• Kazuma
    26
    With the expansion of Western hedonism, it is very apparent that moral relativism is becoming prevalent. We could go as far as to answer the question:

    (1)
    Was fascism bad?

    "That cannot be known, the good and bad is not absolute, for someone it was bad and for someone it was not."

    This answer, however, is not in accordance with moral relativism, it makes morals non-existing because the only answer that has been given is that there is no answer. True moral relativism would have to state why it is bad or wrong and how it applies to this particular case (1).

    An answer of moral objectivist to (1):

    "Yes, fascism was bad and if one claims that the opposite is true or that the question cannot be answered then they have to justify deeds of fascism."

    Moral objectivist finds good and bad to be defined by fundamental human values. Even animals have their own values (reproduce, help others of their own kind, live in accordance to the hierarchy), so to say that there are no fundamental values would be a sign of confusion. However, there is one critical question:

    (2)
    Are we different to animals? Could we be put in a different category than animals?

    If so, that would mean our fundamental values have to be different to purely animal values. Aristotle's: "The more you know, the more you know you don't know." would imply that we are more self aware and our ability to explore is bigger than that of an animal. That also applies to our moral questions, we can actually articulate our questions and use methods unknown to animals to achieve knowledge.

    When speaking of morals, we encounter another question:

    (3)
    Can we state whether anything is good or bad with certainty?

    Moral relativism would advocate the idea that no moral question can be answered with absolute certainty. How come no question can be answered with absolute certainty if we have the fundamental values as previously mentioned? The good is what is in accordance with those unchangeable values and the bad is what goes against them.

    I welcome a discussion on this topic.
  • anonymous66
    626
    My understanding of objective morality is that it is the belief that some actions are bad/wrong/immoral in and of themselves. From a moral objectivist's point of view, it is more likely that there is something wrong w/ someone who does X (killing for fun, etc), than it is that there is nothing actually wrong with action X (in the same way we are right to think there is something wrong with someone who says 2+2=5). There is a difference between moral objectivism and moral absolutism. Just because someone is a moral objectivist or moral absolutist, it doesn't follow that they go around telling other people what they must or must not do... or that they have fundamentalist attitudes in regards to morality.

    Moral relativism is the belief that there are no actions that are intrinsically bad/wrong/immoral.. rather, relativists believe that morality is a matter of opinion and/or preference. So, if asked, "is it wrong to X?" The moral relativist would just ask, "from whose point of view?" Or perhaps they would merely state their opinion/preference.

    The moral relativist denies that morality could be objective (no moral facts), while an objectivist believes that morality is objective (perhaps moral facts, or quasi-realism... while admitting there are disagreements). Relativists believe that morality is and can only be opinion and preference.. Objectivists suggest that morality is more like the field of medicine, or mathematics- there are differing opinions, but some math and some medicine is objectively better than others.

    I suspect a moral relativist would just tell you his opinion or his preferences about the questions above, while from the standpoint of moral objectivism, an objectivist would make an argument for why said thing is objectively right or wrong, based on a system of morality (virtue ethics, utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, etc.).

    (By the way, I've been compiling a list of philosophers who argue for objective morality from a completely secular point of view).
  • Wayfarer
    8k
    In Plato's philosophy there is an explicit assertion of the 'true good' in many of the dialogues. The archetype is the calm resignation of Socrates in the face of death in the Apology. Because the philosopher has realised that his true nature is immortal, then he is not troubled by imminent death. The Allegory of the Cave is an extended meditation on the realisation of higher truth; the whole aim of the discipline of philosophy is to attain the 'vision of the Good', which is normally obscured by passions, misconceptions, and mistaking what is false for what is real, thereby ascending from the Cave of ignorance to the true light of noetic wisdom.

    But it's also the case that many of the questions sorrounding the nature of 'true goods' such as real knowledge, virtue, bravery, etc, are often left open - many such questions are explored in the dialogues, but they often end in aporia - they don't present a final definition so much as explore various possibilities.

    Aristotelean philosophy adopts and modifies many of these themes in such seminal ethical works as the Nicomachean Ethic.

    Analogies to the allegory of the Cave can be found in other classical philosophical systems, such as Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism.

    Even though all of these schools differ considerably in matters of doctrine, they all orient themselves around the idea of the realisation of higher truth, the attainment of which is the rationale for their ethical philosophy. In traditional philosophy, east and west, there are "levels of being" with the more real being also the more valuable; these levels appear in both the "external" and the "internal" worlds, "higher" levels of reality without corresponding to "deeper" levels of reality within. On the lowest level is the material or physical world, which depends for its existence on the higher levels. On the very highest and deepest level is the Infinite or Absolute - conceived variously in terms of the Good, the Deity or First Principle.

