What could make morality objective?

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Sy Borg
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Sy Borg » February 23rd, 2021, 12:03 am

Tegularius wrote:
February 22nd, 2021, 11:02 pm
It could be made objective if we discovered what the meaning of life was. Since there is no such meaning, the former can never be made objective.

Somewhat circular but meaningful nevertheless. :mrgreen:
Ha! I think that the great aim of pretty well all living things is to avoid suffering. Maybe in the far future, some life will transcend its biological roots and, perhaps, even suffering per se?

As for meaning in the meantime, we'd be links in a chain towards a more peaceful future (seemingly after we have wiped out most biology, including most humans).

Tegularius
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Tegularius » February 23rd, 2021, 6:24 am

Sy Borg wrote:
February 23rd, 2021, 12:03 am
Maybe in the far future, some life will transcend its biological roots and, perhaps, even suffering per se?
As long as there's risk in the world and the subterfuge of unfavorable events which often happen randomly, suffering, or some form of it, is unavoidable, which no morality can neutralize, make objective or acceptable.
Sy Borg wrote:
February 23rd, 2021, 12:03 am
As for meaning in the meantime, we'd be links in a chain towards a more peaceful future (seemingly after we have wiped out most biology, including most humans).
Sounds like a Lex Luthor solution to me!

GE Morton
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by GE Morton » February 23rd, 2021, 12:08 pm

BobS wrote:
February 22nd, 2021, 6:04 pm

The point that I intended to make was that it may will be impossible to commit to (i.e., to consider yourself irrevocably bound by) objectively prescribed rules of morality.
That may well be true for some people. The task for philosophers, however, is develop a moral theory, moral principles and rules, that are rationally defensible, which requires that they can be objectively validated. That some people might be emotionally unable to comply with them is a problem for psychologists.
I draw a analogy (admittedly imperfect) to the sense of beauty in music. If I consider certain music beautiful or ugly, it's extremely unlikely that anyone is going to be able to give me objective criteria that will make me think otherwise.
Nor would you have any reason to do so. There is a crucial difference, however, between aesthetics and ethics --- the former is entirely self-regarding, while the latter is other-regarding. No one else has any legitimate interest in what sorts of music or art give you pleasure; they do have an interest in how you behave. Moralities, as I defined them earlier, are sets of rules governing interactions between moral agents in a social setting. Those rules must override any personal tastes, interests, or preferences one might have. Indeed, that is the very purpose of moral rules --- to constrain acts one might be inclined to take to advance some personal interest when they would adversely effect other moral agents.
But in any such case, I do not doubt that my ultimate decision would depend on (what for want of a better phrase at the moment, I would call) my moral sense of the matter, and not on a chain of reasoning applying various, binding "objective" moral rules. The latter strikes me as little different than Leibniz's "let us calculate!"
Well, that is effectively an abandonment of morality. A society in which everyone follows only his own rules is a society without rules. Question: is that approach universalizable? I.e., are you prepared to accept the results of everyone else's personal "moral sense"? Osama bin Laden's? Donald Trump's?
By couching the example in terms of Highway 61, I was alluding to Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" . . .
Heh. Missed the reference.
In that case the "objective" standard is God's will.
"God's will" is not an objective standard. A moral rule is objective if whether or not it furthers the goals of a moral theory is publicly verifiable.
Let's change the approach, and move on to the Gallup poll theory of morality, the idea that the "community consensus" is the objective standard for morals. Jim Crow anyone?
The consensus criterion is simply the ad populum argument, and thus is fallacious.
It just that I'm inclined to think that, in the end, my moral decisions are a matter of attitude. And I also think that that's the way it is for most people.
I agree. Vernacular moralities are mostly emotionally-based. And hence are non-rational and non-viable.

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BobS
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by BobS » February 23rd, 2021, 4:40 pm

GE Morton wrote:
February 23rd, 2021, 12:08 pm

The task for philosophers, however, is develop a moral theory, moral principles and rules, that are rationally defensible, which requires that they can be objectively validated. That some people might be emotionally unable to comply with them is a problem for psychologists.
"Emotionally unable" is a loaded way phrase it. (What's your emotional ability to accept my approach that morality is a matter of attitude?) Another way to put it is that some people might find such an approach “morally unacceptable.” With that as a starting part, we may envision a group of people who consider morality a matter of attitude squaring off against those who believe in Objective Theory A, those who believe in Objective Theory B and those who believe in Objective Theory C. OK, who's "right"? How do we decide? Is there a binding meta-theory out there, Objective Theory D, which decides the issue? Those who are so emotionally stunted that they can’t buy an objective approach in the first place will reject that solution.
BobS wrote:
February 22nd, 2021, 6:04 pm
I draw a analogy (admittedly imperfect) to the sense of beauty in music. If I consider certain music beautiful or ugly, it's extremely unlikely that anyone is going to be able to give me objective criteria that will make me think otherwise.
GE Morton wrote:Nor would you have any reason to do so. There is a crucial difference, however, between aesthetics and ethics --- the former is entirely self-regarding, while the latter is other-regarding.

