Intelligent Design

Moral Subjectivism = Nazis Were Doing Good and We Shouldn’t Have Stopped Them

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Under moral subjectivism, good and bad are entirely subjective commodities.  This means that if I think a thing is right, it is as right as is possible for moral right to exist.  The principle of subjective morality authorizes an act as “morally good” if the person that performed the act believed it to be the right thing to do; that is the only framework available to moral subjectivism for an evaluation of “moral” and “immoral”.  It is strictly a relationship between the actor/believer and the act.
Therefore, as long as Hitler believed his actions right, and those who carried out his orders believed similarly, then to the full extent that the principle of moral subjectivism has to authorize anything as “moral” or “good”,  the holocaust was a good and moral event, and moral subjectivists must (rationally speaking) admit this. (I doubt they will, though.)

The way that moral relativists attempt to wiggle out of this is by saying that in their opinion, Hitler was behaving immorally.  Unfortunately, they have no rational basis for making this statement. It is a category error, a non-sequitur under moral subjectivism, offered as if there was some means by which to pass judgement on what others consider to be right.  Their principle necessarily endorses the actions of the Nazis as morally good as long as they (the Nazis) believed what they were doing was right; what anyone else thought or thinks is entirely irrelevant.  The most that the principle of moral subjectivism logically allows subjectivists to say is that gassing the Jews would not be morally good for them personally to do, but that it was morally good for the Nazis to do.

Furthermore, since the principle of moral subjectivism offers no valid reason to intervene in the moral affairs of others (since it is entirely subjective and there is no objective obligation or authority to do so), and since moral relativists must admit that nothing morally wrong was occurring in the first place (in fact, only moral good was likely happening, since the Nazis believed what they were doing was right), they must hold that we should not have interfered with the Nazis.

Thus, moral subjectivism necessary means that the Nazis were doing good and we shouldn’t have stopped them.

103 Replies to “Moral Subjectivism = Nazis Were Doing Good and We Shouldn’t Have Stopped Them

  1. 1
    Barry Arrington says:

    From Phillip Johnson’s Nihilism and the End of Law :

    Yale Law Professor Arthur Leff expressed the bewilderment of an agnostic culture that yearns for enduring values in a brilliant lecture delivered at Duke University in 1979, a few years before his untimely death from cancer. The published lecture—titled “Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law”—is frequently quoted in law review articles, but it is little known outside the world of legal scholarship. It happens to be one of the best statements of the modernist impasse that I know. As Leff put it,

    I want to believe—and so do you—in a complete, transcendent, and immanent set of propositions about right and wrong, findable rules that authoritatively and unambiguously direct us how to live righteously. I also want to believe—and so do you—in no such thing, but rather that we are wholly free, not only to choose for ourselves what we ought to do, but to decide for ourselves, individually and as a species, what we ought to be. What we want, Heaven help us, is simultaneously to be perfectly ruled and perfectly free, that is, at the same time to discover the right and the good and to create it.

    The heart of the problem, according to Leff, is that any normative statement implies the existence of an authoritative evaluator. But with God out of the picture, every human becomes a “godlet”—with as much authority to set standards as any other godlet or combination of godlets. For example, if a human moralist says “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” he invites “the formal intellectual equivalent of what is known in barrooms and schoolyards as ‘the grand sez who?’“ Persons who want to commit adultery, or who sympathize with those who do, can offer the crushing rejoinder: What gives you the authority to prescribe what is good for me? As Leff explained,

    Putting it that way makes clear that if we are looking for an evaluation, we must actually be looking for an evaluator: some machine for the generation of judgments on states of affairs. If the evaluation is to be beyond question, then the evaluator and its evaluative processes must be similarly insulated. If it is to fulfill its role, the evaluator must be the unjudged judge, the unruled legislator, the premise maker who rests on no premises, the uncreated creator of values. . . . We are never going to get anywhere (assuming for the moment that there is somewhere to get) in ethical or legal theory unless we finally face the fact that, in the Psalmist’s words, there is no one like unto the Lord. . . . The so-called death of God turns out not to have been just His funeral; it also seems to have effected the total elimination of any coherent, or even more-than-momentarily convincing, ethical or legal system dependent upon finally authoritative, extrasystematic premises.

    . . .

    Here is how he concluded his 1979 lecture:

    All I can say is this: it looks as if we are all we have. Given what we know about ourselves, and each other, this is an extraordinarily unappetizing prospect; looking around the world, it appears that if all men are brothers, the ruling model is Cain and Abel. Neither reason, nor love, nor even terror, seems to have worked to make us “good,” and worse than that, there is no reason why anything should. Only if ethics were something unspeakable by us could law be unnatural, and therefore unchallengeable. As things stand now, everything is up for grabs.
    Nevertheless:
    Napalming babies is bad.
    Starving the poor is wicked.
    Buying and selling each other is depraved.
    Those who stood up and died resisting Hitler, Stalin, Amin, and Pol Pot—and General Custer too—have earned salvation.
    Those who acquiesced deserve to be damned.
    There is in the world such a thing as evil.
    [All together now:] Sez who?

    God help us.

  2. 2
    Mapou says:

    We need a solid definition of good and bad. Christians and others insist that there is no good without God or that we are born with an intuitive understanding of good and evil. But that is not a definition, sorry. There has to be a standard and the standard cannot be arbitrary.

  3. 3
    Alan Fox says:

    There is only subjective morality, William, no matter how hard you try to convince yourself you can reason to one. Sorry about that.

  4. 4
    Alan Fox says:

    There has to be a standard and the standard cannot be arbitrary.

    Why should the fact people make up and agree moral standards make it arbitrary. Consensus and experience are worth more than dogma.

  5. 5
    Mapou says:

    Alan Fox:

    Why should the fact people make up and agree moral standards make it arbitrary.

    Are you kidding me? Different groups of people will agree on different standards of morality. This is precisely why it’s subjective and arbitrary. The mafia, too, have their own standard of morality.

    There has to be an objective standard. I propose that the standard is unity: a house divided will fall. Morality is self-correcting, in my opinion. The conservation of unity is a spiritual law. You can call it karma, if you wish. It stipulates that every violation of the law will eventually be corrected. In other words, every debt will be repaid sooner or later. This is a firm doctrine in both Christian and Eastern religions. There is no getting around it.

  6. 6
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    And yet I cannot think of, and am fairly certain WJM could not identify, any people who actually hold the belief that he claims is a necessary consequence of moral relativism. Your spiteful attack is wishful thinking, not fact.

  7. 7
    Graham2 says:

    Lane Craig thinks its OK to kill children … it hastens their journey to heaven or some such nonsense. Is this the great morality-in-the-sky at work ?

  8. 8
    Graham2 says:

    And Craigs justification ?

    So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? … Not the children, for they inherit eternal life

    So I can kill anyone! I think Im getting the hang of this.

  9. 9
    vikingmom says:

    Thinking again the 1970s movie “Cabaret”.

    It’s Germany…in the early 30’s just before the Nazis took control.

    The Cabaret, with its always grotesque women performers, represents the post WW1 audience…cast adrift morally…Nothing matters…except to indulge oneself.

    Those who are morally adrift…face another danger. The self assured…those who have grabbed ahold of some belief system might devour those morally adrift.

    By the film’s end, the Nazis have taken over…”Cabaret” is definitely not a family film, but you can catch it late at nite (or watch it online when the kids are in bed).

    Those morally adrift…can be manipulated, bullied, even seduced…or enslaved…by those with a strong agenda.

    My comments do not “prove” there are moral absolutes. But the stakes are HIGH for people who so blithely discard moral absolutes.

    Those proclaiming “no moral absolutes” have cut their moral anchor…they are boats adrift…and the ideological UBoats – like the incredibly potent WW2 Wolfpacks…powered by people with a strong, seductive agenda–(such as the Nazis offered) could well seduce or sink those in their little cast-adrift boats of “self determination”.

    Which also explains…why some students, others latch onto a charismatic charmer like Dawkins. They are seduced into believing he is truly an honest truthseeker…which apparently he is not.

  10. 10
    Alan Fox says:

    mapou and vikingmom,

    Wishing there were a universal absolute code of ethics will not make it so. The UN charter on human rights is a more pragmatic approach, subjective but definitely not arbitrary.

  11. 11
    Graham2 says:

    VK: I think you are confusing ‘is’ and ‘ought’ (BA77, where are you when we need you?) Just because you dont like the consequences, doesnt make it so. Gravity does all sorts of nasty things to us, but it doesnt mean gravity is fictitious.

  12. 12

    And yet I cannot think of, and am fairly certain WJM could not identify, any people who actually hold the belief that he claims is a necessary consequence of moral relativism. Your spiteful attack is wishful thinking, not fact.

    The fact that self-proclaimed moral relativists rarely hold the beliefs that are the inescapable logical consequence of their premises, and rarely act as if moral relativism is true, only serves to demonstrate their hypocrisy and irrationality. It doesn’t turn my logical argument into “wishful thinking”.

  13. 13
    Barry Arrington says:

    Mapou: “We need a solid definition of good and bad.” Sez who?

    Alan Fox: “Consensus and experience are worth more than dogma.” Sez who?

    Graham2: “So I can kill anyone!” Who sez you can’t?

    Graham2, you are especially hypocritical, blithering on as you do about killing children when you are the one who insists that the killing of children is ultimately meaningless and that when you say it is “wrong” to kill a child all you mean is that it is your personal preference not to kill children, but you can think no reason other than your personal preference to refrain from doing so.

  14. 14
    Graham2 says:

    BA: My point was that similar words come from a (self proclaimed) authority on objective morality. Can you reconcile Craigs words with the point expressed in the OP ?

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    AF: It is obvious from the grotesque ad hominem laced strawman you have just made up to stand in for Dr Craig that you have no real answer to his substantial arguments on the many subjects he has spoken to. That speaks volumes. Further volumes are spoken by the substantial issue above, i.e. evolutionary materialism has no IS capable of bearing the weight of OUGHT, which grounds you require before you can legitimately characterise anything as good or evil, without being guilty of the worst sort of emotional manipulation substituted for a substantial case. KF

  16. 16
    Mapou says:

    Barry:

    Mapou: “We need a solid definition of good and bad.” Sez who?

