• Bob Ross
    1.3k
    Introduction:

    I have been on a long journey, that will probably never end, into the study of ethics; and my thoughts, naturally, continually evolve. I believe it is imperative that one share not just what they currently believe or are contemplating but also share what antique ideas may be lying in their minds that they have overcome: we are all at different stages in our development, and it can be quite useful to visit the past's of others to avoid their mistakes.

    I, thusly, find myself writing a brief OP on a moral anti-realist position—called moral subjectivism—that I used to believe, to shed some light on its weaknesses (which I previously was so blind to). I know there are a lot of anti-realists in this forum, and so I hope that this argument, although it may not convince them to disband their ties to moral subjectivism, presents a challenge to them that they, in turn, must overcome (one way or another).

    Thesis:

    My thesis is simple: moral subjectivism is internally inconsistent. Let’s dive into the argument.

    Argument:

    Under moral subjectivism, the following is true:

    1. A belief is a (cognitive) stance taken on the trueness or falseness of a proposition; and
    2. Beliefs make moral propositions true or false.

    These two statements are inconsistent with each other, and here’s a quick syllogistic demonstration of why:

    P1: A stance taken on the trueness or falseness of something, is independent of the trueness or falseness of that something.
    P2: A belief is a (cognitive) stance taken on the trueness or falseness of a proposition.
    C1: Therefore, a belief about a proposition cannot make that proposition true or false.

    P3: Beliefs make moral propositions true or false.
    P4: C1 and P3 being true are logically contradictory.
    C2: Therefore, moral subjectivism is internally inconsistent.

    In short, if a belief is a (cognitive) disposition towards whether or not a proposition is true or false; then it plainly follows that beliefs do not make propositions true or false. Thusly, moral propositions cannot be true or false relative to cognitive dispositions.

    Rectifying the Internal Inconsistency

    Here’s what a moral subjectivist could offer as a rejoinder: the proposition contains a reference to a belief and therefore, although the belief about the proposition is not true or false relative to beliefs, the proposition cannot be evaluated as true or false without taking into account which specific subject’s belief is being analyzed. For example, “I believe 2 + 2 = 4” (1) is a valid proposition and (2) it cannot be evaluated without reference to a subject (since “I believe” is indexical) and, in this sense, is what the moral subjectivist means by “moral judgments are made true or false in virtue of beliefs”.

    Rejoinder to the Rectification

    The problem with this sort of rectification, is that the moral judgment is no longer a proposition: the indexical statement is the proposition. Therefore, the moral subjectivist is no longer accepting (implicitly) moral cognitivism.

    Going back to the example, “2 + 2 = 4” is a mathematical proposition. Imagine that one held that (1) mathematical propositions exist, (2) they are true or false relative to beliefs, and (3) the belief is contained in the mathematical proposition (as described in the rectification section for moral propositions): it is clear that by accepting #3 (which is the rectification to the internal inconsistency) the original mathematical proposition must be transformed into “I believe 2 + 2 = 4” and that this proposition is not mathematical. In fact, since every mathematical proposition would have to be transformed in this manner, there would be no mathematical propositions anymore—they would get transformed away.

    What Do You Think?

    I will attach a poll to this post, but, beyond that, I would like to ask the moral anti-realists: where do you disagree with my assessment here?
    1. Do you agree with the thesis? (10 votes)
        Yes
        20%
        No
        80%
  • Lionino
    1.8k
    Initially, I would change truthity for just truth. Trueness or truthfulness maybe. I say this because it took me out a bit when reading the argument.

    P1: A stance taken on the truthity of something, is independent of the truthity of that something.Bob Ross

    I think the moral subjectivism will outright reject that very first premise. The truth of something will be dependent on the stance taken on its truth. So it seems to me the argument begs the question by rejecting the challenged view from the start.

    However I think a potential jab at the rejection of that claim is criticising that the person assigns truth-value to something that starts as either non-existent or false.
    • There is moral proposition X.
    • I believe X is true.
    • Believing X makes it true (subjectivism strictly defined).
    • X was not true before I believed it.
    I think that this set of conditions can give some grounding to an accusation that moral subjectivism is arbitrary and/or random — especially if we accept the requirement that a belief is motivated by evidence and evidence is causally connected to the matter of fact of the belief. But I welcome others to verify or refute the suggestion.

    When it comes to the rejoinder, I am not sure, I haven't wrapped my hand around it yet. A rewording in simpler terms would be welcome.
  • AmadeusD
    1.9k
    1. A belief is a (cognitive) stance taken on the truthity of a proposition; and
    2. Beliefs make moral propositions true or false.
    Bob Ross

    I would agree with Lionino here, that this isn't capturing the position very well.

