• SonJnana
    243
    I really don't see any reason of why one should act in any way besides because they have a preference for acting in that way. For example, I often like to go out of my way and help others. This is because I value human connection. I value it because I have a preference for building good connections with others even if it's for a short time. It feels good.

    Others may have different values because they have different preferences. This could be due to many factors (the way they've been raised, the way their brain is structured and/or defected, how their brain has been shaped by the reciprocal interplay of environment and biology over time). I might condemn someone else for stealing, but that's only because they didn't live up to my subjective standards. We can have a society and punish someone for murdering because the person acted in a way that went against our own subjective morality, but I don't see how that murder was intrinsically wrong. It just went against others' subjective morality, that's all.

    It seems to me that our moralities are nothing but subjective preferences... nothing else. It is kind of uncomfortable, but I am trying to be intellectually honest and I don't see how there can be a case for an objective morality that lies outside our subjective values. I've tried to find arguments for objective morality, but they don't seem right to me. For example, Sam Harris argues that morality is about increasing well-being, but that's just his preference based on his own values. It doesn't solve Hume's is-ought problem. Why should anyone have a moral obligation for others' well-being? Well besides because they have a preference to value well-being so that we can co-exist peacefully.

    When we condemn a murderer, essentially what we're saying is that we just don't like the murderer because he/she acted in a way that went against our preferred way of living.

    EDIT: After some good discussion with some of the responses, my position has changed a little bit. I am no longer asserting that morality is subjective. I am now taking the position of not asserting that it is objective and not asserting that it is not objective. So if you assert that murder is objectively wrong, it is up to you to explain why that is so. I am also no longer using the word preferences because I think it was the wrong word to use for what I was trying to explain. To clear it up, I'll say that people create their moral codes for many reasons.
  • JustSomeGuy
    306
    The next step to this realization you're having is understanding why we need morality anyway. There may not be an objective right and wrong, but there is absolutely a subjective right and wrong. Living in a civilized society arguably means each individual has a better quality of life than if we were all wild men living in nature, and a civilized society requires we have certain rules, things that are right and things that are wrong. The illegality of killing your fellow citizens is probably the biggest and most obvious. I don't see why some people feel the need for morality to be objective. Morality is clearly just a necessary part of living in civilization, plain and simple.
    I honestly think that people who think the way you do are the reason why religion became so widespread. Apparently there are quite a few people who feel that, without an objective morality, we should just be free to do as we please with no thought as to how it will affect anyone else. Religion takes care of that issue by telling the people that there is objective morality.
    I understand how surprising it can be when you finally figure out that objective morality doesn't exist (that we know of), but I don't see how you wouldn't think it through enough to immediately understand why we need morality anyway. If you want to go live in the wilderness in order to be free from morality, by all means. I'm sure it will be a real treat.
  • SonJnana
    243
    I never said that there wasn't an obvious usefulness to have subjective morality. I mentioned that one reason to not murder would be because one has a preference to value others' well-being so we can coexist peacefully. I think you misunderstood what I was saying.

    My point in this post was just to say that when we condemn a murderer, we are essentially saying that we don't like the person because they aren't acting the way we want everyone to act (for a stable society). In a way, it becomes a might makes right.
  • SonJnana
    243
    Living in a civilized society arguably means each individual has a better quality of life than if we were all wild men living in nature, and a civilized society requires we have certain rules, things that are right and things that are wrong.JustSomeGuy

    I agree with this in my case. You won't see me going around harming others. What about someone who enjoys going around conquering lands and becoming a harsh dictator. That person has a better quality of life, right? Who are you to tell that person he should care about others' well-being, while he's benefiting from being a dictator?
  • CasKev
    408
    I would say morality can be objective, at least in the context of our biological programming. Our survival instinct would be the most obvious one. Anything that extends conscious life would be considered moral. For example, if someone discovers a plant extract that will extend life and reduce suffering, and distributes it to everyone in equal amounts, that act would be objectively moral. It only gets more complicated when resources are limited, and extending the life of one person shortens the life of another, or causes unwanted suffering in others.
  • JustSomeGuy
    306
    I never said that there wasn't an obvious usefulness to have subjective morality.SonJnana