    Sez I. That is, if we are to survive as a species. I just think that ultimate survival depends on unity and unity should be our moral code.

    As a Christian, I believe this is what Yahweh meant when he said, “I, the lord (elohim) am ONE” and I also believe this is what Jesus meant when he said, “Father, let them be ONE with us as we are ONE together.”

    Note that even though Yahweh calls himself the elohim (a plural Hebrew word that means the lords), he still considers himself ONE.

    Unity is the key to morality and ultimate survival, IMO.

  17. 17
    kairosfocus says:

    Pardon, it is G2 this time.

    PS: Those who genuinely struggle with issues of the deaths of innocents in war and the like and difficult texts such as are being used as the pivot to set up and knock over a strawman WLC — so much easier to deal with strawmen — may want to look here on, and here on the wider problem of evil. Given the entangled issues, there will be no easy answer.

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Before the side track game is allowed to succeed, let me say I don’t particularly like how WJM set up the discussion (having glanced at it). I much prefer Will Hawthorne’s summary:

    Assume (per impossibile) that atheistic naturalism [[= evolutionary materialism] is true. Assume, furthermore, that one can’t infer an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ [[the ‘is’ being in this context physicalist: matter-energy, space- time, chance and mechanical forces]. (Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.)

    Given our second assumption, there is no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer an ‘ought’. And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is. It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there’s no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action.

    Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it’s not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action . . . [[We see] therefore, for any action you care to pick, it’s permissible to perform that action. If you’d like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan ‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted’.

    For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don’t like this consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time.

    Now, we all know that at least some actions are really not permissible (for example, racist actions). Since the conclusion of the argument denies this, there must be a problem somewhere in the argument. Could the argument be invalid? No. The argument has not violated a single rule of logic and all inferences were made explicit.

    Thus we are forced to deny the truth of one of the assumptions we started out with. That means we either deny atheistic naturalism or (the more intuitively appealing) principle that one can’t infer ‘ought’ from [[a material] ‘is’.

    And in case the force of why this is needed is missed, Here is Dawkins in a 1995 Sci Am:

    Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This lesson is one of the hardest for humans to learn. We cannot accept that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous: indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose. . . . .

    In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference . . . . DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. [ “God’s Utility Function,” Sci. Am. Aug 1995, pp. 80 – 85.]

    With a track record like this and worse to defend, no wonder he resorted to caricaturing and smearing WLC as an excuse not to debate him on substantial issues.

    KF

  19. 19
    Graham2 says:

    KF: You spout all the usual jargon, but havent addressed Craigs actual words. Do you deny the quote ? (they are taken from his own web site)

    Its hardly a straw man, Craig really said that and (presumably) really means it.

  20. 20
    Mapou says:

    kairosfocus, quoting the dirt worshiper:

    DNA neither cares nor knows.

    So why does he care? And why does he know? He is made entirely of dirt and his DNA is just self-organized dirt, right? Heck, why did dirt care or know enough to self-organize in the first place?

    All dirt worshipers are stupid, IMO. I tell it like I see it.

  21. 21
    kairosfocus says:

    G2: Now, you are caricaturing me — about par for your course. What part of a linked chapter length discussion that onwards links serious discussions constitutes a dodge? Oh, I get it, I am not rising to your red herring led off to a strawman caricature soaked in ad hominems to be set alight to cloud, confuse, polarise and poison the original issue. Which was and is that subjectivism has not got a moral leg to stand on, especially when multiplied by evolutionary materialism or the like which have in them no foundational Is capable of carrying the weight of OUGHT. It seems that you must first and foremost resolve this, or stand exposed as unable to contest the charge of seeking to cynically manipulate moral sensibilities without having any basis on which to stand — other than might and manipulation make “right.” Which is exactly WJM’s concern in the OP, and as is better spelled out by Hawthorne, in ways that tellingly reflect on Dawkins in light of his 1995 remarks on the record. when you show signs of coming to grips with the foundational issue and when you show me that you have stood with the tragic figure, Gen Petain along the Sacred Way, or Eisenhower making a decision to commit airborne troops in the face of sobering numbers on likely casualties and also to bomb France in the run-up to D-Day, or Churchill and Roosevelt making decisions on bombing Germany, then we can talk on a realistic basis. Other than that, you are just playing sick rhetorical games. KF

  22. 22
    Graham2 says:

    KF: I dont want to go on forever, so just one more try: WLC is a well known figure and generally respected in this blog (he is frequently quoted, and his views certainly mirror yours). His statement goes absolutely straight to the core of the OP, but is violently at odds with same.

    I think if a widely admired/quoted authority figure can so clearly contradict the thrust of the OP, it is reasonable to ask why.

  23. 23
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    The fact that self-proclaimed moral relativists rarely hold the beliefs that are the inescapable logical consequence of their premises

    If moral relativists “rarely hold the beliefs that are the inescapable logical consequence of their premises,” then in what sense are they “inescapable logical consequences”?

    Your point seems to be that you believe MRs should believe “that the Nazis were doing good and we shouldn’t have stopped them.” Empirically, though, they don’t. If your analysis fails to conform to the real world at all–and I note you couldn’t identify anyone who actually believes the things you use to libel MRs–then your analysis is probably wrong.

    In fact, your analysis is internally inconsistent. I would say that MRs can and do believe that their own morals are correct, even if they also believe that there is no purely objective standard for selecting right from wrong. That doesn’t prevent an MR from wanting to enforce their own morals when appropriate.

    For example, as an MR I would say (unsurprisingly) that the Holocaust was wrong. Saying so wouldn’t have stopped the Nazis, because I can’t support that belief with any truly objective source and they would have disagreed with me. But why would that stop me from taking action based on my belief that the Holocaust was wrong? (That, by the way, is one thing we have in common. Despite your belief in “objective” morality, you couldn’t have cited a truly objective source that would have stopped the Holocaust. For objectivists and relativists alike, the only way to resolve the inevitable disagreements about morality is to resort to the same tools of persuasion: soap box, ballot box, ammo box, etc.)

    You are equating “my beliefs are not universal” with “your beliefs are just as good and valid as mine.” Those are not equivalent statements. I evaluate the moral beliefs of others through the lens of my own beliefs, as does every other human being I’ve ever met.

    There are many differences between your analysis of moral relativism and mine. One key difference is that mine matches up with the way actual people believe and behave, whereas yours does not.

    Shouting “Nazi!” over and over again does not make for a compelling argument, except to the choir.

  24. 24
    Barry Arrington says:

    Mapou: “We need a solid definition of good and bad.”
    Barry: “Sez who?”
    Mapou: “Sez I.”

    Exactly. Now go back and read comment 1. Then come back and tell me why I should care what you say.

  25. 25
    Mapou says:

    Barry:

    Exactly. Now go back and read comment 1. Then come back and tell me why I should care what you say.

    Well, in that case, you tell me why I should care what comment 1 says or anything else you might wish to say from now on, for that matter. Are we having a discussion or not? Explain thyself.

  26. 26
    Barry Arrington says:

    Pro Hac Vice: “If moral relativists ‘rarely hold the beliefs that are the inescapable logical consequence of their premises,’ then in what sense are they ‘inescapable logical consequences’?:

    What an odd question. Moral relativists spout premises that lead to the inescapable conclusion that there is no such thing as good and evil. They then lead their lives as if there is in fact such a thing as good and evil. In the face of the inevitable cognitive dissonance, they try to cope by employing various dissonance reduction strategies.

    Take Graham2, for example, his favorite dissonance reduction strategy is to change the subject by placing God in the dock vis-à-vis some of the stories in the Old Testament. It seems to work for him, because it always seems to keep him from having to follow the thread of his premises through to their ultimate conclusion, which, of course, is nihilism.

  27. 27
    Barry Arrington says:

    “Explain thyself.”

    Comment 1 explains the “grand sez who.” If you don’t understand how after you’ve read it, let me know and I will try to explain further.

  28. 28
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    Moral relativists spout premises that lead to the inescapable conclusion that there is no such thing as good and evil.

    I think you’re eliding an important word here: moral relativists take as a premise that there is no such thing as an objective standard for good and evil. Those are different beliefs. MRs obviously do, as you admit, often believe in good and evil. They (we) merely doubt that there is any truly objective standard for discriminating between the two.

    (This depends somewhat on your definition of “good” and “evil,” of course. I’m assuming that your definition doesn’t assume objectivity. If it does, then your argument is circular.)

    I think Graham2’s example gets at the meat of this conversation. If there is an objective statement of morality, what is it? The Bible? Even believers argue about how to interpret it, and it contains examples of conduct that is reprehensible to modern readers.

    I rarely see objectivists try to answer the question implicit in this discussion: what is your objective moral standard? What makes it objective? I think that any answer would be ultimately subjective.

  29. 29
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    A late edit made my comment confusing–I should have said you’re eliding some important words, not word.

  30. 30
    Barry Arrington says:

    Pro Hac Vice, I will answer your question if you will tell me how you answer the grand sez who question posed by Johnson and quoted in comment 1.

  31. 31
    Graham2 says:

    May I interject here … Barry, please dont do that: refuse to cooperate until the other party has jumped through your hoop. You seem to make a habit of this. Its very frustrating, and generally bad manners.

  32. 32

    If moral relativists “rarely hold the beliefs that are the inescapable logical consequence of their premises,” then in what sense are they “inescapable logical consequences”?

    Non-sequitur. People hold all sorts of irrational and poorly-thought-out beliefs. They even hold logically self-contradictory beliefs. People are in no way physically bound to believe that which logically implied by their fundamental premises.

    Your point seems to be that you believe MRs should believe “that the Nazis were doing good and we shouldn’t have stopped them.”

    No, my points are: (1) moral relativism, if held as true, leads to some necessary logical conclusions about moral statements; (2) people that call themselves moral relativists, for the most part, do not abide by or agree with those necessary logical conclusions, and instead hold moral beliefs that are logically irreconcilable with moral relativism.