    It is precisely the absence of that sense in modern and post-modern philosophy that has undermined the background necessary for a so-called 'objective' morality (although the very term 'objective' is problematical, because the relationship that dictates morality in theistic religion is not 'subject-object' but 'I-thou'.)
  • R-13
    83

    I live the US. It's very polarized here. Most folks are sure that they are good and that their opponents are evil. Some of the more restrained express pity and compassion for the poor fools still in the dark, but even this can be interpreted as a superior expression of superiority. So moral relativism, as I see it, is actually rare.

    It's rare enough in fact that a certain detachment or slowness to judgment and commitment starts to stand out as the "thoughtful" position. Maybe there is some genuine relativism on some issues. "If one prioritizes this, then this follows, etc." But perhaps we also have the prioritization of reason or criticism above some other form of virtue. "I'd rather be a little amoral than a thoughtless or incorrect conformist." In short, we still see moral preference. It's just that the "good guy" involved takes a different form. I don't believe in sincere or total moral relativism. That sounds like a person without preferences.
  • jorndoe
    677
    Going by evidence, I think it can be shown that moral realism versus moral relativism is a false dichotomy.
    Evidently we tend to dislike harm and like freedom, which clearly is subjective (or mind-dependent if you will).
    Since those are morally informative (while assuming some moral awareness), they exemplify subjective morals.
    Yet they're not moral relativism, not arbitrary, ad hoc opinion or discretionary.
    So, there's more to the story, it seems.
  • Kazuma
    26

    Why do moral relativists think of morals at all? It does seem that moral relativism goes against itself because it'll start disproving it's own reasons for why an action was good or bad, sooner or later.

    I would like to take a look at the list when it's done if you don't mind sharing it.
  • Kazuma
    26
    But it's also the case that many of the questions sorrounding the nature of 'true goods' such as real knowledge, virtue, bravery, etc, are often left open - many such questions are explored in the dialogues, but they often end in aporia - they don't present a final definition so much as explore various possibilities.Wayfarer

    Even if they don't present a final definition, they don't start denying that there is a true/objective good, do they? It still is there for them, it's just that they can't define it.

    It is precisely the absence of that sense in modern and post-modern philosophy that has undermined the background necessary for a so-called 'objective' morality (although the very term 'objective' is problematical, because the relationship that dictates morality in theistic religion is not 'subject-object' but 'I-thou'.)Wayfarer

    Did this absence arise because objective morals could not be well defined or because the term objective is problematic? I still don't see a reason to abandon the idea of objective morals.
  • anonymous66
    626
    Why do moral relativists think of morals at all? It does seem that moral relativism goes against itself because it'll start disproving it's own reasons for why an action was good or bad, sooner or later.

    I would like to take a look at the list when it's done if you don't mind sharing it.
    Kazuma

    One of the arguments in relation to moral relativism is that a true moral relativist would have no reason to judge another's morality. If a moral relativist was consistent, then everyone else's opinion/preference about morality has just as much validity as their own. If relative morality, then no opinion/preference about morality could be better or worse than another... a moral relativist can only talk of differences.

    Here is my list of philosophers who argue for objective morality from a secular point of view.


    Paul Boghossian is Silver professor of philosophy at New York University, where he was Chair of the Department for ten years (1994�"2004) and responsible for building it into one of the top philosophy programs in the world.[1] His research interests include epistemology, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language. He is Director of the New York Institute of Philosophy and research professor at the University of Birmingham.

    Timothy Williamson is a British philosopher whose main research interests are in philosophical logic, philosophy of language, epistemology and metaphysics.

    He is currently the Wykeham Professor of Logic at the University of Oxford, and Fellow of New College, Oxford. He was previously Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh (1995�"2000); Fellow and Lecturer in Philosophy at University College, Oxford (1988�"1994); and Lecturer in Philosophy at Trinity College, Dublin (1980�"1988). He was president of the Aristotelian Society from 2004 to 2005.

    He is a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA),[1] the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters,[2] Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE) and a Foreign Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.


    Simon Blackburn is a British academic philosopher known for his work in metaethics, where he defends quasi-realism, and in the philosophy of language; more recently, he has gained a large general audience from his efforts to popularise philosophy. He retired as professor of philosophy at the University of Cambridge in 2011, but remains a distinguished research professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, teaching every fall semester. He is also a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and a member of the professoriate of New College of the Humanities. He was previously a Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford and has also taught full-time at the University of North Carolina as an Edna J. Koury Professor. He is a former president of the Aristotelian Society, having served the 2009�"2010 term.

    Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (born 1955) is an American philosopher. He specializes in ethics, epistemology, and more recently in neuroethics, the philosophy of law, and the philosophy of cognitive science. He is the Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University.[1] He earned his Ph.D. from Yale University under the supervision of Robert Fogelin and Ruth Barcan Marcus, and taught for many years at Dartmouth College, before moving to Duke.[2]

    His Moral Skepticisms (2006) defends the view that we do not have fully adequate responses to the moral skeptic. It also defends a coherentist moral epistemology, which he has defended for decades. His Morality Without God? (2009) endorses the moral philosophy of his former colleague Bernard Gert as an alternative to religious views of morality.[citation needed]

    In 1999, he debated William Lane Craig in a debate titled "God? A Debate Between A Christian and An Atheist".[3]

    Walter Sinnott-Armstrong argues that God is not only not essential to morality, but moral behaviour should be independent of religion. A separate entity one could say. He strongly disagrees with several core ideas: that atheists are immoral people; that any society will become like lord of the flies if it becomes too secular; that without morality being laid out in front of us, like a commandment, we have no reason to be moral; that absolute moral standards require the existence of a God, he sees that people themselves are inherently good and not bad; and that without religion, we simply couldn't know what is bad and what is good.

    Louis Paul Pojman [1935 - 2005] grew up in Cicero, Illinois, where he attended Morton High School and Junior College. He went on to receive a B.S. degree from Nyack College and a B.D degree from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, becoming an ordained minister in the Reformed Church of America. After serving an inter-racial church in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, he returned to seminary, attending Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University in New York where he studied under Reinhold Niebuhr and earned a Ph.D. in Ethics. During this time he received several fellowships to study abroad. In 1969-71 he was a Fulbright Fellow and a Kent Fellow at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and in 1970 a Rockefeller Fellow at Hamburg University, Germany. Upon receiving his PhD from Union, he decided to study analytic philosophy and went to Oxford University from which he earned his D. Phil in 1977. He also lectured at Oxford. In 1977 he became a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Notre Dame. After this he taught at the University of Texas (Dallas), and became a Professor at the University of Mississippi, where he was Chair of the Philosophy Department. He was also a visiting Scholar at Brigham Young University, University of California, Berkeley and New York University among others. He recently retired as Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus from the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he was a Professor for nine years. In 2004-5 he was a Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge University, UK, where he became a Life-Fellow. He has read papers at 60 universities in the USA, Europe and Asia.

    I just came across this talk by Peter Singer: Ethics Without Religion.
  • Terrapin Station
    11.4k


    I'm a moral relativist. More specifically, I'm a subjectivist/noncognitivist/basically an emotivist on morality/ethics. In other words, I believe that moral stances are simply ways that individuals "feel" about interpersonal behavior. A la emotivism, it's more or less "yaying" or "booing" behavior.

    Was fascism bad?

    "That cannot be known, the good and bad is not absolute, for someone it was bad and for someone it was not."
    Kazuma

    No many moral relativists would answer that way. The problem is that you're seeing relativism from an absolutist/objectivist context. You see it as if relativists are acknowledging that ethics is objective, but we just can't know the answer to ethical questions. That's not what we're saying, however. We're saying that ethics is a matter of how people feel about behavior. So when someone asks "Was fascism bad," they're asking how people feel about fascism, and why they feel that way.

    Without more context, a relativist would often just answer with respect to themselves--do they feel that fascism was bad, and why. They might answer for particular other people instead, though. Then it would depend on the context--whose opinion are we asking for?

    We're not going say, "This can not be answered," because we're not assuming that there's some nonpersonal answer to it. It can be answered, easily, simply by talking about how people feel about fascism.

    Can we state whether anything is good or bad with certainty?

    Moral relativism would advocate the idea that no moral question can be answered with absolute certainty.
    Kazuma

    If we're talking about certainty in the sense of whether something "can not possibly be incorrect," we'd simply say that's a category error. Moral claims are not correct or incorrect. They're rather reports of how people feel about things.
  • Kazuma
    26
    I'm a moral relativist. More specifically, I'm a subjectivist/noncognitivist/basically an emotivist on morality/ethics. In other words, I believe that moral stances are simply ways that individuals "feel" about interpersonal behavior. A la emotivism, it's more or less "yaying" or "booing" behavior.Terrapin Station

    Can moral relativism disprove moral objectivism? It does seem that moral objectivists try to prove the objectivity but moral relativists just say that they feel or believe that it is the way they see it. Hence why moral relativism is more popular nowadays.

    No many moral relativists would answer that way. The problem is that you're seeing relativism from an absolutist/objectivist context. You see it as if relativists are acknowledging that ethics is objective, but we just can't know the answer to ethical questions. That's not what we're saying, however. We're saying that ethics is a matter of how people feel about behavior. So when someone asks "Was fascism bad," they're asking how people feel about fascism, and why they feel that way.Terrapin Station

    Agreed.

