• Bob Ross
    1.3k
    In metaethics, it is exceedingly common to divide views into two subcamps: anti-realism (i.e., that there are no categorical imperatives) and realism (i.e., that there are categorical imperatives). Although I find this to be an intuitive distinction (as an approximation), I am finding the distinction blurring for me the more precise I analyze my metaethical commitments.

    I find that an “objective norm” (or “categorical norm”) is a norm (i.e., an obligation) which is necessarily issued by a being’s faculty of normitivity; and it is implicit and involuntary. In other words, such a norm (which is objective) is because one exists with a nature that fundamentally has such and not an obligation that they decided to fixate upon. Thusly, I find the need to distinguish implicit-moral judgments and fixated-upon-moral judgments: the former being objective, and the latter non-objective. When I try to map this to the moral anti-realism vs. realism distinction, I find that I don’t fit nicely into either: if one asks me “do you think there are objective moral judgments”, then my answer is “yes”; but, at the same time, I will concede that one does not thereby have any obligation to fixate upon those objective moral judgments, which more aligns with a moral anti-realist stance. I say that there are, consequently, no “objective fixated-upon-moral judgments” but, nevertheless, there are “objective implicit-moral judgments”, and the only bridge I can fathom for these two types of moral judgments is to commit oneself, by subjective affirmation, to the idea that “it is most rational to fixate upon what is implicit of one’s nature”--and this is by no means a concession that anyone must abide by that principle (i.e., that it is itself a categorical imperative).

    When it comes to fixated-upon-moral judgments, I find that I align with moral anti-realists; for ultimately the obligation to fixate upon a principle is arbitrary and originates from a subject; but because I do commit myself to the principle that I ought to fixate upon what is of my nature I fixate upon the objective, implicit moral judgments—so I act, in every day-to-day life, like a moral realist.

    What do you all think? Is the moral realism vs. anti-realism just a good approximate line to draw? Is it clear and cut? Do you think one can hold there are objective moral judgments and that none of them are obligatory to fixate upon?
  • Moliere
    4.1k
    I tend to favor moral anti-realism, but mostly out of laziness. I agree that nature-based arguments -- or virtue-theoretic devices, which is how I'm interpreting you -- blur the distinction between moral anti/realism. I think that's one of its virtues, actually: rather than asking if there are these immutable rules which are true for all moral agents, virtue-theoretic devices focus on attempting to build the kind of character which has a tendency to make wise decisions. So it intentionally doesn't take up the question of moral anti/realism at all, and tends to blend elements of both without much attention to the question of moral anti/realism.

    Almost like it's irrelevant. . .
  • Bob Ross
    1.3k


    I appreciate your response!

    I think that's one of its virtues, actually: rather than asking if there are these immutable rules which are true for all moral agents, virtue-theoretic devices focus on attempting to build the kind of character which has a tendency to make wise decisions.

    I generally agree; but I actually blend, in my normative ethics, both deontic and virtue-theoretic ethics together (and also consequentialism)--for I do seek and hold that there are "immutable rules" (in sense of being a part of one's nature) which are true for all "moral agents" (which I call "wills") and, at the same time, contend that a main focus which stems out of such is fixating on the development of one's character to become "wiser" (and the only means of progression is a pragmatic approach that incorporates also the notion of analyzing consequences).

    I see anti-realism (regardless of whether it be error theoretic, subjectivist, non-cognitivist, or some other sub-camp underneath anti-realism) as the claim that there are no objective norms, which I think is half-incorrect (as there are implicit-categorical norms, but no fixated-upon-categorical norms); but, likewise, moral realism tends to be that there are objective norms, and this is taken to mean both fixated and implicit types--which I disagree with. So, I am, more and more, starting to give up on the distinction itself.

    I look forward to hearing from you,
    Bob
  • Banno
    23.5k
    In metaethics, it is exceedingly common to divide views into two subcamps: anti-realism (i.e., that there are no categorical imperatives) and realism (i.e., that there are categorical imperatives). Although I find this to be an intuitive distinction (as an approximation), I am finding the distinction blurring for me the more precise I analyze my metaethical commitments.Bob Ross

    Categorical imperatives are found in deontology, but not so much in consequentialism or virtue ethics.

    Moral realism is the idea that moral statements have a truth value - they are true or they are false.

    So moral realism is not that "there are categorical imperatives" unless one already accepts deontology, which would be odd since if one accepts deontology one would presumably suppose that the categorical imperative is true, and hence be a moral realist.
  • T Clark
    13k
    In metaethics, it is exceedingly common to divide views into two subcamps: anti-realism (i.e., that there are no categorical imperatives) and realism (i.e., that there are categorical imperatives). Although I find this to be an intuitive distinction (as an approximation), I am finding the distinction blurring for me the more precise I analyze my metaethical commitments.Bob Ross

    Are there consequences depending on which approach you pick? I mean moral consequences, differences in what behavior you consider moral and, more importantly, how you behave.
  • unenlightened
    8.8k
    Try this analogy.

    An architect draws up plans for a building that does not exist. The plans are general instructions (commands) for the construction of the building. To complain to the architect that the building does not exist would be foolish; what matters is, if and when the instructions are followed, will the building stand, or collapse? And if it stands, will it provide whatever requirements for shelter and comfort were envisioned?

