• Samuel Lacrampe
    739

    I appreciate that you guys are consistent in your belief system, that if morality is wholly subjective, then Hitler and the Nazis were indeed not objectively morally bad. I also appreciate that you believe they were morally bad, according to your personal moral system. Now I will attempt to refute your claim that morality is subjective, in two ways.

    (1) While it is good that you are of the opinion that Hitler was morally wrong, even if it is a strong opinion, it is nothing but a mere opinion if morality is subjective, and is no stronger than the opinion that chocolate is the best flavour of ice cream. Now according to our moral system, we should be tolerant of others' opinions for subjective topics, as is the case with the flavours of ice cream. But then there is a contradiction because on one hand, our moral system does not tolerate immoral acts, and on the other hand, it says we should be tolerant of subjective differences.

    (2) Justice among humans can be roughly defined as "equality in treatment". Under that definition, Hitler and the Nazis were clearly unjust, for they did not treat Jews as equal to themselves. Now, can it be possible for justice to be morally bad, and injustice to be morally good? These statements seem to be as contradictory as "a squared circle".
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    What if we learn the morals without being taught? What if they exist independently of humanity, and can be observed?BlueBanana
    That is precisely my point, that if moral knowledge cannot be taught, then we must acquire it through observation of our own innate knowledge of it. Unless you are suggesting it can be observed elsewhere?

    To demonstrate why the P3 doesn't work: It is absurd to suppose that knowledge of anything is taught. If it was, then who was the first teacher, and "why would he tell us?!"BlueBanana
    Knowledge of most things can be observed empirically. Once observed, then it can be taught to others who did not observe it. The absurdity is valid only for morality, because other than through innate knowledge, we cannot observe morality directly; only acts which we then judge to be morally good or bad. But then this judgement presupposes a moral knowledge.
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k
    Despite it being clearly pointed out by some deleted user several pages back, everyone seems to have merrily ignored the fact that what is 'good' and how to get there are two completely different arguments. It is perfectly possible that what 'good' is is objectively innate, but how to get there is an opinion.

    In this case, that opinion, whilst never provably wrong, can be shown better or worse. Evidence can be brought to bear demonstrating that some moral code is less likely or more likely to bring about 'good'. Even Hitler (if you can bear to read any of his disgraceful writing) thought he was going to make a better world, where the expulsion and extermination of the Jews would be a sacrifice which would lead to a world where everyone (remaining) would be better off.

    The 'world where everyone will be better off' is still the goal, something innate (even in monsters like Hitler) still drove him to make a 'better world'. He was just massively wrong about how to get there. This is not my opinion, it is demonstrably an objectively justified theory. I have evidence which can be brought to bear that exterminating a race will not bring about a world in which the remaining humans will be better off, thus I can justify a valid theory that Hitler was objectively wrong.
  • BlueBanana
    875
    Unless you are suggesting it can be observed elsewhere?Samuel Lacrampe

    Yes.

    we cannot observe morality directly; only acts which we then judge to be morally good or bad. But then this judgement presupposes a moral knowledge.Samuel Lacrampe

    Unless we can observe the moral values without making the judgements ourselves.

    Yes this might lead to needing to redefine morality but given how there's no consensus on that anyway I don't see that as an issue.
  • bioazer
    25
    But then there is a contradiction because on one hand, our moral system does not tolerate immoral acts, and on the other hand, it says we should be tolerant of subjective differences.Samuel Lacrampe
    This is not a disproof of the subjectivity of morality-- in fact, it is the opposite. Your logic is deeply flawed. The contradiction you think to be so crippling to the philosophy of subjective morality only presents a problem if you actually presuppose that morality is objective!
    Additionally: Occam's Razor, please.
    Are we required to make more assumptions by asserting that moral codes, which can differ vastly among countries, ethnicities, and even communities, are sets of taught acceptable behaviors and views, coupled with a genetic legacy for survival in social groups; or that human beings are somehow endowed from birth with a natural understanding of such abstract and hotly debated concepts as "good" and "evil," which somehow exist in the physical world-- perhaps as a field, like magnetism?
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k
    Additionally: Occam's Razor, please.
    Are we required to make more assumptions by asserting that moral codes, which can differ vastly among countries, ethnicities, and even communities, are sets of taught acceptable behaviours and views, coupled with a genetic legacy for survival in social groups; or that human beings are somehow endowed from birth with a natural understanding of such abstract and hotly debated concepts as "good" and "evil," which somehow exist in the physical world-- perhaps as a field, like magnetism?
    bioazer

    Occam's Razor can be a dangerous tool in the wrong hands, what seems simple depends entirely on one's presuppositions. If we had to 'invent' a new force field to contain morality then I agree it would be much simpler to see if we could arrive at an explanation without it, but we don't. You even mentioned in your comment the "genetic legacy". How is that not 'innate' which is the exact wording of the OP?

