• Bartricks
    1.1k
    First, I am going to stipulate what 'objective' and 'subjective' will mean in this thread. Something is 'subjective' when it exists as subjective states - that is, as states of mind. If you don't agree, that's fine -but that's how the word is being used here.
    So 'pain' would be a classic example of something that is subjective in this sense of the term. Pain is a feeling and feelings are subjective states - they exist in subjects and nowhere else. So, if you feel in pain, then necessarily you are in pain.
    Saying that something is 'subjective' does not mean denying its existence (or affirming it). It is to say something about its mode of existence. So, when I say that "pain is subjective" I am neither affirming nor denying the reality of pain. I am saying that what it would take for some pain to exist is for some subjective states - the ones constitutive of pain - to exist (which in turn requires that there exists a subject - a mind - whose states they are).

    Saying something is 'objective', by contrast, means saying that it exists as something other than states of a subject.

    The external material world is, most assume, 'objective' in this sense of the term (which is why we often call it 'the objective physical world'). that is, most assume that it exists outside of their mind - indeed, outside of all minds.

    Some dispute this. Most famously George Berkeley, who argued that the external world exists as mental states in the mind of a god. But that's why Berkeley is described as a 'subjectivist' about the external world. A subjectivist about the external world believes the external world is made of subjective states (albeit, in Berkeley's case anyway, of an external mind). An objectivist about the external world believes the material world exists outside of all minds.

    Applied to moral values: an objectivist believes that moral values - so moral goodness and badness - exist, if they exist, outside of minds. Our minds give us some awareness of moral values, just as our minds give us some awareness of tables and chairs. But the moral values, like the tables and chairs, exist extra-mentally (if they exist at all).

    Subjectivists about moral values believe that moral values exist as subjective states, if or when they exist.

    I think moral values are demonstrably subjective. Here is my simple argument:

    1. For something to be morally valuable is for it to be being valued.
    2. Only a subject can value something
    3. Therefore, for something to be morally valuable is for it to be being valued by a subject.
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    Let me try and head-off some initial objections.

    One might try and object to premise 1 on the grounds that for something to be morally valuable is for it to be happiness promoting, or autonomy respecting, or whatever (it really doesn't matter what you put in).

    But such observations, even if correct, do not challenge premise 1. For premise 1 does not say anything about what produces moral value, yet that is what the objector is talking about. That is, all the objector is doing is pointing to features that seem to be being valued, rather than denying that what it is to be morally valuable is to be being valued.

    For example, let's say I value my car because of its sleek appearance and speed. Well, it is no objection to premise 1 to say "the car is not valuable because it is being valued, but because it has a sleek appearance and can go fast", for all you are doing is pointing to those features that caused it to be being valued rather than challenging that its being valuable consists in its being valued.

    One might try and object to premise 1 on the grounds that if it is true, then anything we value will be morally valuable. So, if I value being sadistic, then sadism would be morally valuable.

    But this does not challenge premise 1 because premise 1 says only that being morally valuable involves being valued, it does not say that it involves being valued by me or you. So I agree that, quite obviously, if I value something that does not entail that it is morally valuable. But all this shows is that I am not the subject whose values determine what's morally valuable.

    You might wonder who the subject is, then, whose values determine what's morally valuable. For clearly it is not me - as if I value something it is not necessarily morally valuable - and clearly it is not you - for if you value something it is not necessarily morally valuable either. And clearly it is not some collection of us, for the Nazis valued genocide yet that did not make genocide morally valuable.

    Well, I would answer that if the subject is not me, and not you, then it is who it is. That is, moral values are the values of the subject whose values are moral values.
  • TheMadFool
    4k
    I think moral values are demonstrably subjective. Here is my simple argument:

    1. For something to be morally valuable is for it to be being valued.
    2. Only a subject can value something
    3. Therefore, for something to be morally valuable is for it to be being valued by a subject.
    Bartricks

    Can't the process of judging value be made objective?

    So, while a subject values x or not the valuation itself is objective? It would be like someone using an instrument (objective) to do the measurement instead of without one (subjective)
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    No, because to say that something is 'subjective' is to say something about its composition.

    Pain is subjective because it is made of states of a subject.

    Pain cannot be true or false. Truth and falsity are properties of propositions.

    The proposition "Mike is in pain" is true if Mike is in the subjective state constitutive of pain, false if he is not.

    So, subjective and objective are terms that I am using to refer to something's composition.

    Truth and falsity are properties of propositions.

