What could make morality objective?

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GE Morton
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by GE Morton » March 26th, 2020, 3:03 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
March 26th, 2020, 1:19 pm
GE Morton wrote:
March 26th, 2020, 12:11 pm

When a philosopher declares, "X is morally wrong," he is not voicing a personal sentiment. He is saying that X is inconsistent with the theorems of a coherent, consistent, rationally defensible moral theory.
I've never said subjectivity is to do with personal sentiments. What a ridiculous straw man.
You've said that moral judgments are "subjective value judgments." What is a subjective value judgment, other than an expression of a personal sentiment?

Perhaps we have different understandings of the concept of "value." To say that someone values something is to say that he desires it, and would give up something to obtain it or preserve it. It's value (to him) is whatever he would give up to obtain it or preserve it. A value judgment is an assignment of value to something, a declaration by an agent of what he would give to obtain that thing he desires. Are desires not personal sentiments?

If you have some different understanding of "value," please set it forth.

A person may disapprove of slavery and desire that it be abolished and prohibited. That would indeed be a value judgment on his part. But that Alfie disapproves of slavery doesn't make it immoral, any more than his approval of it would make it moral.

When people declare some act or practice or policy to be immoral, they don't believe they are merely voicing their personal sentiments --- they believe they are invoking some overriding, universal, binding principle, one that transcends their personal feelings. The job of moral philosophy is to elucidate and set forth those principles, if there are any.
Whatever facts we deploy to justify that value-judgement, it remains a value-judgement, and can never magically become a factual assertion. You're just wrong about this.
There are no "facts" which can justify value judgments. Nor do they need any justification. A value judgment is merely an expression of the strength of someone's desire for something. But rational moral judgments are not value judgments. They do not express anyone's feelings or desires regarding, say, slavery. They declare that slavery is inconsistent with some overriding, universal moral principle.
Wake up. An 'accepted moral goal or axiom' isn't and can't be true or false.
A goal, not being a proposition, has no truth value. It merely has to exist. Axioms are propositions, and do have truth values. An axiom is a proposition whose truth is self-evident.
Wrong. 'X is inconsistent with a moral theory' ('soundness' is irrelevant) is NOT a moral assertion. Moral assertions contains words such as 'right', 'wrong', 'good', 'bad', 'should' or 'ought to'. Look at what you're saying. It's just wrong.
To say that X is "right" or "wrong" JUST MEANS that X is inconsistent with a sound moral theory. There is no "moral meaning" of those terms beyond that, and it certainly doesn't mean, "I approve/disapprove of X." An act is morally wrong if it is prohibited by a sound moral theory, just as a left turn is wrong if it is prohibited by a valid traffic law.

GE Morton
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by GE Morton » March 26th, 2020, 3:07 pm

Belindi wrote:
March 26th, 2020, 2:44 pm

It is generally agreed it is very confusing the Judeo-Christian's deity's personal name is God.
Actually it is "Yahweh" (as the tetragrammaton, YHWH, is usually articulated).

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Terrapin Station
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Terrapin Station » March 26th, 2020, 3:38 pm

GE Morton wrote:
March 26th, 2020, 12:11 pm
Well, you're just dogmatically re-restating your previous claim. "Slavery is morally wrong" does not NECESSARILY express a value judgment. It may also express the fact that slavery is inconsistent with some moral goal
"Slavery is inconsistent with moral goal x" is different than "Slavery is morally wrong."

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Tilla
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Tilla » March 26th, 2020, 4:45 pm

If we agreed that hunan beings (and other animals) have certain inherent 'aims', that are there due to evolutionary processes and that since we share natural resources and depend on each other the best course of action would be to work collectively then we might agree that morality governs our interactions with others,and that behaviour that promotes our aims is morally good and behaviour that diminishes the prospect of those aims is morally bad. Various experiments in game theory have shown that cooperation is the best way for individuals to promote their aims in the long term (Axelrod's book 'the evolution of cooperation').

I think such a view on morality is as objective as it gets, it takes morals to be realistic, that is, not dependent on any persons mind.

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Belindi » March 26th, 2020, 5:34 pm

GE Morton wrote:
March 26th, 2020, 3:07 pm
Belindi wrote:
March 26th, 2020, 2:44 pm

It is generally agreed it is very confusing the Judeo-Christian's deity's personal name is God.
Actually it is "Yahweh" (as the tetragrammaton, YHWH, is usually articulated).
Do stop nit-picking!

Yahweh is Old Testament not Judeo Christian.

GE Morton
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by GE Morton » March 26th, 2020, 7:55 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
March 26th, 2020, 3:38 pm

"Slavery is inconsistent with moral goal x" is different than "Slavery is morally wrong."
It may be different if the "morality" you have in mind is some vernacular morality. If it is a rationally defensible morality, then "X is immoral," or, "X is morally wrong," JUST MEANS, "X is inconsistent with a sound moral theory."