    One would like to answer these questions before expending a deal of effort on building, and so one has recourse to engineers' calculations and planning departments and building regulations and materials specifications and health and safety rules etc. Society and individuals learn from experiments, mistakes and successes what sorts of buildings work. All this accumulated knowledge and wisdom helps a good architect produce plans that are realistic. But it takes a team of builders to produce a real building.
  • 180 Proof
    14.4k
    An architect draws up plans for a building that does not exist. The plans are general instructions (commands) for the construction of the building. To complain to the architect that the building does not exist would be foolish; what matters is, if and when the instructions are followed, will the building stand, or collapse? And if it stands, will it provide whatever requirements for shelter and comfort were envisioned?unenlightened
    :fire: :up:
  • Moliere
    4.1k
    I see anti-realism (regardless of whether it be error theoretic, subjectivist, non-cognitivist, or some other sub-camp underneath anti-realism) as the claim that there are no objective norms, which I think is half-incorrect (as there are implicit-categorical norms, but no fixated-upon-categorical norms); but, likewise, moral realism tends to be that there are objective norms, and this is taken to mean both fixated and implicit types--which I disagree with. So, I am, more and more, starting to give up on the distinction itselfBob Ross

    First I'd say that distinction is a general one -- so no need to hold to it.

    But also, no need to hold to "objective norms" or "there are/not categorical imperatives" as setting out the meaning of anti-realism.

    Generally I believe meta-ethics tends to not map onto normative ethics -- usually you can find a way to defend a realist or anti-realist version of a norm, depending upon how you set out realism or nihilism.

    But onto your distinction:

    I find that an “objective norm” (or “categorical norm”) is a norm (i.e., an obligation) which is necessarily issued by a being’s faculty of normitivity; and it is implicit and involuntary. In other words, such a norm (which is objective) is because one exists with a nature that fundamentally has such and not an obligation that they decided to fixate upon. Thusly, I find the need to distinguish implicit-moral judgments and fixated-upon-moral judgments: the former being objective, and the latter non-objective.Bob Ross

    The anti-realist could say something along the lines that these implicit and involuntary norms don't sound like categorical imperatives, because you couldn't choose them. Deontology, in its Kantian form (which I'm guessing that's appropriate given "categorical imperative") at its base, is an ethics of freedom -- so remove freedom, and it's no longer a moral choice (though it could be a legal choice, say if we brainwashed a criminal into becoming good, they would be following the legality of the moral law but not the morality)

    So it'd be better to classify that kind of instinct as non-cognitivist -- an emotional attachment which has no reason. Hence, anti-realism.

    Then, of fixated-upon norms, it kind of goes in reverse -- it's the very basis of choice which allows these to be moral! Hence, moral realism.

    Moral realism is the idea that moral statements have a truth value - they are true or they are false.Banno

    Error theory being a noteworthy example to highlight for blending those two sentences: they have a truth value, and they are false.

    Mostly using your post as an opportunity to highlight how realism-nihilism don't have clean maps, and can be set out in various ways.
  • bert1
    1.8k
    In metaethics, it is exceedingly common to divide views into two subcamps: anti-realism (i.e., that there are no categorical imperatives) and realism (i.e., that there are categorical imperatives). Although I find this to be an intuitive distinction (as an approximation), I am finding the distinction blurring for me the more precise I analyze my metaethical commitments.Bob Ross

    I thought the categorical imperative wasn't a name for a type of view, by the particular view of Kant, namely something like "act only on those principles that, if universalised (acted upon by everyone) does not lead to contradiction." Or something, there are various formulations. I've always thought it was complete bollocks but perhaps I don't get it. It's an attempt, contra Hume, to ground morality in reason rather than sentiment. Is that really what you wanted to talk about? It seems like it may be that you are looking to ground morality in reason as well perhaps:

    o the idea that “it is most rational to fixate upon what is implicit of one’s nature”--and this is by no means a concession that anyone must abide by that principle (i.e., that it is itself a categorical imperative).Bob Ross

    Are you getting at the tension between there being moral facts about the world, but the individual person is always able to say "So what? I don't actually give a crap bout that."?
  • bert1
    1.8k
    Moral realism is the idea that moral statements have a truth value - they are true or they are false.Banno

    I thought that was moral congitivism. Moral realism, surely, is the idea that morality exists independently of any minds.
  • Bob Ross
    1.3k


    Hello Banno,

    Thank you for your response! I think we are semantically disagreeing, as I don’t think you defined the terms correctly; so let me explain my usages of the terms and let me know what you think.

    Categorical imperatives are found in deontology, but not so much in consequentialism or virtue ethics.

    You are correct that the term “categorical imperative” is found most notably in deontology (specifically starting with Kant), but those are normative ethical theories, not metaethical theories. As far as my knowledge goes, a metaethicist asks the question of “are there objective moral judgments?” (where “categorical imperative” is just a synonym for “objective moral judgment”), or more generally “what are morals?”, instead of “what is wrong or right (given our understanding of what morals fundamentally are) which is what a normative ethicist would be inquiring about. I am fundamentally questioning the metaethic distinction of moral realism and anti-realism, not anything pertaining to normative ethics (at this point); but if you think it is relevant, then we can definitely dive into normative ethics as well!

    Moral realism is the idea that moral statements have a truth value - they are true or they are false.

    I think you are partially correct: it is a two-fold thesis.

    1. Moral statements are propositional (i.e., have truth value).
    2. Moral statements are objective.

    I think your definition only includes #1, which is also could be a moral anti-realist position (such as moral subjectivism).

    So moral realism is not that "there are categorical imperatives" unless one already accepts deontology, which would be odd since if one accepts deontology one would presumably suppose that the categorical imperative is true, and hence be a moral realist.

    Again, with a due respect, I think you are conflating metaetchics with normative ethics; but please correct me if I am wrong.

