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.)
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.)
What action makes Charlie Sheen happy, and what works for Jimmy Carter? How do either of them know what would make them happiest when they can't know all the options? Whose happiness are we working for, and when? Is total group happiness the ultimate goal, even if some of us must be made unhappy for this to be achieved? Is long term happiness preferable to today's happiness?
It's not easy to come up with actions that only increase happiness, without redistributing it among different people or across time. With one Donald Trump in the world, there is not enough wealth to go around; with one Madonna, a shortage of attention to be paid. Filling my 401K should make me wealthier, and perhaps happier in the end, but there is always something I can buy instead today that might make me happier now. Maybe giving the money to a homeless man would make us both happier. Maybe he would spend it on booze or drugs, and we'd both be worse off.
Because the definition of happiness is so slippery, your conclusion amounts to saying "good actions are better than bad actions". Not one possible action can be defined as morally correct, or even better than another action under these terms, unless we all first accept a collective understanding of what is 'good' and what is 'bad'. You need an understanding of moral truth before your moral truth could be seen as valid. You are still at the starting line.
Peter Holmes wrote: ↑
July 19th, 2018, 1:23 am
You're still not seeing it. A social moral code is nothing more than a collective agreement on moral judgements. There's nothing absolute - fixed and unchanging for all time. And that's why our moral judgements - and the laws we enact to express them - can and do change. This is dead simple.
This is true, but perhaps only because we are imperfect. Socrates said we only act immorally out of ignorance, and I agree with him (no, I can't prove it). It is not unreasonable to think objective moral truth is out there, even if we are too timid, ignorant, intemperate, or selfish to seek or find it. If we all acted with virtue, or at least tried, then we might arrive at it, or at least approach it.
I can tell you I think Jimmy Carter is a lot closer to moral truth than Charlie Sheen or Trump or Madonna. I can tell you I think the stoic code of virtue is sufficient for approaching moral truth, at least, and the world would be a better place if we all adopted it. But, I can't prove my opinion to be objectively true any more than the rest of us. So, you are right, with the very big asterisk that says we don't know and can't know everything. One of the many things we don't know is if there is moral truth out there, waiting for us to find it, or at least try to approach it. Since we are not trying very hard, collectively, it might be a very long time before we have any chance of knowing moral truth. It still could exist, even if we never bother much to look for it, or can't even recognize it when we see it.
I think this search for moral truth should be the main focus of philosophy, rather than trying to understand the nature of matter, infinity, consciousness, etc. Nope, I can't prove that, either!