• Isaac
    2.9k
    If he is actually getting a kick out of it (in the usual sense), and no moral aversion, then I am still not sure what language has got to do with it.SophistiCat

    Just that getting a kick out of something is a feeling we already have terms for and those terms are not 'moral duty' or anything similar. It's simply that 'moral' is not a term used to describe the feeling of 'getting a kick out of something'. It's not different to someone using the word 'pain' to describe something which they show signs of thoroughly enjoying. If they're smiling and laughing and saying "again, again!" we'd rightly just assume they're using the word 'pain' wrong, not that they had a difference of opinion about the sorts of things that were painful.

    You make it sound like there is a 'correct' answer to be found, and our natural moral sense is just better at figuring it out than a rationally constructed ethical system. For that to be the case, there has to be an independently defined problem and an independent means of evaluating the fitness of the solution to the problem.SophistiCat

    I don't think so. A system performing better than some other need not be aiming at anything objective. It could simply perform better for the person, but do so in each and every case (or even just the majority of cases). I am actually a naturalist as far as moral facts are concerned, but I don't think this makes me an objectivist for two reasons - 1) I don't see it as universally correct, just mostly so - it's a rule-of-thumb. 2) I don't see it as being the answer to a question. I don't think there's a question in the first place. Most of the time there is no "What should I do?", there is only that which you are going to do and then a post hoc rationalisation of that. My naturalism describe the state of affairs as they are, not how they 'ought' to be.

    If you are a naturalist about morality: no God's laws or other supernatural impositions - and many proponents of objective morality are naturalists - then why would you even suppose that for something as complex and messy as natural moral landscape appears to be, the Enlightenment-age paradigm of a simple, rational, law-driven system would be a good fit? A much better paradigm would be something equally complex and messy and organic - biology, neurology, psychology, sociology.SophistiCat

    Very close to the way I think about it, but with the caveats above, one is still only trying to find the best solution for oneself, not for all of mankind, but there are very strong biological tendencies which will mean that the best solution will be similar across populations. It would not even be unreasonable, I think, to use this similarity to suggest solutions to people who are struggling with the ones they have - just always with an acceptance of the complex and fuzzy nature of any trend one identifies.
  • Isaac
    2.9k
    Correct me if I am wrong, but my impression was that much of our brain's processing power is dedicated to mundane subconscious tasks like visual processing and motion control. Even when it comes to more conscious activity, much of it would be common to all people: language, social interactions. The more intellectually rarefied activities that we value so much don't occupy a proportionate place in the brain's architecture and power budget.SophistiCat

    That's right, but the theory is that it's enough to make a difference. It's hard to explain the importance of synaptic pruning in child development without such a model. Other theories are that we have limited bandwidth and so must compromise other mental tasks to carry out such calculations, or that such calculations are more prone to yield errors in a stable environment. I prefer the simpler energy budget approach, but the others have their merits and it may be a combination of all three.
  • SophistiCat
    1.4k
    Just wanted to link this critical review of recent experimental meta-ethics research: Empirical research on folk moral objectivism (2019). Some interesting observations and a large reference section.
  • Dfpolis
    1k
    I think that there are objectively good and evil acts, but that does not mean that "there is some moral evaluation of that event in that context that it is correct for everyone to make, i.e. that the correct moral evaluation doesn't change depending on who is making it."

    The reason is simple: people vary in knowledge and analytic capability. So, the objective good or evil of an act has nothing to do with how a particular individual should evaluate it. Thus, there is a difference between the objective goodness of an act and a person's subjective culpability.

    Acts are good to the extent that they realize our individual human potential, i.e., to the extent that they make us more fully actualized human beings. As human potentials vary, so does their realization.
  • Kenosha Kid
    892
    ↪Isaac You and Kenosha Kid are the first two to come to mind. He really seems to go back and forth about whether he actually seems like a relativist in practice, throughout his descriptions of his position, but he consistently calls himself one.Pfhorrest

    Sorry, late for the party. It depends what you mean, of course. If you simply mean the rejection of objectively true moral statements as per the OP, yes, I am an atheist of moral objectivity. In my experience, objectivists tend to use the term perjoratively a la Chomsky to mean something like a moral Zelig or to suggest a moral nihilism. I am neither.

    Btw... who is making the judgement is an important part of the context of the moral statement. You can have context-independence, or you can have observer-dependence. I don't think both is logical.
  • Dfpolis
    1k
    You can have context-independence, or you can have observer-dependence. I don't think both is logical.Kenosha Kid

    Every act of knowing is both subjective and objective. There is no knowing without both a knowing subject, and a known object. So, the idea of purely objective knowledge is an oxymoron. Precinding from Omniscience, before it is encountered by a subject, the object cannot be known, only intelligible -- only able to be known -- and so potential rather than actual with respect to human knowledge. When it is encountered, the subject attends to some notes of intelligibility to the exclusion of others. That is abstraction. In no instance is human knowledge exhaustive and "objective." It is always relational, partial and subjective as well as objective..