    Now what seems simplest? We have agreed that there is a genetic legacy that codes for some moral behaviour, we also know that the basics of morals are remarkably similar across cultures (prohibitions on the killing of innocents, proscriptions to help those less fortunate etc.). How is it not 'simplest' to assume this innate genetic code is responsible for all morality until proven otherwise?

    You've made the same error that practically everyone opposing the OP has made despite it being pointed out in the thread already. There is a difference between Meta-ethics (what is good and bad) and normative ethics (how to achieve 'good' and avoid 'bad'). There is no 'hot debate' about whether murdering innocent children is 'good' or 'evil', none that I'm aware of. If you've spoken to even a single person who thinks such a thing is 'good' I should seriously consider having them seen by a criminal psychiatrist immediately.

    What there is 'hot debate' about is how to achieve a 'good' society, there is also considerable debate around the edges of the definition, but that's just a sorties paradox. How little hair does a man need to have before you call him bald? How many sand grains constitutes a pile? We can argue about the edges of most definitions, but that doesn't make the definition is entirely subjective, we all know that someone with a full head of hair is not bald without having to know exactly how few hairs would be needed before we can call him bald. We all know what a pile of sand looks like without having to know at what point it would cease to be a pile should be remove one grain at a time.

    Similarly we can all know that some things are 'good' and other things are 'bad' without having to have an answer to every ambiguous case.
  • bioazer
    25

    I apologize for any misunderstanding. I accede that there are, of course, many similarities among moral codes between cultures. Perhaps I over-emphasized this point, but there can also be significant differences: for example, in the Western world eating the dead is considered disgusting and perverse, while in other parts of the world it would be considered immoral not to do so. And I agree with @Samuel Lacrampe in a very loose sense that to some degree, humans are born with a quasi-'moral-compass'. What I disagree with is his claim that "it is part of objective reality, not man-made." It is a biological phenomenon entirely. I am not confusing "meta-" and normative ethics: I am suggesting that there are effectively no "meta-ethics" at all. I have, in fact read the OP, and understood the distinction between the two areas from the beginning:
    A bad outcome is undoubtably not morally bad if it is an honest, unintentional accident, such as accidentally running over a person that deliberately jumps in front of the car.Samuel Lacrampe
    My issue is not with the above statement. It is with the OP's assertions about the nature of morality.
    P3: It is absurd to suppose that knowledge of good and evil is taught. If it was, then who was the first teacher, and "why would he tell us?!"Samuel Lacrampe
    This is sort of like saying, "It's absurd to suppose that language is taught! Who invented it? Why would he teach us about it?" That is simply not the way that ideas are spread. Morality is an emergent social phenomenon. It is less taught than it is learnt: we observe what is considered acceptable behavior and pattern our behavior accordingly, which for the most part comes naturally to us: we are social animals, and most of our species has a fairly strong empathetic connection to other human beings.
    Those human beings classically deemed psycho- or socio-paths, however, have little to no sense of empathy. In other words, they clearly lack a natural sense of what is considered good and evil; but even so, without the sort of emotional cognizance of moral "facts" that most of us have, they can understand morality and ethics on an intellectual level. Some may go on to become serial killers or violent felons, but others become successful, productive citizens. This would suggest that on some level, we adopt a moral code not because we recognize it innately as somehow "right," but because it makes our lives much easier within the context of our community.
    I used the word "subjective" thoughtlessly to describe morality in my previous post, claiming that one of @Samuel Lacrampe's statements was logically less an argument against "subjectivity" than for it; while I do believe this to be the case, I do not actually side with the subjectivists. To clear things up:
    Moral subjectivism: Morality is not dependent on society but only on the individual. Anything is okay as long as one lives by [one's] own principles (hypocrisy, inconsistency can be embraced).Gene Myers, WWU
    This obviously does not reflect my views on the subject. I agree to some degree with relativism, which suggests that morality is cultural, but relativism tends to be overly dismissive of moral universals.
    Morality is inherent to a variable degree in most individuals, but cultural values can also have a strong influence.
    If morality is objective-- universal-- where do you draw the line between good and evil? How do you solve the Trolley Problem?
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739