    I look forward to hearing from you,
    Bob
  • Bob Ross
    1.3k


    Hello T Clark,

    I appreciate your response!

    Are there consequences depending on which approach you pick? I mean moral consequences, differences in what behavior you consider moral and, more importantly, how you behave.

    The metaethical one has tends to greatly shape (I would argue) peoples’ normative ethical theories. For example, most moral anti-realists that I know tend to try to found internal contradictions in another’s view to pursued them not to do some action and if they can’t find one then they just accept it as it is (because they don’t think there is any objective standard to hold that person to). Now that is just an example, and by no means every anti-realist is committed to that; however, realists, on the other hand, tend to command “do not do X” or “do X” based off of what they think is the objective standard. So you can imagine how different the normative ethical theories are that a realist and anti-realist would subscribe to.

    I look forward to hearing from you,
    Bob
  • Bob Ross
    1.3k


    Hello unenlightened,

    Contrary to your name, I think that your analogy was quite enlightened and thought-provoking: thank you!

    Let me try to take a crack at it, with my current understanding, and correct me where I am wrong. It seems as though this kind of metaethical view is anti-realist (squarely), and your normative ethical view is pragmatic. Your analogy is fundamentally conceding, as far as I can tell, that there are no objective moral judgments but, nevertheless, if we all subjectively want to build a building (or most of us do) then there is a procedure we can take to pragmatically achieve that goal (in the most cogent means possible). Thusly, to me, your view (or analogy at the least) seems to hold that morals are ultimately contingent on wills (i.e., subjects) and that there are objective better ways to achieve those goals; but, importantly, I don’t think you are claiming there are objective morals themselves at all. Am I understanding you correctly?

    I look forward to hearing from you,
    Bob
  • Bob Ross
    1.3k


    Hello Moliere,

    But also, no need to hold to "objective norms" or "there are/not categorical imperatives" as setting out the meaning of anti-realism.

    I think, according to the standard definitions, moral anti-realism is the position that there are no moral facts (i.e., “objective moral judgments”). But I would be interested to hear more about:

    Generally I believe meta-ethics tends to not map onto normative ethics -- usually you can find a way to defend a realist or anti-realist version of a norm, depending upon how you set out realism or nihilism.

    What exactly do you mean here? I don’t think I completely followed.

    The anti-realist could say something along the lines that these implicit and involuntary norms don't sound like categorical imperatives, because you couldn't choose them. Deontology, in its Kantian form (which I'm guessing that's appropriate given "categorical imperative") at its base, is an ethics of freedom -- so remove freedom, and it's no longer a moral choice (though it could be a legal choice, say if we brainwashed a criminal into becoming good, they would be following the legality of the moral law but not the morality)

    I think that your critique is splendid for Kantian deontic philosophy, but that isn’t a contention (I would say) with the realist idea that there fundamentally are categorical imperatives. By “categorical imperative”, I am not invoking Kant (although the term does originate with him) but, rather, “objective moral judgments”. As far as I understand, one does not need to hold there is this Kantian notion (or rationalist notion) of free will (in the sense of autonomy vs. heteronomy) to be a moral realist. So an anti-realist (or, as a matter of fact, anyone) can validly state that my implict-moral judgments are not voluntary in the Kantian sense, and so Kant would probably disagree that they are moral judgments; but I don’t agree with Kant either.

    So it'd be better to classify that kind of instinct as non-cognitivist -- an emotional attachment which has no reason. Hence, anti-realism.

    The idea with an implicit moral judgment is that it happens regardless of whether one feels like it or not and it is objective, but you are correct that it wouldn’t be itself cognitive. This is a prime example why the lines between realism and anti-realism (in the sense of there traditional definitions) blur for me. I don’t think it is a non-cognitivist anti-realist position, but classically there are no non-cognitivist realists (but I techinically am one of those in a way).

    Then, of fixated-upon norms, it kind of goes in reverse -- it's the very basis of choice which allows these to be moral! Hence, moral realism.

    Interesting, I think fixated-upon norms would be anti-realist because I don’t think any of them are objective. I don’t think the thesis for moral realism entails that one has to have a basis of choice over it, but I could be wrong.

    Error theory being a noteworthy example to highlight for blending those two sentences: they have a truth value, and they are false.

    Error theory is not a moral realist position: it is an anti-realist one. They hold that:

    1. Moral statements are propositional (i.e., cognitive).
    2. They are all objectively false.

    I guess I should clarify that by the realist position I do not mean that they just hold a position grounded in objectivity but, rather, that there are true objective moral judgments—sorry if that was ambiguous in my post.

    I appreciate your response,
    Bob
  • Bob Ross
    1.3k


    Hello bert1,

    Thank you for your response!

    I thought the categorical imperative wasn't a name for a type of view, by the particular view of Kant, namely something like "act only on those principles that, if universalised (acted upon by everyone) does not lead to contradiction." Or something, there are various formulations. I've always thought it was complete bollocks but perhaps I don't get it. It's an attempt, contra Hume, to ground morality in reason rather than sentiment. Is that really what you wanted to talk about? It seems like it may be that you are looking to ground morality in reason as well perhaps:

    I am not talking about normative ethics in my post but, rather, metaethics. Likewise, I am not invoking Kant, although the term “categorical imperative” originating with him, but, rather, it is a term in metaethics to discuss “objective moral judgments” in general (and not specifically a Kantian deontic normative philosophy). Kant and Hume are good examples of realism vs anti-realism in a traditional sense, but in my view I am seeing the lines between the two blur.

