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What could make morality objective?

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Peter Holmes
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What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » 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?)

CIN
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by CIN » 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.)

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

3) Therefore happiness is better than unhappiness. (From 1 and 2.)

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.)

Peter Holmes
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » July 18th, 2018, 6:55 am

Thanks, CIN.

The assertion 'Happiness is better than unhappiness' expresses a value judgement. To be objective, it has to make a falsifiable claim about an object of some kind. But the assertion can't be its own object: happiness is better than unhappiness because - happiness is better than unhappiness. To call the assertion 'happiness is better than unhappiness' an objective truth is to beg the question - going around in a circle.

The fact / value barrier is insuperable, which is why moral values and judgements - and morality itself - can't be objective.

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Thinking critical
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Thinking critical » July 18th, 2018, 8:03 am

The effort to objectively express morality first needs to establish an inherent truth, this being what is our ultimate concern?
Therefore the nature of morality is consequently subjective by matter of necessity, for any expression of concern derives from the human experience.
This being the case, we can only hold a rational veiw of what ought to be thought of as objectively moral behaviour. Sam Harris' moral landscape which suggests we should promote behaviour which improves the state of what we each imagine as maximum pain and suffering is IMO a step in the right direction.
This cocky little cognitive contortionist will straighten you right out

Peter Holmes
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » July 18th, 2018, 8:23 am

Dr Peter suggests this guaranteed cure for any strain of objectivism.

1 Take any assertion expressing a value judgement - slavery is wrong, this god is good, that painting is beautiful, happiness is better than unhappiness, health is better than sickness, life is preferable to death - and so on.

2 To be objective - and so true or false - the assertion has to make a falsifiable claim about something - an 'object' of some kind. Ask yourself what that object is.

3 The object can't be what the judgement is about - slavery, this god, that painting, happiness, health, life - and so on - because that is also the object of the contrary value judgement - slavery is right, this god is bad - and so on. Back to square one.

4 And the object can't be the judgement itself: what justifies the judgement that this god is good is ... the goodness of this god - and so on. That just begs the question, going around in a circle.

5 Realise this is a wild goose chase, because the fact/value barrier is insuperable, which is why value judgements can't be factual - and why moral values and judgements - and morality itself - can't be objective.

This cure is provided for free, for the benefit of benighted objectivists, and the betterment of the species.

Karpel Tunnel
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Karpel Tunnel » July 18th, 2018, 9:52 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.
A couple of things: 1) you can criticize it using the slaveowners own morality against slavery. IOW one can consider that there are no objective morals, but if you do not like slavery (all true in my case), then you can try to show hypocrisy or for example argue out of Christian Charity. That is, use the values of the opponent against them. You can also pretend that you Believe in objective morals and fight based on preference. IOW these tactics are still open 2) You can judge them, just not morally. For example you could say they are empthiless or sociopathic when dealing with Africans.
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?
A deity would come in handy, one who made clear statements, perhaps after a convincing display of Power. You could fight it on practical grounds. Though here you are going to have to convince them using consequences the slaveowners value.
(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?)
I think this always a good question (even though my above remarks seem to contradict that) I think for example, Abraham did the wrong thing. He should nto have been willing to kill his son. Perhaps he failed the test. I think a panentheist and perhaps a pantheist might be able to argue that certain things are good or bad, because the whole thing is actually one creature. IOW if their beliefs are that not only are all things alive, but they make up parts of a whole entity which is God. Now God would be talking about itself and what it considers good for itself. Like me lecturing my mitochondria not to X. It's not just God's creation, but God's own self, of which we are a part. We would want that body to thrive, we being part of God. The good being something like health/thriving/fulfillment. But I think a transcendent God sending us messages and commandments can always be considered a Demiurge, even if we believe there is no 'real God' beyond it.

Peter Holmes
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » July 18th, 2018, 10:36 am

Thanks, Karpel Tunnel.

I'm not sure what you're getting at. Why would a clear-speaking and demonstrably powerful god establish moral objectivism? You may not be saying that, of course. But if you are, I disagree, because nothing and no one can establish moral objectivism. The expression 'objective morality', like the expression 'moral fact' is a contradiction, or an oxymoron, arising from a misunderstanding of the fact / value distinction. And this applies to any objectivist claim: theist, pantheist, panentheist, gnostic dualist, Uncle Tom Cobleyist and all.

CIN
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by CIN » July 18th, 2018, 12:07 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
July 18th, 2018, 6:55 am
Thanks, CIN.

The assertion 'Happiness is better than unhappiness' expresses a value judgement. To be objective, it has to make a falsifiable claim about an object of some kind. But the assertion can't be its own object: happiness is better than unhappiness because - happiness is better than unhappiness. To call the assertion 'happiness is better than unhappiness' an objective truth is to beg the question - going around in a circle.

The fact / value barrier is insuperable, which is why moral values and judgements - and morality itself - can't be objective.
I expressed myself badly. The object is not the assertion; the object is the happiness (or unhappiness). Therefore there is no circularity.

Moral subjectivism asserts that there is no objective fact that can make one moral assertion more truthful than another. This is incorrect. It is an objective fact that happiness is preferable to unhappiness, and this is so because of what happiness and unhappiness are like. If this were not an objective fact, it would be impossible to explain why people almost invariably prefer being happy to being unhappy.

