What could make morality objective?

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h_k_s
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by h_k_s » January 23rd, 2020, 10:41 am

Gertie wrote:
January 17th, 2020, 9:11 pm
I've come to like Goldstein's idea of ''mattering'' when it comes to morality.

It matters if I harm a conscious Subject who has a quality of life, or if I help improve their quality of life. Likewise my own matters too.

So morality and Oughts are inextricably bound to conscious Subjects capable of experiencing well-being and harm. That is the relevant category morality applies to.

What constitutes harm and well-being can become incredibly complex, and might be different from Subject to Subject (particularly for different species). Which makes it tricky to formulate hard and fast rules beyond the obvious ones, like murder and theft, and they might not always hold. Goldstein talks about a ''mattering map'', not dissimilar to Harris' ''moral landscape''. I think that's inevitable, considering the nature of conscious Subjects.

Untidy, annoying, philosophically unsatisfactory, but inevitable. And modern societies usually muddle their way through via evolved social pre-dispositions, culture, narratives, education, institutions, laws and democracy, to get to something which works reasonably well as a ''mattering map''.

But in our post-modern, post-religious age, we are at risk of flounderong without the old certainties, and we need a new touchstone to check against while we're muddling through. ''Mattering'', or ''the well-being of conscious creatures'' seems to me to be the best contender for that moral axiomatic foundation.
I believe that post-modern-ism has been superseded by anti-post-modern-ism, the era of philosophy in which we now live, which of itself (the latter) is simply a return to modern-ism.

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by h_k_s » January 23rd, 2020, 10:44 am

arjand wrote:
December 11th, 2019, 2:43 pm
Peter Holmes wrote:
December 7th, 2019, 6:27 am
We (must?) make them universally - not limited to time and place. It would be inconsistent to believe an action is morally good at one place and time, but morally bad at another place and time - though we may want to justify an otherwise immoral action in a situation with mitigating circumstances.
What about the moral principle that one cannot determine the value of another in relation to the purpose of life? When hold universally, the morality of actions can differ by place and time.

In this example the foundation for the moral principle would be that since the purpose of life is unknown, the value of another person in relation to the purpose of life cannot be known beforehand, thereby by definition requiring a basis of respect for others to serve the purpose of life.

An example case: Albert Einstein was kicked out of school and was refused at the University Zurich Polytechnic. He was described by teachers as mentally slow, not social and absent in his own stupid dreams. He did not speak a word until he was 4 years old and could not read until he was 7 years old.

Albert Einstein's behaviour as a child may be perceived as morally reprehensive by many and a reason for measures but in his time he was merely kicked out of school and otherwise accepted as he was, which enabled him to develop into a genius that contributed to human existence like few others may have could.

If it would be established that the origin of life (and thereby the purpose of life) cannot be defined, in that case the above described moral principle may be called objective.
Aristotle and Aurelius both give a definition each of the purpose of life.

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Sculptor1 » January 23rd, 2020, 11:10 am

CIN wrote:
July 17th, 2018, 6:24 pm
Okay, I'll take up the challenge.

1) Happiness is preferable to unhappiness. (This is the object you are asking for - an objective truth, arising simply from what happiness and unhappiness are like.)
Whose happiness? Yours? Why the slaves'?

2) If x is preferable to y, then x is better than y. (Logical truth.)
Depends.

3) Therefore happiness is better than unhappiness. (From 1 and 2.)
Yes I am a happy slave owner. I provide them with a shelter and food, and they provide me with work.

4) If x is better than y, then an action that promotes x is better than an action that promotes y. (Logical truth.)

5) Therefore an action that promotes happiness is better than an action that promotes unhappiness. (Objective moral truth from 3 and 4.)
Work is good for you. Happy slaves are bad slaves. Slaves need to think they might be punished, else they would not work as well.
QED Slavery is good.

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by LuckyR » January 23rd, 2020, 5:09 pm

h_k_s wrote:
January 23rd, 2020, 10:39 am
Peter Holmes wrote:
July 16th, 2018, 9:20 am
It seems to me this question is the crux in the disagreement between objectivists and subjectivists.

An objection to moral subjectivism is that, if moral values and judgements are matters of opinion, we can't know if they're correct. For example, we can't know if slavery is right or wrong, and can't therefore morally condemn those who think slavery is justifiable. That's just their opinion, and we can't say which opinion is correct or true.

But this assumes that there is indeed something to be known: an object of some kind that verifies the assertion slavery is wrong and falsifies the assertion slavery is right - or, perhaps, vice versa. But what is the object that makes moral judgements objective - matters of fact - and therefore true or false?

