a tale about morality. In Australia there is phenomenon called king hitting (Not unique here I know) where a person strikes an unsuspecting pedestrian. In the media, they called it the "coward's punch", a clear message being sent to reverse how people thought about the act. From being a demonstration of power and courage, to being a display of cowardice, a pathetic showing by someone who can't fight fairly. To me, it's just an example of countless in my country alone where morality is used by communities, the media, the government to influence how people behave.
This is irrelevant to the epistemic status of morality. Communist countries used “science” and “progress” as excuses for mass murder. Science was also used to justify the eugenics programs by progressives in the US in the early 20th century, something Hitler decided he quite liked. I guess we can’t trust science since people abused it.

But as an aside, I had a bit of a chuckle reading that “capitalism is responsible for commercialising Christmas and marriage.” I suppose an abstract concept was able to cause people to make choices, rather than consumers’ choices over many decades being responsible for the commercialization.
Judaka wrote:
January 24th, 2018, 4:40 am
We have many advertisements about speeding, drink driving and so on - all doing the same thing. From my perspective, morality is very purposefully used as a tool for influencing people and it has been for thousands of years across all cultures. It's real, it happens and it's a part of what morality is. It's never going to be a redundant component of morality and it's never going to be proven wrong - so where's the similarity with bad medical science?
Of course the purpose of morality is normative. That doesn’t change its epistemic status.
Judaka wrote:
January 24th, 2018, 4:40 am
That moral distinctions are completely subjective is obviously false. You mean to tell me that first-degree murder and genocide are moral distinctions that are epistemically subjective, i.e., a mere opinion, whim, or preference?
I'm not denying that people have reasons for thinking the way they do that are the results of nature/nurture influences, in fact I am very cynical about how many of what people believe actually came from exercising their free will. So people have preferences in all kinds of things, foods, people, characteristics, morals, activities and so on. So if you're asking me - do they believe murder is wrong because they simply decided it? No I don't believe that. If you're asking me - do I think whether warm or cold is the objectively best temperature because people prefer it to be warm? No, I think it's a matter of opinion. It doesn't matter that people desire warmth for good reasons, clearly some animals prefer the cold but they can't speak - it's just the weakest argument for objective truth a person could ever make, in my opinion.
You didn’t answer the question. I am still waiting for an explanation as to how first-degree murder is not devastatingly harmful to the well-being of the victim. I don’t know why I can’t just get a straightforward answer on this since it is supposedly so obviously up to epistemically subjective factors.
Judaka wrote:
January 24th, 2018, 4:40 am
As far as morality goes, there is absolutely no epistemic objectivity between first-degree murder and a person giving food to a homeless man.
Okay, so I suppose if I were to viciously stab you to death, and while you are dying and bleeding all over the place, I can calm your protestations by reminding you that your pain, suffering, and ultimate death are only matters of epistemic subjectivity and therefore mere opinions and whims.

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Frost
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Re: Objective vs Subjective Morality

Post by Frost » January 24th, 2018, 1:33 pm

Londoner wrote:
January 24th, 2018, 6:47 am
Frost wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 2:59 pm
Neuroscience is not distinct from psychology? Tell that to a neuroscientist. That’s a rather absurd claim. You continue to err by conflating the epistemic and ontological sense of the term objective.
Since I did not say it I have no need to respond.
You did right here:
Londoner wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 2:06 pm
“The subjects you mention involve science but they are not distinct sciences. That is indeed because they involve concepts like 'health' which are not objectively quantifiable.”
Now please explain.

Londoner wrote:
January 24th, 2018, 6:47 am
And perhaps I would no longer err if you explained what you meant by 'the epistemic and ontological sense of the term objective' In the last few posts I have asked you to explain what you mean several times.
Epistemic objectivity: 1 + 1 = 2
Epistemic subjectivity: ‘Vanilla tastes better than chocolate.”

Ontological objectivity: mountains and planets
Ontological subjectivity: pains and tickles
Londoner wrote:
January 24th, 2018, 6:47 am
It is a scientist's view of science.
Scientists can be confused in their epistemology and methodology.
Londoner wrote:
January 24th, 2018, 6:47 am
In my last post I again asked a straight question:
Me: “I still do not understand what is meant by 'weak epistemic objectivity' and I do not understand the term 'ontologically subjective' in that explanation.
Your reply was:
Thank goodness we do not need to establish a complete explicit definition before doing science which helps us to better understand both well-being and what contributes to it. That’s what the field of positive psychology does, and that’s what science in general does. We were able to learn about gravity before we could define it, and frankly, we still cannot define it completely. Would you have told Newton that we cannot learn about gravity until he could describe how there could be action at a distance with gravity?

