• Captain Homicide
    48
    The most common argument against the existence of objective morality and moral facts besides moral differences between societies is that they aren’t tangible objects found in the universe and can’t be measured scientifically. Are there any refutations or arguments against this?-
  • flannel jesus
    1.7k
    I think you'd need to start with an exploration of what it would mean for a moral fact to "exist"
  • Christoffer
    1.9k
    The most common argument against the existence of objective morality and moral facts besides moral differences between societies is that they aren’t tangible objects found in the universe and can’t be measured scientifically. Are there any refutations or arguments against this?-Captain Homicide

    Morals can't be universal since they're essentially tied to the being of humans. But being so, we could argue that there are commonalities in how we perceive the preservation and survivability of being a human, and that there are positive emotions and negative emotions tied to the quality of living as a human. Both to what we do and through the intentions of why we do something.

    This is something that Sam Harris has tried (and failed) to do. But there's no denying that emotion plays a big part in trying to form some objective morals. It's just that they can never be a complete set of rules, but rather a range of ought not to and ought to principles.

    It may be that we could invent a sort of mathematical equation of value points attached to certain actions and intentions, in which a careful examination of actions taken can measure if the moral actions of someone ended up on a negative or positive side.

    But an indifferent, meaningless existence in a deterministic universe creates problems for any objective morals to be found, because they cannot be found. We need to rather invent something based on the sum of our existence and experience. And that takes an honest dedication to examining our existence without holding biases to beliefs outside of measurable emotions and universal human experiences.
  • Michael
    14.8k
    The most common argument against the existence of objective morality and moral facts besides moral differences between societies is that they aren’t tangible objects found in the universe and can’t be measured scientifically. Are there any refutations or arguments against this?Captain Homicide

    Question the implicit assertion that if something isn't a tangible object found in the universe and can't be measured scientifically then it doesn't exist.
  • Vera Mont
    3.8k
    First, it would help to define a "moral fact".
    It is a fact that the concept of morality is a human human concept. It is a fact that a human infant has no grasp of this concept. It is a fact that all human societies have some moral precepts, which they enshrine in their rules of behaviour and teach to their young. It is a fact that every culture elaborates some variants of basic rules of human interaction; many are similar, but no two are identical.
    However, the content of a code cannot be factual, as it consists of dictums, not statements.
    "Thou shalt not commit adultery." for example, may sound like a statement of fact, but it is merely an instruction. The speaker does not have any way of knowing or proving that the hearer obeys.

    I believe any such refutations rest on the definitions of the three words: Exist, moral and fact. They can be quite elastic as to usage. Not merely the so-called goal-posts in a discussion can be moved considerable distances, but the whole arena may be relocated with the meaning of a word.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    Lots of things in the sciences lack a tangible "body" and contain subjective elements. However, we still think we can meaningfully measure them.

    For example, most people would agree that "economic recessions," exist, and that they have real causal effects (e.g. construction projects coming to a halt across the world). However, our measurements of GDP growth, real wages, CPI (inflation) etc. are all highly operationalized, contrivances for approximating a measure of a real phenomena.

    Even measurements in the physical sciences have a similar "squishyness." Jaynes argued that entropy has an essentially subjective element, and I think he is right here. We have multiple different measures of "complexity," and virtually no one thinks they are perfect . Yet there is widespread agreement that "complexity" does indeed exist as a property of physical systems. Likewise, we might debate how well current IQ tests measure intelligence, but it seems pretty clear that intelligence exists and that some animals have more of it than others.

    The existence of incorporeal things isn't the problem then, IMO. People will admit that something like "Japanese culture," really exists in the world, and that such an entity includes moral elements. People will generally also allow that there are facts about what individuals think is good or bad. E.g., "Tom thinks adultery is wrong," is a fact.

    Further, they will even allow that, in the aggregate, we can make factual statements about what given cultures tend to think is good or bad. E.g., it is a fact that "most Americans Evangelicals think that abortion is morally bad." Likewise, we can make factual claims about what is "good or bad" given some sort of code (e.g. per the "chivalric code," cowardice is bad — this is a fact). Such fact claims hold up even if no one actually buys into said code.

    Where people seem to deny the existence of facts vis-á-vis morality is when claims are made about a global moral code.

    Here I see two common objections, one serious and one that is trivial.

    The trivial objection is that: "your morality depends on where you grew up," and "all cultures have different morals." This is trivial because the same was previously true about how people thought infectious diseases worked, if the Earth revolved around the Sun or vice versa, etc. Yet we do think there are "facts of the matter," about how disease spreads, even if every culture did have different views earlier. Plurality of opinion does not suggest that knowledge is impossible by any means.

    The more potent objection is that it seems quite difficult to know where to start in measuring "goodness." Economists come the closest to this sort of thing in their measurements of "utility," but that isn't really the same concept and we have reasons to be dubious about our ability to measure it anyhow. At the same time though, our inability to operationalize things in no way means they do not exist, else we'd have to throw out complexity, life, intelligence, etc. on the same grounds.

    "Harm" can be grounded in biological terms at least as well as "life," so that's a start. There are also "facts of the matter," about whether someone finds something pleasurable or painful, and while we can't read minds, there are decent ways to figure these sorts of things out for human beings and animals. Thus, an objective morality grounded promoting pleasure and minimizing pain, or in minimizing harm seems possible.

    The problem here is that we might also consider "aesthetic good" important, or freedom as a good in itself. Hegel elevates freedom to the highest good, in part because free, self-determining individuals who are freely, willingly part of a free, self-determining society, will chose to maximize their pleasure and minimize harm to the extent they are able to. A person doesn't choose to be miserable if they can be happy. And they will choose what they think is best aesthetically. In this way, the "promotion of freedom" comes up as a good candidate for "objective morality."
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    Morals can't be universal since they're essentially tied to the being of humans.