    The concept of truth is not veridicality here, so the same types of objections don't hold. I've not thought long on this though. I think there is a much stronger problem with these arguments though:

    Moral facts are 'truths about what we Ought to do'. These exist solely in the minds of those who can choose to act (ignoring determinism). One's belief in what one 'ought' to do is true in vitue of the fact that one believes it. This does, as Lionino point out, make it entirely arbitrary. I don't think many people would moral anti-realists would have much problem with this. The motivation to hold beliefs can be explained many ways that aren't veridicality (or expected veridicality anyway). If someone holds moral belief X about what one ought to do, then that is a true statement. They do believe that. That 'one' very much 'ought' do what they believe to be moral seems true too. This argument would work on any subjective-type theory, including mind (emotivism - though, I've added this where I do not think the position itself holds it). In this way, I just don't see any inconsistency. It's just somewhat unattractive to try to claim 'truths' which are literally about your beliefs, but somehow make your belief true. That certainly seems wrong - but I don't think that's what's being said. The 'truths' are not considerd 'objective' so its hard to note where the failure could be for those facts to then not obtain.
  • Lionino
    1.8k
    I would agree with Lionino here, that this isn't capturing the position very well.AmadeusD

    I think it does though. My criticism is that P1 begs the question.

    One's belief in what one 'ought' to do is true in vitue of the fact that one believes it. This does, as Lionino point out, make it entirely arbitrary.AmadeusD

    This however is accurate.

    Rephrasing what I said, we could accuse moral subjectivists of, by consequences of their beliefs, having beliefs popping up ex nihilo.

    There is moral proposition X.
    I believe X is true.
    Believing X makes it true (subjectivism strictly defined).
    X was not true before I believed it.
    Lionino

    [...] especially if we accept the requirement that a belief is motivated by evidence and evidence is causally connected to the matter of fact of the belief.Lionino

    Taking these, I would rearrange it almost-syllogistically:

    P1: A belief is motivated by evidence.
    P2: A piece of evidence is causally connected to the matter of fact of the proposition (that it is true).
    Example of P2: I believe a cow was roaming the streets because there is cow dung on my front door.
    C1: A belief is causally connected to the fact of the proposition.

    P3 (C1): A belief is causally connected to the fact of the proposition.
    P4: I believe a set of moral propositions to be true.
    C2: My belief in that set of moral propositions is causally connected to the fact of the proposition.

    P5 (C2): My belief in that set of moral propositions is causally connected to the fact of the proposition.
    P6: The fact of the moral propositions only comes to be once I start believing them (seems to follow from MS).
    C3: My belief in that set of moral propositions only comes to be once I start believing in them.

    So here we have a paradox, beliefs causing themselves, or arising from nothing.

    The objection to my P2 will be that some pieces of evidence are not necessary from the fact but contingent (someone could have brought fresh cow dung from a farm). But I think that is tangential, I just can't point out why right now.

    Making the objection that a moral belief is causally connected to some individual aesthetic preference is already contrary to moral subjectivism strictly defined (believing moral proposition X makes it true) as it could be reduced to facts (neurology and psychology) — though not to the claim that morality is not objective.
  • Michael
    14.4k
    C1: Therefore, a belief cannot make a proposition true or false.Bob Ross

    "I believe that aliens exist" is true iff I believe that aliens exist
  • Barkon
    112
    You can believe otherwise to any moral action, such as if someone gives you pain, you can believe it's fine. You can forgive petty crimes. If you desperately want to feel pain or bring danger to yourself purposely, it may not be immoral to hurt you. Does this answer the original query?
    Beliefs can make moral propositions true or false, but are not necessary to morality, you either are or are not moral - whether you believe that you are or aren't, or not.


    The following is just a long technical metaphor to explain a point:

    Morality could be split into 4 odd categories: 1 including 1 thing, 1 including 3 things, 1 including 5 things, 1 including 7 things.

    1. Morality.
    2. Calmness/Coolness/Cuteness
    3. Hardness/Softness/Wiseness/Kindness/Meanness
    4. Smartness/Sternness/Cleverness/Greatness/Swiftness/Clearness/Lightness

    And these were hypothetically 'Hexagons of high morals' - morality - is a pure hexagon. It is the root of morals - it is the element of morals. There's just one high good to live in accordance with, it means you're either with it or against it.
  • Bob Ross
    1.3k


    Initially, I would change truthity for just truth.

    Truthity is whether or not something has truth, and not that it has truth.