Perhaps the difference between class and case probability is not clear? I’m not sure what part needs to be explained.
Your response seems to be unrelated to my question. Do I conclude from this that you do not know what 'weak epistemic objectivity' and 'ontologically subjective' and the rest mean? If you cannot say what you mean, then you can hardly say that I err if I conflate them!
I apologize, I didn’t think that in a philosophy forum in a topic on the epistemological basis of morality that I would have to explain such a basic epistemic distinction. The answer is right above.
Londoner wrote:
January 24th, 2018, 6:47 am
(Regarding Newton, what Newton meant by 'gravity' was a consistency within measurements of empirical events. It was expressed in a mathematical formula, and formulas are about numbers, not 'data' in a vague sense. It describes what things do and it is true if it is an accurate description, accuracy again being about measurement. He did not theorise about the 'cause of gravity' because such a theory would be metaphysical and outside science.)
Again you are conflating ontological and epistemic senses of the term objective.

As an aside, it is a rather strange comment to say that “He did not theorise about the 'cause of gravity' because such a theory would be metaphysical and outside science.” I hate to break the news to you, but the cause of gravity is one of the major areas of work in contemporary theoretical physics.

Londoner wrote:
January 24th, 2018, 6:47 am
When posts start to contain phrases like 'that you think' it is a sign that a straw man is being deployed as a diversion. Let us stick to the subject of morality. My point is that what legally counts as 'murder' varies so nobody is obliged to think that the current US laws are any guide to what is moral.
Why do you continue to harp on the fact that it is a law rather than the actual description of the act the law describes? You asked for an act, and such an act is described under that law.
Londoner wrote:
January 24th, 2018, 6:47 am
Moral questions do not arise only when there are other considerations. Unprovoked murder is morally bad.
On the contrary, that is precisely when they arise. If everyone agrees that unprovoked murder is bad then they would not see it as a moral problem.
Ah, so if everyone agrees that beating babies with baseball bats for fun is wrong then there cannot be anything morally wrong with beating babies with baseball bats.
Londoner wrote:
January 24th, 2018, 6:47 am
As I keep saying, war, abortion, capital punishment etc. all involve killing, but they also involve other considerations. These are examples of real moral issues, ones where people disagree.
That is changing the subject. I was speaking of first-degree murder. It’s straightforward. If a person kills someone with malice unprovoked then that is first-degree murder. When I ask about this, you change the subject and say “what about abortion? What about war?” That’s not what I asked. Please answer how such a first degree murder is not epistemically objectively harmful to the well-being of the victim.
Londoner wrote:
January 24th, 2018, 6:47 am
What it seems to amount to is the claim that if unmarried women have a lot of sex then this harms their 'well-being'. You do not specify what this harm is, or whether it is always the case. But then you take it all back by saying 'But again, due to the nature of the evidence, it can only be case probability, so there is room for valid disagreement and individual valuation.' So, is this an example? Or not?

But let us simply assume that there definitely is some sort of harm. That still gets us nowhere since (as with the example of killing above) the woman can admit that it has a downside, but point out there will also be an upside, which they consider makes it worth it. Or that they consider the alternative - no sex - is even more harmful to their 'well-being'.

If you are going to declare the woman is morally wrong then you must be asserting that the woman does not have the right to make her own choice. That there exists some criteria that trumps her own wishes. What is it?

We have been talking around this subject for a while; you have asserted the existence of some sort of moral methodology based on 'well-being', but when it comes to concrete examples all we have come up with is a very tentative suggestion that (maybe) too much sex can cause some problems. It seems a bit thin!
Please catch up on the epistemic distinctions and then respond again.

Judaka
Posts: 233
Joined: May 2nd, 2017, 10:10 am

Re: Objective vs Subjective Morality

Post by Judaka » January 24th, 2018, 4:12 pm

’m sorry to tell you that’s not how science works.
Are you responding to my entire statement or the use of my word proof? I've already stated that "facts" and "things" are defined intersubjectively. "The scientific method exists not to determine the truthfulness of a claim but instead to determine the degree of truthfulness" - which isn't even necessarily something different is what you thought the best response would be to my post? In comparison to science having clear methods of *insert whatever terms you want* to determine, at some level, the scientific communities opinion about something - what is the process used in morality to determine the *insert whatever terms you want* that allows them to distinguish between objective fact (this is actually needed for objective morality) and other (insert terms) opinions which are separate from that.

