Intelligent Design

Justifying Moral Interventions via Subjectivism (and an apology to RDFish)

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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”?

231 Replies to “Justifying Moral Interventions via Subjectivism (and an apology to RDFish)

  1. 1
    Barry Arrington says:

    Here is a concrete example that places this debate in context:

    Hindu priests complained to Charles James Napier about the British prohibition of Sati (burning widows alive on the funeral pyre of their husband). Napier famously replied:

    This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.

    Was Napier justified in imposing his views on the Hindus? If the subjectivist says “yes he was,” the subjectivist has treated Napier’s moral view as an objective good.

  2. 2
    Zachriel says:

    Barry Arrington: Was Napier justified in imposing his views on the Hindus? If the subjectivist says “yes he was,” the subjectivist has treated Napier’s moral view as an objective good.

    No, it just means he shares Napier’s moral views. Obviously, the Hindus involved did not.

  3. 3
    Barry Arrington says:

    Zachriel @ 2: You have failed to address the issue raised in the OP. That’s OK. Spewing talking points is easy. Thinking and articulating those thoughts is hard work and it is not for everyone.

  4. 4
    Phinehas says:

    *crickets*

    This post really deserves more attention. Hopefully, folks are busy with other things and are not merely ignoring it because they are incapable of dealing with the points it makes.

  5. 5
    Hangonasec says:

    If I see (say) a group of children bullying a classmate or torturing a cat, I would intervene. I would not consider it an absolute, sourced elsewhere (the Mind of God or Natural Law) Truth that their behaviour was wrong in order to do so (Subconciously? No. Not buying that either).

    This seems to be the perennial sticking point (and I doubt we will ever move on from that). The repetitious assertion is that a subjectivist who intervenes is doing so ‘as if’ there is an objective moral code. Or, if not, they are a sociopath. Both of these are wrong. The subjectivist would likely intervene if their morality is based upon personal distress at the suffering of others – whether caused by themselves or by others. What God, or Natural Law, or even other people have to say on the matter is not relevant.

    The sociopath, meanwhile, does not even recognise the concept of morality, other than a sense others report themselves as possessing, so I don’t know where he comes into the picture.

  6. 6
    rvb8 says:

    Barry,

    As a subjectivist I would say to Napier, you are also taking a life when hanging. If you give up execution as a punishment we will give up Suti as a religious necessity.

    In my country execution is viewed as barbaric, so much so that even when criminals have been caught (and upon occasion it has, I am very sorry to say, has happened) raping and murdering elderly women, the vast majority of my country men and women (upwards of 65%, and growing) strongly oppose capital punishment.

    Barry, are we more civilsed than barbaric USA?

    I prefer subjectivism to the obvious truths, of other ancient thought processess.

    Question for WJM: And what if we are ‘colour blind’? Perhaps a standard man made colour test and system of measuring for ‘standard’ colours could be used. As our knowledge of what colour truly is we could modify this system to come into line with our new understandings.

  7. 7
    Seversky says:

    I suggest we can agree that color perception or the sense of taste are illustrative analogies but they fail in one important respect. They are representations in our subjective models of aspects of objective reality, of what is. They say nothing about how we should behave. Morals do. Whatever their source, that is their function. They serve to regulate how people behave towards one another. They are both an acknowledgement of human capacity for causing harm to others and a means of preventing it.

    Those who argue that there is no meaningful way to distinguish between the psychopath who has no moral qualms about raping and murdering others and the rest of us who strongly object to such behavior are missing the point. The psychopath derives pleasure from behavior that causes harm to others. He may argue that frustrating that purpose causes him harm but we may argue that i we gave him free rein he would cause much more harm to many more people. Preventing the greater harm and preventing any harm without good cause are adequate justifications. In my view

    Of course, all this generalized discussion about morality is carefully skirting the elephant standing in the middle of the room – exactly whose morality is the objective one? Let’s see now, Australian Aborigine? In your dreams. Native American? No chance. Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Taoist? Not even close. Muslim? Be serious. The only morality in the running here for objective status is Christian, nothing more, nothing less. So while all this discussion about morality is interesting it’s also a bit pointless because the outcome is a foregone conclusion for most here.

  8. 8
    Mung says:

    rvb8: As a subjectivist I would say to Napier, you are also taking a life when hanging.

    You think Napier ought to have some objective reason to agree with you?

  9. 9

    rvb8 said:

    Question for WJM: And what if we are ‘colour blind’?

    Morality-blind humans exist. They’re called sociopaths, people without a conscience.

  10. 10
    Barry Arrington says:

    Barry, are we more civilsed than barbaric USA?

    No, your decadence has lead to moral enervatation, of which you seem to be quite proud.

    The really interesting thing is that your comment implies that your country is morally correct and the USA is morally wrong — even barbaric — to allow capital punishment. To the question in the OP, if it were in your power to impose your will on the USA, would you force it to stop capital punishment? Assuming the answer is yes, how would you justify imposing your subjective preference on a whole country?

  11. 11
    RDFish says:

    Hi William J Murray,

    First, I’d like apologize to RDFish…

    I appreciate that greatly, let’s get back to the debate!

    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….

    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.

    No, our willingness to intervene is not determined by whether or not we believe there is an objective reality to what we perceive. I believe that electrons objectively exist, but if someone acted as though they didn’t, I would not be motivated to forcibly coerce them.

    Why do I intercede in moral matters, but not aesthetic matters? It isn’t because morality is objective and aesthetics is subjective. Rather, it is because I am compelled to prevent immorality, but I am not compelled to prevent poor aesthetic judgement.

    Why is the subjectivist compelled to intercede in only moral matters? Subjectivists do pursue their moral goals, even at personal risk and cost. But people pursue lots of goals like this – we might risk great personal loss to climb a mountain, or to have sex with a married woman, or to experience a drug-induced high, or to prove our life’s work to be worthwhile, and so on. Preventing immoral acts is only one of many things that compel human beings with great emotional force. None of this has anything to do with objectivity/subjectivity that we believe is behind our perception.

    Neither is the distinction between preference and experience relevant. “Preference” is a way to describe what we are wont to do. To say “I prefer two cubes of sugar” is to say “I am wont to use two cubes of sugar”. Well, we are all generally wont to prevent immoral acts (some of us more than others of course). I prefer to save weddings from being ruined by salty cakes, to prevent people from being blown up by bombs, and so on. I act on these preferences without regard to the objective reality (or lack of same) of principles that drive me to do these things. In fact, I would be hard-pressed to articulate the moral principles behind the first act (Thou shalt not let people make bad-tasting cakes, especially on important occasions?)

    What about the difference between moderating one’s own behavior vs. interceding in someone else’s? Our moral sense is perturbed by acts of other human beings – that is what we are ultimately perceiving. Thus the response that is evoked by this particular sense involves the acts of other human beings- endorsing, protesting, or attempting to mitigate them. Our sense of beauty involves our seeing (or hearing) particular forms, shapes, tones, textures, and other features of the world, so our response would have nothing to do with the acts of other human beings. Instead, our response to beauty is typically to pursue and enjoy it.

    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.

    Yes, I argue that our moral sense is analogous to our sense of beauty. Just to clarify this issue, let’s look at all of our recent examples of things that we subjectively perceive (a bit simplified of course):

    1) Sweetness – simpler perception of one particular class of chemical compounds
    2) Color – more complex perception of a variety of objective properties (reflected wavelengths, ambient light, background, etc) and other subjective properties (prior experience of colored objects, expectations, etc)
    3) Beauty – very complex perception of various objective physical features (symmetry, proportion, etc), influenced by many psychological factors, and also social/cultural factors
    4) Morality – very complex perception of a myriad of objective facts (regarding suffering, inequality, etc), influenced by many psychological factors, and also social/cultural/religious factors

    Notice that of all of these examples, morality would actually seem to be the one that has the least clear mapping to objective things in the world. While sweetness, color, and beauty are greatly influenced by concrete, physical, measureable objective properties, morality is sensed by perceiving very abstract properies of situations and circumstances such as “inequality” or “responsibility” or “compassion”.

    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.

    Why would a different perception produce the same kind of behavior? My perception of a red apple does not usually provoke the same behavior as would my perception of a beautiful woman. Why would it? Each type of subjective perception might evoke a different response – perceiving something disgusting may evoke retching and avoidance, someone sexy may evoke arousal and pursuit, something sweet may evoke salivating and eating, and something immoral may evoke outrage and intervention. None of this has anything to do with our ideas regarding the objective reality of what we are perceiving.

    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).

    Yes, I agree – this is just what I was saying about the fact that morality had the most obscure mapping to physically real events and objects than any of the other sorts of perceptions we’ve discussed.

    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.

    I really don’t find this argument valid at all, William. Again, whether or not my response to some perception results in my pursuing, avoiding, destroying, eating, mating, encouraging, preventing, or whatever has nothing to do with my thoughts regarding the objective, physical reality of whatever it is I’ve perceived. We do things that are appropriate to our perceptions: We eat sweet things, avoid disgusting things, pursue beautiful things, and prevent immoral things.

    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.

    All of the types of perceptions we’ve discussed are valid to compare, as I’ve illustrated in the list above.

    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)…

    Once again I must correct this: Color and beauty are reasonably similar on the objective/subjective dimension! Our judgements of beauty are culturally influenced whereas (as far as I know) color perception is not, and it is more abstract, but these are matters of degreee, not a qualitative distinction vis-a-vis objective realism.
    Color – more complex perception of a variety of objective properties (reflected wavelengths, ambient light, background, etc) and other subjective properties (prior experience of colored objects, expectations, etc)
    Beauty – very complex perception of various objective physical features (symmetry, proportion, etc), influenced by many psychological factors, and also social/cultural factors

    …justifies intervening in the moral affairs of others, when we would never intervene if morality was, in our experience, actually like “beauty”?

    You are asking for a principle that is consistent with subjectivism that justifies moral interventions. I answer that there is no objective principle that is consistent with subjectivism that justifies moral interventions. I also answer that there is no objective principle that is consistent with objectivism that justifies moral interventions. There are only subjective principles that justify these interventions, and it makes no difference if one assumes objectivism or not, because we cannot discern objective principles of morality the way we independently discern e-m wavelengths or high cheekbones or glucose.

    In order to objectively justify moral actions, we need to have an objectively justified morality. You have attempted to connect our willingness to respond to moral perceptions by intervening in others’ affairs with our judgement regarding the objective reality of the object of our perception, but I’ve shown that our responses are not predicated on this at all. And without attempting to actually show that some moral code is in fact objectively discernable, you can’t possibly provide an objective justification for moral intervention – just like I can’t.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  12. 12
    Mark Frank says:

    WJM

    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”?

    I don’t understand whether you think it is irrational or immoral for a subjectivist to intervene and impose their  moral views on others – you seem to move between the two. However, either way it is often perfectly rational and moral to intervene and impose your subjective assessment of what is beautiful. Suppose you are a planner and a developer with no taste is intending to knock down a beautiful 18th century terrace and replace it with a multistorey car park.

    You also seem to want a principle for a subjectivist to intervene. It would be whatever moral principles they subjectively believe in. I subjectively find it wrong to prevent girls having the same education as boys, so I find it morally right to intervene to the extent I can with those who subjectively think it right. That is perfectly consistent and rational.

  13. 13
    faded_Glory says:

    I actually see dangers in assuming that morality is objective. It might make it harder to contemplate if one might be wrong about one’s moral convictions and adjust one’s views. There is not a lot standing between a belief in objective morality and fanaticism.

    fG

  14. 14
    StephenB says:

    I think that subjectivists intervene in moral issues in order to remake the world in their own image and likeness. The objective moral law is, after all, a reproach on their behavior. If the world became subjectivist, there would be no one left to prick their guilty conscience.

  15. 15
    Barry Arrington says:

    FG @ 13:

    I actually see dangers in assuming that morality is objective.

    Much better to believe that everything is ultimately meaningless; that you are ultimately unaccountable for anything; and there is no ultimate standard by which to discern whether any of your actions are right or wrong.

    It might make it harder to contemplate if one might be wrong about one’s moral convictions and adjust one’s views.

    Much better to believe that the concepts of “wrong” and “moral conviction” are inherently meaningless. That a sure and firm foundation for adjusting views.

    There is not a lot standing between a belief in objective morality and fanaticism.

    Much better to believe in no foundation at all for ethics. That will free you up to be a Mao or a Stalin and engage in wholesale slaughter on the scale of tens of millions.

  16. 16
    Seversky says:

    Why should our lives only have meaning if they are part of someone – or something – else’s purpose? What’s wrong with forming our own purpose? If they can do it why can’t we?

    Why should subjectivism or atheism entail nihilism or anarchy? We have common needs, common interests on which to base a consensus morality and society.

    And, yes, Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot and Hitler killed millions. But before them, through millennia of history, practically all societies were religious in one form or another. Didn’t stop them engaging in wholesale slaughter when it suited them. Sure, the numbers killed were smaller but so were the populations. There were a lot fewer people around and the means of killing them were a lot less efficient, that was all. The will was still there, religion or not.

    And the big unanswered question is still, whose morality gets to be the objective one?

  17. 17
    Joe says:

    Why should our lives have meaning if they are not part of any purpose? How can we form an overall purpose?

  18. 18

    Mark Frank said:

    I don’t understand whether you think it is irrational or immoral for a subjectivist to intervene and impose their moral views on others – you seem to move between the two.

    I move from one to the other by arguing that the only logically consistent justifications available under moral subjectivism would themselves be considered immoral – as illustrated in the following:

    However, either way it is often perfectly rational and moral to intervene and impose your subjective assessment of what is beautiful. Suppose you are a planner and a developer with no taste is intending to knock down a beautiful 18th century terrace and replace it with a multistorey car park.

    I fail to see how that example corresponds to the debate. Are you saying you would feel like you would have a moral right to disobey the law and physically prevent him from a legal demolishment? We do not normally adjudicate differences in beauty perception through force or by breaking the law.

    You also seem to want a principle for a subjectivist to intervene. It would be whatever moral principles they subjectively believe in. I subjectively find it wrong to prevent girls having the same education as boys, so I find it morally right to intervene to the extent I can with those who subjectively think it right. That is perfectly consistent and rational.

    Then since your principle sources no presumed objective commodity, it boils down to a form of “because I feel like it”, even if those feelings are unlike other feelings and are stronger than other feelings. “Because I feel like it” is an obviously immoral principle.

    Calling one’s internal, preferential feelings “morality” as if simply using that term justified forcing your preferences on others is an obfuscation; what principle gives you the right to force what you admit is just your own personal, subjective morality on others?

  19. 19
    Mark Frank says:

    WJM #18

    I fail to see how that example corresponds to the debate. Are you saying you would feel like you would have a moral right to disobey the law and physically prevent him from a legal demolishment? We do not normally adjudicate differences in beauty perception through force or by breaking the law.

    In England it would be legal for a planner to get the police to physically prevent a developer from destroying a building on the grounds that it was beautiful. But why be so extreme. Interventions do not have to be physical – suppose you saw some kids about to burn a painting you considered very beautiful for fun – Would you not intervene vocally? Would it not be morally justified? The fact is that we do intervene about subjective issues and there is nothing illogical about it and under some circumstances it may be moral.

    Then since your principle sources no presumed objective commodity, it boils down to a form of “because I feel like it”, even if those feelings are unlike other feelings and are stronger than other feelings. “Because I feel like it” is an obviously immoral principle.

    You want the debate to be about how subjectivists do not behave as subjectivists, but this point makes it clear that first you have to be clear what subjectivism is. To describe it as “because I feel like it” makes it sound as it were a selfish whim. If you rephrase it as “because I abhor that kind of cruelty” then it sounds moral and reasonable to intervene.

    Calling one’s internal, preferential feelings “morality” as if simply using that term justified forcing your preferences on others is an obfuscation;

    But subjectivism is the claim that morality (and thus justifications for anything) in the end comes down to internal preferential feelings. So whatever your objections, it is perfectly consistent to force my principles on others.

    what principle gives you the right to force what you admit is just your own personal, subjective morality on others?

    I just explained the principle would depend on the morality of the person. In my case, I believe it right to force my morality on the Islamic State  because I believe their morality causes excessive suffering and subjectively I find that very wrong. There is no inconsistency on that.

  20. 20
    RDFish says:

    Here’s a recap for those who don’t have time to read/understand WJM’s OP and my response:

    1) WJM acknowledges that there is no objective moral code that is objectively discernable.
    2) I argue that this means neither the objectivist nor the subjectivist can objectively justify moral interventions, and that we all act on our subjective moral perceptions
    3) WJM counters that when a subjectivist morally intervenes, they are being logically inconsistent. In this thread he bases that argument on the fact that we are only compelled to intervene in matters where we believe that the object of our perception (the perception that evokes our moral response) is objectively real. Therefore, in order to be logically consistent, we need to consider our moral perceptions to be of something that is objectively real.
    4) I counter that it isn’t true that we only intervene when we think our perceptions are real, and that our responses to our subjective moral perceptions are merely one of an array of responses appropriate to various sorts of perceptions
    5) I conclude that assuming objectivism in order to avoid logical inconsistency is itself illogical because: (a) Subjectivism has no inherent logical inconsistency, and (b) Even if there was an inconsistency, it can’t be remedied by the subjectively choosing to believe in some moral code that cannot be objectively identified and then calling it “objective”.

    WJM I hope you think that is a fair summary, please tell me if I’ve (inadvertently!) misrepresented you view.

    Barry, StephenB – I know you are both ardent defenders of objectivism. Do either of you have anything to say relevant to the debate?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  21. 21
    faded_Glory says:

    Barry Arrington:

    Much better to believe that everything is ultimately meaningless; that you are ultimately unaccountable for anything; and there is no ultimate standard by which to discern whether any of your actions are right or wrong.

    Why this fascination with ultimate?

    Many things are meaningful to me in my life, and some are meaningful thereafter. I am accountable for what I do and don’t do in my life: to myself, to my loved ones, and to the society I live in. I do have a standard by which to judge if my actions are right or wrong.

    I don’t see what I am missing at all.

    Much better to believe that the concepts of “wrong” and “moral conviction” are inherently meaningless. That a sure and firm foundation for adjusting views.

    My concepts of right and wrong are not at all meaningless to me. They directly affect how I behave every single day of my life.
    I can adjust my views if reflection, discussion and overall life experiences convince me to do so. I cherish this freedom of thought. Do you not permit yourself the same freedom?

    Much better to believe in no foundation at all for ethics. That will free you up to be a Mao or a Stalin and engage in wholesale slaughter on the scale of tens of millions.

    I do not believe that there are no foundations at all for ethics, so I am puzzled why you direct this comment to me.

    It is also quite possible that Mao and Stalin believed in objective morality – just a different one from the one you believe in (I presume). As I said, there is not a lot standing in the way between a belief in objective morality and fanaticism. Witness Islamic terrorists, who undoubtedly believe they are acting for the good and glory of their God.

    fG

  22. 22
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    Barry, StephenB – I know you are both ardent defenders of objectivism. Do either of you have anything to say relevant to the debate?

    While I agree with WJM’s argument that subjectivists live as if objectivism was true. I need to stay out of the discussion for the following reason: I think that beauty and morality are both objective and detectable (and that red is a property of things). So, I can’t really relate to the dichotomy that you folks have set up or the analogies that you are using. All I would do is create a big mess.

  23. 23
    skram says:

    StephenB:

    I think that beauty and morality are both objective and detectable (and that red is a property of things).

    I won’t get into the moral debates, but red being a property of things sounds a bit odd. If you look at this photograph, is red the property of the wall?

  24. 24
    HeKS says:

    faded_Glory @ 13 said:

    I actually see dangers in assuming that morality is objective. It might make it harder to contemplate if one might be wrong about one’s moral convictions and adjust one’s views. There is not a lot standing between a belief in objective morality and fanaticism.

    I would just like to point out that the statement in bold is incoherent.

    If objective moral values and duties do not actually exist then it makes no sense whatsoever to speak of the potential for one’s moral convictions to be “wrong”. If morality is simply subjective then moral convictions are merely what any person feels about matters that they have categorized as being relevant to something we’ve agreed to call “morality”. As such, to contemplate that one might be “wrong” about their moral convictions is to contemplate that what they feel about some “moral issue” might not be what they feel about that “moral issue”.

  25. 25
    HeKS says:

    @RDFish #11

    I unfortunately don’t have time to really jump into this discussion, but I’d like to address one of your comments. You said:

    Why do I intercede in moral matters, but not aesthetic matters? It isn’t because morality is objective and aesthetics is subjective. Rather, it is because I am compelled to prevent immorality, but I am not compelled to prevent poor aesthetic judgement.

    Why is the subjectivist compelled to intercede in only moral matters? Subjectivists do pursue their moral goals, even at personal risk and cost. But people pursue lots of goals like this – we might risk great personal loss to climb a mountain, or to have sex with a married woman, or to experience a drug-induced high, or to prove our life’s work to be worthwhile, and so on. Preventing immoral acts is only one of many things that compel human beings with great emotional force. None of this has anything to do with objectivity/subjectivity that we believe is behind our perception.

    I think there’s a problem of terminology here.

    Consider this portion of your comment:

    Why do I intercede in moral matters, but not aesthetic matters? It isn’t because morality is objective and aesthetics is subjective. Rather, it is because I am compelled to prevent immorality, but I am not compelled to prevent poor aesthetic judgement.

    Why is the subjectivist compelled to intercede in only moral matters?

    In each case that you use the word “compelled”, I think you mean “impelled”. Certainly this is what you mean you say:

    people pursue lots of goals like this – we might risk great personal loss to climb a mountain, or to have sex with a married woman, or to experience a drug-induced high, or to prove our life’s work to be worthwhile, and so on.

    People feel impelled (strongly motivated from within themselves) to do the types of things you mention. On the other hand, being “compelled” refers to external pressure that forces someone to do something. When you intercede in moral matters to cause others to change their actions, you are compelling them to act differently, and perhaps in conflict with their own subjectively held moral convictions.

    So, the question is, what justification do you have for compelling other people to conform to your subjectively held moral convictions, perhaps over and above their own?

    When interceding in particularly egregious instances of immoral behavior (such as significant harm done to others), the justification that Moral Objectivists would offer for their intercession and their choice to compel a different moral behavior in another person would be their belief that they were not compelling someone to act in accord merely with their own subjectively held personal preferences, but rather to act in accord with objectively existent moral values and duties that are truly binding on that other person, even if the person had been ignoring that fact.

    The Moral Subjectivist has no such justification to offer. And the claim that he or she feels impelled to force their subjective moral preferences on others is no justification at all. Rather, it is merely a description of what they are doing, and a simple restatement of the problem facing Moral Subjectivism.

  26. 26
    RDFish says:

    Hi HeKS,

    In each case that you use the word “compelled”, I think you mean “impelled”.

    That may be a better word choice, although it’s commonly said that one is compelled by one’s own conscience, for example.

    So, the question is, what justification do you have for compelling other people to conform to your subjectively held moral convictions, perhaps over and above their own?

    The answer I’ve given many times here is that by “justification” you presumably mean “objective justification”, which is not available to anyone, since nobody has any way of objectively determining morality.

    When interceding in particularly egregious instances of immoral behavior (such as significant harm done to others), the justification that Moral Objectivists would offer for their intercession and their choice to compel a different moral behavior in another person would be their belief that they were not compelling someone to act in accord merely with their own subjectively held personal preferences, but rather to act in accord with objectively existent moral values and duties that are truly binding on that other person, even if the person had been ignoring that fact.

    I’m aware that this is the justification offered by the objectivist. My point here is that in order for that justification to be valid, there must actually be an objectively existent moral code. There is no way to determine the existence of such a thing, and so the objectivists’ justification fails.

    The Moral Subjectivist has no such justification to offer.

    Subjectivists acknowledge that noone has any way of establishing the objective truth of moral statements, and so do not presume to claim objective justifications for their actions.

    And the claim that he or she feels impelled to force their subjective moral preferences on others is no justification at all.

    Again, if the word is taken to refer to objective justification, it should be obvious that the subjectivist holds that no objective moral justification is possible.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  27. 27
    faded_Glory says:

    I would just like to point out that the statement in bold is incoherent.

    If objective moral values and duties do not actually exist then it makes no sense whatsoever to speak of the potential for one’s moral convictions to be “wrong”.

    Sigh… always the same confusion with you guys…

    It makes sense in the same way I can say that I was wrong thinking it was a good idea entering these debates about morality.

    fG

  28. 28
    Mark Frank says:

    HeKS

    It is an endless struggle to get objectivists to understand the subjectivist position. I will add my little bit to the excellent comments from RDFish and FG in case another perspective finally causes the penny to drop.

    The Moral Subjectivist has no such justification to offer. And the claim that he or she feels impelled to force their subjective moral preferences on others is no justification at all. Rather, it is merely a description of what they are doing, and a simple restatement of the problem facing Moral Subjectivism

    You are right the “impelled” is not a justification. “Impelled” answers the question “why would a subjectivist intervene” in the sense of what motivates them. The justification would be something like e.g. preventing suffering, distributing rewards fairly, whatever. Compelling someone to conform to your moral principles is just one of many ways that you might act in accordance with your moral principles – along with giving to the poor, campaigning for gay rights, and not being late for dinner parties. It just so happens that in this case it brings you into conflict with someone else’s moral principles.

  29. 29
    Hangonasec says:

    Mark @28 –

    It is an endless struggle to get objectivists to understand the subjectivist position.

    +1

  30. 30
    Box says:

    Mark Frank,

    MF: You are right the “impelled” is not a justification.

    IOW you agree with your critics that you have no justification for moral intervention.

    MF: “Impelled” answers the question “why would a subjectivist intervene” in the sense of what motivates them.

    However, as you just acknowledged, there is no justification for this intervention.

    MF: The justification would be something like e.g. preventing suffering, distributing rewards fairly, whatever.

    Whatever indeed. However this “justification” is no actual justification. Remember?

    MF: Compelling someone to conform to your moral principles is just one of many ways that you might act in accordance with your moral principles – along with giving to the poor, campaigning for gay rights, and not being late for dinner parties.