    Just because you can believe that morality is relative, and also believe that the Nazis were immoral and also believe that you have the obligation and authority to intervene doesn’t mean those beliefs are all logically consistent.

    Empirically, though, they don’t. If your analysis fails to conform to the real world at all–and I note you couldn’t identify anyone who actually believes the things you use to libel MRs–then your analysis is probably wrong.

    Except my argument doesn’t depend on anyone believing that the Nazis were doing good. Whether or not any moral relativist actually believes that is entirely irrelevant to my argument.

    In fact, your analysis is internally inconsistent. I would say that MRs can and do believe that their own morals are correct, even if they also believe that there is no purely objective standard for selecting right from wrong. That doesn’t prevent an MR from wanting to enforce their own morals when appropriate.

    There is no physical law or property that prevents people from having all sorts of logically irreconcilable beliefs. Nothing prevents them from believing that morals are relative, and believing that the Nazis were immoral and that they have the authority to intervene. The fact that someone has these beliefs doesn’t mean the beliefs are logically consistent with each other; it just means a person has those beliefs. People often have irrational and inconsistent beliefs and behave hypocritically in relation to their beliefs.

    For example, as an MR I would say (unsurprisingly) that the Holocaust was wrong.

    You have no rational basis for making such a claim, as I have pointed out. Yes, you can say it; you can believe it; but moral relativism cannot logically justify such a statement or such a belief.

    But why would that stop me from taking action based on my belief that the Holocaust was wrong?

    People act irrationally and hypocritically all the time, which is what moral relativists are -irrational and hypocritical, at least when it comes to behavior in the real world.

    If they truly held morality to be subjective (IOW, lived as if that was true), they would no more try to stop moral behavior they disagreed with than they would act to stop a person from eating vanilla ice cream if they so chose, because it would just be a matter of personal preference.

    You are equating “my beliefs are not universal” with “your beliefs are just as good and valid as mine.” Those are not equivalent statements. I evaluate the moral beliefs of others through the lens of my own beliefs, as does every other human being I’ve ever met.

    If the final criteria for “good” and “valid” is what any individual happens to feel and believe (as you said, you evaluate other views through the lens of your own beliefs), then yes, that necessarily means that everyone’s moral beliefs are the equal of anyone else’s, because that is what they do as well.

    Just as my preference for chocolate pie is the equal of your preference for strawberry. They are both nothing but personal preferences. There is no rational basis by which you can meaningfully make the claim that my preference for chocolate pie is “less than” your preference, and that I should be prevented from eating it, or that I shouldn’t prefer chocolate pie.

    There are many differences between your analysis of moral relativism and mine. One key difference is that mine matches up with the way actual people believe and behave, whereas yours does not.

    Because people believe and behave a certain way doesn’t mean their beliefs are logically consistent. People can and do have irrational, even self-contradictory beliefs. That’s what I’m pointing out.

  33. 33
    Barb says:

    Alan writes,

    There is only subjective morality, William, no matter how hard you try to convince yourself you can reason to one. Sorry about that.

    Who says there is only subjective morality? Just because you don’t have an objective standard by which to live does not mean that one doesn’t exist. Logical fallacy.

    Why should the fact people make up and agree moral standards make it arbitrary. Consensus and experience are worth more than dogma.

    Consensus? Popular opinion should make moral decisions?
    The consensus in Nazi Germany was that Jews were subhuman creatures and should be wiped out. Was that a good moral decision?
    The consensus in Rwanda in 1994 was that one tribe, the Hutu, felt that another tribe, the Tutsi, should be exterminated. Was that a good moral decision based on consensus?

    I’ve never heard of anything so ridiculous in my life.
    Consensus is meaningless, especially when it comes to morality, as the above examples prove. Millions of people can have the same opinion…and they could all be wrong. Then what?

  34. 34

    I rarely see objectivists try to answer the question implicit in this discussion: what is your objective moral standard? What makes it objective? I think that any answer would be ultimately subjective.

    All answers to all questions are “ultimately subjective” because all sensory experience and interpretation thereof into models of the world is done from the subjective perspective. Subjectivity cannot be avoided, even in empirical endeavors. Everything is experienced and thought about “subjectively”.

    The debate here is not “what is the objective moral standard”, but rather “morality is either an objective or a subjective commodity; if the former, what are the logical ramifications? If the latter, what are those logical ramifications? If people behaved rationally in accordance with their fundamental assumptions and principles, and they believed that morality was only a set of subjective preferences people have, why would they then feel obligated and authorized to intervene when others were doing something they considered immoral?

    Or would they react to behaviors they disagree with the same way they react to other “subjective preference” behaviors, like preferring vanilla to chocolate, or science fiction to crime dramas? Can anyone actually live and act as if morality was truly subjective in nature? If morality only refers to subjective preferences, why then would a moral relativist feel obligated to put themselves at risk to intervene in what they thought was an immoral activity that didn’t involve anyone they knew, such as the abuse of a child that was a stranger to them?

    Would the moral relativist feel compelled or authorized to stop someone from watching a crime drama or from eating chocolate pie simply because the moral relativist subjectively disliked those things? Why wouldn’t it be okay, then, to simply walk around trying to force everyone to act just like you? What, under moral relativism, makes moral right and wrong different from preferring chocolate pie to strawberry?

  35. 35

    The self-proclaimed moral relativist knows, on some level, that morality is not just a set of subjective personal preferences. If they truly thought that and lived it as if true, then an adult abusing their child or a group ridiculing someone for their skin color or sexual orientation would no more affect them than watching someone order and eat a pie they disliked. So what? That’s their personal preference.

    But it does affect them differently; they know it’s not right, no matter what anyone involved thinks or believes, no matter if society agrees or disagrees; they know it’s not right. They feel compelled to act as if it’s an obligation; they feel authorized by something that transcends individual interpretation and subjective preference. Otherwise, they would never intervene; they wouldn’t care enough to get involved. Hey, you order your pie, I’ll order mine.

    Anyone that says differently is only deceiving themselves.

  36. 36
    Graham2 says:

    WJM: Just out of interest: can you give any evidence for the existence of objective morality ? Please note the word: evidence, ie: something you can point at and say: that is evidence for the existence of objective morality.

    Im not after your thoughts on what nice stuff it is, Im after evidence for its existence. I will leave it to your judgement as to what you consider evidence.

  37. 37
    mahuna says:

    When Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933, Stalin had already killed more people than would eventually die in the German concentration camps. So why is Hitler condemned as the embodiment of evil while Stalin remains a man who “made some mistakes”? A man we had no hesitation forming an alliance with and providing vast amounts of free weapons.

    In Asia, the Japanese murdered perhaps 25 million Chinese civilians, and they are condemned only for not publishing better history text books. And after the Japanese left, the Chinese Communist Party killed 100 million more Chinese. And Mao was a “poet”. These are guessed. No one kept accurate records.

    And what about the Anglo-American destruction of Dresden in the Spring of 1945? The war was already won, and there was no military objective. It was a “terror raid” to “break German CIVILIAN morale”.

    George Kennan stood on the ruins of Dresden and concluded that the elimination of the Nazis wasn’t worth the destruction of Dresden and the greater destruction across Europe. And from this he also concluded that the much greater destruction, which could have been greater efficiency and effectiveness, of a war to eliminate the Russian Communists was also not worth it. So for 50 years American foreign policy was based on Containment: we’ll let you torture and kill as many people as you want in countries you control, but don’t cross the line into our sphere of influence.

    So there is a valid Pacifist position that holds that the real evil was in England and the US refusing to accept all of the Jews, Gypsies, invalids, and mentally challenged people that Germany “wished to get rid of”. Instead we held to the entirely bureaucratic position that the “immigration quota” for Germany was only 10,000 persons per year.

    So it is mass murder you object to, yes? And not merely murder by Nazis?

  38. 38
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    Lots to respond to! I will start with Graham2. I agree that this is a frustratingly common dodge in online discussions. But let’s be honest—no one should come to Uncommon Descent (or most of the rest of the internet) expecting polite conversation. Barry Arrington’s question is reasonable, regardless of the style of asking. And of course, people who don’t answer his questions, or answer them in a way he doesn’t like, get banned. So to keep the conversation moving:

    Pro Hac Vice, I will answer your question if you will tell me how you answer the grand sez who question posed by Johnson and quoted in comment 1.

    I do. That’s all anyone can ever say in response to that question. Is adultery wrong? I think so. Says who? I do. I say it for many reasons, lots of which are rooted in my culture, upbringing, and education.

    Is adultery wrong? You think so. Says who? You do. You say it for many reasons, primarily (I presume) because you believe it to be an objective truth. But says who? Says you. When you cite to an objective standard, unless I can access that standard myself I only have your say-so.

    As WJM wrote, it always grounds out to a subjective statement. From your past comments, I think you escape this by claiming that everyone actually feels the same ultimate moral urges, but that some people perversely deny them. (I apologize if I misunderstood or misremember you.) But, again, says who? Says you.

    That’s what makes this discussion so frustrating for many relativists. We keep asking, so what’s the objective standard? How do you know? And the answers always rest on subjective belief.

    So, please tell me—what’s the objective standard? How do you know? And if can add a question, what do you do when someone cites an objective standard that’s different than yours?

  39. 39
    Graham2 says:

    PHV: Yes, the entire world behaves (to misquote Dawkins) exactly as if there is no objective morality.

    About the only statement I could wrench out of UD was that it communicates to us via our consciences, sort of like a radio receiver, except that we all seem to be fiddling with the knobs all the time.

  40. 40
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    WJM,

    Thanks for your responses. First, I agree that people often hold irrational or inconsistent beliefs. (In fact, it’s a matter of great interest to me—I’m trying to write a book on the subject.) That does dispose of some of my comments. I misunderstood your position, and thought you were claiming that MRs actually hold the position, unstated, that it was wrong to stop the Nazis. Looking back, and at your new posts, that’s clearly not what you were saying.

    So let’s got to what you are saying:

    my points are: (1) moral relativism, if held as true, leads to some necessary logical conclusions about moral statements; (2) people that call themselves moral relativists, for the most part, do not abide by or agree with those necessary logical conclusions, and instead hold moral beliefs that are logically irreconcilable with moral relativism.