    How does this work? We can have a universal definition of "life" right? But life is tied to the being of living organisms. Or a universal definition of parasitism, yet that too is tied to the existence of organisms.

    Is the problem that "good and bad" are part of first person experience? Or is it that they are only relative to living things?

    But an indifferent, meaningless existence in a deterministic universe creates problems for any objective morals to be found, because they cannot be found.

    Sure, but likewise, if universal morals can be found, then the universe isn't meaningless. Which one are we in?

    I'm not sure what determinism has to do with it. It seems to me that, for a universe to embody meaning and values, it must be determined to do so in some ways. Else how is the meaning in the universe instantiated except by chance? But I can't think of any reason why determinism should preclude universal values. We can imagine a mad scientist who spawns a toy universe that starts off chaotic yet which has a universal tendencies that will cause it to spawn life and then maximize the well being of those life forms. That would seem to be a case of values being instantiated through determinism.
  • Christoffer
    1.9k
    How does this work? We can have a universal definition of "life" right? But life is tied to the being of living organisms. Or a universal definition of parasitism, yet that too is tied to the existence of organisms.

    Is the problem that "good and bad" are part of first person experience? Or is it that they are only relative to living things?
    Count Timothy von Icarus

    Morality is a human invented concept that tries to set parameters around behavior and define what is good or bad for us. It can't be universal since you cannot apply morality to a rock floating in space. We can universalize a moral set of rules for humans if we can invent something that applies to all and make sense, which is what moral philosophy is all about. Kant came close, but obviously even that has flaws and the most popular battle in morality is between his categorical imperatives and utilitarianism.

    I suggest that we can only define universal morality for humans based on the biology we have and what our biology needs. Our biology programs us to be self-preserving, but we also want to preserve the group. Just like we have our sex drive closely linked to the continuation of our species, so can we find more high level drives of social values that would inform us on what universalized morality we can agree on. For that we can study history, study how people in all cultures value and view actions between people and discover what commonalities exist regardless of invented concepts of religion or other biases.

    But none of that can be applied between species. Aliens can only have a moral system that functions based on their biology, we cannot apply our morals to them, regardless of what Star Trek says.

    Sure, but likewise, if universal morals can be found, then the universe isn't meaningless. Which one are we in?Count Timothy von Icarus

    I think it's a mistake to link universal meaning to morality. If we find out that there's some integral meaning to the universe and our existence, so what? It does not justify the pain or endorse the pleasure's of past human lives. We can only define morality based on what we have and what we are in the state we are in as existence now. If there was some underlying meaning to the universe that somehow should inform our morals, we would have known those morals by now, because what's the point of some universal meaning if it does not inform that meaning to the inhabitants of the universe so that the morals can be lived by? And no, religion does not inform that because we have too many conflicting religions through history and we have too much evidence of how people skew religious scripture to fit their own purposes to conclude that religion is an invention by people to explain the unexplainable in a time without science.

    The only logical "meaning" the universe could have linked to morality was if this was a simulation to form morality. Meaning, all of this, this universe is a simulation with the intent to iterate towards a perfect morality system. That the lack of guidance and meaninglessness of the universe is part of the system, so that the species itself (us), form morality through trial and error. But even if that sci-fi fantasy were true it would still boil down to us having to do all the legwork and we're back at square one trying to figure out a solid moral system for all humans.

    I'm not sure what determinism has to do with it. It seems to me that, for a universe to embody meaning and values, it must be determined to do so in some ways. Else how is the meaning in the universe instantiated except by chance? But I can't think of any reason why determinism should preclude universal values. We can imagine a mad scientist who spawns a toy universe that starts off chaotic yet which has a universal tendencies that will cause it to spawn life and then maximize the well being of those life forms. That would seem to be a case of values being instantiated through determinism.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Determinism makes our sense of justice problematic. Much our moral thinking relies on ideas of free will. But without free will we have to understand that no one acts without a previous cause, that many people are set on rails towards immoral actions due to reasons of nature and nurture. So without free will we end up with a moral system that relies and focuses on preventing people from doing immoral actions rather than punishment for their actions.

    When it comes to universal ideas of meaning, there's nothing that points to any meaning in the universe and therefore we can't talk about morality through such concepts before proving any meaning existing there in the first place. My point is that we don't have to solve those questions since there's a big chance that, due to everything we know about the universe, there's no meaning whatsoever, and because of this we're wasting time as a species trying to verify our morality out of ideas that are irrelevant to our experience here and now. To form a moral system that can be universalized between humans, we need to look at our actual experience and lives that we have, all that we are right now, nothing else. And through that we can extrapolate biological hints towards a functioning moral system for all humans. We just can't apply that to other species in the universe and forming a moral system between species has more to do with accepting the parameters of each species morality system rather than trying to impose our own onto them.
  • unenlightened
    8.9k
    The most common argument against the existence of objective morality and moral facts besides moral differences between societies is that they aren’t tangible objects found in the universe and can’t be measured scientifically. Are there any refutations or arguments against this?-Captain Homicide

    And if the lack of moral facts is true, and the argument is sound, does this make it a good argument? If it is a good argument it refutes itself, therefore it cannot be a good argument, therefore it is a bad argument. If there are bad arguments and good arguments, then truth preservation is good and there are moral facts.
  • javra
    2.5k
    The most common argument against the existence of objective morality and moral facts besides moral differences between societies is that they aren’t tangible objects found in the universe and can’t be measured scientifically. Are there any refutations or arguments against this?-Captain Homicide

    Same can be said of psyches … if by “universe” one here intends the physical universe.

    Here’s a premise: good = preferable. Good/preferable to whom or what if not to psyches themselves? Seems to me that if there are no psyches, then there cannot be anything good/preferable.

