• Atheer
    5
    Hi all,

    I have been interested in moral philosophy for a while, and had the following thoughts.

    If there is objective morality, then equal interests per life time for each sentient being should be the aim to achieve. Therefore:

    1. Utilitarianism can not be objective because it ignores the distribution of well-being and separateness of persons.

    2. Theories considering the separateness of persons on the other hand, can have one of the following results:

    2.1 Libertarianism:
    This can not be objective because it ignores the distribution of well-being.
    2.2 Egalitarianism
    Even if we assume that some version of it aims at providing equal interests per life time for each sentient being, it can not achieve that.
    People are not going to end up having equal well-being. You can not prevent that some individuals will end up worse off than others. You can not control how each individual lives and dies.

    If you think this is not an argument against separateness of persons, think about this:

    If separateness of persons and equality are required for objective morality to exist, then the world is equally bad/good whether only one person or all persons but one person in the world is worse off.

    If these two are required for objective morality to exist, and they do seem to be required for it, then as long as there is one human or sentient animal suffering or going to suffer, it makes no moral difference to help others.

    As long as illness and natural disasters happen to humans, carnivorous animals have to eat other animals or suffer and die themselves, we can not provide equal wellbeing to each sentient being. And if we can not that, then separateness of persons and equal distribution of well-being will be both required for objective morality to exist and impossible to achieve, which only leaves us with the option that it is imaginary!

    Is there a solution for this problem from moral realiists here?
  • SophistiCat
    385
    If there is objective morality, then equal interests per life time for each sentient being should be the aim to achieve.Atheer

    1. How do you define "objective morality," and why?

    2. What does "equal interests per life time" mean?
  • Txastopher
    106
    . What does "equal interests per life time" mean?SophistiCat

    I was going to ask the same thing. Sounds ominously like 'equality'.
  • Atheer
    5

    I would define objective morality,as I suppose as something like this;
    "equal consideration of equal interests of sentient beings per life time",
    or to simplify discussion, feel free to say of human beings.

    I think it is objectively wrong to have differrent judgements on identical cases. Of course, a moral nihilist would say he does not have different judgments, his life and suffering or pleasure is just as morally irrelevant as that of others. However, he still feels that suffering bad and pleasure good for himself regardless of what he says.

    Now why per life time?
    Imagine you have been asked before you came to life whether you want to be sent to live your life on earth, the advantages minus disadvantages of your whole life time should be rationally considered. The same should therefore be assumed in an objective moral theory, I assume.

    The problem that I do not have an answer to is this:
    If objective morality is true, and I still assume it is, how can separateness of persons and equal consideration of equal interests be both required for objective morality and impossible to achieve?

    This is raising my doubt that something might be wrong about moral realism. Now I wonder if there is an answer from a moral realist to this problem.

    E.g. you can not equally consider the interests of a terrorist and someone he is willing to kill.

    Or you can not equally consider the interests of a lion and the animal a lion needs to eat to survive.

    The is no point to meet in the middle, and suffering and pleasure will not be distributed equally.

    Basically it seems that objective morality is demanding what is impossible in nature.
  • Atheer
    5

    It seems the only possible way for objective morality to exist is through aiming at equally dealing with equal cases. So I could say:
    Objective morality is equally considering equal interests of sentient beings per life time

    Instead of sentient beings, you can also say humans for simplification.

    "per life time" of each individual because that is what matters. Imagine you were asked before you came to life whether you want to be born. Rationally you would consider the advantages and disadvantages of all your life between birth and death.

    But equally considering equal interests is so demanding that it is impossible to achieve. Still I do not find some alternative that I can call objective which is raising my doubt that objective morality is imaginary
  • unenlightened
    2.3k
    Sometimes folks do not do what they ought to do, and thus what ought to be is not.

    Given that what ought to be cannot reliably be found in the world, one has to ask, if it is 'objective', where it can be reliably found? Perhaps one has to take God's word for it, or perhaps there is an innate sense of what is right and wrong, that can be developed with practice or left to atrophy. This latter seems likely, because we have just established that we can tell that what ought to be is not always what is, and so we have already told the difference, and we would need such a sense to even recognise the word of God.

    Or perhaps we just happen to like some stuff and not other stuff, and being social beings like to impose our taste on everyone and everything. And being broadly similar creatures, our likes and dislikes are similar. This is the nihilist position.

    But equally considering equal interests is so demanding that it is impossible to achieve. Still I do not find some alternative that I can call objective.Atheer

    Can we call that 'justice'? I think we understand what it is, that it ought to be, and that it is not except to the extent that we realise it. Perhaps our understanding is exactly this, that my joy and suffering is no different to another's joy and suffering despite the I feel the one and not the other, just as I understand that the world goes on beyond what I sense of it in every other way. And that is what I mean by objective - that which is independent of me.