It can't be slavery itself, because that would also be the object of the assertion slavery is right - so we're back to square one. And it can't be the wrongness of slavery. To say the assertion slavery is wrong is justified (shown to be true) by the objective wrongness of slavery is circular, and so no justification at all.

So what is it that moral objectivists claim about moral judgements that makes them objective - matters of fact, falsifiable and independent of judgement, belief or opinion?

Does any moral objectivist here have an answer that doesn't beg the question?

(The claim that objective moral values and judgements come from a god's commands or a god's nature begs the question: what makes a god's commands or a god's nature objectively morally good?)
This thread is several years old.

Sounds like @Peter Holmes is asking an atheist's question about what to him seems like a contradiction in terms.

According to Descartes, "God" is a good thing that exceeds all other good things, which Descartes then proceeds to expound upon in a philosophical proof.

So essentially the question by Holmes is an inquiry into Descartes.

I would suggest starting by examining Descartes in greater detail. Descartes is considered to be the father of Modern Philosophy.
Yes, the old moral objectivity question. Like many "conundrums" it mostly appears so because the wrong question is being asked, thus the answer doesn't get anyone closer to the unstated goal.

The answer to: is morality objective, is, of course no. Though ethics should be objective and by definition is.

However, the answer is not satisfying, nor helpful.

If you back up the truck and ask: what is the role of morality? It is to help with decision making when deciding which course of action to pursue to live a moral life, that is, a life that adheres to one's moral principles. Of course it is commonly used in this Forum to retrospectively critique other's decision making or actions.

But the legal profession solved this issue a long time ago, in the sense that the existence of laws (morals) doesn't eliminate the need for a trial, since each individual decision can't be made based on generalities (the purview of laws/morals), rather in the details, such that each side has a lawyer who can coherently argue their (opposing) view, ultimately two juries can make opposite reasonable decisions based on their parsing of identical minute details that too blunt laws cannot and do not address.
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by h_k_s » January 24th, 2020, 4:58 pm

LuckyR wrote:
January 23rd, 2020, 5:09 pm
h_k_s wrote:
January 23rd, 2020, 10:39 am

This thread is several years old.

Sounds like @Peter Holmes is asking an atheist's question about what to him seems like a contradiction in terms.

According to Descartes, "God" is a good thing that exceeds all other good things, which Descartes then proceeds to expound upon in a philosophical proof.

So essentially the question by Holmes is an inquiry into Descartes.

I would suggest starting by examining Descartes in greater detail. Descartes is considered to be the father of Modern Philosophy.
Yes, the old moral objectivity question. Like many "conundrums" it mostly appears so because the wrong question is being asked, thus the answer doesn't get anyone closer to the unstated goal.

The answer to: is morality objective, is, of course no. Though ethics should be objective and by definition is.

However, the answer is not satisfying, nor helpful.

If you back up the truck and ask: what is the role of morality? It is to help with decision making when deciding which course of action to pursue to live a moral life, that is, a life that adheres to one's moral principles. Of course it is commonly used in this Forum to retrospectively critique other's decision making or actions.

But the legal profession solved this issue a long time ago, in the sense that the existence of laws (morals) doesn't eliminate the need for a trial, since each individual decision can't be made based on generalities (the purview of laws/morals), rather in the details, such that each side has a lawyer who can coherently argue their (opposing) view, ultimately two juries can make opposite reasonable decisions based on their parsing of identical minute details that too blunt laws cannot and do not address.
Speaking of juries, I don't know if Hammurabi's law code envisions juries.

Just behind Hammurabi is Moses' law code which he spells out in the Torah (of the Tenakh) at Deuteronomy 19:17 (Douay Rheims) wherein the "jury" consists of the body of priests and judges, essentially magistrates.

In the USA we use a jury comprised of one's own peers, randomly selected citizens from around the community.

Sometimes our jury system works, and sometimes it does not.

In O.J. Simpson's criminal trial it did not work too well. There was enough evidence from the cut on O.J.'s hand alone to convict him. But the partisanship in favor of O.J. on the jury betrayed Fred Goldman and his family from obtaining justice.

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by GE Morton » January 25th, 2020, 12:20 am

LuckyR wrote:
January 23rd, 2020, 5:09 pm

Yes, the old moral objectivity question. Like many "conundrums" it mostly appears so because the wrong question is being asked, thus the answer doesn't get anyone closer to the unstated goal.
Not the wrong question, exactly, but an intractable one because there is no consensus as to what "morality" denotes, or what just what distinction the objective/subjective dichotomy marks. Clarify those two concepts and the question becomes tractable.
If you back up the truck and ask: what is the role of morality? It is to help with decision making when deciding which course of action to pursue to live a moral life, that is, a life that adheres to one's moral principles. Of course it is commonly used in this Forum to retrospectively critique other's decision making or actions.
Well, that is a good question, but your answer is clearly question-begging. Someone who does not know what is the role of morality would not know what constitutes a "moral life" either, or what principles count as moral.