    If we're talking about certainty in the sense of whether something "can not possibly be incorrect," we'd simply say that's a category error. Moral claims are not correct or incorrect. They're rather reports of how people feel about things.Terrapin Station

    Can you state that with certainty? You seem to be certain about the fact that it's just how people feel about things.
  • Terrapin Station
    11.4k


    The concerns with proof/disproof and certainty are misplaced in my opinion. Empirical claims are not provable, falsification is problematic a la the Duhem-Quine theory, and certainty is going to be inherently psychological.
  • Kazuma
    26


    That's very anti-philosophical to me. Not using philosophical reflection in order to come to the conclusion of a philosophical problem is just ignorance. There are arguments for the existence of objective morals, yet you try to disprove them by completely ignoring them.
  • Wayfarer
    8k
    It is precisely the absence of that sense in modern and post-modern philosophy that has undermined the background necessary for a so-called 'objective' morality (although the very term 'objective' is problematical, because the relationship that dictates morality in theistic religion is not 'subject-object' but 'I-thou'.)
    — Wayfarer

    Did this absence arise because objective morals could not be well defined or because the term objective is problematic? I still don't see a reason to abandon the idea of objective morals.
    Kazuma

    Because the term 'objective' is problematic in relation to this question.

    Are you familiar with David Hume's statement of the 'is/ought' problem?

    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 ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all 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 consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, 'tis 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.

    (Quoted in Wikipedia, where there is a useful discussion of the issue.)

    Here Hume articulates the issue clearly. At issue is that ethical judgements, by their very nature, are reliant on 'ought' judgements - what one ought to do. Hume is saying that these kinds of judgements are of a different nature to factual statements. I think this is the issue that Kant then tackled in Critique of Practical Reason: he grants that we can't establish the reality of God as a matter of fact, but that as a requirement of practical reason, we have to assume it.

    However, what has happened in practice is that science - which is concerned with the domain of the objective - has become 'the arbiter of reality' for Western culture (see, for example, Steven Pinker's Science is not the Enemy of the Humanities.) However, science itself has no particular competency in respect of morality - as far as neo-Darwinism is concerned, morality, like everything else, is an artefact of survival. We co-operate or are altruistic because of adapative necessity. Science assumes a physical universe that is intrinsically meaningless, onto which h. sapiens 'projects' meaning for social or other reasons.

    So when the term 'objectivity' is used, it generally pertains to factors that can be measured objectively, that can be made subject to quantitative analysis. Nowadays 'objective' and 'really there', are almost used synonymously. That is what I was drawing attention to.
  • javra
    768
    I'm a moral relativist. More specifically, I'm a subjectivist/noncognitivist/basically an emotivist on morality/ethics. In other words, I believe that moral stances are simply ways that individuals "feel" about interpersonal behavior. A la emotivism, it's more or less "yaying" or "booing" behavior.Terrapin Station

    Here’s an argument for objective ethics that doesn’t depend on universals. As example: the goodness of ice-cream flavors.

    To whom will the flavors be good or bad? To the individual(s) in question. In this sense, it’s all relative to individual beings. But …

    You’ve got chocolate v. vanilla. OK, this is up in the air as an yay/boo issue.

    Now, you’ve also got sand-mixed-in-with-ice-cream flavors and flavors that are not sand-mixed-in-with-ice-cream. More will hold a boo for the first then the second. So we’re approaching an objective yay/boo value, but we’re not there yet.

    Last on this list, there’s the razorblades-and-nails-and-boric-acid taste verse the non-what-was-just-stated taste (for clarity, where each taste carries through its promise of lethality or non-lethality). Here, at last, we’ve encountered a universal boo for the first flavor—and an objective bad—and a universal yay for the second—an objective good. For the sake of argument, those that might prefer the lethal ice-cream taste are no more (because its lethal); hence, again, resulting in the ubiquitous, objective “boo” for lethal ice-cream.

    This same overall principle can be applied to most anything. Orwellian government is to me bad because it takes away from my life as a social being--a personal boo. If Orwellian government could be inferentially shown to be detrimental for all in the long run as an objective fact, then Orwellian government will likewise be evidenced to be an objective bad. And this because its yay/boo value is no longer relative to individuals but, instead, becomes relative to that which is universal to all individuals in an objective way.

    So, out of curiosity, how would you argue that razorblades-and-nails-and-boric-acid ice-cream is not an objectively bad type of ice-cream?

    ----------

    Edit: OK, I've just been struck by the hypocrisy in my post. Oops. Objective good/bad would be a universal good/bad. Though maybe a slippery slope toward the metaphysical universal of good/bad, the argument I’ve just outlined—I still believe—does not need to be associated with metaphysical universals by physicalists. (let me know if I’m wrong on this)
  • Terrapin Station
    11.4k
    That's very anti-philosophical to me. Not using philosophical reflection in order to come to the conclusion of a philosophical problem is just ignorance. There are arguments for the existence of objective morals, yet you try to disprove them by completely ignoring them.Kazuma

    You didn't seem to understand the post you're responding to at all.

