• T H E
    147


    Humans enforce, discuss , and modify human norms. I don't think this is controversial. Just read the latest WaPo. Because things are prescribed and proscribed, you say there must be a prescriber-proscriber. I'm not thrilled with this logical leap, but it's plausible. I suggest that we, collectively, participate in enforcing, discussing, and modifying human norms. What, after all, is democracy? What is this philosophy forum? One type of norm is that applied to judgment making. Roughly (that's how language is, this isn't mathematics) we call someone 'rational' or 'reasonable' if they conform to those norms.

    But you seem fixated on a single personality. Since you can't find a single human, you invoke God, without saying which God, and without noticing that God explains nothing. It may be that you identify 'God' and 'Reason.' In itself, that's not even a bad idea. It's been done pretty well before. As far as I can tell, it only works if 'God' and 'Reason' and the human community are fused together into some kind of humanism. Individual thinkers are like cells in a 'species brain' through which God/Humanity develops and progressively knows itself, until eventually this very idea appears in an evolving conversation that finally grasps its own essence. It doesn't pay the bills, but it offers various thrills. My own view is a reduced version of this. I don't foresee some 'end of history' or final realization, but I do see how individuals are mostly not individual at all. Instead we mostly cough up the same words in the same situations. It's against this knee-jerk background that an occasional innovation can make sense at all. It's because of our shared cognitive 'knee-jerk' responses to letters that I can confidently expect this to make at least some kind of rough sense for you.

    I'm pretty sure this isn't the kind of response you want, but it's a charitable if errant interpretation of

    Morality is subjective, but also external to our own subjectivity.
  • Banno
    11.6k
    A neat rebuttle.

    It seems to me that the conclusion you reach is that morality is not individual - what Bartricks calls "subjective". That morality is inherently a social enterprise should hardly be a surprise. Bartricks' error is in thinking of morality as if it bound only oneself.
  • T H E
    147

    Thanks! FWIW, I think B does recognize the 'objectivity' of morals but just won't grok an impersonal source like... just-all-of-us (including ancestors from whom we inherit). As you say, this should hardly be a surprise. But B's apparent tiny-soul-in-the-box Catesianism seems to resist the notion that to be human is largely to be enmeshed in the same patterns, linguistic and otherwise, with other humans. I think B (and many others) see the individual as primary rather than secondary. But what is reason if not [among other things] a kind of humility that acknowledges the frailty of every individual mind?
  • Banno
    11.6k
    Yep. It is a better OP than most of his, but they all seem to share the error of the primacy of the individual.
  • T H E
    147

    FWIW (not much to some, surely) here's what I'd consider an old-timey version of a Wittgensteinian-flavored insight about our 'extimate' minds. Or rather our little piece of the one geist.
    Unlike sense experience, thought is essentially communicable. Thinking is not an activity performed by the individual person qua individual. It is the activity of spirit, to which Hegel famously referred in the Phenomenology as “‘I’ that is ‘We’ and ‘We’ that is ‘I’” (Hegel [1807] 1977: 110). Pure spirit is nothing but this thinking activity, in which the individual thinker participates without himself (or herself) being the principal thinking agent. That thoughts present themselves to the consciousness of individual thinking subjects in temporal succession is due, not to the nature of thought itself, but to the nature of individuality, and to the fact that individual thinking subjects, while able to participate in the life of spirit, do not cease in doing so to exist as corporeally distinct entities who remain part of nature, and are thus not pure spirit.

    A biological species is both identical with and distinct from the individual organisms that make it up. The species has no existence apart form these individual organisms, and yet the perpetuation of the species involves the perpetual generation and destruction of the particular individuals of which it is composed. Similarly, Spirit has no existence apart from the existence of individual self-conscious persons in whom Spirit becomes conscious of itself (i.e., constitutes itself as Spirit). Just as the life of a biological species only appears in the generation and destruction of individual organisms, so the life of Spirit involves the generation and destruction of these individual persons.
    — link
    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ludwig-feuerbach/

    Yeah it's a grandiose way of saying it, a little contaminated maybe the ecstasy of a fresh insight, but I think it has good bones.
  • Bartricks
    2.8k
    Once more, you simply ignore the decisive refutation of the view you keep asserting.