    As to objective good, this would translate into that which is objectively—i.e., impartially or unbiasedly—preferable to all coexistent psyches in the cosmos (who might or might not then be ignorant of what this objective good is). And this postulate of an objective good would in turn be in part contingent on there being underlying universal(s) to all coexisting psyches.

    If no such universals to all coexisting psyches—to simplify, let’s just say consciousnesses here—then no such thing as an objective good. But then, there wouldn’t occur such a thing as consciousness as a commonly occurring, or else commonly shared, property of being; i.e., the very word “consciousness” would then become meaningless, for it would mean something different, and utterly unrelated, to each and every individual [… ?].

    By this general account I then take it that there are universals to all coexisting consciousnesses. Which then facilitates the possibility of an objective good.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    Determinism makes our sense of justice problematic. Much our moral thinking relies on ideas of free will. But without free will we have to understand that no one acts without a previous cause, that many people are set on rails towards immoral actions due to reasons of nature and nurture. So without free will we end up with a moral system that relies and focuses on preventing people from doing immoral actions rather than punishment for their actions.

    This only seems to be a problem if we assume:
    A. "Uncaused" libertarian free will is the only type of freedom that can make justice coherent; and
    B. Punishment can't function as primarily a means of "restoring right," by taking away the benefits of immoral action (deterrence can be important too).

    I don't see any problem here as far as compatibalist free will is concerned though. I don't even think "uncaused" free will ends up being coherent. If we're "freely choosing" an act then who we are "determines our action."

    When it comes to universal ideas of meaning, there's nothing that points to any meaning in the universe

    Sure. Meaning is always relational. Things don't have "meaning," or information content for that matter, "of themselves." So I agree, it's silly to try to search for a "universal meaning" in this sense.

    But there is no evidence of any meaning in the universe? Surely this has to be qualified. I find things meaningful all the time. I assume other people do to. I am in the universe; so are other people. Thus, the universe seems to produce heaps of meaning and values. The fact that an idea of some sort of universal, Platonic meaning that floats free of the world doesn't cash out doesn't mean the universe lacks meaning.

    Nor is meaning precluded from being objective. A sign on a store that says "closed" objectively means the store isn't open. That is, the sign has the same meaning to anyone who can read it, even when correcting for differences between multiple perspectives.

    To form a moral system that can be universalized between humans, we need to look at our actual experience and lives that we have, all that we are right now, nothing else. And through that we can extrapolate biological hints towards a functioning moral system for all humans.

    I agree with all this. I just don't agree that the parts above preclude "objective" moral standards. Somehow, the term "objective" has morphed from being the opposite of "subjective," into meaning "in itself," "noumenal," or "true." But "objective" just means "the view with biases removed." It makes no sense to talk about objectivity in a context where subjectivity is impossible or irrelevant. An objective moral statement is just one made without the biases relative to a given subject or set of subjects.

    Socially constructed things can be observed objectively. Good and bad are no more amorphous than terms like "Japanese" or "punk rock," and we can certainly talk about the extent to which a piece of furniture or a TV show shows "Japanese-style/influence," or which rock bands are "more punk." Is it hard to operationalize such measurements? Sure. But objective facts remain, e.g. "the Moody Blues are less punk than the Ramones or the Clash." People can disagree with that statement; that doesn't make it not objective. People can also disagree about the atomic weight of lithium or the shape of the Earth.
  • Joshs
    5.5k


    somehow, the term "objective" has morphed from being the opposite of "subjective," into meaning "in itself," "noumenal," or "true." But "objective" just means "the view with biases removed." It makes no sense to talk about objectivity in a context where subjectivity is impossible or irrelevant. An objective moral statement is just one made without the biases relative to a given subject or set of subjects.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Why not say that ‘objective’ is the view with biases more or less shared among a normative community? That the shared moral objectivity with the group represents a bias is expressed by the terms it uses to refer to ‘out’ groups, alien communities that don’t share their norms.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    Sure, there is obviously some bracketing here. The "closed" sign on a store objectively means "the store isn't open for business," but that doesn't mean that such a meaning is accessible from the viewpoint of a passing cat or dog. There is a context that is relevant.
  • J
    236
    Why not say that ‘objective’ is the view with biases more or less shared among a normative community?Joshs

    Because this won’t work for almost all of our uses of “objective”. It’s objectively true, I presume, that water is composed of H2O. Do we want to describe this statement as a “bias shared among a normative community” -- of scientists, presumably? What would motivate us to call this a bias?

    What we want in moral realism, then, is a sense of “objective” that at least resembles what we find in science – or daily life, for that matter. And those who deny moral facts are indeed saying that the best we can do is “biases more or less shared.” But I don’t think that’s a reasonable synonym for “objective.”
  • Wayfarer
    21.5k
    The most common argument against the existence of objective morality and moral facts besides moral differences between societies is that they aren’t tangible objects found in the universe and can’t be measured scientifically.Captain Homicide

    Same goes for number. Science of course relies on mathematics, but the question of the nature of number is a metaphysical, not a scientific, one.
  • Wayfarer
    21.5k
    Why not say that ‘objective’ is the view with biases more or less shared among a normative community?Joshs

    Here is where I think post-modernism falls into the trap of relativism. What is bias?

    noun BIAS: inclination or prejudice for or against one person or group, especially in a way considered to be unfair.
    "there was evidence of bias against foreign applicants"

    ...
    2. STATISTICS: a systematic distortion of a statistical result due to a factor not allowed for in its derivation.

    verb
    1. cause to feel or show inclination or prejudice for or against someone or something.
    "the search results are biased by the specific queries used"
    Similar:
    prejudice
    influence
    colour
    sway
    ....
    2. STATISTICS
    distort (a statistical result); introduce bias into (a method of sampling, measurement, analysis, etc.)