GE Morton
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by GE Morton » March 26th, 2020, 7:56 pm

Belindi wrote:
March 26th, 2020, 5:34 pm

Yahweh is Old Testament not Judeo Christian.
The OT is the "Judeo-" part, Belindi.

Peter Holmes
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » March 26th, 2020, 10:52 pm

GE Morton claims that a moral assertion, such as 'slvery is morally wrong' can be objective. The argument is something like this:

P1: If action X is contrary to goal Y, then action X is wrong.
P2: Action X is contrary to goal Y.
C: Therefore, action X is wrong.

This inference is valid. And needless to say, P1: If action X is consistent with goal Y, then action X is right, and so on, is also valid.

GEM's argument is that:

a) the nature of goal Y is irrelevant - it could be driving safely, playing football, promotong the well-being of all agents, and so on; and
b) if action X is demonstrably contrary to (or consistent with) goal Y, then the assertion of its 'wrongness' or 'rightness' is objective.

But, crucially, 'wrong' and 'right' are instrumental here, and have no moral significance. In effect, 'right' means 'consistent with goal Y'; and 'wrong' means 'contrary to goal Y'. And, by substitution, that renders the argument useless, as follows:

P1: If action X is contrary to goal Y, then action X is contrary to goal Y [ie, wrong].
P2: Action X is contrary to goal Y.
C: Therefore, action X is contrary to goal Y [ie, wrong].

And notice that the demonstrability of action X's relationship to goal Y doesn't improve the argument.

Now, GEM wants to use this brilliant reasoning to establish the objectivity of a moral assertion such as 'slavery (enslaving people) is morally wrong'. And here, goal Y is something like 'promoting the well-being of all agents'. So, here goes.

P1: If enslaving people is contrary to the goal of promoting the well-being of all agents, then enslaving people is wrong.
P2: Enslaving people is contrary to the goal of promoting the well-being of all agents.
C: Therefore, enslaving people is wrong.

Notice that 'wrong' here DOES NOT MEAN 'MORALLY WRONG'. 'Wrong' and 'right' here are purely instrumental, meaning just 'contrary to' and 'consistent with' the goal, whose nature is irrelevant.

GEM's mistake - I call it speciousness - is to smuggle 'morally' into the conclusion - therefore enslaving people is morally wrong - on the pretext that goal Y here is what we call a moral goal. It's a grammatical sleight-of-hand.

GEM's argument does not establish the objectivity of an assertion such as 'slavery is morally wrong'. It's a confidence trick.

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Belindi » March 27th, 2020, 5:12 am

Belindi wrote:
March 26th, 2020, 5:34 pm
GE Morton wrote:
March 26th, 2020, 3:07 pm


Actually it is "Yahweh" (as the tetragrammaton, YHWH, is usually articulated).
Do stop nit-picking!

Yahweh is Old Testament not Judeo Christian.
Only Jehovah's Witnesses address prayers to Jaweh, GEMorton. God has supervened upon Jahweh, and El who were tribal gods.

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Terrapin Station
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Terrapin Station » March 27th, 2020, 5:22 am

GE Morton wrote:
March 26th, 2020, 7:55 pm
Terrapin Station wrote:
March 26th, 2020, 3:38 pm

"Slavery is inconsistent with moral goal x" is different than "Slavery is morally wrong."
It may be different if the "morality" you have in mind is some vernacular morality. If it is a rationally defensible morality, then "X is immoral," or, "X is morally wrong," JUST MEANS, "X is inconsistent with a sound moral theory."
A goal isn't a moral theory. What's at issue here is whether "Y is inconsistent with goal x" is a statement of morality. It's not. At some point we need to actually arrive at something that amounts to morality. "Inconsistent with a goal" isn't that.

"I'm refraining from buying an amplifier" is inconsistent with a goal of "I want to play electric guitar in a band before this year is through," but that has nothing to do with morality. At some point we'd need to get to the morality part.

Now if goal x has to do with morality (unlike playing electric guitar in a band) that's fine. But "Y is inconsistent with (moral) goal x" in that case is saying something different than "Y is immoral," or "Y is morally wrong."

You like dictionaries a lot. Look up "moral/morality" in a dictionary. Nowhere will you find "inconsistent with a goal," not even "inconsistent with a moral goal," in those definitions. And as you'd say, if you want people to know what you're talking about, you need to stick to what "moral" or "morality" refer to per conventional definitions.