Throughout the history of philosophy "morality" has been used by some to denote any set of principles or maxims thought to promote a "good life." But since what counts as a good life is wholly subjective, so will be any principles or maxims proposed to promote it. Choose instead an objective goal, and it becomes possible to determine objectively whether or not a given set of principles and rules promotes it.

We might start with this: morality denotes those principles, and the rules derived from them, governing interactions between agents in a social setting, with the aim of allowing all agents to maximize their well-being.

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by LuckyR » January 25th, 2020, 3:16 am

h_k_s wrote:
January 24th, 2020, 4:58 pm
LuckyR wrote:
January 23rd, 2020, 5:09 pm


Yes, the old moral objectivity question. Like many "conundrums" it mostly appears so because the wrong question is being asked, thus the answer doesn't get anyone closer to the unstated goal.

The answer to: is morality objective, is, of course no. Though ethics should be objective and by definition is.

However, the answer is not satisfying, nor helpful.

If you back up the truck and ask: what is the role of morality? It is to help with decision making when deciding which course of action to pursue to live a moral life, that is, a life that adheres to one's moral principles. Of course it is commonly used in this Forum to retrospectively critique other's decision making or actions.

But the legal profession solved this issue a long time ago, in the sense that the existence of laws (morals) doesn't eliminate the need for a trial, since each individual decision can't be made based on generalities (the purview of laws/morals), rather in the details, such that each side has a lawyer who can coherently argue their (opposing) view, ultimately two juries can make opposite reasonable decisions based on their parsing of identical minute details that too blunt laws cannot and do not address.
Speaking of juries, I don't know if Hammurabi's law code envisions juries.

Just behind Hammurabi is Moses' law code which he spells out in the Torah (of the Tenakh) at Deuteronomy 19:17 (Douay Rheims) wherein the "jury" consists of the body of priests and judges, essentially magistrates.

In the USA we use a jury comprised of one's own peers, randomly selected citizens from around the community.

Sometimes our jury system works, and sometimes it does not.

In O.J. Simpson's criminal trial it did not work too well. There was enough evidence from the cut on O.J.'s hand alone to convict him. But the partisanship in favor of O.J. on the jury betrayed Fred Goldman and his family from obtaining justice.
While your post is correct, I was going for a slightly different angle, namely that lawyers can intelligently argue that this or that behavior followed or broke the law based on details that impact the interpretation of the law. Thus even if morals were objective (which they aren't), you could make an intelligent argument that this or that behavior followed that moral rule, even if others disagreed.
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by h_k_s » January 25th, 2020, 7:16 am

LuckyR wrote:
January 25th, 2020, 3:16 am
h_k_s wrote:
January 24th, 2020, 4:58 pm


Speaking of juries, I don't know if Hammurabi's law code envisions juries.

Just behind Hammurabi is Moses' law code which he spells out in the Torah (of the Tenakh) at Deuteronomy 19:17 (Douay Rheims) wherein the "jury" consists of the body of priests and judges, essentially magistrates.

In the USA we use a jury comprised of one's own peers, randomly selected citizens from around the community.

Sometimes our jury system works, and sometimes it does not.

In O.J. Simpson's criminal trial it did not work too well. There was enough evidence from the cut on O.J.'s hand alone to convict him. But the partisanship in favor of O.J. on the jury betrayed Fred Goldman and his family from obtaining justice.
While your post is correct, I was going for a slightly different angle, namely that lawyers can intelligently argue that this or that behavior followed or broke the law based on details that impact the interpretation of the law. Thus even if morals were objective (which they aren't), you could make an intelligent argument that this or that behavior followed that moral rule, even if others disagreed.
Judging from Jerry Spence's book, "How to Argue and Win Every Time," lawyers mostly use emotional arguments. And that is a Sophist trick -- the fallacy of emotional appeal.