    So it seems to me the argument begs the question by rejecting the challenged view from the start.

    P1 is not the claim that beliefs cannot make something true or false (which would beg the question): it is an uncontroversial claim that the stance taken on something is distinct from that something.

    If I take a stance of how delicious pineapples are, then my stance about it is distinct from the deliciousness of the pineapples...that’s what makes it a stance about the deliciousness of pineapples. Otherwise, one is making no distinction between a stance about something and that something itself. Along the same lines, the truthity is separate.

    Believing X makes it true (subjectivism strictly defined).

    This is internally inconsistent, unless you deny the basic nature of a belief: to make it consistent, you would have to transform moral judgments from “one ought to X” to “I believe one ought to X”.

    Then you end up in the rejoinder section (in terms of issues with that kind of transformation).

    When it comes to the rejoinder, I am not sure, I haven't wrapped my hand around it yet. A rewording in simpler terms would be welcome.

    A moral judgment is of the form “one ought to X”, “one should do X”, etc. and NOT “I believe one ought to X”, “I believe one should do X”, etc.; but this sort of transformation is required in order to avoid the original concern of the position being inconsistent: one has to say that the moral judgment is enveloped in an indexical statement. BUT THEN, the indexical statement is the proposition, and not the moral judgment.


    I would agree with Lionino here, that this isn't capturing the position very well.

    See above.

    One's belief in what one 'ought' to do is true in vitue of the fact that one believes it. This does, as Lionino point out, make it entirely arbitrary.

    Then, there are no moral judgments which are propositional: all you noted is that our beliefs about, according to you, NONEXISTENT moral propositions are made true by our beliefs...of course! That’s a tautology.
  • Bob Ross
    1.3k


    "I believe one ought not torture babies" is NOT a moral proposition: the moral proposition is that "one ought not torture babies". All you have noted is that one can take a stance on the truthity of a proposition, while simultaneously rejecting that there actually is a proposition to take a stance on.

    In your example, it would be like denying that "aliens exist" is propositional in its own right while claiming that "I believe aliens exist" somehow makes "aliens exist" true or false.
  • Bob Ross
    1.3k


    Unfortunately, I did not understand this at all: can you please try to elaborate in a manner that ties it to the OP's thesis?
  • Michael
    14.4k
    "I believe one ought not torture babies" is NOT a moral proposition: the moral proposition is that "one ought not torture babies".Bob Ross

    I was addressing this conclusion:

    C1: Therefore, a belief cannot make a proposition true or false.

    Nowhere in this conclusion is the term "moral" used.

    My example of "I believe that aliens exist" being true iff I believe that aliens exist is proof that a belief can make a proposition true or false.

    As such you are left with this:

    P1: A stance taken on the truthity of something, is independent of the truthity of that something.
    P2: A belief is a (cognitive) stance taken on the truthity of a proposition.
    C1: Therefore, a belief cannot make a proposition true or false.

    P3: Beliefs make moral propositions true or false.
    P4: C1 and P3 being true are logically contradictory.
    C2: Therefore, moral subjectivism is internally inconsistent.
  • Mww
    4.6k
    My thesis is simple: moral subjectivism is internally inconsistent.Bob Ross

    You’ve stipulated conditions under moral subjectivism, but you haven’t stipulated moral subjectivism itself. What if moral subjectivism, as a self-consistent doctrine, has nothing to do with mere belief?

    How does the internal inconsistency of moral subjectivism fare under the auspices of, i.e., a deontological moral doctrine predicated on necessity of law alone, which makes the contingency of mere belief irrelevant?

    What makes subjectivism “moral” anyway? What it is that makes subjectivism in general reducible to a particular instance of it?

    Would any of that matter with respect to your thesis? I think it does regarding when subjectivism is adjoined to moral predicates, but…..maybe not.
  • Lionino
    1.8k
    Truthity is whether or not something has truth, and not that it has truth.Bob Ross

    The issue is more that "truthity" is a word that quite literally doesn't exist.

    it is an uncontroversial claim that the stance taken on something is distinct from that somethingBob Ross

    You have changed your claim then. P1 says:

    P1: A stance taken on the truth-value of something is independent of the truth-value of that something.

    The moral subjectivist will reject that.
    A moral proposition is true if and only if I believe it is true.
    By that much we see that it is not independent.

    This is internally inconsistentBob Ross

    That is the case you are trying to prove.
  • Dawnstorm
    241
    P1 is not the claim that beliefs cannot make something true or false (which would beg the question): it is an uncontroversial claim that the stance taken on something is distinct from that something.Bob Ross

    I'm not that familiar with moral subjectivism, but with this you've given me something to react to. Let me try to make sense of this.

