• Cheshire
    1k
    I firmly believe things are right or wrong apart from who does them. But, I can't account for how this could be; because every case seems to be about an observer. An early apology for not making a firm case. I thought of some questions and wondered how they would be answered.

    1. Is it Morally wrong to destroy a beautiful painting?
    2. What if no one would have ever seen it?
    3. What if you painted it?

    An attempt at an exploration in search of objectivity, because relativism causes so much harm. Is there anything that can be said about the different answers to the same action?

    In addendum 1. I don't know the effect on anything but the painting. I'm not assuming it leads to unspecified hardship. 1. Replace beauty with art of notable quality or art that one would assume could possess value. Maybe it captures the expression of a significant time in history like no other picture can; I don't know, it's not simply paint on a canvas. 2. No one other then the person acting on it.
  • Isaac
    9k
    relativism causes so much harmCheshire

    Intrigued by this. How do you imagine it causes harm?
  • Cheshire
    1k
    It delivered the worst humans have ever done. Slavery, Genocide, Illegal Downloading...
  • Isaac
    9k
    It delivered the worst humans have ever done. Slavery, Genocide, Illegal Downloading...Cheshire

    But how?
  • Cheshire
    1k
    But how?Isaac
    Making wrong things appear permissible.
  • Isaac
    9k
    Making wrong things appear permissible.Cheshire

    Do you really think people capable of genocide are worried about what's morally permissible?
  • Cheshire
    1k
    Then why would it matter if morality was objective or not? Objectively wrong, or subjectively wrong, they don't care either way. Neither force people to do what's right.Isaac
    Ok, what makes people do right or wrong things if not my naive proposal.
    Clumsy editing on my part.
  • Isaac
    9k
    NoCheshire

    Then why would it matter if morality was objective or not? Objectively wrong, or subjectively wrong, they don't care either way. Neither force people to do what's right.
  • Cheshire
    1k
    Ok, what makes people do right or wrong things if not my naive proposal.Cheshire
  • ToothyMaw
    958
    I firmly believe things are right or wrong apart from who does them. But, I can't account for how this could be; because every case seems to be about an observer. An early apology for not making a firm case. I thought of some questions and wondered how they would be answered.Cheshire

    Whether or not an action is objectively wrong is different from an action being right/wrong independent of the actor/situation. Moral absolutism says an action is intrinsically wrong regardless of the ends or actor, whereas an objective morality entails that ethical norms are not up to interpretation; they are laws like any other that one can simply point to.

    why would it matter if morality was objective or not? Objectively wrong, or subjectively wrong, they don't care either way. Neither force people to do what's right.Isaac

    Yes, but allowing for moral relativism no doubt allows for beliefs that cause actions that then cause unnecessary suffering. While beliefs don't force evil people to do evil things, beliefs often times influence good people to do bad things - something that could be more easily avoided imo.

    An attempt at an exploration in search of objectivity, because relativism causes so much harm. Is there anything that can be said about the different answers to the same action?Cheshire

    What you are searching for is an absolute morality, not objective morality.
  • Isaac
    9k
    Ok, what makes people do right or wrong things if not my naive proposal.Cheshire

    Well, the long answer is the subject of entire research projects. The short answer - several different factors; empathy, disgust, in-group reinforcement, social narratives, social identity... are the main ones.

    allowing for moral relativism no doubt allows for beliefs that cause actions that then cause unnecessary suffering.ToothyMaw

    How? No one seems to be presenting a mechanism connecting objectivity of morals to people being somehow unable to act or form beliefs contrary to them
  • ToothyMaw
    958
    How? No one seems to be presenting a mechanism connecting objectivity of morals to people being somehow unable to act or form beliefs contrary to themIsaac

    I'm saying accepting that morality is subjective gives cover for some pretty horrible beliefs - such as female genital mutilation being acceptable. I know that people could always just form beliefs counter to whatever is the - supposedly - absolute morality, but that doesn't mean we have to allow something like FGM.

    Furthermore, even though FGM is absolutely horrible, the people who do it might just see it as justified - and I wouldn't even call them evil. If it could be argued coherently that they shouldn't do it because of some sort of absolute morality then maybe it could be stopped, however. All indicating that creating a justified absolute morality could potentially curb some suffering.