    Whatever. Under moral subjectivism there is no justification for compelling someone to conform to your moral principles other than ‘might is right’.

    MF: It just so happens that in this case it brings you into conflict with someone else’s moral principles.

    May the force be with you.

  31. 31
    Mark Frank says:

    #30 Box

    However this “justification” is no actual justification. Remember?

    I don’t remember any such thing. That was just what you asserted.

    I guess we could describe the difference between objectivism and subjectivism in terms of what is an acceptable moral justification.

    A subjectivist accepts reducing suffering, being fair, sticking to committments etc as justifications – recognising that these come down to personal values. An objectivist requires that there be some ultimate justification for these different principles (even though they differ as to what that ultimate justification is). A subjectivist believes that there can be no such ultimate justification (for any given justification you can always demand that it be justified) and that in the end it has to come down some basic things we abhor or admire. Just repeating that such beliefs are no justification is simply repeating the objectivist position and amounts to no more than saying “we are right and you are wrong”.

    WJM’s angle on this – that it is somehow illogical or immoral for a subjectivist to compell someone to behave according to their moral principles is a red-herring. He is requiring some kind of objective justification for such an action. But that is assuming objectivism. A subjectivist only requires a justification in terms of their own moral principles as is the case for any other action the might take.

  32. 32
    Box says:

    Mark Frank,

    MF: A subjectivist accepts reducing suffering, being fair, sticking to committments etc as justifications – recognising that these come down to personal values.

    Why are these justifications? They are just as much “justifications” as the opposite values. And that’s the whole point isn’t it? Simply terming them “justifications” doesn’t make them so.

    MF: A subjectivist believes that there can be no such ultimate justification (for any given justification you can always demand that it be justified) and that in the end it has to come down some basic things we abhor or admire.

    Why are you speaking about ‘no ultimate justification’ when there is no justification at all? And why are you speaking about “justification” when there is no such thing under subjective moralism? Critics don’t ask you to justify justifications, they are asking you to justify moral intervention.

    MF: A subjectivist only requires a justification in terms of their own moral principles as is the case for any other action they might take.

    Please define “justification”. You are using the word as if it means something under subjectivism. The question is what.

  33. 33
    Mark Frank says:

    #33 Box

    Please define “justification”. You are using the word as if it means something under subjectivism. The question is what.

    I mean it in the same way the vast majority of the English speaking world – in a moral context “reason for believing an action is moral”. You don’t seem to count “reduces suffering” as a justification which the vast majority of people would accept. So I think perhaps you should define “justification” not me.

  34. 34
    Box says:

    Aurelio Smith,

    AS: My justification for a set of ethics would be fairness, respect for the life of individuals, consensus.

    However under moral subjectivism these are baseless words, since opposite values are also “justifications”. So that brings us to the question: what do you mean by justification?
    Can you define it?

  35. 35
    Box says:

    Mark Frank,

    MF: I mean it in the same way the vast majority of the English speaking world – in a moral context “reason for believing an action is moral”.

    What can be a reason for believing an action is moral? Any reason perhaps? IOW anything can be a “justification”? If so, doesn’t that render “justification” meaningless?

  36. 36
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    RDFishSubjectivists acknowledge that noone has any way of establishing the objective truth of moral statements, and so do not presume to claim objective justifications for their actions.

    On this subtopic, I will weigh in just long enough to say that I agree. The subjectivist can provide no justification (as the objectivist defines the term) for intervening on moral issues.

    I would add that the objectivist uses the word as it is normally understood:

    “the action of showing something to be right or reasonable.”

    Obviously, “right or reasonable” refers to an objective standard.

    So it is with the word “Justice,” from which we get “justify.” Justice, by definition, means objectively just, just as fair, by definition, means objectively fair–as opposed to “just for me,” or “fair to me,” both of which are subjective.

    Thus, if the word justify has any meaning at all, we can say that the subjectivist can provide no justification for interceding in moral issues.

  37. 37
    Box says:

    Aurelio Smith: And how is your position different?

    I take it that this is your way of expressing agreement. So I take it that you admit that under subjective moralism there is no justification for your actions. IOW anything goes.

  38. 38
    Box says:

    First, nihilism can’t condemn Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, or those who fomented the Armenian genocide or the Rwandan one. If there is no such thing as “morally forbidden,” then what Mohamed Atta did on September 11, 2001, was not morally forbidden. Of course, it was not permitted either. But still, don’t we want to have grounds to condemn these monsters? Nihilism seems to cut that ground out from under us.
    Second, if we admit to being nihilists, then people won’t trust us. We won’t be left alone when there is loose change around. We won’t be relied on to be sure small children stay out of trouble.
    Third, and worst of all, if nihilism gets any traction, society will be destroyed. We will find ourselves back in Thomas Hobbes’s famous state of nature, where “the life of man is solitary, mean, nasty, brutish and short.” Surely, we don’t want to be nihilists if we can possibly avoid it. (Or at least, we don’t want the other people around us to be nihilists.)
    Scientism can’t avoid nihilism. We need to make the best of it. For our own self-respect, we need to show that nihilism doesn’t have the three problems just mentioned—no grounds to condemn Hitler, lots of reasons for other people to distrust us, and even reasons why no one should trust anyone else. We need to be convinced that these unacceptable outcomes are not ones that atheism and scientism are committed to. Such outcomes would be more than merely a public relations nightmare for scientism. They might prevent us from swallowing nihilism ourselves, and that would start unraveling scientism.
    To avoid these outcomes, people have been searching for scientifically respectable justification of morality for least a century and a half. The trouble is that over the same 150 years or so, the reasons for nihilism have continued to mount. Both the failure to find an ethics that everyone can agree on and the scientific explanation of the origin and persistence of moral norms have made nihilism more and more plausible while remaining just as unappetizing.

    [A.Rosenberg]

  39. 39
    Mark Frank says:

    Box

    What can be a reason for believing an action is moral? Any reason perhaps? IOW anything can be a “justification”?

    I guess that logically pretty much anything can be offered as a justification although in practice the set is much more limited. It is logically possible that some nutter somewhere has justified hanging someone on the grounds it is a Tuesday. If the speaker genuinely thought it was a good reason for hanging someone then from their point of view (and we are subjectivists) it is a justification.

    If so, doesn’t that render “justification” meaningless?

    No – because the defining characteristic of a justification is not ithe set of things that can be offered as justifications, but the role that those things play in the activity of justifying. Consider an analogy – a promise can refer to almost any kind of commitment – what makes it a promise is not the set of things that can be promised but the role that the words play in the activity of promising.
    Now please. I have worked quite hard to explain my definition of justification which I think corresponds to every day usage. What is your definition?

  40. 40
    Mark Frank says:

    #42 Box

    Why the sudden switch to nihilism? We were talking about subjectivism.

  41. 41
    Piotr says:

    Nihilists! ******! I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.

  42. 42
    Box says:

    Mark Frank, can you explain where subjectivism differs from nihilism?

    Nihilism rejects the distinction between acts that are morally permitted, morally forbidden, and morally required. Nihilism tells us not that we can’t know which moral judgments are right, but that they are all wrong. More exactly, it claims, they are all based on false, groundless presuppositions. Nihilism says that the whole idea of “morally permissible” is untenable nonsense. As such, it can hardly be accused of holding that “everything is morally permissible.” That, too, is untenable nonsense.
    Moreover, nihilism denies that there is really any such thing as intrinsic moral value.

    [A.Rosenberg]

  43. 43
    Box says:

    AS: You can take it that I see you as no different from me in being able to justify your personal ethos any more objectively than I can.

    Aha, so you admit that you cannot justify your actions. And, as a side issue, you assume that the same goes for me.

    edit: AS, Box stays on topic and refuses to get sidetracked.

  44. 44
    Mark Frank says:

    Box

    Mark Frank, can you explain where subjectivism differs from nihilism?

    Yes but it is quite hard work. I might do it once you give me your definition of justification.

  45. 45

    RDFish said:

    No, our willingness to intervene is not determined by whether or not we believe there is an objective reality to what we perceive. I believe that electrons objectively exist, but if someone acted as though they didn’t, I would not be motivated to forcibly coerce them.

    If someone was about to grab a live wire, or stick a tool into a live socket because they didn’t believe that electrons exist, you wouldn’t intervene?

    Why is the subjectivist compelled to intercede in only moral matters? Subjectivists do pursue their moral goals, even at personal risk and cost. But people pursue lots of goals like this – we might risk great personal loss to climb a mountain, or to have sex with a married woman, or to experience a drug-induced high, or to prove our life’s work to be worthwhile, and so on. Preventing immoral acts is only one of many things that compel human beings with great emotional force. None of this has anything to do with objectivity/subjectivity that we believe is behind our perception.

    I am certainly not arguing that people do not intervene in the lives of others due to purely subjective motivations or compulsions, I’m making the case that rational, good people do not force others to comply with those views unless they hold their view to represent an objectively real and important commodity in the world. Most of what you described above is nothing but people pursuing their own personal goals within the framework of the other involved people freely going along with such choices. This is an argument about what can justify moral interventions, not what can justify personal choices even if dangerous.

    By moral intervention, I mean forcing compliance.

    Yes, I argue that our moral sense is analogous to our sense of beauty. Just to clarify this issue, let’s look at all of our recent examples of things that we subjectively perceive (a bit simplified of course):

    Once again, this is not an argument about what morality “is like” in any sense other than resulting behavior .

    Unless you can compare morality to some other human capacity/experience/sense/feeling that carries with it the same kind of willingness to intervene (force compliance) on anyone else you encounter engaging in important immoral behavior, that does not refer to an objective commodity that justifies such intervention, then my argument that rational, moral humans must act as if morality refers to an objective commodity stands unrebutted.

    While you might risk your own life to climb to the top of a mountain, would it be moral to force others who are unwilling to do so? If you are working hard to have sex with a married woman, would it be moral or sane of you to force her compliance with that personal preference?

    Why would a different perception produce the same kind of behavior?

    Depends on the “kinds of behaviors” one is using as categories. I have two different, IMO exhaustively complete categories of behavior; (1) our behavior when what we are acting or reacting in reference to is a commodity presumed to be objectively existent, and (2)our behavior wrt what we consider to be subjective commodities, like personal flavor preferences or personal aesthetic preferences.

    It is my position that:

    1. In all cases other than morality, subjectivists agree that it is only in the case of presumed objective commodities and important potential consequences that forced compliance is acceptable (building codes, health codes, people unwittingly endangering themselves, etc.)

    2. In all other cases than morality, subjective preferences or “wonts”, as you say, are not only insufficient grounds to force compliance, but that it is immoral to force compliance in accordance with such peronal wonts.

    Since the argument is about what moral behavior compares to, moral behavior cannot be used as an example of personal “wont” or preference behavior. It’s the thing under debate. Your attempt to categorize moral behavior as a “wont” is assuming your conclusion. IOW, you are attempting to make the case that morality is in fact like a sense of beauty, even though the two produce entirely different behavioral patterns, when in my argument it doesn’t matter what morality factually is, what matters is that the two produce categorically different behaviors.

    To make your case, you must use a comparison or make a case where forcing compliance due to personal preference or wont is acceptable behavior.

    I really don’t find this argument valid at all, William. Again, whether or not my response to some perception results in my pursuing, avoiding, destroying, eating, mating, encouraging, preventing, or whatever has nothing to do with my thoughts regarding the objective, physical reality of whatever it is I’ve perceived. We do things that are appropriate to our perceptions: We eat sweet things, avoid disgusting things, pursue beautiful things, and prevent immoral things.

    I’m not sure what “appropriate” would mean here. Perhaps you mean that we do things which are deterministic outcomes produced by our perceptions? If not, what determines what act is “appropriate” wrt the perception?

    If you are saying here that your daily behavior ignores whether or not a perception is categorized as being of something objective in nature, or something subjective in nature, resulting in entirely different kinds of behavior as a response, then your kind of existence lies so far outside of my experience and my experience of other people that I don’t see how we can continue a debate about it.

    If you actually live a life where the presumed objective and subjective nature of categories of experience are irrelevant to how you actually behave, then you would be the functional equivalent of an solipsist (not the belief-equivalent), where your responses to perceptions/sensations are considered inherently justified/valid simply because you have them.

    To be up front, though, I don’t believe you actually think/live that way, but I’m willing to accept it at least arguendo. Accepting it arguendo, I’m not sure if you would classify as “sane” in any reasonable sense. It almost seems to me to be a kind of sociopathy, but more correctly termed objectiopathy, where you do not care nor react as if there is any objective justification for any behavior, and you consider any behavior factually justified by the nature of the reaction itself.

    … but I’ve shown that our responses are not predicated on this at all.

    I don’t see where; as far as I can tell, every example you have given me can be clearly categorized as either 1. Willing to intervene due to some presumed objective commodity, or 2. intervenntion is inappropriate due to the subective nature of the commodity in question.]

    I’ve seen you assert that commodities are the same, but I have not seen a comparison that produces similar behavior – in fact, you have argued that even though two compared things produce different behavioral outcomes, they are factually the same, as if this addresses my argument when it does not. However, if you are indeed an “objectiopath”, I can see how your line of reasoning follows the particular path it does, as an objectiopath wouldn’t consider the objective/subjective qualities of perceptions; they would just react however they react, whether it included forcing personal preferences of objective guidelines on others – they would both be the same thing.

    By the way I don’t mean that term in a derogatory way, just a shorthand way of referring to someone who presumably holds no categorical distinctions between perceptions of objective or subjective commodities wrt their resulting behavior.

  46. 46
    Zachriel says:

    William J Murray: I’m making the case that rational, good people do not force others to comply with those views unless they hold their view to represent an objectively real and important commodity in the world.

    You might stop someone from throwing paint at the Mona Lisa, or desecrating a Grave to the Glorious Dead, even though the value of these artworks is purely subjective.

    People ascribe value to things, whether people or children or flags or coke bottles. They will then defend that valuable thing.

    “A strange feeling of shame had come over the family.”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCQIGiXf0JA

  47. 47

    Mark Frank said:

    But subjectivism is the claim that morality (and thus justifications for anything) in the end comes down to internal preferential feelings. So whatever your objections, it is perfectly consistent to force my principles on others.

    Mark, I agree that holding as justification the principle of “because I prefer it” is logically consistent with moral subjectivism. If you consider “because I prefer it” a sound moral principle, there is nothing more we need debate and I’m happy to leave it there for others to consider.

    I have repeatedly pointed out that this is the only logically sound principle ultimately available (logically) to the subjectvist.

  48. 48
    Mark Frank says:

    #58 WJM

    I am glad you concur that there is nothing inconsistent about a subjectivist forcing others to concur with their moral principles. We only differ in that I think that in the end everyone’s moral principles including yours come to down to “because I prefer it”. You prefer fulfilling God’s purpose or fulfilling what it is to be a human being or however you like to describe it. I prefer limiting the suffering of sentient beings and various other related things. We are both prepared to use force to make others to conform to those preferences if the alternative is too extreme. It is really not such a big difference.

  49. 49

    RDFish said:

    WJM acknowledges that there is no objective moral code that is objectively discernable.

    While this may be technically correct, it’s a little disingenuous. I’ve said that nothing is “objectively” discernible and that I don’t know if morality refers to an objective commodity or not. It may be “objectively discernible” in a manner similar to how humans have discerned some qualities about phenomena held to be objective in nature.

    2) I argue that this means neither the objectivist nor the subjectivist can objectively justify moral interventions, and that we all act on our subjective moral perceptions

    This is a rather odd assemblage of words. A justification is never in itself “objective”, but rather is held subjectively as referring to an objective commodity. Nothing a human perceives, feels, thinks, reasons, etc. is ever “objective” in nature, but rather is categorized as referring to phenomena presumed or believed to be objective or subjetive in nature.

    3) WJM counters that when a subjectivist morally intervenes, they are being logically inconsistent [if their intervention is held to be based on any principle otgher than “because I prefer/feel like it”- WJM]. In this thread he bases that argument on the fact that we are only compelled to intervene in matters where we believe that the object of our perception (the perception that evokes our moral response) is objectively real. Therefore, in order to be logically consistent, we need to consider our moral perceptions to be of something that is objectively real.

    4) I counter that it isn’t true that we only intervene when we think our perceptions are real, and that our responses to our subjective moral perceptions are merely one of an array of responses appropriate to various sorts of perceptions

    You’ve taken the term “intervention” out of context. The context I use it in is forcing compliance on others; in your supposed counter-examples you use it in a generic sense of simply doing things in the world – like climbing a mountain or having an affair presumably with an agreeable married woman. In those situations you are not forcing compliance on anyone and as soon as we consider forcing compliance in those situations on others we recognize it as immoral.

    5. I conclude that assuming objectivism in order to avoid logical inconsistency is itself illogical because: (a) Subjectivism has no inherent logical inconsistency, and (b) Even if there was an inconsistency, it can’t be remedied by the subjectively choosing to believe in some moral code that cannot be objectively identified and then calling it “objective”.

    Subjectivism has no inherent logical inconsistency if one agrees to Mark Frank’s ultimate principle of justification “because I prefer it” (because whatever other principles are adopted, like equality or not harming others, are adopted because one prefers them); if one disagrees with that principle but is willing to force moral compliance on others according to their personal morality, then their behavior is logically inconsistent with their refusal to agree to that justifying principle.

    IOW, you either agree that you coerce others to your morality for no reason other than, ultimately, “because I feel like it”, or you are being inconsistent with moral subjectivism. Saying that there is no justifying principle is the same as saying “because I prefer it” or “because I feel like it”. Those become your de facto, subjective justifications.

    However, it seems to me that RDFish has agreed to this; how he reacts to stimuli is de facto justification for carrying out that reaction, without consideration for whether or not that stimuli refers to objective or subjective phenomena. Essentally, then, it seems to me that RDFish is agreeing that subjectivist morality ultimately boils down to “because I prefer it” or “because I feel like it” because he need not even consider if his reactions pertain to any objectively existent commodity or not.

    I submit to viewers that no rational, sane person actually acts as if it is irrelevant whether or not their perceptions/sensations/feelings are of subjective or objective commodities and that indeed those two categories necessarily produce entirely different kinds of behavior in response.

    Sane, rational, healthy people do not agree that they are willing to force others to comply to what they hold as entirely subjective feelings/perceptions and ideas, no matter how strongly they feel them. For sane, rational, healthy people, that very idea is immoral. In order to be willing force others to comply, sane, rational and healthy people require their perceptions be about some objectively existent, important commodity.

  50. 50
    Box says:

    When someone states that the truth does not exist, it’s sometimes effective to ask “is it true that the truth does not exist?”
    In that line I would like to ask subjectivists “is it wrong to hold that objective morals exist?”

  51. 51
    Mark Frank says:

    WJM

    Sane, rational, healthy people do not agree that they are willing to force others to comply to what they hold as entirely subjective feelings/perceptions and ideas, no matter how strongly they feel them. For sane, rational, healthy people, that very idea is immoral. In order to be willing force others to comply, sane, rational and healthy people require their perceptions be about some objectively existent, important commodity.

    I disagree. I already gave the example of some kids burning or defacing a picture you found very beautiful. A father may force the family not to play certain games because he doesn’t like the noise. The state will often force some part of the population to comply with the subjective preferences of an elite – as when it requires buildings to comply with certain aesthetic principles. You may disagree with the policy but is the policy of sane, rational, healthy people.

  52. 52
    RDFish says:

    Hi William J Murray,

    RDF: No, our willingness to intervene is not determined by whether or not we believe there is an objective reality to what we perceive.
    WJM: If someone was about to grab a live wire, or stick a tool into a live socket because they didn’t believe that electrons exist, you wouldn’t intervene?

    Yes of course, just as you would.

    Now, if somebody was about to run over a cliff because they were ill and hallucinating that demons were chasing them, wouldn’t you try to stop them? Of course you would, even though the demons were not objectively real.

    This should be enough right here to illustrate that this principle of intervention that you’re trying to formulate is invalid. Our willingness to intervene is simply not predicated on our judgement of what is objectively real.

    I’m making the case that rational, good people do not force others to comply with those views unless they hold their view to represent an objectively real and important commodity in the world.

    As I’ve shown repeatedly, this simply is not the case. Instead, people force others to comply with their views when they feel compelled to by their moral sense. This is true for everyone. People do not justify their moral interventions by analyzing the objective reality of moral principles – most people who aren’t familiar with moral theory have never given it a thought, and wouldn’t even immediately understand the issue.

    Unless you can compare morality to some other human capacity/experience/sense/feeling that carries with it the same kind of willingness to intervene (force compliance) on anyone else you encounter engaging in important immoral behavior, that does not refer to an objective commodity that justifies such intervention, then my argument that rational, moral humans must act as if morality refers to an objective commodity stands unrebutted.

    I explained that different perceptions are associated with different behaviors, and our moral perceptions are those that are connected with others’ actions, and so it follows that our respones to moral perceptions are going to involve dealing with others’ actions. That is a valid rebuttal to your argument, but you don’t see it, so here’s another reason why you’re wrong:

    Recall that you said it isn’t the actual reality of the perceived thing that is relevant here, but only our own particular judgement about whether or not the object of our perception is objectively real that determines our willingness to intervene. Well, I am willing to intervene when my subjective moral sense compels me to, and yet my judgement of morality is that it is not objectively real at all. You argue that this means I am acting as though I’m an objectivist, but that is nonsense: I am actually acting like a subjectivist, and I morally intervene even though I believe that there is no objective reality to my moral principles. This refutes your thesis head-on: Contrary to what you are trying to argue, people do not intervene in others’ affairs only when they believe their moral principles are objectively real.

    In all cases other than morality, subjectivists agree that it is only in the case of presumed objective commodities and important potential consequences that forced compliance is acceptable (building codes, health codes, people unwittingly endangering themselves, etc.)

    No, subjectivists do not agree that only “objective commodities” make interventions acceptable. The issue of objective vs. subjective reality and epistemology never enters the picture at all.

    In contrast to our (yours and mine) view that beauty is a subjective perception, StephenB here has informed us that he believes beauty to be objective property(!), which shows that even objectivists can’t agree on what is objectively real. And yet you, me, and StephenB all would be willing to intervene to prevent rape, murder, and so on.

    Again, your attempt to use our judgement of the objective reality of things to try and establish that we should consider morality to be objective fails at the outset. It isn’t what people do.

    And it actually even is worse for your argument than that. Aside from the fact that I’ve argued intervention is appropriate to moral perceptions in the same way that eating is appropriate to sweetness perceptions, and aside from the fact that I’ve shown people don’t actually base their willingness to intervene based on their judgement of what is objectively real, and aside from the fact that people (even objectivists) don’t even agree on what is objectively real, you have yet another problem:

    Let us arguendo accept your premise that people’s willingness to intervene is predicated on their judgement of what is objective real. So what? This is nothing but a descriptive (and faulty) observation of yours, not some sort of prescriptive principle that you’ve established that ought to be adhered to. What does it matter what “people do” in general when it comes to objective morality? It doesn’t matter, because an objective morality cannot be based on descriptive ethics. If my moral code prescribed that I intervene only when objective commodities were involved except “in moral cases”, can you show that is objectively wrong?

    And yes, I’m afraid your argument is even more confused than this. You argue that “In all cases other than morality, subjectivists agree that it is only in the case of presumed objective commodities and important potential consequences that forced compliance is acceptable…”. But what is it that distinguishes that something is a “case other then morality”? Do you have some objective way of determining when some case is is a moral case and when it isn’t? Of course you do not! Your only criteria is when people choose to intervene and when they don’t! So what your argument here boils down to is this:

    Subjectivists only intervene when they believe an objective commodity is involved, except when they don’t.

    I wouldn’t argue with that 🙂 It does not, however, mean that subjectivists are somehow inconsistent, or that we should consider morality to be objective. You have simply made a rule up for subjectivists to follow, and declared us inconsistent because we don’t. Again, neither subjectivists nor objectivists base their willingness to intercede on their judgement of “objective commodities”. It is a complete red herring.

    To make your case, you must use a comparison or make a case where forcing compliance due to personal preference or wont is acceptable behavior.

    This is nonsense, since none of us would feel compelled to force compliance due to mere personal preference. When you use the word “acceptable” here, of course you are equivocating about whether we determine that acceptability objectively or subjectively. I acknowledge that this acceptability is a subjective moral judgement, while you continue to assert that it is objective (but you can’t say why).

    My subjective morality recoils at the thought of forcing somebody to agree with my own personal sense of beauty, for example. And StephenB, who believes beauty is an objective feature found “out there” in the world, agrees (presumably) that we ought not force others to agree with our aesthetic sense.

    I’m not sure what “appropriate” would mean here. Perhaps you mean that we do things which are deterministic outcomes produced by our perceptions? If not, what determines what act is “appropriate” wrt the perception?

    Let’s not get into to determinism/free will issues here. What I meant is simply that certain responses are relevant to – make sense with regard to – certain perceptions. It would not be appropriate, in that sense, for our sense of beauty to compel us to eat a painting, or our sense of sweetness to compel us to mate with a cupcake, or our sense of (im)morality to compel us to exclaim “purple!”.

    If you are saying here that your daily behavior ignores whether or not a perception is categorized as being of something objective in nature, or something subjective in nature, resulting in entirely different kinds of behavior as a response, then your kind of existence lies so far outside of my experience and my experience of other people that I don’t see how we can continue a debate about it.

    This is both overly dramatic and completely unfounded. StephenB and I disagree about the nature of beauty – I believe it is in the eye of the beholder, while StephenB believes that it is an objectively detectable real property of things in the world. I was in fact surprised when StephenB revealed his view on this, but I would hardly say this means that his kind of existence is so radically different than mine.

    Accepting it arguendo, I’m not sure if you would classify as “sane” in any reasonable sense. It almost seems to me to be a kind of sociopathy, but more correctly termed objectiopathy, where you do not care nor react as if there is any objective justification for any behavior, and you consider any behavior factually justified by the nature of the reaction itself.

    I won’t dignify this type of rhetoric with a response.

    By the way I don’t mean that term in a derogatory way, just a shorthand way of referring to someone who presumably holds no categorical distinctions between perceptions of objective or subjective commodities wrt their resulting behavior.