    But let me suggest some other values: life, and freedom. The justice of universal annihilation, or of universal coercion do not seem to have much value. So things are more complex.
  • Robot Brain
    4
    Objective morality as defined by you, that is, "equal consideration of equal interests of sentient beings per life time," does indeed appear to be impossible in reality as it is now.

    You asked "how can separateness of persons and equal consideration of equal interests be both required for objective morality and impossible to achieve?" I can think of a few (unrealistic) ways this could be done. If a society were to be created where everyone had interests which either aligned, or did not conflict with the interests of others. Such a society would essentially need to control the interests of its individuals or make conflicting interests harmless in a sense.

    Examples:
    1) a society with the ability to psychologically manipulate it's population's interests from birth so that interests never conflict (extreme brainwashing)
    2) A society made of people who naturally don't have conflicting interests (e.g. a society of clones or perhaps a genetic variant of sentient being that can cannot have conflicting interests)
    3) Some combination of the two.
    4) Random chance. I suppose I can imagine an Earth that miraculously contained nobody with conflicting interests during a certain time period out of pure chance (very very small odds).

    I realize some of these examples (like clones) may not qualify for your "separateness of person" criteria in objective reality. That aside, I don't think such equal consideration of interests can ever be attained outside of these examples. As you mentioned, the terrorists interests are not conducive to a layman's interests. It is this conflict of interests in today's reality that makes objective morality impossible from a practical standpoint.

    A few other issues with your objective morality include the "equal life" criteria. In nature lifespans are never equal. To have truly objective reality, we would need equal lifespans so that our equal interests may span equal times. Again, solving this problem brings me back to the homogeneous society where everyone's interests and lifespans are the same; however this directly conflicts with the separateness of personas clause. It seems to me that objective morality may be a logical paradox. Perhaps you can reconsider your initial assumption that objective morality, as you define it, is true?
  • SherlockH
    73
    The closest to objectove morality is utilitarianism. Its based on cost and benifit. For example if there is a train coming and one must die or many die you sacrifice the one. Thats pretty objective. If say we are going to kill 20 mobsters or 5 doctors you might save the doctors as they are known for saving lives. If say there is two mobsters and one is regulating crime while one is cuasing mass chaos even if you dont believe in the mob you keep one to keep crime in check vs the one who is probobly going to get many innocent sluaghtered. Its very logical.
  • gurugeorge
    330
    If there is objective morality, then equal interests per life time for each sentient being should be the aim to achieve.Atheer

    This seems obviously wrong on the face of it. In the first place, morality doesn't dictate what peoples' aims should be, it shapes the way they try to achieve those aims. Morality/Justice is adverbial, so to speak, one behaves morally, it's not that one is supposed to behave with some particular specified aim, with some particular specified result (and that's what's called "moral").

    In the second place, what business of yours is the particular distribution of goods in society? People achieve whatever they are able and/or willing to achieve, which is both shaped and limited by their intrinsic capabilities (genetics) and their social situation (e.g. family, education, milieu) - it's up to them what they strive for (e.g. whether it's equal to others) not you.

    If all you're saying is that nobody should hinder anyone else from doing whatever harmless thing they damn well please, to the best of their capabilities, then I would agree; but it seems you want a particular distributive result.

    But equal distribution has no more sacred moral standing than any other random distribution (e.g. "90% for me and my cronies, the rest for the plebs").

    One might also agree with some degree of compensation for those worst affected by unfortunate circumstances, etc. - that seems like a nice thing to do. But it's not particularly moral, it's not how one ought to behave in a moral sense, it's more of a charitable act that one ought to do in a looser sense, a sense that respects a generalized obligation of kindness and giving, that the more fortunate have towards the less fortunate (such that one is not immoral, but rather a churl, if one ignores it).

