• Wayfarer
    9.8k
    An underlying issue is the fact-value dichotomy, or Hume's is/ought problem. As stated by Hume:

    In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, 'is', and 'is not', I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an 'ought', or an 'ought not'. This change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last [i.e. most important] consequence. For as this 'ought', or 'ought not', expresses some new relation or affirmation, it is necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceived by reason.

    So the contention here is that statements of fact and analytic truths, are expressed in terms of what is, or what is not; but that statements concerning human affairs frequently appeal to what 'ought' or 'ought not' to be so. And as Hume points out, they are statements of a different nature.

    Maybe you could say objectivity applies in the realm of what can be measured, whereas ‘oughts’ are connected with moral principles.
  • Kenosha Kid
    559
    Our discussions about the world would indeed be entirely meaningless if there was no truth.Banno

    I think this is the objectivity error in a nutshell. Everything I experience in discussion with another is a subjective experience, likewise for them. Somehow we muddle through without any access to or necessary knowledge of objective truth. I can say "Objective truth is unnecessary", you can say "Objective truth is essential", and we can disagree and yet understand one another perfectly solely on the basis of our subjective experiences of these terms being used and our assumptions that, if we had not at least a similar understanding of these things, a confusion would arise, the very meaningless discussion you predict without objectivity.

    At no point in this process does an angel of objectivity turn up to keep our language, and thus our understanding of each others' language, on the same field. We are clever enough to understand that we probably have similar subjective experiences of language, and can assume until proven otherwise that we therefore have mutual understanding. Occasionally subjective experience is sufficiently incomparable that confusion genuinely does arise.
  • Mww
    1.6k
    And as Hume points out, they are statements of a different nature.Wayfarer

    Of a different nature to be sure, as Kant elaborates: “....The philosophy of nature relates to that which is, that of ethics to that which ought to be....”

    Why do you suppose, if the difference is “....of the last [i.e. most important] consequence.”, he didn’t carry his investigations further, rather than demur to a personal opinion (“...nor is perceived by reason.”)?

    A product of his time, I suppose; he just didn’t see any benefit in venturing further from his empiricist roots, then his basic inquiry into human understanding would allow, to wit:

    “....And tho’ we must endeavour to render all our principles as universal as possible, by tracing up our experiments to the utmost, and explaining all effects from the simplest and fewest causes, ’tis still certain we cannot go beyond experience; and any hypothesis that pretends to discover the ultimate original qualities of human nature, ought at first to be rejected as presumptuous and chimerical....”

    “....the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects...”
    (So close.....)
    “....nor is perceived by reason.”
    (Yet, so far away)
  • Banno
    8.4k
    Everything I experience in discussion with another is a subjective experience, likewise for them.Kenosha Kid

    What does this mean?

    Are you saying that when you look at the quote above, you are not seeing the same thing as I see? But there is a clear sens ein which wht I quoted above is what you wrote, so how could that be?

    And again, if we replace the quote with "Everything I experience in discussion with another is an experience, likewise for them", what has changed, apart from the indefinite article?
  • Wayfarer
    9.8k
    Sharing the humanist and rationalist outlook of the European Enlightenment of the same time period, the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment asserted the importance of human reason combined with a rejection of any authority that could not be justified by reason. In Scotland, the Enlightenment was characterised by a thoroughgoing empiricism and practicality where the chief values were improvement, virtue, and practical benefit for the individual and society as a whole.

    Among the fields that rapidly advanced were philosophy, political economy, engineering, architecture, medicine, geology, archaeology, botany and zoology, law, agriculture, chemistry and sociology. Among the Scottish thinkers and scientists of the period were Francis Hutcheson, David Hume, Adam Smith, Dugald Stewart, Thomas Reid, Robert Burns, Adam Ferguson, John Playfair, Joseph Black and James Hutton.
    — Wikipedia, entry on The Scottish Enlightenment

    Hence the emphasis on objectivity and the corresponding deprecation of 'any hypothesis that pretends to discover the ultimate original qualities of human nature.' It was at this juncture that the division between fact and value began to manifest, and precisely as a consequence of the emergence of naturalism. (The influence of the 'Scottish Enlightenment' on Darwin ought also be noted.)

    Meaning that, 'objectivity' asserts itself as the sole criterion of actuality, and that value judgements are subjectivised.