    That is right. Moral principles, like "do unto others as you would want them to do unto you", and "treat everyone equally", are innate. Then in practice, acts are judged either morally good or bad by checking if they abide to the moral principles or not, for a given situation. Since this is relative to the situation, determining the morally good course of action can sometimes be challenging if the situation is complex. Nevertheless, morality is objective as actions can be judged objectively against the moral principles.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    This is not a disproof of the subjectivity of morality-- in fact, it is the opposite. Your logic is deeply flawed. The contradiction you think to be so crippling to the philosophy of subjective morality only presents a problem if you actually presuppose that morality is objective!bioazer
    Hello. You are correct that my argument (1) does not disprove moral subjectivism. However, it does showcase the consequences of believing in our western moral system in a subjective way, namely, that it is contradictory. And there is no need to presuppose the objectivity of the moral system to see the contradiction; just logic. In other words, either the western moral system is objectively real, or it cannot exist, even in a subjective way, without contradiction.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739

    we also know that the basics of morals are remarkably similar across culturesPseudonym
    To add to this statement, the Golden Rule "do unto others as you would want them to do unto you" is called that way because it "occurs in some form in nearly every religion and ethical tradition." Source.

    Additionally: Occam's Razor, please.
    Are we required to make more assumptions by asserting that moral codes [...] are sets of taught acceptable behaviors and views, coupled with a genetic legacy for survival in social groups
    bioazer
    Yes; your hypothesis that our moral sense is merely a genetic tool used for survival is insufficient to explain the complete moral sense. Do you agree that your moral sense tells you that the following acts are immoral?
    (1) Cheating on your spouse, even if it is guaranteed that he/she never finds out about it.
    (2) Turning a nation into farming animals for quick reproduction, and thus securing the survival of the species through sheer numbers.
    (3) If your own survival is guaranteed (by, say, super powers), then all acts become moral because the end of surviving is already met.

    Finally, what do you reply to a person that says "I don't care about the survival of the species, and so don't act towards that end"? You cannot say they are objectively wrong, if you do not believe in an objective morality.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    If morality is objective-- universal-- where do you draw the line between good and evil?bioazer
    Golden Rule.

    How do you solve the Trolley Problem?bioazer
    As I said in the OP, intention of good and evil is a necessary component of morality. As long as your intentions are not evil (don't violate the Golden Rule), then there is no moral mistake, only possible rational mistakes.
  • bioazer
    25

    Yes; your hypothesis that our moral sense is merely a genetic tool used for survival is insufficient to explain the complete moral sense.
    ...that's why I pointed out the significant influence of culture.
    Do you agree that your moral sense tells you that the following acts are immoral?
    (1) Cheating on your spouse, even if it is guaranteed that he/she never finds out about it.
    (2) Turning a nation into farming animals for quick reproduction, and thus securing the survival of the species through sheer numbers.
    (3) If your own survival is guaranteed (by, say, super powers), then all acts become moral because the end of surviving is already met.
    (1) Yes, but I was raised in a society in which monogamy is valued.
    (2) and (3) I think that you might have understood me in my "genetic tool for survival" claim-- I am talking about empathy, a real biological phenomenon; your given examples have nothing to do with how empathy works. Levels of empathy vary by individual, but the vast majority of the human race feels emotional distress when they see that another is in pain, the same way we feel nauseous when we see someone vomiting. This is natural for social animals. But again-- the amount of empathy one feels depends entirely upon the individual, and some individuals lack it entirely. They have no intuitive understanding of what is considered right or wrong, and no qualms whatsoever about harming other human beings.
    ...so the Golden Rule is the plumb line between good and evil, huh? How does that apply at all in the Trolley Problem? Whatever happens, you are still running people over with the trolley, no matter how altruistic you might be-- does "do unto others as you'd have them do unto you" really apply here?
    What about war?
    It is certainly not true that people will always want you to do unto them what you'd like them to do unto you, which is why rape is a crime, but that's besides the point, really. What is your reasoning for using specifically the Golden Rule? What line of reasoning led you to that "objective" conclusion?
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k
    I am talking about empathy, a real biological phenomenon; your given examples have nothing to do with how empathy works. Levels of empathy vary by individual, but the vast majority of the human race feels emotional distress when they see that another is in pain, the same way we feel nauseous when we see someone vomiting. This is natural for social animals. But again-- the amount of empathy one feels depends entirely upon the individual, and some individuals lack it entirely. They have no intuitive understanding of what is considered right or wrong, and no qualms whatsoever about harming other human beings.bioazer

