Is morality objective or subjective?

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Peter Holmes
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Peter Holmes » October 16th, 2018, 1:26 am

Thanks, Jklint. I agree with much of what you say, but not with this bit.
Jklint wrote:
October 15th, 2018, 4:14 pm
My logic regarding morality in either state of S or O pertains to the bottom line in human nature, i.e., the ancient understanding that whatever your culture what I don't like done to me you also wouldn't like done to you. At that level I find morality as neutral and to that extent objective. How it responds to such infringements is left to the culture or society itself and therefore subjective.
My argument against objectivism is that there are no moral facts - no 'bottom line' - because the fact-value barrier is insuperable.

Something like the golden rule may be primeval for our and other social species - but it's only a command: do unto others... It may be practical good sense - for individuals and groups - to follow the rule. But rules, obedience and punishment (expulsion from the group?) aren't morally significant.

It may be foolish to do to others what you wouldn't like done to you. But why does that make it morally wrong?

Jklint
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Jklint » October 16th, 2018, 10:28 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
October 16th, 2018, 1:26 am
Thanks, Jklint. I agree with much of what you say, but not with this bit.
Jklint wrote:
October 15th, 2018, 4:14 pm
My logic regarding morality in either state of S or O pertains to the bottom line in human nature, i.e., the ancient understanding that whatever your culture what I don't like done to me you also wouldn't like done to you. At that level I find morality as neutral and to that extent objective. How it responds to such infringements is left to the culture or society itself and therefore subjective.
I don’t agree with it either as I tried to indicate in my post. In the above excerpt I merely tried to present the logic or illogic of how the error was produced. My original one-liner was more glib than insightful which you noticed.
Peter Holmes wrote:
October 16th, 2018, 1:26 am
My argument against objectivism is that there are no moral facts - no 'bottom line' - because the fact-value barrier is insuperable.
I’m much more in tune with this view than I am (or was) with my own as already mentioned. Nonetheless, whatever the “subjective” conclusions of morality may be based on culture and time, morality itself as a paradigm of behavior remains a fact.
Peter Holmes wrote:
October 16th, 2018, 1:26 am
Something like the golden rule may be primeval for our and other social species - but it's only a command: do unto others... It may be practical good sense - for individuals and groups - to follow the rule. But rules, obedience and punishment (expulsion from the group?) aren't morally significant.
Yes, that’s true but the golden rule in one form or another still exists as a moral imperative especially in the sense of denoting a compromise, meaning commonalities, in terms of justice and fairness between individuals, groups and nations.
Peter Holmes wrote:
October 16th, 2018, 1:26 am
It may be foolish to do to others what you wouldn't like done to you. But why does that make it morally wrong?
I think it’s a matter of degree. On the surface there’s nothing to make it wrong. Such behavior is often justified when subsumed under the rules of competition by the saying business is business and love is BS. In short, you just did to me what I would have loved to do to you had I beaten you to it. Though such doings can verge on the reprehensible it’s still well understood and practiced without being considered overtly immoral by society.

But there’s always a dividing line when revulsion against an act causes a moral reaction to the point where we “objectify” it as a gross moral infringement. It’s the collective in society which determines moral violations and whereas none of these were ever objectified in nature they must be be affirmed in societies for the establishment of a collective conscience. You know what they say about a house divided. What keeps it whole is what it objectifies and agrees to.

At bottom though, their isn’t a single thing in human nature which isn’t subjective no matter how much we try to escape from ourselves into a pure world of the unconditional. Even science is customized to our perceptions and preconceptions. Whether fiction, fantasy or non-fiction everything we know or so imagine, served-up as subjective or objective, flows from one source only it's path being from the inside-out.

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3uGH7D4MLj
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » October 17th, 2018, 4:59 am

Peter Holmes wrote:
July 7th, 2018, 3:44 am
I think that's an interesting distinction - and I agree with you about stroppy moral reformers - they drive our collective moral progress. And I agree that one characteristic of progressive societies is being open to moral debate - which at least implicitly means a recognition that morality isn't objective (factual), and is certainly not absolute. Closed, authoritarian societies - some of them religiously-dominated - always demand discipline and compliance.
But hasn't Belindi brought some objectivity into the discussion? There is the fact of mirror neurons, a spectrum of fellow-feeling is considered innate. Those with sociopathic tendencies somehow objectively, genetically, measurably, missed the boat on empathy. They either become criminals or heads of corporations because of the fact of their off-the-norm morality.
fair to say

Peter Holmes
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Peter Holmes » October 17th, 2018, 5:46 am

I think the point is that, if there are facts about our physiology - such as the existence of mirror neurons - that dispose us to behave in certain ways - no doubt evolved and adaptive - that has no bearing on the morality of our behaviour - its 'rightness' or 'wrongness', 'goodness' or 'badness'. Such moral categories have a completely different function from objective, factual categories or properties.

I can't help going back to the different functions of factual and moral assertions: 'people eat animals and their products' as opposed to 'eating animals and their products is wrong'. We've evolved as omnivores, but that has no bearing on the morality of eating animals and their products. The fact that we do so doesn't mean it's morally right (or wrong) to do so.