The point I'm making is simple. Objective morality is a concept that already begins with an objective truth, science is not comparable to it to begin with. Morality is a distinction between behaviours based on no relevant evidence, science is *insert terms* using a process to determine the *insert terms* of a claim which in turn influence how the scientific community view that issue. There's absolutely no comparison to be made here, science is limited to intersubjectivity and objective morality is the idea that morals can be objectively correct and incorrect. I want you to address that and after you've done that if you have something else to say then please go ahead, it's a forum after all.
Yes, morality is in fact about causation and nature since it is regarding well-being.
Can we make a distinction between two separate things? Morality as a claim/distinction as in a claim which can be separated and examined separately from whoever said it and morality as in, a person's moral code which may for argument's sake have been created from uneasiness in an effort to achieve well-being. I really hate to argue about terms but I've explained this several times and it's never addressed.
When you say “it’s inherently subjective” you are still conflating the epistemic and ontological sense.
I suppose I meant it's inherently epistemically subjective. I'm not really interested in having a debate about the purpose of words but I've defined my terms. Despite my various attempts, I still don't understand what ontological objectivity is. I've always defined both experiences and epistemic subjectivity as being subjectivity and I don't feel the distinction is particularly enlightening or helpful. So if I say it's inherently subjective, I don't see how this can be interpreted as "I'm experiencing a concept - morality and it's my own experience".

I will once again retirate that objective morality is a concept which says, there exists epistemically objectively true correctness to moral positions. Objective morality is not a concept about experiencing that morality, or utilising that morality, or measuring that morality. In fact as soon as you use what happens on Earth as an argument for the intrinsic value of positions - it becomes relative. If you want to argue about something different then okay, let's argue about what morality should be used for, why we evolved to have a conscience and whether morality is the best way to maximize well-being. I don't know whether you want your argument to be for intrinsic value, I don't know whether you think your argument demonstrates intrinsic value but I really feel like your argument doesn't even approach what could even be considered an argument for objective morality.
I’m still waiting for an argument on how first-degree murder is not devastatingly harmful to the well-being of the victim.
You are? When did you ask for that? Clearly first-degree murder harms the well-being of the victim, any kind of killing does in fact - in the same way as a natural death or an accident - I mean what's your point?

You've said that all action can be inferred to originate from a desire to stem uneasiness caused by emotion which is necessarily built into us correct? How does dealing with uneasiness force me to care about the well-being of myself and all other creatures? I could understand if it was just about my own well-being but apparently I can't even kill people for my own benefit because that would hurt the well-being of that person correct? Or are you making the assessment that all violence damages my psychological well-being and the moral distinction against violence is actually to do with the preservation of my mental well-being? Even if people can be sadists and fantasize about rape, about attaining control and dominance over others through violent means? I suppose we could also infer their behaviour as evidence of psychological trauma because why the heck not?

Also you say uneasiness dictates my reason for acting and what I act for - but you still argue for free will. How does that work?

Finally you said that interpretation is necessary, which can obviously completely redefine how I view well-being. How can that be possible if well-being is my basis for reducing uneasiness - isn't it already defined biologically? People behave in ways I would classify to be self-destructive all the time, substance abuse, gambling away their money, damaging their relationships and so on. I'm just looking for a more complete picture on how all of this fits into what you say, forces me to act for the sake of my well-being. I want to give you a chance to explain because I'm struggling.
I suppose an abstract concept was able to cause people to make choices, rather than consumers
Capitalism is not an abstract concept, it's an economic and political system which has been implemented all over the world. If advertisements didn't work then companies wouldn't spend money on it. Valentines day and Christmas have been heavily commercialised culturally through such advertisements and it's results are well documented. I'm sure if you google commercialisation of Christmas you can find information about it.
This is irrelevant to the epistemic status of morality
It might be but it's not irrelevant to your argument which is to do with the function of morality, I'm providing my arguments about how morality functions in many different ways, is important for many different reasons and takes different shapes in order to complete each role, which would make it relative.