    I acknowledge, however, that there is no direct mechanism that would connect the objectivity of morals to people not being able to develop beliefs counter to said morals. But really what we should be talking about is moral absolutism, not objectivity.
  • Joshs
    4k
    Do you really think people capable of genocide are worried about what's morally permissible?Isaac

    Not only are they worried about what’s morally permissible, their actions are bound by a strict moral justification. See Mein Kampf or the old and new testament But I get what you’re saying. In committing genocide they are rejecting one set of moral precepts
    in favor of another.
  • ToothyMaw
    958


    Good point. But I think many evil people will create justifications for evil acts because of a deeper issue - a lack of empathy, fanaticism, tribalism, etc.
  • ToothyMaw
    958


    And it happens that humans are fallible enough to believe some of these justifications.
  • Tom Storm
    5.3k
    But I think many evil people will create justifications for evil acts because of a deeper issue - a lack of empathy, fanaticism, tribalism, etc.ToothyMaw

    justificationsToothyMaw

    Not justifications.

    The use of the word evil may be problematic as it suggests a convenient explanation for what we all may see as atrocity. Surely Hitler thought he was an agent of moral goodness and that his work was all about improving human life on earth with the same passion that, say a committed environmentalist might feel today.
  • ToothyMaw
    958


    I think it is situational. Many evil people try to justify their evil actions, whereas some believe they are, as you say, agents of good.

    Appealing to some twisted morality might convince more people that your cause is righteous, but, ultimately, I think it makes little difference what evil people think they are doing - they are doing evil things and should be stopped. And I think we should not compare someone like Greta Thunberg to Hitler - there is good reason to believe that human contributions to climate change matter, whereas Hitler was obviously full of shit.
  • unenlightened
    7k
    I firmly believe things are right or wrong apart from who does them. But, I can't account for how this could be; because every case seems to be about an observer.Cheshire

    We are on the same side.
    I'll start by saying that every case of an object is also 'about an observer'. This is a post what I wrote and you read. Or it is nothing at all.

    But I'll ignore your questions in favour of a simple case. Communication is good, and to say that it is good is to pick out an asymmetry between truth and falsehood. If falsehood is seen to prevail, there is no communication, even of the falsehood. Thus to assert the moral equivalence of truth and falsehood is a self-undermining act and a performative contradiction. Therefore, we ought to be honest and tell the truth as far as we can, and in general.
  • Tom Storm
    5.3k
    some believe they are, as you say, agents of good.ToothyMaw

    This is the key. When we retrofit our own moral judgements and assume people are 'justifying' actions using rationalisations we are assuming that 'evil' is done by people who know they are evil and what they are doing is wrong. In many cases they are true believers in the perfectibility of the human race.

    whereas Hitler was obviously full of shit.ToothyMaw

    I hear you but the point is not that he was full of shit, the point is he thought he had a plan for improving the world and millions of people agreed with this plan.
  • ToothyMaw
    958
    This is the key. When we retrofit our own moral judgements and assume people are 'justifying' actions using post hoc rationalisations we are assuming that 'evil' is done by people who know they are evil and what they are doing is wrong.Tom Storm

    I literally said that beliefs cause many good people to do bad things; I totally acknowledge this here:

    While beliefs don't force evil people to do evil things, beliefs often times influence good people to do bad things - something that could be more easily avoided imo.ToothyMaw

    I must correct myself, however: some evil people believe they are agents of good, but I still hold that evil people often times just want to do evil things.

    When we retrofit our own moral judgements and assume people are 'justifying' actions using post hoc rationalisations we are assuming that 'evil' is done by people who know they are evil and what they are doing is wrong.Tom Storm

    Not all justifications are post hoc rationalizations. They can just mean "the action of showing something to be right or reasonable", which is what I meant when I used the word originally. So it seems we are splitting hairs; I totally agree with you.
  • Joshs
    4k
    The point is not that he was full of shit, the point is he thought he had a plan for improving the world and millions of people agreed with this plan.Tom Storm

    One might even venture a developmental model of a cultural history of morality. connecting empathy with a gradual evolution from one-dimensional foundationalism to increasingly multi-dimensional , differentiated social understanding. What we judge in hindsight as genocidal evil becomes a necessary phase in that development. (I’m trying not to sound too Hegelian, or modernist).
  • ToothyMaw
    958
    The point is not that he was full of shit, the point is he thought he had a plan for improving the world and millions of people agreed with this plan.Tom Storm