    If I agree with the post-modern analysis that there is no *ultimate* or *absolute* objectivity, it's because I agree that there is no ultimately-existing object in the sense presumed by modern science. This is not to say there is no philosophical or noetic absolute, but that the nature of such, were it to be real, is such that it can't be apprehended empirically, but requires a specific kind of insight which has been generally deprecated in Western culture and which is more associated with philosophical mysticism and non-dualism. You find analogies for such an understanding in for instance the German idealists, but much less in most current schools of philosophy.

    (Early Mahāyāna Buddhist philosophy accomodates this quandary with the 'doctrine of two truths'.)
  • javra
    2.5k
    :up:



    Sure, there is obviously some bracketing here. The "closed" sign on a store objectively means "the store isn't open for business," but that doesn't mean that such a meaning is accessible from the viewpoint of a passing cat or dog. There is a context that is relevant.Count Timothy von Icarus

    This is use of the term "objective" in the same relative sense we use terms like "good" or "perfect" or "selfless"; relative to that which is less [X] that address is [X]; which leads to humorous tropes such as something being "better than perfect" (i.e., better that what was required for a proper fit, for instance).

    Yet an objective rock will hold the same spatiotemporal properties to all humans, cats, and dogs; to all coexistent beings that happen upon the same rock in practice.

    Getting back to what Joshs was saying about objectivity being intersubjective, hypothesize there being a reality which affects all coexistent psyches equally - this in principle at least - this irrespective of species of life or of the life addressed being earthbound. This I would term objective physical reality. Then, given this premise, one can either hold a materialist-like view of it or a constructivist-like view of it. In exploring the latter view, objective reality would then be that singular intersubjective reality (such as a language or a culture) which is common to all beings in the cosmos. This can then be inferred to lead to an idealism of sorts very much in keeping with Peirce's notions of physicality being effete mind that is itself always perpetually evolving, with universal laws being global habits. Here, objectivity is singular and, because it pertains to all equally, it pertains to no one individual being or cohort. Yet it is still "that actuality which, in being equally actual to all, is perfectly impartial to any one psyche or grouping of these", in this sense being (individual) mind independent. An objective reality we as individual minds perceive intra-subjectively via our inter-subjective filters of interpretation. Physical objects as those physically objective givens that invariable stand before us as subjects irrespective of our wants and desires as individual minds or collections of these.

    I get this is an extravagant and, currently, idiosyncratic view of what objectivity entails. It's been my modus operandi for some time now, all the same.

    If anyone finds inconsistencies with this given view in terms of what objective reality is, I'd love to know about the proposed inconsistencies.

    (Within this worldview, an objective good - in the sense of that which is factually good for all when all biases are removed - can obtain. But this doesn't focus on physical objectivity, instead addressing that which is objectively real for all psyches, and which, in part, would govern the evolution of physicality's natural laws which C.S. Peirce for example makes mention of. But this is a mouthful - and I likely won't be able to adequately argue for it in a forum format. I would be grateful for any criticism regarding physical objectivity as just outlined, though.)
  • Joshs
    5.5k


    Getting back to what Joshs was saying about objectivity being intersubjective, hypothesize there being a reality which affects all coexistent psyches equally - this in principle at least - this irrespective of species of life or of the life addressed being earthbound. This I would term objective physical realityjavra

    Could we say that the reality which comes into play in an intersubjective community is the reality of each participant’s interaction with the world and with each other? Parsing this reality more closely, each person interacts with phenomenona that give themselves to the person in terms of flowingly changing perspectives, which change in specific ways when that person moves with respect to that phenomena. The person over time constructs the idea of a spatial object which persists identically in time as itself, with fixed properties and attributes that endure over time, even though the person never actually sees such self-identicality in the changing phenomenon. The notion of a real spatial object , then, is an abstraction that turns what is only self-similar into the self-same for the purpose of convenience. This is the origin of the notion of the spatial object. The subjectively constituted object becomes the empirically scientific, objectively real spatial object when we compare our own idealization of the flowingly changing phenomena we call a spatial object with the idealizations that others form of it from their own vantage. The resulting abstraction, born out of intersubjective consensus then becomes the empirically real object, the identical one affecting all of us equally ( even though the phenomena we constitute into what we call the object is never given identically to all of us, nor to any one of us).
  • Banno
    23.7k
    Simply that moral statements are not intended to tell us how things are. They are intended to tell us how things ought be.
  • Joshs
    5.5k


    Because this won’t work for almost all of our uses of “objective”. It’s objectively true, I presume, that water is composed of H2O. Do we want to describe this statement as a “bias shared among a normative community” -- of scientists, presumably? What would motivate us to call this a bias?J

    Have you ever read Thomas Kuhn or Joseph Rouse?
    Rouse is a philosopher of science who carries forward Kuhn’s insights:

    “Realism is the view that science aims to provide theories that truthfully represent how the world is--independent of human categories, capacities, and interventions. Both realists and antirealists propose to explain the content of scientific knowledge, either by its causal connections to real objects, or by the social interactions that fix its content; the shared presumption here is that there is a fixed "content" to be explained. Both scientific realists and antirealists presume semantic realism--that is, that there is an already determinate fact of the matter about what our theories, conceptual schemes, or forms of life "say" about the world. Interpretation must come to an end somewhere, they insist, if not in a world of independently real objects, then in a language, conceptual scheme, social context, or culture.”

    By contrast, a postmodern view of science rejects “the dualism of scheme and content, or context and content, altogether. There is no determinate scheme or context that can fix the content of utterances, and hence no way to get outside of language. How a theory or practice interprets the world is itself inescapably open to further interpretation, with no authority beyond what gets said by whom, when…. we can never get outside our language, experience, or methods to assess how well they correspond to a transcendent reality.
  • javra
    2.5k


    Currently short on time, but yes, in many ways very much agree with your post. I mentioned the spatotemporality of a rock as objective on grounds that time and space will themselves be equally intersubjective to all coexisting beings that in any way interact (though, when further enquired into, this gets into parallels with the Theory of Relativity: whatever is in close enough proximity to causally interact will share a common space (distance between givens) and time (duration between the commencement of significant changes) ... but not necessarily so otherwise).