There are various words we use to refer to similar types of positive experience: happiness, pleasure, contentment. There are corresponding words to refer to their negative counterparts: unhappiness, pain, discontentment. One of the ways in which evolution works is to harness the objective asymmetry between positive and negative experiences and use it to increase an organism's chances of surviving to pass on its genes: thus physical injury causes a negative experience (pain) which acts as a stimulus to the organism to protect the injured part of its body; while organisms have evolved to find eating and sex pleasurable because this motivates the organisms to engage in them. None of this would be possible if it were not an objective fact that happiness, by its very nature, is preferable to unhappiness, pleasure to pain, and so on.

The fact/value barrier is therefore not insuperable. Happiness contains its own higher value than unhappiness by virtue of what the two are respectively like. The assertion that "happiness is better than unhappiness" is indeed a value judgment, but it is also a statement of objective fact.

You say that to be objective, a value judgment has to make a falsifiable claim. However, only contingent truths are falsifiable, and "happiness is preferable to unhappiness" is not a contingent truth but a necessary truth. There is no possible world in which happiness is not preferable to unhappiness, and that is so because of what happiness and unhappiness are like.

Peter Holmes
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » July 18th, 2018, 12:44 pm

Thanks again, CIN.

I think you're mistaken. The supposed object of the judgement 'slavery is wrong' is obviously not slavery - as I've shown. So what's the supposed object of 'freedom is better than slavery'? A value judgement remains a judgement even if a contrasting comparison is being made. There is easily a case to be made for the judgement that slavery is better than freedom - in some contexts. So what's the moral fact of the matter? And this isn't about contingent and necessary truths - assertions with truth values. Value judgements have no truth values. - All for now. Happy to continue another time.

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by ThomasHobbes » July 18th, 2018, 6:26 pm

What could make morality objective?

nothing.

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ThomasHobbes
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by ThomasHobbes » July 18th, 2018, 6:27 pm

Slavery is good is as objective as slavery is bad.

Karpel Tunnel
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Karpel Tunnel » July 18th, 2018, 9:34 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
July 18th, 2018, 10:36 am
Thanks, Karpel Tunnel.

I'm not sure what you're getting at. Why would a clear-speaking and demonstrably powerful god establish moral objectivism? You may not be saying that, of course. But if you are, I disagree, because nothing and no one can establish moral objectivism. The expression 'objective morality', like the expression 'moral fact' is a contradiction, or an oxymoron, arising from a misunderstanding of the fact / value distinction. And this applies to any objectivist claim: theist, pantheist, panentheist, gnostic dualist, Uncle Tom Cobleyist and all.
If you are everything and know what is good for you, then certain actions are good. If parts of you have a degree of independence, plus limited knowledge, then telling them what is good for everything, you, would be worthwhile. You liver decides it is postmodernist and lets toxics float around in the blood stream. Bad liver, protect the whole.

Peter Holmes
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » July 18th, 2018, 11:21 pm

I think this equivocation with the word 'good' causes a lot of problems in moral philosophy - and has done since Aristotle did it in the Nicomachean Ethics. (Felix and I are discussing this atm.) When we say what's 'good' for us, we're not using the word morally - at, least, not usually. So to say it's good to give people what's good for them - is to muddle up the meanings of 'good'. Food is good for us - but not morally so.

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Spectrum » July 18th, 2018, 11:32 pm

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?)
I don't believe in standalone independent absolute moral values that is to be enforceable on any individual.
The point is absolute moral values [not enforceable] are critically necessary as a guide [only] for a Framework and System of Morality and Ethics to work effectively.

Re slavery, there ought to be an absolute moral law on Slavery that will act as a guide within a a Framework and System of Morality and Ethics.
The absolute moral law on Slavery is this;
"No Human Shall own a Human Chattel Slave"

Why?
because every human must respect the basic human dignity of another.
not respecting the basic human dignity of another is the same of not respecting oneself as a basic human being.

why?
not respecting one's basic human dignity lead to treating another as an object, thus open for an object to be eliminated, i.e. killed, oppressed, torture, etc.

why?
if humans are given the licence to kill, potentially the human species will go extinct.

why?
because the 'purpose' [empirical based] is the preservation of the species.

How so?
The empirical evidence is, all species that has appeared in evolution never emerged with the purpose to be extinct till the inevitable.


The above grounded absolute moral law re slavery is only a guide, i.e. not enforceable.

This absolute moral law must be complemented with practical ethics which has room for flexibility against the absolute moral law.

The above argument demonstrate how and why Morality must be grounded on absolute moral laws as a critical and necessary guide.
Being humans, many people will attempt to own slaves for various reasons and humanity will have derived ethical strategies towards the impossible [at least fixed] guiding absolute moral standards.
Not-a-theist. Religion is a critical necessity for humanity now, but not the FUTURE.

Peter Holmes
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » July 19th, 2018, 12:35 am

Spectrum

You've merely said: we make some moral judgements, and here's how we explain and justify them. But so what?

There's nothing true of false about those judgements, because judgements don't have truth value. So there can be nothing objective or absolute about moral judgements. And an absolute moral law is a fiction.

Sorry, but there's nothing to see here, so I'll move on.

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