    To start with, I say that concern with proof/disproof and certainty is misplaced. You respond by saying that I'm trying to disprove objective morality.

    And then even though I'm referencing both falsificationism and the Duhem-Quine thesis, two very well-known philosophical theories that have to do with how proof and disproof relate to philosophical views, you respond by saying that it's "very anti-philosophical." And then you follow that up with an implication (in context) that concern with proof/disproof and certainty is the whole gist of philosophy.

    My initial post in this thread was intended simply to clear up some conceptual errors you were making with respect to relativist ethics. That doesn't amount to attempting to disprove anything. I was simply trying to help you understand just what it is that relativists say versus don't say, and why they say it. It's simply a matter of whether you're interested enough in not presenting a straw man instead.
  • Terrapin Station
    11.4k
    Here’s an argument for objective ethics that doesn’t depend on universals. As example: the goodness of ice-cream flavors.

    To whom will the flavors be good or bad?
    javra

    Wait--why are you talking about ice cream flavors being good or bad? That has nothing to do with ethics. Ethics is about interpersonal behavior that people consider to be more significant than etiquette. At any rate, okay, we can just make it about value judgments that don't depend on universals (not that I think that the issue hinges on universals in any way, but I'll proceed) . . .

    Now, you’ve also got sand-mixed-in-with-ice-cream flavors and flavors that are not sand-mixed-in-with-ice-cream. More will hold a boo for the first then the second. So we’re approaching an objective yay/boo value, but we’re not there yet.javra

    "Now we're approaching an objective value" is completely arbitrary there, unless you're equating "objective" with "agreement." Objectivity doesn't have anything to do with agreement. It has to do with whether something is a mental phenomenon or not. "Subjective" refers to something being a mental phenomenon. "Objective" refers to it not being a mental phenomenon. Everyone ever alive could hypothetically have the same judgment about something. What makes it subjective or objective is whether the judgment is a mental phenomenon or not. So if judgments are mental phenomena, then the judgment in question is subjective, even though every person there ever was and ever will be agree on the judgment.
  • Kazuma
    26


    I'm a moral relativist. More specifically, I'm a subjectivist/noncognitivist/basically an emotivist on morality/ethics.Terrapin Station

    Are you trying to say that by being moral relativist you do not oppose moral objectivism? That's a very shy approach indeed, to even imply such thing. I do agree that I portrayed view of a moral relativist differently.

    But if you haven't come here to actually discuss whether morals are relative or objective, then I guess you're free to go.

    PS: It's not philosophical to just point out that there is some philosophical theory. I could very say that there is a thesis against the theory that you're proposing. You have to be more specific.
  • javra
    768
    Wait--why are you talking about ice cream flavors being good or bad? That has nothing to do with ethics.Terrapin Station

    It addresses the metaethics of what good/bad entails, without which no morality/immorality could be purported.

    "Now we're approaching an objective value" is completely arbitrary there, unless you're equating "objective" with "agreement." Objectivity doesn't have anything to do with agreement.Terrapin Station

    I’m thinking of objective in the sense of that which is independent of opinion, judgement, etc.

    If the argument I previously made were to be extended, there is an onus to evidence that there are universal properties to all sentience that occur objectively—as the term has just been addressed by me. One example would be that all sentient being sense things. Note how this couldn’t be accomplished experientially but would need to be justified rationally. Here, however, the argument is made with importance given to an implicitly affirmed, self-evident property of sentience: maybe it can be worded as, “life lives its life to the fullest capacity given the limitations it encounters”.

    If “life is to be lived to the fullest” were to be an objective property intrinsic to all life, then one could establish what is objectively good and bad based on this … not on the principle of agreement but on a metaphysical principle of being entailed by that which is objective. To try to put together both our semantics: that which is objectively present to all subjectivity.

    In this manner, ought could be cogently derived from is. That which best satisfies the objectively intrinsic property X ubiquitously present to all sentience then becomes equivalent to an objective good. Again, not due to accord but due to the "is" entailing the "ought".

    "Objective" refers to it not being a mental phenomenon.Terrapin Station

    I prefer the definition of "independent of opinion, judgment, etc." Is this something you'd disagree with?
  • Terrapin Station
    11.4k
    Are you trying to say that by being moral relativist you do not oppose moral objectivism?Kazuma

    No, but I wasn't suggesting that I was disproving moral objectivism either. I was explaining an alternate point of view.

    In my opinion, there's no question that ethics (as well as aesthetics or any valuations) are not objective. If you're unsure of your view and want to explore some problems with specific arguments for objectivism, I'd be happy to explain the problems in my opinion with the arguments in question. Again, this wouldn't be "disproving" objectivism. It would be merely explaining a different point of view. It will ultimately be up to what makes more sense to you, what seems more accurate to you, etc.