    But yes, to simplify things, to my mind: a certain flower, for example, will have a certain pheomenal appearance to (almost) all members of the human species, which here share a common intersubjectivity as a species (with deviations deemed un-normal, such as with color-blindness). And so the flower's color being, for instance, red will be deemed objectively real by all humans. Different species of life, however, will perceive the same flower as holding different phenomena - all yet bound to the same spatiotemporal limitations of what the flower objectively consists of. So a bird, or cat, or insect will see the flower differently according to their own species-spacific intersubjective reality. Etc. With plenty of overlap between species in terms of phenomena.

    If one likes, the objective world is however constituted of Kantian-like noumena.

    As to issues of identity, that does get complex. But I'd yet maintain there occurs an intersubjectivity equally applicable to all sentient beings all the same when, for example, a bee, a human, and an extraterrestrial (if they occur) causally interact (such as by perceiving each other in relation to what the human sees as a red flower).

    I'll revisit tomorrow. Thanks for the input.
  • Banno
    23.7k
    Supose someone were to say that the cake you are about to make can't exist because they can't measure it.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    By contrast, a postmodern view of science rejects “the dualism of scheme and content, or context and content, altogether. There is no determinate scheme or context that can fix the content of utterances, and hence no way to get outside of language. How a theory or practice interprets the world is itself inescapably open to further interpretation, with no authority beyond what gets said by whom, when…. we can never get outside our language, experience, or methods to assess how well they correspond to a transcendent reality.

    This just seems like Kantian subjective dualism with some linguistic turn language sprinkled in to me. I don't see how such a free floating language comes to exist in the world in the first place. I think people make way to much of the fact that language can't be neatly formalized and is protean — this doesn't make it totally sui generis and cut off from causation.




    Yet an objective rock will hold the same spatiotemporal properties to all humans, cats, and dogs; to all coexistent beings that happen upon the same rock in practice.

    Let me throw this thought experiment at you from Scott Mueller's "Asymmetry: The Foundation of Information."

    You have two seemingly identical diamonds and you're trying to figure out which diamond belongs to which person. You use all the tools commonly employed by jewelers, plus some chemical tests. As best you can tell, these two diamonds are 100% identical. They are indiscirnible from one another given a whole host of physical interactions (your measurements).

    But then an assistant comes in with a mass spectrometer. It turns out one diamond actually has a significantly higher concentration of carbon isotopes, something that would make no difference for a whole host of physical interactions. This does make the two diamonds different though (one is now more valuable than the other for one).

    He runs through similar examples of how some enzymes are "blind to differences" while others or not.

    Does this give us any reason to suppose that "perspective" of some sort is relative to all physical interactions? It seems to us that a rock is just a rock for all things. Splash an assortment of liquids on an assortment of rocks and it's all the same interaction. But then depending on the rock, it might dissolve when some liquids are poured on it but not others, a sort of relative discerniblity in terms of "differences that make a difference."

    His point was that the information content of things varies by context, even at a very basic level. The relevance here is that discoveries about the natural world sometimes require looking into interactions that only a handful of individuals are ever going to see, because they only occur in contrived lab settings, so they won't be part of most people's experiences.

    Yet it is still "that actuality which, in being equally actual to all, is perfectly impartial to any one psyche or grouping of these", in this sense being (individual) mind independent. An objective reality we as individual minds perceive intra-subjectively via our inter-subjective filters of interpretation. Physical objects as those physically objective givens that invariable stand before us as subjects irrespective of our wants and desires as individual minds or collections of these.

    That makes some sense to me. But then there is still the role of experiments, specialized equipment, etc. When we're trying to describe the natural world, we do a lot of very clever things to find out about it that other animals are simply incapable of. For them, the differences we find will never make a difference (until they result in some much larger scale effect). I'm not sure if that becomes a problem or not, but it does seem like advanced instrumentation can help create a more authoritative view on "what there is," even if most people aren't privy to using or understanding it.

    The other problem is that the majority of any sort of "community" can obviously be wrong about facts, which gets at the idea of "justification" of claims. So maybe "everyone would agree on x if given the same data," not "everyone agrees about x." Historically, there are well accepted "objective facts," that it has nonetheless taken time to discover and satisfactorily demonstrate.



    The resulting abstraction, born out of intersubjective consensus then becomes the empirically real object, the identical one affecting all of us equally ( even though the phenomena we constitute into what we call the object is never given identically to all of us, nor to any one of us).



    I like this one too.
  • J
    236
    I've read Kuhn but not Rouse. I think Kuhn is wrong in his understanding of the scientific project -- see Donald Davidson, "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme".

    I take it Rouse concurs with what he calls the postmodernist view (different from Kuhn, of course)? If we can "never get outside of language," this presumably includes that very statement. So what would make it true (or false)?

    In any case, the point was really about bias, and I think this usage is eccentric. I may want to claim that water is H2O, but this doesn't mean I'm biased in favor of this belief. It only means that I hold it.
  • javra
    2.5k
    My guest got delayed for the time being. So I’ll go back on my word and make reply now.

    Does this give us any reason to suppose that "perspective" of some sort is relative to all physical interactions?Count Timothy von Icarus

    To suppose, why not? But this would lead into supposing some form of animism/panpsychism, which I so far can’t make sense of. To accept? I’d so far say “no”.