    The moral beliefs of a group of us are a) not norms, but beliefs about norms and b) they can be false, thus the truth-conditions of moral beliefs are not sociological facts about humans. Sheesh, how many times does the same refutation have to be given before it gets some traction?
  • T H E
    147
    Sheesh, how many times does the same refutation have to be given before it gets some traction?Bartricks

    Excellent question!
  • Bartricks
    2.8k
    The question - the question to which metaethical theories are proposed answers - is "what are moral norms and values made of?"

    So let's change it to "what's strawberry jam made of?".

    My answer: strawberries that have been boiled down with sugar.

    Your answer: strawberries are social constructs. And/or - strawberry jam has played important roles shaping the taste of toast and as fillings for cakes for generations; human society couldn't really operate without it. Strawberry jam is therefore a social construct. Oh and here are some supposedly insightful things wittgenstein said.

    A) as claims about strawberries and jam they are wrong or wild exaggerations, but more importantly b) what you are saying is mainly irrelevant to the question and your conclusion simply doesn't follow. Strawberry jam is not a social construct for clearly even if society ended tomorrow, strawberry jam could continue to exist.
  • Bartricks
    2.8k
    Moral norms and values are norms and values.
    A norm is a prescription. A value is an attitude.
    Only a subject - a mind - can issue a prescription or value something.

    Moral norms and values are not ours: I can't make an act right just by issuing a prescription to do it. Nor can you. Nor can any of us. Same with values.

    So moral norms and values are the prescriptions and values of someone distinct from any one of us.

    And she'd be God. Not because I want her to be, but because she's be the arbiter of right and wrong, and good and bad, and rational and irrational.
  • T H E
    147
    Moral norms and values are not ours: I can't make an act right just by issuing a prescription to do it. Nor can you. Nor can any of us. Same with values.Bartricks

    No single one of us can make a norm, but the community as a whole can and does. Less obviously, no single one of us can even conform to a norm. A norm is only a norm if it's communal. In same way, no single person can be rational. The concept rational drags behind it some rough notion of a community engaged in inquiry (again, it's a norm for assertions.)

    I don't mind just leaving you alone on this topic, if that's what you prefer.
  • Bartricks
    2.8k
    Again, a 'community' is a person. To think otherwise is to commit the fallacy of composition (a group of people is not a person).

    But even if it was and could issue a norm, it demonstrably wouldn't be a moral norm as it itself would be subject to moral assessment.

    Same refutation.

    Plus, as well as being demonstrably false, you're not even engaging with the apparent demonstration that moral norms and values are those of God. Again

    1. Moral norms and values are prescriptions and values
    2. Only a mind can issue a prescription or value something
    3. Therefore, moral norms and values are the prescriptions and values of a mind
    4. Moral norms and values are not my prescriptions and values, or yours, or any collection of ours
    5. Therefore, moral norms and values are the prescriptions and values of some other mind (not one of ours).

    Which of those premises are you denying?
  • T H E
    147
    But even if it was and could issue a norm, it demonstrably wouldn't be a moral norm as it itself would be subject to moral assessment.Bartricks

    There's nothing strange (or at least nothing out of the ordinary) about a community subjecting current norms to assessment. We have lots of norms, more or less vague, and we often discover tensions between them (freedom versus security, etc.) Even as individuals we revise our guiding principles, in terms of still other guiding principles.

    Plus, as well as being demonstrably false, you're not even engaging with the apparent demonstration that moral norms and values are those of God. AgainBartricks

    I've sketched for you some of the history of that idea, at least of relatively rational versions of it.

    Which of those premises are you denying?Bartricks


    Both 3 and 4.

    'A mind' implies a single, personal source (not warranted.)

    Moral norms are my (our) prescriptions and proscriptions. Tell the truth. Don't steal. Etc. Or do you experience such things as imposed by some alien force? Obviously some norms are less established and more controversial than others. We are highly complex animals, endlessly innovating, discussing, adjusting, etc. Nevertheless, it's the deepest norms that make conversation about the more controversial norms possible in the first place (for instance, the convention of language, but also of not punching someone the moment you don't understand them or agree with them.)
  • Bartricks
    2.8k
    Well, this is pointless as you're not grasping the point.

    When you 'assess' a norm you do so by reference to a standard - or...norm. When we 'morally' assess a community's set of beliefs (and that's all you're talking about when you talk about a communty's norms, for community's can't issue prescriptions becsaue they're not agents....but I've said this numerous times and you don't seem to get it), we assess them by reference to a 'moral norm'. It's that norm that is neither our own - for, once more, I can't make an act right by issuing a command to do it - or the community's (because community's can't issue norms, and even if they could, it would make no sense to assess them given they'd be self-validating).