No one else has any legitimate interest in what sorts of music or art give you pleasure; they do have an interest in how you behave. Moralities, as I defined them earlier, are sets of rules governing interactions between moral agents in a social setting. Those rules must override any personal tastes, interests, or preferences one might have. Indeed, that is the very purpose of moral rules --- to constrain acts one might be inclined to take to advance some personal interest when they would adversely effect other moral agents.
All of this begs the question, by restating what it is about which we disagree. You see morals as having a “purpose”, and (I infer this from what you say; please correct me if I’m wrong) as an appropriate basis for controlling the behavior of other people as well as yourself. But my viewpoint is different.

I see morality as being an attitude; one that can be informed by objective criteria, but an attitude in the end (making my analogy to the sense of beauty in music, although “admittedly imperfect,” entirely appropriate). Controlling other people is another matter. I reserve that for the law, which can be developed along objective lines, although different interest groups, as is their wont, will strive to have their particular moral positions adopted -- with the result being due to the gave and take of politics, and not due to a calculation governed by a supposedly universal objective moral theory.

To this day, in these here United States, “other-regarding” moralists think that it’s entirely appropriate, a wonderful thing in fact, to impose religion on other people, and to throw the latter into prison for engaging in the “wrong” kind of sexual behavior. Until 1961 laws which barred atheists from public employment were deemed perfectly fine (in that year the Supreme Court struck down a Maryland law that barred atheists from serving even as notaries public, a result no doubt still remembered with great bitterness by extremely moral people). Until 2003 people could be imprisoned for engaging in oral sex; it took a 6-3 Supreme Court decision to do away with that one (yeah, three supremes thought that statutes enforcing that sort of “moral condemnation” were just dandy). We are still in the Dark Ages. Here we are, with people at the top of the legal food chain (as well as born-agains, who support Trump especially for this reason) thinking that people should be punished for their terrible morals.
BobS wrote:
February 22nd, 2021, 6:04 pm
But in any such case, I do not doubt that my ultimate decision would depend on (what for want of a better phrase at the moment, I would call) my moral sense of the matter, and not on a chain of reasoning applying various, binding "objective" moral rules. The latter strikes me as little different than Leibniz's "let us calculate!"
GE Morton wrote:Well, that is effectively an abandonment of morality.
I like the loaded way you express this one. To my mind, you and I obviously have different views of what morality is. To your mind, I don’t have a view of morality; instead, I’ve simply abandoned morality. Good one!

Do you really believe that arriving at the correct moral decision is a matter of "calculation," as Leibniz would have it?
GE Morton wrote:A society in which everyone follows only his own rules is a society without rules.
Even if society has laws? How are laws not rules?
GE Morton wrote:Question: is that approach universalizable? I.e., are you prepared to accept the results of everyone else's personal "moral sense"? Osama bin Laden's? Donald Trump's?
The answer to the first question is “yes”; everyone's morality ultimately is a matter of attitude. That some people's attitudes would lead them to bind themselves to a particular result solely because of objective considerations is another matter entirely. The answer to the remaining questions is that it’s not a matter of “acceptance.” As far as morality is concerned, my approval or disapproval is (IMHO!) a matter of attitude.

Trump is a moral cipher; he doesn’t think about morality. Many born-agains, with medieval moral views, support him. Osama bin Laden had his own moral viewpoint. I “accept” that such is the world. Now, whether Trump should be sent to Mars ASAP: that’s a matter of what the law provides or doesn't provide. That it would be nice for his supporters to be sucked up into the Rapture, never to bother us again, and that it was a happy thing that Osama was taken out, are attitudes that some have.
GE Morton wrote:"God's will" is not an objective standard. A moral rule is objective if whether or not it furthers the goals of a moral theory is publicly verifiable.
"God's will" is not an objective standard in the formal sense (i.e., the way that philosophers like to categorize things), but it is for the purpose of the distinction that I’ve been drawing all along: morality as a matter of attitude versus morality as something that comes from the outside.
GE Morton wrote: The consensus criterion is simply the ad populum argument, and thus is fallacious.
Correct me if I’m wrong: the ad populum argument is that a proposition must be true if most people believe it. I don’t know why it’s not obvious that that’s not how I was using the consensus criterion.

Imagine people who, for some strange reason, can’t agree on the “correct” objective theory of morality. (A real head-scratcher that they can't agree, huh? What could possibly be holding them up?) Suppose someone proposes: “Well, we need an objective theory here. How about we all agree to abide by the consensus in the community?” And the others cry in unison: “Sure, why not?” That would constitute the adoption of an "objective" standard.

Unless you can propose a meta-objective theory of morals (“Objective Theory D”, waaaay back at the beginning of this post) that will compel us to recognize the bestest, perfectest objective moral approach of all, the consensus approach might be considered by some to be as good as any.
BobS wrote:
February 22nd, 2021, 6:04 pm
It’s just that I'm inclined to think that, in the end, my moral decisions are a matter of attitude, informed as they may be by objective consideration. And I also think that that's the way it is for most people.
I agree. Vernacular moralities are mostly emotionally-based. And hence are non-rational and non-viable.
If you wish to consider the idea of morality as a matter of attitude to be “emotionally-based”, and thus be contented that you are condemning it, be my guest.

As for “non-viable”? Meaning what, that it’s not objective? Well, isn’t that what we’ve been talking about?

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