Morality has been and still is functioning as and being promoted as a way of influencing people's minds. You tell me that all morality can be inferred to be the for sake of maintaining well-being and I tell you that morality has other functions - your reply is that it's irrelevant. What is relevant then? Obviously you believe you're right and I believe I'm right but I'm interested to know - what in your view would constitute relevant and meaningful evidence? Motivations don't matter, functionality doesn't matter, the design of moral distinctions themselves don't matter. What evidence, however unrealistic it may be in your view, could be presented to you that would derail your argument?
You didn’t answer the question. I am still waiting for an explanation as to how first-degree murder is not devastatingly harmful to the well-being of the victim. I don’t know why I can’t just get a straightforward answer on this since it is supposedly so obviously up to epistemically subjective factors.
I don't think you asked this of me before now, can you find a quote?
Okay, so I suppose if I were to viciously stab you to death, and while you are dying and bleeding all over the place, I can calm your protestations by reminding you that your pain, suffering, and ultimate death are only matters of epistemic subjectivity and therefore mere opinions and whims.
I wouldn't look for an apology from someone who viciously stabbed me to death anyway. You also characterise my opinions as being "mere opinions", I value myself more than that. My opinions are second to nothing. What I think is my world, it dictates near everything I do. What could be more important than that? I would say my pain, suffering and death are actually matters of epistemic objectivity or even ontological subjectivity.

In a world without objective distinctions - subjective distinctions are the highest form of distinctions. My blood still boils despite being a moral relativist, when I hear about atheist bloggers being butchered by Islamist extremists in Bangladesh for example, I would have no issues ordering or carrying out capital punishment against the perpetrators and I'd feel completely justified in doing so. Certainly at the very least, I'd know I wasn't wrong.

However why would I care about atheist bloggers or Islamist extremists? It's because subjective axioms work just fine, I don't need to believe in objective morality to be human.

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Frost
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Re: Objective vs Subjective Morality

Post by Frost » January 24th, 2018, 6:04 pm

Judaka,

I am attempting a concise response rather than a point-by-point one since the length is already getting significant and we may be getting caught up in details. I feel that there are very fundamental misunderstandings here, not the points we go back and forth with. Until the more fundamental points are addressed, I don’t feel the point-by-point responses will be terribly productive.

I think the first issue is epistemological. Intersubjectivity does not change the epistemic status of various assertions. Subjectivity is necessary for semantics, or understanding meaning, but that does not influence the epistemic status of the assertion. That the semantic contents of the argument “all men are mortal, Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is mortal” must be understood in experience does not thereby make the statement epistemically subjective. The statement is absolute in its epistemic objectivity because it is a logical truth.

When you say that “Objective morality is a concept that already begins with an objective truth” you seem to be framing it in a way that makes it impossible to have an objective morality. Morality is a biological concept that has a function, otherwise it wouldn’t have evolved and we wouldn’t see it in lower mammals. Our linguistic cognition and rational capacity greatly expands morality, but it never loses its biological nature which has a function. You seem to think it requires some sort of Platonic existence if it is to be epistemically objective instead of seeing it as a biological function which evolved.

Since you said you weren’t clear on ontological objectivity, I will copy from a previous post:

Ontological objectivity: mountains and planets
Ontological subjectivity: pains and tickles

Epistemic subjectivity: ‘Vanilla tastes better than chocolate.”
Epistemic objectivity: 1 + 1 = 2

Epistemic objectivity has the further classifications:

Absolute epistemic objectivity: logical and mathematical truth

Strong epistemic objectivity: Evidence related to the ontologically objective as found in the physical sciences. If probability is involved, it is class probability.

Weak epistemic objectivity: Evidence of phenomena which involve Intentional causation. The probability involved is case probability.

You stated that “objective morality is a concept which says, there exists epistemically objectively true correctness to moral positions.” Evidence from positive psychology does provide evidence with weak epistemic objectivity that certain behaviors are harmful to well-being. There are others that involve ontologically objective factors, such as the strong epistemically objective fact that murder is harmful to your well-being. This is straightforward evidence which is based in morality as an evolved biological function.

You asked “How does dealing with uneasiness force me to care about the well-being of myself and all other creatures?” There is nothing that forces you to care. That you necessarily act for felt uneasiness does not mean that you will be forced to care about yourself in a particular way. If you choose not to care, then you are demonstrating a preference for that stance. An extreme example is if one commits suicide, one is acting to remove felt uneasiness. There is nothing in this which forces you to act in any particular way since there is a causal gap in Intentional causation. This is why rationality is necessary, since rationality requires free-will. However, it seems there is also a basic disagreement in rationality theory, which may need to be discussed. Most theories of rationality seem to think that reasons or desires cause behavior, but this is false. Classical rationality theory also claims that there are no desire-independent reasons for action, which is rather trivially false. Along these lines, it also requires that a person have the relevant desire in their internal motivational set if a reason is to become effective. This is also false.