    Here you use the word "distinct", but in your opening post you used the word "independent". The two words are significantly different:

    If A is distinct from B, then B is distinct from A. But if A is independent from B, it does not follow that B is independent from A.

    So a subjectivist might agree that the stance on the truthiness of something is independent of the truthiness of something with little ill effect. If moral believes make moral statements true, what they'd need to argue is that "The truthiness of something is independent from the stance of the truthiness of that something." Your P1 doen't seem to address that at all.

    They're both still "distinct", though.

    ***

    As I said I'm not very knoledgable about what moral subjectivists are saying. But what's missing in this thread, I feel, is the acknowledgment of the social aspect of moral statements.

    So "Torturing babies is wrong," is a moral statement with a truth value. I assume you believe this to be true. I certainly believe this to be true. It comes up a lot in discussions like this, precisely because a lot of people believe this is true, AND because they believe it's uncontroversial. There seems to be a desire to go from uncontroversial to "absolutely true" or "objectively true"?

    There's something odd going on with belief in social situations, as it's two-pronged: it's on the one hand, looking backwards as a hypothesis what you can expect others to agree with, but it's also - looking forward - the source of action - i.e. part of future data sets of what future people might expect. If suddenly a significant number of people were to pop up who genuinely believe (and express that believe) that "torturing babies is not wrong" than we'd be looking at moral change.

    In effect, every moral proposition is both a guess and a bid. And it's all in flux. (I'm really not sure how to work this into meta-ethics, though.)
  • Bob Ross
    1.3k


    My example of "I believe that aliens exist" being true iff I believe that aliens exist is proof that a belief can make a proposition true or false.

    I think it may be better if you elaborated on which premise you disagree with, because this is false and I demonstrated it in the proof.

    “I believe that aliens exist” is NOT a proposition that has its “truthity” relative to a belief: irregardless of what you believe about your beliefs, if you have the belief then the proposition is true. The proposition itself is objective and absolute.

    The conflation you are making is that the proposition containing a reference to a belief DOES NOT make the proposition true or false relative to a belief. I would challenge you to explicate what the “proposition” is in your claim “that a belief can make a proposition true or false”: I can guarantee you that you think it is “I believe that aliens exist” while implicitly assuming it is “aliens exist”.

    In the more abstract, “I believe X” is a valid proposition and is NOT relative to a belief; whereas claiming “X” is true because I believe it is true is incoherent. See my section on the rejoinder to the moral subjectivist’s response for more details.

    As such you are left with this:

    You cannot just cross out a conclusion in a syllogism without crossing out a premise; unless you are noting something illogical with its form.
  • Michael
    14.4k


    Your argument is:

    P1: A stance taken on the truthity of something, is independent of the truthity of that something.
    P2: A belief is a (cognitive) stance taken on the truthity of a proposition.
    C1: Therefore, a belief cannot make a proposition true or false.

    However:

    P3: "I believe that aliens exist" is true iff I believe that aliens exist

    P3 contradicts C1, therefore at least one of P3 and C1 is false. P3 is true. Therefore, C1 is false. Therefore, either C1 does not follow from P1 and P2 or at least one of P1 and P2 is false.

    I don't really care what the answer is; I only care that P3 is true and so that C1 is false.
  • Bob Ross
    1.3k


    You’ve stipulated conditions under moral subjectivism, but you haven’t stipulated moral subjectivism itself. What if moral subjectivism, as a self-consistent doctrine, has nothing to do with mere belief?

    Correct. I was contending with the prominent understanding of moral subjectivism—of course there may be nuanced versions.

    I would say, though, that there is no other foreseeable way that a moral judgment could express (1) something subjective AND (2) be cognitive if one is not grounding the moral judgment in beliefs. Humans don’t have any other aspect of cognition that is subjective (stance-dependent) that could make moral judgments true or false.

    deontological moral doctrine predicated on necessity of law alone, which makes the contingency of mere belief irrelevant?

    How is that not a form of moral realism?

    What makes subjectivism “moral” anyway?

    It merely denotes a metaethical position: that’s all.

    What it is that makes subjectivism in general reducible to a particular instance of it?

    Again, I can’t think of a single version of moral subjectivism that contends with the idea that beliefs make moral propositions true or false: that’s a core aspect of the theory. If not, then perhaps the view is a form of moral non-cognitivism or something...not sure but I would be interested to hear it.

    Would any of that matter with respect to your thesis?

