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What could make morality objective?

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chewybrian
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by chewybrian » July 20th, 2018, 9:14 am

Peter Holmes wrote:
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.
I'm agreeing with you in practice but taking a different view, perhaps, in spirit. I don't think you can rate morality objectively with any degree of certainty, though we must have some form of ethics for society to work, so we have to try. I do think that there may in fact be best or worst, better or worse moral codes, but we may not be able to identify them or even recognize them. There may be little practical value in acknowledging moral truth exists if we can't know or prove it, but for some reason it seems important to me to do so.

I think it amounts to taking away the chance for people to cop out, to not try to be good because they can't be perfect, or to rationalize bad behavior because it can't be proven bad with any certainty. We HAVE to try, and we continue to suffer because people don't always try to do the right thing. We probably have the resources to provide food, clothing, shelter, health care and education to the entirety of humanity right this minute, and perhaps we could if every one of us was trying to do the right thing, instead of working so hard to justify our selfishness, or living in fear or deprivation resulting from such selfishness.
----------
In my prior post, I gave the least coverage to the most important point, so perhaps I should expand on that. I think we are failing in philosophy by putting everything in the wrong order, as Epictetus warned against 2000 years ago. Basically he says:

Step one--Morality: Get your own priorities in order. Align your desires and aversions to pull you in the right directions. If you find yourself wanting something that is not good for you, or shunning something that is good for you, rest assured you need to revisit step one. If you are ever upset by events outside your control, or unable to get a handle on things which are in your control, revisit step one. Most people need to revisit step one, or even to visit it for the first time! Most people I know allow their happiness to be driven by events outside their control, for example.

Step two--Ethics: Learn to apply your morality in your choices and actions. Respect the duties that naturally follow from morality in your relationships with others. Make sure your daily habits coincide with your personal code. Make all your actions such that you wish they would be a universal code for all people to follow.

Step three--Everything else: If (and it's a big if) you have the first two in order, then you may be ready to go on to understanding nature of the universe, setting life goals, determining the truth or falsehood of great philosophical arguments, writing a constitution, being a judge or serving on a jury, or other such challenges that require your virtues be in working order first. We still have this 2000+ year old problem of people wanting to rush to step three without getting the first two in order. Most of our politicians have accepted office for which they lack moral fitness that should be required, for example.

If philosophers or politicians worked out steps one and two first, then we could make begin to make progress in the right direction on step three, and we would have much less to argue about on the way. If we keep rushing to step three without the foundation of the first two...well, you can see how little progress we are making in the world today, and how dangerous we are to each other.

http://classics.mit.edu/Epictetus/disco ... three.html <(chapter two)

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » July 20th, 2018, 9:33 am

Thanks, chewybrian.

I find that ancient Greek recipes for 'the good life' - personal and social - are curate's eggs. But the problem is their sometimes absolutist claims and prescriptivism - most notoriously Plato's. But some are definitely more morally attractive than others.

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chewybrian
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by chewybrian » July 20th, 2018, 10:41 am

Peter Holmes wrote:
July 20th, 2018, 9:33 am
Thanks, chewybrian.

I find that ancient Greek recipes for 'the good life' - personal and social - are curate's eggs. But the problem is their sometimes absolutist claims and prescriptivism - most notoriously Plato's. But some are definitely more morally attractive than others.
It just happens to be my favorite (so far). I think we've ignored or forgotten much of the wise advice of the ancients and gone on to worry about less important matters before working out the important stuff.

To paraphrase Cicero, "Philosophy is treatment for the damaged soul, and at some point we must all become our own physician". His view matches mine, and I think philosophy might have a wider audience and greater positive impact if we approached it this way.