    His point was that the information content of things varies by context, even at a very basic level. The relevance here is that discoveries about the natural world sometimes require looking into interactions that only a handful of individuals are ever going to see, because they only occur in contrived lab settings, so they won't be part of most people's experiences.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Of course. Trust is a big part of both society and the knowledge spread within. But then these discoveries ought also be replicable by anyone who so cares, making the data equally available to all that would be interested (and have it within their technical and financial means) to empirically experience the same data. Otherwise, one would quickly run into bogus claims and authoritarianism.

    I'm not sure if that becomes a problem or not, but it does seem like advanced instrumentation can help create a more authoritative view on "what there is," even if most people aren't privy to using or understanding it.Count Timothy von Icarus

    I so far don't see how this would in any way conflict to what I theorized about the nature of physical objectivity, and agree with the observation.

    The other problem is that the majority of any sort of "community" can obviously be wrong about facts, which gets at the idea of "justification" of claims. So maybe "everyone would agree on x if given the same data," not "everyone agrees about x." Historically, there are well accepted "objective facts," that it has nonetheless taken time to discover and satisfactorily demonstrate.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Again, I don't find disagreement with this overall picture. Examples might help: that the planet is roughly spherical is an objective fact that has taken time to discover and satisfactorily demonstrate. Yet not everyone agrees (if one can take flat Earth society as a serious enterprise by some), and such will disagree due not to greater intelligence or rationality or better data regarding the matter but due to, here it comes, biases to which they seek to conform the data of which they are aware. (This where "a bias" is roughly understood along the lines of favoring what one wants as an ego at the expense of what in fact is.)

    I'm curious. If you have an ontological understanding of what physical objectivity consists of, as I presume you do, how do you go about demarcating the notion of "the objective world"?
  • Wayfarer
    21.5k
    we can never get outside our language, experience, or methods to assess how well they correspond to a transcendent reality.

    That discounts philosophical or noetic intuition probably on the grounds that it is too near to religious revelation. But that is why postmodern philosophy falls into relativism.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Because this won’t work for almost all of our uses of “objective”. It’s objectively true, I presume, that water is composed of H2O. Do we want to describe this statement as a “bias shared among a normative community” -- of scientists, presumably? What would motivate us to call this a bias?

    What we want in moral realism, then, is a sense of “objective” that at least resembles what we find in science – or daily life, for that matter. And those who deny moral facts are indeed saying that the best we can do is “biases more or less shared.” But I don’t think that’s a reasonable synonym for “objective.”
    J

    Quite right and well said! :up:
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    But this would lead into supposing some form of animism/panpsychism, which I so far can’t make sense of. To accept? I’d so far say “no”

    I don't see how that's the case. It's maybe something more along the lines of Rovelli's relational quantum mechanics. It doesn't suppose any sort of first person perspective or mind tied to perspective, just a context specific frame for information.

    I'm curious. If you have an ontological understanding of what physical objectivity consists of, as I presume you do, how do you go about demarcating the notion of "the objective world"?

    I don't think objectivity should have anything to do with ontology directly. It's a mistake to turn it into another word for "noumenal." Objectivity is about what things are like with specific perspective biases removed, not "what things are like without a mind," or "what things look like from everywhere."
  • Joshs
    5.5k


    Because this won’t work for almost all of our uses of “objective”. It’s objectively true, I presume, that water is composed of H2O. Do we want to describe this statement as a “bias shared among a normative community” -- of scientists, presumably? What would motivate us to call this a bias?

    What we want in moral realism, then, is a sense of “objective” that at least resembles what we find in science – or daily life, for that matter. And those who deny moral facts are indeed saying that the best we can do is “biases more or less shared.” But I don’t think that’s a reasonable synonym for “objective.”
    — J

    Quite right and well said! :up:
    Leontiskos

    i agree that a moral realism should resemble the sense of “objective” we find in science. But neither realism nor objectivity are monolithic terms. Physicist Karen Barad belongs to the community of new materialists who consider themselves realists and naturalists (Philosopher of science writer Joseph Rouse adheres to her ‘agential realism’). Her account draws strongly from Bohr, but is more more radically interactive. Normativity is not foundational in this view, but a function of ‘how matter comes to matter’ within the different ways that interactions are configured, both between human beings and within material aspects of the world as a whole.

    In an agential realist account, matter does not refer to a fixed substance; rather, matter is substance in its intra-active becoming—not a thing but a doing, a congealing of agency. Matter is a stabilizing and destabilizing process of iterative intra-activity. Phenomena—the smallest material units (relational “atoms”)—come to matter through this process of ongoing intra-activity. “Matter” does not refer to an inherent, fixed property of abstract, independently existing objects; rather, “matter” refers to phenomena in their ongoing materialization.On my agential realist elaboration, phenomena do not merely mark the epistemological inseparability of “observer” and “observed”; rather, phenomena are the ontological inseparability of agentially intra-acting “components.” That is, phenomena are ontologically primitive relations—relations without preexisting relata. The notion of intra-action (in contrast to the usual “interaction,” which presumes the prior existence of independent entities/relata) represents a profound conceptual shift. It is through specific agential intra-actions that the boundaries and properties of the “components” of phenomena become determinate and that particular embodied concepts become meaningful.”