    When we judge moral acts, we must take them out of context to some degree. Our brains simply lack the capacity to represent everything that might be relevant. So, we are forced to deal with abstractions, treating what seems most relevant to us -- not the situation in its full complexity. That is why Aristotle says in the Nicomachean Ethics that we most not expect the same degree of exactness in all sciences.

    So, if you want to discuss human judgements about human acts, you must consider the limitations of human knowledge.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    You can have context-independence, or you can have observer-dependence. I don't think both is logical.Kenosha Kid

    Not sure if you made a typo here, but objectivism as I mean it is context-DEpendent but observer-INdependent.
  • Kenosha Kid
    892
    When we judge moral acts, we must take them out of context to some degree. Our brains simply lack the capacity to represent everything that might be relevant. So, we are forced to deal with abstractions, treating what seems most relevant to us -- not the situation in its full complexity. That is why Aristotle says in the Nicomachean Ethics that we most not expect the same degree of exactness in all sciences.Dfpolis

    Yes, I was going to suggest looking at how we assess the moral value of an action taken by an actor in a given scenario, how, in order to estimate that value, it would be necessary to understand the actor himself. And in truth this is attempted in most courts of law in most progressive countries,albeit filtered by narrative-building.

    The moral character of an action really comes down to whether that action was made in good faith, in bad faith, without moral dimension, or nonetheless without moral consideration (e.g. neglect), all of which grants primacy not to the action but to the perspective of the actor. Which is harder for philosophers to deal with, both in terms of complexity and incompleteness, because there is a limit to how much we can understand. And I think this is why relativism is rejected on grounds of taste. We want hard and fast rules, but pragmatically we have to assess each case separately to the best of our abilities, accounting for the perspective of he or she we judge. Allowing this degree of context-dependence in a moral objective framework strikes me as a covert admission that morality is not objective, that if a particular judgment can depend on the actor, it must necessarily depend also on the judge who seeks to understand it.
  • Kenosha Kid
    892
    Not sure if you made a typo here, but objectivism as I mean it is context-DEpendent but observer-INdependent.Pfhorrest

    No typo:

    who is making the judgement is an important part of the context of the moral statementKenosha Kid
  • MMusings
    13
    Classical logic does not contain the expressions "true for me" or "true according to me". It just uses "true".

    Those who use expressions like "true for me" owe us an account of their meaning (and metaphysics), including a statement of what the relation is between "true" and "true for me".

    They may mean that there is no monadic property of being true, or they may mean that there is but nothing has it, or they may mean that there isn't a monadic property but there is a relation between (say) a proposition and a person. Suppose the latter, and we try the usual:

    p is true =df p is true for me =df I believe that p is true.

    But that contains an "unreduced" monadic property of being true in the definiens, and it's circular as it stands. The "p is true" in "I believe that p is true" does not relate a person and a proposition. If we say that *that* "p is true" is also a disguised relation between a person and a proposition, then we get a continuation of the same problem, a useless regress, with an unreduced monadic property at each step:

    p is true for me =df I believe that I believe that p is true. (where the last "p is true" is unreduced, and monadic).
    So suppose we go with classical logic and recognize a property of "being true", faute de mieux. Full stop. No qualifications. Then moral realism, in one common sense, means:

    (1) There are moral propositions (propositions to the effect that something morally should, ought to, may be the case), and those propositions are true or false.
    (2) Their truth or falsity does not depend upon what anyone believes or desires.

    There is no commitment thus far as to their knowability, or other epistemic relations to them. Some may be knowable; some not. Maybe knowledge is impossible, but we can have highly justified belief. We might add (3) We can stand in positive epistemic relations to at least some moral propositions (relations like knowing, justifiably believing, believing consistently etc.)

    What "depends upon" means (like whether it relates to the content or the mere existence of beliefs/desires) will have to be spelled out in a complete account.

    Call that "minimal moral realism". It is compatible with Utilitarianism, Kantianism, Natural Law Theory, and Social Contract Theory (among others). It is not compatible with Emotivism, Prescriptivism, Cultural Relativism, or Nihilism. Subjectivism is an intermediate case: if moral propositions are about the beliefs and desires of human persons, then their truth values do "depend upon" them, so we might have (1) without (2). Divine Command Theory may also be taken as saying, in part, that the truth values of moral propositions depend upon the beliefs and desires of God. Utilitarianism might (but need not) take a "desire satisfaction" view of happiness, declare maximizing that the standard for right actions, and so would make the truth values of moral propositions "depend upon" desires in a sense. Welfare (Eudaemonistic) Utilitarianism might take the welfare (health, broadly construed) of human beings to be at least largely "independent of what they desire".