    So, it's now been about seven times that I have given you the same points. Perhaps you think - like many here - that simply ignoring them and repeating your fallacies and assertions will somehow constitute addressing them. But no, it won't.

    You have no grounds for denying 3. You're just denying it. Well, anyone can do that. You need to refute it by showing that its negation follows from premises that are more self-evident to reason than mine.

    4 is demonstrably true. Again:

    1. If I issue a prescription, that doesn't make the act I prescribe morally right
    2. If moral prescriptions are mine, then it would
    3. Therefore moral prescriptions are not mine

    Show that 3 is false by showing how its negation is entailed by premises more self-evident to reason than 1 and 2 above.
  • Bartricks
    2.8k
    So, again, replace 'morality' with 'jam'. I have argued that jam is made of strawberries boiled with sugar. Your reply

    "Humans enforce, discuss , and modify strawberries. I don't this is controversial"

    Irrelevant. You're talking about what people do with strawberries. I'm talking about what jam is made of.

    Jam is made of strawberries boiled with sugar.

    "There's nothing strange (or at least nothing out of the ordinary) about a community subjecting strawberries to assessment."

    Er, what? Where have I denied this? I am saying that Jam is made of strawberries boiled with sugar. And you're still going on about what communities do with strawberries.

    "We are highly complex animals, endlessly innovating, discussing, adjusting, strawberries. Nevertheless, it's the deepest jam that make conversation about the more controversial jams possible in the first place"

    Again, what? Strawberry jam is made of strawberries boiled with sugar. You haven't said what you disagree with about that analysis. Do you think strawberry jam is not made with sugar? Or perhaps you think the strawberries are not boiled at all?

    "I deny both. It is not made with strawberries, because humans modify strawberries. And the strawberries are not boiled, but just our strawberries - the human construct strawberries"

    That is how our debate has gone. Strawberry jam is made of strawberries. Moral norms are made of norms - prescriptions (that's why they're called 'moral prescriptions').

    Only a mind can prescribe or value anything. If you think otherwise, provide an example of something that is not itself a mind and that issues a prescription.

    Moral prescriptions are obviously not our own. If you say "do X" that does not making doing X right, does it? That's more obvious than that strawberry jam is not just a strawberry. Here's a strawberry. Is it some jam? No, it's a strawberry. Here's a prescription of mine "understand things!!". Does that make it the case that you have a moral obligation to understand things? No.
  • T H E
    147
    .
    Only a mind can prescribe or value anything. If you think otherwise, provide an example of something that is not itself a mind and that issues a prescription.Bartricks

    I think you are taking your language too much granted. I think you mean
    transitive verb

    1a: to lay down as a guide, direction, or rule of action : ORDAIN
    b: to specify with authority
    — link

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

    Here's the WHO 'laying down as a guide, direction, or rule of action' some COVID precautions.
    What to do to keep yourself and others safe from COVID-19
    Maintain at least a 1-metre distance between yourself and others to reduce your risk of infection when they cough, sneeze or speak. Maintain an even greater distance between yourself and others when indoors. The further away, the better.
    Make wearing a mask a normal part of being around other people. The appropriate use, storage and cleaning or disposal are essential to make masks as effective as possible.
    Here are the basics of how to wear a mask:

    Clean your hands before you put your mask on, as well as before and after you take it off, and after you touch it at any time.
    Make sure it covers both your nose, mouth and chin.
    When you take off a mask, store it in a clean plastic bag, and every day either wash it if it’s a fabric mask, or dispose of a medical mask in a trash bin.
    Don’t use masks with valves.
    — WHO
    https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

    I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing this is the distillation of a medical consensus. Presumably you've also heard of peer review. If you brush your teeth, and I expect that you do, perhaps you can tell me which particular mind prescribed that. Who in particular told you not to pick pockets? If you can think of someone, then why should they have authority over me? But of course 'everyone knows' that one brushes one's teeth and one does not pick pockets. To not know is to be a child or a problematic adult.

    I don't see anything uncommon in collective entities (organizations, institutions) recommending and forbidding various activities. It seems highly unlikely indeed that we can typically credit such recommendations to a single employee/agent. Or just consider democracy. What I'm saying is so trivial that I'm boring myself too here, and not just you.
  • Bartricks
    2.8k
    The WHO's guidelines are issued by persons. Who do you think wrote them, exactly? Was it a person or persons? Yes. And when we talk of an institution or organization 'prescribing' something this is clearly shorthand for 'a majority of those in charge of the institution issue this prescription'. So the guidelines, prescriptions, what have you, express the desires of some person or persons. You mention consensus - yes, a consensus of what though? Desires of minds, yes?