    Note Adorno's comments on nihilism:

    Adorno’s account of nihilism rests...on his understanding of reason and of how modern societies have come to conceive of legitimate knowledge. He argues that morality has fallen victim to the distinction drawn between objective and subjective knowledge. Objective knowledge consists of empirically verifiable ‘facts’ about material phenomena, whereas subjective knowledge consists of all that remains, including such things as evaluative and normative statements about the world. On this view, a statement such as ‘I am sitting at a desk as I write this essay’ is of a different category to the statement ‘abortion is morally wrong’. The first statement is amenable to empirical verification, whereas the latter is an expression of a personal, subjective belief. Adorno argues that moral beliefs and moral reasoning have been confined to the sphere of subjective knowledge. He argues that, under the force of the instrumentalization of reason and positivism, we have come to conceive of the only meaningfully existing entities as empirically verifiable facts: statements on the structure and content of reality. Moral values and beliefs, in contrast, are denied such a status.

    Morality and Nihilism
  • Wheatley
    1.2k
    If everything is relative, than everything is crooked and there is no truth about what a person is, what he has done, and what he deserves. The world would therefore be entirely abstract and meaningless if there was no objective truth. Is this enough to prove relativism wrong?Gregory
    It doesn’t matter how abstract and meaningless the word is, I’m still enjoying myself typing these very words.
  • Banno
    8.4k
    Alternatively, to see the truth of relativism, notice that truth is relative to conceptual schemes or discourses, but that these are fictions that need weaving from smaller ones and joining into bigger ones.bongo fury

    I like your linked post. Not quite how I would phrase the issue, but we do overwhelmingly agree as to the facts; our disagreements being forced to the edges of our discussions.
  • Enai De A Lukal
    99
    I don't see where this is clarified. One straightforward way to pose the same question would be to ask whether there are moral truths. I've yet to see anyone lay out what exactly we'd be losing by removing all talk of "objective" here and just asking whether there are moral truths (if there are moral truths, then moral relativism is false).
  • Banno
    8.4k
    :up:

    There's a philosophical approach that seeks to force a wedge between an inner self and an outer world, usually following this up with a diminution of the import of the outer world.

    For the most part the dichotomy is false. We find ourselves embedded in the world and inseparable from it.
  • Kenosha Kid
    559
    What does this mean?

    Are you saying that when you look at the quote above, you are not seeing the same thing as I see? But there is a clear sens ein which wht I quoted above is what you wrote, so how could that be?
    Banno

    No, I don't accept it in the sense that they are compatible. The process itself is deterministic.

    The above has nothing to do with what what you wrote and, maybe, for a moment, you wondered how to understand it or whether you had been understood. It is precisely because this current paragraph seems to you relevant and meaningful to your post that you know that in fact we probably understand each other at least well enough to proceed. We have a seeming two-person consensus of the ideas under discussion that will remain in place until something comes to light to disprove it.

    This is how meaning is assumed to be conveyed linguistically, pending proof of irreconcilability. It's much the same way that theoretical scientific models are assumed true if they seem to work until disproven. Like science, we have no direct knowledge of any objective truths that do not arise other than subjectively and via consensus. But so long as our conversation seems to be working, it's as if we're guided by the angel of objectivity. But we're not. :smile:

    This is not to say that consensus itself can't be formed in part by underlying objectivity. But it's always good imo to ask the question: if we removed the objective bit, would all this still hang together by itself? Laws of physics... seems unlikely. Morality... seems highly likely.
  • Banno
    8.4k
    I find what you said very hard to follow, but it seems that you are working with a theory of meaning that involves the coding of a private meaning in your head, then the transmission of that code to others, to be decoded into a private meaning on their heads.

    This view assumes the subject/object distinction.

    It's the view eviscerated in the first part of Philosophical Investigations.
  • Enai De A Lukal
    99
    Or its effectively been severed from us altogether (thanks, Kant). A philosophic muddle if there ever was one.
  • Mww
    1.6k


    OK.

    Thanks.
  • Wayfarer
    9.8k
    There's a philosophical approach that seeks to force a wedge between an inner self and an outer world, usually following this up with a diminution of the import of the outer world.

