• TheHedoMinimalist
    288
    God having created the universe with a purpose is the reason we would have moral realism in the first place. Wouldn't Gods idea just be what is objectively correct then?ChatteringMonkey

    As I have stated earlier, I’m not sure why a universe created with a purpose could change the truth status of something abstract like the truth status of moral realism. The way I see it is if creating something really big like the universe with a purpose can make moral realism true then why couldn’t creating something small with a purpose like another human being wouldn’t make moral realism true at all. Even if creating a human being isn’t as grandiose, you would think that it could make moral realism true if creating the universe with a purpose would, only that morality just wouldn’t matter as much as it would if God created the universe with a purpose. Though, I tend to think that a parent creating a child with a purpose creates zero meaning and it doesn’t make moral realism true at all. If a parent creating a child with a purpose creates zero meaning, then God creating the universe with a purpose would also give us zero meaning. This is because God creating the universe is just a much larger scale version of a parent creating a child. I don’t think it matters how much larger the scale of these sorts of acts are. Mathematically speaking, a larger number multiplied by zero is still zero. So, it’s not clear to me how you could create meaning and make moral realism true with any amount of power.

    then? To what other objective standard would we be evaluating Gods idea of morality then?ChatteringMonkey

    Well, if moral realism is false then we couldn’t evaluate God’s morality objectively. It’s possible that a smart God would recognize that his morality is only subjective but he may still care about it as it may just be something he likes to dictate for fun.

    I don't quite understand how it can make sense to say that normative statements are another type of descriptive statements, considering that distinction presumably was made precisely to separate those different kinds of statements. Wouldn't that then just collapse the whole distinction, and we'd left with just 'statements'... if normative statements are another type of descriptive statements then there would be no need for the distinction, right? I mean, sure, I'm open to the idea that there is some fundamental problem with the distinction from the start, but I'm not sure where that would lead us.ChatteringMonkey

    Yes, my whole point is that the descriptive/normative distinction just seems arbitrary. The so-called “descriptive statements” in that distinction just refer to statements that describe everything besides things related to value and oughtness. Why should you only single out descriptions regarding value and oughtness from the definition of a descriptive statement? That would be like if I decided to make a distinction between descriptive statements and psychological statements where descriptive statements describe everything except things related to the human mind and psychological statements describe the human mind. I don’t understand how a claim can be non-descriptive. All claims seem to be describing something. I think it would make more sense to have sub-categories of descriptive claims rather than trying to claim that some claims are not descriptive.

    Yeah I think all those efforts are misguided, my maybe too simple take on it is that concerning God you either have faith or you don't.... because it's outside of the realm of empirical verification. And I think empirical verification is the only way to knowledge. Logic on its own cannot yield new knowledge, you need some data to test your theories to.ChatteringMonkey

    Well, it seems to me like the implication of your viewpoint here is that knowledge is impossible. This is because everything is outside the realm of empirical verification. Even if you test your theories, you cannot verify that those theories are true. For example, suppose that I have a theory that water will freeze at -20 degrees Celsius. I test this theory by putting water at -20 degrees Celsius and I notice that it appears to have frozen. By doing this experiment, I have only provided additional evidence to my theory that water will freeze at -20 degrees Celsius. I haven’t verified that my theory is true. This is because there are plenty of alternative explanations for why the water appeared to have been frozen after I put it under -20 degrees Celsius temperature. For example, there could be a secret intergalactic society of wizards that are actually the ones responsible for freezing all the water in the universe that will be seen by humans once it reaches 0 degrees Celsius. In reality, water stored in much colder temperatures like -20 degrees Celsius will still remain a liquid without the interference of this wizard society. Sometimes, the wizards will decide to keep some water stored at 20 degrees Celsius unfrozen if they know that it won’t be seen by humans for sure.

    You can never empirically verify that this alternative theory about the wizards that I have proposed is false and thus you can never empirically verify that water freezes at -20 degrees Celsius. If you reject the wizard theory because you believe that the wizard theory is just ridiculous, then you aren’t using empirical evidence to determine that the wizard theory is wrong. Rather, you are simply relying on your intuition. You might make some interesting non-empirical arguments against the wizard theory though. You might argue that it would strange for someone to have a motivation to elicit a false belief onto humans about the freezing of water. Why would the wizards want to do such a thing exactly? It seems like it’s more likely that water just freezes on its own because of that. The argument above is not an empirical argument though but it doesn’t strike me that this argument should just be dismissed for being non-empirical.