    Confusion is caused by some insisting on saying things such as "it is objectively true that Mike is in pain". They're just misusing words. What they mean is "it is true that Mike is in pain".

    One can say "truth is objective" or "truth is subjective" on my usage, but when one does so one is saying something about what truth is made of.
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    Confusion is also caused by the fact 'objective' is ambiguous and can also mean 'goal' and 'impartial'. Objective does not have those meanings here. But when we talk about 'objective methods of measurement' then 'objective' means 'impartial'.
  • TheMadFool
    4k
    I see.
    1. For something to be morally valuable is for it to be being valued.
    2. Only a subject can value something
    3. Therefore, for something to be morally valuable is for it to be being valued by a subject.
    Bartricks

    Sorry for the error. I was distracted.

    What do you wish to achieve with this formulation of the issue?

    What implications follow from it?
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    It implies a god exists.
  • TheMadFool
    4k
    It implies a god exists.Bartricks

    How?
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    Because the subject whose values constitute moral values would be a god. Moral values are not my values or your values, but they are someone's (as the argument demonstrates). And that someone would be a god precisely because their values constitute moral values.
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    And they exist, because moral values clearly exist.
  • TheMadFool
    4k
    Oh ok. Since moral values have to exist in someone's mind, there must be a mind that so values. This mind is God.

    Am I understanding you?
  • TheMadFool
    4k
    Well, how do you know that moral values are not just a human mental activity? We value morals. Why the need for another mind to value morals? Why the excess baggage?
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    'A god' rather than 'God' - or perhaps just 'a mind' to avoid using contentious labels. The argument implies, in other words, that there is a mind whose values are moral values.
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    They are not human because if I value something that does not make it valuable.

    1. If moral values are my valuings then if I value something it is necessarily morally valuable
    2. If I value something it is not necessarily morally valuable.
    3. Therefore moral values are not my valuings.

    You can run the same argument for any human.

    So moral values are not the values of any human mind.
  • TheMadFool
    4k
    Let's see...

    1. Moral exist only in the mind as it's a form of value
    2. Human minds can't be the receptacle of moral values because we value things other than morals
    Ergo
    3. There exist a mind (god/just mind) that values morals

    I think premise 2 is problematic. Why can't humans be the valuators of morals? Also, moral values aren't uniform - some find child marriage abhorrent but it's a practice that's still prevalent in the Muslim world. So, if you say humans aren't the valuators of morals just because they have other values (can you clarify what you mean here) then how can this one mind (god or whatever) exist as it too seems conflicted in its values?
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    You're addressing your argument, not mine. I didn't say humans can't be the "valuators of morals". I said that a) moral values are values, b) values are subjective (meaning they exist as subjective states - states of mind), c) moral values are not my (or your) states of mind.
  • TheMadFool
    4k
    moral values are not my (or your) states of mind.Bartricks

    Why not?

    The argument begins from there in my view. How did you realize that values need subjects/valuators? From recognizing your own and other people's status as a subject, no?
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    We're going in circles. This argument establishes that moral values are not my values:

    1. If moral values are my values, then if I value something necessarily it is morally valuable (if P, then Q)
    2. If I value something it is not necessarily morally valuable (not Q)
    3. Therefore moral values are not my values (therefore not P)

    That argument is valid and sound. You can run it again with yourself mentioned in premise 1 and 2 rather than me and it will remain valid and sound.

    You can run it for everyone.

    I conclude that moral values are the values of a mind and the mind in question is who she is - which is not one of us.
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    And no, I realized that values need a valuer by consulting my reason. For instance, thoughts require a thinker. As I am thinking, I can now conclude that I, a thinker, exist (a point Descartes made). Likewise, values require a valuer.
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    The contemporary debate over moral value is, in my view, in a hopeless state of disrepair.

    On the one hand you have moral philosophers rejecting - quite rightly - individual and collectivist subjectivist views about moral value, and rejecting them on the same grounds that I did.

    But then these self-same moral philosophers then conclude - insanely - that moral values are therefore 'objective'. That is, they conclude that somehow there are just values out there, shimmering about. In other contexts we would lock people in padded cells for believing such things. If I thought my keyboard values me typing on it, then I have lost my reason have I not?

    The correct conclusion - the only one a sane person who is not morally incompetent can draw - is that moral values are the values of a mind distinct from our own.
  • TheMadFool
    4k
    We're going in circles. This argument establishes that moral values are not my values:

    1. If moral values are my values, then if I value something necessarily it is morally valuable (if P, then Q)
    2. If I value something it is not necessarily morally valuable (not Q)
    3. Therefore moral values are not my values (therefore not P)

    That argument is valid and sound. You can run it again with yourself mentioned in premise 1 and 2 rather than me and it will remain valid and sound.