    Your opening statement was "I really don't see any reason of why one should act in any way besides because they have a preference for acting in that way". You went on to elaborate that people should just do whatever makes them feel good. It follow from this that if murder makes a person feel good, they should be able to do it.
    And then there's this...
    It seems to me that our moralities are nothing but subjective preferences... nothing else.SonJnana

    ...so I really don't see where you made it clear that you understood the necessity and purpose of morality. It seemed to be quite the opposite.

    But moving on:

    we are essentially saying that we don't like the person because they aren't acting the way we want everyone to actSonJnana

    It's not about want, it's about need. These laws aren't just made up willy nilly, there is very clear purpose to the morals we have.

    In a way, it becomes a might makes morality.SonJnana

    What about someone who enjoys going around conquering lands and becoming a harsh dictator. It is for that person's benefit right? Who are you to tell that person he should care about others' well-being, while he's benefiting from being a dictator?SonJnana

    You still seem to be missing the point. If a person doesn't care about the well-being of others and is actively harming people, we don't allow them in our society.
    Not murdering is a condition you must agree to in order to live in and receive the benefits of our society. If you want to try to form your own society where killing each other is legal, good luck.
  • SonJnana
    243
    For example, if someone discovers a plant extract that will extend life and reduce suffering, and distributes it to everyone in equal amounts, that act would be objectively moral.CasKev

    I think it's more honest to say that the person is acting morally based on a subjective morality that values the extension of conscious life. Someone else may value something else and have a different subjective morality.
  • JustSomeGuy
    306


    You just listed things that you claim are objectively moral without providing any argument or reasoning as to why.
  • SonJnana
    243
    Your opening statement was "I really don't see any reason of why one should act in any way besides because they have a preference for acting in that way". You went on to elaborate that people should just do whatever makes them feel good. It follow from this that if murder makes a person feel good, they should be able to do it.JustSomeGuy

    Since when does preferences for acting exclude wanting to live in a stable society where we can co-exist? I think it's pretty obvious that if you want to live in a society that's stable (because it's useful) that it's a preference. I didn't think it was necessary to explain that. And if one has a stronger preference to live in a stable society than murder, then they shouldn't murder. Murder might make them feel good, but living in a stable society makes them feel better. What is it that you are not understanding?

    It seems to me that our moralities are nothing but subjective preferences... nothing else. — SonJnana


    ...so I really don't see where you made it clear that you understood the necessity and purpose of morality. It seemed to be quite the opposite.
    JustSomeGuy

    A subjective preference of living in a stable society where everyone benefits so you yourself benefit because it's useful.

    we are essentially saying that we don't like the person because they aren't acting the way we want everyone to act — SonJnana


    It's not about want, it's about need. These laws aren't just made up willy nilly, there is very clear purpose to the morals we have.
    JustSomeGuy

    There is obviously a purpose - to live in a stable society. But it's saying the person isn't acting the way we NEED them to act for a stable society because we the majority WANT to live in a stable society.

    You still seem to be missing the point. If a person doesn't care about the well-being of others and is actively harming people, we don't allow them in our society.
    Not murdering is a condition you must agree to in order to live in and receive the benefits of our society. If you want to try to form your own society where killing each other is legal, good luck.
    JustSomeGuy

    We don't allow them in our society. But what about a dictator killing people? What are you gonna tell them? "Stop what you're doing because me and many other people don't like it?" And why the hell will he care if you aren't a threat to his power?
  • CasKev
    408
    I think it's more honest to say that the person is acting morally based on a subjective morality that values the extension of conscious life.SonJnana

    Humans are biologically programmed to survive. In that context, human survival is good. It follows that any intentional act extending human survival, without negatively affecting other conscious life, is good.
  • CasKev
    408
    You just listed things that you claim are objectively moral without providing any argument or reasoning as to why.JustSomeGuy