    For the most part the dichotomy is false. We find ourselves embedded in the world and inseparable from it.
    Banno

    Ah! An idealist, after all. :wink:
  • Banno
    8.4k
    How rude! :razz:

    No, the juxtaposition of realism and idealism is itself an outcome of this same division between an internal mental world and an external physical world.
  • Pfhorrest
    2.5k
    I can't think of a test that can be applied to propositions or beliefs to see if they are true propositions or beliefs that does not involve consensusIsaac

    Check against observations?
  • Banno
    8.4k
    ...thus making 'truth' de facto consensus-based.Isaac

    That's making justification consensus-based, not truth.
  • Pfhorrest
    2.5k
    I think this is the objectivity error in a nutshell. Everything I experience in discussion with another is a subjective experience, likewise for them. Somehow we muddle through without any access to or necessary knowledge of objective truthKenosha Kid

    Objectivity is just the absence of bias, as subjectivity is bias. If the two of you have shared experiences to refer to, then that is all you need for objectivity enough for the two of you. And total objectivity is just the limit of that process: what accounting for more and more sharable experiences converges toward. We can’t ever finish that process, but there being an objective truth just means that that process converges toward something.
  • Pfhorrest
    2.5k
    An underlying issue is the fact-value dichotomy, or Hume's is/ought problem.Wayfarer

    That is definitely something that needs to be accounted for, but I see no reason why both types of question can’t be treated separately but equally. Both can be approached in an objective, critical, but open-minded (or “liberal”) way, adjudicating between different possibilities by appeal to the experiences we have in common with each other.
  • Banno
    8.4k
    Objectivity is just the absence of bias,Pfhorrest

    Pretty much; and that's fine.

    Subjective is ambiguous. It means the negation of the definition of objective given above - that is, based on personal feelings; and also "dependent on mind or an individual's perception".

    That's a problem. Folk think that if something is not objective then it is dependent on individual perception. That leads to all sorts of confusion, as, say, ones perception of a tree is seen as being based on one's feelings... and various forms of ontological idealism follow.
  • Wayfarer
    9.8k
    the juxtaposition of realism and idealism is itself an outcome of this same division between an internal mental world and an external physical world.Banno

    To me it seems the positing of a mind-independent reality is the hallmark of scientific realism and is also widely assumed by common sense realism.

    I think the ‘juxtaposition’ you’re referring to is the vacillation in the Western tradition between objectivism (generally manifesting as materialism, positivism, etc) on the one hand, and subjectivism (generally manifesting as subjective idealism) on the other.

    I think the fallacy of either of those views is that we can speak from a perspective outside the ‘self-and-world’ and thereby objectify one or another pole.

    Whereas the embedded (embodied?) perspective is characteristic of Wittgenstein (and also in a different way of Heidegger and phenomenology generally.)

    An underlying issue is the fact-value dichotomy, or Hume's is/ought problem.
    — Wayfarer

    That is definitely something that needs to be accounted for, but I see no reason why both types of question can’t be treated separately but equally. Both can be approached in an objective, critical, but open-minded (or “liberal”) way, adjudicating between different possibilities by appeal to the experiences we have in common with each other.
    Pfhorrest

    But what do you mean, ‘equally’? A quantitative matter is quantitative by definition: it can be measured precisely. You can attain your ‘inter subjective agreement’ through the whole process of experiment and observation. But questions of value are of a different order entirely; there’s no consensus on how to account for them.

    This is actually the crux of the problem.
  • Banno
    8.4k
    Pretty much. One of the tools offered by Wittgenstein to undo conceptual tangles is to look at the difference between philosophical use and common use. Common use is more about objective justification. Philosophers talk of objective truth.
  • Judaka
    610

    I don't see where this is clarified. One straightforward way to pose the same question would be to ask whether there are moral truths. I've yet to see anyone lay out what exactly we'd be losing by removing all talk of "objective" here and just asking whether there are moral truths (if there are moral truths, then moral relativism is false).Enai De A Lukal

    You can say you don't agree but it's been laid out plainly.

    Example.
    Person A thinks incest is immoral, Person B thinks it isn't.

    Person A thinks you can breathe underwater, Person B thinks you can't.

    How do you prove that incest is immoral and how do you prove that you can't breathe underwater.

    Is it true that Person A thinks incest is immoral? Yes, can he claim that it is moral truth? Yes. The question remains on whether he thinks that Person A believes his moral truth is a fact or a viewpoint.
    An example of objective morality is that within Christianity/Islam it is said that God CANNOT be wrong. He is always right. So if God lays out what is sinful and what isn't then this is a matter of fact, if you disagree then you are simply wrong.