    PS: It's not philosophical to just point out that there is some philosophical theory. I could very say that there is a thesis against the theory that you're proposing. You have to be more specific.Kazuma

    Neither falsificationism nor the Duhem-Quine thesis are nonspecific. You should become familiar with both if you're interested in philosophy.
  • Terrapin Station
    11.4k
    It addresses the metaethics of what good/bad entails,javra

    I wouldn't say it does if it has nothing to do with ethics. There's a commonality, I suppose, in that we're talking about preferences, but gustatory preferences are very different in quality than feelings about interpersonal behavior.

    I’m thinking of objective in the sense of that which is independent of opinion, judgement, etc.javra

    Right, but talking about something where everyone is making the same judgment isn't addressing something that's independent of judgment.

    there is an onus to evidence that there are universal properties to all sentience that occur objectivelyjavra

    But "objective" doesn't refer to "universal properties." Again, suppose there are universal properties of judgment. Well, that's not independent of judgment, is it?

    If “life is to be lived to the fullest” were to be an objective property intrinsic to all life,javra

    To say that something like that occurs independently of opinion, judgment, etc., we'd need to show some evidence of it occurring independently of opinion, judgment, etc. Talking about someone having the opinion that "life is to be lived to the fullest" obviously isn't showing evidence of it occurring independently of opinion, even if we're talking about an opinion where everyone who has ever lived, everyone who will ever live, has that opinion.
  • javra
    768
    I wouldn't say it does if it has nothing to do with ethics. There's a commonality, I suppose, in that we're talking about preferences, but gustatory preferences are very different in quality than feelings about interpersonal behavior.Terrapin Station

    I looked up “ethics” on Wikipedia to validate my assumptions; SEP doesn’t have a generalized entry. They there define it in terms of right and wrong conduct. In my brief glance at the entry I didn’t find a necessity for ethics to be about interpersonal behavior. Most, btw, would have an easy time affirming that it is wrong/bad/unethical for a person to choose to ingest razorblades—an awful example when taken seriously, I grant (my apologies for having brought it up)—this having to do with what a living being should and should not do to themselves.

    As to debate about what is denoted by ethics, I’ll defer to Wikipedia for now.

    Right, but talking about something where everyone is making the same judgment isn't addressing something that's independent of judgment.Terrapin Station

    I find this to be the main element that you’re either not accepting or not understanding.

    Is there anything ontic about sentience that is there independently of ideas, opinions, or judgments? If there is, it is objectively there: whether or not one has ideas, opinions, or judgments about it. Just like rocks right in front of oneself: they're objective, even though one has judgments about them.

    Validating what this might be is another story altogether. Validating what is ontically present to all sentience all the time is yet another--but, if this can be validated, then one can get from what is to what ought to be. All I'm here saying is that it holds potential to be demonstrated.
  • Terrapin Station
    11.4k
    I looked up “ethics” on Wikipedia to validate my assumptions; SEP doesn’t have a generalized entry. They there define it in terms of right and wrong conduct. In my brief glance at the entry I didn’t find a necessity for ethics to be about interpersonal behavior. Most, btw, would have an easy time affirming that it is wrong/bad/unethical for a person to choose to ingest razorblades—an awful example when taken seriously, I grant (my apologies for having brought it up)—this having to do with what a living being should and should not do to themselves.javra

    Wait--you were talking about ice cream flavors being morally good or bad??

    At any rate, sure, I consider behavior towards oneself to be a moral issue (if we're talking about significant enough behavior, at least).

    I find this to be the main element that you’re either not accepting or not understanding.

    Is there anything ontic about sentience that is there independently of ideas, opinions, or judgments? If there is, it is objectively there: whether or not one has ideas, opinions, or judgments about it. Just like rocks right in front of oneself: they're objective, even though one has judgments about them.

    Validating what this might be is another story altogether. Validating what is ontically present to all sentience all the time is yet another--but, if this can be validated, then one can get from what is to what ought to be. All I'm here saying is that it holds potential to be demonstrated.
    javra

    Subjectivity is basically "the realm of the mental," so that would include sentience in general. However, even if you were excluding sentience in general, morality necessarily involves judgments.

    Re rocks, it's important not to conflate the perception of them with what the perception is of. With moral judgments, there's no evidence of anything external or any reason to believe that we're talking about perception in the first place.
  • javra
    768
    Wait--you were talking about ice cream flavors being morally good or bad??Terrapin Station

    No. That’s you talking.

    I, again, intended to address the metaethics of good and bad--not ethics. What is good and what is bad, in manners that encapsulate both morality and amoral actions, is not at all easy to define in the abstract independently of context—and is of itself different from ethics. Again, meta-ethics.