    One argument in favor of (1) is:
    a) Logical inference requires that premises and conclusions have truth-values.
    b) There are logical inferences (and other logical relations) between normative statements.
    c) Therefore normative statements have truth-values.

    Disappearance or Deflationist Views of Truth come at a high cost.
  • Kenosha Kid
    892
    One argument in favor of (1) is:
    a) Logical inference requires that premises and conclusions have truth-values.
    b) There are logical inferences (and other logical relations) between normative statements.
    c) Therefore normative statements have truth-values.
    MMusings

    The ability to make logical inferences between normative statements, or indeed any statements, says nothing about those statements' truth values.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.4k
    p is true =df p is true for me =df I believe that p is true.MMusings

    People who hold a view close to this (@Isaac) tend to be truth-deflationist:

      p is true =df p is true for me =df I believe that p

    without circularity.
  • MMusings
    13
    The validity of logical inferences, say inferences of the form Modus Ponens, is defined semantically via truth tables in propositional logic. Roughly, in a valid argument there is no assignment of T-values (T/F) to the premises that do not make the conclusion true. The truth table "display" of this fact assumes that all propositional variables, and all propositional constants, have "values" that are True or False. Of course, that is not to be confused with saying what those truth values *are* for specific propositions (except tautologies & contradictions). And the little condensed argument provided does not "tell us what the truth values of normative statements are". It is supposed to show that they *have* truth values. So, the ability to say "what logical inferences are" does indeed require them to have truth values. They are required to state the very truth conditions for compound propositions (like negations, disjunctions, conjunctions, conditionals), logical equivalences (like contrapositions), logical contradictions, and to define such notions as validity and consistency. Roughly (and this is a forum after all), once we have "logically related items" we are trading in items with "truth values".
  • MMusings
    13
    " p is true =df p is true for me =df I believe that p " is not Deflationism, but it can be seen to be false in many ways. First, it makes us omniscient and infallible equating truth with believing. Second it makes us necessary beings. Well, maybe that's enough for now....
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    Please keep going, you’re making lots of great points.
  • Dfpolis
    1k
    Allowing this degree of context-dependence in a moral objective framework strikes me as a covert admission that morality is not objective, that if a particular judgment can depend on the actor, it must necessarily depend also on the judge who seeks to understand it.Kenosha Kid

    While I agree with most of what you say, I think this conclusion is unjustified. Acts can be objectively good and evil, even though we can't know the situation exhaustively. In other words, we need to consider two distinct, but related factors: the objective act, and the culpability of its agent(s). Objectively, acts further or inhibit the realization of our human potential (aka sel-realization) and that is the basis of traditional natural law ethics. Nevertheless, even the most informed and best intentioned human, can't know the situation exhaustively. The best rule-based ethics seeks to mitigate culpability by providing a framework that usually yields good results. Still, ethical rules are not infallible, and the better one understand the objective situation, the better one's moral judgements can be -- and the greater our culpability if we choose evil.
  • MMusings
    13
    Perhaps a Deflationist about Truth (for starters to assert that a statement is true is just to assert the statement itself) could tell us how to eliminate reference to truth in such statements as:

    - An (inclusive) disjunction is true if and only if at least one of the disjuncts is true.
    - For all propositions p, q , the conjunction of p and q is true if and only if p is true and q is true.
    - A valid argument is one where it is not possible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false.
    - A set of propositions is consistent if it is possible that the conjunction of the members is true.
    - The proposition that p is true if and only if p. (this goes in both directions...the equivalence itself doesn't tell us there's anything "bad" about going right to left).
    - To assert is to state as true, and a statement is an expression that can be used to say something true or false.
    - Propositions are items that can be true/false, objects of propositional attitudes, and subjects of logical properties and relations.
    - Something is true. Something is possibly true. Something is necessarily true.

    This statement is ungrammatical (treating, as it does, p as both a variable and a constant):

    For all x, x is true if and only if there is some p such that x = the proposition that p, and p.

    Is this the logical form:
    (x) (Tx <-> (Ep) ((x = p) & p))

    But "There exists a p such that p" makes as little sense as "There exists an x such that x".

    But notice that if the denials of Minimal Moral Realism entail a denial that anything is true, and a revisionary logic, and tortured paraphrases of otherwise relatively clear statements, that is already an excellent reason to pull hard on the rudder. Usually they don't do that. They go for such options as Emotivism or Prescriptivism or Nihilism.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.4k


    Welcome to the forum.

    If you don't hit the "reply" button or mention the author of the post you're responding to, the author of that post probably won't know you've replied to them.