    Your first point is uncontroversial, I think, but the second one obviously depends on what those logical conclusions are. That’s what I’m not getting from your post or comments. Would you mind spelling those conclusions out?

    You have no rational basis for making such a claim, as I have pointed out. Yes, you can say it; you can believe it; but moral relativism cannot logically justify such a statement or such a belief.

    This is an odd response. Why would MR “logically justify” my belief that the Holocaust was wrong? MR is simply the label we put on my belief that I don’t have an objective standard for proving that the Holocaust was wrong. It doesn’t justify anything, any more than being a moral absolutist justifies the absolutist’s opinions.

    If the final criteria for “good” and “valid” is what any individual happens to feel and believe (as you said, you evaluate other views through the lens of your own beliefs), then yes, that necessarily means that everyone’s moral beliefs are the equal of anyone else’s, because that is what they do as well.

    I think this is the meat of the discussion. I believe that my own opinions are based on my own feelings and beliefs. That doesn’t logically require the conclusion that my beliefs are the equivalent of anyone else’s. I evaluate their beliefs myself, and decide for myself whether they measure up to my own standards. I think we all do this, actually.

    Just as my preference for chocolate pie is the equal of your preference for strawberry. They are both nothing but personal preferences. There is no rational basis by which you can meaningfully make the claim that my preference for chocolate pie is “less than” your preference, and that I should be prevented from eating it, or that I shouldn’t prefer chocolate pie.

    Pie trivializes the question, but I think I see your point. I personally don’t rationally calculate my moral beliefs; I hold certain assumptions (freedom is good, murder is bad) and base my moral beliefs on those. I think that’s true of everyone. The objectivist says, well, why is freedom good? For myself, I think I believe that because of how I was raised—culture, education, etc. And I think that’s true of everyone. Hence, some generations of Christians saw no problem with slavery while modern generations abhor it as evil.

    And of course, when the objectivist says that freedom is good because God says so, the relativist wonders, but what happens when people disagree over what God says? There’s also the Euthyphro problem, which is similar but slightly different. (In my experience, religious people have no problem disposing of the Euthyphro problem to their own satisfaction, but rarely to the satisfaction of anyone who doesn’t share their preconceptions.)

  41. 41
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    WJM, to continue:

    If people behaved rationally in accordance with their fundamental assumptions and principles, and they believed that morality was only a set of subjective preferences people have, why would they then feel obligated and authorized to intervene when others were doing something they considered immoral?

    Let’s operationalize this. I’m an MR, and I think I behave rationally (more or less) in accordance with my fundamental assumptions. I would in fact feel obligated and authorized to intervene in some situations, like calling 911 if I saw a burglary in progress (but not to intervene in a stranger’s TV choices or pie preference). I don’t understand why this seems impossible to you. I believe that it is morally wrong to burglarize a home. I believe that it’s morally right to protect a stranger from harm. The fact that I can’t identify a truly objective standard for those beliefs doesn’t mean that I don’t have them, or that I should logically be unwilling to act on them.

    If we assume that the burglar believes it’s morally correct to burglarize a home, why would that change my decision?

    The self-proclaimed moral relativist knows, on some level, that morality is not just a set of subjective personal preferences. If they truly thought that and lived it as if true, then an adult abusing their child or a group ridiculing someone for their skin color or sexual orientation would no more affect them than watching someone order and eat a pie they disliked. So what? That’s their personal preference.

    Again, that’s an illogical connection. I can quite easily look at someone and say both (a) what you’re doing is wrong and must be stopped, and (b) I have only my own moral beliefs to support that position. The fact that someone else believes they’re not doing wrong doesn’t override my own moral beliefs, whether or not I have an objective standard for them.

  42. 42
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    Again, that’s an illogical connection. I can quite easily look at someone and say both (a) what you’re doing is wrong and must be stopped, and (b) I have only my own moral beliefs to support that position. The fact that someone else believes they’re not doing wrong doesn’t override my own moral beliefs, whether or not I have an objective standard for them.

    Pardon me for responding to myself, but this might be just restating the obvious disagreement we’re having. Let me sharpen it: the fact that they believe they’re doing right doesn’t override my own moral beliefs because I’ve compared their beliefs to my own, and (unsurprisingly) concluded that mine are better. Why are mine better? Again, it goes back to my preconceptions–liberty good, murder bad, etc. Are those ultimately truly objective? I don’t think so. But that doesn’t diminish them in my eyes.

  43. 43

    WJM: Just out of interest: can you give any evidence for the existence of objective morality ? Please note the word: evidence, ie: something you can point at and say: that is evidence for the existence of objective morality.

    I don’t agree with your idiosyncratic, self-referential definition of the word “evidence”.

  44. 44
    Graham2 says:

    WJM: A true UD (non) reply. I am using ‘evidence’ in its usual sense, but I will leave the definition to your judgement. Now, can you describe any ?

    If you dont think there is any, a simple ‘NO’ will suffice.

  45. 45

    Let me sharpen it: the fact that they believe they’re doing right doesn’t override my own moral beliefs because I’ve compared their beliefs to my own, and (unsurprisingly) concluded that mine are better. Why are mine better? Again, it goes back to my preconceptions–liberty good, murder bad, etc. Are those ultimately truly objective? I don’t think so. But that doesn’t diminish them in my eyes.

    You’re not making a logical case here; you’re just reiterating your ability to hold the view that morality is subjective and that you can choose to intervene in the behavior of others. Yes, I agree, you can do this, but that doesn’t mean your intervention is rationally justifiable.

    Is it acceptable to you that others, if they had the power, step in and force you to behave a certain way just because they preferred that behavior? Under moral relativism, if you have the right to intervene in the behavior of others, then surely they have the right to intervene in your affairs, to stop you from doing that which they preferred you not do. Right? Would it be an acceptable argument if they told you that they judged your behavior from the lens of their own preferences, and decided your behavior was immoral based on their own preferences?

    I doubt you’d appreciate being on the receiving end of that kind of self-referential “logic”, which is exactly what you have offered as to what gives you the right to intervene in the affairs of others.

    The only way there is hope to rationally, logically navigate any moral dispute is if the two parties agree that an objective standard exists from which they can argue and evaluate their different moral claims. Otherwise, as your post demonstrates, all you have is personal preference and might makes right.

    I really find it hard to believe that you are expressing a belief in, and advocating, a system of morality that is nothing more than taking one’s personal preference as a justifiable authority to intervene in the behavior of others.

    If someone is going to intervene in my activities, they better come with something more substantive than “I prefer you not do that, so stop it or I will stop you.”

  46. 46

    Graham2:

    Evidence that can be seen to support the view that morality refers to an objective commodity:

    1. The existence of self-evidently true moral statements,such as “it is wrong in any time, in any culture, regardless of the beliefs of those committing the act, to torture children for personal pleasure.
    2. The existence of conscience, a sense that experiences the moral landscape

    3. The innate sense of moral obligation and authority

    4. The general intersection of fundamental and/or generalized moral statements regardless of culture and time, such as the golden rule/categorical imperative in many historical cultures around the world, as if humans were all individually and culturally interpreting an objectively existent commodity
    5. Logical arguments that show the necessity of an objective morality

  47. 47
    Graham2 says:

    WJM: I wouldnt class any of the above as ‘evidence’. ‘Self evidently true’, ‘obvious’, ‘innate’ etc etc simply means lots of people believe it (except maybe WLC!). Most people believe abusing children is wrong, but then most people are of the same species, so it is not surprising that there is a strong common sense of caring, etc.

    The only one that piqued my interest was 5: a logical argument. Could you give the gist of this ?

  48. 48

    I would in fact feel obligated and authorized to intervene in some situations, like calling 911 if I saw a burglary in progress (but not to intervene in a stranger’s TV choices or pie preference). I don’t understand why this seems impossible to you.

    I didn’t say, imply or argue that it was “impossible”. My point is that your sense of obligation and authority is not rationally reconcilable with your premise that morality is nothing more than a personal preference. IOW, it is my view that, for whatever reason, you have chosen to believe that morality is subjective in nature, even though you continue to live as though it is not. It is very possible to believe that morality is subjective, and live and act as though it is not; in fact, that is what virtually all moral relativists do.

    Instead of using a bad example where you would be putting yourself at legal risk by not reporting a burglary, AND putting yourself at risk of being burglarized in the future if the burglar isn’t caught, let’s use an example that’s more difficult on your part to answer. Let’s say that you live in a country where it is morally acceptable to rape children. Let’s say it’s against the law to interfere with other adults who are engaging in such a relationship on the grounds of their estate. Let’s say you have the opportunity to bring those children to another country where they would be free from the “affections” of the adults in question.

    Would you put yourself at personal risk to save the children?

    I assume your answer is “yes”.

    If yes, why would you do so if moral behavior is just personal preference, and if the law forbids your interference and could put you to death for interfering?

    When I ask why, I’m asking you to take your premise of moral relativism and make a logical case, a sequence of inferences, that rationally describes why you should, under moral relativism, risk your life to save those children.

    There is no logical sequence that gets you from A (moral relativism) to Z (risking one’s life in conflict with the law to prevent an adult from indulging in what they personally believe to be morally acceptable). The only rational argument for risking one’s life to save those children is if one assumes that morality refers to an objective, important commodity, that the adults in question are in fact self-evidently evil regardless of what they believe or what the law says, and that you are authorized in a way beyond the laws of man or mere personal opinion to act, and the purpose you are serving is in fact more important than your own life or safety.

    Moral relativism just can’t get you there, which means that regardless of what you say, subconsciously you must still hold that morality is an objective, absolute, extremely important commodity that compels you to act even at personal risk and even against social consensus and under penalty of law.

  49. 49

    Graham2,

    All evidence and arguments hinge on self-evidently true statements. Without them, you cannot begin anywhere. No rational argument can be had with those that deny the fundamental, necessary nature of self-evidently true statements, such as the principle of non-contradiction.