    Are you getting at the tension between there being moral facts about the world, but the individual person is always able to say "So what? I don't actually give a crap bout that."?

    Exactly. I can note that there are moral facts, but not hold that you are thereby inherently obliged to obey them, which, to me, seems like a key point that moral realist is going to disagree with (and anti-realists are going to agree with to some degree).

    I look forward to hearing from you,
    Bob
  • Hanover
    12.2k
    Wiki says:

    "Moral realism (also ethical realism) is the position that ethical sentences express propositions that refer to objective features of the world (that is, features independent of subjective opinion), some of which may be true to the extent that they report those features accurately." https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_realism

    One would like to answer these questions before expending a deal of effort on building, and so one has recourse to engineers' calculations and planning departments and building regulations and materials specifications and health and safety rules etc. Society and individuals learn from experiments, mistakes and successes what sorts of buildings work. All this accumulated knowledge and wisdom helps a good architect produce plans that are realistic. But it takes a team of builders to produce a real building.unenlightened

    Your analogy: Ethical rules are to social functioning as architectural plans are to building functioning. The truth of either determinanable by an analysis of how well they have advanced the objective.

    What then is the objective?

    Is it the advancement of happiness or the protection of individual autonomy or something else?

    Unless you are willing to admit that the objective being advanced is the Good independent of the subjective consensus, but that it exists as an independent fact, then that is subjectivism and not moral realism.

    This is to say murder is wrong because (1) it fails to advance the Good, and (2) the Good is defined as X, where X is not subject to reinterpretation as to time, place, or culture. That is, murder is always wrong, even where it can objectively be shown society would benefit from its allowance because the Good stands as the immovable real, the rock, the building, and the actual thing.

    So, back to your building. The plans are pragmatically good if the arena holds the concert, but unless the arena is ethically good, the plans are not ethically good, but only pragmatically so. If society decides what arenas are ethically good, that is not moral realism.

    What criteria are used to determine if the arena is ethically good?
  • Moliere
    4.1k
    What exactly do you mean here? I don’t think I completely followed.Bob Ross

    I'll do my best to explain myself.

    Given any norm, be it consequential, deontic, virtue-theoretic, or somewhere in between, I claim that one can classify that norm as realistic or nihilistic based upon one's theory of realism or nihilism. The inclusion-rules for realism-nihilism can be modified without ever changing the normative-level theory. I believe it's a different question from the normative one, entirely, so as we change the rules for realism-nihilism we can include and disclude the normative-level theories -- which at least leads me to believe that there will never be a clean map between the normative and the meta-ethical. It will always be blurry, until we start nailing some terms down. And then it will be specific, and it won't be a general theory of realism/nihilism.

    am not invoking Kant (although the term does originate with him) but, rather, “objective moral judgments”. As far as I understand, one does not need to hold there is this Kantian notion (or rationalist notion) of free will (in the sense of autonomy vs. heteronomy) to be a moral realist. So an anti-realist (or, as a matter of fact, anyone) can validly state that my implict-moral judgments are not voluntary in the Kantian sense, and so Kant would probably disagree that they are moral judgments; but I don’t agree with Kant either.Bob Ross

    Cool, cool. I'm shooting in the dark a bit. I don't mind being corrected, so correct away :)

    Interesting, I think fixated-upon norms would be anti-realist because I don’t think any of them are objective. I don’t think the thesis for moral realism entails that one has to have a basis of choice over it, but I could be wrong.Bob Ross

    Yup, no worries. I agree. If anything my position is emphasizing how much room we have for our theorizing, and how that's what makes it difficult. I chose Kant because it looked like it fit and it's a rich vocabulary, but I know we don't have to use his words. Hell, I don't agree with him either !

    Error theory is not a moral realist position: it is an anti-realist one. They hold that:

    1. Moral statements are propositional (i.e., cognitive).
    2. They are all objectively false.

    I guess I should clarify that by the realist position I do not mean that they just hold a position grounded in objectivity but, rather, that there are true objective moral judgments—sorry if that was ambiguous in my post.
    Bob Ross

    I agree here. Sorry for the confusion. I was specifically riffing off of @Banno's definition to point out how there can be ambiguity in any set up of realism-nihilism, which is mostly what I'm pointing to I think: we're going to have to pin down some words and terms before being able to answer.
  • unenlightened
    8.8k
    Your analogy is fundamentally conceding, as far as I can tell, that there are no objective moral judgments but, nevertheless, if we all subjectively want to build a building (or most of us do) then there is a procedure we can take to pragmatically achieve that goal (in the most cogent means possible). Thusly, to me, your view (or analogy at the least) seems to hold that morals are ultimately contingent on wills (i.e., subjects) and that there are objective better ways to achieve those goals; but, importantly, I don’t think you are claiming there are objective morals themselves at all.Bob Ross

    I want to be a bit more realist than that. We do need buildings, and architects and all those ancillary workers i mentioned are the experts on these things. Different climates, different buildings; different geology, different standards; different population densities... etc. But none of this makes architecture 'subjective', merely complex.

    Clearly, things ain't what they ought to be, otherwise we wouldn't need to talk about the way they ought to be. In the same way, if I already had an adequate house, I wouldn't be wanting plans for another. But granting that things are not as they ought to be, already allows that they could really be better; and here's the plan...

    The more we are honest, the more we can trust each other, and the easier it is to to cooperate. I don't think this is subjective, I think this is the way it is - just as a wall will stay up longer the more vertical it is.