    Also: don't assume everyone here needs lessons in classical logic. It should be pretty clear when that sort of thing is called for.
  • Kenosha Kid
    892
    Acts can be objectively good and evilDfpolis

    Any theory that assumes that the act itself has moral character will inevitably generate absurd moral statements. It doesn't take long to think of examples.
  • Dfpolis
    1k
    Acts can be objectively good and evil — Dfpolis

    Any theory that assumes that the act itself has moral character will inevitably generate absurd moral statements. It doesn't take long to think of examples.
    Kenosha Kid

    Morality reflects the agent's intentionality, not directly the good or evil (privation of good) of acts. A choice is moral if the agent intends to do good and avoid evil. The good of acts is an ontological, not a moral, property. It does not depend on the act's relation to the agent effecting it.

    I would be glad to discuss your counterexamples.
  • Kenosha Kid
    892
    Morality reflects the agent's intentionality, not directly the good or evil (privation of good) of acts.Dfpolis

    Good and evil are moral categories. They do not admit non-moral elements. But this is a semantic issue. Point being, pushing a child is not morally positive or negative, but depends on whether the intention is to push them into or away from traffic :) For an example of the absurdity of endowing acts with moral dimensions see, for instance, this thread: https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/7660/natural-evil-explained
  • dimension72
    35
    I think philosophy has way too much labels.
  • Dfpolis
    1k
    The good or evil of subjects is a moral category. The good of things and acts is a metaphysical concept. There is no moral value to a good tire or a bad tire, play or specimen. They are good or bad because they can accomplish their functions well or poorly.

    It is immoral, however, to pass off a bad tire as a good tire, because now we have brought in an intentional element -- the intent to cheat or deceive. So, there is a relation between metaphysical goodness (how well a goal is implemented) and moral goodness. Most clearly, it is moral to will the advance the good of human self-realization, and immoral to will to oppose it -- for example by not providing what a child needs to flourish.

    In your example, intrinsically, pushing is neither good nor bad, but whether it was intentional or not, the risk of being in traffic is objectively evil. So, the evil of the situation does not depend on one's intention. Rather, it is the culpability of the agent that depends on the intention. Maybe the goal is to save the child from an even worse danger, or maybe there is an intent to harm.

    You are confused. I am not saying that good or bad acts have a moral dimension independently of the intent of the agent, just that they are objectively good or bad.
  • Kenosha Kid
    892
    You are confused. I am not saying that good or bad acts have a moral dimension independently of the intent of the agent, just that they are objectively good or bad.Dfpolis

    I don't think you know what you're saying. Yes, a tyre can be good or bad. But it can't be evil. What value you think pointing out that a tyre can be bad to the argument that it is moral actors who have moral qualities is beyond me. Are you just saying that other, non-moral qualities may be objective? No argument from me, but it's irrelevant.
  • Dfpolis
    1k
    There are physical evils, e.g. cancer and birth defects. Tires can be bad, and so can meat. None of these bad things have any moral character. They aren't immoral. they're just bad.

    They'
    What value you think pointing out that a tyre can be bad to the argument that it is moral actors who have moral qualities is beyond me.Kenosha Kid

    I made no such claim. We were not discussing subjective moral character, but whether good and evil can be objective. If you do something that makes the world more defective, like polluting the air or poisoning the water, that is objectively bad, regardless of your intentions; however, if you intended to do good, you are not culpable for the evil you caused.
  • Kenosha Kid
    892
    We were not discussing subjective moral character, but whether good and evil can be objective.Dfpolis

    When we say cancer is an evil, it is poetic. It is not literally evil. Poetry makes sense subjectively insofar as cancer feels like an evil done to us or loved ones. This does not imbue cancer with an objective property of 'evil'.
  • Dfpolis
    1k
    When we say cancer is an evil, it is poetic. It is not literally evil.Kenosha Kid

    Yes, it is literally evil -- a privation of good health. Evil is not a thing, but the absence of a good that should be present.

    Human acts are good or evil in the same way -- they advance our self-realization or inhibit it. Physical and moral evils are both privations of good -- of the full realization of whatever it is we are discussing. Some goods and evils are moral because they are due to free will, but that does not change the basic character of good as a realized perfection and evil as the absence of an appropriate perfection.
  • Kenosha Kid
    892
    Yes, it is literally evil -- a privation of good health.Dfpolis

    Even that is with respect to the host, not of cancer in and of itself. Evil is not defined as a privation of anything. It is defined in terms of immorality or wickedness.
  • Dfpolis
    1k
    Evil is not defined as a privation of anything. It is defined in terms of immorality or wickedness.Kenosha Kid

    When we look at examples of evil, we always see a privation of some perfection -- of good health, of justice, of compassion, of rights, etc. So, while you may use words as you wish, I prefer to analyze examples to understand what terms mean.
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