    Yes, I get that, but on one side you have justified beliefs, and on the other totally unjustified. There is no symmetry except in terms of zeal perhaps. So I do not find it to be a useful comparison.
  • ToothyMaw
    958
    One might even venture a developmental model of a cultural history of morality. connecting empathy with a gradual evolution from one-dimensional foundationalism to increasingly multi-dimensional , differentiated social understanding. What we judge in hindsight as genocidal evil becomes a necessary phase in that development. (I’m trying not to sound too Hegelian, or modernist).Joshs

    Not going to lie, dude - that was exceedingly abstruse. What does any of that even mean? That genocide was necessary as part of the evolution of a more pluralistic morality?
  • ToothyMaw
    958


    I'm not even sure what my question means.
  • Joshs
    4k
    Do you identity your notion of evil with any particular religious or spiritual faith?
  • ToothyMaw
    958


    I think that all religions are latently dangerous, but Islam is probably the worst. In general, however, no. I know what you are getting at - if I associate evil with a particular set of beliefs then I must think that evil is mostly perpetrated as a function of beliefs, and not just evil people doing evil things.
  • 180 Proof
    10.2k
    1. Is it Morally wrong to destroy a beautiful painting?
    2. What if no one would have ever seen it?
    3. What if you painted it?

    An attempt at an exploration in search of objectivity, because relativism causes so much harm. Is there anything that can be said about the different answers to the same action?
    Cheshire
    My position on normative ethics is (aretaic) negative utilitarianism, wherein 'harm suffering misery' of members of any sentient species (at minimum) are considered 'the moral fact' (which solicits help to reduce harm or prevent increasing harm). Given that, I answer:

    1. Only insofar as it increases harm to someone.
    2. ditto
    3. ditto

    The answers here are the same in large part because the criterion proposed in objectively grounded. Harm is the objective moral fact at issue: objective because it is specie member-invariant; moral because it entails a meliorative (helping) response; fact because it indicates a natural species defect that when stressed risks dysfunction or worse.

    ... why would it matter if morality was objective or not? Objectively wrong, or subjectively wrong, they don't care either way. Neither force people to do what's right.Isaac
    Same with laws: why bother with legistlating or deterrent punishments since "neither force people to do what's right?"
  • ToothyMaw
    958


    I do, however, think beliefs are highly relevant when it comes to moral culpability, which I've written about elsewhere.
  • Joshs
    4k
    I know what you are getting at - if I associate evil with a particular set of beliefs then I must think that evil is mostly perpetrated as a function of beliefs, and not just evil people doing evil things.ToothyMaw

    No, I was focusing on your claim that there are just evil
    people doing evil things. That is a quintessentially theological notion. Even if you don’t think of yourself believing in God, you clearly believe in Good( which is what defines as evil as what it is) , and for many theologians and philosophers this amounts to the same thing as God.
  • Tom Storm
    5.3k
    a gradual evolution from one-dimensional foundationalism to increasingly multi-dimensional , differentiated social understanding.Joshs

    Nice. Is this the 'path' you think humans are on?

    What we judge in hindsight as genocidal evil becomes a necessary phase in that development. (I’m trying not to sound too Hegelian, or modernist).Joshs

    That's a pretty bold idea. I feel uneasy with the word 'necessary' but I see what you mean.

    No, I was focusing on your claim that there are just evil
    people doing evil things. That is a quintessentially theological notion
    Joshs

    Yes - that's my point too. Many a Western secularist still holds a Judeo-Christian view of morality, despite protestations.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.6k
    every case seems to be about an observerCheshire

    Claims about reality involve observers every bit as much as claims about morality do: that's what empiricism is all about, there's nothing more to reality than the way it appears to people, and it can appear differently to different kinds of people in different contexts, and the true reality is whatever consistently ties all those different appearances together.

    The lesson to take away is that subjective-as-in-phenomenal doesn't have to be subjective-as-in-relative, and conversely, something doesn't have to be objective-as-in-transcendent just to be objective-as-in-universal.
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