Yikes. The exchanges are getting longer and longer. This one responds to your last two posts.
Gertie wrote:So lets look at why you can't get an Ought from an Is in a world where there is no objective, independently existing morality for us to discover and be guided by.
I think we end up with the apparently irreconcilable differences between the Objective Public World of Quantifiable Stuff, and the Subjective Private World of Qualiative Experience. We simply don't have a settled theoretical framework which encompasses both, in which we can build satisfactory (to us) relational bridges between the two. Maybe such a theoretical framework is beyond our cognitive abilities, but at any rate, for now we don't have one. So for us the Ises lie in the observed objective world, and the Oughts lie in the experienced subjective world. And there is no obvious bridge of logic, no mutually lawful roadmap, to get us from observing what is, and deriving what should be.
As Ranvier mentioned, we all seem to be attaching somewhat different meanings, and hence different understandings, to the same words. I'll try to make clear what I mean by some of them as we go along.
It is interesting that you combine "objectively" and "independently existing" in the same statement, as though they imply one another or have some other logical or natural connection. That association, I suspect, derives from the association of morality with religion, per which morality is objective (if one has faith) and, being the word of God, is independent of us.
I take the words "objective" and "subjective" to be properties of propositions, just as are "truth" and "falsity." They don't apply to other things-in-the-world. Those things may be real or imaginary, tangible or hypothetical, etc., but they are not objective or subjective. Only the statements we make about them can be objective or subjective. A proposition is objective if it has public truth conditions; subjective if its truth conditions are private. "Paris is the capital of France" is an objective proposition; its truth conditions are known and are public --- anyone can make the observations necessary to determine whether it is true or false. "That painting is beautiful," or, "This soup is too salty," are subjective propositions. The truth conditions for them are internal to the agent, and are inaccessible to anyone else.
No moral theory or moral rules will be independent of us. We are the authors of them all. But they may still be objective, if the propositions they assert have public truth conditions, or are logically derivable from propositions with public truth conditions.
(The truth conditions for a proposition, for anyone not faniliar with that term, are the set of facts which must exist for the proposition to be deemed "true").
But I wonder why you consider "oughts" to belong to the "Subjective Private World of Qualitative Experience." Indeed, they are quite the opposite: moral codes and theories were devised, and are intended to be, general, public
rules of conduct. They are not codifications of "moral" feelings or intuitions and are not co-extensive with them. They were devised precisely because those intuitions and feelings (which are indeed subjective) are idiosyncratic; they differ in strength, scope, and content from individual to individual, and are therefore useless as regulators of conduct in civilized social settings. A civilized society in which everyone followed their "moral" feelings or intuitions would a short-lived anarchy.
I watched the Churchland video you linked (I'd read several pieces previously by the Churchlands on consciousness, another topic that interests me). She makes the same mistake --- she argues that "morality" has its roots in the neural wiring of many mammals and birds, and is an extension or expansion of the parental instincts developed by those species that requires them to look after their immature offspring. But it is misleading --- indeed, erroneous --- to call those instincts and innate dispositions "morality," or the source or foundation of morality. Morality --- moral codes and rules, moral theories --- is what replaces
those intuitions in civilized societies.
Those instincts and dispositions work well in tribal societies, wherein all members have personal relationships with all other members. They do not work, and cannot work, in "societies of strangers." For most people they extend only to the members of one's own kinship-based tribe: members of tribal societies, far from feeling empathy with or benevolence toward non-members, typically regard them as threats or enemies. As Jared Diamond noted, "With the rise of chiefdoms 7500 years ago people had to learn, for the first time iu history, how to encounter strangers regularly without attempting to kill them." That is, BTW, exactly what you would expect given the parental instincts Churchland cites. That instinct compels mammals and birds to protect their own
against threats, including threats from members of their own species. It would be surprising if evolution relaxed that wariness of strangers and expanded that instinct to embrace them.
Churchland's own examples reveal the flaws in her thesis: she asks, "Why should we care about, say, the extinction of elephants? And yet, many of us do." Yes, many of us do --- but many of us don't.
Another example she offers: " . . . when somebody helps somebody else lift their suitcase into the overhead bin on an airplane." Yes, many people will do that, but many won't. She mentions persons who travel to Third-World clinics to care for Ebola virus patients. Yes, a few people will do that, but most won't. Thinking a moment about her own examples shows that those instincts she admires do not operate consistently, uniformly, and certainly not universally, in civilized societies. That is why systematic moral codes were developed and publicly promulgated.
Churchland defines "morality" thus: "By 'moral' . . . I mean that an individual will incur a cost to themselves in order to benefit another."
Well, that is not a definition of "moral;" it is a definition of altruism
. Many people, of course, likely due to the influence of Christianity, consider "moral" to be synonymous with altruism. But equating the categorical term "moral" with a dogma from a particular moral view or system is begging the question. As philosophers, if we wish to ponder moral problems and construct moral theories in an open-minded, impartial way, we can't pack a specific moral thesis into the very definition of "moral." That definition must have no normative content.
My definition of "morality" is: "A codified set of rules regulating interactions between moral agents in a social setting." If altruism is to be regarded as a moral imperative it must be argued for, beginning from the postulates of a coherent moral theory. That some people sometimes act altruistically, instinctively or intuitively, is not an argument for a moral rule commanding it.
Hence, imo, we just have to accept as brute fact, that some things matter to experiencing critters, and that is its own axiomatic justification for Oughts.
It is only a justification for people to whom
those particular things matter. And it is not an axiomatic justification; it is only an idiosyncratic, subjective one. It is, however, a perfectly good reason to try to identify some universal
"oughts," codify and justify them.
(I'll break here and post this much while working on the rest --- coming soon.