GE Morton
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by GE Morton » March 27th, 2020, 10:59 am

Terrapin Station wrote:
March 27th, 2020, 5:22 am

A goal isn't a moral theory.
No, it is not. But a moral theory presupposes some goal (as does every other kind of theory). The goal of any theory is explain something or accomplish something. That explanation or accomplishment is the goal, the purpose, of the theory.
What's at issue here is whether "Y is inconsistent with goal x" is a statement of morality. It's not. At some point we need to actually arrive at something that amounts to morality. "Inconsistent with a goal" isn't that.
It is if the goal is a moral one.
Now if goal x has to do with morality (unlike playing electric guitar in a band) that's fine. But "Y is inconsistent with (moral) goal x" in that case is saying something different than "Y is immoral," or "Y is morally wrong."
No, it is not different. The theory defines "morally wrong" and "immoral." You (and Peter) seem to think those terms have some other meaning, not captured by "inconsistent with a moral theory." And they can have other meanings, in various vernacular moralities --- anything from, "I don't like/approve of X," "X is contrary to God's will," "X is illegal," "X is not acceptable in this culture," etc. But in any rational morality it will have the meaning I gave.

But perhaps I've overlooked the meaning you have in mind. If so, please set it forth.

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by GE Morton » March 27th, 2020, 11:08 am

Terrapin Station wrote:
March 27th, 2020, 5:22 am

You like dictionaries a lot. Look up "moral/morality" in a dictionary. Nowhere will you find "inconsistent with a goal," not even "inconsistent with a moral goal," in those definitions. And as you'd say, if you want people to know what you're talking about, you need to stick to what "moral" or "morality" refer to per conventional definitions.
Be glad to:

---------
Definition of moral (Entry 1 of 2)
1a: of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior : ETHICAL
moral judgments
b: expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior
a moral poem
c: conforming to a standard of right behavior
took a moral position on the issue though it cost him the nomination
--------

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/moral

Those principles, that conception, and that standard constitute a moral theory.

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Terrapin Station » March 27th, 2020, 1:38 pm

GE Morton wrote:
March 27th, 2020, 10:59 am
But a moral theory presupposes some goal (as does every other kind of theory).
Not true as any sort of universal. Many theories simply describe some set of extramental facts for example.

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Terrapin Station » March 27th, 2020, 1:40 pm

GE Morton wrote:
March 27th, 2020, 11:08 am
Terrapin Station wrote:
March 27th, 2020, 5:22 am

You like dictionaries a lot. Look up "moral/morality" in a dictionary. Nowhere will you find "inconsistent with a goal," not even "inconsistent with a moral goal," in those definitions. And as you'd say, if you want people to know what you're talking about, you need to stick to what "moral" or "morality" refer to per conventional definitions.
Be glad to:

---------
Definition of moral (Entry 1 of 2)
1a: of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior : ETHICAL
moral judgments
b: expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior
a moral poem
c: conforming to a standard of right behavior
took a moral position on the issue though it cost him the nomination
--------

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/moral

Those principles, that conception, and that standard constitute a moral theory.
And as you see, "Nowhere will you find 'inconsistent with a goal,' not even 'inconsistent with a moral goal,' in those definitions."

As you'd say, if you want people to know what you're talking about, you need to stick to what "moral" or "morality" refer to per conventional definitions.

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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by CIN » March 28th, 2020, 3:42 am

GE Morton wrote:
March 26th, 2020, 3:03 pm
A value judgment is merely an expression of the strength of someone's desire for something.
This is Humpty-Dumptyism - you're redefining the term 'value judgment' to suit your own ends. Philosophers traditionally distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic value: intrinsic value is the value or worth that something has in itself, while extrinsic value is any other value a thing may be given, e.g. by our judgments about the thing. Your definition only covers extrinsic value, and is therefore so far adrift from standard philosophical usage as to be useless for communicating with other students of philosophy, as in this forum. If you want to be understood, you should stick to standard usage: departing from it so radically just acts as an obstacle to sensible discussion.
But rational moral judgments are not value judgments. They do not express anyone's feelings or desires regarding, say, slavery. They declare that slavery is inconsistent with some overriding, universal moral principle.
On the standard definition of 'value judgment', moral judgments, whether rational or not, are value judgements, generally presupposing some intrinsic value in something, e.g. pleasure, freedom, health, etc..

I can see that one might derive an 'overriding, universal moral principle' from the fact that something has intrinsic value. For example, if pleasure has intrinsic value, then perhaps, with the addition of further plausible assumptions, we might derive the universal principle that one ought to try to promote pleasure. (In fact this is more or less the position I hold.) But I do not see how there could be any moral principle that does not ultimately depend on something having intrinsic value; and it seems to me that the title question of this thread, 'What could make morality objective?', in the end boils down to 'Does anything have intrinsic value?'

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