    You can run it for everyone.

    I conclude that moral values are the values of a mind and the mind in question is who she is - which is not one of us.
    Bartricks

    My question is why the need for a final/ultimate valuator (god) for morals?

    Your answer is that we need god because humans have values that aren't necessarily moral (your not Q). You probably are looking for the one ultimate, final valuator dedicated only to morals. Why is this necessary? Your posts suggest that humans are imperfect since they have non-moral/ immoral values too and so we require this final/ultimate valuator of morals - god. Is this what you mean?

    Does this mean that every value has a god-like being that sustains it? After all humans have a variety of values, some cohere and others clash. Two answers, yes or no:

    1. Yes, there are as many god-like beings as there are values as each is required to sustain the respective value. Why is this necessary? Even a simple human being, far-removed from being an ultimate/final valuator can hold more than one value at once. Surely there is no need to have an ultimate/final valuator for each possible value.

    2. No. We're back to square one. If there is only ONE god and he sustains all values, including morals then why are humans incapable of doing the same? Your argument against morals being just human values was that humans are capable of valuing non-moral/immoral values and so can't be the valuators of morals. Why doesn't this restriction apply to god, the final/ultimate valuator?
  • Wayfarer
    8.6k
    I think that the very idea of 'objectivity' is one of the hallmarks of modern thinking. The word itself didn't really come into use until early modern times. The etymological dictionary says"

    1610s, originally in the philosophical sense of "considered in relation to its object" (opposite of subjective), formed on pattern of Medieval Latin objectivus, from objectum "object" (see object (n.)) + -ive. Meaning "impersonal, unbiased" is first found 1855, influenced by German objektiv. Related: Objectively.

    objective (n.)

    1738, "something objective to the mind," from objective (adj.). Meaning "goal, aim" (1881) is from military term objective point (1852), reflecting a sense evolution in French.

    I think that the awareness of 'the objective' denotes a shift in outlook, attitude or mentality towards consciousness of the notion of a subject-object relationship, whereas pre-modern culture was characterised as an 'I-Thou' relationship (with God, originator of laws, and so on.)

    So in some respects, the ability to think of the world in an objective way is related to the emergence of modern thinking generally, and scientific thinking in particular.

    I think Berkeley was indeed reacting against this, insofar as he objected to the notion that material objects have intrinsic reality. He doesn't deny that they exist but denies that they exist independently of any or all observers - hence 'esse est percipe'.

    Kant's philosophy was more subtle that Berkeley's, in that he was quite willing to allow for the reality of appearance, but with the proviso that the mind still furnishes the categories according to which appearances are intelligible. The German idealists, generally, rejected the notion that the objective domain was intrinsically real, although they may not have used that exact expression.

    But without dragging the debate into the arcanae of German idealism, one thing I think this helps to throw into relief, is the sense in which the categories of 'subjective' and 'objective' have been interpreted in later philosophy.

    'Objective idealism' can accept the reality of ordinary objects in a practical or utilitarian sense, without however attributing to the 'objective realm' any kind of ultimate or mind-independent reality. It looks at the issue with consideration to the fact that the individual mind - your mind or my mind - is, on a deeper level, a cultural mind, and a species-mind, and ultimately maybe even a universal mind (but let's not go there right away.) But I think an objective idealist would argue that much or all of what we assume to be 'objectively real' has in some sense a subjective pole or grounding, in other words, doesn't exist 'in its own right' or objectively. This goes for objects just as much as 'values', so called. But it defuses the common assumption that the 'objective domain' is devoid of value or meaning, which is the default view of a scientific-secular culture, by pointing out that even the purported objective domain in fact has a subjective element, which is 'the mind' - yours, mine, the cultures', the world's.
  • Wayfarer
    8.6k
    ...and that the subjective pole or aspect is 'bracketed out' by the assumption that reality can be described in wholly objective terms - which is the attitude of scientific realism. This form of realism assumes that the world that science examines has an intrinsic or ultimately mind-independent nature.

    At the turn of the 20th century, much of the Anglo-American philosophical world was idealist. Hegel was still held in high regard, and in America, Josiah Royce and Borden Parker Bowne were still highly regarded.

    All of that began to change with Bertrand Russell and G. E. Moore, 'plain language' philosophy, naturalism and positivism.