    When you suggest that your opponent may not classify as “sane”, you should expect that it will be taken in a derogatory way. It adds nothing to your argument to assert that my views are pathological (sociopathy, etc).

    Finally, all of the subjectivists here continually ask the same question: How does the objectivist purport to be able to establish the objective truth of their own moral code? The explanation for the silence of objectivists on the matter is easy to explain, because there is no way for them to establish anything of the sort. This one simple truth actually obviates all the rest of your machinations: Since neither one of us can show that our own particular moral sentiments are objectively true, nobody can claim that their moral interventions are objectively justified. The subjectivist acknowledges this truth; the objectivist does not.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  53. 53
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    I already gave the example of some kids burning or defacing a picture you found very beautiful.

    Mark, I don’t think you understand. In his opinion, the vandal’s subjective morality justifies his destructive behavior. If, by holding a different subjective morality, you are entitled to enforce your preferences at his expense, why is he not entitled to enforce his preferences at your expense?

  54. 54
    StephenB says:

    Aurelio Smith

    WJM does not seem overly concerned about the rights of others to live a quiet life unmolested by psychopaths and busybodies.

    Wait a minute. Not so fast. Where did those “rights” come from? Without objective morality, there are no rights, or at least no inalienable rights.

  55. 55
    Box says:

    Conditional to this discussion – and to any intelligent undertaking – is that we must act as if it is objectively morally right to speak the truth – in order to find the truth.
    We may not know for sure if speaking the truth is objectively right. However we cannot function if we don’t accept its rightness.
    IMHO this is in line with what WJM is saying “moral humans must act as if morality refers to an objective commodity”.

  56. 56
    faded_Glory says:

    StephenB:

    Mark, I don’t think you understand. In his opinion, the vandal’s subjective morality justifies his destructive behavior. If, by holding a different subjective morality, you are entitled to enforce your preferences at his expense, why is he not entitled to enforce his preferences at your expense?


    If I may, this one is easy: my moral standard does not allow others to force their preferences upon me if these go against my sense of right and wrong. Therefore I will attempt to resist.

    StephenB, to understand our position you have to try and think like a subjectivist, even if just for a minute. If you do, you will appreciate how it is internally consistent, contrary to what WJM claims. You will never understand it from your objectivist’s position.

    fG

  57. 57
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Box

    We may not know for sure if speaking the truth is objectively right. However we cannot function if we don’t accept its rightness.

    Exactly. Subjectivism would explain that telling the truth or telling falsehoods are potentially morally equivalent.

    But subjectivism cannot even be formulated or evaluated as a system if truth is not an objective moral value. It assumes that truth is an objective moral value – thus it explains itself consistently.

    If truth is morally equivalent to falsehood then a person could not be understood if he says “I am a subjectivist”. There would be no reason even to choose a truth or falsehood consistently.

    If truth is not an objective moral value, then it would be unreasonable to always choose truth-telling over falsehoods – especially since there are an infinite number of falsehoods to choose for every single true statement.

    Morally, telling a false statement would be equal to telling a true one.

  58. 58
    Silver Asiatic says:

    faded_Glory

    my moral standard does not allow others to force their preferences upon me if these go against my sense of right and wrong.

    It would help me understand if you phrased this differently.

    “My moral standard …” – what is right and wrong for me.
    “does not allow …” — my standard refers to me. So, my moral standard ‘does not allow me …’
    “does not allow others to force …” Ok, your subjective moral standard is yours. It cannot allow or forbid others since they are not governed by your standard.
    You could say, however, “my moral standard requires me to forbid others …”
    What are you required to forbid? “others to force their preferences”.

    But now the question is why does your moral standard require that?

    Restated: My moral standard requires me to forbid others from acting in a way that my moral system recognizes as morally good for them.

    So, you’re required to forbid people from acting in a morally good way.

  59. 59
    StephenB says:

    faded glory:

    If I may, this one is easy: my moral standard does not allow others to force their preferences upon me if these go against my sense of right and wrong.

    It is, indeed, easy, but not the way you think.

    Therefore I will attempt to resist.

    Of course, you will try to resist, and the other subjectivist will resist right back, meaning that the strongest party will win. It’s called “might makes right.” I am surprised that you don’t understand this.

    StephenB, to understand our position you have to try and think like a subjectivist, even if just for a minute. If you do, you will appreciate how it is internally consistent, contrary to what WJM claims. You will never understand it from your objectivist’s position.

    Clearly, it is you who does not understand. Subjectivism, like relativism, always leads to might makes right.

  60. 60
    Zachriel says:

    Silver Asiatic: Subjectivism would explain that telling the truth or telling falsehoods are potentially morally equivalent.

    No. Just because values are subjective doesn’t mean most people, including subjectivists, don’t share certain values.

    Silver Asiatic: But subjectivism cannot even be formulated or evaluated as a system if truth is not an objective moral value.

    The simplest way to construct such a coherent system is to assign values to things people believe are important.

    Silver Asiatic: Morally, telling a false statement would be equal to telling a true one.

    No. Just because someone thinks morality is subjective doesn’t mean they won’t defend what is important to them.

  61. 61
    Hangonasec says:

    Nihilism. Relativism. Er … name things subjectivism should not be confused with, Alex?

  62. 62
    mrchristo says:

    “No. Just because someone thinks morality is subjective doesn’t mean they won’t defend what is important to them.”

    That would make you a hypocrite. If morality is subjective and people decide for themselves how they ought to behave then you are not being consistent when you tell them they should behave as you claim they should. Furthermore you are not living as if morality is subjective, If right and wrong for moral conduct were subjective then why would you get upset and tell others how they should behave? To say a persons behaviour is wrong presupposes an objective standard of how they ought to behave.

    You can’t argue or live consistently with the position you advocate.

  63. 63
    RDFish says:

    It has become apparent that no matter what explanations, illustrations, corrections, and repetitions are offered, the objectivists here cannot understand that there is no logical inconsistency or hypocrisy associated with subjectivism. Let’s agree to disagree on that point.

    Can any of the objectivists here, then, answer the question that all of you have assiduously avoided for the entire debate? How do objectivists determine that their morality is objectively true?

    Perhaps this will help…

    Mr. Smith is sitting next to me, and has told me that he is an objectivist. He just said “I objectively know that torturing puppies is morally commendable in all circumstances”. Subjectively, I perceive this as being terribly wrong, but I don’t know how to convince him that he ought to revisit his stance, since he claims that his view is objectively true and refuses to even consider any other position. Perhaps one of the objectivists can help me show Mr. Smith that his view is not objectively true? I’d appreciate it!

  64. 64
    Hangonasec says:

    StephenB:

    Of course, you will try to resist, and the other subjectivist will resist right back, meaning that the strongest party will win. It’s called “might makes right.” I am surprised that you don’t understand this.

    So what happens when two objectivists have such a contest?

  65. 65
    Box says:

    Silver Asiatic: Subjectivism would explain that telling the truth or telling falsehoods are potentially morally equivalent.

    Zac: No. Just because values are subjective doesn’t mean most people, including subjectivists, don’t share certain values.

    ?? SA does not deny in any shape or form that most people share certain values. Why do you act as if he does?
    What he is saying is that under subjectivism “telling the truth or telling falsehoods are potentially morally equivalent.”

    Silver Asiatic: Morally, telling a false statement would be equal to telling a true one.

    Zac: No. Just because someone thinks morality is subjective doesn’t mean they won’t defend what is important to them.

    Again you are totally unresponsive to what SA is saying.

  66. 66
    faded_Glory says:

    StephenB, winning does not equal being right.

    fG

  67. 67
    faded_Glory says:

    mrchristo:

    To say a persons behaviour is wrong presupposes an objective standard of how they ought to behave.

    No. All that is required is a standard. It doesn’t matter if the standard resides inside or outside of a person’s mind.

    fG

  68. 68
    faded_Glory says:

    Silver Asiatic:

    Ok, your subjective moral standard is yours. It cannot allow or forbid others since they are not governed by your standard.

    This does not follow from anything. My moral standards govern how I view the actions of everybody in the world (including myself). Many people will disagree with some or all of it, but since when do we need agreement between the parties on the moral quality of an action before we can approve or condemn it?

    This doesn’t even make sense from an objective position, let alone a subjective one.

    fG

  69. 69
    RDFish says:

    Silver Asiatic, Box, StephenB, mrchristo, Barry:

    It is incredibly revealing that NONE OF YOU will even try to explain how you determine that your moral code is objective! Do all of you then concede that your moral code can’t be objectively determined after all?

    Come on – When Mr Smith tells me that his objective moral code holds that torturing puppies is good, how can you determine that his objective moral code is wrong?

    ANYONE?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  70. 70
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    How do objectivists determine that their morality is objectively true?

    Hi RD.

    As you well know, these discussions always go to the same place. The dialogue goes something like this:

    S: How do you know that your morality is objectively true?

    O: I know that the laws of morality are objectively true the same way I know the laws of logic are objectively true. I apprehend them as self-evident principles.

    S: Prove that you can apprehend them. Prove that they are self evident.

    O: By definition, they cannot be proven. They are the starting point by which everything else is proven. Any time you prove anything, you must, in the end, rely on a self-evident first principle that cannot be demonstrated. The very fact that you would ask me to prove them indicates that you do not understand them.

    S: Well, I don’t apprehend them, so it seems unlikely that you do. I don’t accept “your” rules of reason and your rules morality.

    O: Well, I do apprehend them, so it seems unlikely that you don’t. They aren’t “my” rules of reason and rationality. I didn’t invent them, I discovered them, the same way Aristotle did over 2000 years ago. It is impossible to not know them.

    S: I don’t believe you when you say that you can apprehend them, and it is not impossible to not know them because I don’t know them. Philosophers have disagreed about these things for centuries.

    O: I don’t believe you when you say that you can’t apprehend them. They are self-evidently true. Philosophers, like anyone else, can deny what they know to be true for self-serving reasons.

    And so it goes. What’s the point of having that discussion again?

    Let me add that WJM is not making this argument. Accordingly, I ask everyone refrain from asking him to defend it. He is going to a different place and I encourage everyone to follow him–not me. He knows where these kinds of discussions go as well as I do. That is probably why he designed his argument as he did. So please do not use my answer to avoid his questions.

  71. 71
    Box says:

    RDFish #82

    How about the fact that one is forced to accept certain moral concepts as true in order to function rationally? That moral concepts must be assumed to be true in order for rationality to be possible at all?
    Doesn’t that – at the very least – hint at objectivity?

    See Silver Asiatic #70

  72. 72
    Hangonasec says:

    Something I’d like to see – for a change – is a discussion between two objectivists: Divine Command and Natural Law. These are two different things, leading to different places, yet the proponents here seem only to wish to unite against the common enemy – the dreaded ‘subjectivist’. (It’s reminiscent of the fact that different views of ID are never thrashed out).

    Here’s my 2c: Divine Command moralists are just deferring to the ultimate Subjectivist – God.

  73. 73
    Hangonasec says:

    Box @84 – the ‘objective’ component to subjectivist morality is that human experience is assumed to be broadly the same – we share a very common revulsion to ‘harm’, particularly where children are involved. So one assumes, when one has a conversation with someone about moral matters, that they share some of that sense. But of course on some details – masturbation, homosexuality, bodily modesty etc – there is more variation.

  74. 74
    Box says:

    Hangonasec #86,
    You have missed the point I was making by a wide margin.

  75. 75
    Graham2 says:

    RDFish: Frustrating, aint it ? Ive given up. Its ‘self evident’ to the devout, and that’s it, no further discussion required.

  76. 76
    Steve says:

    RDFish,

    As one who works in the textile industry and works with color all the time, there is absolutely nothing subjective about color.

    There may be a dispute as to what the chemical composition should be for the substrates that create the ‘standard’ red, but red is not in dispute.

    How can we produce purple, green, and orange if blue, red, and yellow are subjective?

    It seems as if only pedantry could possibly stand in one’s way of nailing down the chemical formula that produces red.

    Mind you, there are thousands of variations on red, blue, and yellow which makes for limitless variations. And colorist have a field day and sometimes severe headaches giving names to all the variations.

    But there is only one red, one blue, one yellow.

    So it seems you are conflating your perception of color with the emotive effect it has on your mood, modifying your behavior.

    By the way, color-blindness only speaks to defects in the eye that obstructs the perception of color. It is the rods and cones in the eye that tell us color exists objectively.

    Otherwise, no rods and cones.

    And how about one particular shrimp. How do we know it can see more colors than we can? Probably because it has other mechanisms in addition to rods and cones.

    How wonderful it would be to see like that little shrimp!

    …….see that little flower in the field. none is arrayed like one of these……….jesus, light of lights, logos ‘through’ whom the world was made

  77. 77
    JimFit says:

    How do objectivists determine that their morality is objectively true?

    Simple, because your existence is objective and your life is objectively true. If morality was subjective you couldn’t be able to follow subjective morals because you wouldn’t exist, the objectivity of your existence is proof that someone cared about you and loved you and raised you and didn’t leave you to die as a baby or even as an embryo. The fact that you are alive proves that morality can only be objective because objective morality creates life. The only thing you can do to deny that is to became a ghost and somehow argue that your existence can be in a different form therefor morality is subjective.

  78. 78
    Daniel King says:

    StephenB:

    I know that the laws of morality are objectively true the same way I know the laws of logic are objectively true. I apprehend them as self-evident principles.

    You forget that you were taught the laws of logic, just as you were taught your morals. Objectivists think they were born as adults, apparently.

  79. 79
    faded_Glory says:

    Let me add that WJM is not making this argument. Accordingly, I ask everyone refrain from asking him to defend it. He is going to a different place and I encourage everyone to follow him–not me.

    WJM’s argument has a fatal flaw, which is very pervasive here. It is that somehow there needs to be a further justification to act on one’s moral convictions beyond having such convictions in the first place.

    Acting on one’s moral convictions is part of being human. This is a self-evident truth and there can be no further rationale for it.

    fG

  80. 80
    Mark Frank says:

    SB #66
     

    Mark Frank: I already gave the example of some kids burning or defacing a picture you found very beautiful.
    SB: Mark, I don’t think you understand. In his opinion, the vandal’s subjective morality justifies his destructive behavior. If, by holding a different subjective morality, you are entitled to enforce your preferences at his expense, why is he not entitled to enforce his preferences at your expense?

    This example and the others that went with it were nothing to do with entitlement. They were simply offered as counter-examples to WJM’s suggestion that:

    Sane, rational, healthy people do not agree that they are willing to force others to comply to what they hold as entirely subjective feelings/perceptions and ideas, no matter how strongly they feel them. For sane, rational, healthy people, that very idea is immoral.

    We have here a subjective issue – whether a picture is beautiful – and I would suggest it would be entirely sane, healthy, rational and moral to stop kids, who do not think it is beautiful, burning it. This would be true whatever your account of morality.

  81. 81
    Mark Frank says:

    Can we drop this “might makes right” stuff? It is a glib phrase but it adds nothing to the debate. Might does not make right according to any account of morality. Might allows person X to force person Y to behave according to X’s idea of what is right. But X cannot force Y to believe he is right. This applies equally under a subjective or objective account of morality.

  82. 82
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    S: How do you know that your morality is objectively true?
    O: I know that the laws of morality are objectively true the same way I know the laws of logic are objectively true. I apprehend them as self-evident principles.
    S: Prove that you can apprehend them. Prove that they are self evident.

    That’s not what this subjectivist says. There are innumerable ways that logico-mathematical laws can be validated against our experience, with results that can be tested not just objectively, but algorithmically. There is a virtually perfect, uncontroversial inter-subjective agreement among all logicians and mathematicians regarding these laws.

    Obviously none of these things are remotely true of morality.

    All you have is your subjective perception of the truth of your own moral code, which you subjectively call self-evident. There is no way to adjudicate disagreements (which occur with significant frequency) by appeal to experience. (And we haven’t even started on the thoroughly subjective process of taking any moral code and attempting to map it to real-world problems of course).

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  83. 83
    RDFish says:

    Hi Steve,

    As one who works in the textile industry and works with color all the time, there is absolutely nothing subjective about color.

    This is the most obvious mistatement about color perception I’ve ever seen.

    It seems as if only pedantry could possibly stand in one’s way of nailing down the chemical formula that produces red.

    And what besides ignorance could possibly account for denying the complex controversies regarding color realism and failing to understand the extent to which subjective processes influence our perception of color? No, Steve, it’s not pedantry that prevents me from thinking that color is as straightforward and objective as you do – it is education.

    So it seems you are conflating your perception of color with the emotive effect it has on your mood, modifying your behavior.

    No, Steve, this is completely irrelevant.

    Can’t you even bother to do a quick search before accusing me of pedantry and making your lack of understanding so apparent? This reference seems like a good place for you to start, although it doesn’t appear to cover some of the more recent developments that show the subjective components of color perception include even our expectations based on prior experiences. (see here too – and I found these in less than a minute ;-))

    jesus, light of lights, logos ‘through’ whom the world was made

    Um, OK.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  84. 84
    RDFish says:

    Hi JimFit,

    How do objectivists determine that their morality is objectively true?

    Simple, because your existence is objective and your life is objectively true. If morality was subjective you couldn’t be able to follow subjective morals because you wouldn’t exist, the objectivity of your existence is proof that someone cared about you and loved you and raised you and didn’t leave you to die as a baby or even as an embryo. The fact that you are alive proves that morality can only be objective because objective morality creates life. The only thing you can do to deny that is to became a ghost and somehow argue that your existence can be in a different form therefor morality is subjective.

    what?

  85. 85
    JimFit says:

    RDFish

    What?

    You exist right? This is an undeniable objective truth, morality exists only in the living not in the dead so to have a morality you must be alive, to be alive someone must had raised you, humans can die very easily if there is no one to take care of them when they are babies. The act of caring is considered an objective morality. If someone didn’t cared for you you would be dead now so your objectivity of your life wouldn’t exist! So…you can’t exist if morality is subjective and if you can’t exist you can’t discuss morality therefor morality is objective. Now find me a ghost that discuss morality.

  86. 86
    Hangonasec says:

    Box @87.

    You have missed the point I was making by a wide margin.

    And you were absolutely crystal clear as well, with your ‘hints at objectivity’. That must be really frustrating.

  87. 87
    Zachriel says:

    mrchristo: That would make you a hypocrite. If morality is subjective and people decide for themselves how they ought to behave then you are not being consistent when you tell them they should behave as you claim they should.

    A person may find that watching the abuse of another person to be abhorrent, and decide to intervene. There’s nothing inconsistent about that.

    Box: What he is saying is that under subjectivism “telling the truth or telling falsehoods are potentially morally equivalent.”

    Thanks. We missed the word potentially.

    Silver Asiatic: Subjectivism would explain that telling the truth or telling falsehoods are potentially morally equivalent.

    Potentially in the abstract, but not in practice. People don’t like being lied to, so they react negatively to liars. Similarly, an objectivist could claim that lying is better, and the argument would be the same. In any case, the in-group out-group dynamic would apply.

    StephenB: They are self-evidently true.

    Then you have no argument. Either one accepts the premise or one doesn’t. Meanwhile, standards of morality have changed over time.

    StephenB: What’s the point of having that discussion again?

    One might discuss what you consider to be self-evident truths, but then there is no *argument* to support the claim. Someone might think it self-evident morality that the female should eat the head of her mate. But there you are.
    http://www.tinyurl.com/sentientmantises

    StephenB: But subjectivism cannot even be formulated or evaluated as a system if truth is not an objective moral value.

    If by “truth”, you mean the logical value, it doesn’t require assigning it any moral valuation.

  88. 88
    Box says:

    The subjectivists studiously ignore Silver Asiatic’s argument that we must accept truth as an objective moral value in order to be rational; see post #70. Probably because they are not impressed by the consequence that rationality breaks down under moral subjectivism. After all ‘being rational’ is not right (or wrong) as all things depend on personal preference. Anyone who prefers to be irrational is just as right (or wrong) as anyone else.
    Are the First Principles of Right Reason objective? Well, also here we see rationality breaking down if we don’t accept their objectivity. But I guess that won’t disturb subjectivists either. Again: is it good or bad to be rational? Under subjectivism it’s up to anyone’s preference.

    SA: subjectivism cannot even be formulated or evaluated as a system if truth is not an objective moral value.

    Rationality breaks down under subjectivism. Some will be fine with this, others will feel forced to accept the truth – the objectivity – of certain moral values, because they cannot function irrationality.

  89. 89
    StephenB says:

    Zachriel

    Then you have no argument. Either one accepts the premise or one doesn’t. Meanwhile, standards of morality have changed over time.

    Self-evident truths are not arguments. You cannot argue for the law of non contradiction. It is the thing upon which arguments are based.

    Someone might think it self-evident morality that the female should eat the head of her mate. But there you are.

    No, they couldn’t. A self-evident truth is a first principle. It is more than an opinion or even a strong conviction. There is no reason to go through those arguments again because some people deny self evident truths for strategic reasons and then claim that they are not doing that. Others, as is usually the case, simply don’t know what they are. What is the point of arguing about it?

  90. 90
    Zachriel says:

    StephenB: Self-evident truths are not arguments.

    That’s right. They can be axioms for further argument. So if you find common ground, then it is possible to reason together.

    StephenB: You cannot argue for the law of non contradiction. It is the thing upon which arguments are based.

    Actually, the law of non-contradiction can be derived from simpler associations, such as disjunction. It’s also possible to construct para-consistent, or multivalued logical systems such as fuzzy logic.

    StephenB: No, they couldn’t.

    Of course they could.

    StephenB: There is no reason to go through those arguments again because some people deny self evident truths for strategic reasons and then claim that they are not doing that.

    That doesn’t work as an argument either, because even if we accept self-evident truths, eating the head of your mate may be considered self-evidently moral by a sentient mantis.

  91. 91
    faded_Glory says:

    Box, you refer to this post?

    Exactly. Subjectivism would explain that telling the truth or telling falsehoods are potentially morally equivalent.

    But subjectivism cannot even be formulated or evaluated as a system if truth is not an objective moral value. It assumes that truth is an objective moral value – thus it explains itself consistently.

    If truth is morally equivalent to falsehood then a person could not be understood if he says “I am a subjectivist”. There would be no reason even to choose a truth or falsehood consistently.

    If truth is not an objective moral value, then it would be unreasonable to always choose truth-telling over falsehoods – especially since there are an infinite number of falsehoods to choose for every single true statement.

    Morally, telling a false statement would be equal to telling a true one.

    Again, there is the eternal confusion here about having personal standards vs. the absence of any standards. It would clearly be nonsensical for anyone with a moral standard (and that is just about everyone) to hold that morally, telling the truth and telling a falsehood are equivalent, and I have never come across anybody who would claim this. Such a thing would only happen in the absence of moral standards altogether, and that is categorically not what subjective morality claims.

    You are still trying to evaluate subjective morality through the glasses of objectivity. That will never work, so it is no surprise your conclusions do not conform with what subjective morality is or says.

    ‘Truth’ is a statement about the nature of things in objective reality. Moral standards, being subjective, cannot be ‘true’or ‘false’, in the same way that beauty cannot be true or false. Does accepting that ‘beauty’ is subjective also cause people to be irrational?

    Try thinking like a subjectivist: just imagine for a moment that the only moral standards that exist are in people’s head, and that people, being, people, will feel compelled to act on their moral beliefs. Consider this, and you might come to see that subjective morality is entirely rational and consistent within itself.

    fG

  92. 92
    mrchristo says:

    “No. All that is required is a standard. It doesn’t matter if the standard resides inside or outside of a person’s mind.

    fG”

    There is no correct standard when it comes to your subjectivist position. Telling others that they are wrong pressuposes that there is a correct standard. If morality is subjective then there is no correct standard that can be violated.

    If morality is personal preference which according to your subjectivist position it would be then you are not being consistent telling others their behaviour is morally unacceptable. If there is no correct standard for how people ought to act and people decide their own morality then they would not be bound by your moralizing. Telling others they are wrong pressuposes that there is a correct standard and that morality is not subjective and decided by the individual.

    No matter how you try to dance around the issue then you cannot live consistently with your subjectivist position.

    And it does matter whether morality exists objectively or whether it is man made in the mind, If it is man made and there is no obective standard for how one ought to behave then your moral judgements are not binding on another person.

    You need to quit dancing around the issue and just accept that you cannot live consistently with your position.

  93. 93
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    Obviously none of these things are remotely true of morality.

    The natural moral law is self-evidently true. I affirm it; you deny it. What is the point of arguing about it? It can’t be resolved by argument or experience.

    RDFish

    All you have is your subjective perception of the truth of your own moral code, which you subjectively call self-evident.

    All perceptions are subjective; all things perceived are objective. Our conscience, which apprehends the natural moral law is subjective; the natural moral law that is apprehends is objective. You don’t believe that I apprehend objective morality as a self-evident truth and I don’t believe that you don’t. What is the point of arguing about it? There is no new information to be shared on the subject.

  94. 94
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Silver Asiatic: Subjectivism would explain that telling the truth or telling falsehoods are potentially morally equivalent.

    Zac: Potentially in the abstract, but not in practice.

    We’re discussing subjectivism as a moral system. So, within that system, yes, telling the truth or telling falsehoods are potentially morally equivalent.

    People don’t like being lied to, so they react negatively to liars.

    People don’t like being told the truth and they react negativily to truth-tellers. Again, within subjectivism the majority opinion is irrelevant to how moral values are weighed. But telling the truth is necessary in understanding what moral values are. It’s an objective moral value.

    Similarly, an objectivist could claim that lying is better, and the argument would be the same.

    An objectivist cannot say that truth and falsehood are potentially equal. A subjectivist can say that – although it is contradictory. “I will believe that lying is always morally good”. Is that statement true or false? It could be a lie.

    Subjectivism assumes that truth-telling is a necessary, objective moral good. It’s not optional. You can’t teach or explain what subjectivism is without accepting truth as an objective moral good.

  95. 95
    StephenB says:

    SB: Self-evident truths are not arguments.

    That’s right. They can be axioms for further argument. So if you find common ground, then it is possible to reason together.

    Exactly. You reject the laws of morality and non-contradiction as self evident truths. So, we have no common ground.