    Take the fine tuning argument for instance. We have no access to another set of universes to compare our universe to, and so we just don't know what a typical universe would look like or what the likelihood of certain parameters being a certain value would be. It all seems purely speculative if you lack any data.ChatteringMonkey

    Yes, but some forms of speculation are better than others. For example, all financial investment is predicated on speculation. Nonetheless, some people are better investors than others because they are better at speculating about the future. Of course, it’s hard to know for sure which forms of speculation happen to be best but we can make educated guesses about that.

    Even the most apparently evident and basic principles, like say "harm to myself is bad", already implies some value judgement.ChatteringMonkey

    Well, I wouldn’t say that “harm to myself is bad” is the most evident normative principle. Rather, I would say that the most evident normative claim is the claim about the existence of hedonic reactions. These hedonic reactions are typically provoked by stimuli from the outside world and they feel unambiguously and undeniably good or bad. Hedonic reactions that feel unambiguously and undeniably good are what we usually call pleasure while hedonic reactions that are the opposite of that are what we usually call suffering. If suffering can be said to exist objectively then reactions to stimuli from the outside world that feel unambiguously and undeniably bad can be said exist objectively. Otherwise, it’s not clear what we are talking about when we speak of suffering. How else would you define suffering? It’s seems to me that the existence of suffering itself implies the existence of objective value judgements about the way that you might be feeling at times. If you are suffering then you are compelled to make a value judgement that the stimuli that caused the suffering contains a bad aspect to it. Though, this doesn’t mean that the stimuli is bad overall as that stimuli may cause pleasure in the future or the prevention or alleviation of future suffering. This is why you can think that playing sports is usually good overall. Nonetheless, if playing a sport cause some suffering then it’s pretty intuitive to think that the sport in question has some bad aspect to it as well. As an analogy, you can think about a dress that is mostly green but contains a red outline as well. We would normally just say that this is a green dress because that’s the primary color of the dress but technically the dress also has some red in it. Similarly, we would normally say that playing sports is good because we think it’s mostly good but it does have some objectively bad aspects to it nonetheless.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    789
    As I have stated earlier, I’m not sure why a universe created with a purpose could change the truth status of something abstract like the truth status of moral realism. The way I see it is if creating something really big like the universe with a purpose can make moral realism true then why couldn’t creating something small with a purpose like another human being wouldn’t make moral realism true at all. Even if creating a human being isn’t as grandiose, you would think that it could make moral realism true if creating the universe with a purpose would, only that morality just wouldn’t matter as much as it would if God created the universe with a purpose. Though, I tend to think that a parent creating a child with a purpose creates zero meaning and it doesn’t make moral realism true at all. If a parent creating a child with a purpose creates zero meaning, then God creating the universe with a purpose would also give us zero meaning. This is because God creating the universe is just a much larger scale version of a parent creating a child. I don’t think it matters how much larger the scale of these sorts of acts are. Mathematically speaking, a larger number multiplied by zero is still zero. So, it’s not clear to me how you could create meaning and make moral realism true with any amount of power.TheHedoMinimalist

    Parents don't 'create you' like they directly create a tool with a purpose. They only make it possible by having sex. For the rest they don't have any agency over how you will turn out, that is largely predefined by evolution. Furthermore the purpose they have in mind wouldn't be objective to begin with, it's just an idea they have.

    God not only creates us, but the whole universe with a purpose. That's what would make things objective, the fact that the outside world is not inherently meaningless, but part of the grand plan. Being moral is not only a matter of upholding a convention we created, without the rest of the universe caring if we are moral or not, God is watching you and there will be a judgment day and you will go to hell or heaven... it presumably has material consequences outside of man-made ways we invent to enforce morality.

    Anyway I'm not saying I buy any of this either, but at least I can see how the idea of moral realism could make sense in such a universe.