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » January 25th, 2020, 8:15 am

GE Morton wrote:
January 25th, 2020, 12:20 am
LuckyR wrote:
January 23rd, 2020, 5:09 pm

Yes, the old moral objectivity question. Like many "conundrums" it mostly appears so because the wrong question is being asked, thus the answer doesn't get anyone closer to the unstated goal.
Not the wrong question, exactly, but an intractable one because there is no consensus as to what "morality" denotes, or what just what distinction the objective/subjective dichotomy marks. Clarify those two concepts and the question becomes tractable.
I agree with your approach here - with reservations. I think my OP question is absolutely the right one, because everything we think about morality - including the subsidiary 'what is morality for? - follows from how we answer it. And I agree that clarifying terms is vital - only this isn't about conceptual analysis, but rather explaining how we use or could use words.
If you back up the truck and ask: what is the role of morality? It is to help with decision making when deciding which course of action to pursue to live a moral life, that is, a life that adheres to one's moral principles. Of course it is commonly used in this Forum to retrospectively critique other's decision making or actions.
Well, that is a good question, but your answer is clearly question-begging. Someone who does not know what is the role of morality would not know what constitutes a "moral life" either, or what principles count as moral.

Throughout the history of philosophy "morality" has been used by some to denote any set of principles or maxims thought to promote a "good life." But since what counts as a good life is wholly subjective, so will be any principles or maxims proposed to promote it.
Spot on.

Choose instead an objective goal, and it becomes possible to determine objectively whether or not a given set of principles and rules promotes it.
You lose me here. 'Choose an objective goal' looks like a contradiction in terms. How can a chosen goal be independent from opinion? That's the whole point of my OP.

We might start with this: morality denotes those principles, and the rules derived from them, governing interactions between agents in a social setting, with the aim of allowing all agents to maximize their well-being.
Maximising well-being (Sam Harris?) - assuming we can agree, at least roughly, what that means - seems to many of us a rational social goal. But the moral rights and wrongs involved in choosing the goal and the means are all matters of opinion, and so subjective, as you say. It's moral turtles all the way down.

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by GE Morton » January 25th, 2020, 7:03 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
January 25th, 2020, 8:15 am

I agree with your approach here - with reservations. I think my OP question is absolutely the right one, because everything we think about morality - including the subsidiary 'what is morality for? - follows from how we answer it. And I agree that clarifying terms is vital - only this isn't about conceptual analysis, but rather explaining how we use or could use words.
I agree.
You lose me here. 'Choose an objective goal' looks like a contradiction in terms. How can a chosen goal be independent from opinion? That's the whole point of my OP.
We start with a couple of universal, objective facts:

1. Everyone strives to secure and advance their own welfare (which can include the welfare of others important to them), i.e., to maximize "the good" and minimize evils, as they each define those.

2. What advances welfare differs from person to person.

Though what each person counts as a good or evil is subjective, that they do consider various things as goods or evils is objective. So a goal to the effect, "Develop principles and rules of interaction which will allow all agents to maximize welfare as each defines it" is a morally neutral goal; it is universal, it assumes no values and begs no moral questions.

Strictly speaking, "objective" and "subjective" don't apply to goals (they only apply to propositions). That Alfie declares and pursues goal X is a subjective choice on his part. That he does pursue that goal is an objective fact.

The goal of a theory, however, is not a personal goal; it does not assert any particular interest of any particular person. It is indifferent to personal goals. But it does require a consensus among everyone interested in a viable theory of the subject matter in question. There is, I think, a consensus that the aim of ethics is to secure and advance "the good," or "the good life," in some sense. If there is, and if we agree that what constitutes "the good" or "the good life" differs from person to person, then the goal stated above becomes "quasi-objective."
Maximising well-being (Sam Harris?) - assuming we can agree, at least roughly, what that means - seems to many of us a rational social goal. But the moral rights and wrongs involved in choosing the goal and the means are all matters of opinion, and so subjective, as you say. It's moral turtles all the way down.
Oh, but they're not. Whether a particular rule or act promotes or thwarts the declared goal is usually an empirical question, and thus objective. E.g., if an act advances Alfie's welfare but reduces Bruno's, it violates the universality requirement ("all agents"). We also assume an "equal agency" postulate, which asserts that all agents subject to the theory have equal status and no agent's interests take priority over those of another.

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by LuckyR » January 26th, 2020, 4:16 am

h_k_s wrote:
January 25th, 2020, 7:16 am
LuckyR wrote:
January 25th, 2020, 3:16 am