    The simple fact is that any prescription expresses the desires of some mind or minds. If you think otherwise you need to present a counterexample that is a) clearly not a mind or an institution whose edicts give expression to the desires of minds, and b) that is not question begging (so, for instance, appealing to norms of reason - such as, if you want healthy teach, brush them regularly - is question begging given that moral norms are among the norms of reason and so the same divine analysis applies).

    If instead you want to insist that morality itself might be composed of the edicts of an institution, then a) the edicts of an institution are fairly obviously metaphorical and express the desires of persons composing it, or a majority, whereas moral edicts are not metaphorical and b) even if 'a' is false, the simple fact is that any institution's edicts are themselves subject to moral assessment and thus moral norms cannot be identified with them.
  • T H E
    147

    Of course, B, persons (I like 'people' in this context, cuz that's how persons actually talk.) As you seem to be inching toward the recognition that persons can collectively recommend and prohibit, it's a small step to zoom-out and see the most basic norms existing independent of institutions (or a small step to arguing for polytheism.) Of course I'm not identifying norms with the prescriptions/proscriptions of institutions, though obviously institutions tend to express norms. That doesn't mean people can't criticize any particular institution. As I said, we live in a highly complex & pluralistic society. Read WaPo for 15 minutes and it's all there, the world in its ugly glory. If you want to analyze all this in terms of desires and fears, that seems reasonable.
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/
  • baker
    1k
    the error of the primacy of the individual.Banno
    At the end of the day, one lives alone and dies alone. A theory of morality has to account for this somehow. Even more so when we're living in a society where those in positions of power seek to renounce all responsibility, seek to have power and take it away from the individual, and place all the blame and all the responsibility on the individual.

    I am first to point out the social embeddedness in and social epistemic dependence of the individual on society. But I'm also pointing out that the society here treats individuals in a hostile, or at best, indifferent manner, as expendable. We're not dealing with a traditional tribal social situation in which individuals are by default seen as assets. A theory of morality needs to account for this.
  • Banno
    11.6k
    It's not just that one is socially embedded. Morality and ethics are about how one is to relate to others. The OP ignores this.
  • counterpunch
    1k
    Morality is made of norms and values. A moral norm is a prescription or proscription. If an action is right then its being so is its being prescribed; if an action is wrong then its being so is it's being proscribed. And if something is morally valuable, then it is morally good and if something is morally disvalued then it is morally bad. These are conceptual truths about morality and cannot seriously be disputed.Bartricks

    Still, one must try! I don't think morality is "made from" norms at all. Moral norms and values are intellectually derived from feelings - feelings experienced as a result of understanding circumstances in terms of the moral sense. In evolutionary terms, moral behaviours appear long before we had the ability to identify moral norms. What is morally wrong - feels wrong first; and the why is explained afterwards!
  • baker
    1k
    Morality and ethics are about how one is to relate to others. The OP ignores this.Banno
    On which level of moral reasoning, according to Kohlberg's theory, would you place the OP's arguments?
  • 180 Proof
    3.1k
    :up:

    An excerpt from a post on another thread (sans links to articles, click on my usename for more) ...
    Humans are eusocial animals and instincts for (a) reciprocal harm avoidance, (b) burden-sharing and (c) discouraging free-loading / burden-shifting – my terminology – constitute human eusociality. Studies in early human development demonstrate fairness (b, c) and inclusivity (a, b) preferences (i.e. empathy instincts) are expressed prior to 'normative' socialization ...180 Proof
  • Bartricks
    2.8k
    You are conceptually confused.
    To 'feel' that x is wrong is to feel that it is proscribed. You are talking about the feeling, but the feeling isn't what morality is, for it is a feeling 'of' wrongness. The wrongness itself consists of the proscription, not the feeling that the act is proscribed.
    The feeling that I am falling is not itself the falling, and likewise the feeling that an act is wrong is not itself the wrongness. This can be simply demonstrated if it is not already obvious - if I feel that an act is wrong, that does not entail that it is. Yet it would if wrongness was that feeling.
    Anyway, the mistake you are making is to confuse the object of a feeling or belief with the feeling or belief itself.
  • Banno
    11.6k
    Why do you ask?
  • counterpunch
    1k
    You are conceptually confused.Bartricks

    You have no idea!