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Felix
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Felix » July 21st, 2018, 6:19 am

Peter Holmes: 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.
Why is recognizing that there are inherent human needs that we should seek to satisfy a "grotesque idea" and what are the "potentially disastrous consequences" of satisfying the human needs that we all have in common?
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

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Thinking critical
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Thinking critical » July 21st, 2018, 7:09 am

The truth is Felix, for the better part of humanity any rational and sane person does in fact share an objective view of certain moral judgments. No sane or rational human being for example would accept that the act skinning ones own child alive for pleasure is good or positive behaviour.
In fact based on our natural predispisition to be so repelled by such behaviour while also being so protective of our own offspring I would say that such behaviour is inherently wrong to any sane and rational human being.
Any intellectual approach to dismantle such basic fundamental tendencies of the the human nature, is essentially meaningless to the underlying fact that we are predisposed to associate extreme pain and suffering as bad, wrong and undesirable.
If we project these intuitive raw fundamental responses onto others and get the judgement wrong sometimes, I don't see it as a bad thing.
This cocky little cognitive contortionist will straighten you right out

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » July 21st, 2018, 7:31 am

I'm sure you're not being disingenuous. Is it possible that the people who flew planes into the twin towers were convinced there are moral facts? Or that those who murder abortion practitioners or homosexuals believe the same thing? The consequences of moral objectivism need not be disastrous - but they often have been - because people can feel their wickedness is justified. Indeed, it's not wickedness at all - it's a matter of objective certainty that this action is morally good. It's no good saying they had the wrong prescriptive truths. Who decides what the right ones are? Aristotle?

Aristotle believed some people are natural slaves, and that women are inferior to men. Which of his supposed prescriptive truths justified those abominations and their moral and practical consequences? I think you have a naively rosy picture.

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Thinking critical
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Thinking critical » July 21st, 2018, 8:56 am

A moral judgement is essentially the projection of an emotional response to action OR in some cases potential act to which one individual aims at another OR in some cases everyone else.
What I am saying is that humans have the ability to identify conditions which result in extreme pain and suffering leading to potential death. Based on emperical observations we can conclude that humans have a cognitive predispisition to avoid such circumstances.
Regardless as to how individuals justify acts the inherent human condition does not change IOW people don't feed parts of themselves to sharks for the sheer fun if it. We could therefore establish a foundation for moral bahviour based on common ground. Unless of course you insist no such common ground exists.
This cocky little cognitive contortionist will straighten you right out

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Felix
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Felix » July 21st, 2018, 1:19 pm

Peter Holmes: The consequences of moral objectivism need not be disastrous - but they often have been - because people can feel their wickedness is justified. Indeed, it's not wickedness at all - it's a matter of objective certainty that this action is morally good. It's no good saying they had the wrong prescriptive truths.
Your argument is based on ignorance, you have no understanding of the concept you are batting about, i.e., "prescriptive truth." It cannot be an oxymoron as you imply. By definition, if it's a prescriptive "truth," it will not sanction immoral acts such as those you mentioned. In order to be true (at least beyond a reasonable doubt), a prescriptive truth must be based on verifiable facts about human nature, on universal needs that we all have in common, rather than on purely subjective desires. These would include the biological needs such as the need for food, housing, education (knowledge), and other social and aesthetic/spiritual needs.
Aristotle believed some people are natural slaves, and that women are inferior to men. Which of his supposed prescriptive truths justified those abominations and their moral and practical consequences?
If he did believe those things (I don't know that he did), then as I just suggested his prescriptive judgements, whatever they were, were not prescriptive truths because they were based on personal subjective desires/prejudices rather than on true facts about human nature.

But I went into this in more depth in the other thread....
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » July 21st, 2018, 2:34 pm

Felix

'Your argument is based on ignorance, you have no understanding of the concept you are batting about, i.e., "prescriptive truth." It cannot be an oxymoron as you imply. By definition, if it's a prescriptive "truth," it will not sanction immoral acts such as those you mentioned. In order to be true (at least beyond a reasonable doubt), a prescriptive truth must be based on verifiable facts about human nature, on universal needs that we all have in common, rather than on purely subjective desires. These would include the biological needs such as the need for food, housing, education (knowledge), and other social and aesthetic/spiritual needs.'