    What then is the objective?Hanover

    'Flourishing'. The objective is coexistence with the environment, the health of which can be measured by its resilience, complexity, stability and so on. The question of an individual building is sufficiently complex to allow of differing judgements, but that doesn't make such judgements subjective. One would have to balance the potential boost to trust of folk coming together for various purposes, against the ecological cost of such mass movements and the deprivation of that portion of wilderness and so on.

    http://environment-ecology.com/deep-ecology/63-deep-ecology.html
  • Bob Ross
    1.3k


    Hello Hanover,

    I appreciate your response!

    As most of your message is directed at another, I will address only the part directed me: the definition from Wiki. That is, indeed, a good generic definition of moral realism, but I am failing to understand the relevance to my post?

    Bob
  • Bob Ross
    1.3k


    Given any norm, be it consequential, deontic, virtue-theoretic, or somewhere in between, I claim that one can classify that norm as realistic or nihilistic based upon one's theory of realism or nihilism. The inclusion-rules for realism-nihilism can be modified without ever changing the normative-level theory. I believe it's a different question from the normative one, entirely, so as we change the rules for realism-nihilism we can include and disclude the normative-level theories -- which at least leads me to believe that there will never be a clean map between the normative and the meta-ethical. It will always be blurry, until we start nailing some terms down. And then it will be specific, and it won't be a general theory of realism/nihilism.

    I am starting to understand more: thank you! It seems as though you are formulating two mutually exclusive options (which are different than the moral realism vs. anti-realism distinction, for nihilism is an example of the latter): “realism” or “nihilism”; where the former is the position that there are objective moral judgments and the latter is that there isn’t. Furthermore, this “realism-nihilism” distinction is fundamentally ambiguous (and only for general distinction purposes). If one derives an unambiguous distinction, then they are, according to your view, not making a metaethical distinction because that can only be general (which is ambiguous). Am I understanding you correctly?

    If so, then it seems as though you are claiming one is barred from achieving a clear distinction in metaethics; however, I am uncertain as to why that would be true. Why, fundamentally, can we not achieve a clear distinction between objective and non-objective morals? I understand that I too am blurring the distinction; but I mean it more in the sense that the current distinction is blurred and not that I cannot fundamentally achieve a clear distinction in metaethics.

    Likewise, I didn’t entirely follow the entailment from the fundamental, blurry nature of distinctions in metaethics (e.g., the “realism-nihilism” distinction) to there is always going to be a blurry line between metaethics and normative ethics: can you explain that further? I am understanding you to be claiming that the meta-normative ethic distinction is, likewise, blurry (and fundamentally always going to be that way): assuming I am understanding correctly, why?

    Cool, cool. I'm shooting in the dark a bit. I don't mind being corrected, so correct away :)

    I appreciate that, and please feel free to correct me as well!

    to point out how there can be ambiguity in any set up of realism-nihilism, which is mostly what I'm pointing to I think: we're going to have to pin down some words and terms before being able to answer.

    It sounds like to me that you are almost saying we could get a clear distinction going (if we only clarified our terminology in a precise manner); so I might have misunderstood your first paragraph.

    Bob
  • Bob Ross
    1.3k


    I want to be a bit more realist than that. We do need buildings, and architects and all those ancillary workers i mentioned are the experts on these things.

    The issue I have with this is that the “need” for buildings is subjective (or inter-subjective at best), so I think your analogy isn’t actually mapping to a moral realist position. Am I misunderstanding that part of the analogy? Are you claiming that the need for buildings is objective (and not subjective nor inter-subjective)?

    But none of this makes architecture 'subjective', merely complex.

    I would agree that there are objectively better ways to build, but the goal to build is subjective; so I am failing to see how this isn’t an anti-realist view.

    Clearly, things ain't what they ought to be, otherwise we wouldn't need to talk about the way they ought to be.

    To me, this just explicates that people have goals (which are subjective) to actualize things which are currently only potential. I am failing to see how this entails that “what ought to be” is objective itself (i.e., a moral fact).

    In the same way, if I already had an adequate house, I wouldn't be wanting plans for another. But granting that things are not as they ought to be, already allows that they could really be better; and here's the plan...

    They could be better in relation to what you want out of a house. Again, I am still failing to see how your idea of a “better house” is ultimately objective. I understand that if one wants a house that has a working stove, then … – but where’s the categorical imperative here?

    'Flourishing'. The objective is coexistence with the environment

    The objective (i.e., the goal) here, I would argue, is ultimately subjective. How is it objective?

    Bob
  • T Clark
    13k
    The metaethical one has tends to greatly shape (I would argue) peoples’ normative ethical theories.Bob Ross

    Thanks for your response. I must admit I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it, but I don't think I believe in normative ethics, at least not as something driving our behavior. I see moral rules more as a reflection of personal and social judgements. If nothing else, your thread has helped me realize that.

    I don't want to send the discussion off on a tangent, so I'll leave it there.
  • unenlightened
    8.8k
    the “need” for buildings is subjective (Bob Ross

    Have you ever been homeless? It might change your mind.

    I am still failing to see how your idea of a “better house” is ultimately objectiveBob Ross

    "Ultimately objective" is a curious term. I wonder how it it works?

    An organism exists in relation to an environment. It can only exist within certain environmental parameters to which it is tolerant, and conditions outside these parameters are lethal. So for example the antarctic is only survivable to humans with ongoing input of food, energy, materials, and shelter brought in from elsewhere. These are facts, no? The full details are complex, but most birds need to nest, and so do humans, even if their nest is a mobile or temporary one.