    StephenB: You cannot argue for the law of non contradiction. It is the thing upon which arguments are based.

    Actually, the law of non-contradiction can be derived from simpler associations, such as disjunction. It’s also possible to construct para-consistent, or multivalued logical systems such as fuzzy logic.

    No. A self-evident truth cannot be derived. It is the thing from which other things are derived. If it could be derived, then it would not be a first principle.

    That doesn’t work as an argument either, because even if we accept self-evident truths, eating the head of your mate may be considered self-evidently moral by a sentient mantis.

    That you would think an insect can apprehend self evident truths, or any truth for that matter, is a clear enough indication that you simply do not understand the subject matter that you presume to comment on.

  96. 96
    Silver Asiatic says:

    faded_Glory

    My moral standards govern how I view the actions of everybody in the world (including myself).

    Your moral standards conflict with your moral system.
    In the moral system of subjectivism, every individual determines moral values. A person says marrying two wives is good – it is morally good for him.

    That’s how subjectivism works. You cannot then create a moral standard which conflicts with that.
    You’re saying that your moral standard judges the moral value of everybody else’s behaviors.

    But subjectivism already says that whatever the person decides is morally good, is morally good for him.

    You can’t then turn around and say, “ok, but I judge his behavior to be wrong for him”. That conflicts with subjectivism.

    You can’t use your own subjective values to determine someone else’s subjective values.

  97. 97
    Zachriel says:

    faded_Glory: You are still trying to evaluate subjective morality through the glasses of objectivity. That will never work, so it is no surprise your conclusions do not conform with what subjective morality is or says.

    Quite so. If the conception of subjectivism is contradicted by the facts, then does the objectivist revise their conception?

    mrchristo: If morality is personal preference which according to your subjectivist position it would be then you are not being consistent telling others their behaviour is morally unacceptable.

    That is incorrect. While you may not like busybodies, that’s a facet of human nature.

    Silver Asiatic: We’re discussing subjectivism as a moral system. So, within that system, yes, telling the truth or telling falsehoods are potentially morally equivalent.

    Yes, it is potentially morally equivalent, but not equivalent in fact. It’s part of human nature to dislike being lied to.

    Silver Asiatic: People don’t like being told the truth and they react negativily to truth-tellers.

    Which is why people tell white lies, meaning morally acceptable lies.

    Silver Asiatic: An objectivist cannot say that truth and falsehood are potentially equal.

    Of course they can. Objectivists lie to their enemies, and they lie to their wives about whether they look fat.

    Silver Asiatic: Subjectivism assumes that truth-telling is a necessary, objective moral good.

    Subjectivists generally don’t like being lied to. That doesn’t make it objective, even if it were universal — which it’s not.

    StephenB: Exactly. You reject the laws of morality and non-contradiction as self evident truths. So, we have no common ground.

    We just reject that they are objective. For humans, the moral sense is inborn, just like the desire for natural rights are inborn.

    StephenB: A self-evident truth cannot be derived.

    The law of non-contradiction can be deduced from disjunction, but that’s a quibble. It’s typically assumed as an axiom. In any case, it’s possible to construct para-consistent, or multivalued logical systems such as fuzzy logic.

    StephenB: That you would think an insect can apprehend self evident truths, or any truth for that matter, is a clear enough indication that you simply do not understand the subject matter that you presume to comment on.

    Never read Aesop?

  98. 98
    Zachriel says:

    Silver Asiatic: You can’t then turn around and say, “ok, but I judge his behavior to be wrong for him”. That conflicts with subjectivism.

    Then you don’t understand either subjectivism or human nature, or both.

  99. 99
    Box says:

    Silver Asiatic: We’re discussing subjectivism as a moral system. So, within that system, yes, telling the truth or telling falsehoods are potentially morally equivalent.

    Zac: Yes, it is potentially morally equivalent, but not equivalent in fact. It’s part of human nature to dislike being lied to.

    This is getting ridiculous! The theory of subjectivism stands on its own so one cannot invoke ‘I have never come across anybody who would claim this’ (faded-Glory #104) or ‘human nature’s dislikes’ in defense of moral subjectivism. Moreover if the theory isn’t consistent with reality it doesn’t support the theory to point that out.

    edit: Let get this straight: you are arguing for subjectivism and I am arguing against subjectivism.

  100. 100
    mrchristo says:

    Zachriel

    “That is incorrect.”

    You are not able to show it as being incorrect.

    “While you may not like busybodies”

    If the busybody is a moral subjectivist then like you they would be a walking contradiction.

    “that’s a facet of human nature.”

    It’s a facet of your nature to live inconsistently with your subjectivist position.

  101. 101
    mike1962 says:

    It would seem that “fairness” or “justice” is an objective moral standard because most humans have it, and they seem to be born with it without being taught. The basic idea is that “what’s mine is mine” and “if you take what’s mine I have the right get it back, or something equivalent.” This is seen in the actions of small children without being taught. It seems to me that something innate and shared amongst people is objectivity determined and therefore objective. I do no claim that it is an absolute morality. But how is this not at least an objective morality?

    Discuss.

  102. 102
    StephenB says:

    SB: That you would think an insect can apprehend self evident truths, or any truth for that matter, is a clear enough indication that you simply do not understand the subject matter that you presume to comment on.

    Zachriel

    Never read Aesop?

    Is that your argument? Aesop’s fables antropomorhized animals, therefore insects can apprehend self evident truths?

  103. 103
    faded_Glory says:

    Silver Asiatic:

    You can’t then turn around and say, “ok, but I judge his behavior to be wrong for him”. That conflicts with subjectivism.

    I don’t think you really understand what subjective morality is.

    All that is claimed is that moral standards exist solely internal to people’s minds, and not somewhere external (interestingly by the way, objectivists seem to be quite unable to point out where such objective standards would exist).

    That’s all.

    Subjective morality does not imply that we can’t judge others because they have their own view of what is right and wrong. You are just adding that to the concept. It is a strawman.

    fG

  104. 104
    faded_Glory says:

    mrchristo:

    There is no correct standard when it comes to your subjectivist position. Telling others that they are wrong pressuposes that there is a correct standard. If morality is subjective then there is no correct standard that can be violated.

    Of course there is: the subjectivist’s own standard is the correct standard – for them.

    Every person considers their moral standard to be the correct one. This is not controversial. Surely you agree that this is indeed the actual state of affairs?

    It matters not a jot if there is in addition to everybody’s own subjective standard also another, objective one out there ‘somewhere’, because nobody can demonstrate what that is. Plenty of objectivists disagree strongly about numerous moral issues. They claim to be objectivists but behave like subjectivists 🙂

    fG

  105. 105
    Zachriel says:

    Box: The theory of subjectivism stands on its own so one cannot invoke ‘I have never come across anybody who would claim this’ (faded-Glory #104) or ‘human nature’s dislikes’ in defense of moral subjectivism.

    Yes, we have already granted that subjectivism can mean that people assign different moral values to things or actions. Indeed, we have provided multiple examples. Here’s how to construct a toy system.

    Objectivist: What value do you attach to your life?
    Subjectivist: 1000
    Objectivist: You think a lot of yourself, don’t you?

    Objectivist: What about a hot poker in the eye?
    Subjectivist: -200

    Objectivist: What about watching someone hit a child?
    Subjectivist: -100

    Objectivist: Same values for me. I find these values self-evident.
    Subjectivist: I find these value reflect my personal opinion.

    Objectivist: Let’s make a rule that no one should hit a child? Such a rule would have a value of +100.
    Subjectivist: That’s right. I agree.

    Common ground.

    mrchristo: If the busybody is a moral subjectivist then like you they would be a walking contradiction.

    You haven’t shown any contradiction.

    mike1962: It would seem that “fairness” or “justice” is an objective moral standard because most humans have it, and they seem to be born with it without being taught.

    Monkeys have a sense of fairness. That doesn’t make morality objective. It just fits the social structure of primates.

    mike1962: I do no claim that it is an absolute morality. But how is this not at least an objective morality?

    If your only claim is that there is objective evidence that humans have a moral sense, that’s not in dispute.

  106. 106
    Zachriel says:

    StephenB: Aesop’s fables antropomorhized animals, therefore insects can apprehend self evident truths?

    That’s right. Now revisit the analogy.
    http://www.tinyurl.com/sentientmantises

    If you prefer, you could instead consider a family packing a picnic lunch to go see the human sacrifices, or women sneaking into a stoning.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIaORknS1Dk

  107. 107
    mike1962 says:

    Zachriel: Monkeys have a sense of fairness. That doesn’t make morality objective.

    Why not? The effects of this innate, shared sensibility, are right there for all of us to observe, which is the very definition of objective. How then can the sense of fairness be merely subjective?

  108. 108
    Zachriel says:

    mike1962: The effects of this innate, shared sensibility, are right there for all of us to observe, which is the very definition of objective. How then can the sense of fairness be merely subjective?

    The existence of a moral sense is objective. The question is whether morals are objective. There are biological reasons why social animals have a sense of fairness, but non-social animals do not.

  109. 109
    StephenB says:

    Auerlio Smith:

    Any social arrangement has to have conventions, rules, an ethical framework to flourish.
    These have been developed and refined over time and now we have the International Declaration of Human Rights.

    The International Declaration of Human Rights is based on inalienable rights, inherent dignity, and human conscience, all of which you reject by virtue of your materialism.

  110. 110
    Zachriel says:

    StephenB: The International Declaration of Human Rights is based on inalienable rights, inherent dignity, and human conscience, all of which you reject by virtue of your materialism.

    All three of those are consistent with subjectivism. Not sure how you are using materialism.

  111. 111
    mike1962 says:

    Zachriel: The existence of a moral sense is objective. The question is whether morals are objective.

    “This is mine, and if you take it I have the right to get it back” is not merely a moral “sense”, but rather a specific moral precept. It is not something private to an individual. Nor is it something the individual invents based on choice and/or experience. It is part of the innate psychological programming. Since it is (objectively) programmed into their brains, and the programming is shared amongst individuals, what we have here is an objective morality, by definition, regardless of the ultimate source. I can see no reason to think otherwise.

  112. 112
    Silver Asiatic says:

    faded_Glory

    All that is claimed is that moral standards exist solely internal to people’s minds, and not somewhere external …

    Right.

    Moral standards – the determination of right and wrong, exist internal to each individual.

    When you say XYZ is morally good, it is morally good for you.

    As a subjectivist, I note that: “faded_Glory determined that XYZ is morally good for him”.

    Subjective morality does not imply that we can’t judge others because they have their own view of what is right and wrong.

    Subjective morality does imply that I cannot say “XYZ is not morally good for faded_Glory” based on my own, individual subjective morality, because we already noted that “XYZ is morally good for faded_Glory” based on your subjective morality.

    It’s a contradiction to judge others based on your own subjective values which they don’t share. They already determined, rightly according to subjectivism, that certain acts are morally good. They are, therefore, morally good for those individuals.

    With subjectivism, those acts are morally good.
    Therefore, you cannot, coherently, state that those acts are morally bad for those people. They are already accepted as being morally good, based on subjectivism.

    With subjectivism you have to accept, “yes, those actions are morally good for those people, based on their own subjective values”.

    You could then say, I will stop them anyway — but you’d be stopping actions that are morally good for those people, based on your very own moral system (notice, ‘system’ not ‘individual standard in the system’).

    Your moral standard cannot say both:
    “Whatever an individual determines as morally good, is morally good for him”, and at the same time …
    “I judge that some things the individual determined as morally good for him are not morally good for him – so I will work to stop them”.

    That’s how it works.

    What the person decided is morally good, is morally good for him.

    You can’t claim that what he decided is morally good for him is not really morally good. What standard would you use to determine that? You can’t use subjectivism because subjectivism already told us “whatever he chose as morally good, is morally good for him”.

    If you disagree with that, you disagree with subjectivism.

  113. 113
    Zachriel says:

    mike1962: “This is mine, and if you take it I have the right to get it back” is not merely a moral “sense”, but rather a specific moral precept.

    If you mean a dog will fight over a bone, sure. Not sure that’s what most people mean by an objective moral precept.

    mike1962: Since it is (objectively) programmed into their brains, and the programming is shared amongst individuals, what we have here is an objective morality, by definition, regardless of the ultimate source.

    Sure, and mammalian mothers nurture their children. None of that is subject to dispute. That’s not really what people mean by objective.

  114. 114
    Zachriel says:

    Silver Asiatic: It’s a contradiction to judge others based on your own subjective values which they don’t share.

    Subjectivists can have negative feelings about what others do, and may intervene to alleviate these feelings. Rules are devised to regulate the process of intervention in order to create a more stable social situation.

  115. 115
    StephenB says:

    SB: Aesop’s fables antropomorhized animals, therefore insects can apprehend self evident truths? Is that your argument?

    Zachriel

    That’s right.

    Good, it’s on the record. Thank you.

  116. 116
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    RDF: There are innumerable ways that logico-mathematical laws can be validated against our experience, with results that can be tested not just objectively, but algorithmically. There is a virtually perfect, uncontroversial inter-subjective agreement among all logicians and mathematicians regarding these laws. Obviously none of these things are remotely true of morality.
    SB: The natural moral law is self-evidently true. I affirm it; you deny it. What is the point of arguing about it? It can’t be resolved by argument or experience.

    OK, this clarifies things. First, you say your apprehension of the rules of morality is like our understanding of the rules of logic or math. Then I point out that our ability to confirm logico-mathematical laws is nothing whatsoever like our inability to confirm the rules of morality. And your response is… you don’t care, you believe whatever you believe, and then you call it objectively true anyway. Got it!

    You insist that your own subjective morality is objectively true, like logical and mathematical truths, even though epsitemologically they are demonstrably and qualitatively different. The reason you do this is because you want everyone to do what you want them to do, and it seems to carry more weight if you say your way is objectively the right way.

    All right then, all you objectivists – I see what your game is. Hey guess what? You know all that morality that I believe that I was calling subjective? It turns out that it’s my moral code that is objectively true after all! Yup, the debate is over, and the objectivists were right all along… except you are all following the wrong objectively true morality! My morality is the only objectively true morality, so you’d better wise up!

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  117. 117
    Zachriel says:

    StephenB: Good, it’s on the record.

    We were agreeing that Aesop anthropomorphized animals. You seemed to be having troubles with the concept.

    Now revisit the analogy.
    http://www.tinyurl.com/sentientmantises

    If you prefer, you could instead consider a family packing a picnic lunch to go see the human sacrifices, or women sneaking into a stoning.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIaORknS1Dk

  118. 118
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Subjectivists can have negative feelings about what others do, and may intervene to alleviate these feelings. Rules are devised to regulate the process of intervention in order to create a more stable social situation.

    Subjectivists would intervene to prevent people from doing what they, at the same time, recognize as being morally good for those people.

    Subjectivism cannot reference social stability as a desired outcome. Revolutionary movements like Marxism desire instablity.

  119. 119
    Zachriel says:

    Silver Asiatic: Subjectivism cannot reference social stability as a desired outcome.

    Of course they can. If someone values children highly, then creating an environment where they can prosper would be reasonable. If someone believes that social stability is a means towards that end, then they certainly can advocate social stability to achieve that end. That means supporting the rule of law, as well as teaching children to understand social rules and norms.

    Silver Asiatic: Revolutionary movements like Marxism desire instablity.

    Sure. That’s because they have decided the current social order inhibits the well-being of most people.

  120. 120
    hrun0815 says:

    All right then, all you objectivists – I see what your game is. Hey guess what? You know all that morality that I believe that I was calling subjective? It turns out that it’s my moral code that is objectively true after all!

    I suggested the same thing about a week ago when I learned how easy it is to create an objective moral code. I forgot who it was who said it, but in essence all you need to do is have it written down (ideally by an authority figure) and bingo.

    So I figure, just have every subjectivist write down their moral (clearly, I am a figure of authority for myself) and now everybody is an objectivist and there is no more confusion.

    EDIT: And then we can go on fighting about what is the TRUE objective morality. I am sure KF will put together a nifty little post to clear that up for all of us.

  121. 121
    RDFish says:

    Hi hrun,

    It’s rare that we ever reach a consensus on this board, but I feel we’ve come together on this matter of subjective vs. objective morality. It really was just a terminology issue all along! What we were calling “subjective” morality, StephenB and Silver Asiatic and Box all these other folks were calling “objective” morality. It turns out they are exactly the same!

    So my objective morality clearly and objectively holds that it is immoral to forbid gay marriage. Anyone who thinks otherwise is purposefully ignoring something that is objectively true! What horrible and broken people they must be!

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  122. 122
    faded_Glory says:

    Silver Asiatic:

    Your moral standard cannot say both:
    “Whatever an individual determines as morally good, is morally good for him”, and at the same time …
    “I judge that some things the individual determined as morally good for him are not morally good for him – so I will work to stop them”.

    Of course it does not say both of these. What it can say is:

    “Whatever an individual determines as morally good, is morally good for him”, and at the same time …
    “I judge that some things the individual determined as morally good for him are not morally good for me – so I will work to stop them”.

    It really is not that complicated.

    fG

  123. 123
    mike1962 says:

    Zachriel: If you mean a dog will fight over a bone, sure. Not sure that’s what most people mean by an objective moral precept.

    Why not? Please explain the difference between what I have described and what “most people mean by an objective moral precept.”

  124. 124
    StephenB says:

    Aurelio Smith

    And of course you blatantly misrepresent me. All I deny is that “absolute morality” comes from anywhere other than people’s heads.

    Inalienable or natural rights cannot come from any consensus decision or from anyone’s head. Consensus decisions about morality and rights are always subject to change; natural or inalienable rights based on objective morality are not. Only objective morality is unchangeable because moral truth, like all truth, is unchangeable. If truth could change, then either its early expression or its later expression would be false. Subjective morality or consensus morality is always subject to change, and, in fact, does change.

    Since you think that morality can come by way of consensus, tell me which consensus decision was correct? Was it the consensus morality that upheld slavery in the 1800’s, or is it the consensus morality that condemns it today? What is to prevent the consensus decision from reverting back to the old way? How do you know which morality is the correct morality if it can be changed by consensus?

  125. 125
    Zachriel says:

    mike1962: Please explain the difference between what I have described and what “most people mean by an objective moral precept.”

    It’s doubtful a dog considers any abstract rule before deciding on a course of action with regards to a bone.

  126. 126
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    Since you think that morality can come by way of consensus, tell me which consensus decision was correct?

    Since you think that morality is objective, tell me which objective morality is correct? The one you perceive, which says that gay marriage is immoral, or the one that I perceive, which says that it isn’t?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  127. 127
    StephenB says:

    Zachriel

    We were agreeing that Aesop anthropomorphized animals. You seemed to be having troubles with the concept.

    How could I be confused about a concept that I articulated for you. It wasn’t you that characterized Aesop’s fables in that fashion. The point is that you took it much further and said that since Aesop told tales about anthropomorphized animals, insects can really apprehend moral truths. You agreed that this is what you meant. So, I just wanted it on the record.

  128. 128
    Barry Arrington says:

    RDFish @ 143:

    or the one that I perceive . . .

    You can simultaneously deny the existence of something and perceive its existence. That’s some trick!

  129. 129
    mike1962 says:

    Zachriel: It’s doubtful a dog considers any abstract rule before deciding on a course of action with regards to a bone.

    So acting according to a moral precept first requires a consideration and a decision? Are you saying we have free will to act any differently than we do and that dogs and monkeys do not?

  130. 130
    RDFish says:

    Hi Barry,

    You can simultaneously deny the existence of something and perceive its existence. That’s some trick!

    I perceive my own frustration at your failure to grasp moral theory. Does that make my frustration objectively real? 🙂

    Is this really the best you can do?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

    UD Editors: Smartass insults are all you have? Well, we already kinda knew that didn’t we. You certainly didn’t win any arguments simultaneously affirming and denying a concept.

  131. 131
    Zachriel says:

    StephenB: The point is that you took it much further and said that since Aesop told tales about anthropomorphized animals, insects can really apprehend moral truths.

    We corrected that misapprehension.

    mike1962: So acting according to a moral precept first requires a consideration and a decision?

    precept, a general rule intended to regulate behavior or thought.

    mike1962: “This is mine, and if you take it I have the right to get it back” is not merely a moral “sense”, but rather a specific moral {rule intended to regulate behavior}.

    By the way, with dogs, it’s what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine too.

    mike1962: Are you saying we have free will to act any differently than we do and that dogs and monkeys do not?

    Primates have a general sense of fairness. Dogs do not.

  132. 132
    Zachriel says:

    Silver Asiatic: It’s a contradiction to judge others based on your own subjective values which they don’t share.

    No one is required to accept someone else’s values, and a person can certainly feel compelled to impose their values on others. There is no contradiction.

  133. 133
    JimFit says:

    RDFish

    If there are no objective morals you would be alive even if noone cared about you to feed you and protect you as a baby. The objectivity of your life shows the objectivity of some morals that kept you alive to philosophize now.

  134. 134
    Barry Arrington says:

    This debate really has degenerated to StephenB courageously and patiently trying to reason with the materialists; only to be met repeatedly with the verbal equivalent of feces flinging. I don’t know why you subject yourself to this Stephen.

  135. 135
    RDFish says:

    Aurelio – too funny.

  136. 136
    RDFish says:

    Hi Barry,
    You’ve never once attempted to reply to the points I’ve patiently made here, and I must conclude you have no responses.

    The bottom line here: We have no objective means by which to decide what moral code ought to be considered objective, rendering objectivism either false or moot. We – all of us – have only our subjective moral sensibilities to go on.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  137. 137
    Piotr says:

    #149 Zachriel,

    By the way, with dogs, it’s what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine too.

    Primates have a general sense of fairness. Dogs do not.

    Let me guess — you a cat man, Zachriel? 😉

  138. 138
    Graham2 says:

    Barry, I can only sympathise with RDF re your frustrating refusal to engage.

    The heathens subjectivists have been making the point over and over and over that its simply impossible to detect that a given moral choice lines up with ‘objective morality’. Gay marriage is a good eg because the community is fairly evenly split. So is gay marriage OK or not ? How can we tell what objective morality has to say on the subject ?

  139. 139
    StephenB says:

    Aurelio Smith

    I can’t do anything about the past.

    I didn’t ask you to do anything about the past. I asked you which consensus decision about slavery was correct.

    Consensus today is that slavery is a violation of the fundamental rights of the potential slave.

    Is that you way of saying that the consensus decision that supported slavery was wrong? If so, then why do you trust consensus as a standard for morality?

    I know that slavery is bad because it is grossly unfair to the slave.

    How do you know that? I know it because it is objectively and self-evidently true. However, you don’t believe in objective or self-evident truths. By what means do you arrive at that knowledge?

    I wouldn’t want to be a slave and I certainly couldn’t imagine living in a society where the owning of slaves is routine. A society that does not value fairness, empathy and the rights of the individual is not one I would remain part of.

    You speak of fairness as it was an objective truth that can be apprehended by everyone. But we know that you don’t believe in such a thing as objective justice or fairness. So what do you mean by fairness? Do you mean fair to the majority of people in any given era or place?

  140. 140
    StephenB says:

    StephenB: The point is that you took it much further and said that since Aesop told tales about anthropomorphized animals, insects can really apprehend moral truths.

    We already corrected that misapprehension

    Misapprehension?

    Do you recall this exchange?

    SB: Aesop’s fables antropomorhized animals, therefore insects can apprehend self evident truths? Is that your argument?

    Zachriel

    That’s right.

    Is there something about the words “that’s right,” that you would like to retract.

  141. 141
    Hangonasec says:

    So, I push a child out of the path of a speeding truck, or fend off a vicious dog, that’s presumably all fine. I Robot, danger Will Robinson, sworn protect human.

    But I stop another person from attacking the child, and I’m now being logically inconsistent if I just consider it ‘better’ that the child be protected from this threat also? I (though I don’t know it) now act and think as if some ‘true’ moral law or deity is backing me up against this other moral agent? All protestations notwithstanding? OK, if y’all say so.

  142. 142
    Mung says:

    RDFish: We – all of us – have only our subjective moral sensibilities to go on.

    That an objective fact, is it?

  143. 143
    Barry Arrington says:

    Graham2

    The subjectivists have been making the point over and over and over that its simply impossible to detect that a given moral choice lines up with ‘objective morality’.

    I agree that you have asserted this over and over. You don’t really believe it. You know for a certain fact that torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people. It is literally impossible to imagine any circumstance under which that act would be other than evil. Yet you continue to insist that there is not one moral proposition that can be demonstrated to be objectively true. The patent falsity of your position has been pointed out to you many times; yet you cling to it ever more tenaciously.

    As for your question, as StephenB has patiently explained to you many times, your failure to perceive an objective truth does not cause it to cease to exist.

  144. 144
    drc466 says:

    RDFish et. al.,

    We have no objective means by which to decide what moral code ought to be considered objective, rendering objectivism either false or moot.

    I’m nominating you for my “most ridiculous quote of the day award” today, for this statement.

    An analogy: Let us imagine that we are engaged in the race to the top of the mountain. There is, objectively speaking, one and only one “top”, and one and only one “best” way to reach the top of the mountain. However, let us also stipulate that we lack the knowledge to determine what that single, objectively best way to reach the top is. We are thus left to our own, subjective methods of trying to determine the best way to the top.
    Let us also stipulate that people who follow the “best” way, or “nearly” the best way, will make it to the top, and not only survive the challenge, but experience the least amount of pain, suffering, and anguish along the way.
    If we go by your statement above, we conclude that, since we cannot determine the objectively best path to the top, it is therefore false or moot to state that there is a single, objectively best path to the top. Thus, by your statement, there is no sense in trying to determine what that object path is, or attempt to convince other people to follow our understanding of the best way. The objectivist states that even though I cannot KNOW the best way, that in no way changes the fact there IS a best way.

    The OP thus resolves to this:
    Objectivist: There is one, objectively best way to the top, and we need to use that understanding to encourage other people to follow the path that we believe is that objective, best way.
    Subjectivist: I don’t believe that there is one, objectively best way to the top. However, even though I believe that there isn’t one objectively best way, I’m going to encourage people to follow my way (hence, the logical incoherence). RDFish addition: Since the Objectivist can’t KNOW the best way to the top, it is foolish or moot for them to point out that there is one.