  50. 50

    Pie trivializes the question,

    No, what trivializes the question of morality is the position that morality is entirely a set of personal preferences. I have only revealed the true, trivial nature of that proposition by setting what that premise describes in with other things that are sets of personal preferences to show how your premise trivializes morality.

  51. 51

    The fact that I can’t identify a truly objective standard for those beliefs doesn’t mean that I don’t have them, or that I should logically be unwilling to act on them.

    No, it goes beyond “not being able to identify a truly objective standard”; you aren’t claiming you cannot identify one, you are claiming that none exist, that morality is nothing more than a set of personal preferences. If that is all morality is, then no, you can no more logically justify intervening in a moral situation than you can justify intervening in any other personal preference situation. You cannot justify moral obligation or authority any more than you can justify a sense of “obligation” and “authority” in any other case of personal preference.

    What flavor of pie you like is a personal preference. According to you, what is morally good or evil is a personal preference as well. How you react to people selecting a flavor of pie you don’t like should be about the same as how you react to people doing things you consider to be immoral because it’s essentially all the same thing: people making personal preference decisions.

    Of course, you are free to react with shrug to all the other personal preference choices a person makes, AND believe morality is also a personal preference, AND then intervene on someone doing something you consider to be immoral; but you can’t rationally justify it, because if it was rational to intervene on others who make personal preference choices that conflict with what you would do, you would intervene when someone chose a pie you didn’t like.

    Your actions betray that you do not believe – at least not subconsciously – that morality is just a set of personal preference choices, or else you would react the same as you do with other personal preference choices people make.

  52. 52
    Barry Arrington says:

    OK Pro Hac Vice, you answered the “grand sez who” question: “I do. That’s all anyone can ever say in response to that question.”

    Your questions were: “what is your objective moral standard? What makes it objective? I think that any answer would be ultimately subjective.”

    I will respond to your questions as I demonstrate that your answer to my question was wrong. Here is a self-evident moral truth: “It is evil to torture an infant for personal pleasure.”

    What makes it objective? The fact that it is self-evident. My answer is not subjective. Anyone who says they disagree with me is wrong (and probably also a liar).

  53. 53
    Querius says:

    Barb @ 33
    Nice one!

    And then there are always the old fallbacks:

    1. Might makes right
    2. Trial by combat
    3. Trial by ordeal

    These three are refreshingly simple, unquestionably final, totally Darwinian, and judging by the success of the film industry, wildly entertaining! 😉

    – Q

  54. 54
    Mark Frank says:

    #52 Barry

    What makes it objective? The fact that it is self-evident.

    And what makes it self-evident? Usually you define self-evident as leading to absurdity. What kind of absurdity results from holding it is not evil to torture an infant for personal pleasure?

    (We must have held this debate over 100 times on UD by now – but I never saw an answer to this).

  55. 55
    Graham2 says:

    Anyone who says they disagree with me is wrong

    A true Barry A statement.

    Actually, your hero Lane Craig doesnt agree with you (see #8).

  56. 56
    Mark Frank says:

    #48 WJM

    When I ask why, I’m asking you to take your premise of moral relativism and make a logical case, a sequence of inferences, that rationally describes why you should, under moral relativism, risk your life to save those children.

    It is so trivial it hardly needs a sequence. Like most people I feel compassion. I desperately want to save the children therefore I will risk my life to do it.

    Compare that to deducing that it is the right thing to to do from some objective standard. This presents two problems:

    1) We all make logical errors from time to time – maybe saving children didn’t actually follow from the guide and I slipped up in my reasoning.

    2) Having deduced it is the right thing to do – this still leaves the question – why do it?

  57. 57
    Alan Fox says:

    I don’t agree with your idiosyncratic, self-referential definition of the word “evidence”.

    Presumably because it’s subjective! No-one here has any superioity of view that they can demonstrate. There is no objective set of morals that we can refer to. Barrry sez so or I sez so.

    Moral absolutes, there ain’t!

  58. 58
    Alan Fox says:

    The consensus in Nazi Germany was that Jews were subhuman creatures and should be wiped out.

    Not sure that there was a genuine consensus among a majority of the German population for routine industrial disposal of people, all of whom deserved the universal right to life.

    Was that a good moral decision?

    No it was horrendous, barbaric, deserving of the strongest condemnation. It should have been vigorously opposed. Anyone complicit, let alone active in genocide, deserves condemnation and incarceration.

    I’m amazed that you think anyone with a vestige of human empathy would think otherwise?

  59. 59
    Alan Fox says:

    Moral relativism just can’t get you there, which means that regardless of what you say, subconsciously you must still hold that morality is an objective, absolute, extremely important commodity that compels you to act even at personal risk and even against social consensus and under penalty of law.

    But the whole point is that is cannot objectively justify your idiosyncratic view. It is no less subjective than anyone else’s.

    There is no objective morality. Yet there are plenty of commendable attempts to produce a consensus set of ethics. See what googling “Human rights charters” gets you.

  60. 60
    Mark Frank says:

    #9 vikingmom

    I am not convinced that this is historically accurate. Cabaret is only a film, a very good one, but not a historical record. Nevertheless, even if you accept that it was a time when “Nothing matters…except to indulge oneself”, there is another way of seeing this. It was not those who were “morally adrift” that did those awful things. It was people with a firm belief they were “objectively” right – just like the communists, the Japanese, the Inquisition, the Crusaders etc etc.

  61. 61
    bornagain77 says:

    Mr Fox, you claim:

    There is no objective morality.

    What is your specific scientific evidence for this radical claim? As for the counter proposition, that there is an objective morality, I can produce some fairly impressive scientific evidence. For instance, we find that babies have an innate moral sense:

    The Moral Life of Babies – May 2010
    Excerpt: From Sigmund Freud to Jean Piaget to Lawrence Kohlberg, psychologists have long argued that we begin life as amoral animals.,,,
    A growing body of evidence, though, suggests that humans do have a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life. With the help of well-designed experiments, you can see glimmers of moral thought, moral judgment and moral feeling even in the first year of life. Some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bone.,,,
    Despite their overall preference for good actors over bad, then, babies are drawn to bad actors when those actors are punishing bad behavior.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05.....&_r=0

    Thus there is found to be an objective morality to humans that is not derived by social consensus. Of course the researcher, a humanist, believes evolution somehow evolved this innate moral sense that is found babies. But I hold that morality is to be found at a far deeper level of reality than any post hoc materialistic explanation could ever hope to give an adequate account of. Dr. Martin Luther King succinctly puts the Christian’s basic belief in an ‘objective’, tangible, morality this way:

    “The first principle of value that we need to rediscover is this: that all reality hinges on moral foundations. In other words, that this is a moral universe, and that there are moral laws of the universe just as abiding as the physical laws.”
    – Martin Luther King Jr., A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

    But do we have actual empirical evidence for ‘moral laws of the universe just as abiding as the physical laws’ as Dr. King held and as Christian Theists should rightly presuppose? Yes! I think we now have very good evidence that moral laws are just as abiding as the physical laws of the universe. In this following study it is found that the moral reactions of humans are ‘split second’,,,

    Moral evaluations of harm are instant and emotional, brain study shows – November 29, 2012
    Excerpt: People are able to detect, within a split second, if a hurtful action they are witnessing is intentional or accidental, new research on the brain at the University of Chicago shows.
    http://medicalxpress.com/news/.....brain.html

    And although split second reactions to hateful actions are pretty good, ‘non-locality of morals’ (i.e. objective morals that arise outside of space and time and are grounded within the perfect nature of God’s transcendent being) demand a more ‘spooky action at a distance’, i.e. a ‘quantum’ proof. And due to the seemingly miraculous advances in science we now have evidence to even this ‘spooky’, beyond space and time, level:

    Quantum Consciousness – Time Flies Backwards? – Stuart Hameroff MD
    Excerpt: Dean Radin and Dick Bierman have performed a number of experiments of emotional response in human subjects. The subjects view a computer screen on which appear (at randomly varying intervals) a series of images, some of which are emotionally neutral, and some of which are highly emotional (violent, sexual….). In Radin and Bierman’s early studies, skin conductance of a finger was used to measure physiological response They found that subjects responded strongly to emotional images compared to neutral images, and that the emotional response occurred between a fraction of a second to several seconds BEFORE the image appeared! Recently Professor Bierman (University of Amsterdam) repeated these experiments with subjects in an fMRI brain imager and found emotional responses in brain activity up to 4 seconds before the stimuli. Moreover he looked at raw data from other laboratories and found similar emotional responses before stimuli appeared.
    http://www.quantumconsciousnes.....Flies.html

    Can Your Body Sense Future Events Without Any External Clue? (meta-analysis of 26 reports published between 1978 and 2010) – (Oct. 22, 2012)
    Excerpt: “But our analysis suggests that if you were tuned into your body, you might be able to detect these anticipatory changes between two and 10 seconds beforehand,,,
    This phenomenon is sometimes called “presentiment,” as in “sensing the future,” but Mossbridge said she and other researchers are not sure whether people are really sensing the future.
    “I like to call the phenomenon ‘anomalous anticipatory activity,’” she said. “The phenomenon is anomalous, some scientists argue, because we can’t explain it using present-day understanding about how biology works; though explanations related to recent quantum biological findings could potentially make sense. It’s anticipatory because it seems to predict future physiological changes in response to an important event without any known clues, and it’s an activity because it consists of changes in the cardiopulmonary, skin and nervous systems.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....145342.htm

    As well, the following experiment is very interesting in that it was found that ‘perturbed randomness’ precedes a worldwide ‘moral crisis’:

    Scientific Evidence That Mind Effects Matter – Random Number Generators – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4198007

    Mass Consciousness: Perturbed Randomness Before First Plane Struck on 911 – July 29 2012
    Excerpt: The machine apparently sensed the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre four hours before they happened – but in the fevered mood of conspiracy theories of the time, the claims were swiftly knocked back by sceptics. But it also appeared to forewarn of the Asian tsunami just before the deep sea earthquake that precipitated the epic tragedy.,,
    Now, even the doubters are acknowledging that here is a small box with apparently inexplicable powers. ‘It’s Earth-shattering stuff,’ says Dr Roger Nelson, emeritus researcher at Princeton University in the United States, who is heading the research project behind the ‘black box’ phenomenon.
    http://www.network54.com/Forum.....uck+on+911

    Thus we actually have very good empirical evidence supporting Dr. King’s observation that ‘there are moral laws of the universe just as abiding as the physical laws’. In fact, since the emotional reactions happen before the violent images are even viewed, or before the worldwide tragedies even occurred, then one would be well justified in believing that morality abides at a much deeper level than the ‘mere’ physical laws of the universe do (just as a Christian Theist would rightly presuppose that morals should do prior to investigation). Moreover, the atheistic materialist is left without any clue as to how such ‘prescient morality’ is even possible for reality.