You seem not to understand the words 'prescription' and 'truth'. A prescription is an instruction or command, and it's morally neutral. We can prescribe moral or immoral behaviour: love thy neighbour; thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. You make the same mistake as Aristotle, believing that a prescription that's beneficial is 'true' or a 'truth'. How can an instruction or command be true? What verifies or could falsify it?

And that you say a supposed prescriptive truth 'must be based on verifiable facts about human nature, on universal needs...' shows that what I'm saying is correct. We're really just talking about certain moral judgements justified by appeal to selected facts - and then themselves disguised as facts.

Felix, we aren't going to agree about this. I think you've been seduced by the category error at the heart of moral objectivism - and I don't know how else to explain it to you. I'm leaving it here. But thanks for the conversation.

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by ThomasHobbes » July 21st, 2018, 5:24 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
July 21st, 2018, 2:34 pm
Felix
. A prescription is an instruction or command, and it's morally neutral. We can prescribe moral or immoral behaviour: love thy neighbour; thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. You make the same mistake as Aristotle, believing that a prescription that's beneficial is 'true' or a 'truth'. How can an instruction or command be true? What verifies or could falsify it?
No instruction of this kind is morally neutral. In fact I do not think ANY instruction can be morally neutral.
I agree that such prescriptions cannot be true. Such an idea is absurd. Though it is possible that some instructions can be responses to factual circumstances.
Neighbours and witches can be good or evil that is a matter of opinion. But exhorting a person to love or kill is not morally neutral in any sense.

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Felix
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Felix » July 21st, 2018, 9:27 pm

Peter Holmes: You make the same mistake as Aristotle, believing that a prescription that's beneficial is 'true' or a 'truth'. How can an instruction or command be true? What verifies or could falsify it?
You already asked that question and I answered it in the other thread ("Is morality objective or subjective?") I said it can be true if it is founded on a self-evident statement. I have yet to see you refute that conclusion.
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

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Burning ghost
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Burning ghost » July 21st, 2018, 11:47 pm

It is hard to know where to start and what words to use to sort this mess out ... mmm ...

I guess I’ll be brief for now. If everyhgin was objective they’d be no need for moral problems and we’d all just do as we please. If it was completely subjective then then be no common social pattern of moral behavior. Given that both of these views are mostly false, but have some embedded truth, I’d say it’s fair to say any obsolute argument against either is just as ridiculous as an absolute argument for either.

The whole “god” business is neither hre nor there. By way of more objective method we can see nature plays out in a certain way and through this humanity and our attitudes manifest.

Felix -

Be careful on this forum when people say “truth”. Far too often they tend to conflate “truth” and “fact” without understanding that the most ridiculously vacuous statement can still be a “true” statement.
AKA badgerjelly

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by LuckyR » July 22nd, 2018, 1:56 am

Peter Holmes wrote:
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?
Ethical concerns are objective, not because they deal with objective subject matter. No, they deal with the identical subjective topics that morality does. The objectivity comes from the fact that ethics are democratic ie they are objectively valid since their definitions of "right" and "wrong" are by the consensus of the community whose ethical standards are being measured. Thus in modern western culture slavery is a violation of ethical standards. This is an objectively correct statement, no further discussion required. In the antebellum south, slavery was not a violation of ethical standards. These are not comments about slavery, these are comments about the culture of the groups at the times described.
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » July 22nd, 2018, 5:40 am

The case against moral objectivism is very simple: it entails contradictions.

1 The word 'objective' means 'relying on facts rather than judgements'.

2 The claim that a moral assertion, expressing a value judgement, is a fact - a true factual assertion - means that any such assertion is a fact. So if the assertion 'slavery is wrong' is a fact, so is the assertion 'slavery is right'. And such a contradiction shows that the reasoning is faulty.

3 The claim that some moral assertions are facts, but that others aren't facts, is special pleading that falsifies the claim that moral assertions are facts.

4 The conclusion has to be that moral assertions don't express factual claims, but rather value judgements, and so they are subjective.

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » July 22nd, 2018, 7:33 am

I must apologise for this last post. I've made a mistake that I need to rectify. Sorry.

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