    Hopefully this helps you see the silliness of your position.

    It does leave, however your follow-up statement as an open question:

    We – all of us – have only our subjective moral sensibilities to go on.

    Using a continuation of our analogy above, is this true? No, but it does in some sense require that “morality” have a purpose or direction. In my analogy above, the direction is reaching the top, with a purpose of minimizing the difficulties of the travellers. An Objectivist is superior to the Subjectivist because the Objectivist not only believes there is a “best path”, but is able to rationally, logically define an “objective” goal – reach the top, minimize suffering. Could the objectivist have the wrong goal, or be on the wrong path, or disagree with other objectivists as to which goal/path is the objectively best one? Sure – but it doesn’t change the fact that there is one best goal and one best path, and the objectivist belief is a rational one.
    On the other hand, a true Subjectivist is left to suggest that not only is there no best path, there is also no real goal – the masochists goal of a slide down a thousand-foot razorblade into a pool of iodine is just as valid a goal as the objectivists ride in the Cadillac up to the ski resort at the top. Which makes the subjectivist desire to encourage people to climb the mountain even more logically incoherent.

    So this leaves you, and the other non-objectivists above, basically claiming that, since we can’t know that the top is the best place to be, and since we can’t know which is the best path to get there, and that there really isn’t a best place or path anyway, that we should not try to get to the top, and we should not try to get people to follow the path that we believe to be the best. All while attempting to make people follow your path to your destination, because you think it is best.

  145. 145
    StephenB says:

    BarryA

    This debate really has degenerated to StephenB courageously and patiently trying to reason with the materialists; only to be met repeatedly with the verbal equivalent of feces flinging. I don’t know why you subject yourself to this Stephen.

    Barry, I knew in advance (as you did) that the responses would be irrational and evasive. However, I have compassion for those onlookers who have been subjected to the poison of postmodernism. They deserve to know that subjectivism leads to the same kind of intellectual and moral chaos that has been put on display.

  146. 146
    drc466 says:

    Shorter me:

    The Subjectivists above are intellectual Subjectivists, but functional Objectivists, but can’t admit it, because functional subjectivism is psychopathic.

  147. 147
    RDFish says:

    Hi Barry,

    I agree that you have asserted this over and over. You don’t really believe it.

    This is certainly a novel debating strategy: Simply insist that your opponent agrees with you, despite their protestations, and declare victory! Well done!

    Why are you unwilling to address the points I’ve raised, Barry? William started this thread because he believed my points deserved serious reply, yet you refuse to concede or attempt to rebut them.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  148. 148
    Graham2 says:

    Barry, no, no, no, you just don’t get it.
    We don’t ‘know’ it in any objective sense whatever. All our moral decisions are based on our personal judgement.

    You are the one loading up the word ‘know’, not me. Jeeez.

  149. 149
    RDFish says:

    Hi drc466,

    I’m nominating you for my “most ridiculous quote of the day award” today, for this statement.

    Given the provenance, I’m honored.

    An analogy: Let us imagine that we are engaged in the race to the top of the mountain. There is, objectively speaking, one and only one “top”, and one and only one “best” way to reach the top of the mountain.

    Now, are you actually unaware of the glaring failure of your analogy, or are you just hoping we won’t spot it?

    Assuming the former, I will explain your problem: While in your analogy it is known that there is one summit and one best approach, the analogous question here (the existence of an objective morality) is actually what we are debating. Sigh.

    Let us also stipulate that people who follow the “best” way, or “nearly” the best way, will make it to the top, and not only survive the challenge, but experience the least amount of pain, suffering, and anguish along the way.

    It seems as though you were intending to make a point with this, but then forgot to say what it was.

    Hopefully this helps you see the silliness of your position.

    If my position is taken to be “It might be productive to debate on UD”, then I must admit you’ve got me.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  150. 150
    Box says:

    Our “subjectivists” seem adamant to prove that unintelligent blind forces are behind the steering wheel.

  151. 151
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    Then I point out that our ability to confirm logico-mathematical laws is nothing whatsoever like our inability to confirm the rules of morality.

    Which is an irrelevant comment since I said nothing about mathematics. Mathematical axioms are not self evident truths.

    All right then, all you objectivists – I see what your game is. Hey guess what? You know all that morality that I believe that I was calling subjective? It turns out that it’s my moral code that is objectively true after all! Yup, the debate is over, and the objectivists were right all along… except you are all following the wrong objectively true morality! My morality is the only objectively true morality, so you’d better wise up!

    Well, RD, that is a charming scenario, but you can’t really make it work. What you don’t understand is that objective morality is defined as the morality that is proper to human nature, which is understood as the natural moral law. Obviously, you don’t believe in the natural moral law, so attaching the tag “objective” to your subjective morality doesn’t help you. In order for morality to be objective it must be enshrined in nature and written on the human heart. Thus, by calling your subjective morality objective, you completely ignore the subject component, which is just as real.

    As I explained @106,

    “All perceptions are subjective; all things perceived are objective. Our conscience, which apprehends the natural moral law is subjective; the natural moral law that it apprehends is objective.”

  152. 152
    Mark Frank says:

    drc466 #165

    The Subjectivists above are intellectual Subjectivists, but functional Objectivists, but can’t admit it, because functional subjectivism is psychopathic.

    I applaud your returning to the subject of the OP as I understand it. WJM finished it with this question:

    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”?

    He eventually agreed that:

    Subjectivism has no inherent logical inconsistency if one agrees to Mark Frank’s ultimate principle of justification “because I prefer it” (because whatever other principles are adopted, like equality or not harming others, are adopted because one prefers them); if one disagrees with that principle but is willing to force moral compliance on others according to their personal morality, then their behavior is logically inconsistent with their refusal to agree to that justifying principle.

    ( “because I prefer it” suggest something whimsical and selfish. The same point might also be phrased as something like  “because I abhor cruelty” or “because I want to see crimes punished”. )
    So that seems to have answered his question and your point. It is not necessarily functionally objectivist to impose your moral views on others. Although WJM also wrote:

    Sane, rational, healthy people do not agree that they are willing to force others to comply to what they hold as entirely subjective feelings/perceptions and ideas, no matter how strongly they feel them. For sane, rational, healthy people, that very idea is immoral.

    Which I guess is a way of saying that while subjectivism may be logically consistent in practice no one would accept “because I abhor cruelty” as a principle for preventing others being cruel. This seems to be clearly false. I see people offering this kind of justification all the time. I also offered several counter-examples of subjective (non-moral) issues where people find it morally acceptable to force others to comply with their views (in fact  planning laws in the UK and I think elsewhere enshrine this in law). No one responded to that except StephenB who (understandably as he had not been following the exchange) thought I was using it as an argument for subjective morality.

  153. 153
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    I know that the laws of morality are objectively true the same way I know the laws of logic are objectively true. I apprehend them as self-evident principles.

    Mathematical axioms are not self evident truths.

    According to you, then, this law of logic (modus ponens) is self-evidently/objectively true:
    [(P → Q) & P] → Q

    But this Peano axiom is not self-evidently/objectively true:
    (P = Q) → (P+1 = Q+1)

    But the laws of morality are self-evidently and objectively true! Oh – and beauty is objective too.

    You have no justification for saying any of these things – they’re all just your subjective opinion (and frankly bizarre).

    What you don’t understand is that objective morality is defined as the morality that is proper to human nature, which is understood as the natural moral law.

    Says you. You think you can just issue an edict that everyone must believe you when you say there is some particular morality that is “proper to human nature” (is->ought)? And furthermore we have to accept your take on which morality that might be? Sorry, that is just as subjective as can be.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  154. 154
    faded_Glory says:

    To be fair to StephenB, research suggests the possibility that forms of moral behaviour may already be present in a proto state in some other higher mammals (cf. the work done by Frans de Waal and other zoologists).

    It is certainly conceivable that such behaviours are passed on from generation to generation within social groups of animals, depending on how well they promote the survival of the group.

    By the time mankind has developed sufficient consciousness to be aware of them and how widespread they are, such deeply engrained behaviours may be extremely widespread, normative, and come to be seen as inherent to human nature. Because of their importance to the well-being and survival of the group, deviating behaviours will come to be universally judged as ‘wrong’. The whole thing gets codified as morality.

    I can see why one might consider such pervasive and effectively involuntary moral standards to be objective (mike1962 might agree?), although they are still internal to people, not necessarily unchanging (especially when the boundaries of the ‘group’ are changing), and will disappear at the passing of the last human being.

    fG

  155. 155
    Zachriel says:

    StephenB: Is there something about the words “that’s right,” that you would like to retract.

    We already corrected the misapprehension. We apologize if our original answer was unclear.

    Barry Arrington: You know for a certain fact that torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people.

    Humans value human infants. Nothing extraordinary about that.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5x0BSgLKnSk

  156. 156
    Hangonasec says:

    BA #162

    You know for a certain fact that torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people. It is literally impossible to imagine any circumstance under which that act would be other than evil. Yet you continue to insist that there is not one moral proposition that can be demonstrated to be objectively true. The patent falsity of your position has been pointed out to you many times; yet you cling to it ever more tenaciously.

    This is clearly not an objective truth in the sense being advanced by the objectivists. An overwhelming majority of human minds agrees that X goes against their moral code. This fact is silent on whether the cause is common subjective individual sense (certainly plausible, given shared genetic and cultural heritage) or that there exists*** an external code to which (in this matter at least) their antennae are accurately tuned.

    *** (or rational beings must act as if there exists)

  157. 157
    Joe says:

    Humans value human infants.

    If that were true then abortions would be illegal.

  158. 158
    Box says:

    Zac,

    Barry Arrington: You know for a certain fact that torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people.

    Barry points to the existence of a moral wall that equals a solid brick wall for every sane person. If that doesn’t convey objectivity what does?

    Zac: Humans value human infants.

    You offer this as if it supports your position. But why don’t you get it through your thick skull that this fact obviously supports the notion of the objectivity of morality? IOW it does not support subjective moralism.
    It’s mind-boggling that you and your ilk keep bringing up this and similar remarks as if they are supportive for the subjectivist position; see #112.

  159. 159
    Zachriel says:

    Box: But why don’t you get it through your thick skull that this fact obviously supports the notion of the objectivity of morality?

    Other sentient beings may or may not value humans similarly.

  160. 160
    Box says:

    Zac: Other sentient beings may or may not value humans similarly.

    Let’s be clear that objective morality only extends to beings capable of apprehending objective truth – as StephenB pointed out to you already. So your insects and other animals are totally irrelevant to the debate.

  161. 161
    Mark Frank says:

    BA

    You know for a certain fact that torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people.

    This is a classic move in the objectivist/subjectivist dance.  By taking an extreme example you hide issues under a cloud of emotion and make anyone who disagrees with the precise wording appear to condone the act. Nevertheless I disagree. I don’t believe you know moral judgements as “facts” so I would say that as it stands it is false. I would accept “Everyone agrees without hesitation that torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people.” subject to the following clarification.

    The statement conflates two different things. The time and place of the act and the time and place of the moral judgement. These are two different statements:

    * All of us (here and now) would agree without hesitation that torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people. I think that is broadly true.

    * Everyone, at every time and place, would agree without hesitation that torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people. I doubt that is true. I don’t know the innermost psyche of the Incas who performed child sacrifices but it seems quite possible they did it for personal pleasure and thought it was morally OK.

  162. 162
    Zachriel says:

    Box: So your insects and other animals are totally irrelevant to the debate.

    You would have to step outside of the human circle to determine whether your sensation of morality is being colored by the human perspective. If you can’t even imagine non-humans having a moral sense, then that would undercut the argument that morality exists independent of human sensation. But even among humans, the value placed on other humans varies considerably: practices include human sacrifice, conquest, enslaving women, cannibalism, ethnic cleansing, and genocide.

    Box: Let’s be clear that objective morality only extends to beings capable of apprehending objective truth – as StephenB pointed out to you already.

    As already pointed out, there’s nothing extraordinary about humans valuing human infants.

  163. 163
    Box says:

    Zac,

    z: If you can’t even imagine non-humans having a moral sense, then that would undercut the argument that morality exists independent of human sensation.

    What are you talking about? Klingons?

    z: But even among humans, the value placed on other humans varies considerably: practices include human sacrifice, conquest, enslaving women, cannibalism, ethnic cleansing, and genocide.

    Irrelevant. The claim is not that everyone has a perfect apprehension or perception of objective morality. The claim is that it objectively exists.

    z: As already pointed out, there’s nothing extraordinary about humans valuing human infants.

    You did not point out anything of the sort.

  164. 164
    Zachriel says:

    Box: What are you talking about? Klingons?

    Your inability to even imagine a non-human morality.

    Box: The claim is not that everyone has a perfect apprehension or perception of objective morality. The claim is that it objectively exists.

    And the evidence is that it is a human sensibility, not an objective reality.

    Box: You did not point out anything of the sort.

    Zachriel (#175): Humans value human infants. Nothing extraordinary about that.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5x0BSgLKnSk

  165. 165
    mike1962 says:

    mike1962: So acting according to a moral precept first requires a consideration and a decision?

    Zachriel: precept, a general rule intended to regulate behavior or thought.

    Is that a “yes” to my question?

    mike1962: “This is mine, and if you take it I have the right to get it back” is not merely a moral “sense”, but rather a specific moral precept.

    Zachriel: By the way, with dogs, it’s what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine too.

    You brought up dogs. I’m not sure why.

    mike1962: Are you saying we have free will to act any differently than we do and that dogs and monkeys do not?

    Zachriel: Primates have a general sense of fairness. Dogs do not.

    You didn’t answer my question.

  166. 166
    Zachriel says:

    mike1962: Is that a “yes” to my question?

    If you review the exchange, you should find your answer.

    mike1962: “This is mine, and if you take it I have the right to get it back” is not merely a moral “sense”, but rather a specific moral precept.

    Zachriel: If you mean a dog will fight over a bone, sure. Not sure that’s what most people mean by an objective moral precept.

    mike1962: Why not? Please explain the difference between what I have described and what “most people mean by an objective moral precept.”

    Zachriel: It’s doubtful a dog considers any abstract rule before deciding on a course of action with regards to a bone.

    mike1962: So acting according to a moral precept first requires a consideration and a decision?

    Zachriel: precept, a general rule intended to regulate behavior or thought.

    mike1962: So acting according to a moral precept first requires a consideration and a decision?

    Yes. As normally construed, a moral precept is an abstraction that is referred to in order to guide conduct. The Latin etymology, prae “before” + capere “to take”, is instructive, meaning to have a rule in place beforehand.

    You had claimed that “this is mine…” is a moral precept. We pointed out that a dog will fight over a bone, but that this is not what most people mean by a moral precept.

    mike1962: Are you saying we have free will to act any differently than we do and that dogs and monkeys do not?

    Dogs and monkeys are just as free as people, and like people, they act according to their natures. People and monkeys have a sense of fairness.

  167. 167
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Zac

    No one is required to accept someone else’s values,

    Within subjectivism, what every person chooses as being morally good or bad, are in fact, morally good and bad for that person. Subjectivism requires this. A subjectivist can still impose contrary values on others but cannot state that those values are necessarily morally good for the person. In fact, if the values conflict, the subjectivist would potentially impose what is considered morally bad for the individual or prevent what is morally good.

  168. 168
    JimFit says:

    Aurelio

    I think there should be an award for writing of this level of clarity!

    To have an objective existence there has to be objective morality. If morality was subjective your existence would be subjective as well but you can’t exist and not exist at the same time. Morality exists on living humans only, to have a morality you must first be alive and for you to be alive demands someone to obey OBJECTIVE MORALITY TO KEEP YOU ALIVE. If someone didn’t cared for you and let you as a baby in the forest you would die for sure, only objective morality leads to a human capable to grasp what morality is because objective morality is the reason he exists.

  169. 169
    Zachriel says:

    Silver Asiatic: Within subjectivism, what every person chooses as being morally good or bad, are in fact, morally good and bad for that person. Subjectivism requires this.

    Sure. For instance, someone may think slavery is wrong, even if most everyone else thinks slavery is good.

    Silver Asiatic: A subjectivist can still impose contrary values on others but cannot state that those values are necessarily morally good for the person.

    In the case of opposing slavery or murder, it is for the benefit of a third party. Even if it is for what is perceived as private immoral acts, such as drug abuse, it can be imposed for the perceived benefit of the person being restricted.

  170. 170
    Zachriel says:

    JimFit: Morality exists on living humans only, to have a morality you must first be alive and for you to be alive demands someone to obey OBJECTIVE MORALITY TO KEEP YOU ALIVE.

    So a rabbit suckles her young due to objective moral precepts rather than a desire to nurture.

  171. 171
    drc466 says:

    Mark @171,
    Point well taken. The justification “because I prefer it” would be logically consistent with subjectivism. I don’t believe that your other phrasings would necessarily improve that justification – e.g. “because I abhor cruelty” makes a moral value judgement of what is “cruel” – therefore, you are reduced back to either believing that there are objective measures of what is “cruel”, or the subjective reasoning “I prefer to label this as cruel, and want to apply my personal preference to others behavior”. Anyway – I yield the point. Subjectivists who admit their position is strictly a matter of personal preference, and not objective, are logically consistent. This makes a decent foundation for local town ordinances, not so much personal morality or nation-state criminal law.

    RDF @168
    Well, I knew you wouldn’t like the analogy, but I’m afraid just saying “its not a valid analogy, so I win” doesn’t count. Your proffered explanation for why the analogy doesn’t work is as follows:

    I will explain your problem: While in your analogy it is known that there is one summit and one best approach, the analogous question here (the existence of an objective morality) is actually what we are debating. Sigh.

    You are correct in one sense – the better analogy for the subjectivist opinion is that either a) there is no mountain (no morality), or b) every person is on their very own mountain (subjective morality), while the objectivist claims that there is a single mountain (objective morality) with a qualitative difference between top (good) and bottom (evil).
    Otherwise, the analogy stands – if you believe that you are on your own mountain/plain, you have no logical objective reason (other than personal preference, per Mark above) to try to make someone else follow your path. And the inability to precisely define the shape of the objectivist mountain does not render the view that there is a single one “false or moot”. Your rebuttal fails.

  172. 172
    Zachriel says:

    drc466: I don’t believe that your other phrasings would necessarily improve that justification – e.g. “because I abhor cruelty” makes a moral value judgement of what is “cruel” – therefore, you are reduced back to either believing that there are objective measures of what is “cruel”, or the subjective reasoning “I prefer to label this as cruel, and want to apply my personal preference to others behavior”.

    Abhor is more than just a simple dislike, but to regard with extreme repugnance and loathing. This distress may cause a person to react to cruelty, which we can define neutrally as causing suffering in others. Someone may dislike chocolate, become ill when exposed to blood, and become angry when watching cruelty. These are visceral reactions.

  173. 173
    Phinehas says:

    MF:

    Which I guess is a way of saying that while subjectivism may be logically consistent in practice no one would accept “because I abhor cruelty” as a principle for preventing others being cruel. This seems to be clearly false. I see people offering this kind of justification all the time.

    But the issue isn’t just logical consistency, but consistency in behavior. When you look at behavior, it becomes very clear that saying, “because I abhor cruelty,” means something categorically different to the person saying it than, “because I abhor liver and onions.” Both statements may be logically consistent under subjectivism, but based on observed behavior across the entire human race, they are categorically different statements. One is clearly referencing a subjective commodity, but observing human behavior indicates that the other is connected to the same sort of response we would expect if the commodity in question were objective.

  174. 174
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Zac

    In the case of opposing slavery or murder, it is for the benefit of a third party.

    The motive for the determination of a moral value is irrelevant except that it must be done for subjective reasons. For the subjectivist who decides that slavery is morally good – it is a morally good behavior. To oppose slavery in that case is to forbid a morally good behavior for that individual. There is no other moral standard that can be cited to make slavery morally bad for that person.

    Even if it is for what is perceived as private immoral acts, such as drug abuse, it can be imposed for the perceived benefit of the person being restricted.

    As above, drug abuse is a moral good for the subjectivist who chooses it. To prevent drug abuse is to forbid something that is morally good.

  175. 175
    Zachriel says:

    Silver Asiatic: The motive for the determination of a moral value is irrelevant except that it must be done for subjective reasons.

    The subjective reason is the very negative valuation of the suffering of others.

    Silver Asiatic: There is no other moral standard that can be cited to make slavery morally bad for that person.

    Just because a person may recognize that others may have differing moral views doesn’t mean the person won’t try to impose their views on others.

    Silver Asiatic: As above, drug abuse is a moral good for the subjectivist who chooses it. To prevent drug abuse is to forbid something that is morally good.

    A: Drug use is self-destructive.
    B: I like drugs.
    A: Don’t do drugs.

    A and B act according to their individual moral values. Just because B acts according to B’s moral values doesn’t mean that A won’t try to impose A’s values on B. If A’s moral values include the imperative to impose A’s moral values on others, then A will act according to that belief.

  176. 176
    RDFish says:

    Hi drc466,

    Well, I knew you wouldn’t like the analogy, but I’m afraid just saying “its not a valid analogy, so I win” doesn’t count.

    ??? That’s not what I did, obviously. I told you why it wasn’t valid.

    Your proffered explanation for why the analogy doesn’t work

    ??? You just told me I simply said it wasn’t valid. This is pretty confusing.

    You are correct in one sense

    Yes, in the sense that your analogy was invalid.

    – the better analogy for the subjectivist opinion is that either a) there is no mountain (no morality), or b) every person is on their very own mountain (subjective morality), while the objectivist claims that there is a single mountain (objective morality) with a qualitative difference between top (good) and bottom (evil).

    Yes, that’s better. Still completely unhelpful, but at least you’re mapping your analogy to our debate now.

    Otherwise, the analogy stands – if you believe that you are on your own mountain/plain, you have no logical objective reason (other than personal preference, per Mark above) to try to make someone else follow your path.

    Ooops, now your analogy is invalid again, because I have every reason to try to make people follow my morality, of course, just like you do. Nobody cares what paths people take to go up mountains, but everybody cares if people run around murdering and raping and so on.

    And the inability to precisely define the shape of the objectivist mountain does not render the view that there is a single one “false or moot”. Your rebuttal fails.

    You are not making any sense at all, because this analogy is completely harebrained. If you really want a mountain analogy, here it is:

    We all believe in mountains, but have never seen one. You claim to see a mountain, but you can’t show anyone where it is, and you have no pictures of it, or any other evidence that it exists – you just want everybody to take your word for it. Not only that, but you claim that the mountain you see is the only mountain in the world, and if anyone else sees another mountain, they are hallucinating.

    The fact that you can’t show anyone this mountain tells me your mountain claim is either false or moot: If the mountain you are seeing doesn’t exist, then your claim is false, and if it does exist but you can’t show it to anyone, then it is moot.

    Get it?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  177. 177
    drc466 says:

    RDFish @198:

    So, to recap, let’s compare:

    Definitions:
    Mountain = morality
    Top = maximum good
    Bottom = maximum evil
    Walk up = do good
    Walk down = do evil

    drc466’s Analogy (combining posts 163/191), replacing the above:

    Objectivist: There is one objective [morality], with one objectively best [way to do good], and we need to use that understanding to encourage other people to follow the [doing good, not evil] path that we believe is that objective, best way.
    Subjectivist: I don’t believe that there is one, objective [morality], or one best [good over evil]. Either a) there is no [morality], or b) every person [has] their very own [morality].
    Conclusion: An Objectivist is superior to the Subjectivist because the Objectivist not only believes there is a best [way to do good], but is able to rationally, logically define an “objective” goal – [maximum good]. Could the objectivist have the wrong [definition of good], or [wrong way to do good], or disagree with other objectivists as to [a complete definition of good versus evil]? Sure – but it doesn’t change the possibility that [objective good exists] and one best [way to do good], and the objectivist desire to enforce morality on others is a rational one.
    On the other hand, a true Subjectivist is left to suggest that not only is there no best [preference of good over evil], there is also no real [maximum good] – your [actions of evil] is just as valid a [definition of maximum good] as the objectivists (or subjectivists) [definition or goal of good]. Which makes the subjectivist desire to encourage people to [do good according to his/her personal definition] even more logically incoherent.

    Feel free to point out logical errors in the description of the Objectivist view, Subjectivist view, or conclusion above. I’m comfortable that it is logically sound, and thus so is my analogy it is based on.
    RDFish’s Analogy:

    We all believe in [morality], but have never seen [morality]. You claim to [know the difference between good and evil], but you can’t show anyone where it is, and you have no pictures of it, or any other evidence that it exists – you just want everybody to take your word for it. Not only that, but you claim that the [morality] you see is the only [correct morality] in the world, and if anyone else [has a definition of morality], they are hallucinating.

    The fact that you can’t show anyone [objective morality] tells me [objective morality] is either false or moot: If [objective morality] doesn’t exist, then your claim is false, and if [objective morality] does exist but you can’t show it to anyone, then it is moot.

    First of all, the two analogies aren’t necessarily exclusionary – my analogy doesn’t rely on whether objective morality is actually true, or not. It just states that, per the original post, attempting to enforce morality on others is only logically coherent for the objectivist, or for the subjectivist that admits he/she is only doing it for personal preference (not “right” or “wrong”) reasons.
    Second, there are in fact multiple errors in your analogy:
    1) “if anyone else [has a definition of morality], they are hallucinating.” Wrong – I’m perfectly willing to admit that my definition of morality is probably wrong in places, but that doesn’t change my responsibility to try to get others to do what I understand to be (objectively) good. To do nothing because I might be wrong, would be itself wrong – “all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”.
    2) “if [objective morality] does exist but you can’t show it to anyone, then it is moot”. Wrong – if objective morality does exist, and I succeed in helping others conform better to objective morality, I have done “good”, regardless of how close I knew I was coming to good while doing it.
    3)”You claim to [know the difference between good and evil], but you can’t show anyone where it is, and you have no pictures of it, or any other evidence that it exists – you just want everybody to take your word for it.” Wrong – I don’t want everybody to take my word, I wish to be challenged on it. How else can we refine our understanding of good and evil? That is part of the reason that objectivists prefer democracy (wisdom of the masses), and religions train preachers (offer their vision of good). I’d hate to be a dictator, but I do enjoy a good argument.
    Your objection reduces down to “since we can have perfect knowledge of objective good, we must act as if it doesn’t exist”. This is not a logical conclusion, is irrelevant to whether the subjectivist desire to enforce moral viewpoints for moral reasons is logically coherent, and even if it were true would only reinforce the point that subjectivists have no moral basis for justifying moral interventions. (In other words – you agree with the original point, you just don’t think objectivists can justify moral intervention either).