    Yes, my whole point is that the descriptive/normative distinction just seems arbitrary. The so-called “descriptive statements” in that distinction just refer to statements that describe everything besides things related to value and oughtness. Why should you only single out descriptions regarding value and oughtness from the definition of a descriptive statement? That would be like if I decided to make a distinction between descriptive statements and psychological statements where descriptive statements describe everything except things related to the human mind and psychological statements describe the human mind. I don’t understand how a claim can be non-descriptive. All claims seem to be describing something. I think it would make more sense to have sub-categories of descriptive claims rather than trying to claim that some claims are not descriptive.TheHedoMinimalist

    I'm not sure how to respond to this, it seems evident to me that a claim like "You ought to x" is different from a claim like "there's a wall over there". The wall is there no matter your particular opinion on the matter, and the world settles the issue in that no matter what you believe you cannot walk through it. People can and do have different ideas about what you ought to do. Oughtness is not something that can directly be observed in the world, which is what description means it seems to me.

    Maybe you could say that it is objectively true that person X values X and person Y values Y, i.e. that person X valuing X is a description of his beliefs.... a description of an individual persons beliefs which are part of the 'objective' world. But even if we forget about distinctions like subjective/objective and normative/descriptive, it is still the case that there is a plurality of beliefs concerning what we ought to do, that cannot be settled by pointing at some state of affairs in the world. And ultimately that is the issue, no matter the labels we would want to slab on it.

    Well, it seems to me like the implication of your viewpoint here is that knowledge is impossible. This is because everything is outside the realm of empirical verification. Even if you test your theories, you cannot verify that those theories are true. For example, suppose that I have a theory that water will freeze at -20 degrees Celsius. I test this theory by putting water at -20 degrees Celsius and I notice that it appears to have frozen. By doing this experiment, I have only provided additional evidence to my theory that water will freeze at -20 degrees Celsius. I haven’t verified that my theory is true. This is because there are plenty of alternative explanations for why the water appeared to have been frozen after I put it under -20 degrees Celsius temperature. For example, there could be a secret intergalactic society of wizards that are actually the ones responsible for freezing all the water in the universe that will be seen by humans once it reaches 0 degrees Celsius. In reality, water stored in much colder temperatures like -20 degrees Celsius will still remain a liquid without the interference of this wizard society. Sometimes, the wizards will decide to keep some water stored at 20 degrees Celsius unfrozen if they know that it won’t be seen by humans for sure.

    You can never empirically verify that this alternative theory about the wizards that I have proposed is false and thus you can never empirically verify that water freezes at -20 degrees Celsius. If you reject the wizard theory because you believe that the wizard theory is just ridiculous, then you aren’t using empirical evidence to determine that the wizard theory is wrong. Rather, you are simply relying on your intuition. You might make some interesting non-empirical arguments against the wizard theory though. You might argue that it would strange for someone to have a motivation to elicit a false belief onto humans about the freezing of water. Why would the wizards want to do such a thing exactly? It seems like it’s more likely that water just freezes on its own because of that. The argument above is not an empirical argument though but it doesn’t strike me that this argument should just be dismissed for being non-empirical.
    TheHedoMinimalist

    Yeah I already regret using the word verification there. I didn't mean to refer to some sophisticated theory of knowledge. I also don't think certainty is possible or something we should aim for. What I do believe is that data about the world renders some theories more plausible than others. If you don't have any data, you don't have a way to assign probabilities... everything is possible.

    The intergalactic wizard is I think actually a good example of why this doesn't really work. For you to sensibly infer something from the thought experiment, you already have to assume the wizards are a certain kind of being with certain kinds of motivations... you bring your knowledge of sentient beings motivations to the thought experiment. We don't know what kind of beings they are or what motivations they would have, unless we assume it and bring the knowledge we have of sentient beings to it.

    And I'd say we don't think water freezes because of intergalactic wizards, not because it wouldn't make sense for them to have those motivations, but because we have never seen intergalactic wizards and so have no reason to assume they exist.