    I could ask things like, “How is “yay” a moral judgment rather than a guttural preference, regardless of what’s addressed?” but I won’t start in so doing.

    Subjectivity is basically "the realm of the mental," so that would include sentience in general. However, even if you were excluding sentience in general, morality necessarily involves judgments.

    Re rocks, it's important not to conflate the perception of them with what the perception is of. With moral judgments, there's no evidence of anything external or any reason to believe that we're talking about perception in the first place.
    Terrapin Station

    We previously agreed on what “objective” signifies. Now its being willfully ignored. Also appears you’ve overlooked most of what I wrote.

    Never once brought up perception. The point was that you judge rocks to be objective, and yet they’re still so despite you holding a subjective judgment about them. What you address is, in addition, a strawman: I brought up the issue regarding objective properties of sentience … not in regards to particular moral judgments. Two very different things. But I don’t like being overly repetitive about what I previously wrote.
  • Terrapin Station
    11.4k
    I, again, intended to address the metaethics of good and bad--not ethics. What is good and what is bad, in manners that encapsulate both morality and amoral actions, is not at all easy to define in the abstract independently of context—and is of itself different from ethics. Again, meta-ethics.javra

    I addressed this with:

    There's a commonality, I suppose, in that we're talking about preferences, but gustatory preferences are very different in quality than feelings about interpersonal behavior.Terrapin Station

    Re this:

    I could ask things like, “How is “yay” a moral judgment rather than a guttural preference, regardless of what’s addressed?” but I won’t start in so doing.javra

    The answer is that it's not a moral judgment regardless of what's addressed. What makes it a moral judgment is that it's an expression of approval or disapproval about interpersonal behavior considered to be more significant than ethics. Again re interpersonal behavior, that can include behavior of one towards oneself, or of anything looked at with sufficient personhood to amount to moral agency towards the same.

    We previously agreed on what “objective” signifies. Now its being willfully ignored. Also appears you’ve overlooked most of what I wrote.javra

    If you're referring to you saying:

    I’m thinking of objective in the sense of that which is independent of opinion, judgement, etc.javra

    And me responding with:

    Right, but talking about something where everyone is making the same judgment isn't addressing something that's independent of judgment.Terrapin Station

    That's because in the post you had responded to (with your comment "I'm thinking of objective in the sense . . .") I had just written:

    "Subjective" refers to something being a mental phenomenon. "Objective" refers to it not being a mental phenomenon.Terrapin Station

    Judgment, opinion and et cetera are mental phenomena, and something independent of them is "not being a mental phenomenon." Sentience is a mental phenomenon that your et cetera would cover.

    Never once brought up perception. The point was that you judge rocks to be objective, and yet they’re still so despite you holding a subjective judgment about them.javra

    I brought up perception, because that's what's going on in the case of rocks. You have a perception of them, perception being the reception and processing of information from outside of yourself. You're not judging rocks to be objective, especially not in the same sense that the term "judgment" occurs in ethical judgments. You perceive rocks. You experience something objective via perception.

    What you address is, in addition, a strawman: I brought up the issue regarding objective properties of sentience … not in regards to particular moral judgments.javra

    It wasn't a straw man because I didn't present it as being your argument. Rather, I presented it as an argumentative point of my own against your argument. What you were arguing for (in general in your comments) was the objectivity of moral claims. It didn't become apparent until that last post that your earlier "I'm thinking of objective in the sense . . . " was maybe meant to say that only judgments and opinions, and not other sorts of mental phenomena--despite your "etc."--are subjective, so that sentience in general wouldn't be necessarily subjective. I don't at all agree with that, but I argued that even if we allowed sentience to not be necessarily subjective, that doesn't at all help ethics to be objective, because we don't have ethics if we don't have judgments.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    Existence of the objective morals & problem of moral relativism

    Human normative behavior is objectively present wherever man is. Of course, contexts can vary significantly from one society to the next, in this relative sense that what is normative in one society, may not be so in the next. Morality is a subset of normative behaviour.

    I think individuals rely on the normative moral rules of the society where they live, the practices instilled by family, school, peers and so on. Our sense of duty to others and ourself arises from these norms. I think we are morally constructed, and our behaviour in varying degrees mirror normative practices.

    I don't think most people have to think very hard to judge what's right or wrong in the vast majority of moral choices. It is only in a true moral dilemma, that we are challenged. How we respond is based on the possibilities inherent in the situation. Thinking of Sartre's example:

    A eighteen year old boy in France in WWII wants to go and join the resistance to fight the Germans and to help regain his country, which is in a desperate occupied state at this point. He lives out in the country in a secluded area, It is only him and his mother who is sick, dying perhaps. He knows that if he goes and leaves her there is a very good chance she will die. Does he stay and care for his mother or go and help reclaim his country?