    It is definitely relevant, but my focus in the OP is the contemporary, standard view called moral subjectivism; and I wholly concede that there may be a very nuanced version of it that escapes these issues...but I have never heard of it (yet) and it seems pretty conclusive that it will have to revolve around beliefs.
  • Bob Ross
    1.3k


    The issue is more that "truthity" is a word that quite literally doesn't exist.

    That’s fair. I could have sworn it was a technical term for it but, upon re-searching, I do not find it anywhere. All I mean by it, is the trueness or falseness of something (and not necessarily that it is true).

    I see you used “truth-value”, which is fine as well.

    P1: A stance taken on the truthity of something, is independent of the truthity of that something.

    P1: A stance taken on the truth-value of something is independent of the truth-value of that something.

    I interpret these to mean the same exact thing: am I missing something you are trying to convey? How have I changed it?

    If the stance is distinct from what the stance is about, then the truth-value of ‘what its is about is independent of the stance itself—that’s what makes it a stance.

    Of course, a moral subjectivist will disagree with this; but it is the root of the issue with their position.

    The moral subjectivist will reject that.
    A moral proposition is true if and only if I believe it is true.

    If it is truly a proposition, then your belief that it is true is independent of the truth-value of the proposition itself; otherwise, you have to concede that the proposition is not distinct from the belief.
  • Bob Ross
    1.3k


    If A is distinct from B, then B is distinct from A. But if A is independent from B, it does not follow that B is independent from A.

    This seems to be the crux of your argument, and I am not following this distinction you are making.

    All I meant, was that the truth-value of something is completely independent of any stance taken on it.

    There seems to be a desire to go from uncontroversial to "absolutely true" or "objectively true"?

    This is a non-sequitur: although I agree that most people are inclined to do so.

    If “torturing babies is wrong” is propositional, then it is true or false independently of what anyone believes about it. For a moral subjectivist, they would have to rephrase it to “I believe torturing babies is wrong” and evaluate that instead.
  • Dawnstorm
    241
    This seems to be the crux of your argument, and I am not following this distinction you are making.

    All I meant, was that the truth-value of something is completely independent of any stance taken on it.
    Bob Ross

    I believe I may have confused myself here, or missed something. Let me go through this step by step with "Torturing babies is wrong."

    1. "Torturing babies is wrong," is propisitional. It has "truthity"; i.e. it is either true or false. (Do I understand your use of "truthity" correctly here?)

    2. I can believe the proposition to be false or true.

    3. That I believe the proposition to be true (or false) is distnict the proposition's being true (or false).

    4. Because of (3), I can evaluate the dependency structure of the believe that a proposition is true and the truth of a proposition. This leads me to two questions:

    5. a) Is that I believe torturing babies is wrong dependent on torturing babies being wrong?
    5. b) Is torturing babies being wrong dependent on me believing that torturing babies is wrong?

    To me, your syllogism seems to show 5.a) not 5.b).:

    P1: A stance taken on the truthity of something, is independent of the truthity of that something.Bob Ross

    Applied to the current example: I can believe that torturing babies is not wrong, even if it is.

    P2: A belief is a (cognitive) stance taken on the truthity of a proposition.

    Yes.

    C1: Therefore, a belief cannot make a proposition true or false.

    How do you arrive at that conclusion? You have shown that the belief is independent of the truth(ity). You have not shown that the truthity is independent of the belief. Now this clearly leads me into into a muddle:

    Given that truth is dependent on belief (but not the other way round), I'd get a truth table like the following:

    "Killing babies is Wrong." Believe, Truth, allowed under dependency structure

    B --> independent of T

    B: Yes. T: Yes (allowed)
    B: No T: Yes (allowed)
    B: Yes: T: No (allowed)

    B: No T: No (allowed)

    T --> dependent on B

    B: Yes: T: Yes (allowed)
    B: No T: Yes (not allowed)
    B: Yes T: No (not allowed)

    B: No T: No (allowed)

    Logically, that believe is independent of truth does not necessitate that truth be indepenent of believe. It's possible for believe to be the independent variable, and truth the dependent one. This leads us into a contradiction (bolded above): I can be wrong about a truth I'm setting by believing in it.

    I think that this problem might come out clearer if we investigate the social aspect of morals. Beliefs set morals in aggregate via a complicate process; thus any single belief is both a hypothesis and a bid.

    Moral truth is iterative through belief. (What the role of a proposition is in all this, I don't know, but it would have to play some role.)
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2k

    I think you are on the right track. Subjectivism tends to entail problems with dualism akin to Kant's two "stances/worlds" (noumenal/phenomenal). Yet, so long as it is not possible to give a reductive/mechanical explanation of subjectivity, I think this problem will remain. I don't think most "subjectivism," would like to say that moral beliefs are essentially uncaused, but neither does it seem that they are willing to embrace eliminitivism.