  178. 178
    Mung says:

    RDFish:

    You have no justification for saying any of these things – they’re all just your subjective opinion (and frankly bizarre).

    You’re making a statement that is objectively true?

  179. 179
    drc466 says:

    Zachriel @192,

    drc466: I don’t believe that your other phrasings would necessarily improve that justification – e.g. “because I abhor cruelty” makes a moral value judgement of what is “cruel” – therefore, you are reduced back to either believing that there are objective measures of what is “cruel”, or the subjective reasoning “I prefer to label this as cruel, and want to apply my personal preference to others behavior”.

    Abhor is more than just a simple dislike, but to regard with extreme repugnance and loathing. This distress may cause a person to react to cruelty, which we can define neutrally as causing suffering in others. Someone may dislike chocolate, become ill when exposed to blood, and become angry when watching cruelty. These are visceral reactions.

    Heh – I’m going to call this the “Guardians of the Galaxy Theory of Intensity of Emotion Morality”:

    Rocket Raccoon: Question. What if I see something that I wanna take and it belongs to someone else?
    Rhomann Dey: Then you will be arrested.
    Rocket Raccoon: But what if I want it more than the person who has it?
    Rhomann Dey: Still illegal.
    Rocket Raccoon: That doesn’t follow. No, I want it more, sir. Do you understand me? What are you laughing at? What? I can’t have a discussion with this gentleman?

  180. 180
    Barry Arrington says:

    Mark Frank @ 181.

    Let us grant for the sake of argument that some Inca believed that torturing an infant for personal pleasure was good. He would have been wrong.

    Again, whether the Inca perceives the objective reality of the moral truth is beside the point. Being wrong about an objective truth does not make it false.

    At any rate, if you are going to deny a self evident moral truth, there is no use arguing with you. By definition self evident truths cannot be demonstrated. And when you lie, as you have here, and say a self evident truth is false the discussion must necessarily come to an end.

  181. 181
    RDFish says:

    Hi drc466,

    Objectivist: There is one objective [morality], with one objectively best [way to do good], and we need to use that understanding to encourage other people to follow the [doing good, not evil] path that we believe is that objective, best way.

    Sure… but after all this mountain stuff, all you’ve got is the definition of objectivism that we’ve been using all along.

    Subjectivist: I don’t believe that there is one, objective [morality], or one best [good over evil].

    No, you’ve already got it wrong again. Honestly I think these mountains are just blocking your view – you are making this way harder than it needs to be.

    Anyway, subjectivists believe that everybody has their own mountain, and each believes that there is one best way up their own mountain. It’s just that subjectivists don’t pretend that their mountain is the only mountain in the world, while objectivists do.

    Feel free to point out logical errors in the description of the Objectivist view, Subjectivist view, or conclusion above.

    Thanks.

    First of all, the two analogies aren’t necessarily exclusionary – my analogy doesn’t rely on whether objective morality is actually true, or not. It just states that, per the original post, attempting to enforce morality on others is only logically coherent for the objectivist, or for the subjectivist that admits he/she is only doing it for personal preference (not “right” or “wrong”) reasons.

    We’re all in the same boat. The objectivist has nothing but personal preference to choose one morality or another, just like the subjectivist. The only difference is that only subjectivists admits this.

    Your objection reduces down to “since we can have perfect knowledge of objective good, we must act as if it doesn’t exist”.

    (I think you mean to say “since we can’t have perfect knowledge…”, right?)
    No, this is not my position at all. Rather, it is this: Since there is no such thing as an objective morality that we can objectively determine, we have no choice but to subjecively follow our own moral sentiments”.

    The only person here who has even attempted to refute my argument is StephenB. But he has made a mess of it, by arguing for example that while beauty and logic and morality are all objectively knowable, mathematics is not. I don’t know a single other human being who would endorse that sort of reasoning.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  182. 182
    RDFish says:

    And right here is a perfect illustration of why the delusion of objective morality is so dangerous:

    Barry Arrignton says @202:

    At any rate, if you are going to deny a self evident moral truth, there is no use arguing with you. By definition self evident truths cannot be demonstrated. And when you lie, as you have here, and say a self evident truth is false the discussion must necessarily come to an end.

    So Barry declares that whatever he himself happens to subjectively view as a self-evident truth is objectively true, and whoever disagrees with him are liars who must not even be talked to!

    Thank you Barry for making that abundantly clear.

  183. 183
    c hand says:

    RDFish
    Why is it dangerous to (even falsely ) believe that the torture of children for pleasure is wrong for all people for all time?

    Would it be acceptable if all people for all time just happened to uniformly hold this belief subjectively ?

  184. 184
    RDFish says:

    Hi c hand,

    Why is it dangerous to (even falsely ) believe that the torture of children for pleasure is wrong for all people for all time?

    It isn’t of course.

    The reason the objectivist delusion is dangerous is not because some objectivist holds some particular moral view. Rather, it is because by pretending that there is only one single morality that is objectively true – and that morality is of course the one they happen to prefer – they disregard anyone who disagrees with them with a false sense of moral authority. We just saw this with Barry’s post.

    It’s not a problem when people’s moral sentiments align – for example regarding the torture of children for pleasure. It is a problem when people’s moral sentiments diverge – for example torturing terrorism suspects.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  185. 185
    Mark Frank says:

    drc466 #191

    Zachriel’s response 192 is pretty much spot on.
     
    Phinehas #193

    But the issue isn’t just logical consistency, but consistency in behavior. When you look at behavior, it becomes very clear that saying, “because I abhor cruelty,” means something categorically different to the person saying it than, “because I abhor liver and onions.” Both statements may be logically consistent under subjectivism, but based on observed behavior across the entire human race, they are categorically different statements. One is clearly referencing a subjective commodity, but observing human behavior indicates that the other is connected to the same sort of response we would expect if the commodity in question were objective.

    It is a good point. Not all subjective issues are as trivial as our taste in liver and onions (at least it makes a change from ice-cream). There are many subjective issues which are deeper and more complex and for which we produce reasons and arguments. My favourite example is whether something is funny but there are an infinite number of others: awesome, frightening, attractive, fascinating, inspiring ….. So while I accept that abhorring cruelty is a different category from abhorring liver and onions they are both subjective.  “I abhor cruelty” is a statement about (or possibly an expression of) my attitude to something which is true in virtue of my attitude.

    I think what confuses people is that disputes about ethics and indeed many other subjective issues often proceed on the assumption that if you could only explain your position clearly enough or summon enough evidence then your opponent would agree with you. That is what gives it an objective feel. My supervisor when I was an undergraduate back in the 70s called this suspended subjectivity. It doesn’t just apply to ethics.  For example, it happens in aesthetics when you are debating a film and you feel strongly that your opponent doesn’t understand how subtle it is of whatever. But in the end there is a subjective core. Try convincing a leader in the Islamic State they are wrong and you will quickly find that it is not an objective issue but one of deeply held different beliefs.

  186. 186
    Mark Frank says:

    BA #204

    So you have run out of arguments and the only move available to you is to declare

    “I am self-evidently right and you are a liar.”

    AS you say that brings the discussion to an end.

    Does this work in court?

  187. 187
    Eugen says:

    RD fish/ AI guy

    Let me use your “mountain” example. We are all climbing the mountain. Everybody should know which way is up and which way is down the mountain. You choose to go down and than declare that in your subjectivist view you are climbing up the mountain. I wouldn’t want you as my hiking partner.

    (hopefully it’s not Brokeback Mountain)

  188. 188
    faded_Glory says:

    Barry Arrington:

    Again, whether the Inca perceives the objective reality of the moral truth is beside the point. Being wrong about an objective truth does not make it false.

    At any rate, if you are going to deny a self evident moral truth, there is no use arguing with you. By definition self evident truths cannot be demonstrated.

    This is incoherent. How can the Inca wrongly perceive a self-evident truth? It wouldn’t be all that self-evident then after all.

    Furthermore, if it is possible to be wrong about a self evident truth, as you just said, how do you know that yours, and not the Inca’s, particular concept of it is the correct one?

    fG

  189. 189
    Mark Frank says:

    Barry

    On reflection I am wondering what it is that you accuse me of lying about. Bearing in mind that a lie is deliberate falsehood.

    I agree with you that torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil. So that’s not it. Presumably you think I am lying when I say that the statement is not a self-evident objective truth. My opinion has been shared by many people including some the world’s most famous philosophers at least since Hume. Were they all lying? A worldwide movement in multiple languages over hundred years all perpetrating this falsehood knowing full well it was wrong. Or I am special in knowing it was false while the others were just misled?

  190. 190
    c hand says:

    Mark Frank
    If you “agree that torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil” then should all people subjectively believe this? If not, who should not believe this ?

  191. 191
    Zachriel says:

    c hand: If you “agree that torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil” then should all people subjectively believe this?

    It’s not surprising that humans value human children. That doesn’t make morality objective, meaning existing independently of human sensibilities. Mother rabbits value baby rabbits, but humans eat baby rabbits, e.g. noisettes de lapereau sauce cacao.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5x0BSgLKnSk

  192. 192
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Zac:

    Silver Asiatic: The motive for the determination of a moral value is irrelevant except that it must be done for subjective reasons.

    The subjective reason is the very negative valuation of the suffering of others.

    The specific reason is irrelevant – it’s entirely personal and subjective and does not need to be justified as consistent or logical or comparatively ‘moral’ based on other moral standards. An increase in suffering of others can be a moral good in subjectivism.

    Just because a person may recognize that others may have differing moral views doesn’t mean the person won’t try to impose their views on others.

    What is different in subjectivism is that people are doing what is morally good for them. In other systems, differing views come from judging that people are doing something morally bad.

    A: Drug use is self-destructive.
    B: I like drugs.
    A: Don’t do drugs.

    A. Drug use, morally bad for me.
    B. Drug use, morally good for me. No-drugs is morally bad.
    A. Don’t do what is morally good for you, do what is morally bad for you.

    A and B act according to their individual moral values. Just because B acts according to B’s moral values doesn’t mean that A won’t try to impose A’s values on B. If A’s moral values include the imperative to impose A’s moral values on others, then A will act according to that belief.

    Right – but we can see the inconsistency and contradiction as above.

    Imposing subjective morals would prohibit what is morally good for people.

  193. 193
    Mark Frank says:

    c hand #212

    If you “agree that torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil” then should all people subjectively believe this?

    Yes – although the most important thing is that refrain from torturing infants.

  194. 194
    Zachriel says:

    Silver Asiatic: The specific reason is irrelevant – it’s entirely personal and subjective and does not need to be justified as consistent or logical or comparatively ‘moral’ based on other moral standards.

    It’s typically justified by appealing to similar feelings in others. How would you feel?

    Silver Asiatic: What is different in subjectivism is that people are doing what is morally good for them.

    As humans are empathetic creatures, they concern themselves in the affairs of others.

    Silver Asiatic: A. Drug use, morally bad for me.

    A subjectivist can certainly claim that drug use is bad for everyone, and valuing others, intervene.

    Silver Asiatic: Right – but we can see the inconsistency and contradiction as above.

    There is no contradiction, but a balancing of competing values. You are assuming that a subjectivist necessarily considers autonomy a paramount good, which may or may not be the case. According to your logic, a subjectivist wouldn’t even try to teach their child what they consider to be right and wrong, poppycock which should disabuse you of your misconceptions.

  195. 195
    drc466 says:

    Mark Frank @207,

    drc466 #191
    Zachriel’s response 192 is pretty much spot on.

    See my response @201. Basically, you are saying that the intensity of your emotion somehow validates your personal preference? So, someone tripping you on the sidewalk is a greater evil than genocide in Somalia, because your emotions get stirred up more by the former than the latter?

  196. 196
    Zachriel says:

    drc466: So, someone tripping you on the sidewalk is a greater evil than genocide in Somalia, because your emotions get stirred up more by the former than the latter?

    Moral indignation is not the same emotion as simple anger, though people can get quite worked up about other people’s driving.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDr_J_pLg0A

  197. 197
    Joe says:

    As already pointed out, there’s nothing extraordinary about humans valuing human infants.

    And that is why we abort 1.2 million potential infants a year in the USA alone. We humans must really value infants- NOT.

    Obviously Zachriel doesn’t know what it is talking about, again, as usual.

  198. 198
    Silver Asiatic says:

    It’s typically justified by appealing to similar feelings in others. How would you feel?

    Again, it does not need to be justified by anything other than subjective choice. The feelings in others are irrelevant to the moral quality of the act.
    What the subjectivist decides is morally good for himself, is in fact, morally good.
    What others decide as morally good for them, is in fact, morally good for them, under subjectivism.

    A subjectivist can certainly claim that drug use is bad for everyone, and valuing others, intervene.

    That’s not correct, as above. A subjectivist cannot claim that drug use is morally bad for everyone. For anyone who chooses drug use as a moral good, it is morally good for that person. The subjectivist agrees to this. Therefore, to then say that what is morally good for the individual is morally bad, is a contradiction.

    You are assuming that a subjectivist necessarily considers autonomy a paramount good, which may or may not be the case.

    It’s neither good nor bad – it’s just the single principle of authority in subjectivism. What the individual says is morally good, is morally good. Autonomy is necessary in that system. Another subjectivist cannot say “what you’ve decided as morally good for yourself, is actually morally bad”.

    According to your logic, a subjectivist wouldn’t even try to teach their child what they consider to be right and wrong, poppycock which should disabuse you of your misconceptions.

    It’s not my logic, it’s subjectivist logic that you’re struggling with, but I’m glad to see that. You’re right of course.
    You recognize that something beyond subjectivism is necessary for moral education. Subjectivism does not work.
    Morals can be taught and corrected based on a non-subjective standard.

    Edit: I’ll add that one can attempt to teach moral values under subjectivism – but that’s different than imposing them.

  199. 199
    drc466 says:

    RDFish @203,

    Since there is no such thing as an objective morality that we can objectively determine, we have no choice but to subjecively follow our own moral sentiments

    .

    You’re either being deliberately obtuse, or honestly don’t understand that your position is NOT contradictory to the original post. It is 100% true to say that we have to subjectively follow our own moral code. It is also 100% true that the possibility exists that there is one, single objective moral definition of good/evil, right/wrong. It is also 100% true that people who believe in objective truth and attempt to get other people to conform to their subjective understanding of good are acting logically. It is also 100% true that people who DON’T believe in objective morality are acting illogically if they attempt to get other people to conform to their subjective understanding of good BASED ON MORAL REASONS. If you honestly believe that there is no God, no standard of what is good and what is evil, and what is evil to you might be good for someone else – then the only rational reason you have for forcing that person to conform to your ideals of good is “because that’s my personal preference and I want to”. Whereas the objectivist can rationally say “in my subjective opinion, this [action] is objectively GOOD, and all people should follow it.”
    I fully understand that you think the fact that “no one can know what is objectively GOOD and EVIL” trumps all else – I just find it a ridiculous and silly position that no one functionally or practically follows. However – feel free to try to convince the world that morality is an artificial construct that ultimately comes down to personal preference and that there isn’t any thought, action, or belief that is Objectively Evil or Objectively Good.

  200. 200
    drc466 says:

    Zachriel @218,

    Moral indignation is not the same emotion as simple anger, though people can get quite worked up about other people’s driving.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDr_J_pLg0A

    Heh – thanks for the link :).
    Unfortunately, “moral indignation” has no meaning if you believe morality is subjective and personal – you’re back to personal preference, because you’ve just dropped the component of “visceral” response.

  201. 201
    Zachriel says:

    Silver Asiatic: Again, it does not need to be justified by anything other than subjective choice.

    “Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.”

    However, as humans are social organisms, they will attempt to persuade others, or at least justify their actions.

    “When in the course of human events …”

    Silver Asiatic: The feelings in others are irrelevant to the moral quality of the act.

    That is certainly not correct for most humans. Humans want approval and support of their peers, and often show compassion for others. The moral quality is often contingent on the feelings of others.

    Silver Asiatic: What others decide as morally good for them, is in fact, morally good for them, under subjectivism.

    Sure, but the first person may still seek to persuade or impose their own values on the second person.

    Silver Asiatic: A subjectivist cannot claim that drug use is morally bad for everyone.

    Of course they can. You seem to think that there is a necessity that someone consider everyone’s moral opinion to be of equal validity.

    Silver Asiatic: Autonomy is necessary in that system.

    Subjectivism isn’t a system. Moral systems usually encompass both subjectivists and objectivists because they often agree on many particulars.

    Silver Asiatic: Morals can be taught and corrected based on a non-subjective standard.

    Morals can be taught and corrected based on a subjective standard.

  202. 202
    Zachriel says:

    drc466: Unfortunately, “moral indignation” has no meaning if you believe morality is subjective and personal – you’re back to personal preference, because you’ve just dropped the component of “visceral” response.

    Moral indignation is a visceral response, but so is simple anger. Thought without fire is impotent.

  203. 203
    Joe says:

    However, as humans are social organisms, they will attempt to persuade others, or at least justify their actions.

    Maybe and maybe not.

    That is certainly not correct for most humans.

    Evidence please.

    Humans want approval and support of their peers, and often show compassion for others

    Some may but some may not. It all depends.

    Sure, but the first person may still seek to persuade or impose their own values on the second person.

    Maybe and maybe not and you don’t have any evidence to support you claims.

    Morals can be taught and corrected based on a subjective standard.

    What and whose morals?

  204. 204
    Joe says:

    Thought without fire is impotent.

    And THAT is why ID critics are impotent.

  205. 205
    RDFish says:

    Hi drc466,

    It is 100% true to say that we have to subjectively follow our own moral code.

    We agree.

    It is also 100% true that the possibility exists that there is one, single objective moral definition of good/evil, right/wrong.

    I won’t argue against this per se, but how is it that this moral definition is objective – did God decree it? Wouldn’t that just make it something like divine subjectivism, or super-subjectivism? (I take it you know where this goes…)

    It is also 100% true that people who believe in objective truth and attempt to get other people to conform to their subjective understanding of good are acting logically.

    I think you’re using the word “logically” a bit loosely; I would say “rationally” is more what you mean. And we’re not really talking about “objective truth” here in general, but rather “objective morality”. Anyway, the problem here is that you have no good reason to declare the morality you happen to believe in is objectively true, while the morality I believe in is not (to the extent we have moral disagreements, anyway).

    It is also 100% true that people who DON’T believe in objective morality are acting illogically if they attempt to get other people to conform to their subjective understanding of good BASED ON MORAL REASONS.

    This is absolute nonsense. I don’t believe in objective morality, and I attempt to get other people to conform to my subjective moral sentiments, and I justify that by means of my own subjective morality, and there is nothing remotely illogical or irrational about that.

    Again, you are just being too loose with your terms and you’re getting confused. What you meant was this:

    It is also 100% true that people who DON’T believe in objective morality are acting illogically if they attempt to get other people to conform to their subjective understanding of good BASED ON OBJECTIVE MORAL REASONS.

    See, when we add the word OBJECTIVE to your statement, it becomes true, but also trivially obvious: Subjectivists would never attempt to provide an OBJECTIVE moral reason for anything, because they believe there are no objective moral reasons of course.

    So here is what you should have written, and should understand:

    It is also 100% true that people who DON’T believe in objective morality are acting perfectly logically if they attempt to get other people to conform to their subjective understanding of good BASED ON SUBJECTIVE MORAL REASONS.

    See? Now you have a true statement, and you can see that there is nothing illogical or irrational about the subjectivist imposing their subjective morality on others.

    And after all, that’s exactly what objectivists do.

    If you honestly believe that there is no God,…

    Not exactly what I believe, but close enough for this discussion.

    … no standard of what is good and what is evil, …

    Again, my position is that there is either no objective standard, or even if there somehow is one, we have no objective means by which to identify it.

    …and what is evil to you might be good for someone else – then the only rational reason you have for forcing that person to conform to your ideals of good is “because that’s my personal preference and I want to”.

    The same is true for the objectivist, because they are unable to actually provide any other justification. The objectivist (if they are to be truthful) must say: “because my personal preference is to believe in some particular religious dogma that I cannot objectively justify and this dogma tells me what is moral.”

    Whereas the objectivist can rationally say “in my subjective opinion, this [action] is objectively GOOD, and all people should follow it.”

    Since we both know that your “opinion” cannot be objectively justified, your opinion is nothing but your mere personal preference. I have my “opinion” and you have your “opinion”, but instead of “opinion” we use the term “subjective morality”.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  206. 206
    RDFish says:

    Hi Silver Asiatic,

    Since the objectivist cannot objectively ascertain right and wrong, he has only his subjective opinion to go on. The fact that he professes to believe that his own subjective opinions reflect objective truth is completely moot – it is a mere metaphysical claim that cannot be demonstrated to be true, and makes no difference in terms of providing justification for imposing one’s morals on others.

    If you still don’t understand that, think of it this way:
    An objectivist may subjectively choose to believe in some morality that holds torturing puppies is a moral good, and then declare that in his opinion this morality is objectively true. There is nothing in objectivism to prevent this.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  207. 207
    Phinehas says:

    MF:

    There are many subjective issues which are deeper and more complex and for which we produce reasons and arguments. My favourite example is whether something is funny but there are an infinite number of others: awesome, frightening, attractive, fascinating, inspiring …..

    These are all categorically different from the abhorrence of cruelty as well. Or do you favor compelling others to agree with your sense of humor through force?

    So while I accept that abhorring cruelty is a different category from abhorring liver and onions they are both subjective.

    Of course they are. That has never been the question for me. The question is whether they are a subjective feeling or a subjective perception about an objective truth. The perception of color is also subjective, but this doesn’t deny that their is an objective truth behind the subjective perception. When you observe human behavior, it becomes clear that we are treating morality as though it were much more like our perception of color than like our taste in color. Both are subjective, but they are still categorically distinct.

    “I abhor cruelty” is a statement about (or possibly an expression of) my attitude to something which is true in virtue of my attitude.

    I’m not sure what you mean here. Can you elaborate?

    I think what confuses people is that disputes about ethics and indeed many other subjective issues often proceed on the assumption that if you could only explain your position clearly enough or summon enough evidence then your opponent would agree with you. That is what gives it an objective feel. My supervisor when I was an undergraduate back in the 70s called this suspended subjectivity. It doesn’t just apply to ethics. For example, it happens in aesthetics when you are debating a film and you feel strongly that your opponent doesn’t understand how subtle it is of whatever. But in the end there is a subjective core. Try convincing a leader in the Islamic State they are wrong and you will quickly find that it is not an objective issue but one of deeply held different beliefs.

    I can definitely see myself trying to convince others regarding my subjective preference or taste. But I cannot see compelling others through force, locking them up, or trying to correct their behavior through punitive measures simply because I abhor a film that they like.

    Even when it comes to some things that I hold to be subjective perceptions about what is objectively true, like some of my beliefs about God and religion, there is a really big red line for me between trying to convince others regarding my beliefs and resorting to compulsive methods to ensure compliance. The latter seems abhorrent to me, but the former not at all. How much more abhorrent is the thought of compelling others based on something that is only a strongly held subjective feeling, whether about liver or films or something else, with no objective component to it whatsoever?

  208. 208
    Phinehas says:

    RDF:

    Since the objectivist cannot objectively ascertain right and wrong, he has only his subjective opinion to go on. The fact that he professes to believe that his own subjective opinions reflect objective truth is completely moot – it is a mere metaphysical claim that cannot be demonstrated to be true, and makes no difference in terms of providing justification for imposing one’s morals on others.

    “I’m sorry, officer, but you cannot objectively ascertain green and red. You only have your subjective opinion to go on. The fact that you profess to believe that your own subjective opinion reflects an objective truth that the light was red is completely moot – it is a mere metaphysical claim that cannot be demonstrated to be true, and makes no difference in terms of providing justification for giving me a ticket,” said no one, ever.

  209. 209
    RDFish says:

    Hi Phinehas,

    As I’ve explained several times now, and I’m sure you’ve read, and I’ve provided a number of excellent citations that explain, the subject of color perception is very complicated and controversial. For that reason, I suggested to WJM long ago that we use some other perception with a large subjective component – such as beauty – instead. WJM acknowledged this explicitly in the first paragraph of the original post here.

    So I think that instead seriously trying to address the issue here, you are trying to be clever.

    Even so, the error in your “argument” is obvious: The situations under which people observe stoplights (which are incident light rather than reflected, for one thing) minimize intersubjective disagreement to the point where for legal purposes we can safely assume that people running red lights are negligent rather than having different color perceptions. Moreover, of course, color-blind people are expected to use the position of stoplights to distinguish them.

    Now, if you’d like to argue the topic at hand instead of color perception, try responding to this:

    Since the objectivist cannot objectively ascertain right and wrong, he has only his subjective opinion to go on. The fact that he professes to believe that his own subjective opinions reflect objective truth is completely moot – it is a mere metaphysical claim that cannot be demonstrated to be true, and makes no difference in terms of providing justification for imposing one’s morals on others.

    If you still don’t understand that, think of it this way:

    An objectivist may subjectively choose to believe in some morality that holds torturing puppies is a moral good, and then declare that in his opinion this morality is objectively true. There is nothing in objectivism to prevent this.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  210. 210
    Silver Asiatic says:

    RDFish

    Since the objectivist cannot objectively ascertain right and wrong, he has only his subjective opinion to go on.

    I disagree that he has only his subjective opinion. An objectivist references something that is accessible, external to the individual. He submits to something other than his subjective opinion. The objectivist’s moral code may conflict with his subjective opinion, but he conforms himself to the objective code for reasons of its authority.