    I don't think such dilemmas are easily resolved, but I do think such difficult decisions demonstrate our moral character.
  • Michael
    7.9k
    Does he stay and care for his mother or go and help reclaim his country?Cavacava

    Stay and care for his mother. He's highly unlikely to make any difference to the war, but he's highly likely to make a difference at home.
  • javra
    768
    [...] It didn't become apparent until that last post that your earlier "I'm thinking of objective in the sense . . . " was maybe meant to say that only judgments and opinions, and not other sorts of mental phenomena--despite your "etc."--are subjective, so that sentience in general wouldn't be necessarily subjective. [...]Terrapin Station

    To me we’re still talking past each other some, but so it goes with some debates.

    I agree that sentience consists of subjectivity, by the way. The etc. still stands. Don’t know if this will make a difference: my contention was that some properties of subjectivity can be ontically determinate properties of all subjects all the time … and, thereby, can be universals of subjectivity that occur regardless of what anyone has to say about them. I am not giving this as a proven case-in-point but as a hypothetical example: e.g., all subjects perpetually have the attribute of a capacity to sense psychological pain and pleasure. If this were to be ontically so regardless of what anyone might say about it, then it would be a universal to all sentience that objectively is. … Even though it fully pertains to processes (and/or states) of subjectivity. Here I’m thinking in terms of objective data concerning the ontic reality of subjectivity which, as data, is addressed in the third/forth-person--rather than, for example, what subjectively occurs in the first-person.

    Hope this is better understood, but further debate on this proposal (which I at this point presume would still plentifully occur) becomes one of metaphysics and epistemology, not ethics or metaethics.
  • Terrapin Station
    11.4k
    all subjects perpetually have the attribute of a capacity to sense psychological pain and pleasure. If this were to be ontically so regardless of what anyone might say about it, then it would be a universal to all sentience that objectively is. …javra

    Why would we believe that everyone has some mental attribute regardless of what anyone might say about it? I also don't even really know what that would amount to claiming. Something about unconscious minds or something?

    Also, if it's some mental attribute, it would be universal in the sense that everyone has it, and maybe even universal in the "type" sense--maybe you'd be positing something like something mental as a real abstract that occurs separately from any individuals, but it wouldn't be objective if objectivity refers to the complement of mental phenomena.
  • javra
    768
    I also don't even really know what that would amount to claiming. Something about unconscious minds or something?Terrapin Station

    Maybe it the slippery slope toward an acknowledgement of universals. No, it would be addressing what to us are conscious states of being.

    [...] but it wouldn't be objective if objectivity refers to the complement of mental phenomena.Terrapin Station

    Yea, this is framed in terms of a dichotomy between objects and subjects. We take the former to necessarily be objective the latter to necessarily be subjective. But one can start asking why physical objects are objective, why are they judged to pertain to the category of “objectivity”? Isn’t it because they ontically are regardless of what anyone has to say about it?

    [We could confound this even further with questions of why commonsense has it that “I” is a pronoun for a subject and “me” is a pronoun for an object. It’s a complex issue for me—not dispelled by assertions that commonsense is nonsensical.]

    Just trying to support my own previously mentioned case that elements of subjectivity can objectively occur in manners applicable to all sentience. Though I’m well aware of the potential for befuddlement. As for me, I’ll let it rest on this thread.
  • andrewk
    2.1k
    Morals are what a 'moral agent' uses to decide what actions to perform. So all that matters is what each moral agent decides. I am a meta-ethical moral relativist, so I believe there is no mind-independent 'fact' about whether fascism is bad. But in my ethical system fascism is bad, so I fight against it. If enough people share that moral conclusion, enough anti-fascism action will occur for fascism to be defeated (for now. But like He-Who-Must-Not-Be Named it will always return). So part of taking action against something that is bad in my moral framework is to try to persuade others to reach the same moral conclusion in their frameworks, so that they will help me in my attempt to defeat fascism. In doing that I may use language that implies I believe that there is a mind-independent fact that fascism is bad. But that's just because such patterns of speech can be rhetorically effective, and are more readily understood, rather than revealing an underlying ontological commitment to the existence of mind-independent moral facts.

    (2) We are animals. We differ from non-human animals in various ways, just as human animals differ from one another.

    (3) Absolute certainty about anything is impossible. Pragmatic certainty is another matter.
  • javra
    768
    A question asked in good faith to moral relativists in general [not to say that my other questions weren’t asked in good faith]:

    One reason I'm adverse to moral relativism is that it appears to inevitably results in the dictum of might makes right—be this the force of an individual or the force of the masses (slavery can come to mind).

    Is there any way that moral relativism can remain consistent without resulting in right/good/ethical being that which is willed by the whims of power?
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