    To 'feel' that x is wrong is to feel that it is proscribed. You are talking about the feeling, but the feeling isn't what morality is, for it is a feeling 'of' wrongness. The wrongness itself consists of the proscription, not the feeling that the act is proscribed.Bartricks

    When something is funny, you don't think it's funny, then laugh. You might say that, but you laugh automatically, because you have a sense of humour. (In theory) When something is funny -sometimes you have to try not to laugh, because other people have feelings.

    I maintain you also have a sense of morality; that right and wrong are primarily a sense, and in much the same way you automatically experience right and wrong, and can't but think wrong is wrong. It's automatic because morality is a sense. Moral and ethical system are expressions of that moral sense. A sense that can be shown to exist in primates. They have a sensitivity to moral implication.

    Here's a youtube video of a monkey kicking off after being cheated at cards:

    https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=youtube%2c+braniac%2c+hammond%2c+monkey%2c+cards%2c&docid=608028512895249690&mid=1123BC3CE3DEE1724BAE1123BC3CE3DEE1724BAE&view=detail&FORM=VIRE

    Maybe the monkey is confused too!
  • Banno
    11.6k
    Yep. Moral proscriptions are post hoc. It's not you who is confused.
  • counterpunch
    1k
    Thanks Banno - I could not/did not say it better myself!
  • Banno
    11.6k
    Cheers. Your comment together with serve to undermine the OP.

    The feeling that I am falling is not itself the falling, and likewise the feeling that an act is wrong is not itself the wrongness.Bartricks
    This is a misguided metaphor. Better, the feeling of pain is itself the pain.

    Morality is not made of norms and values. It's made of acts. It's what one does that has moral import, not what one says, nor even what one values.
  • Bartricks
    2.8k
    Well done for just ignoring the refutation and continuing to assert your theory.

    The theory you're asserting (not defending) is the metaethical theory known as 'individual subjectivism'. It's a theory no professional philosopher defends. But any introduction to ethics will go through why it is confused (though popular among - exclusively among - the ignorant and bewildered).

    Funniness is individually subjective. Nobody seriously disputes that. That is, funniness is made of a feeling - the feeling of amusement. And thus if something causes that feeling in you, then it is funny for you, and there's nothing more to it than that.

    Morality is not individually subjective. For if it was, then feeling that an act is wrong would entail that it is. And it doesn't, right? So morality 'isn't' individually subjective.

    I mean, look at who agrees with you......Banno! I rest my case.

    Experts don't defend it. Those who haven't a clue, think it is obviously true and can't fathom why anyone thinks otherwise. Why do experts not defend it? See above. It is demonstrably false. And those who think it is true have committed fallacies in arriving at that conclusion. Such as you: you confused a vehicle of awareness with an object of awareness. This, you think, is good reasoning, right? "I feel that xing is wrong......feelings are subjective.....therefore morality is individually subjective". That's a fallacious argument. But you think - and will continue to think - it is great. Yes? And Banno thinks it is the best argument ever.
  • Bartricks
    2.8k
    This is a misguided metaphor. Better, the feeling of pain is itself the pain.Banno

    Er, no, Banno. Just no. That would be a really stupid metaphor, as pain is individually subjective. The feeling of pain is the pain. The feeling of falling is not the falling. See? (No, obviously).

    Here's something that's going to blow your mind: some features of reality are individually subjective....and some aren't. Pain and funniness are individually subjective. Rightness and wrongness are not. For an analogy: some things are parsnips. But not everything is a parsnip.

    How do we tell which is which? Well, that's where we have to use our reason.

    This argument is sound:

    1. If I feel in pain, I am in pain
    2. I feel in pain
    3. Therefore I am in pain

    This argument is unsound

    1. If I feel xing is wrong, xing is wrong
    2. I feel xing is wrong
    3. Therefore xing is wrong

    Which premise is false in the second argument? Premise 1.

    Would premise 1 be false if morality was individually subjective?

    No.

    So, is morality individually subjective?

    No.

    Can you feel in pain and not be in pain?

    No.

    Why?

    Because pain and the feeling of pain are one and the same.

    Can you feel that Xing is wrong and Xing not be wrong?

    Yes.

    Would that be possible if the feeling of wrongness was the wrongness?

    No.
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