    Yes, but some forms of speculation are better than others. For example, all financial investment is predicated on speculation. Nonetheless, some people are better investors than others because they are better at speculating about the future. Of course, it’s hard to know for sure which forms of speculation happen to be best but we can make educated guesses about that.TheHedoMinimalist

    Financial speculation is not the kind of speculation I was talking about. Even if financial investments are uncertain, we do have some data and so there is something we can use to begin sensibly assigning probabilities.

    Well, I wouldn’t say that “harm to myself is bad” is the most evident normative principle. Rather, I would say that the most evident normative claim is the claim about the existence of hedonic reactions. These hedonic reactions are typically provoked by stimuli from the outside world and they feel unambiguously and undeniably good or bad. Hedonic reactions that feel unambiguously and undeniably good are what we usually call pleasure while hedonic reactions that are the opposite of that are what we usually call suffering. If suffering can be said to exist objectively then reactions to stimuli from the outside world that feel unambiguously and undeniably bad can be said exist objectively. Otherwise, it’s not clear what we are talking about when we speak of suffering. How else would you define suffering? It’s seems to me that the existence of suffering itself implies the existence of objective value judgements about the way that you might be feeling at times. If you are suffering then you are compelled to make a value judgement that the stimuli that caused the suffering contains a bad aspect to it. Though, this doesn’t mean that the stimuli is bad overall as that stimuli may cause pleasure in the future or the prevention or alleviation of future suffering. This is why you can think that playing sports is usually good overall. Nonetheless, if playing a sport cause some suffering then it’s pretty intuitive to think that the sport in question has some bad aspect to it as well. As an analogy, you can think about a dress that is mostly green but contains a red outline as well. We would normally just say that this is a green dress because that’s the primary color of the dress but technically the dress also has some red in it. Similarly, we would normally say that playing sports is good because we think it’s mostly good but it does have some objectively bad aspects to it nonetheless.TheHedoMinimalist

    Subjective or objective is a matter of perspective. We would call the same thing subjective from a first person perspective and objective from a third person perspective. It's a bit of a flawed distinction.

    But again, what we are really after is whether there is one and the same morality for everybody, like there is that wall for everybody. And that doesn't seem to be the case for suffering (from which we would derive that morality) because it very much depends on the person and what they individually believe. One person may for instance suffer because he wanted to be a successful musician and failed, because he identified so much with it. While another person may not care at all because he didn't identify with it. I don't agree suffering directly and unambiguously flows from hedonic reactions or pain, there definitely seem to be a mental and belief components to it. Pain and suffering are not the same, nor directly reducible to/derivable from each other it seems to me.

    That is also why we don't particularly care about mild pain from sports or think that kind of damage to muscles is bad. In fact, it is precisely because your muscles get damaged that they get stronger. If we were to say that sport is good overall, but that particular part is objectively bad, we would want to avoid that particular part because it is bad... but we can't because it is that supposedly objectively bad part that is directly related to what makes it good.
  • TheHedoMinimalist
    288
    Parents don't 'create you' like they directly create a tool with a purpose. They only make it possible by having sex. For the rest they don't have any agency over how you will turn out, that is largely predefined by evolution.ChatteringMonkey

    I think parents could create you like a tool with a purpose if they could alter your genes with technology which will likely be a real possibility in the future.

    Furthermore the purpose they have in mind wouldn't be objective to begin with, it's just an idea they have.ChatteringMonkey

    Wouldn’t the purpose that a hypothetical God would have for creating the universe also just be an idea that he has?

    God not only creates us, but the whole universe with a purpose.ChatteringMonkey

    I don’t think many theists care that God creates the whole universe for a purpose. For example, suppose that the universe wasn’t created by God but God only created the human race for a purpose. Wouldn’t most theists derive just as much meaning from that? Why couldn’t this also be used to ground morality? Why does it have to be the whole universe that must be created for a purpose?

    That's what would make things objective, the fact that the outside world is not inherently meaningless, but part of the grand plan.ChatteringMonkey

    What exactly counts as “the outside world” though? Couldn’t the phrase “the outside world” refer to just the planet Earth or the galaxy or maybe even something larger than the universe like a multiverse. It’s not clear to me why the demarcation of moral significance should be at the level of the universe and not some other level of analysis.

