Happy New Year! The January Philosophy Book of the Month is The Runaway Species. Discuss it now.

The February Philosophy Book of the Month is The Fourth Age by Byron Reese (Nominated by RJG.)

What could make morality objective?

Discuss morality and ethics in this message board.
Featured Article: Philosophical Analysis of Abortion, The Right to Life, and Murder
Spectrum
Posts: 5160
Joined: December 21st, 2010, 1:25 am
Favorite Philosopher: Eclectic -Various

Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Spectrum » July 19th, 2018, 12:58 am

Peter Holmes wrote:
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.
Yes absolute moral laws are ideal, fictional and illusional but they are nevertheless useful guides and has survival values.
Note I did not state we make some moral judgments [typical].
I stated we need to establish absolute moral laws [..ideal, fiction, illusional] abstracted from empirical evidences as guides.
Absolute moral laws are objective in a way they are not subjected to individual subjective opinions.

Point is if we do not establish fixed guides [even ideal] we are striving against a moving goal post and going topsy turvy.
When we have a fixed goal post then we have some permanent standards to improve against. It is obvious an ideal or fictional point is impossible to achieve but the reality is we can have practical continuous improvements against such impossible ideals.

We can apply such an approach to Morality and Ethics, but note the 'star' is abstracted from real empirical evidence not some woo woo delusion.
Note the idiom; Aim for the Stars!
In this case a specific star.
Not-a-theist. Religion is a critical necessity for humanity now, but not the FUTURE.

Peter Holmes
Posts: 118
Joined: July 19th, 2017, 8:20 am

Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » 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.

CIN
Posts: 93
Joined: November 6th, 2016, 10:33 am

Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by CIN » July 19th, 2018, 6:54 am

Peter Holmes wrote:
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.
Well, let's revisit your original post, where you said:
Peter Holmes wrote:
July 16th, 2018, 9:20 am
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.
I challenge your suggestion that what has to be known is an object. (I've played along with it, which perhaps I shouldn't have, but I think it's incorrect.) What has to be known is not an object, but a state of affairs. Any state of affairs that predominantly involves unhappiness is bad, simply because unhappiness is necessarily bad (because of what unhappiness is like), and so slavery is bad just because it results in a lot of unhappiness.

Value judgments CAN have truth values, just in those cases where the value is an inherent feature of the state of affairs, as it is with happiness and unhappiness. This is not to say that ALL value judgments have truth values. My judgment that Beethoven's music is better than Mozart's is no doubt largely subjective, and based on my personal response to their respective music; but just because some value judgments are subjective and do not have truth values, it doesn't follow that all are. It depends on the justification offered for the judgment. In the case of Beethoven versus Mozart, all I can offer is my personal feelings, but in the case of slavery, I can offer the almost universal unhappiness of the enslaved, which is an objective fact. Unhappiness is just bad in itself.

CIN
Posts: 93
Joined: November 6th, 2016, 10:33 am

Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by CIN » July 19th, 2018, 7:17 am

Reading my last post I realise that it is unsatisfactory. I am finding that I don't have enough free time to do this properly, so I am leaving this forum. Apologies to anyone whose time I have wasted.

User avatar
chewybrian
Posts: 304
Joined: May 9th, 2018, 7:17 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Epictetus
Location: Florida man

Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by chewybrian » July 19th, 2018, 8:37 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.)

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!

User avatar
chewybrian
Posts: 304
Joined: May 9th, 2018, 7:17 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Epictetus
Location: Florida man

Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by chewybrian » July 19th, 2018, 9:14 am

CIN wrote:
July 19th, 2018, 7:17 am
Reading my last post I realise that it is unsatisfactory. I am finding that I don't have enough free time to do this properly, so I am leaving this forum. Apologies to anyone whose time I have wasted.
Just to be clear, I did not see this before I made my post, so I don't want anyone to think there was any relation to this. Sometimes it takes a while to get one ready between the dog's needs and household stuff.

You should only quit if it suits you, but not on our account. None of us have the time, attention, or insight that philosophy really deserves. If we did, we'd probably be living in a monastery in the mountains or writing books, instead of muddling around in here.

Peter Holmes
Posts: 118
Joined: July 19th, 2017, 8:20 am

Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » July 19th, 2018, 12:37 pm

Hi, chewybrian.
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!
I appreciate what you say, and understand the feeling.

As you'd guess, I think 'moral truth' is an illusion, because our moral values and judgements aren't - and can never be - factual matters - things that can be true or false. And that's the point of my argument against moral objectivism.