    There is no necessity for there to be humans, or any life whatsoever, of course, but as a matter of fact there is life, and life has a necessary relation to its environment. Most of the planet is not survivable to humans without some constructed shelter. So what do you mean by saying it is subjective? shall I go into detail about how a clean water supply and waste disposal maintain the home as an optimised healthy environment along with thermostatically controlled air conditioning? Subjectively, you might prefer 60F, while I like 72F, but there is no liking to boil or freeze.

    Fish like water, and philosophers like neat divisions, but what is called 'subjective' is a certain minor variability in human-environment relations, the major part of which is biological necessity. This is why global warming is so important to humans. We are very fragile.
  • Moliere
    4.1k
    I am starting to understand more: thank you! It seems as though you are formulating two mutually exclusive options (which are different than the moral realism vs. anti-realism distinction, for nihilism is an example of the latter): “realism” or “nihilism”; where the former is the position that there are objective moral judgments and the latter is that there isn’t. Furthermore, this “realism-nihilism” distinction is fundamentally ambiguous (and only for general distinction purposes). If one derives an unambiguous distinction, then they are, according to your view, not making a metaethical distinction because that can only be general (which is ambiguous). Am I understanding you correctly?

    If so, then it seems as though you are claiming one is barred from achieving a clear distinction in metaethics; however, I am uncertain as to why that would be true. Why, fundamentally, can we not achieve a clear distinction between objective and non-objective morals? I understand that I too am blurring the distinction; but I mean it more in the sense that the current distinction is blurred and not that I cannot fundamentally achieve a clear distinction in metaethics.

    Likewise, I didn’t entirely follow the entailment from the fundamental, blurry nature of distinctions in metaethics (e.g., the “realism-nihilism” distinction) to there is always going to be a blurry line between metaethics and normative ethics: can you explain that further? I am understanding you to be claiming that the meta-normative ethic distinction is, likewise, blurry (and fundamentally always going to be that way): assuming I am understanding correctly, why?
    Bob Ross

    It sounds like to me that you are almost saying we could get a clear distinction going (if we only clarified our terminology in a precise manner); so I might have misunderstood your first paragraph.Bob Ross

    I'd formulate realism-nihilism as more of a gradient, I think, where the most extreme form of the gradient is exclusion/inclusion rules without any exceptions, in which case it would then be two mutually exclusive options. And to make it even more confusing, I'd note that even the rules for establishing the gradient are up for negotiation.

    Also, I was using "nihilism" more loosely to be synonymous with anti-realism, and just thought it sounded better than repeating realism vs anti-realism -- purely aesthetic choice there, but I should have stuck with your terms to keep the conversation more manageable.

    Given that I don't believe there to be a general theory of moral realism or anti-realism my support for my initial claim is only due to repetition of the above procedure: For any given norm it can be given either a realist or anti-realist interpretation, and often the same norm can be given either interpretation just by changing the rules of inclusion/exclusion for the categories "moral realism" or "moral anti-realism".

    We have cognitivism vs non-cognitivism, for instance, where the former is often interpreted as a form of realism, and the latter is often interpreted as a form of anti-realism. But then error theory is a response to the sense-making argument for cognitivism (that moral statements are meaningful, and used, so how could they be different from the other statements, like plumbing or building buildings, which are meaningful and used?): it provides an interpretation of all moral sentences, in the T/F sense, assigning "False" as the value for all moral statements. This is then secured by noting how the artificial process described here mirrors common ways of thinking, like how we think about astrology -- the words all make sense, but most of us who like rationality tend to think they aren't about real things. They are false statements that make sense.

    And here you're providing the realist interpretation of non-cognitivism in your OP :D -- at least if I'm understanding you correctly.

    The procedure above is similar to the one I started with Kant's notion of Freedom grounding ethics. In general what I'd aim to do for any proposed rule for classifying an ethical position as moral realism vs moral anti-realism is provide an interpretation which reverses the initial determination. The stronger reversals do not add auxiliary hypotheses (which I think Error theory accomplishes), but I hope we can agree that a reversal can be accomplished through auxiliary hypotheses without that being controversial.

    Hopefully this is clarifying rather than adding more confusion. I appreciate your patience!
  • Bob Ross
    1.3k


    Hello T Clark,

    Thanks for your response. I must admit I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it, but I don't think I believe in normative ethics, at least not as something driving our behavior. I see moral rules more as a reflection of personal and social judgements. If nothing else, your thread has helped me realize that.

    I totally understand and partially agree: I think that moral facts are involuntary, and the moment one fixates thereupon then they have invoked their own preference; and I think that my normative ethics is grounded upon fixating on what are moral facts. So, I do think normative ethics are important because it gives us an ideal to persevere towards (regardless of whether we can fully actualize it) and, under my view, is just as much of an objective inquiry as epistemology (or in other words I setup moral norms the same as epistemic ones).

    I don't want to send the discussion off on a tangent, so I'll leave it there.

    My friend, if there is something that you wish to discuss, then please, by all means, bring it forth! I do not mind a tad bit of derailment!

    Bob
  • Bob Ross
    1.3k


    Hello Unenlightened,

    I think we may be slightly misunderstanding each other, so let me try and narrow down the disagreement.

    Have you ever been homeless? It might change your mind.

    I am not disagreeing that I do want to have a home (or a shelter) but, rather, that it is fundamentally my preference. If I were to give an argument for why I need a shelter, then it will ultimately bottom out at my will—not something objective. The fact that most people (or even if every person) wanted a home (or shelter) does not thereby make it a moral fact but, rather, a universalized subjective fact. In other words, my mind is absolutely in agreement with you that I do want a shelter, and that most people (if not everyone) wants one, but I am disagreeing that that judgment is fundamentally (i.e., ultimately) objective: the latter is what metaethics, I would argue, is about and not the former.