    So, on this point:

    One's belief in what one 'ought' to do is true in vitue of the fact that one believes it. This does, as Lionino point out, make it entirely arbitrary.

    Only provided that the reasons determining why people hold the moral beliefs they do is itself "entirely arbitrary." I think many moral anti-realists would probably disagree with this though, particularly those of a naturalist persuasion. The problem wouldn't be that these beliefs are arbitrary, but rather that they are determined by a biology, social and personal history, etc. that can be completely explained without any reference to "goodness," e.g., for the eliminitivist/epiphenomenalism, an explanation entirely in mechanical terms.

    However, folks like Harris have turned these highly naturalistic/mechanistic accounts into moral realist accounts without changing too much, so I think this is an issue people will still quibble over. Likewise, in the classical or Thomistic view point, it's going to be goodness itself that is determining beliefs and actions in the first place, and so what is at issue is the ontic status of goodness, i.e., realism re universals, the convertibility of being and goodness, etc.

    I think you've both highlighted the initial problem though, which is P1 here. It seems entirely possible that a belief could be related to the truth value of some proposition. This is exactly what we see with cognitive dissonance or "self-fulfilling prophecies." For example, Toyota's might last longer because they are more durable vehicles, but part of the reason they tend to last longer almost certainly has to do with the fact that people are more willing to shell out cash to repair them because they see a high milage Toyota as still having "plenty of life left" (and because they have a higher resale value because people believe this). But then the car stays on the road longer, making the belief true, precisely because the belief was held.

    When it comes the sort of self-reference at work in the OP though, this problem seems particularly acute. So, it seems that the truth value of a proposition can be more or less independent of beliefs about it. In some cases, they seem like there will be quite a bit of interdependence.
  • Fooloso4
    5.6k
    1. A belief is a (cognitive) stance taken on the truthity of a proposition; and
    2. Beliefs make moral propositions true or false.
    Bob Ross

    Your definition of moral subjectivism misses the mark because it rests on two questionable assumptions:

    1. That moral beliefs are adequately addressed in terms of propositions.
    2. What makes a moral claim true or false is whether or not it is believed.

    1. This marks a wrong turn in the history of philosophy that fails to strike us as odd and out of touch because we have become so accustomed to philosophers making such claims, as if thinking and feeling are two separate, independent things. Rather than an analysis in propositional terms, we need to begin with what is more fundamental and primal. A baby will smile in response to a smile and become distraught when the face in front of them is sad. That others seem happy or troubled matters to them. The roots of morality lie here, in our nature as social beings who care.

    2. What this criticism of subjectivism fails to to into account is the difference between the belief in an objective morality and our failure to identify what that might be. Without such knowledge some form of subjectivism is the inescapable default position. Moral reasoning is deliberative not deductive. It begins with a critical examination of opinions. It does not end with indisputable, apodictic universal moral truths, but with beliefs and practices accepted by some or many but perhaps not by others. At best in our ignorance we settle on what seems best, and this may be subject to change.
  • Bob Ross
    1.3k



    P1: A stance taken on the truthity of something, is independent of the truthity of that something.
    P2: A belief is a (cognitive) stance taken on the truthity of a proposition.
    C1: Therefore, a belief cannot make a proposition true or false.

    However:

    P3: "I believe that aliens exist" is true iff I believe that aliens exist

    This is just a re-iteration of your previous post, which does not address which premise you disagree with.

    In terms of your “P3”, I responded here.
  • Michael
    14.4k
    This is just a re-iteration of your previous post, which does not address which premise you disagree with.Bob Ross

    I don't disagree with a premise. I simply prove the conclusion false, and therefore prove that one of the premises is false or that the conclusion doesn't follow from the premises. I'll leave it to you to determine where you've gone wrong.

    In terms of your “P3”, I responded here.Bob Ross

    "I believe that aliens exist" is a proposition that is made true by my belief that aliens exist. Therefore your conclusion that "a belief cannot make a proposition true or false" is false.
  • Bob Ross
    1.3k


    1. "Torturing babies is wrong," is propisitional. It has "truthity"; i.e. it is either true or false. (Do I understand your use of "truthity" correctly here?)

    Yes, by “truthity” I just mean the trueness of falseness of something. “torturing babies is wrong” is truth-apt.