    God not only creates us, but the whole universe with a purpose. That's what would make things objective, the fact that the outside world is not inherently meaningless, but part of the grand plan. Being moral is not only a matter of upholding a convention we created, without the rest of the universe caring if we are moral or not, God is watching you and there will be a judgment day and you will go to hell or heaven... it presumably has material consequences outside of man-made ways we invent to enforce morality.ChatteringMonkey

    Yes but what objective normative reason do I have to care about God’s judgement day and to care about going to Heaven or Hell? Doesn’t this require me to have objective normative reasons to increase the amount of pleasure that I experience and reduce the amount of suffering that I experience? If so, do I really need God to exist to have those kinds of objective normative reasons? If I don’t need God to exist to have objective reasons to avoid eternal torment then wouldn’t this imply that some limited form of ethical egoism could be objectively true without there being God that created the universe with a purpose? In addition, I must add that the punishments that are involved in Hell wouldn’t seem to give me any selfless reason to obey God’s morality. So, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to reject ethical egoism if God exists.

    People can and do have different ideas about what you ought to do.ChatteringMonkey

    Yes and people have different ideas regarding just about everything. Scientists studying observable phenomena also sometimes can’t settle their disagreements. In addition, there are plenty of ought claims that have pretty much never been disputed. For example, almost no one in history has disputed the claim that one ought to cause themselves to experience suffering for no apparent reason. In contrast, scientists often strongly disagree on topics involving what causes certain illnesses or whether or not aliens exist and so on.

    Oughtness is not something that can directly be observed in the world, which is what description means it seems to me.ChatteringMonkey

    Well, the human mind cannot be directly observed in the world either but aren’t claims about human psychology also descriptive?

    And I'd say we don't think water freezes because of intergalactic wizards, not because it wouldn't make sense for them to have those motivations, but because we have never seen intergalactic wizards and so have no reason to assume they exist.ChatteringMonkey

    Yes but those intergalactic wizards in my theory are supposed to be good at hiding from humans or else those humans might find out about how they have been freezing water all this time. In addition, you have stated earlier that whether or not we believe in God is merely a matter of faith. If I have never seen God then wouldn’t I have as much reason to reject his existence as I would the existence of intergalactic wizards whose existence is also inaccessible to our empirical methods?

    For you to sensibly infer something from the thought experiment, you already have to assume the wizards are a certain kind of being with certain kinds of motivations... you bring your knowledge of sentient beings motivations to the thought experiment. We don't know what kind of beings they are or what motivations they would have, unless we assume it and bring the knowledge we have of sentient beings to it. And I'd say we don't think water freezes because of intergalactic wizards, not because it wouldn't make sense for them to have those motivations, but because we have never seen intergalactic wizards and so have no reason to assume they exist.ChatteringMonkey

    Well yes, there’s some assumptions made in my theory that I cannot defend but this is true of all theories and beliefs that one can hold. Even a very simple belief like the belief that your bed exists requires you to make some assumptions. It requires you to assume that your senses can give you accurate information about the existence of everyday objects. You have to assume that your perception of your bed tells you something about it’s objective existence and that you are not just hallucinating when you think that you see and feel your bed. So, I don’t see how we can escape having assumptions in our theories.

    Even if financial investments are uncertain, we do have some data and so there is something we can use to begin sensibly assigning probabilities.ChatteringMonkey

    But, couldn’t you also say that we have data in the form of our personal experiences of pleasure and suffering that inform us about normative matters and wouldn’t this allow us to assign probabilities to at least some normative claims? How exactly should we define data here?

    Subjective or objective is a matter of perspective. We would call the same thing subjective from a first person perspective and objective from a third person perspective. It's a bit of a flawed distinction.ChatteringMonkey

    Yes, but couldn’t we say that there are objective facts about subjective experiences such that they can at least occasionally inform us regarding what is the objectively correct course of action to take? For example, suppose that you have to escape your home country and you either have to move to Denmark or to North Korea. Let’s say that you reasonably believe that you would have more pleasure and less suffering if you chose to live in Denmark then if you lived in North Korea and you agree with me that those are the only welfare considerations that you need to take into account. Given this, wouldn’t deciding to live in Denmark be the objectively correct decision to make here given your circumstances?