    But meanwhile quantum physics holed scientific realism beneath the waterline, so philosophy retreated to 'the study of propositions' and tea and scones in the LHC cafeteria.

    And here we all are.
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    I think moral values are the values of one subject. For example, I seem unable to value something in some respect and disvalue it in that same respect at one and the same time. Valuing something in some respect precludes disvaluing it in the same respect. But nothing, of course, stops me from valuing something in some respect and someone else disvaluing it in that same respect.
    Turning to moral value: something (an act, a person, a state of affairs) cannot be morally valuable in some respect and morally disvaluable in the same respect. That seems clear to the reason of most, I think. Well, that implies that moral values are the values of a single subject, then.
  • TheMadFool
    4k
    Turning to moral value: something (an act, a person, a state of affairs) cannot be morally valuable in some respect and morally disvaluable in the same respect. That seems clear to the reason of most, I think. Well, that implies that moral values are the values of a single subject, then.Bartricks

    I still don't understand the necessity for God.

    Your argument was that humans can't be the valuators of morals because they can hold differing values and then you go on to say that this can't be done (above). Wouldnt that mean that God is like an extra in movie. There's no need for God if humans alone can value morals in such a unanimous sense.
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    I didn't say 'God', but 'a god'. Big difference. It's the difference between saying "someone killed Janet" and "Mr Someone killed Janet".

    Anyway, I do not see why you do not see it. For the arguments I gave were valid and the premises true beyond reasonable dispute. So either you do not see that the arguments are valid, or you do not agree with a premise. But which one do you dispute?
  • alcontali
    702
    I think moral values are demonstrably subjective. Here is my simple argument:
    2. Only a subject can value something
    Bartricks

    Imagine a morality with three basic rules B={R1, R2, R3}. Imagine that person X uses a statement P in first-order logic that R4 necessarily follows from B. In that case, system S can verify P, and on those grounds accept that R4 is necessarily a consequence of B.

    Therefore, system S can objectively decide that R4 is morally required for any person who accepts B={R1, R2, R3}. Note that system S is not even a person. S is just a mechanical device.

    Therefore, I have to reject that "Only a subject can value something", because machines are perfectly capable of verifying the first-order logic statement P.
  • TheMadFool
    4k
    I didn't say 'God', but 'a god'. Big difference. It's the difference between saying "someone killed Janet" and "Mr Someone killed Janet".

    Anyway, I do not see why you do not see it. For the arguments I gave were valid and the premises true beyond reasonable dispute. So either you do not see that the arguments are valid, or you do not agree with a premise. But which one do you dispute?
    Bartricks

    You have to prove "a god" is necessary based on considering morals to be subjective.

    You did this by firstly, requiring so, denying humans to be the subjects of morality. This, according to you, is because "If I value something it is not necessarily morally valuable". In other words we can have amoral or immoral values. It is then that you concluded the ultimate/final valuator- "a god".

    This is not defensible because then you'd require a final/ultimate valuator for every single conceivable value and that's not necessary because humans can hold different values.

    So, that means there's "a god", one, final/ultimate valuator of morals but then it also means this final/ultimate valuator must be the subject of any and all values. This is exactly the reason you rejected humans as the sole valuators of morals: "If I value something it is not necessarily morally valuable" and yet here you are positing "a god" who has the exact same deficiency.
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    I do not see how you are challenging premise 2. Does the machine value anything? No, it is a machine.

    A counter-example to premise 2 would have to be an unambiguous case of a valuing that lacks a subject who is doing the valuing.
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    I still do not follow you. Like I say, the argument I gave was valid. So either you do not see this, or you take issue with a premise - which one?

    Look, if I present an argument like this:

    1. If P, then Q
    2. P
    3. Therefore Q

    It is no good then saying that I have not proved Q. I have proved Q if there is no doubt about the truth of 1 and 2.

    I said that all moral values are valuings. So, all As are Bs.
    I then said that all valuings are the valuings of a subject. So, all Bs are Cs.
    I concluded (not assumed, concluded) that therefore all moral values are the values of a subject - concluded that all As are Cs.

    You said that moral values could have numerous subjects. But I then pointed out that this is not, in fact, possible, for nothing can be morally valuable and disvaluable in the same respect at the same time.

    So, all moral values are the values of a single subject.

    That's a proof.

    It goes All As are Bs, all Bs are Cs, therefore all As are Cs. And then all As are Ds, therefore all As are Cs and Ds. That is, all moral values are the values of a mind and the mind is singular.
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