    5. a) Is that I believe torturing babies is wrong dependent on torturing babies being wrong?
    5. b) Is torturing babies being wrong dependent on me believing that torturing babies is wrong?

    5A is about whether or not your belief was in any way constructed based off of the fact that torturing babies are wrong; whereas 5B is about whether it is fact, or even capable of being a fact, that torturing babies are wrong. It is in the 5B sense that my OP is addressing.

    It is entirely possible that you arrived at the belief that torturing babies are wrong without ever even contemplating the possibility of it being morally factually wrong.

    How do you arrive at that conclusion? You have shown that the belief is independent of the truth(ity). You have not shown that the truthity is independent of the belief.

    Those are both the same. If a belief is independent of the trueness or falseness of a proposition; then the proposition’s trueness or falseness is independent of the belief: those are two ways of saying the same thing.
  • Bob Ross
    1.3k


    I think you've both highlighted the initial problem though, which is P1 here
    ↪Bob Ross
    . It seems entirely possible that a belief could be related to the truth value of some proposition.

    Do you think that a stance about the trueness or falseness of something, is independent of the trueness or falseness of something?

    I think we have to be very careful here, because I don’t disagree that a “belief could be related to the truth-value of a proposition” in the sense that I think you mean it. “I believe tacos taste good” is a proposition and part of what it references relates to a belief (in this case, a belief about tacos), but this is not the same thing as saying that a proposition’s truth-value is relative to a belief.

    For example, “1 + 1 = 2” is a mathematical proposition of which its truth-value is clearly not relative to a belief; however, the same is the case for the non-mathematical proposition “I believe 1 + 1 = 2”...it is just harder to spot. The truth-value of “I believe 1 + 1 = 2” is not relative to any stance: either the subject believes it or they do not—irregardless of their stance on the proposition “I believe 1 + 1 = 2”. The “truthity” of “I believe 1 + 1 = 2” is stance-independent.

    Why, then, do so many people, including yourself, say it is not? Because, of course, to evaluate the truth-value of the proposition “I believe 1 + 1 = 2” one must evaluate the belief of some subject; and, in this sense, one wants to say “the ‘truthity’ of <...> is stance-dependent”.

    It is imperative, then, to pinpoint what the proposition is: when someone, like yourself, says the above, they are thinking of the truth of whether or not what the belief references is true or false (e.g., “1 + 1 = 2”, “tacos taste good”, etc.) and not the actual proposition at-hand (e.g., “I believe 1 + 1 = 2”, “I believe tacos taste good”, etc.). They then conflate them, and say that the proposition at-hand is stance-dependent (in terms of its “truthity”) when, really, the part of the content, which may or may not itself be a proposition, has its “truthity” relative to a stance.

    We have to dissect this with razor-sharp knives and as elegantly and precisely as a surgeon to avoid this conflation (which I think you are making).

    Why is this a big deal, you may say? Because what was originally being accounted for as propositional by way of relativity to beliefs dissipates with this transformation—e.g., one that argues that “1 + 1 = 2” does not express something objective but is propositional because it is relative to a belief, will have to transform it into “I believe 1 + 1 = 2” which loses its original meaning (viz., it is no longer the same proposition, and the one which was denied as objective is not actually propositional: it is, rather, the indexical statement that is).

    See what I mean?

    When it comes the sort of self-reference at work in the OP though

    What self-reference? A stance about something is independent of that something; which does not negate, to your point, that some statements reference subjective dispositions which, in turn, require one to evaluate to determine the truth-value of it (which, again, is not the same thing as the truth-value itself being relative to a subjective disposition: I am cutting ever-so precisely here, or at least trying to, in order to convey the point).

    That I have to evaluate the subjective dispositions of a person to determine the truth of something, does not entail that the truth of that something is subjectively determined.
  • ENOAH
    494
    P1: A stance taken on the truthity of something, is independent of the truthity of that something.Bob Ross

    If you assume that that "someting" is unlike the stance, a thing so called "out there" in the real world independent of Mind.

    If you assume the stance and the something and the truthity are mechanisms in one dynamic process...
  • ENOAH
    494
    C1: Therefore, a belief cannot make a proposition true or false.Bob Ross

    And, yet, I settle at the same conclusion. I believe it, not because it is true, it is true because the mechanism of belief was triggered at the end of the (dialectical) process leading to it: belief, or the so called stance on truthity, and on "something."
  • ENOAH
    494
    where do you disagree with my assessment here?Bob Ross

    First, I apologize for not responding in one post. Secondly, your logic seems (to me, not a technician) very tight and I cannot at my skill level, navigate my answer through your logic. Which, Prima facie might indicate I have no business responding at all, to which I apologize in advance.