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3uGH7D4MLj
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » October 19th, 2018, 5:06 am

Peter Holmes wrote:
October 17th, 2018, 5:46 am
I think the point is that, if there are facts about our physiology - such as the existence of mirror neurons - that dispose us to behave in certain ways - no doubt evolved and adaptive - that has no bearing on the morality of our behaviour - its 'rightness' or 'wrongness', 'goodness' or 'badness'. Such moral categories have a completely different function from objective, factual categories or properties.
Don't get that really. If there is such a thing as mirror neurons, if we have an innate tendency toward fellow-feeling, empathy, feeling other's pain, state of mind, then this would guide our morality. Doesn't the fact of mirror neurons present the possibility of an innate do-unto-others?

Mirror neuron theory may be thoroughly discredited by now...
fair to say

Belindi
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Belindi » October 19th, 2018, 5:24 am

3uGH7D4MLj wrote:
October 19th, 2018, 5:06 am
Peter Holmes wrote:
October 17th, 2018, 5:46 am
I think the point is that, if there are facts about our physiology - such as the existence of mirror neurons - that dispose us to behave in certain ways - no doubt evolved and adaptive - that has no bearing on the morality of our behaviour - its 'rightness' or 'wrongness', 'goodness' or 'badness'. Such moral categories have a completely different function from objective, factual categories or properties.
Don't get that really. If there is such a thing as mirror neurons, if we have an innate tendency toward fellow-feeling, empathy, feeling other's pain, state of mind, then this would guide our morality. Doesn't the fact of mirror neurons present the possibility of an innate do-unto-others?

Mirror neuron theory may be thoroughly discredited by now...
Peter, what do you use to judge whether morality is objective or not?


1. Human nature and, hypothetically,its perfect manifestation. Human nature includes innate biology and also the fact that human cultures include moral systems.

2. Revelation from God, and derived tradition.

3. The absolute good and its derivatives. Those derivatives include heroic morality which is not Christian morality.

Peter Holmes
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Peter Holmes » October 20th, 2018, 1:25 am

3uGH7D4MLj wrote:
October 19th, 2018, 5:06 am
Peter Holmes wrote:
October 17th, 2018, 5:46 am
I think the point is that, if there are facts about our physiology - such as the existence of mirror neurons - that dispose us to behave in certain ways - no doubt evolved and adaptive - that has no bearing on the morality of our behaviour - its 'rightness' or 'wrongness', 'goodness' or 'badness'. Such moral categories have a completely different function from objective, factual categories or properties.
Don't get that really. If there is such a thing as mirror neurons, if we have an innate tendency toward fellow-feeling, empathy, feeling other's pain, state of mind, then this would guide our morality. Doesn't the fact of mirror neurons present the possibility of an innate do-unto-others?

Mirror neuron theory may be thoroughly discredited by now...
But suppose we had an 'innate tendency' towards selfishness and aggression, which 'would guide out morality'? Would it then be correct to conclude that it's morally right to aggressively pursue self-interest?

What I'm getting at is that there's a fundamental categorical distinction between factual and moral assertions. The hackneyed expression is: we can't derive an 'ought' from an 'is'. We may have innate fellow-feeling, but that doesn't mean that we should have it. There's no connection between the fact and the moral judgement. Just as, if we had innate hatred-of-others, that wouldn't mean that we should have it.

Peter Holmes
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Peter Holmes » October 20th, 2018, 1:53 am

Belindi wrote:
October 19th, 2018, 5:24 am
3uGH7D4MLj wrote:
October 19th, 2018, 5:06 am
Don't get that really. If there is such a thing as mirror neurons, if we have an innate tendency toward fellow-feeling, empathy, feeling other's pain, state of mind, then this would guide our morality. Doesn't the fact of mirror neurons present the possibility of an innate do-unto-others?

Mirror neuron theory may be thoroughly discredited by now...
Peter, what do you use to judge whether morality is objective or not?


1. Human nature and, hypothetically,its perfect manifestation. Human nature includes innate biology and also the fact that human cultures include moral systems.

2. Revelation from God, and derived tradition.

3. The absolute good and its derivatives. Those derivatives include heroic morality which is not Christian morality.
Belindi, from the start my argument against moral objectivism has been that it comes from a fundamental categorical error, as follows.

1 To be objective is to set aside beliefs and opinions when dealing with the facts. So that there are facts in the first place is a given.

2 A fact is a true factual assertion - a linguistic expression that correctly describes a feature of reality, given the way we use those words or other signs. So the assertion 'the earth orbits the sun' is a fact. A factual assertion is true or false (is or isn't a fact) regardless of what anyone believes or claims to know. In other words, the truth-value of these assertions is independent of belief or opinion. If the earth does orbit the sun, then the assertion 'the earth orbits the sun' is true, even if no one in the universe thinks it is.

3 A factual assertion is always falsifiable, because it claims something about reality that may not be the case. (That we may not be able to falsify it is irrelevant.)