    “In my agential realist account, scientific practices do not reveal what is already there; rather, what is ‘‘disclosed’’ is the effect of the intra-active engagements of our participation with/in and as part of the world’s differential becoming. Which is not to say that humans are the condition of possibility for the existence of phenomena. Phenomena do not require cognizing minds for their existence; on the contrary, ‘‘minds’’ are themselves material phenomena that emerge through specific intra-actions. Phenomena are real material beings. What is made manifest through technoscientific practices is an expression of the objective existence of particular material phenomena. This is, after all, a realist conception of scientific practices. But unlike in traditional conceptions of realism, ‘‘objectivity’’ is not preexistence (in the ontological sense) or the preexistent made manifest to the cognitive mind (in the epistemological sense). Objectivity is a matter of accountability for what materializes, for what comes to be. It matters which cuts are enacted: different cuts enact different materialized becomings….” ( Meeting the Universe Halfway)

    I’m sure the above language is gobbledygook to you, but I think you should at least try and acquaint yourself with these ideas before you come to conclusions about what can or cannot be considered realism or objectivity.
  • Joshs
    5.5k


    ↪Joshs I've read Kuhn but not Rouse. I think Kuhn is wrong in his understanding of the scientific project -- see Donald Davidson, "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme".J

    Davidson thinks he is dismissing the very notion of a conceptual scheme, when in fact he is only dismissing the Quinean model and its underlying Kantian scheme-content dualism( Davidson’s third dogma of empiricism) , which involves the identification of conceptual schemes with sentential languages and the thesis of redistribution of truth-values across different conceptual schemes. Two schemes/languages differ when some substantial sentences of one language are not held to be true in the other in a systematic manner.

    Conceptual relativism does not involve “confrontations between two conceptual schemes with different distributions of truth-values over their assertions, but rather confrontations between two languages with different distributions of truth-value status over their sentences due to incompat­ible metaphysical presuppositions. They do not lie in the sphere of disagreement or conflict of the sort arising when one theory holds something to be true that the other holds to be false. The difference lies in the fact that one side has nothing to say about what is claimed by the other side. It is not that they say the same thing differently, but rather that they say totally different things. The key contrast here is between saying something (asserting or denying) and saying nothing.”(On Davidson’s Refutation of Conceptual Schemes and Conceptual Relativism)
  • Christoffer
    1.9k
    This only seems to be a problem if we assume:
    A. "Uncaused" libertarian free will is the only type of freedom that can make justice coherent; and
    B. Punishment can't function as primarily a means of "restoring right," by taking away the benefits of immoral action (deterrence can be important too).

    I don't see any problem here as far as compatibalist free will is concerned though. I don't even think "uncaused" free will ends up being coherent. If we're "freely choosing" an act then who we are "determines our action."
    Count Timothy von Icarus

    You are assuming a compatibilist free will as truth here. I'm saying there's no such thing. The "will to align yourself to your internal logic" which is a core part of the compatibilist framework is in itself a deterministic feature. There is no free will to being with.

    But even in a purely deterministic framework, there's still room for incarcerations as preventative actions to block someone from continuing doing harm. However, people seem unable to imagine a world in which we put most effort into preventative measures, meaning, we understand that years of causes determines a person's actions and that if we make sure that our entire society aligns towards making sure all inhabitants do not end up in such causality, then we have mitigated the majority of crimes in society. The only ones who then end up in prison are those outliers with brain injuries changing their psychology, or who even though there are mitigating actions still fall between the cracks.

    The problem is that people use the template of how things are in society today to inform how they process the idea of the justice system in a society more aligned by determinism as a guiding principle. So they fall into compatibilism rather than imagine the actual type of society that functions within a deterministic principle. So far, not even the best functioning societies in the world have a system that functions primarily along the lines of deterministic principles. Mostly because it is such a fundamental change to everything around us.

    For instance, in a deterministically guided society we would need much better social securities. Especially for parents and their kids. Parents would need to also raise their children as part of a community and be more transparent about their family life since any problems for children need to be addressed before they manifest as psychological damage. Families would probably have a supporter who constantly council their day to day challenges and there would need to be a greater openness among neighbors and people living close to them since everyone to some degree would be part in the upbringing of the children. This prevents parents who are unfit as parents to damage their children's childhood creating a cause for their later lives in which such causes can manifest as everything from depression, anxiety, social problems, or criminal activity, murder etc.

    This is just a small example of a fundamental change to society and as you can see it would require such extreme changes to our culture that it quickly begins to feel like an impossible change to society. How would we even begin to manifest such a radical change?

    For starters, the idea of justice as retribution or "evening the balance" needs to be removed. While feelings of retribution are strong emotions and hard to overcome, the justice system needs to stop focusing on punishment. "Restoring the balance" can still lead to emotions of retributions and a causality chain that leads to vengeance rather than preventing harm from spiraling out of control. But when looking closely at what makes someone getting stuck in a constant loop of crime, it generally has to do with how society is unable to stop that loop or prevent it. People who continue on the track of criminal activity generally do so because there's nothing that helps them out of it, constantly creating new causes towards new crimes based on an already caused state of mind that holds them within this loop. If everything in society, from childhood to adulthood, exists to prevent people from ending up there, then the amount of criminals would drastically drop and the causality loop of retribution lowers, i.e the dominos of action, reaction, action reaction breaks or lowers so significantly that the only ones in need of incarcerations would be those who for some reason, brain injury or tremendous bad luck, still end up unable to get unstuck from a psychology of crime.

    Generally, this is a total reform of society but it points towards a significant problem with how society is today. Most nations aren't even close to a form of society that actually improves the lives of its citizens. The US for instance, has a punishment mindset and such a fantasy ideal around "free will" that it's constantly on the edge of collapse. With people getting stuck in loops of crime, addiction, failing cities, homelessness and so on and so on. "Free will" is a curse onto the nation that intellectually hasn't grown to understand the significance of determinism as a guiding principle. We can probably blame "free market capitalism" for most of this since "free market" works under the guidance of the "free will" ideal. And therefore it informs how the entire system works and how it breaks people.

    But there is no evidence of any meaning in the universe? Surely this has to be qualified. I find things meaningful all the time. I assume other people do to. I am in the universe; so are other people. Thus, the universe seems to produce heaps of meaning and values. The fact that an idea of some sort of universal, Platonic meaning that floats free of the world doesn't cash out doesn't mean the universe lacks meaning.