    One might call the lumpiness of the distribution of luck a "cosmic injustice" - it is indeed "unfair" (of life, in a loose sense) that some people should be born lucky and others not, but that doesn't translate into it being a matter of human beings having done something morally wrong or actionable. It's not (usually) the lucky person's fault that the unlucky person is unlucky. And if it is, it's the result of particular, specifiable actions on the lucky one's part, not of what they are (i.e. lucky). One may say that something has to be done, but that something can't involve punishing the lucky, because that would itself be a primary injustice (punishing people who are innocent of wrongdoing).
  • Fool
    65
    I think this is a meta-ethical question. Looks like we’re arguing about what is actually ethical. I expected this thread to address realism v. anti-realism. It’s right to ask, as OP did ask, what an account of objective morality would require, but I would suggest less focus on the requirements of specific theories and shift to the requirements of any theory. Not that my preferences matter, but I’d be entertained by a thoughtful challenge to expressivist/non-cognitivist views. The field is not without controversy, but I’d expect views like that from the typical naturalistic philosopher. Rational Choice Theory is a useful framework, esp as it concerns agency and behavior, but it presupposes its own adequacy.
  • Atheer
    5
    @unenlightened
    You can call it justice or morality
    To be honest, I am not really sure what is the difference between the two.
    "that my joy and suffering is no different to another's joy and suffering despite the I feel the one and not the other"
    That is where it seems to me that objective morality is grounded. But the question now for me is whether equal consideration is realistic/achievable considering all the conflicts?
    If not, what about getting as close as possible to achieving equal consideration of interests? Still "objective"?

    @Robot Brain
    The ways to achieve morality according to my definition are unrealistic.
    Actually my scope is the whole world and not only a society.

    There are two possibilities I can think of:
    Either my definition is too and unnecessarily demanding für objective morality to exist
    or objective morality is probably really immaginary.

    The problem is that I am not sure where I went wrong about defining objective morality, or there is no objective morality that can be real even in any other possible definition.

    What could be other definitions that qualify for objective morality and still be realistic?


    @Sherlock
    The problem of utilitarianism ist he lack of seperatness of persons. It assumes that there is such a thing out there that is "the biggest good for the biggest number". I do not think that such a thing exists in reality. There are only interests of Individual A + interests of Individual B +…..
    The sum is however, a mental construct, it seems to me.
    How does the interest of many people justify the suffering of gladiators they are watching fighting each other?
    It seems to be based on luck, which is arbitrary, therefore at odds with objectivism.
    If your interests happenned to be aligned with that of the majority, you are well-off, otherwise, hard luck!

    @gurugeorge
    I am speaking about the aims people can objectively pursue. If that is not morality for you then give it another name. E.g. Utilitarianism has the aim of: “the biggest good for the biggest number”. So what you are saying is not entirely true.

    You asked questions then answered yourself in a way similar to the way I would have answered them.
    “What business of yours is the particular distribution of goods in society?”
    Exactly luck and arbitrariness seem to me to be at odds with objectivism.
    As every thing we have is obtained by luck, which is arbitrary, any objective moral theory should try at least to rectify the situation to make it, as if it were objectively distributed or probably as close as possible to that.
    If x = Person, it seems there is no reason that x lives a better life than another x, unless if it benefits that worse-off x (if you accept Rawl’s difference principle).
    It is not about fault of whom, it is about making the distribution of well-being (closer to being) being objective.
    Is it necessary for objective morality to exist to (try to) rectify cosmic injustice as you called it?
    Do you believe at all that there is such a thing as objective morality?

    @Fool
    Well, specifically the topic is about two questions:
    1. What are the minimum requirements for a moral theory to be supporting objective morality or classified under moral realism?
    2. Could objective morality be about objective distribution of good among individuals? i.e eliminating or reducing randomness in that distribution?
  • gurugeorge
    330
    It is not about fault of whom, it is about making the distribution of well-being (closer to being) being objective.Atheer

    But it's objective only according to your preferred pretty pattern. There's no intrinsic reason, in nature, to prefer equal distribution. So what if peoples' lot is different, provided we ensure a lower "floor" below which no one need fall? Looking at it from my own point of view, it doesn't matter to me in the least that some have more than me, what matters is that I have what is due to me. That is objective justice. Suum cuique tribuere.

    The problem with your position is that you take a synoptic stance that you have no right to, you pompously (so to speak) arrogate to yourself the position of judge over all humanity and its doings. That is not justice either, it's tyranny, and it's just as objectionable that you enforce your equal distribution, as it would be for some greedy pig of a tyrant to gather 90% of goods to himself and 10% to the rest of the population. It's just another imposed distribution that rides roughshod over peoples' voluntary mutual accommodation, which is really the objective thing that has to be guarded.
  • wellwisher
    76
    Morality is objective, if you look at morality with the group/team in mind. Morality was not designed to maximize the individual. Morality maximizes the team. The team has the unique property of being able to become more than the sum of its parts. The team affect can elevate all the individuals on the team.

    As an example, the ten commandments were written from the objectives POV, maximize the team. Each commandment makes it easier for the team to get along and trust each other with minimal policing resources. The commandments address pitfalls in human nature that can sabotage the unity of the team. The first commandment, there is one god and no god before him, is there to prevent religious arguments which can divide or break the team.