4 A moral assertion, such as 'slavery is wrong' does not make a factual claim. There is no feature of reality that is 'the wrongness of slavery' whose existence or non-existence could verify or falsify the assertion 'slavery is wrong'. And to look for such a feature of reality would constitute a complete misunderstanding of the function of the assertion, which is to express a moral value-judgement about slavery - not to make a falsifiable factual claim. Since a moral assertion isn't factual, morality can't be objective.

As you see, Belindi, your three proposed sources for moral objectivity have no bearing on my argument.

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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Belindi » October 20th, 2018, 7:22 am

Peter Holmes wrote:
October 20th, 2018, 1:53 am
Belindi wrote:
October 19th, 2018, 5:24 am


Peter, what do you use to judge whether morality is objective or not?


1. Human nature and, hypothetically,its perfect manifestation. Human nature includes innate biology and also the fact that human cultures include moral systems.

2. Revelation from God, and derived tradition.

3. The absolute good and its derivatives. Those derivatives include heroic morality which is not Christian morality.
Belindi, from the start my argument against moral objectivism has been that it comes from a fundamental categorical error, as follows.

1 To be objective is to set aside beliefs and opinions when dealing with the facts. So that there are facts in the first place is a given.

2 A fact is a true factual assertion - a linguistic expression that correctly describes a feature of reality, given the way we use those words or other signs. So the assertion 'the earth orbits the sun' is a fact. A factual assertion is true or false (is or isn't a fact) regardless of what anyone believes or claims to know. In other words, the truth-value of these assertions is independent of belief or opinion. If the earth does orbit the sun, then the assertion 'the earth orbits the sun' is true, even if no one in the universe thinks it is.

3 A factual assertion is always falsifiable, because it claims something about reality that may not be the case. (That we may not be able to falsify it is irrelevant.)

4 A moral assertion, such as 'slavery is wrong' does not make a factual claim. There is no feature of reality that is 'the wrongness of slavery' whose existence or non-existence could verify or falsify the assertion 'slavery is wrong'. And to look for such a feature of reality would constitute a complete misunderstanding of the function of the assertion, which is to express a moral value-judgement about slavery - not to make a falsifiable factual claim. Since a moral assertion isn't factual, morality can't be objective.

As you see, Belindi, your three proposed sources for moral objectivity have no bearing on my argument.
Peter, philosophers aim to be objective all the time that they are acting as philosophers, so your first point is taken for granted.
Your second point depends upon the correspondence theory of truth which although plausible is not everyone's favourite theory of truth.Your third point is okay. Your fourth point dismisses all three of what I reckoned to be the three sources of moral objectivity.

I agree that morality is not objective. I also claim that some rationalisations of morality are better than other bases for morality. I claim that the Christian ethics of equality of rights and universalism is the best rationalisation of morality.

As for "innate fellow feeling": whether it's innate or cultural is interesting historically and anthropologically . The fact is that significantly often we do as a matter of fact act from fellow feeling, so fellow feeling is an attribute of human nature and not at all impossible.

Peter Holmes
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Peter Holmes » October 21st, 2018, 2:10 am

Thanks, Belindi.

As it happens, I reject the correspondence theory, because it seems to imply a two-way relationship, whereas I think it's all one-way. Features of reality don't conform to or validate our ways of talking about them. But this is a separate issue.

I apologise if I seemed dismissive. It's just, since I think morality can't be objective, I reject any claim for the source of its objectivity as mistaken.

I disagree about Christianity (or any religion) being the best source of moral values, because I think a secular moral framework has to be better than one that claims to out-source moral value. But that's another issue again.

Karpel Tunnel
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Karpel Tunnel » October 21st, 2018, 6:13 am

Peter Holmes wrote:
October 21st, 2018, 2:10 am
I disagree about Christianity (or any religion) being the best source of moral values, because I think a secular moral framework has to be better than one that claims to out-source moral value. But that's another issue again.
Forgive me for pursuing the other issue, but as a theist, I agree. Imagine someone feeling in their gut and in their rational mind that something was evil, but doing it because God said they should. That seems immoral to me. Abraham should have refused to sacrifice his son. Or better put, I would have.

If you are confused or ambivalent then going along with an expert, the consensus of experts, God, an elder, a friend who has been insightful before, someone you respect, could be a decent heuristic, but outsourcing moral value, as you say, does not seem moral to me.

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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Belindi » October 21st, 2018, 12:15 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
I disagree about Christianity (or any religion) being the best source of moral values, because I think a secular moral framework has to be better than one that claims to out-source moral value. But that's another issue again.
When I claimed that the main Christian ethic is the best we have( equality and universalism) I did not mean the whole array of doctrines including supernatural doctrines. I meant equality and universalism as ideas that have, as a matter of history ,been recorded and largely used by Christians. I don't imply that those ethics are limited to Christians, not since the demise of the age of faith.

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3uGH7D4MLj
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » October 21st, 2018, 4:26 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
October 20th, 2018, 1:25 am
But suppose we had an 'innate tendency' towards selfishness and aggression, which 'would guide out morality'?
And we do have plenty of that. I see what you mean, no objective moral truths. ok.
fair to say

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