    "Ultimately objective" is a curious term. I wonder how it it works?

    What am trying to express is that I think that the derivation of reasons for a judgment ultimately bottoms out at a particular will, not something objective under your view, because you are simply invoking very common preferences people tend to have (e.g., have a home) or, arguably, the preference to abide by the basic objective needs of the body. No, it is not true that every human being wants a home, but I would grant, to your point, that the vast majority do; but that is not a moral realist position (as far as I am understanding you). By “contingent on a will”, I just mean that your examples are ontically true of most people (i.e., you are right that most peoples’ personalities waver towards achieving basic bodily needs—including me). It would have to be an ontological aspect of a will to be considered a moral fact (to me).

    An organism exists in relation to an environment. It can only exist within certain environmental parameters to which it is tolerant, and conditions outside these parameters are lethal. So for example the antarctic is only survivable to humans with ongoing input of food, energy, materials, and shelter brought in from elsewhere. These are facts, no? The full details are complex, but most birds need to nest, and so do humans, even if their nest is a mobile or temporary one.

    There is no necessity for there to be humans, or any life whatsoever, of course, but as a matter of fact there is life, and life has a necessary relation to its environment. Most of the planet is not survivable to humans without some constructed shelter. So what do you mean by saying it is subjective? shall I go into detail about how a clean water supply and waste disposal maintain the home as an optimised healthy environment along with thermostatically controlled air conditioning? Subjectively, you might prefer 60F, while I like 72F, but there is no liking to boil or freeze.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but, to me, you are correct that these are facts—but they aren’t moral facts. It is a fact that my body needs food to survive—but why ought I care about survival (i.e., why am I obligated to keep surviving)? I think you may be conflating biological facts with moral ones (but correct me if I am wrong here). Perhaps, you are arguing that these biological facts should be moral ones?

    Bob
  • Bob Ross
    1.3k


    Hello Moliere,

    I don’t think I am still quite following, but let me address your points and you tell me if I am getting closer.

    I'd formulate realism-nihilism as more of a gradient, I think, where the most extreme form of the gradient is exclusion/inclusion rules without any exceptions, in which case it would then be two mutually exclusive options. And to make it even more confusing, I'd note that even the rules for establishing the gradient are up for negotiation.

    It sounds like you are noting that words are always up for redefinition: that, at every level, we could “cut it up” differently—am I correct?

    If so, then it seems to me that this is true of all words, is it not?

    Also, I was using "nihilism" more loosely to be synonymous with anti-realism, and just thought it sounded better than repeating realism vs anti-realism -- purely aesthetic choice there, but I should have stuck with your terms to keep the conversation more manageable.

    Absolutely no worries! Please feel free to continue using that terminology, as I now internally know what you are referring to.

    Given that I don't believe there to be a general theory of moral realism or anti-realism my support for my initial claim is only due to repetition of the above procedure

    I thought the point was that they are only ever general theories? Are you saying there’s no way to make a distinction (even generally) at all?

    We have cognitivism vs non-cognitivism, for instance, where the former is often interpreted as a form of realism, and the latter is often interpreted as a form of anti-realism. But then error theory is a response to the sense-making argument for cognitivism (that moral statements are meaningful, and used, so how could they be different from the other statements

    I am a bit confused, as moral cognitivism and non-cognitivism are not indicators, in themselves, of whether a person is a moral realist or anti-realist: moral subjectivists, like nihilists (error theorists), also hold that moral judgments are propositional. If someone tells me they think moral judgments are cognitive, I do not thereby infer that they are a moral realist.

    Is your point, perhaps, that error theory is an example of a moral anti-realist view that, somewhere along the history of the moral realist vs. anti-realist debate, broke the distinction; whereof they had to refurbish it to accommodate for it?

    And here you're providing the realist interpretation of non-cognitivism in your OP :D -- at least if I'm understanding you correctly.

    Exactly, I think that objective moral judgements are only possible as non-cognitive, whereas cognitive moral judgments are always subjective. It is, indeed, a very unusual realism (or maybe anti-realism: I don’t know (: ).

    The procedure above is similar to the one I started with Kant's notion of Freedom grounding ethics. In general what I'd aim to do for any proposed rule for classifying an ethical position as moral realism vs moral anti-realism is provide an interpretation which reverses the initial determination. The stronger reversals do not add auxiliary hypotheses (which I think Error theory accomplishes), but I hope we can agree that a reversal can be accomplished through auxiliary hypotheses without that being controversial.

    I didn’t quite follow this part: what does it mean to “reverse the initial determination”? I am failing to comprehend what a reversal would be.

    Bob
  • Moliere
    4.1k
    It sounds like you are noting that words are always up for redefinition: that, at every level, we could “cut it up” differently—am I correct?

    If so, then it seems to me that this is true of all words, is it not?
    Bob Ross

    Yes. Though I'm hopeful that the point is non-trivial to what you are asking. I pretty much hold this belief with respect to any discussions about determining what is real, so there is a general place I'm coming from in thinking here, though I'm trying to tailor it to the specific topic at hand.

    General philosophical categories are frequently like this. They are not like the general category of "cars" because there are concretes to refer to. Here the elements of the set are philosophical positions, which themselves usually operate more like webs than isolated propositions. And as you hold certain parts of a view as true -- the metaphor of nailing them down within a conversation -- usually you can find various ways of interpreting a position as part of one camp or another due to the web-like structure of philosophical positions and how you can interpret them in various ways.