    Morality is not designed to maximize the individual. Like in sports, all the players would love to play all the time, at any position they want. But the coach creates rules that budget the time and the job of each player, so the team is maximized. Some players will complain that this is not fair to them and is not even rational. But the goal is not to make everyone happy, but to bring the team to the championship game. If the team gets there, then everyone is a champion. The sacrifice for the team with then makes sense to all.

    In modern times it is all about the individual. If you had a propensity to steal, you would think the commandment, thou shall not steal, is subjective and arbitrary. Since stealing comes natural to you, you should be allowed to do it so you are happy. However, if you are allowed to steal, this will make other people more defensive and less trusting, causing a problem for the team. The divided team is less than the sum of its parts.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.8k
    As long as illness and natural disasters happen to humans, carnivorous animals have to eat other animals or suffer and die themselves, we can not provide equal wellbeing to each sentient being. And if we can not that, then separateness of persons and equal distribution of well-being will be both required for objective morality to exist and impossible to achieve, which only leaves us with the option that it is imaginary!

    Is there a solution for this problem from moral realiists here?
    Atheer

    This is a non-sequitur, as this is only a problem for affirmative moral realism, i.e. a morality that never intersects life.

    If life is (objectively) immoral, then the contradictions inherent in any sophisticated moral system will be inevitable. Affirmative morality requires the strategic and partial application of these moral concepts, and thus will always be vulnerable to criticism. The next step taken by affirmative theorists is to then decide which criticisms are "more important" than others.

    Unless it is recognized that life intersects morality, moral realism will never make sense. There will always be contradictions, exceptions, ambiguity. Hence why something like moral particularism / pluralism is a suitable choice for the intra-worldly but does not satisfy the condition of being the "absolute" morality. The absolute morality contains no contradictions, but life contradicts absolute morality and so a particular morality (which is an amalgamation of different, often competing moral concepts) is constructed ad hoc.
  • Wayfarer
    6k
    The problem is that I am not sure where I went wrong about defining objective morality, or there is no objective morality that can be real even in any other possible definition.

    What could be other definitions that qualify for objective morality and still be realistic?
    Atheer

    I think your basic problem is that 'objectivity' is too narrow a criterion for the establishment of ethical claims. Objectivity is a very useful criterion across many subjects, but ethical judgements are a different matter, as in this context, you're dealing with the wishes, rights and demands of persons, who are not 'objects' as such.

    Take for example native land-rights claims. You can argue in some hypothetical case, that native land rights might impede the development of valuable natural resources that would benefit the whole community. But on the other hand, such developments might destroy a unique culture or cultural artefact. Both sides have perfectly rational claims - but how would you decide? There's no truly objective way of adjudicating such a dispute. You have to make a decision on the balance, but oftentimes, that decision is never going to suit everyone. Happens almost every day.

    In a way, this is central to the whole problem of ethical philosophy in current culture. The normative standards of modern liberal democracies are mainly derived from, and generally assume, a Judeo-Christian framework, which incorporates much ethical theory from classical culture. But today's culture will often call the normative role of the Judeo-Christian ethos into question - which, as you're seeing, then opens up a rather large can of worms.

    I suspect you're trying to quantify the whole question by saying that:

    If there is objective morality, then equal interests per life time for each sentient being should be the aim to achieve.Atheer

    Which is rather as if there is a Gross National Moral Balance - a maximal formula - which needs to be established and then acted upon, in the interests of equity. But it's an unrealistic idea, for any number of reasons.

    So - I don't think there's any solution that you would consider, from a moral realist viewpoint, as, I think, you've tacitly excluded the very basis on which moral realism might be predicated. In other words, if you're going to make the calculation on purely quantitative grounds, which is what I think you're trying to do, then I don't think you can arrive at an answer at all.
  • Tomseltje
    129
    Is objective morality imaginary?Atheer

    In order to get an accurate answer to this question please define:
    1 objectivity
    2 morality
    3 imaginary

    If you don't people will apply their own definitions, wich may not nessesarily be the same as the ones you intended. I don't think nr.3 'imaginary' will cause much problems, but the other two might.

    I think it is objectively wrong to have differrent judgements on identical casesAtheer

    There are not 100% identical cases concerning human beings. Hence there is no different judgement on identical cases. There is only different judgement on identical represented cases.

    There is no objective morality. We developed science in order to aproach objectivity by banning morality from it. For human beings the world starts subjective, only by a long period of intensive education into science they can learn to approach objectivity, and even then most of them seem only able to apply the methods to objectivity consistently within their specific field of study.
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