    Verse and music:

    Mark 10:18
    “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone.

    Barlow Girl – Never alone
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8QubLxJI54

    supplemental note:

    Children are born believers in God, academic claims – Telegraph – November 2008
    Excerpt: “The preponderance of scientific evidence for the past 10 years or so has shown that a lot more seems to be built into the natural development of children’s minds than we once thought, including a predisposition to see the natural world as designed and purposeful and that some kind of intelligent being is behind that purpose,”
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new.....laims.html

  62. 62
    Alan Fox says:

    What is your specific scientific evidence for this radical claim? [that there is no objective reality]

    Oh come on, Phil. How am I supposed to prove a negative! I am just asserting it which is no different from Barry or William Murray claiming there is an objective morality.

    Do you have Moses’ tablets? Is that an example of objective morality or what a Semitic group at one time decided (asserted) it was two or three thousand years ago? Morality, always subjective, evolves. We don’t refer to Aristotle for the definitive view on slavery.

  63. 63
    Alan Fox says:

    Oops forgot blockquotes>

    What is your specific scientific evidence for this radical claim? [that there is no objective reality]

    Oh come on, Phil. How am I supposed to prove a negative! I am just asserting it which is no different from Barry or William Murray claiming there is an objective morality. They are certainly unable to present evidence of objective morality, nor are you.

    Do you have Moses’ tablets? Is that an example of objective morality or what a Semitic group at one time decided (asserted) it was two or three thousand years ago? Morality, always subjective, evolves. We don’t refer to Aristotle for the definitive view on slavery.

  64. 64
    bornagain77 says:

    Mr. Fox,

    I find it very disingenuous of you to ignore the observational, ‘scientific’, evidence I presented for objective, i.e. tangible, morality existing at a much deeper level of reality than certainly can be accounted for on a naturalistic worldview and for you to ask (flippantly?) ‘Do you have Moses’ tablets? Is that an example of objective morality’. Most people who were concerned with the ‘scientific evidence’ of objective morality would be rightly impressed that morality would found to abide at such a deep, ‘non-local’, level of reality. But not you. You ignore this wonderful evidence. Why is this?

  65. 65
    Alan Fox says:

    Phil,

    you didn’t present any evidence of an objective morality. Until you present some it makes it hard to consider.

  66. 66
    bornagain77 says:

    The following is a humorous cartoon reflecting the Atheist’s disregard for any evidence contrary to their a priori presuppositions;

    The Atheist Doctor (Denial of Evidence) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRQzQpnYhKI

  67. 67
    Alan Fox says:

    Very droll

    There is still nothing that could be evidence in your comment 61, other than anecdotes.

    I am an admirer of Martin Luther King. Idon’t hazppen to agree with him on an objective source for morality. He sez, I sez, Phil sez!

  68. 68

    It is so trivial it hardly needs a sequence. Like most people I feel compassion. I desperately want to save the children therefore I will risk my life to do it.

    Reiterating the already accepted fact that anyone could and probably would act on their emotional preferences doesn’t answer the challenge for a rational justification from premise to act.

    Compare that to deducing that it is the right thing to to do from some objective standard. This presents two problems:

    1) We all make logical errors from time to time – maybe saving children didn’t actually follow from the guide and I slipped up in my reasoning.

    2) Having deduced it is the right thing to do – this still leaves the question – why do it?

    Your caution against using logic is that humans can err using logic; you seem to believe that they cannot err if they act on their emotions. I think most people would agree that it is much more likely to err when one simply gives in to emotion rather than looking the situation over logically.

    I didn’t say that acting in such a case should be “deduced” from premise, but rather that the act should be rationally reconcilable with the premise. Those are two different things.

    Some moral situations simply do not require “deduction”; that’s why I use the examplesI do, because they right moral decision can be instantly recognized by any sane person, and we would immediately feel authorized and obligated to act even if someone disagreed with us. This is evidence that what we are talking about is an objective commodity, because we do not react to such situations in the same manner that we react to anything else we consider to be an entirely subjective “personal preference”.

    Though this situation doesn’t require a deduction from premise, it does require a premise that rationally accounts for (1) the immediate and certain recognition of a moral wrong that one finds binding on everyone else, (2) the sense of obligation to act even putting oneself in risk, (3) the sense of authority to act even in conflict with law or social consensus.

    As far as compassion or empathy being the root of morality; what if I disagree? Am I bound to accept compassion or empathy as being the root of morality? I don’t see that definition listed anywhere. Conscience is the proper moral sense, not compassion. Conscience can make the distinction between the compassion one feels towards someone in some sort of physical or mental plain, wanting to alleviate that pain, and the rational understanding that alleviating that pain may not be in their ultimate self-interest (such as in tough love scenarios). In such cases, acting with emotion not controlled with reason can cause more ultimate harm than good.

    IMO, those that act purely on compassion are indeed only serving their own emotional needs – the need to stop the suffering of others – without considering the harder course a well-developed conscience would offer when considering the larger picture of their long-term well being. As a parent, I may have to endure a period of my child feeling like they hate me and pitching a fit as if the world was ending in order to better serve their future needs. IOW, there are times when I cannot in good conscience give in to my compassion.

  69. 69

    More evidence that morality doesn’t refer to personal preferences; the real test of morality is when it dictates a course of action you would prefer not to take. I don’t see how one can reconcile a sense of obligation (to what, under moral relativism? One’s own subjective preference?) that is so powerful that it can virtually force you to do something you really do not want to do.

    Often, one might face a choice between doing the moral thing and doing that which they would prefer to do. If morality is nothing more than a set of personal preferences, how does one explain this?

  70. 70
    bornagain77 says:

    As Mr. Fox has made clear in his denial, It is interesting to note the irrational ‘denialism’ that is inherent within the supposedly rational atheistic worldview:

    Design Thinking Is Hardwired in the Human Brain. How Come? – October 17, 2012
    Excerpt: “Even Professional Scientists Are Compelled to See Purpose in Nature, Psychologists Find.” The article describes a test by Boston University’s psychology department, in which researchers found that “despite years of scientific training, even professional chemists, geologists, and physicists from major universities such as Harvard, MIT, and Yale cannot escape a deep-seated belief that natural phenomena exist for a purpose” ,,,
    Most interesting, though, are the questions begged by this research. One is whether it is even possible to purge teleology from explanation.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....65381.html

    “Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.”
    – Lewontin

    Self-refutation and the New Atheists: The Case of Jerry Coyne – Michael Egnor – September 12, 2013
    Excerpt: Their (the New Atheists) ideology is a morass of bizarre self-refuting claim. They assert that science is the only way to truth, yet take no note that scientism itself isn’t a scientific assertion. They assert a “skeptical” view that thoughts are only constructed artifacts of our neurological processing and have no sure contact with truth, ignoring the obvious inference that their skeptical assertion is thereby reduced to a constructed artifact with no sure contact with truth. They assert that Christianity has brought much immorality to the world, yet they deny the existence of objective morality. They assert that intelligent design is not testable, and (yet claim the counter proposition, that life is not designed, is testable).
    And they assert that we are determined entirely by our natural history and physical law and thereby have no free will, yet they assert this freely, claiming truth and personal exemption from determinism. Here is a case in point.,,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....76541.html

    The Great Debate: Does God Exist? – Justin Holcomb – audio of the 1985 debate available on the site
    Excerpt: The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist worldview is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist worldview cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes. In that sense the atheist worldview cannot account for our debate tonight.,,,
    http://theresurgence.com/2012/.....-god-exist

    Epistemology – Why Should The Human Mind Even Be Able To Comprehend Reality? – Stephen Meyer – video – (Notes in description)
    http://vimeo.com/32145998

    etc.. etc..

  71. 71
    kairosfocus says:

    G2: still refusing to provide grounds to speak from, and still twisting words snipped out of context into a strawman. Let me just clip a comment by VJT in his own extensive post on the subject, that had you actually taken time to read and reflect, you would have noticed: “would you [Dawkins] be willing to debate the topic of God’s existence with an Orthodox Jewish rabbi holding such a view [as Boteach’s]? Would you be prepared to look a rabbi in the eye and tell him, “Your God is a genocidal monster”? Or do you also consider rabbis holding such views to be beyond the pale of civilized debate, and would you shun them as you have shunned Professor Craig?.” I hope the point that something is very wrong with the talking point games you are playing is beginning to get home. And absent showing a foundational IS that grounds OUGHT, you have nothing to say beyond: might and manipulation make ‘right.’ KF

  72. 72

    A different version of my opening post would be to point out that under moral relativism, the only way to rationally judge the “goodness” of any act – if it was “right” or “wrong” – is in relationship to the purpose it was intended to serve (since there is no objective purpose moral choices are supposed to serve and could be judged by).

    Thus, when a moral relativist says that the Nazis behavior was immoral, or wrong, they are evaluating those acts according to a purpose they were not intended to serve, as if the moral relativist’s own, personal, subjective goals were the proper criteria by which to evaluate the behavior of the Nazis.

    That is the irrational non-sequitur I am speaking of; if moral relativism is true, the only criteria by which any act can be judge “good” or “bad” is the purpose the act was intended to serve. It cannot be properly judged by any other criteria.

    If I paint a painting that was intended to be ugly, and was intended to provoke the reaction “omg, that’s one ugly painting!”, and someone looks at it and says, “that’s not a good painting, it’s horribly ugly,” they are erroneously judging my painting as if all paintings should be judged by the same criteria – their own.