    But again, what we are really after is whether there is one and the same morality for everybody, like there is that wall for everybody.ChatteringMonkey

    Well, I don’t think very many people care about normative reasons in general being universal for everybody. For example, I’m perfectly cool with the idea that it might be more rational for me to make certain decisions in life that might be irrational for you to make. For example, I think it would be pretty rational for me to refuse chemotherapy treatment if I get cancer under almost any circumstance. This is because I’ve received data from my everyday experiences of life that behoove me to make a hypothesis that the suffering involved in chemotherapy will feel so objectively bad that I’m better off depriving myself of future pleasure and allowing myself to die. You might be receiving different data from your everyday experiences and you might have an equally reasonable hypothesis that the suffering caused by chemotherapy will be worth it for you. Both of us could have chosen the objectively correct decision option given our circumstances even if we chose the opposite decision options. What I think matters in this discussion regarding realism about ought claims is that there are sometimes objectively right and wrong decisions that we can make in our life. It doesn’t really have to be the same for everyone. I agree with you that people typically care about “morality” being somewhat universal and I also agree with you that moral realism is false. But, you also said that you think that normative realism is false and this is where I disagree with you.

    I don't agree suffering directly and unambiguously flows from hedonic reactions or pain, there definitely seem to be a mental and belief components to it. Pain and suffering are not the same, nor directly reducible to/derivable from each other it seems to me.ChatteringMonkey

    Well, I agree with you about the difference between pain and suffering. There is indeed a mental component to suffering but I don’t see how this implies that my understanding that suffering is an unambiguously and undeniably bad experience is flawed in any way. If you are mentally provoked to experience a feeling that just obviously feels bad to you, wouldn’t it make sense to call that feeling unambiguously and undeniably bad? Wouldn’t it also just makes sense to say that this feeling is bad objectively or bad in some important or “real” manner?

    That is also why we don't particularly care about mild pain from sports or think that kind of damage to muscles is bad. In fact, it is precisely because your muscles get damaged that they get stronger. If we were to say that sport is good overall, but that particular part is objectively bad, we would want to avoid that particular part because it is bad... but we can't because it is that supposedly objectively bad part that makes it good.ChatteringMonkey

    Ok, I was wrong to assume that the pain in sports would always cause you to suffer. You could make the case that sports do not always have a bad aspect to them as they don’t always cause you to suffer even if they cause pain. Though, I don’t think that the personal suffering that I get from exercising is matter of me having a negative opinion about the pain of exercising. Rather, I think that the stimuli involved in exercising provokes me to suffer even if it doesn’t always make others suffer. It might even be possible to condition my mind in a such a way that I no longer suffer while exercising and this might even change the objective truth status of the claim that it would be good for me exercise. I don’t think that normative realism implies that the rationality of various decision options cannot change with changing circumstances surrounding the provocation of suffering by a particular stimuli. You can also have objective normative reasons perhaps to condition yourself towards having certain reactions towards stimuli as well. For example, I could have objectively normative reasons to try to train my mind to not react negatively to exercise.
  • counterpunch
    233
    Morality is fundamentally a sense, fostered in human beings by evolution. Evolution occurs in relation to a causal reality - an environment, to which the organism must be correct in its physiology, its behaviour and its intellect in order to survive. Morality is not an explicit set of rules, but more akin to a sense of humour or the aesthetic sense. Moral behaviour was advantageous to the individual within the tribe, and advantageous to the tribe made up of moral individuals.

    Moral realism follows when this argument is considered in relation to the Anthropic Principle. From the general idea that "scientific observation of the universe would not be possible if the laws of the universe had been incompatible with the development of sentient life" it can be argued that the universe is moral; in that a moral sense is necessary to the survival of sentient life, fostered in organisms evolving in relation to a causal reality.

    Consequently, theism is not necessary to moral realism. Nietzsche was wrong. Nihilism is a mistake that occurs as a consequence of failing to understand that morality is a sense, and not an objective set of God given rules, disproven by undermining religion with science. Rather, religion is an expression of the innate moral sense, and no-one knows if God exists or not.
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