    Nor is meaning precluded from being objective. A sign on a store that says "closed" objectively means the store isn't open. That is, the sign has the same meaning to anyone who can read it, even when correcting for differences between multiple perspectives.
    Count Timothy von Icarus

    I think you are mixing everything together here and produce unnecessary complexity in your understanding of my argument. Me saying "there's no meaning in the universe" relates to an objective meaning that we find in the universe. I.e something like, "there's a purpose and meaning from a "creator" who guides the universe". That is a no. That we form meaning for ourselves is the exact type of meaning that is possible. But you need to understand the specifics of my argument, otherwise you start to spin away from my actual argument into definitions of "meaning" that's not the point of my argument.

    I'm focusing on the lack of universal meanings, objective meanings. Those are not what you find for yourself, those are objective. The specifics here are essential for the argument I made. And the argument had to do with how most people try to find some objective morality, i.e some rules that exist as universal truths. Such objective rules require a meaning that exists as a universal truth, a universal meaning.

    Without it, which is what everything points towards, there can be no universal truths about morality other than what can be extrapolated out of what actually exists.

    And my argument therefor has to do with how the only possible objective guiding principle for morality that is possible, is our biology, the science of human nature. That commonalities between cultures that have a basis in our biology, is the only objective realm we can move within if we want to find some universal moral laws for ourselves. From those we can extrapolate more complex principles as variables for a functioning society.

    But we cannot use meaning that we form for ourselves as a foundation for morality because then we start to invent rules out of preferences that aren't objective. If someone find meaning in killing others due to a cause in their childhood producing such psychology, then oops, his morality is valid because his sense of meaning needs to be accounted for if we just use individual sense of meaning as a foundation.

    No, we have to see what is objective and universal, our biology and human nature that has statistical significance between cultures. Those inform us of objective truths about human nature and those need to be the foundation for some extrapolated moral principles. What harms us, what gives as pleasure, what keeps us healthy and so on. Built together with deterministic principles, it would inform a society that functions better aligned with what we can defines as "good morals" and help create a good life.

    I just don't agree that the parts above preclude "objective" moral standards. Somehow, the term "objective" has morphed from being the opposite of "subjective," into meaning "in itself," "noumenal," or "true." But "objective" just means "the view with biases removed." It makes no sense to talk about objectivity in a context where subjectivity is impossible or irrelevant. An objective moral statement is just one made without the biases relative to a given subject or set of subjects.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Yes, this is a problem of language. Objective can mean externally objective, i.e objective in the eye of the universe, cold dead objectivity. But can also mean internally objective, i.e internal to us humans, unbiased as a concept to us or objective as a truth measurable by our standards.

    The things that does not exist is some universal objective (externally objective) morality that has some fundamental roots in the universe external to us humans. This is the type of morals that religion tries to impose on us.

    Then we have ever changing subjective morals, which comes out of the idea that there's no morality, that there's no rule book at all. This is what many think is the result out of the Nietzschean "god is dead" and the nihilism that comes out of it.

    Then there's the human objective morality (internally objective), that can be extrapolated out of our biology and measurable human nature. What defines our well being and happiness for ourselves and as social creatures. And this is the only morality in which we can find hints at human universal morality, because it is based on objective facts of human nature.

    An objective moral statement is just one made without the biases relative to a given subject or set of subjects.Count Timothy von Icarus

    An objective moral statement still requires a foundation for how it relates to human nature. You can say that Kant's categorical imperatives are objective moral statements since they are without biases, but they still produce problems in certain moral situations. Therefore you can't make objective moral statements just based on being unbiased towards the subjects, you need a foundational principle, and it's this foundation I'm arguing for being rooted in our biology.

    Socially constructed things can be observed objectively. Good and bad are no more amorphous than terms like "Japanese" or "punk rock," and we can certainly talk about the extent to which a piece of furniture or a TV show shows "Japanese-style/influence," or which rock bands are "more punk." Is it hard to operationalize such measurements? Sure. But objective facts remain, e.g. "the Moody Blues are less punk than the Ramones or the Clash." People can disagree with that statement; that doesn't make it not objective. People can also disagree about the atomic weight of lithium or the shape of the Earth.Count Timothy von Icarus

    "Good" and "bad" can still be guided by commonalties between humans regardless of culture. And there has to be a guiding principle underneath. There's no point in discussing what is more punk or not if you don't have anything informing what "punk" actually is in the first place. Or you cannot debate the atomic weight of lithium if you don't have a definition of what "atom" means.

    This is the problem with how people relate to the topic of morality. They form arguments about moral ideas without any common ground to extrapolate those morals from. And this is what I'm talking about.

    If people use some external objective meaning in the universe as a guide for morality, then they are most likely forming opinions on morality out of "the voice of God" or some arbitrary invention in religion or spirituality since there isn't any such external objective meaning, and even if there was it is unknowable and therefore useless. This form is extremely prone to corruption through individuals own ideals and ideas about what they want the world to be like. So there is no common ground here.

    If people instead form subjective morals based on the idea that there is no moral rulebook, i.e the nihilistic route, then that negates moral thinking all together. While possible to be true, do we want such a nihilistic world? Few do, therefore the need for moral principles remain and we are actually driven biologically away from such nihilism (which studies show in that we gravitate towards social structures and well being rather than being able to uphold any ideals of purely nihilistic existence). Nihilism can therefor not be a common ground either.

    The only common ground that actually functions as a universal objective fact, is our biology, our human nature. This has to be the foundational ground that guides our moral thinking, from which we extrapolate ideas about what is "good" and "bad" for us. Only by accepting this can we start to form principles to live by and moral principles to be discussed about.

    And it's this that I mean is measurable. Our human nature exists as an objective thing, and it is measurable. Anything disregarding this foundation when trying to produce moral facts fails.
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