    The fact that he professes to believe that his own subjective opinions reflect objective truth is completely moot – it is a mere metaphysical claim that cannot be demonstrated to be true,

    Objective moral codes are external to the person. They’re not contained within individual opinions alone, as subjective morals are.

    Objective codes are expressed publicly – through a philosophical school (Aristotle’s or the Stoics for example) or through religious authorities. They can be referenced, analyzed, compared and accepted or not. They’re fixed codes.

    There’s another objective moral code that references “universal values” of the natural law. This is the weakest form of an objective code and the most difficult to interpret. It exists in conscience and references only the most general moral norms.

    and makes no difference in terms of providing justification for imposing one’s morals on others.

    It makes a lot of difference because an objective norm is either defended rationally, supported by a philosophical school and its followers, or defended by the quality of the authority (a prophet or religious teacher speaking for God), or defended by its universality (conscience).
    Subjective morals come only from the individual as the highest authority. They need not be consistent or even defended rationally. They cannot be accessed or evaluated or compared since they reside with the individual.

    An objectivist may subjectively choose to believe in some morality that holds torturing puppies is a moral good,

    An objectivist chooses to believe in an objective moral code. A subjectivist chooses to believe a subjective code.

    There is no objective moral code that holds torturing puppies is a moral good (or none I know of). If you showed me such a code, I could access it and evaluate it’s origin, source, meaning and interpretation to decide if it reflects a consistent and meaningful moral standard.

    and then declare that in his opinion this morality is objectively true.

    If it was an objective code, like Epicureanism, then yes you could decide it is true. But you could also compare it with other objective codes and decide that there is another which is better and more true.

    There is nothing in objectivism to prevent this.

    Objectivists can select from any number of objective moral codes, starting from natural law in the conscience and moving through philosophical schools and religious revelations. Eventually, they will choose one they believe is true.

    It’s my belief that religious observance is part of the objective moral order, as all religions teach.

    If so, then the objectivist must worship God as a morally necessary act.

    If so, then the objectivist must accept that God exists, and must evaluate religious revelations to discern God’s communication to humanity.

  211. 211
    Mark Frank says:

    Phineas

    These are all categorically different from the abhorrence of cruelty as well. Or do you favor compelling others to agree with your sense of humor through force?

    Not usually but it depends on the context. Imagine someone is holding the last remaining copy of a film you think is an absolute classic of humour which they think is really boring and is about to throw it on the fire.

    Of course they are. That has never been the question for me. The question is whether they are a subjective feeling or a subjective perception about an objective truth. The perception of color is also subjective, but this doesn’t deny that their is an objective truth behind the subjective perception. When you observe human behavior, it becomes clear that we are treating morality as though it were much more like our perception of color than like our taste in color. Both are subjective, but they are still categorically distinct.

    It seems like a definition of subjective is called for.  I define it as true in virtue of the speaker’s response to an object while objective things are true in virtue of features of the object itself. So beautiful, funny, annoying, interesting etc are true because the speaker (or in some contexts a wider group) find it beautiful, laugh, are annoyed, are interested. While something is red, large, suffering or dead independent of any human reaction to it.  Do you agree?

    I’m not sure what you mean here. Can you elaborate?

    I hope the paragraph above will serve.

    I can definitely see myself trying to convince others regarding my subjective preference or taste. But I cannot see compelling others through force, locking them up, or trying to correct their behavior through punitive measures simply because I abhor a film that they like.

    Even when it comes to some things that I hold to be subjective perceptions about what is objectively true, like some of my beliefs about God and religion, there is a really big red line for me between trying to convince others regarding my beliefs and resorting to compulsive methods to ensure compliance. The latter seems abhorrent to me, but the former not at all. How much more abhorrent is the thought of compelling others based on something that is only a strongly held subjective feeling, whether about liver or films or something else, with no objective component to it whatsoever?

    You seem to place great emphasis on willing to compel others as a sign of objectivity. I see no reason to support this. I am no more prepared to force people to act on my beliefs that something is red or large than I am to force them to act on my beliefs that the Mona Lisa is beautiful. It is true that moral beliefs are particularly likely to lead you to intervene – but other beliefs both objective and subjective can lead to action – so that is no kind of evidence that in doing so I am acting as though they are objective.

  212. 212
    Phinehas says:

    RDF:

    As I’ve explained several times now, and I’m sure you’ve read, and I’ve provided a number of excellent citations that explain, the subject of color perception is very complicated and controversial.

    But it is exactly the part which doesn’t appear to be controversial upon which I am making my case: We subjectively perceive color, and yet there is an underlying objective reality (wavelengths, as you’ve said) behind our perception. Is this really controversial?

    As the humorous example of the traffic ticket highlights, when it comes to observed human behavior, it is not the case that having an underlying objective reality is moot simply because our perception is subjective.

    Even so, the error in your “argument” is obvious: The situations under which people observe stoplights (which are incident light rather than reflected, for one thing) minimize intersubjective disagreement to the point where for legal purposes we can safely assume that people running red lights are negligent rather than having different color perceptions. Moreover, of course, color-blind people are expected to use the position of stoplights to distinguish them

    In other words, the subjective nature of our perception of color does not render moot the existence of an underlying objective reality. The only thing you’ve made obvious is the error in your own argument.

    An objectivist may subjectively choose to believe in some morality that holds torturing puppies is a moral good, and then declare that in his opinion this morality is objectively true. There is nothing in objectivism to prevent this.

    OK. What’s your point?

    A subjectivist may act exactly as though his perspective on torturing puppies is objectively superior to anyone holding an opposing view and then declare that he believes no such thing. There is nothing in subjectivism to prevent this.

    But it is still the case that when we observe human behavior, we all tend to act regarding morality as though it is something much closer to how we think about our perception of color (a subjective perception of an underlying external objective reality) than how we think about our taste in color (a subjective feeling that is wholly personal and internal).

    It is morally right to give the ticket because the light was red in an objective way despite the fact we are limited to subjective perceptions of color. It would not be morally right to give a ticket because someone had an internal preference for red over green.

    Now, if you’d like to argue the topic at hand instead of color perception, try responding to this:

    Since the objectivist cannot objectively ascertain right and wrong, he has only his subjective opinion to go on. The fact that he professes to believe that his own subjective opinions reflect objective truth is completely moot – it is a mere metaphysical claim that cannot be demonstrated to be true, and makes no difference in terms of providing justification for imposing one’s morals on others.

    I am responding to this. Specifically, I am responding to the claim that whether or not subjective opinions reflect objective truth is completely moot. It obviously isn’t moot to the vast majority of us, as any fair observation of human behavior will reveal.

  213. 213
    Phinehas says:

    MF:

    I am no more prepared to force people to act on my beliefs that something is red or large than I am to force them to act on my beliefs that the Mona Lisa is beautiful.

    You evidently missed the discussion on traffic signals. I am totally and completely in favor of forcing others to act on my belief that a traffic signal is red. I also force my son to act a certain way based on my belief that automobiles are large, heavy, and difficult to stop when travelling at high speeds. Though I am tempted to force him to act based on my belief that movies about dressed-up talking dogs are stupid, I manage to restrain my impulse. His laughter helps heal my internal pain.

  214. 214
    RDFish says:

    Hi Silver Asiatic,

    An objectivist references something that is accessible, external to the individual. He submits to something other than his subjective opinion.

    Objective moral codes are external to the person. They’re not contained within individual opinions alone, as subjective morals are.

    Yes, this is all true simply by definition of “objectivism” and “subjectivism”.

    Objective codes are expressed publicly. They can be referenced, analyzed, compared and accepted or not.

    This is also true of subjective codes – subjective morality is also articulated of course.

    They’re fixed codes.

    No, they evolve just like subjective codes. There have been many objective codes with many revisions.

    It makes a lot of difference because an objective norm is either defended rationally, supported by a philosophical school and its followers,…

    Philosophical schools have no power to make some moral code objectively true. Anyone can debate their moral views.

    or defended by the quality of the authority (a prophet or religious teacher speaking for God),

    The Argument from Authority is a fallacy.

    …or defended by its universality (conscience).

    Consensus doesn’t make something objectively right.

    Subjective morals come only from the individual as the highest authority.

    The Argument from Authority is a fallacy.

    They need not be consistent or even defended rationally.

    Yes they do, because others will be evaluating them and discussing them. There are no objectively grounded rationales for any moral codes (as I’m showing you here), but we can always discuss them of course. That is really the whole point of denying objectivism – to make everyone argue their view rather than appeal to authority and refuse to debate it (like Barry here did in this thread).

    They cannot be accessed or evaluated or compared since they reside with the individual.

    What could you possibly mean by this? Subjectivists speak and write down their ideas just like objectivists do! We even discuss them on internet forums!

    There is no objective moral code that holds torturing puppies is a moral good (or none I know of).

    I don’t know any subjectivists who think this either – do you? That isn’t the point of course.

    If you showed me such a code, I could access it and evaluate it’s origin, source, meaning and interpretation to decide if it reflects a consistent and meaningful moral standard.

    If you showed me a subjectivist who argued this, I would decide it reflects a perfectly horrible moral standard that conflicts with everything I believe. Just like you would.

    Objectivists can select from any number of objective moral codes, starting from natural law in the conscience and moving through philosophical schools and religious revelations. Eventually, they will choose one they believe is true.

    I don’t think most people research moral theory at all, but that too is besides the point. Both objectivists and subjectivists form, or adopt, or perceive their own moral views, and neither can objectively demonstrate the truth of their beliefs.

    It’s my belief…

    You are certainly entitled to your personal religious beliefs. I ask that you not assume they are objectively true and declare that this gives you objective moral authority over others.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  215. 215
    RDFish says:

    Hi Phinehas,

    We subjectively perceive color, and yet there is an underlying objective reality (wavelengths, as you’ve said) behind our perception. Is this really controversial?

    Yes – read philosophy of color. Then drop color from this discussion.

    Do you think there is an “underlying objective reality” to all of our perceptions? Beauty? Humor?

    A subjectivist may act exactly as though his perspective on torturing puppies is objectively superior to anyone holding an opposing view and then declare that he believes no such thing. There is nothing in subjectivism to prevent this.

    Yes, of course. Practically speaking, this whole issue isn’t all that important except when objectivists declare special (objective) moral authority over others – based on their preferred god, usually – and refuse to debate on that basis (like Barry does here). Yes, subjectivists can refuse to debate too of course, and debates hardly ever change people’s minds about moral matters, so like I said, the practical impact of this is pretty minimal. If everybody decided to be objectivist – or subjectivist – tomorrow, we would pretty much have exactly the same moral arguments we have today.

    But it is still the case that when we observe human behavior, we all tend to act regarding morality as though it is something much closer to how we think about our perception of color (a subjective perception of an underlying external objective reality) than how we think about our taste in color (a subjective feeling that is wholly personal and internal).

    No, we don’t. When I see a beautiful woman, I really believe she is beautiful… but I don’t imagine she matches up with some transcendental standard for beauty from somewhere. Nor do I think that some comedian aligns with an objective humor standard when she cracks me up – I think it is my reaction to somebody who is funny. And when I am morally offended by somebody’s actions, it doesn’t occur to me that this is because morality is a real thing that exists in the world; it seems like it is my own reaction to some human action I’ve witnessed. (Please do not go on to imagine that humor and morality are the same thing and should thus engender the same reaction and willingness to intercede in others’ behaviors, OK?)

    I am responding to this. Specifically, I am responding to the claim that whether or not subjective opinions reflect objective truth is completely moot. It obviously isn’t moot to the vast majority of us, as any fair observation of human behavior will reveal.

    Actually the point you just made is moot, since majority opinion doesn’t establish the objective truth of the matter.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  216. 216
    Phinehas says:

    RDF:

    Phin: We subjectively perceive color, and yet there is an underlying objective reality (wavelengths, as you’ve said) behind our perception. Is this really controversial?

    RDF: Yes – read philosophy of color. Then drop color from this discussion.

    I’m sorry, but did I miss where you were appointed as a moderator? If you would be so kind as to leave to the moderators what is and is not out-of-bounds for discussion, I would appreciate it. I also think you’ll find this sort of bullying tactic doesn’t win you many debates.

    What part of what I said about color is controversial? That the perception of color is subjective? Or that the wavelengths that we perceive as color exist objectively?

    In reading about the philosophy of color, I came across the following:

    It is held by many contemporary experts and authorities on color. S. K. Palmer, a leading psychologist and cognitive scientist, writes:

    People universally believe that objects look colored because they are colored, just as we experience them. The sky looks blue because it is blue, grass looks green because it is green, and blood looks red because it is red. As surprising as it may seem, these beliefs are fundamentally mistaken. Neither objects nor lights are actually ‘colored’ in anything like the way we experience them. Rather, color is a psychological property of our visual experiences when we look at objects and lights, not a physical property of those objects or lights. The colors we see are based on physical properties of objects and lights that cause us to see them as colored, to be sure, but these physical properties are different in important ways from the colors we perceive. (Palmer 1999, p. 95)

    Do you find Palmer’s assessment controversial? In what way?

    Do you think there is an “underlying objective reality” to all of our perceptions? Beauty? Humor?

    Of course not. Else why would I draw the distinction? Humans certainly do not behave as though there is an underlying objective reality to all of our perceptions. That is my point.

    And when I am morally offended by somebody’s actions, it doesn’t occur to me that this is because morality is a real thing that exists in the world; it seems like it is my own reaction to some human action I’ve witnessed.

    OK. And when I feel terror at the sight of my son wandering toward a busy street, it doesn’t occur to me that this is because automobiles have objective qualities like mass and velocity; it seems like it is an instinctual reaction to what I am witnessing. And yet, if automobiles did not have objective qualities like mass and velocity, my reaction would make little sense.

    (Please do not go on to imagine that humor and morality are the same thing and should thus engender the same reaction and willingness to intercede in others’ behaviors, OK?)

    Why? Will you attempt to moderate my imagination as well as what topic I can discuss?

    Phin: I am responding to this. Specifically, I am responding to the claim that whether or not subjective opinions reflect objective truth is completely moot. It obviously isn’t moot to the vast majority of us, as any fair observation of human behavior will reveal.

    RDF; Actually the point you just made is moot, since majority opinion doesn’t establish the objective truth of the matter.

    And your objection is moot because I am not looking to establish “the objective truth,” but rather to present evidence toward making an inference to the best explanation. For me, the way we humans consistently behave as though morality is our perception of an underlying objective truth should count as evidence that such an objective truth may exist.

  217. 217
    RDFish says:

    Hi Phinehas,

    I’m sorry, but did I miss where you were appointed as a moderator?…I also think you’ll find this sort of bullying tactic doesn’t win you many debates.

    Relax, Phinehas! No need to tell the teacher, I wasn’t trying to bully you – just trying to keep us on topic.

    But hey, if you’d like to debate color perception instead of morality, that’s fine. As it happens you’re wrong about color too.

    What part of what I said about color is controversial? That the perception of color is subjective? Or that the wavelengths that we perceive as color exist objectively?

    To start with, as I’ve explained many times now, we do not simply perceive wavelengths as color. That is only one aspect of a very complex process with many other factors involved, including background, adaptation, brightness, shape, size, saturation, prior experience with and expectations regarding colored objects, and so on. Some of these things that determine what color we see an object as come from the object outside of our heads, and some of them are purely inside of our heads. Beyond that are a number of philosophical questions, including that great one that many curious nine-year-olds figure out: How do I know that the perception that I call “red” is the same thing you call “red”? Beyond that, I’ve already provided several citations in this thread and the last one explaining all of the various theories and controversies regarding color perception. I don’t feel like looking them up again.

    People universally believe that objects look colored because they are colored, just as we experience them. The sky looks blue because it is blue, grass looks green because it is green, and blood looks red because it is red. As surprising as it may seem, these beliefs are fundamentally mistaken. Neither objects nor lights are actually ‘colored’ in anything like the way we experience them. Rather, color is a psychological property of our visual experiences when we look at objects and lights, not a physical property of those objects or lights. The colors we see are based on physical properties of objects and lights that cause us to see them as colored, to be sure, but these physical properties are different in important ways from the colors we perceive. (Palmer 1999, p. 95)

    Do you find Palmer’s assessment controversial? In what way?

    He over-simplifies a bit, but as far as he goes it wouldn’t have been controversial in 1999 – at that time many of the subtle ways that psychological factors can affect color perception hadn’t been studied yet.

    Ok then! Have we talked enough about color now? Can we get back to why you’re wrong about moral theory instead?

    OK. And when I feel terror at the sight of my son wandering toward a busy street, it doesn’t occur to me that this is because automobiles have objective qualities like mass and velocity; it seems like it is an instinctual reaction to what I am witnessing. And yet, if automobiles did not have objective qualities like mass and velocity, my reaction would make little sense.

    And we react to rape and murder – because rape and murder are as real as automobiles. It’s this objective moral code that you keep referring to that we don’t believe in, and we don’t need to, because our moral reactions make sense already – just as our response to beauty does.

    Come on, you can see this, right? Just because men respond to women doesn’t mean that “beauty” is objectively real – the woman is real and we perceive her as beautiful. Likewise, just because people respond to murder doesn’t mean “immorality” is objectively real – the murder is real and we perceive it as immoral.

    RDF: (Please do not go on to imagine that humor and morality are the same thing and should thus engender the same reaction and willingness to intercede in others’ behaviors, OK?)
    PHINEHAS: Why? Will you attempt to moderate my imagination as well as what topic I can discuss?

    Touchy, touchy! I’m just trying to save us some time by anticipating bad arguments that I’ve answered here many times already. Again, be my guest: Repeat this silly confusion to your heart’s content 🙂

    And your objection is moot because I am not looking to establish “the objective truth,” but rather to present evidence toward making an inference to the best explanation. For me, the way we humans consistently behave as though morality is our perception of an underlying objective truth should count as evidence that such an objective truth may exist.

    There are two problems with this strategy. The first is that humans do not consistently behave as though morality is something that exists objectively, outside of thoughts and behaviors, so I guess that makes your argument sort of a non-starter. Rather, they act as though they have reactions to various circumstances, and they don’t really have any idea whether or not morality is objective, or what that even means. They call things “right” and “wrong”, but they also call things “funny” and “beautiful”, and even you agree that those things don’t exist objectively (although oddly enough StephenB here said the beauty actually does exist objectively… go figure!)

    The second problem with your argument, of course, is that even if lots of people agreed that morality was objective, that wouldn’t mean that morality was objective. You would need some way of demonstrating the truth of that proposition, not just the fact that lots of people believed it. After all, lots of people believe that color is simply our subjective experience of the objective property of EM wavelengths!

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  218. 218
    faded_Glory says:

    Phinehas,

    Consider a particular car. Person A might say it is a big car (because he only needs a car for himself). Person B might say it is a small car (because he needs it for his family of 6).

    The car being big or small are subjective perceptions.

    The crucial difference between examples like this and morality, is that persons A and B can actually go and measure the car, and they will agree on their findings to within a very small error bar. The size of the car is an objective quantity.

    With morality, we cannot measure anything beyond the perceptions. We don’t have a scale of goodness – badness separate from what people think.

    Now, I grant that there might be such a scale somewhere (where???) that we are unable to access because of our human limitations. However, even if this is the case, it is moot, because we have no way to decide where on this scale a particular action sits.

    All we have is our individual perceptions and opinions, and these are subjective.

    fG

  219. 219
    Eugen says:

    “The sane man knows that he has a touch of the beast, a touch of the devil, a touch of the saint, a touch of the citizen. Nay, the really sane man knows that he has a touch of the madman. But the materialist’s world is quite simple and solid, just as the madman is quite sure he is sane.”
    –G.K. Chesterton

  220. 220
    Phinehas says:

    fG:

    The crucial difference between examples like this and morality, is that persons A and B can actually go and measure the car, and they will agree on their findings to within a very small error bar. The size of the car is an objective quantity.

    What if we were talking about dogs A and B instead of persons? Unfortunately, dogs A and B do not have the ability to measure the car. So, obviously, the size of the car can no longer be an objective quantity?

    Now, I grant that there might be such a scale somewhere (where???) that we are unable to access because of our human limitations. However, even if this is the case, it is moot, because we have no way to decide where on this scale a particular action sits.

    Evidently, we also lack the imagination to conceive of a case where what we can or cannot decide does not define what is or is not objectively true. In other words, you only remain trapped inside your subjectivity because you are a subjectivist. You can conceive of none greater than you with the capability to give objectivity to what you cannot.

    I mean no offense by this, but you are like a dog who, because he does not know how to measure a car and cannot imagine that a human does, concludes that a car’s size cannot be an objective quality. You know you shouldn’t run in the street, but don’t realize that someone with an understanding of the mass and velocity of automobiles trained you to react the way you do.

  221. 221
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Objective moral codes are external to the person. They’re not contained within individual opinions alone, as subjective morals are.

    Yes, this is all true simply by definition of “objectivism” and “subjectivism”.

    Good. We’re talking about moral systems – objectivism and subjectivism.

    Objective codes are expressed publicly. They can be referenced, analyzed, compared and accepted or not.

    This is also true of subjective codes – subjective morality is also articulated of course.

    I have never seen where I could reference a subjective moral code.

    They’re fixed codes.

    No, they evolve just like subjective codes. There have been many objective codes with many revisions.

    There are exceptions, but in general they’re fixed. When they’re revised, one can trace, justify and evaluate the revision. Not true of subjective morality.

    Philosophical schools have no power to make some moral code objectively true. Anyone can debate their moral views.

    We’re talking about the difference between subjective and objective morality. The question of whether either or both can be proven “true” is different. We can, however, determine if one is more consistent or “better”. We cannot evaluate subjective morality against an external standard, for itself, since its standard is the individual.

    or defended by the quality of the authority (a prophet or religious teacher speaking for God),

    The Argument from Authority is a fallacy.

    This is not an argument from authority but an evaluation of moral authority. Subjective morality places all the authority on the individual. Objective morality places authority external to the individual (it could be logic, rationality, revelation, moral quality of a leader, etc).

    …or defended by its universality (conscience).

    Consensus doesn’t make something objectively right.

    If someone is arguing that there is one, objectively true moral code, that’s different than my argument.

    Subjective morals come only from the individual as the highest authority.

    The Argument from Authority is a fallacy.

    Evaluation of moral authority, not argument from authority.

    They need not be consistent or even defended rationally.

    Yes they do, because others will be evaluating them and discussing them.

    No. Subjective morals are determined by the individual and through the authority of the individual. What the subjectivist determines is morally good, is in fact morally good for that individual. This cannot be evaluated or discussed within subjectivism. It just is what it is.

    SA They cannot be accessed or evaluated or compared since they reside with the individual.

    RDF What could you possibly mean by this? Subjectivists speak and write down their ideas just like objectivists do! We even discuss them on internet forums!

    ]

    Let’s clarify.
    Subjective morality is determined by the individual by the authority of the individual. What the subjectivist decides is morally good, is morally good for him. That cannot be evaluated.
    A subjective morality cannot be accessed because the reasons each act is considered moral is individual and there’s no way to determine right or wrong. It just is.
    If you say puppy-torture is morally good, then it is morally good within subjectivism.
    You need no reason other than your own authority decided it.

    If you say, “I choose this moral code because it is logical”, that is not subjectivism. That’s objective morality – you’re referencing an external standard (Logic) to base your morals on. Subjectivism is not justified by external values – only the internal decision of the individual.

    One subjectivist cannot say to another, “what you decided is morally good is actually bad”. Because the decision on what is morally good or bad belongs to the individual.

    No one can access the personal, subjective decisions within subjectivism. A person can say “I will make up a moral reason for every event at the time it happens” and that is perfectly consistent with subjectivism.

    There is no objective moral code that holds torturing puppies is a moral good (or none I know of).

    I don’t know any subjectivists who think this either – do you?

    People torture puppies. In subjective morality that can be perfectly morally good. There are very likely some subjectivists who see no problem with puppy-torture. Those are the people who can do such things – and subjectivists must accept that it is morally good behavior for anyone who decides such.

    If you showed me a subjectivist who argued this, I would decide it reflects a perfectly horrible moral standard that conflicts with everything I believe. Just like you would.

    You’d be incorrect here. If I showed you a subjectivist who decided that torture was good, you would be required to accept that as morally good for that subjectivist. You couldn’t say, “what you decided as morally good for you is actually bad”. You have no standard to judge that. All the authority is in the individual — not in logic, reason or your own emotional response. All of that is irrelevant.
    The subjectivist says “torture is morally good” – then it is morally good for that person. You have to accept that fact.

    I don’t think most people research moral theory at all,

    This not about most people – but two moral systems.

    You are certainly entitled to your personal religious beliefs.

    Telling the truth is an objective moral value. It’s not a moral system, but it’s an objective moral value within an objective system.

  222. 222
    Phinehas says:

    RDF:

    And we react to rape and murder – because rape and murder are as real as automobiles.

    If that we react at all were the issue, you might have a point. But it isn’t, and you don’t.

    Come on, you can see this, right? Just because men respond to women doesn’t mean that “beauty” is objectively real – the woman is real and we perceive her as beautiful. Likewise, just because people respond to murder doesn’t mean “immorality” is objectively real – the murder is real and we perceive it as immoral.

    What are you going on about? Who has claimed that subjective feelings do not evoke a response? Who has claimed that morality is objective because it evokes a response where subjective feelings do not?

    The point is the way we respond, and the way we respond to rape and murder is consistently different than the way we respond to beauty. We do not lock people up because they disagree with our subjective feelings about beauty. You seem to think that “morality” has some quality about it that justifies locking people up. I agree. I describe that quality as an objective standard of right and wrong. You avoid describing that quality at all or explaining how it could have originated while waving your hands and pretending you’ve made some sort of argument. You haven’t.

    But perhaps morality merely emerged from the goo along with everything else. Poof. It now has the magical quality of giving us the right (?) to compel others (??) to comply with our own strongly held feelings, just as though our feelings were somehow objectively superior to their own. At least, we feel very strongly that it gives us this right. And by, “feel very strongly,” we mean, “are experiencing certain chemical reactions in a brain that evolved by fortuitous chance and circumstance.” How tiresome it must be to constantly suppress the truth in order to maintain such a fragile house of intellectual cards. How very wearying.