    You can't agree that human survival is good, in the context of human biological motivation? How about avoidance of unwanted suffering?
  • SonJnana
    243
    Humans are biologically programmed to survive. In that context, human survival is good. It follows that anything extending human survival, without negatively affecting other conscious life, is good.CasKev

    Parasitic organisms are biologically programmed to thrive off of harming others. In that context, harming others is good. How does that tell you anything about the morality of it though? Hume's is-ought problem.
  • CasKev
    408
    Parasitic organisms are biologically programmed to thrive off of harming others. In that context, harming others is good. How does that tell you anything about the morality of it though?SonJnana

    Parasitic organisms don't know they are causing harm to another conscious entity. There is no morality involved when the organism isn't capable of assessing possible rightness or wrongness of an intentional act.
  • JustSomeGuy
    306
    You can't agree that human survival is good, in the context of human biological motivation? How about avoidance of unwanted suffering?CasKev

    Those are both subjective, though...we're discussing objective morality.
  • CasKev
    408
    Those are both subjective, though...we're discussing objective morality.JustSomeGuy

    Since we're discussing human morality, I think it makes sense to discuss it in terms of human biological instinct, no? You can't have morality without context, or without intentional acts and the ability to assess rightness or wrongness.
  • SonJnana
    243
    Parasitic organisms don't know they are causing harm to another conscious entity. There is no morality involved when the organism isn't capable of assessing possible rightness or wrongness of an intentional act.CasKev

    There are no known cases of it, but I think you're missing the point I was trying to get at. You say that helping others survive in the CONTEXT of biological survival is good. I agree with that. In this case the word "good" means beneficial to the cause of biological survival.

    In the CONTEXT of harming others, stealing is good. In this case the word "good" means beneficial to the cause of harming others.

    The point is that basing morality on the cause for biological survival is subjective. One might say morality should be based on the cause for fairness. So if someone murders one might say the murderer deserves to die. The causes for biological survival vs. cause for fairness, these are nothing but moralities based on subjective values. You prefer to see biological survival so you choose to base your morality on that, subjectively.
  • JustSomeGuy
    306
    Since we're discussing human morality, I think it makes sense to discuss it in terms of human biological instinct, no?CasKev

    You can't have morality without contextCasKev

    I agree, but you originally claimed that there was objective morality, and what you're talking about is subjective morality. Objective would mean it exists independent of us or anything else.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    The problem with subjectivism in moral theory is that it sort of precludes the possibility of genuine dialectic, because it threatens to collapse into relativism. If what is moral is what people like, and people like different things, then there exists the possibility that people will like contradictory things. X and not-X cannot both be true, so it must therefore be the case that neither are true at all (error theory), or it's entirely relative to the person (in which case, real argument is useless).

    This is a tough pill to swallow, because we do not approach morality as if we construct it but rather that it "calls" to us, it "commands" us as if it were objective. Judging an action as morally wrong is entirely different than judging an apple pie to be good. This is why, if we are to be moral anti-realists, I think error theory is superior to non-cognitivism (the subjectivism you have presented). Just by phenomenology alone we can know that morality is not just an expression of our subjective tastes or preferences, and that morality at least presents itself as being objective (even if it isn't).

    From my perspective, the arrival of subjectivist/relativist interpretations of morality comes alongside a jadedness to humanity as a whole. People act irrationally, are mean, spiteful, hurtful and otherwise bad, always looking out for only themselves, not caring for anyone else, etc. Ironically and paradoxically, the move to a subjectivist/relativist moral view seems to often come from this disillusionment and disappointment with people living up to what we otherwise do see as objective moral laws. It's similar to the skeptical view of religion - there are so many religions and many religious people are actually quite terrible, thus there must not be anything objective about religion.
  • SonJnana
    243
    I want to clear this up in case there is misunderstanding. I am not saying that if one person believe X and one person believe not-X that both X and X-not are true. I am saying that there is no objective morality to begin with. You can only say that it is that X is consistent with one person's subjective morality while X-not is consistent with the other person's morality.