    My current understanding is that your conclusion that moral subjectivism fails the test of logic seems to imply that moral realism is the truthity of this thing morality, and the stance one ought to take.

    But perhaps morality is neither "subjective" nor "real". It is not "subjective" in the sense that it follows a unique process (even if that process applies reason and facts) leading to an independent choice for each
    individual. It is not Real or "objective" in the sense that it is informed by (pre)existing Laws independent of the individual's choice.

    Perhaps it is a process which has evolved in human History, input into each of us since childhood, and operating autonomously in accordance with evolved mechanisms, having evolved to "trigger" "beliefs" which happen to be most suitable for any given moment and locus/individual in History.

    So, now, subject is not deciding what is true, nor drawing upon what is True, but over and over again settling upon a temporary but intricately fitting "conclusion."

    When it comes to the mechanisms conventionally triggering belief in the truthity of not killing, these are well structured paths, well tread, and thus very commonly, and without apparent dialectic, we arrive and settle there. It neatly falls within the structures of Univeral and Absolute. It may be "really true" somewhere in ultimate reality. But we do not access that reality at all when we construct it and settle there. By the same token, it seems like the choice not to kill is subjective, and based upon weighing relative pros and cons. But it is neither. Morality is the result of dynamics and mechanisms, functions and relations of Signifiers moving us to a conclusion from time to time and based upon the intersection of multiple minds and circumstances having met there.

    Like I said, the well tread moral issues amenable to deontology for e.g. like don't kill, don't rape, make it seem like these
    are Natural, the conditioning is so quick it seems organic.

    The dilemmas are what make us wonder. Press the button and kill one baby to save a million. Here the path to belief is not so well tread, we watch the Dialectical process taking place and assume subjectivity. But the problem is, even the very Subject to whom we designate the final belief, is just a mechanism in that system.

    Again, if I have crossed the boundaries of your interest, sincere apologies. I recognize I have not provided enough details, nor framed it in precisely logical terms.
  • ENOAH
    494
    Being that the fact of the propositions comes to be once I start believing in them, something is causally connected to itself, which I am confident is not desirable.Lionino

    My understanding, which I will confirm in advance, won't be presented through syllogism (though I admire and respect that process).

    The point you--in my opinion, correctly observed--supports, for me, the conclusion that the "reality" we are trying to decipher, is as it turns out, "causily connected to itself," a "loop," all of it, the "thing," the proposition (about thing)and the belief, taking place as a single process "appearing" as separate, giving rise to more propositions about subjects, objects, Beings and Truths.
  • ENOAH
    494
    This marks a wrong turn in the history of philosophy that fails to strike us as odd and out of touch because we have become so accustomed to philosophers making such claims, as if thinking and feeling are two separate, independent things.Fooloso4

    Though you are far from the point I'm about to make, and I apologize for "mishandling" yours. But for me, you have illustrated exactly the way I believe morality moves (the "stances" we take on "truthity") a thing is a well tread path and we believe
    habitually. Morality is a conditioned response triggered by the habitual paths "words" take.

    Your challenge does not demonstrate a unique uncovering of real truth; nor does it demonstrate the sole individual rising up against conditioning. It is just another conditioned path which surfaced because multiple "words" moving in your locus of history triggered the beliefs you are espousing.

    Both do not kill and don't eat meat follow that process and are neither relative to subjective choice, nor grounded in Natural Law.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2k


    I'm not really sure what you're trying to say here. Maybe an example would help:

    I go for a job interview. For whatever reason, I am confident that I am going to get the job. As a result, I am very relaxed and personable, and this in turn is what helps me beat out another candidate. But suppose that if I thought I was unlikely to get the job I would have been much more nervous and flubbed the interview, in which case I wouldn't have gotten the job.

    In this case, my belief that I would get the job is not independent of my getting the job. It is a determinate factor.

    These sorts of situations come up all the time. I am not saying that the truth values of all propositions is dependant on beliefs about the truth values of those propositions. However, when it comes to propositions involving human behavior it seems like it will often be the case that beliefs about propositions will not be independent of the truth value of those propositions. Many events happen precisely because people believe they will happen.

    Arms races would be a good example vis-á-vis aggregate behavior. For example, say the Soviets don't think the US will slow down their production of nuclear weapons. Then because the Soviets have this belief, they don't slow down their own production. Yet this decision in turn ensures that the US doesn't slow down either (self-fulfilling prophecy). But in this example, it is not the case that the truth value of "the US will not slow down weapons production," is independent of the Soviet belief about this proposition.
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