  223. 223
    RDFish says:

    Hi Silver Asiatic,

    I have never seen where I could reference a subjective moral code.

    You could reference mine if you’d like. Or reference your own subjectively chosen moral code.

    There are exceptions, but in general they’re fixed. When they’re revised, one can trace, justify and evaluate the revision. Not true of subjective morality.

    Of course that’s true of subjective morality. My moral codes have remained very stable, but there are some changes I’ve made, and I could discuss those with you if you’d like. This is true for most people.

    We’re talking about the difference between subjective and objective morality.

    Yes, and whether or not objective morality exists in the first place, and if so, whether anyone can know what it might be.

    We can, however, determine if one is more consistent or “better”.

    We can discuss our viewpoints, but how would you determine that some moral precept you hold is “better” than mine, if we disagree about what the term “better” refers to in the first place? One might think it means “the greatest good for the greatest number” and another might think it means “that which avoids the most suffering” and another might mean “that which most faithfully serves our Lord” and so on.

    This is not an argument from authority but an evaluation of moral authority.

    That is exactly the argument from authority – you argue that one position is held by someone with greater authority and another. It is a fallacy (look it up if you’d like).

    Subjective morality places all the authority on the individual. Objective morality places authority external to the individual (it could be logic, rationality, revelation, moral quality of a leader, etc).

    If you think that, say, utilitarianism is an “authority” then you are stretching the meaning of the term (it normally refers to people or organizations in this sense). Once you argue that your morality is objective because your moral leader says it is, you have committed a straightforward fallacy of argument by authority.

    No. Subjective morals are determined by the individual and through the authority of the individual.

    Yes, but that doesn’t imply they can’t be evaluated or discussed of course.

    What the subjectivist determines is morally good, is in fact morally good for that individual.

    This is a tautology – the same is true for the objectivist. It’s like saying “what the subjectivist determines to be beautiful is beautiful for the individual” – it’s trivially and obviously true.

    This cannot be evaluated or discussed within subjectivism. It just is what it is.

    Huh? I talk about what I think is right and wrong all the time, and why I think those things. Who says subjectivists can’t do this – some authority of yours?

    Subjective morality is determined by the individual by the authority of the individual.

    It’s not about authority for the subjectivist. People have moral perceptions, and that’s that.

    What the subjectivist decides is morally good, is morally good for him. That cannot be evaluated.

    Says you, but as it happens, there is a gigantic literature of moral theory where both objectivists and subjecivists evaluate their own and each other’s moral codes. I really can’t understand how you can think otherwise.

    A subjective morality cannot be accessed because the reasons each act is considered moral is individual and there’s no way to determine right or wrong.

    Exactly the same as an objectivist of course: The reason you hold to one moral code or another is individual and there’s no (objective) way to determine if it is right or wrong.

    It just is.

    And so is yours.

    If you say puppy-torture is morally good, then it is morally good within subjectivism. You need no reason other than your own authority decided it.

    If you say your objective morality condones puppy torture, then it is morally good within objectivism. You need no reason other than your own authority decided to adhere to it.

    Don’t you see? Subjectivists cut out the middle man, as it were. Why should I believe the morality you tell me to believe? I can see the difference between right and wrong just as well as you can, and I can discuss and evaluate different moral issues as well as you can – so why do I need to find some book or religion where the morality seems to match up with mine and then say that is my “objective” moral code? It doesn’t change anything, it just makes you think that your moral code is superior because it is “objective”. It isn’t.

    If you say, “I choose this moral code because it is logical”, that is not subjectivism.

    I don’t think any moral code is “logical” – actual logic can’t begin to encompass the complexity of morality. Nobody can justify their morality by reference to pure logic, try as you might. If you disagree, show me in logical notation how you decide if homosexuality is immoral (and don’t forget to objectively justify your choice of moral axioms).

    One subjectivist cannot say to another, “what you decided is morally good is actually bad”.

    Of course not, because what you mean by “actually” here is “objectively”!

    Because the decision on what is morally good or bad belongs to the individual.

    Just like the decision of what purportedly “objective” moral code the objectivist adheres to. Are you going to tire of this eventually?

    No one can access the personal, subjective decisions within subjectivism. A person can say “I will make up a moral reason for every event at the time it happens” and that is perfectly consistent with subjectivism.

    And the objectivist can say “I will adopt a new objective moral code for every event at the time it happens” and that is perfectly consistent with objectivism. (But of course nobody does any of these things – because both of us have innate moral sentiments and can’t really just choose to perceive something moral or immoral on the spot.)

    SA: There is no objective moral code that holds torturing puppies is a moral good (or none I know of).
    RDF: I don’t know any subjectivists who think this either – do you?
    SA: People torture puppies.

    Objectivists torture puppies just as often as subjectivists.

    In subjective morality that can be perfectly morally good.

    Only in a psychopath. And there are plenty of psychopaths who have claimed their morality is objectively true. Really – you can’t win this way.

    There are very likely some subjectivists who see no problem with puppy-torture.
    Those are the people who can do such things – and subjectivists must accept that it is morally good behavior for anyone who decides such.

    Now you are saying that subjectivists are the ones who would torture puppies, which is simply a very nasty lie. Isn’t lying against your moral code? It is against mine.

    RDF: If you showed me a subjectivist who argued this, I would decide it reflects a perfectly horrible moral standard that conflicts with everything I believe.
    SA: You’d be incorrect here.

    Sorry, but you have no authority to tell me that I am incorrect about this. I perceive puppy torture to be perfectly horrible – it causes deliberate suffering to an innocent creature, which I find morally repugnant in the extreme. Don’t you?

    If I showed you a subjectivist who decided that torture was good, you would be required to accept that as morally good for that subjectivist.

    I would not be required to accept anything at all, any more than you would. I would think that person was a psychopath, just like you would. I would say he violates my moral principles, just like you would. But then you would go on to say that your moral principles are objective and mine aren’t because there is some authority who says so, and I say “nonsense”.

    You couldn’t say, “what you decided as morally good for you is actually bad”.

    When you use the word “actually”, you mean “objectively”. Subjectivists don’t think that moral percepts are objective.

    You have no standard to judge that.

    Of course I do – just like you, we have our subjective perception of right and wrong. The only difference is that you pretend that your morality is somehow objective, while I don’t.

    I’m hoping all this repetition will help you see that simply adopting some particular moral code – no matter what the code is based upon – doesn’t mean that your morality is objective. Utilitarianism is an objective standard, but I think it is not a good moral code because it leads to acts that I see as immoral, so I do not adhere to utilitarianism. If I chose that moral code I could tell you that my morality is objective, but it wouldn’t really be – it would just be my subjective choice to adhere to this particular moral code. Same with you.

    Telling the truth is an objective moral value.

    If you believe in that particular moral precept, I wouldn’t go around saying that subjectivists are the people who torture puppies 😉

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  224. 224
    RDFish says:

    Hi Phinehas,

    The point is the way we respond, and the way we respond to rape and murder is consistently different than the way we respond to beauty.

    All of our responses to all of our perceptions are different of course. Otherwise we’d try to eat beautiful women and mate with doughnuts (hey, you know what I mean).

    We do not lock people up because they disagree with our subjective feelings about beauty.

    COME ON! We don’t laugh when we taste something sour, or run away when we see something green, or attack something because it is beautiful, or avoid things that we perceive as fresh, or embrace things that are disgusting, and so on. Rather, we seek out beauty, eat things that are sweet, laugh at things that are funny, avoid things that are disgusting, and so on. And we also try to prevent or mitigate things we find immoral.

    You seem to think that “morality” has some quality about it that justifies locking people up.

    If by “justifies” you mean “objectively justifies”, then no of course that is not what I think. Neither of us can objecively justify that.

    I describe that quality as an objective standard of right and wrong. You avoid describing that quality at all

    Nonsense – I describe that as a subjective moral standard of right and wrong of course!?!?

    …or explaining how it could have originated…

    How does “explaining how it could have originated” have anything to do with what we are talking about? If person X decides something is objectively true that makes it true, but if person Y decides it then it doesn’t count? Come now, don’t be coy – just say what you mean here 🙂

    …while waving your hands and pretending you’ve made some sort of argument. You haven’t.

    Hahahahahahahahahaha

    But perhaps morality merely emerged from the goo along with everything else. Poof.

    Sorry, but you haven’t explained why this is relevant.

    It now has the magical quality of giving us the right (?) to compel others (??) to comply with our own strongly held feelings, just as though our feelings were somehow objectively superior to their own.

    Complete strawman, Phinehas. On the contrary, my position is that that nobody’s morality is any more objective than anyone else’s. You are the one who considers your moral code to be superior because it supposedly is objective while others’ aren’t.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  225. 225
    faded_Glory says:

    Phinehas:

    What if we were talking about dogs A and B instead of persons? Unfortunately, dogs A and B do not have the ability to measure the car. So, obviously, the size of the car can no longer be an objective quantity?

    No I am getting curious – how do you decide if something is objective or not? I would do something like the following. First, I would consider if it is beyond reasonable doubt that the thing in question has an independent existence outside my own mind. If I have any doubts about that, I would check if the thing can, at least in in principle, be observed and measured by myself and the vast majority of people, and whether their observations and measurements would agree within reasonable margins.

    Given the heated debates about subjective/objective morality, I do not think it beyond reasonable doubt that morality is objective. Therefore, I seek to observe and measure it, and guess what? There is nothing there.

    That is roughly what I would do, without putting too much thought into it. How would you go about it?

    Evidently, we also lack the imagination to conceive of a case where what we can or cannot decide does not define what is or is not objectively true. In other words, you only remain trapped inside your subjectivity because you are a subjectivist. You can conceive of none greater than you with the capability to give objectivity to what you cannot.

    You say this right after I said:

    “Now, I grant that there might be such a scale somewhere (where???) that we are unable to access because of our human limitations.”

    Do you even read my posts before you reply??

    I mean no offense by this, but you are like a dog who, because he does not know how to measure a car and cannot imagine that a human does, concludes that a car’s size cannot be an objective quality. You know you shouldn’t run in the street, but don’t realize that someone with an understanding of the mass and velocity of automobiles trained you to react the way you do.

    You now owe me one gratuitous insult 🙂

    Anyway, you haven’t explained how the fact that we can’t access the proposed objective morality doesn’t make it moot. It simply makes no difference if it exists or not, if we can’t consult it to guide our actions.

    fG

  226. 226
    Silver Asiatic says:

    RDF

    SA I have never seen where I could reference a subjective moral code.

    RDF You could reference mine if you’d like. Or reference your own subjectively chosen moral code.

    Let’s get agreement, if possible.
    There’s a difference between a subjective moral code and an objective one.
    A subjective code is established and chosen for a subjective reason and is based on the authority of the individual.
    An objective code is established and chosen for reasons external to the individual. It references a standard which is independent from the authority of the individual.

    Agreed?

    Anyone can reference several objective moral codes.
    Aristotle’s code of virtue
    The Way of Shinto
    Catholic Moral Teachings
    Orthodox Judiasm’s Moral Code
    Stoicism
    Epicureanism
    and many others

    These objective moral codes are social in nature.
    They reference a standard and authority that is external to the individual.

    Subjectivism references a standard and authority that is the individual alone.

    Of course that’s true of subjective morality. My moral codes have remained very stable, but there are some changes I’ve made, and I could discuss those with you if you’d like. This is true for most people.

    Terminology:
    “Moral systems” – Subjectivism vs Objective Morality.
    “Moral code” – a code of values within the system
    “Moral values” – the individual human acts described within the code

    So, you wouldn’t say you have “moral codes” – you have a single moral code, within subjectivism. In your moral code, you have several moral values – definitions of what is morally good and what is morally bad.

    If you’ve published your subjective moral code somewhere, that would be unusual – but that alone doesn’t make it objective (although it’s a step towards objectivity).

    Yes, and whether or not objective morality exists in the first place, and if so, whether anyone can know what it might be.

    I didn’t realize you were debating whether objective codes exist. We can observe objective codes and reference them. They’re given based on an authority external to the individual. They can be chosen for subjective reasons (“I prefer this code because I determine it’s what I want”) or objective reasons (“I choose to be bound by this code because it has authority that transcends my own personal preferences”).

    If we disagree here, there’s little sense in going forward. We should sort this out first and try to come to an agreement.

    We can discuss our viewpoints, but how would you determine that some moral precept you hold is “better” than mine, if we disagree about what the term “better” refers to in the first place? One might think it means “the greatest good for the greatest number” and another might think it means “that which avoids the most suffering” and another might mean “that which most faithfully serves our Lord” and so on.

    When evaluating objective moral codes, the nature and quality of the authority is paramount. Morality is a function of authority – since it involves submission and judgement and consequences. It’s like civil law – the law is binding by its authority.

    It’s similar to evaluating the nature and quality of religious revelation. We look at the authority of the prophet and that helps us understand the value of the revelation given.

    This is not an argument from authority but an evaluation of moral authority.

    That is exactly the argument from authority – you argue that one position is held by someone with greater authority and another. It is a fallacy (look it up if you’d like).

    Yes, I did look it up and you’re not correct here:

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/A....._authority

    An argument from authority, when correctly applied, can be a valid and sometimes essential part of an argument that requests judgement or input from a qualified or expert source. The operation of the common law would be impossible without it, for example.

    Frequently, however, it is a logical fallacy consisting of an appeal to authority, but on a topic outside of the authority’s expertise[2] or on a topic on which the authority is not disinterested (aka. the authority is biased). Almost any subject has an authority on every side of the argument, even where there is generally agreed to be no argument.

    We’ve said nothing about whether one authority or the other is better or worse, but only that there is a difference:

    Subjectivism: authority in the individual alone
    Objectivism: authority in a standard external to the individual (rationality, logic, universality, authoritative teaching, revelation)

    If you think that, say, utilitarianism is an “authority” then you are stretching the meaning of the term (it normally refers to people or organizations in this sense).

    It’s a reference or standard external to the individual.

    A Utilitarianism is the standard by which to measure morals
    B This action X does not align with utilitarianism
    C X is not a morally valid option.

    That’s an objective standard. It’s not subjectivism.
    Yes, the term “authority” is a stretch, but it means “standard by which the action is judged”.

    What the subjectivist determines is morally good, is in fact morally good for that individual.

    This is a tautology – the same is true for the objectivist. It’s like saying “what the subjectivist determines to be beautiful is beautiful for the individual” – it’s trivially and obviously true.

    It is not true for the objectivist.
    What the objective moral code says is moral is what is morally good for the individual. The individual’s personal preference may disagree with the objective moral code he has chosen to bind himself to.
    A Christian, for example, may want to commit adultery and even think there is nothing wrong with it. But he won’t (in this example) because he also wants to be a Christian and he accepts the authority of his religion.
    So, his subjective view conflicts with the objective moral code he has chosen.

    Huh? I talk about what I think is right and wrong all the time, and why I think those things. Who says subjectivists can’t do this – some authority of yours?

    The reason you think something is right or wrong is held within your own personal notions. Your personal notions, under subjectivism, simply are what they are. They do not need to be consistent or even rational. You decided that X is morally good. Therefore, X is morally good for you.
    If I was a subjectivist, I would have to accept that. I can’t tell you that your personal views do not meet an objective standard and are thus “wrong”.

    Subjective morality is determined by the individual by the authority of the individual.

    It’s not about authority for the subjectivist. People have moral perceptions, and that’s that.

    The determination of what is right and what is wrong is an intellectual process that requires judgement. When there is judgement, there is the authority to judge.

    The reason you hold to one moral code or another is individual and there’s no (objective) way to determine if it is right or wrong.

    Here you’re adding “determine if it is right or wrong” to the discussion.

    If you say your objective morality condones puppy torture, then it is morally good within objectivism. You need no reason other than your own authority decided to adhere to it.

    Sentence 1 = correct.
    Sentence 2 = not really. My own authority decided to adhere to it because of the authority or nature of the code, not for my own subjective reason or preference.

    Therefore, that’s why I asked to see an objective moral code that condones puppy torture. I would be able to evaluate where it came from, what social group adheres to it, and what authority it references. It’s possible that such a code exists. I have never seen one. You could show me one if you know of it. Orthodox Judiasm, for example, an objective moral code condemns puppy torture as a moral evil.

    Subjectivists cut out the middle man, as it were.

    I understand and that’s perfectly consistent with subjectivism. There is the human act and the person. The individual is the highest authority and judges acts as morally good or bad. It’s a very simple system and easy to understand and implement.

    Why should I believe the morality you tell me to believe?

    You wouldn’t just believe what I tell you, of course.
    But you would want to reference objective standards rather than just subjectivism. So, you would seek a reason outside of yourself as the authority of morality.

    I can see the difference between right and wrong just as well as you can, and I can discuss and evaluate different moral issues as well as you can – so why do I need to find some book or religion where the morality seems to match up with mine and then say that is my “objective” moral code?

    The first problem I pointed to is that there is no basis by which to condemn the moral decisions of fellow-subjectivists. What a sujectivist decides is morally good for him, is morally good. You can’t point to an objective standard. So, this leads to confusion.
    Secondly, moral discernment is a process of judgement, defense, prosecution and reward/punishment.
    A problem with subjectivism is that the law-giver (the individual) is also the judge, prosecutor and defense attorney. The standard by which all acts are judged are the law-giver’s.

    Moral living is a ‘submission’ to the moral code. If the code is objective, the person can submit to it as the authority. When there’s a struggle of conscience, the objective code is fixed and there’s a choice to follow it or sin against it (or to get rid of it and choose another).

    But choosing an objective code because of the nature of its authority prevents a person from just making up his own morality. We don’t always know what is right or wrong so an external reference helps.

    It doesn’t change anything, it just makes you think that your moral code is superior because it is “objective”. It isn’t.

    I never said superior – we’re just discussing differences at present.

    I don’t think any moral code is “logical” – actual logic can’t begin to encompass the complexity of morality. Nobody can justify their morality by reference to pure logic, try as you might. If you disagree, show me in logical notation how you decide if homosexuality is immoral (and don’t forget to objectively justify your choice of moral axioms).

    I was just using logic as an example. You could use other qualities like that. Those are external standards.

    One subjectivist cannot say to another, “what you decided is morally good is actually bad”.

    Of course not, because what you mean by “actually” here is “objectively”!

    No, it’s not. You could drop the term ‘actually’ in what I said. Once again:

    “One subjectivist cannot say to another ‘what you decided is morally good is not morally good for you’.”

    That’s a contradiction within subjectivism.
    We already agreed: What the subjectivist decides is morally good is, in fact, morally good for him.

    Not true of objectivism:
    What the objectivist decides personally as morally good, may prove to be a moral evil within his objective moral code.

    Because the decision on what is morally good or bad belongs to the individual.

    Just like the decision of what purportedly “objective” moral code the objectivist adheres to.

    Not true, as above. The objectivist did not create the objective moral code. The objectivist may decide a certain act is morally good, but the later discover it is considered morally bad in his own objective code.

    That is a critical point.

    And the objectivist can say “I will adopt a new objective moral code for every event at the time it happens” and that is perfectly consistent with objectivism.

    There are a finite number of objective moral codes so that simply couldn’t happen.

    Objectivists torture puppies just as often as subjectivists.

    I asked you to show me an objective moral code that regards puppy-torture as morally good.
    At the same time, it’s simply a fact that puppy-torture is potentially a moral good for any subjectivist that decides it as such.

    In subjective morality that can be perfectly morally good.

    Only in a psychopath.

    Not at all. What the subjectivist considers morally good, is morally good for him. The act is judged by the subjectivist alone. Not by external standards.
    Calling them ‘psychopaths’ references psychiatry as an external standard by which to judge moral acts. Notice your reference to authority here. That’s obectivism.

    A Moral acts must conform to psychiatric norms
    B Puppy tortue is psycopathic
    C So puppy torture is immoral.

    That above, conflicts with subjectivism.
    The individual alone determines the moral value of actions, not psychiatry.

    And there are plenty of psychopaths who have claimed their morality is objectively true.

    With objective norms, you can’t merely claim it – you have to reference it objectively. The weakest form of objective morality references human conscience alone. That is the most difficult to access and gives only the most generalized norms.

    Now you are saying that subjectivists are the ones who would torture puppies, which is simply a very nasty lie. Isn’t lying against your moral code?

    You’re getting emotional and taking something personal here.
    Are you claiming “no subjectivists ever torture puppies”?
    I find that impossible to believe.

    I perceive puppy torture to be perfectly horrible – it causes deliberate suffering to an innocent creature, which I find morally repugnant in the extreme.

    That’s your personal norm. It is completely irrelevant to what another subjectivist decides. You can be appalled by whatever act, but if another subjectivist decides that act is morally good for him, you have to accept that it is morally good, under subjectivism.
    You can’t judge a fellow-subjectivist by your own standard. Otherwise, you’d be claiming your standard is objective. You’d be claiming yourself as an authority by which to judge others.
    You could do that, certainly – but not within subjectivism. You’d be referencing a standard – as if your own morality is an objective moral norm. You could do that but it would be very difficult to claim yourself as the authority and originator of an objective moral code.
    If you were a religious prophet, perhaps you could try that. If you were leading a unique philosophical school that developed a moral code based on a coherent rationality, and you had a social following – then you could do that also.

    Utilitarianism is an objective standard, but I think it is not a good moral code because it leads to acts that I see as immoral, so I do not adhere to utilitarianism.

    That analysis is different than subjectivism, but it’s correct. You’re judging the objective standard. Utilitarianism offers reasons for following it. If you accepted those reasons, you would accept the standard and conform or submit yourself to the moral code. If you encountered a conflict, you’d ask: “does this action conform with utilitarianism”? If not, you wouldn’t do the action. So, you’re acting in accord with an external standard. That would be consistent and something you could evaluate.
    If another utilitarianist did an action, you could judge that action also. You could say that it does not conform to the moral standard. That also would be consistent and correct.

    You can’t do that with subjectivism though.

    If you believe in that particular moral precept, I wouldn’t go around saying that subjectivists are the people who torture puppies 😉

    You added a small word to what I said: “the”.
    No, I didn’t say they are “the people who”.
    It’s not good to change what I said and then accuse me of lying.

    Let’s read again what I said, since you decided to make it personal:

    There are very likely some subjectivists who see no problem with puppy-torture.
    Those are the people who can do such things – and subjectivists must accept that it is morally good behavior for anyone who decides such.

    Where does that say “subjectivists are the people who torture puppies”?

    There’s no reason to attack me personally and attempt to win something by claiming I am morally bad. I’ve said nothing about you in that regard.

  227. 227
    RDFish says:

    Hi Silver Asiatic,

    A subjective code is established and chosen for a subjective reason and is based on the authority of the individual.

    No, not exactly. First, many subjectivists (including this one) don’t think that subjecive codes are established or chosen – rather, they are perceived. Second, in this view subjectivism does not involve the concept of moral authority at all, so it isn’t that a subjective code is based on the authority of the individual, but rather it is an aspect of the individual’s nature.

    An objective code is established and chosen for reasons external to the individual.

    No, I strongly disagree with this, and this is critical to our discussion. An objective code establishes some moral axioms that are external to people, such as that morality is based upon “the greatest good for the greatest number” or “that which God intends”, but it is then chosen for purely subjective reasons (e.g. “I find the consequences of utilitarianism to be terrible” or “I believe that there is a god who cares what people do”).

    If you’ve published your subjective moral code somewhere, that would be unusual – but that alone doesn’t make it objective (although it’s a step towards objectivity).

    I don’t understand why you think publication is relevant to objectivism or to our discussion.

    I didn’t realize you were debating whether objective codes exist. We can observe objective codes and reference them.

    The question is whether or not morality exists outside of people’s thoughts, not whether people have written down moral treatises that claim that it does. Objectivists think that if there were no human beings alive, there would still be a sense in which right and wrong would still exist. My position is that whether or not morality can be said to exist independently of human minds, we have no objective means with which to determine which morality is objectively true.

    They can be chosen for subjective reasons (“I prefer this code because I determine it’s what I want”) or objective reasons (“I choose to be bound by this code because it has authority that transcends my own personal preferences”).

    NO! This is a critical point worth repeating: One’s choice of moral codes is inevitably subjective, whether or not the morality one chooses is objectivist or subjectivist. This is because there is no objective foundation for chosing one moral code over another – only personal preference.

    If you say “I choose to be bound by this code because it has authority that transcends my own personal preferences”, you may be speaking of any one of an infinite number of codes that do not reference your preferences. You could choose to be bound by an objective code that holds “whatever causes the most pain to puppies is the greatest good”. That is a perfectly objective moral code, but your choice to adhere to that code would be subjective (and, in my view, a very terrible choice of moral codes).

    If we disagree here, there’s little sense in going forward. We should sort this out first and try to come to an agreement.

    Ok then – we disagree, so I’ll wait for your response.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  228. 228
    Mung says:

    RDFish: We – all of us – have only our subjective moral sensibilities to go on.

    Mung: That an objective fact, is it?

    RDFish: You have no justification for saying any of these things – they’re all just your subjective opinion (and frankly bizarre).

    Mung: You’re making a statement that is objectively true?

    Not sure why anyone here so much as gives you the time of day. Your position is incoherent self-refuting nonsense. But forge ahead mr. fish i guy!

  229. 229
    Mung says:

    Don’t get me wrong, there’s an obvious place in nature for the clown fish. But does it know it’s a clown fish? Is there some moral obligation that ought to be attached to it’s pronouncements?

    I think not.

  230. 230
    Zachriel says:

    Mung: That an objective fact, is it?

    There’s no scientific evidence for the existence of an objective moral universe. Morality appears to be an expression of human sensibilities. Moral views vary from individual to individual, from culture to culture, and through history. Furthermore, there is evidence of moral sentiments in organisms related to humans, such as compassion, mourning, and a sense of fairness.

  231. 231
    jcfrk101 says:

    Language requires an obective and universal experience, to deny an objective experience is to undermine language, if words have no meaning than debate in general is pointless. So in practice anyone debating on this thread must accept an objective and universal experience.

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