    I thought the point was that they are only ever general theories? Are you saying there’s no way to make a distinction (even generally) at all?Bob Ross

    The reverse! We can make distinctions, but upon doing so we are no longer talking generally, but rather are creating a set of understandings that we can think through together.

    But after making those distinctions, say you were to go to another group of people who are enthusiastic about philosophy, they won't hold in some general sense. New terms will have to be forged in that group.

    But the general notions of realism or nihilism will still be there -- people will generally know what you mean by those terms, that one holds morals to be real in some sense and the other holds morals to not be real in some sense, that it's basically a metaphysical question (as opposed to an ethical question), and usually if someone has read something they'll have a general idea about which positions tend to fall under which category.

    But at that stage everything is blurry -- we haven't really agreed upon terms yet. We could very easily talk past one another in thinking that these terms have set definitions! Something in a school setting that's easier to do is give these words some kind of permenance on the basis of the reptition of classes or a shared understanding of certain works. But when trying our hand at it here -- well, it seems apparent to me at least that these general categories don't have fixed meanings, that they frequently -- when we include multiple beliefs and positions within them -- have conflicts within themselves that can be exploited for philosophical purposes.

    But upon doing so we usually start holding terms steady. And that's when it seems that we're no longer dealing with some general philosophical categories which have distinct meanings but rather a loose grouping of positions which we can then explore together upon coming to a mutual understanding.


    Exactly, I think that objective moral judgements are only possible as non-cognitive, whereas cognitive moral judgments are always subjective. It is, indeed, a very unusual realism (or maybe anti-realism: I don’t know (: ).Bob Ross

    Hah! Well, if you don't know, then I certainly don't! :D -- And with what I've said so far I'd expect any particular philosophical position to be difficult to categorize within the general frames.

    I didn’t quite follow this part: what does it mean to “reverse the initial determination”? I am failing to comprehend what a reversal would be.Bob Ross

    From "real" to "not-real" -- the reversal is with respect to the judgment of a position as realist or nihilist.

    I am a bit confused, as moral cognitivism and non-cognitivism are not indicators, in themselves, of whether a person is a moral realist or anti-realist: moral subjectivists, like nihilists (error theorists), also hold that moral judgments are propositional. If someone tells me they think moral judgments are cognitive, I do not thereby infer that they are a moral realist.

    Is your point, perhaps, that error theory is an example of a moral anti-realist view that, somewhere along the history of the moral realist vs. anti-realist debate, broke the distinction; whereof they had to refurbish it to accommodate for it?
    Bob Ross

    Yes! A rephrase, though -- I don't think I could make the claim in history, because while I'm familiar with the terms I'm not familiar with the contemporary history. However, conceptually, that's what I'm saying. It may be that this was more an idiosyncratic example of a theory which forced me to rethink the categories, but I think I've managed to communicate myself by golly. :)
  • Banno
    23.5k
    I thought that was moral congitivism.bert1
    Terminology. The cognitive/non-cognitive discussion is distinct yet related to the realist/anti-realist discussion. It's all a bit of a bitch. I wonder if we can make sense of it.

    So roughly, non-cognitivists claim something like that moral statements are not the sort of thing that can be true or false.

    And if you are not a non-cognitivist, you are a cognitivist, and think the at least sometimes moral statements may be true, or they may be false.

    Realists are cognitivists, and they suppose that moral statements are either true, or they are false, with no other option.

    Anti-realists hold that there may be moral statements who's truth value is neither true not false. They may do this while holding, contrary to non-cognitivists claim, that they are nevertheless the sort of thing that can have a truth value - it's just that there are more than the two possibilities of true or false.

    How does that go?
  • Banno
    23.5k
    ....where “categorical imperative” is just a synonym for “objective moral judgment”Bob Ross

    Well, that's a stretch. As a counterexample, consequentialists claim to make moral judgements without reference to the (or a) categorical imperative. Something similar happens here, were you seem to equate categorical with objective:
    “objective norm” (or “categorical norm”)Bob Ross
    Now a categorical norm, like a categorical imperative, would be one that applies in all cases. That's not the same as being "objective". Something is objective if it is not the result of personal feelings, or something along those lines.

    Seems to me also that your use of "categorical imperative" is nonstandard. You speak of a plurality, when there is usually only the one.

    Finally, the dissection between meta-ethics and ethics is perhaps not quite so clear as you seem to think, in that deontology, consequentialism and virtue ethics signify differences in meta-ethical approach as well as to normative ethics. Each may subscribe to or be implied by differences in metaethics.

    But seems to be following the discussion, despite my confusion. So I might leave you to it.
  • unenlightened
    8.8k
    No, it is not true that every human being wants a home, but I would grant, to your point, that the vast majority doBob Ross

    Not the point at all. What people want is absolutely to be removed from the equation. Animals take shelter from the storm, or the predator, or the heat or cold, or they die. No recourse to subjective wants explains how a yeast cell absorbs sugar and excretes alcohol. that's just how they work, and this is how humans work, - they shelter or they die. they arrange the environment just as rabbits do or birds do We don't have to invoke the subjective world of these animals at all, any more than we have to invoke the subjective world of a yeast cell.

    Life does what is necessary to survive, or it dies. but if it dies, it is no longer life. Therefore life does what is necessary to survive. And human life is no exception. We need to control our environment or we die. And those that are homeless must make a shelter from cardboard and plastic waste as best they can.
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