    I'm also not arguing that this viewpoint I'm expressing is better for a certain cause. In fact, it might have some consequences that will destabilize society. I'm just trying to be intellectually honest here.

    Judging an action as morally wrong is entirely different than judging an apple pie to be good.darthbarracuda

    Judging an apple pie to be good is because you have preference for apple pie. Judging an action to be morally good is simply saying it is consistent with your morality code, which is based off of your subjective values, which expresses preferences (wants, needs, desires, comfortableness). Essentially, ones moral code is just their preferences.
  • Marty
    163
    Moral judgments are reasoned towards and elected, not elicited.They are a part of the values seen in experiences that call to us. Not something imposed onto them.

    Saying something is "subjective" doesn't mean anything; its to under describe the situation. Everything has a subjective element - values, desires, intentions, and beliefs. But that doesn't mean we don't have reasons to elect any of these, and the reasons are provided by external content that is universal in nature. You could say something like "ethical values aren't external in nature", but this is particularly to appeal and presuppose a type of materialism w.r.t to what can be external in nature.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k


    I'm not seeing an actual argument for the idea that morality is just subjective preferences. Except maybe this:

    You say that helping others survive in the CONTEXT of biological survival is good. I agree with that. In this case the word "good" means beneficial to the cause of biological survival.

    In the CONTEXT of harming others, stealing is good. In this case the word "good" means beneficial to the cause of harming others.
    SonJnana

    Here you're essentially describing morality as the context in which the ends of a goal are met. In this context, the means only obtain within relation the ends, in other words. The problem is that this is not an argument for subjective morality; it's just a description of different moral contexts. This description doesn't actually say anything about whether morality is objective or subjective, in the way that you're using those terms.
  • SonJnana
    243
    Moral judgments are reasoned in a society because the people have a preference for living in a society. The people reason that we should condemn murderers because they pose a threat to the individuals. The majority of individuals agree that they want to mutually benefit because they have a preference for living that way.

    You can't really tell a dictator he's morally wrong. You would only be saying that because you prefer to live in a society where everyone benefits, not just the dictator. But why should the dictator have a moral obligation to listen to your moral code which simply based off of your moral code which was created for your own wants, needs, desires.

    If one truly cares about the well-being of others, the person prefers to see others happy. So they value well-being and create a moral code around it. That's all.

    Even if everyone in the world agrees on what is moral, it is because they all agree to set a code that is consistent with all of their preferences. If one person agrees, it is simply one person has different values than the majority because they may have different preferences for how they want to see the world. But it isn't objective because there is no right or wrong outside the subjective moral code that people create because they prefer the world to be that way.
  • SonJnana
    243
    I was refuting the other person because they were arguing that objective morality is based around biological need for survival. I was only saying that is subjective. By showing showing a different moral context, it's easier to see why you can't just say biological survival is obviously the context for objective morality. Someone else could just throw out another context that they think morality should be based around. But these are nothing but subjective preferences for what they want to base morality on.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k


    Ok; in that case I see no actual argument for morality being subjective preferences.
  • SonJnana
    243
    Everyone has moral codes for what they think is right. The question is whether or not there is an object standard to say one moral code is better than another.

    If someone kills someone, what do you do? One might say you shouldn't kill them back because that will destabilize society and hurt biological survival. Someone else might say you should kill the person because they deserve to die because that is fairness. How can you objectively say biological survival is a better code than fairness? It just comes down to one person wants to see a world that is more fair, whereas one person wants to see biological survival. These are conflicting moralities and there is no objective way, as far as I know, to say one is better than the other.