    Then, if I tell them that my purpose was in fact to create a painting others would find horribly ugly, the viewer would have to rationally concede that it was in fact a good painting, even though it is horribly ugly to both of us, because it achieved the purpose it was intended to serve.

    While the moral relativist is free to find what the Nazis did horribly ugly, they must rationally concede that what the Nazis did was morally good, because the only way under moral relativism to evaluate whether or not an act is “good” is if it served the subjective purpose it was intended to serve.

  73. 73
    Brent says:

    The moral relativist has had much practice with the big questions of morality; what about Hitler and torturing babies for fun? But they are tripped up in the little thing too. Perhaps more so. In my endeavors over at TSZ, laws were the “binding” force behind a “real” morality. I think one can immediately see the problem; there are many things that are immoral without being illegal.

    What does the moral relativist do with a thing like not helping a drowning child because he feared for his own life? It wouldn’t be illegal, but surely it is immoral for him not to try to save the child. It would be good for society to save the child, and it would be good for the society to save his own skin. And yet, could this moral relativist look his fellow moral relativist in the eye?

  74. 74

    Brent,

    Moral relativism is an intellectual hiding place, nothing more. Atheist/materialists are afraid of/outraged by the idea of objective moral authority and obligation because of its potential for abuse.

    What they don’t realize is that their hiding place is far, far worse. They don’t have to face the nihilistic ramifications of their views because they can hold the subjectivist view superficially (intellectually) while still behaving as if morality is an objective, universally binding commodity.

    They’re afraid they might abuse it or err; they’re afraid others might abuse it or err; and so they engage in this elaborate, hyperskeptical self-deception that cannot survive even the most cursory logical evaluation.

    On a broader scale, I think that many atheists are afraid of what belief in god can result in, and are afraid of the responsibility we would have on us if we were actually to see ourselves as being in the service of a divine purpose that obligates and authorizes us to act and intervene.

  75. 75
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    WJM, I think you’re still making a huge (and convenient) logical leap and calling it logical necessity. My belief that morals aren’t objective does not require me to give other peoples’ morals the same weight as my own, whether or not you characterize them as “preferences.” Let’s use a hypo:

    My partner Allan tells me that he’s going to deny a promotion to our subordinate, Barry, because Barry is Jewish and Allan is secretly an anti-Semite. I am a moral relativist. My choices are to do nothing, which will cost me nothing, or to report Allan to the partnership, which will result in him losing his position.

    Here are some things I know as I do my moral calculus:

    A: I believe employment discrimination is wrong.
    B: Allan believes it is not only acceptable, but morally good.
    C: I don’t believe there’s any ultimate objective standard for resolving the moral dispute

    A is a very important fact for me. I start there. You seem to be saying that I have to give B equal weight, because of C. That logically I should say, “He doesn’t agree with me! I should decline to take any action.”

    But that’s not a logical consequence of these facts at all. My moral beliefs are my moral beliefs—I think they’re superior to his. The fact that he disagrees is interesting, but doesn’t affect my calculation. I actually start with A and end with A. Because I believe that employment discrimination is wrong, I logically feel compelled to take action to stop it. There’s some calculation beyond that—would Allan starve without his position? Would his kids? Etc. But we’re still considering the consequences under my own moral lens, not Allan’s.

    You keep falling back on “pie,” and pretending that my moral beliefs are indistinguishable from my preference for flavors. But that’s an assumption you’re making. It’s untrue. A preference for flavor is an “is,” a moral preference is an “ought.” You can call my morals preferences if you like, but that does not make them logically equivalent to pie flavors. They are categorically different.

  76. 76
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    I will respond to your questions as I demonstrate that your answer to my question was wrong. Here is a self-evident moral truth: “It is evil to torture an infant for personal pleasure.”
    What makes it objective? The fact that it is self-evident. My answer is not subjective. Anyone who says they disagree with me is wrong (and probably also a liar).

    This is just a fiat declaration, which is ultimately subjective. What if two people decide that opposing truths are “self-evident”? Perhaps both are correct, and the truths are different for different people. Perhaps both are wrong, and there are no “self-evident” truths. There’s no way to tell by resorting to external criteria. We only have your internal sense of what’s “self-evident” to go on, which is subjective as far as the rest of humanity is concerned.

  77. 77
    Mark Frank says:

    #68 WJM

    Reiterating the already accepted fact that anyone could and probably would act on their emotional preferences doesn’t answer the challenge for a rational justification from premise to act.

    Are you saying it is irrational to do what you really want to do?  You will have to help me here. What would a rational justification look like?  Give me an example.

    Your caution against using logic is that humans can err using logic; you seem to believe that they cannot err if they act on their emotions. I think most people would agree that it is much more likely to err when one simply gives in to emotion rather than looking the situation over logically.

    How can be wrong about your own emotions? Your knowledge of your own emotions is what Wittgenstein would call incorrigible. 

    I didn’t say that acting in such a case should be “deduced” from premise, but rather that the act should be rationally reconcilable with the premise. Those are two different things.

    I am confused. Explain to me the relationship between a moral judgement and the objective reality that justifies it – if it is not a case of deducible from objective moral principles.

    Some moral situations simply do not require “deduction”; that’s why I use the examplesI do, because they right moral decision can be instantly recognized by any sane person, and we would immediately feel authorized and obligated to act even if someone disagreed with us. This is evidence that what we are talking about is an objective commodity, because we do not react to such situations in the same manner that we react to anything else we consider to be an entirely subjective “personal preference”.

    I don’t agree. It is a subjective judgement that dog shit smells awful – but such is the strength of common subjective judgement that we would instantly feel authorised and obligated to remove it from the sitting room even if someone disagreed with us.

    Though this situation doesn’t require a deduction from premise, it does require a premise that rationally accounts for (1) the immediate and certain recognition of a moral wrong that one finds binding on everyone else, (2) the sense of obligation to act even putting oneself in risk, (3) the sense of authority to act even in conflict with law or social consensus.

    Give me an example of how a moral premise “accounts” for these things – other than deducing it from a premise.

    As far as compassion or empathy being the root of morality; what if I disagree? Am I bound to accept compassion or empathy as being the root of morality? I don’t see that definition listed anywhere.

    No you are not bound to – that’s why its subjective! – but most people actually feel compelled by compassion. It is not the only “moral motive” – duty, fairness are others.  Conscience is a summary of the demands of all of them i.e. compassion contributes to conscience.

  78. 78
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    I don’t agree. It is a subjective judgement that dog shit smells awful – but such is the strength of common subjective judgement that we would instantly feel authorised and obligated to remove it from the sitting room even if someone disagreed with us.

    That’s a very simple but compelling example. I like it.

  79. 79
    Mark Frank says:

    WJM #74

    I think that many atheists are afraid of what belief in god can result in, and are afraid of the responsibility we would have on us if we were actually to see ourselves as being in the service of a divine purpose that obligates and authorizes us to act and intervene.

    You are making up stories about what atheists think and why they act in certain ways. That is an empirical enquiry best conducted by psychologists or sociologists – not an individual who has deeply held feelings about them.

    Speaking personally I would be delighted if there were a God along the lines of the Christian God. Given an average lifespan for a Western male I have about 20 years left and it would be great if there was something else afterwards. Regrettably I have decided the evidence doesn’t stack up and I can’t fool myself.

  80. 80

    Pro Hac Vice,

    You keep asserting that because you feel a certain way (strongly that discrimination is wrong), that is all the logical justification you require for your actions.

    “Because I felt like it” or “because it is important to me” is not a rational justification for any behavior. Essentially, I get the same answer from you and Allan, in the example, if I ask you why each of you did what you did:

    “Because I felt like it.”

    There is no rationally arguable distinction between the two.

  81. 81
    Brent says:

    PHV,

    I believe I ought not kill you. Is that a real ought? My buddy believes he ought to kill you. Is that a real ought?

    If you say yes to both, which it seems you are committed to, then how can you possibly be referring to morals, or, so to speak, something “out there”? neither one’s preference or mere taste, but some other standard, which you imply by using the term “moral”.

  82. 82
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    You keep asserting that because you feel a certain way (strongly that discrimination is wrong), that is all the logical justification you require for your actions.

    You can boil it down to “feel a certain way” if you like, but at that point we’re all in the same boat. You “feel a certain way” (that moral truths are self-evident). Isn’t that the logical justification for your actions?

    When you point to “self-evidence,” all you’re doing is putting another name to the same thing: I feel this is right, and I’m going to act consistently with that feeling. The difference between us seems to be that I acknowledge that different people have different feelings, which are largely down to how they’re raised and educated.

  83. 83
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    I believe I ought not kill you. Is that a real ought? My buddy believes he ought to kill you. Is that a real ought?

    That’s a tautology. You both believe you ought to take or refrain from an action.

    If you say yes to both, which it seems you are committed to, then how can you possibly be referring to morals, or, so to speak, something “out there”? neither one’s preference or mere taste, but some other standard, which you imply by using the term “moral”.

    I honestly don’t understand this statement. I’m not referring to something “out there.” As a subjectivist, I think my moral principles are internally rooted. (Although they’re strongly shaped by external influences, as I’ve said previously—family, friends, culture, etc.)

  84. 84
    Brent says:

    You didn’t answer the question. You are committed to saying both are bound by their “moral compass” to do something which is contradictory. When you realize your understanding requires you to affirm two contradictory positions it would seem prudent to rethink your own position. The whole point here is that it is senseless, misleading, and downright lying (to yourself I mean) to say you are not really simply putting a costume on mere preferences and calling them morals. If they really are morals, you are committed to saying that someone ought to kill you and someone else ought not to kill you. I.E., I ought to be killed, and, I ought not to be killed.

    You should reject any view that puts you in such a position.

  85. 85
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    Brent, I’m still not sure that I understand you. I don’t see what you think is the contradictory position on my part. I think you’re saying that two people have conflicting moral beliefs, and I would say both people may be compelled to act on them. Sure. That’s not contradictory; my position is that different people can have different–even diametrically opposed–moral beliefs.