User avatar
LuckyR
Posts: 3246
Joined: January 18th, 2015, 1:16 am

Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by LuckyR » July 20th, 2018, 1:56 am

The OP is, of course addressing an age old question. Problem is, as he points out quite correctly, it is the wrong question. Of course there is no moral objectivity since morality specifically deals in subjective issues (right, wrong, pain, happiness etc).

No, objectivity is the realm of ethics not morality. Give up looking for the non-existent.
"As usual... it depends."

Karpel Tunnel
Posts: 562
Joined: February 16th, 2018, 11:28 am

Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Karpel Tunnel » July 20th, 2018, 2:28 am

Peter Holmes wrote:
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.
Moral tend to mean standards of behavior. Once you have an all encompassing standard of behavior, as in an immanent deity, then you can talk about objective morals. They are not subject to exception or individual taste. It is how you will be judged.
Oxford
NOUN
2 morals Standards of behaviour; principles of right and wrong.
If everything is a part of the deity than morals would be universal. If the deity is right about what is best behavior, then it would be objective.

Peter Holmes
Posts: 118
Joined: July 19th, 2017, 8:20 am

Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » July 20th, 2018, 2:28 am

Thanks, LuckyR.

I've always been puzzled by the claim that ethical assertions are objective. Can you suggest one?

Peter Holmes
Posts: 118
Joined: July 19th, 2017, 8:20 am

Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » July 20th, 2018, 2:54 am

Just a side note - but actually the really important point.

Moral objectivism is just a mistake. But the practical and moral reason for rejecting it is that it can and does lead to prescriptivism - the grotesque idea in Aristotle that there are prescriptive truths - which can be used to justify imposing moral values on everyone else, with potentially disastrous consequences.

Spectrum
Posts: 5160
Joined: December 21st, 2010, 1:25 am
Favorite Philosopher: Eclectic -Various

Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Spectrum » July 20th, 2018, 3:08 am

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.
You are not getting my point.
I did not state absolute moral laws exists as real [like Plato's universals] empirically and can be proven empirically.

What I did state was humanity can abstract theoretical absolute moral laws from empirical evidences from nature using our reasoning power.

A perfect circle is an impossibility in the empirical world.
Will you dispute I can theorize the concept of a perfect circle using PURE geometry.
Note the pure theoretical perfect circle is used as a standard and guide to deal with practical applied in practice.
A perfect circle in theory and principle is fixed and unchanging at all times.
Note the theory of a perfect circle is abstracted from empirical evidence of round things.

Now why is that I cannot do the same with theoretical absolute objective moral laws just like how a theoretical perfect circle is derived from evidence of 'round' things in nature.

My argument is, a Moral and Ethical Framework and System is more effective when we use absolute moral laws as a guide than a pure consequentialist, rigid deontological, theological and other moral systems.

Your problem is due to dogmatism and bigotry, i.e. any mention of objective related to moral is not acceptable/nonsense.
Not-a-theist. Religion is a critical necessity for humanity now, but not the FUTURE.

Peter Holmes
Posts: 118
Joined: July 19th, 2017, 8:20 am

Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » July 20th, 2018, 4:17 am

Thanks. That's a clear explanation by way of analogy. But an argument from analogy is only as successful as the similarity between the compared things.

We have invented geometrical things, from the point onward, so we can deduce the geometrical straight line and circle. But notice that, given the starting definitions, though these things aren't matters of judgement or opinion, it's redundant to call geometrical assertions true or false - matters of fact (falsifiable factual assertion). If they can't be false, they also can't be true. They're just correct or incorrect - they follow the rules or they don't.

How can that apply to a moral value or judgement? Is inventing a moral rule - based on a judgement - similar to inventing the geometrical point? What can it mean to invent an absolute moral rule? That's a contradiction in terms. And who decides what the moral axioms are? Here's one: homosexuality is an abomination. If that wouldn't be axiomatic, but rather derived, go back and suggest the axiom of your choice. And there will still be nothing objective about it. We can't invent facts and then pretend we're deriving facts from them. That's not objectivity.

User avatar
Felix
Posts: 2089
Joined: February 9th, 2009, 5:45 am

Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Felix » July 20th, 2018, 4:33 am

By the way, we have two forum threads running on the same subject, here's the other one:
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=15719&start=75
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

Peter Holmes
Posts: 118
Joined: July 19th, 2017, 8:20 am

Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » July 20th, 2018, 7:15 am

Felix

Sorry about that. If you're happy, let's continue on the other thread. Cheers.

Post Reply