    When I say morality being subjective preferences, I am saying that any person's moral code is to suit their preferences of how they want to see the world. They want to see a stable society so they say killing is wrong. That doesn't mean killing is wrong because it's intrinsically bad. It just means that its immoral to someone because not beneficial. And that is based off their preferences because in this case they prefer what is beneficial to them - a stable society in this case.
  • Marty
    163
    No. You missed the point.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    Judging an action to be morally good is simply saying it is consistent with your morality code, which is based off of your subjective values, which expresses preferences (wants, needs, desires, comfortableness). Essentially, ones moral code is just their preferences.SonJnana

    So you assert, but why should I believe this? Why should I believe that what seem to be truth-apt, cognitive statements like "murder is wrong" ultimately derive from non-cognitive, meaningless non-truth-apt, particular preferences?
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    Nothing is intrinsically morally wrong

    Perhaps man had no choice in the matter, if he wanted to survive nature and not have to constantly fear harm from some less civilized neighbors he was forced to become social and form communities and in doing so to create laws, and culture, institutions, a civilization. Wouldn't this entail that any actions, or laws that don't foster a safe, equitable, orderly society are intrinsically wrong, because they jeopardize man's survival, which is the purpose of living in a community.
  • bloodninja
    308
    It seems to me that our moralities are nothing but subjective preferences... nothing else. It is kind of uncomfortable, but I am trying to be intellectually honest and I don't see how there can be a case for an objective morality that lies outside our subjective values. I've tried to find arguments for objective morality, but they don't seem right to me.SonJnana

    I understand what you're getting at. But I think you go too far when you reduce morality to "subjective preferences". True, it is my personal preference that stealing is, for the most part, wrong, but I didn't decide this on my own. I was born into a society that is culturally structured around this norm (among many others) so I couldn't help but become normalised by it like everyone else.

    Do you see what I mean? I'm saying that you have it in reverse. Our personal preferences don't ground morality, rather, morality becomes our personal preference.

    Also I think it can be a bit misleading to talk about values like it is the same thing as morality. I despise the bourgeoisie, because I value a different ideology, but this has nothing to do with morality. And there are particular moral values that I have a greater or lesser personal preference for due to my personality, but this does not mean that I have a unique morality, nor does it mean that I won't still do the things that I have a weak preference for doing. I do them because I feel morally bound to do them, even though I don't want to do them and I would prefer not to do them. Why? Because morality is not our personal preference.
  • TheMadFool
    3.4k
    I don't understand morality very well. What am I?

    If you look at the history of morality and its temporal movement you'll see:

    1. Similarities - love, peace, equality, happiness, freedom, harm not, etc.
    2. Convergence over time - the moral landscape is, with time, becoming homoegenous i.e. the similarities in 1 above are universally appealing and are being adopted across cultures.

    1 and 2 point to one thing - we have common values. If so it's interesting, to say the least, to inevestigate the reason why this is so.

    Does the subjective-objective distinction matter for morality? Being objective is generally conisdered superior to the subjective. But what is the difference between the two? Being objective is unbiased/unprejudiced and therefore meets the standards of good reasoning. But reasoning must begin somewhere and the objectivity required for that starting point is quite different - our observations of reality need to be objective. How do we test our observations for objectivity? By repeating observations across observers, time and space. If you agree then aren't the following observations of the world objective facts?

    1. We all want to be happy
    2. We all want to avoid suffering

    So, to some degree, morality, which is based on 1 and 2, is objective.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k
    If someone kills someone, what do you do? One might say you shouldn't kill them back because that will destabilize society and hurt biological survival. Someone else might say you should kill the person because they deserve to die because that is fairness. How can you objectively say biological survival is a better code than fairness? It just comes down to one person wants to see a world that is more fair, whereas one person wants to see biological survival. These are conflicting moralities and there is no objective way, as far as I know, to say one is better than the other.

    When I say morality being subjective preferences, I am saying that any person's moral code is to suit their preferences of how they want to see the world. They want to see a stable society so they say killing is wrong. That doesn't mean killing is wrong because it's intrinsically bad. It just means that its immoral to someone because not beneficial. And that is based off their preferences because in this case they prefer what is beneficial to them - a stable society in this case.
    SonJnana

    Again, none of this is an actual argument for your position. I'm not trying to be smart or trite; it really isn't.

    You've yet to show why or how or to what extent morality is a subjective preference; all you've done is describe morality as a subjective preference.
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