However, the point is, one always acts to reduce felt uneasiness which implies well-being, but this does not force you to act in your best interests, since you may simply be mistaken or have weakness of will.

Judaka
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Re: Objective vs Subjective Morality

Post by Judaka » January 24th, 2018, 11:15 pm

Frost, I don't deny morality is an evolved biological function!!!

The word function does not imply a perfect system, evolution shows that reproductively and in terms of survival, morality was extremely useful. We did not evolve to have the morality we do because it's the objectively correct way.

What religious folk are saying when they talk about objective moral law is that moral positions have intrinsic correctness as dictated by God. I am unsure why you don't see the difference between that position and yours. All your position says is that morality has a biological function.

You don't seem actually believe we need to follow certain moral positions or that one is inherently better than another. You say I'm free to do what I wish, interpret how I wish and reduce uneasiness in whatever way works for me.

To go back to distinctions between behaviour and function; function does not make distinctions between behaviour redundant. We can experience the function and rationally reject it. A lot of this discussion has been to what extent that would actually be a useful exercise. The matter of whether it is right or not, efficient or not, desirable or not - is all outside of the evolved biological function.

The second thing is that you always use well-being as an axiom to determine the effectiveness of a moral distinction. Which undermines my ability to reduce my uneasiness my own way - which may very well involve harming myself or to do with things outside of maintaining well-being. If all my actions are based on me trying to reduce my uneasiness then I don't even see an alternative to this. People whose motivations are clearly stated to be outside of your terms, are considered objectively wrong for that reason. I don't see that as sufficient, isn't it just your interpretation and it has no basis empirically. You can't tell me what my best interests are while also telling me it's up to me to deal with my uneasiness however I see fit and that I need to have my own rationality.

If I'm not forced to care about the well-being of others then why am I "obviously wrong" when I hurt the well-being of others? That was my point.

I'm still not clear on what ontological objectivity is and I still don't understand why it's so important to differentiate the two rather than just calling pains, tickles and opinions all subjective and mountains, planets, 1+1=2 as all objective. Or what relevance the distinction has in my arguments.

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Frost
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Re: Objective vs Subjective Morality

Post by Frost » January 25th, 2018, 1:35 am

Judaka,

I think we are making progress here.

I certainly do see a massive difference between any divine command "theories" of morality and what I suggest. I think they're nonsense. However, my position is saying more than just that morality has a biological function, since from the biological function we can then construct an epistemically objective basis for moral judgments once we understand that function.

You seem to think that I do not believe that we need to follow certain positions or that one is better than another. Nothing could be further from the truth! I believe because of our rationality, we can determine what works better or worse and modify behavior based upon the evidence. Science is one way that is very useful for dealing with this, as we have found that often folk psychology is wrong and more epistemically objective approaches allow us to learn something new.

I think I see what you mean about functions not making distinctions of behavior redundant. I think you are precisely correct. I am not advocating an appeal to nature. We need to use rationality and various epistemic tools to determine what methods do indeed help us achieve well-being. Well-being is not an axiom for me, but that human action is purposeful is.

Neither am I advocating only selfish actions for one's well-being, as that defeats the main--though not only--purpose of morality which is social well-being. Action is necessarily to reduce felt uneasiness which is code for well-being, yet one can be mistaken in one's purposeful action toward well-being. This is because impulses can mislead. This is where rationality is necessary to determine what is either correct or most likely to be the case. Indeed, the very function of consciousness is to be able to increase the ability for rational action in organisms. It helps us to reason more effectively, and importantly plan for the future. One could argue that the major function of consciousness is to be able to plan for long-term well-being.

An interesting example in this regard would be the moral status of socialism. Economic theory can be used to determine with absolute epistemic objectivity that it is harmful for social well-being, particularly in the long-run. This permits the moral judgment that socialism is immoral to have absolute epistemic objectivity. There is no argument against it, regardless of what many people feel or want to believe for various reasons. It is man's ability for complex praxeological analysis which permits this moral judgment to be true.

Finally, the main point about epistemic and ontological objectivity is just that ontological subjectivity, for example the involvement of feeling states or well-being, does not preclude epistemically objective analysis and study. Indeed, that is the point of the whole thread.

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