    You need to be careful here. Many Autistic people struggle with empathy, they (possibly) have fewer mirror neurons that neurotypical people and so find it harder to emulate other people's emotions or predict how they would feel. Autistic people, however, are some of the nicest people I've ever worked with. They make the most unbelievable faux pas socially on a regular basis, but I've never experienced a single malicious act from any of them (I've not exactly worked with hundreds mind).

    If there is an intuitive, biological drive to be kind, moral or consider the well-being of others, I think empathy is the tool it most often uses, not the drive itself.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    (1) Yes, but I was raised in a society in which monogamy is valued.
    (2) and (3) I think that you might have understood me in my "genetic tool for survival" claim-- I am talking about empathy, a real biological phenomenon; your given examples have nothing to do with how empathy works. Levels of empathy vary by individual, but the vast majority of the human race feels emotional distress when they see that another is in pain, the same way we feel nauseous when we see someone vomiting. This is natural for social animals. But again-- the amount of empathy one feels depends entirely upon the individual, and some individuals lack it entirely. They have no intuitive understanding of what is considered right or wrong, and no qualms whatsoever about harming other human beings.
    bioazer
    Your explanations are incomplete as they only push the mystery one step back. (1) Why is monogamy valued? (2) and (3) Why do we feel empathy? For both questions, the answer can be 'justice', which completes the explanation.

    ...so the Golden Rule is the plumb line between good and evil, huh? How does that apply at all in the Trolley Problem? Whatever happens, you are still running people over with the trolley, no matter how altruistic you might be-- does "do unto others as you'd have them do unto you" really apply here?bioazer
    If you did not place the people there, then you are not morally responsible for the outcome, because your intentions were not bad, and you did not fail the Golden Rule. If you did place them there, then you are morally responsible, because that was your intentions, and these failed the Golden Rule. After that, one may argue that we should choose the path that saves the most amount of people; but this is once again a rational problem, not a moral one.

    What about war?bioazer
    See the Just War Theory. War is sometimes the right thing to do, as would be the case when going to war against the Nazis. Its underlying principle is still justice, as indicated in the name.

    It is certainly not true that people will always want you to do unto them what you'd like them to do unto you, which is why rape is a crime.bioazer
    You misunderstand the term 'rape', which is defined as non-consensual sex. By definition, nobody wants to be raped. The rapists themselves cannot consent to rape, because that would be consenting to non-consensual sex, which is contradictory.

    What is your reasoning for using specifically the Golden Rule? What line of reasoning led you to that "objective" conclusion?bioazer
    As stated in a previous post, 'justice among men' is defined as equal treatment. The application of equal treatment can be found objectively, and therefore justice is objective. Then the Golden Rule is simply a derivation of the concept of justice, and is a practical test that ensures we act justly.
  • Ram
    105
    I don't think that you can prove from secular premises that objective morality is necessarily innate. I find the reasoning of the OP.... strange.

    But indeed people are born upon the right religion and knowledge of right and wrong are innate.

    This is why for example, right religion is perfectly in accord with the natural law and there is no disagreement between them.
  • Kramar
    8
    How are people born with the 'right religion and knowledge of right and wrong'? I hear that you believe that but other then the teachings of your religion, what evidence do you have of this? Are you or have you ever been a parent? Nothing I've come across knowledge wise or experienced personally including as a parent has ever suggested the existence of a religion or knowledge of right or wrong from birth. Show me!
  • jorndoe
    604
    A priest teaches a peasant about God.
    Peasant: “If I did not know about God and did not worship, would I go to hell?”
    Priest: “No, not if you honestly did not know.”
    Peasant: “Then why did you tell me?!”
    Samuel Lacrampe

    Just FYI, the dialogue is (adapted) from Annie Dillard.

    3ua5p8s4sqo559im.jpg

    Eskimos weren't/aren't particularly bad as far as I know...? :)
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