While your post is correct, I was going for a slightly different angle, namely that lawyers can intelligently argue that this or that behavior followed or broke the law based on details that impact the interpretation of the law. Thus even if morals were objective (which they aren't), you could make an intelligent argument that this or that behavior followed that moral rule, even if others disagreed.
Judging from Jerry Spence's book, "How to Argue and Win Every Time," lawyers mostly use emotional arguments. And that is a Sophist trick -- the fallacy of emotional appeal.
Well, Spence is a well known blowhard, who likely is tooting his own horn in his book. Regardless, lawyers can and do make intellectually compelling arguments on both sides of just about every case (in addition to emotional arguments).
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by arjand » January 26th, 2020, 8:50 am

h_k_s wrote:
January 23rd, 2020, 10:44 am
Aristotle and Aurelius both give a definition each of the purpose of life.
To consider it a definition is contentious.
Aristotle teaches that each man's life has a purpose and that the function of one's life is to attain that purpose. He explains that the purpose of life is earthly happiness or flourishing that can be achieved via reason and the acquisition of virtue.
I could agree with his statement but could it be considered a definition? It is clearly a very human perspective and it is (relatively) short-term profit oriented. Could Aristotle's purpose of life be considered to match / accord the purpose of life given by nature?

Evidence that the purpose of life given by nature may be different, is the mere fact that no human wants to die while humans have a 'given' life span. No reason could ever have invented death.
If life were to be good as it was, there would be no reason to exist.

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by GE Morton » January 26th, 2020, 1:56 pm

arjand wrote:
January 26th, 2020, 8:50 am

Could Aristotle's purpose of life be considered to match / accord the purpose of life given by nature?
Imputing purposes to "nature" is anthropomorphic.

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » January 26th, 2020, 3:44 pm

GE Morton wrote:
January 25th, 2020, 7:03 pm
Peter Holmes wrote:
January 25th, 2020, 8:15 am

I agree with your approach here - with reservations. I think my OP question is absolutely the right one, because everything we think about morality - including the subsidiary 'what is morality for? - follows from how we answer it. And I agree that clarifying terms is vital - only this isn't about conceptual analysis, but rather explaining how we use or could use words.
I agree.
You lose me here. 'Choose an objective goal' looks like a contradiction in terms. How can a chosen goal be independent from opinion? That's the whole point of my OP.
We start with a couple of universal, objective facts:

1. Everyone strives to secure and advance their own welfare (which can include the welfare of others important to them), i.e., to maximize "the good" and minimize evils, as they each define those.

2. What advances welfare differs from person to person.

Though what each person counts as a good or evil is subjective, that they do consider various things as goods or evils is objective. So a goal to the effect, "Develop principles and rules of interaction which will allow all agents to maximize welfare as each defines it" is a morally neutral goal; it is universal, it assumes no values and begs no moral questions.
But that we should make that our goal is a matter of opinion = of moral judgement.

Strictly speaking, "objective" and "subjective" don't apply to goals (they only apply to propositions). That Alfie declares and pursues goal X is a subjective choice on his part. That he does pursue that goal is an objective fact.
I don't know where you get this explanation of objectivity and subjectivity from. They usually refer to independence from opinion and dependence on opinion - so their application is not limited to propositions - as your Alfie example demonstrates.

The goal of a theory, however, is not a personal goal; it does not assert any particular interest of any particular person. It is indifferent to personal goals. But it does require a consensus among everyone interested in a viable theory of the subject matter in question. There is, I think, a consensus that the aim of ethics is to secure and advance "the good," or "the good life," in some sense. If there is, and if we agree that what constitutes "the good" or "the good life" differs from person to person, then the goal stated above becomes "quasi-objective."
This is wrong. The fact that most people - or all of them - agree on a goal doesn't make the goal objective or quasi-objective. That they agree on the goal would be a fact. But the goal remains a choice - a matter of judgement - and therefore subjective. Independence from anyone's opinion is what makes a fact a fact.
Maximising well-being (Sam Harris?) - assuming we can agree, at least roughly, what that means - seems to many of us a rational social goal. But the moral rights and wrongs involved in choosing the goal and the means are all matters of opinion, and so subjective, as you say. It's moral turtles all the way down.
Oh, but they're not. Whether a particular rule or act promotes or thwarts the declared goal is usually an empirical question, and thus objective. E.g., if an act advances Alfie's welfare but reduces Bruno's, it violates the universality requirement ("all agents"). We also assume an "equal agency" postulate, which asserts that all agents subject to the theory have equal status and no agent's interests take priority over those of another.
The 'subjective goal / objective means' argument doesn't hold water, because there are always choices when it comes to selecting means - and therefore judgements to be made - as your Alfie and Bruno example demonstrates. Postulating equal agency as a goal doesn't solve the moral question.

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by arjand » January 26th, 2020, 6:54 pm

GE Morton wrote:
January 26th, 2020, 1:56 pm
Imputing purposes to "nature" is anthropomorphic.
No, it is not. Humans are a part of nature. As such, humans are subject to a potential purpose of life given by nature.
If life were to be good as it was, there would be no reason to exist.

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