    Equally, if there is any kind of objective moral truth then there are correct answers and the other answers are false. If you remove "objective moral truth" and say "moral truth" then I don't think this is clear, you would need to explain your stance. Even now, because you refuse to describe your views as believing in objective moral truth, I still see ambiguity in your position.
  • Gregory
    1.1k
    I think objectivity in this discussion would be a viewpoint of oneself that is accurate. Going out of yourself and viewing your self. If nothing is true, you are nothing in the worst way, even if for now your having fun, right?


    It's like saying "this soccer ball is truly round (sorta)" . It's saying "I am truly this in the battlefield of morality".
  • Gregory
    1.1k
    I don't think it matters whether committing murder is wrong for all humans. Something at least will always bind a person. The state of someone's conscience is not relative, slanted, crooked, or fuzzy. It exists in some sense
  • Enai De A Lukal
    99
    Is it true that Person A thinks incest is immoral? Yes, can he claim that it is moral truth? Yes. The question remains on whether he thinks that Person A believes his moral truth is a fact or a viewpoint.

    And so this is a perfect example of the confusion and redundancy I'm talking about, and which I don't think has adequately been supported. I think its relatively obvious the question does not remain- if someone thinks that their moral judgments express truths, then they are rejecting moral relativism and holding that- in your terminology here- there are something like moral facts (which we can express via moral judgments and propositions) and that morality is not merely a "viewpoint". So I don't see what is added, beyond unnecessary baggage/confusion/controversy, by introducing some peculiar (and I think illusory/untenable) distinction between various kinds of truth that differ in whether they are "objective" or not. "Objective" truth is a redundancy. To ask whether there are moral truths, is (more or less) just to ask whether there is some ("objective", subject-invariant, etc) fact of the matter in virtue of which certain moral judgments are true and others are not. Which is also the rejection of moral relativism (or anti-realism). And so the issue is (imo) more straightforwardly posed as a dilemma between relativism and moral truth, rather than different varieties of truth.
  • Pfhorrest
    2.5k
    You can attain your ‘inter subjective agreement’ through the whole process of experiment and observation. But questions of value are of a different order entirely; there’s no consensus on how to account for them.Wayfarer

    There's not total consensus that questions of reality are to be settled by appeal to observation either: people disbelieve observable things and believe unobservable things all the time.

    But regardless of whether there is consensus that we should do so, we can if we choose adjudicate disagreements on moral issues the same way we do factual ones: appeal to our shared experiences. For factual questions those are sensations: sight, hearing, etc. (Instruments are just additional things we're observing, with those same senses; the ways they interact with the environment, etc). For normative questions those are appetites: things like pain and hunger etc.

    Just as we can rule out factual possibilities by saying if you go and stand here and do this such-and-such will just look obviously false, so too we can rule out normative possibilities by saying if you go and stand here and do this such-and-such will just feel obviously bad.

    The objective truth is whatever looks true rather than false when all different perspectives and circumstances are accounted for. The objective good is likewise whatever feels good rather than bad when all different perspective and circumstances are accounted for.

    That does of course depend on people agreeing to base their judgements on such experiences and not just saying "I know it looks false / feels bad but it's true / good anyway", and agreeing to account for all experiences and not just saying "I can't see it right now so it's not real / it's not hurting me right now so there's nothing wrong with it" etc.

    I generally agree with the point you're making, that strictly speaking "objective truth" is redundant because if there's any actual truth it must be objective, but because there are some people with the confused notion of "subjective truth" (which should strictly just mean "opinion"), I think it's helpful to include that redundancy for clarity. Redundancy helps clarify in a lot of kinds of communication.
  • Banno
    8.4k
    Notice that the difference between your two examples is in how one justifies them. Thye are not examples of different truths, but of different justifications.
  • Enai De A Lukal
    99
    If it was only redundant I don't think it would much of a problem, but its one that carries a good deal of baggage as well (i.e. all the Kantian nonsense) that is simply unnecessary in many contexts (including, so far as I can tell, this one).
  • Banno
    8.4k
    I don't think it matters whether committing murder is wrong for all humans.Gregory

    By way of expanding the discussion, what are we to make of someone who does not think murder is wrong? Does their insistence that murder is fine tell us something about murder, or something about them?

    Murder is not such a good example, because by definition it is wrongful killing; so someone who thinks it is fine has made a logical error. Let's change the example. Suppose someone claims that kicking a puppy gives them pleasure, in order to justify habitual cruelty. Does this tell us something about the ethics of kicking puppies, or does it tell us something about them?

    It seems to me that it tells us about them.
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