First, I’d like apologize to RDFish for mistakenly attributing to him an argument others had made earlier in the “Moral Viewpoints Matter” thread, which I had argued against prior to RDFish entering the thread. He never changed his position as I later asserted. Sorry, RDFish. I also think my mistake led me to take RDfish’s argument less seriously as it led me to believe he was flip-flopping around, especially after he moved from color perception to beauty perception as comparable to morality perception – when, from RDFish’s perspective, he was attempting to use a less problematic comparable given his perspective that I held an erroneous understanding of what color actually is (which I may or may not).
I took some time to get some perspective and reassess his argument there and would like to continue if he is so willing.
This debate is about the logical consistency of moral systems wrt behavior that are premised either as being subjective or objective in nature. Either one holds morality to be a description of some objective commodity and logically must act as if that is true, whether it is true or not, and whether it can be supported as true or not, or they hold that description to be of a subjective commodity and must logically act as if that is true, whether or not it can be supported or proven. Whether or not either premise can actually be supported or proven is irrelevant to this debate. IOW, RDFish’s argument that it is not logical to act in accordance with a premise that cannot be demonstrated or supported to be true may be a good argument, but it is irrelevant to this argument because I’m not making the case here that either premise can or cannot be adequately supported in order to justify, if need be, belief in such an assumption.
Now for some grounding on “subjective” and “objective”.
When I describe the properties of a thing I am experiencing that I hold to be an objectively existent commodity, I am not, in my mind, describing subjective qualities, even though I am describing what I am physically interpreting through my subjective senses. It might do to offer some examples: if I taste sugar and say that it is sweet, I realize I’m using a subjective sensory input device and relying on consensually-built terminology based on shared experience to describe my sensory reaction to a physical property of sugar (not “sweetness”, but rather a chemical structure that produces a “sweetness” sensation in most people that taste it). If I taste something sweet and say “I prefer 2 sugar cubes in my coffee over none”, that’s a statement of personal feelings or preference about sweetness.; that preference is not produced by the chemical in the coffee; it is not even produced by the amount of sugar. That preference is entirely internal.
Sweetness is not a property of the sugar; just as RDFish points out that color is not a property of e-m wavelengths. However, those subjectively sensed properties (even if to some degree affected by variances in hardware/software) are the basis of our agreements about how to categorize and think about things and whether or not those things are held to be subjective or objective in nature. IOW, even if RDFish makes a sound case that the experience of color is mostly a subjective phenomena, that doesn’t change the fact that we act, and must act, as if we are experiencing a perception of some objectively existent commodity.
A point to remember here is even if color is a subjective experience, it is not subjective in the same sense that a color preference is subjective. Our behavior stemming from the experience of color is entirely different from our behavior stemming from a color preference, and that difference is the crux of my argument. Just as we do not choose how we perceive color, we also do not choose “how sweet we like our coffee”, so to speak. For better or worse, how sweet we like our coffee is a matter of unchosen personal taste preference (preferences are not whims; they are how we actually prefer a thing, and they are entirely internal.)
I want to restate: this is not an argument about what is, per se. It is an argument about logical consistency, particularly how it relates to our behavior. Regardless of what we intellectually believe morality to be, and regardless of what morality actually is, how do we actually act when it comes to moral choices, particularly wrt moral interventions (stopping someone else from doing something immoral)?
For clarity’s sake, however, RDFish said that the perception of “beauty” would be a better comparison to our perception of morality. Do we act as if beauty is a perception (perception, meaning, sensory interpretation of some kind of objectively existent commodity, like chemicals or e-m wavelengths), or do we act as if beauty is an internal, personal preference? For this argument, it doesn’t matter what beauty or morality “actually” are, but rather it matters how we behave, and whether that behavior is in accordance with our stated idea of what those things are.
Does the perception of the colors of the painting, the size of it, the subject matter produce qualitatively the same behavior as the perception of its relative beauty? If someone says “it’s a 4×6 painting”, or “the artist used mostly red”, or “it’s a painting of a fish”, can we hold them to be in error and subject to correction as if they were referring to objective commodities? Yes. If they say “it is beautiful”, can they be in error as if they were referring to objective commodities? No, because we hold consideration of beauty to be an internal, entirely subjective preference.
Is RDFish willing to force his idea of beauty on others? Would his idea of beauty justify an intervention into the affairs of others? Certainly not. However, I would assume that RDFish would be willing to intervene if someone was about to put salt in a cake recipe for a wedding reception instead of sugar, just as he would intervene if someone was about to deactivate a bomb but was going to cut the wrong color of wire. Whether or not color, or beauty, or sweetness actually refer to objectively existent commodities, subjective commodities, or some gray-area commodities, we act differently according to whether or not we hold the sensation in question to refer to something objective in nature or subjective in nature. In all things including that which RDFish compares morality to, if we consider our perception to relate to something objective in nature, we are willing to intervene; if we consider our perception to be a personal preference, we will not. In fact, we most often consider being willing to intervene on the basis of personal preference immoral.
So no, beauty cannot be a good comparison to morality in terms of how we react, and must react, to such perceptions. IMO, RDFish is erroneously (wrt this argument) attempting to make the case that “the perception of beauty” is analogous to his idea of “what morality is”, but that’s outside of the scope of the argument here. The question is about the behavior resulting from the perception, not what the perception is actually “of”. Unless RDFish compares “the perception of morality” to some other perception that produces the same kind of behavior, the analogy is false wrt this argument.
RDFish’s original use of color as a comparison for moral sense actually comes very close to my own concept of morality and our moral sense and wrt how we actually behave; as if we are getting a moral signal, so to speak, from “out there”, in a sense, from what I call “the moral landscape”. Our interpretation and processing of it would be at least as problematic as our interpretation of and processing of color; fraught with hardware and software challenges – comparable, I would say, to back before we even understood the process that produced color perception or what it was related to (e-m wavelengths).
The problem for RDFish using the color comparison, though, is that we will only intervene in matters of color if we hold that our disagreement is about the objective, physical world; we will not intervene if we hold that our disagreement is a matter of internal, personal preference. Thus, for color to be a valid comparison, it requires that we hold our moral perception to be a preception about some objective, actually existent, transpersonal, significant commodity or else we cannot justify intervention in the moral affairs of others.
In the other thread I asked RDFish what subjective-morality consistent principle justified moral interventions; he answered that there were no objective justifications for moral interventions. That’s not what I asked. If morality is not held to be a perception/interpretation of some objectively-existent commodity (like color/e-m wavelengths), what principle that is consistent with a morality held to be subjective (like the perception of beauty) justifies intervening in the moral affairs of others, when we would never intervene if morality was, in our experience, actually like “beauty”?