    Are you suggesting that I should say both people are right to act on their beliefs? That’s the same kind of logical error WJM is making. No, I asses the rightness of their beliefs and actions through the lens of my own moral standards. Just like everyone else. “He has a moral precept that compels him to act” is not the same statement as “He has a moral precept that is correct because he holds it, and therefore he is right to act on it.” One is a factual observation, the other is a moral conclusion.

    The whole point here is that it is senseless, misleading, and downright lying (to yourself I mean) to say you are not really simply putting a costume on mere preferences and calling them morals.

    You can call them “preferences” if you like. My point above is that they are categorically different from a preference from pie flavors, but you can still call them preferences. As I wrote above, though, we can say the same thing about everyone, even objectivists.

    If they really are morals, you are committed to saying that someone ought to kill you and someone else ought not to kill you. I.E., I ought to be killed, and, I ought not to be killed.

    No. I’m repeating myself, but it’s an important point. I’m committed to saying that other people may hold beliefs that differ from mine, even that they should kill me. I’m not committed to saying those beliefs are good or right. I assess their goodness and rightness myself, with my own morals, as everyone else does.

    Once again, these are two different statements:

    A. Everyone has their own moral beliefs.
    B. Everyone’s moral beliefs are equivalent.

    A is not, and does not logically entail, B. I hold to A, but not B.

  86. 86

    Mark Frank,

    I don’t agree. It is a subjective judgement that dog shit smells awful – but such is the strength of common subjective judgement that we would instantly feel authorised and obligated to remove it from the sitting room even if someone disagreed with us.

    If we were at someone else’s house and they had stinky dog shit in the living room, and we got up to remove the dog shit but the owner said – “do not remove that, I love that smell! If you can’t stand it, then leave!” – we would feel morally obligated to leave the man to his own uncommon sensibilities and either endure the stink or leave the house. We would not restrain the man and forcibly remove the dog shit from his living room (unless there was an objective standard involved, like a health code).

    If we found a small child chained up in the living room crawling around in that same dog poop and the man said “if you don’t like it, leave”, we would immediately forcibly restrain the man and remove the child from the situation.

    You’ve been skewered by your own example.

    Are you saying it is irrational to do what you really want to do?

    No, I’m saying “because I want to” is not a rational justification/explanation for any behavior. It may be an acceptable justification, depending on the act, but because it is acceptable in certain situations doesn’t mean it is rationally justifiable.

    If I bust the windshield on your new car with a tire iron and you ask me why, is “because I felt like it” an acceptably rational justification for my act? By “justified”, I mean that after my explanation, do you find my action rationally justifiable?

    However, if I say “your toddler was unconscious, I couldn’t find you, it was a hot day and the window was rolled up and I couldn’t find anyone else to help, so I busted your windshield with my tire iron to get the kid out”, is that a rational justification for my act?

    If you ask me “why did you pick the cherry pie over the apple”, and I say “because I wanted to”, is that a “rationally justifiable” response? Or is it just an acceptable response for an obviously trivial, subjective choice?

    How can be wrong about your own emotions? Your knowledge of your own emotions is what Wittgenstein would call incorrigible.

    Typical Mark Frank obfuscation technique. I didn’t claim you could be wrong “about your emotions”, and you know this; I said that relying on your emotions for guiding your behavior can lead you to make wildly bad and erroneous decisions. This kind of blatant deception is why I don’t respond to much of what you write except to expose you.

  87. 87
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    It’s interesting to me how much of this conversation is objectivists telling relativists, “Here is what you believe,” without bothering to ask questions. When you tell someone else what they believe, you are probably wrong.

    It’s not easy to get inside someone else’s head. If someone else tells you, consistently, “You don’t really understand what I believe,” you might rethink your strategy of dictating to them and consider asking some questions.

    This conversation is useless if it’s about WJM and Brent persuading me that I’m logically inconsistent, or me persuading them that their intuition might not be truly objective. Realistically minds aren’t going to change.

    But it’s potentially very useful as a way to learn more about how other people think. Slandering relativists with the Nazi label is pleasing to the core audience here, but it’s a very inefficient way of getting to the useful part of this conversation.

    (That assumes that WJM, Arrington, et al don’t see the conversation as useful primarily as fan service.)

  88. 88
    kairosfocus says:

    PHV: Re

    A: I believe employment discrimination is wrong.
    B: Allan believes it is not only acceptable, but morally good.
    C: I don’t believe there’s any ultimate objective standard for resolving the moral dispute

    Do you not see the contradiction between A and C?

    Do you not see how C leads to the undermining of A, turning it into a psychological evaluation of a state of mind, without grounds?

    Do you see the absurdity that results?

    Mere disagreement does not constitute grounds to conclude that there is no objective basis for morality. Not, so long as it is possible for us to be in error.

    Where also, so long as we do have genuine rights, we have binding moral principles. Hence the force of the point that it is self evident that to kidnap, torture, rape and murder a child is self-evidently wrong.

    KF

  89. 89
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    KF,

    No, I disagree that there is a contradiction. I believe employment discrimination is wrong. I know there are people who disagree with me. I cannot identify any objective moral standard for resolving that dispute. Can you propose one?

    BA seems to suggest that “I feel it” is such a standard. But I don’t understand how “I feel it” is an objective standard, especially if someone else says they feel something different.

    Mere disagreement does not constitute grounds to conclude that there is no objective basis for morality. Not, so long as it is possible for us to be in error.

    I agree. But that does not entail the existence of objective morality, either. I keep asking, what is the objective moral standard? Where do I find it? What happens if yours is different from mine–how do we objectively discriminate between the two?

  90. 90
    kairosfocus says:

    WJM: pardon, language. KF

  91. 91
    Brent says:

    PHV,

    Once again, these are two different statements:

    A. Everyone has their own moral beliefs.
    B. Everyone’s moral beliefs are equivalent.

    A is not, and does not logically entail, B. I hold to A, but not B.

    If you don’t believe everyone’s moral beliefs are equivalent, then you necessarily need an arbiter. You are only left with your “arbiter within”, though, just like me and everyone else. So, yes, you must believe everyone’s moral beliefs are either equivalent (because our “arbiters” are equal), or there actually is a real objective right or wrong.

    A only ceases to entail B if you accept an objective moral standard.

  92. 92
    kairosfocus says:

    PHV: In a great many highly relevant case4s, yes, though of course there are cases where there are objective grounds for saying that certain people are disqualified. You gave a case of racial discrimination: X — blatantly otherwise qualified — is not to get a job because X is black or X is Jewish, or the like. Come back to me on why there is no objective ground — e.g. the fundamental equality, dignity and worth of the human being made in God’s image — on which such can be seen. That is a case where disagreement is not a matter of tastes and preferences the order of, I like or don’t like rum and raisin ice cream. KF

  93. 93
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Let us understand how this speaks to not only behaviour of the individual but the foundations of just law that were used by Locke in his c 1690 2nd essay on civil govt, when he set out to ground what would become modern liberty and democracy. For in so doing he cited “the judicious [Anglican Canon Richard] Hooker” writing in his 1594+ Ecclesiastical Polity:

    . . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [[Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [[Eccl. Polity,preface, Bk I, “ch.” 8, p.80]

    We know where this leads, and where it has led. We also — on even longer history — know where evolutionary materialist radically amoral relativist or subjectivist secularism, “the highest right is might” nihilism and their fellow travellers go.

    Do we really, really want to go there again as a civilisation?

    Do we so chafe to be rid of Him who made us in his image, gave us minds and consciences and the precept stamped in our hearts of neighbour-love?

    Are we mad?

    KF

  94. 94

    You can boil it down to “feel a certain way” if you like, but at that point we’re all in the same boat.

    No. Your actions, under moral relativism, boil down to “doing what you feel like doing” because your premise is that morality is nothing more, essentially, than personal feelings.

    My actions do not boil down to “doing what I feel like doing” because my premise is that morality is not fundamentally a “feeling”, but rather an objective commodity that is producing the sensations I experience through conscience, and that what I feel like doing could be in conflict with what I should be doing.

    Under moral relativism, there is no difference between “what I feel like doing” and “what I should be doing”, while under moral objectivism, “what I feel like doing” should be overruled by “what I should be doing”.

    You “feel a certain way” (that moral truths are self-evident). Isn’t that the logical justification for your actions?

    In the first place I never said “that moral truths are self-evident”. I said there exists at least one self-evidently true moral statement. I didn’t imply that all or most moral truths are self-evident.

    Secondly, that we begin our explanations of what morality is by “feeling” moral duties and authority is irrelevant to the debate and doesn’t change the fact that morality is either a subjective commodity or an objective one. We can either believe those feelings are entirely subjective, or we can believe that those feelings are produced in response to an objective moral commodity. Neither position enjoys a true-by-default position.

    The pertinent questions under debate is not “can we use our feelings to determine if morality refers to an objective or a subjective commodity”, but rather which premise leads to rationally sound conclusions, a rationally sound moral framework that justifies moral obligation and authority, which we actually experience? Which premise actually logically jsutifies our behavior and reactions in the real world?

    When you point to “self-evidence,” all you’re doing is putting another name to the same thing: I feel this is right, and I’m going to act consistently with that feeling. ”

    You have assumed your conclusion here – that there is no objective commodity that is producing those feelings.

    You are apparently making the case that even though we both feel something we refer to as a sense of morality, and even though we report largely similar experiences, because what we are feeling differs in many respects necessarily means that what we are experiencing is entirely subjective, and that all we have at the root of figuring out morality are those subjectively-produced feelings.

    There is an alternative – that what we are experiencing is not just a feeling, but is a sensation produced by an objective commodity for which we have a corresponding sensory capacity – our conscience.

    The difference between us seems to be that I acknowledge that different people have different feelings, which are largely down to how they’re raised and educated.

    This is exactly where your argument goes off the rails.

    How people are raised and educated not only translates into variant feelings, experiences and interpretations of subjective matters, but also results in widely variant feelings, experiences and interpretations of objectively-existent commodities and phenomena.

    If you have looked over any psychology, or are familiar with crime & law enforcement, you will know that empirical, first-hand experiences widely vary even when they are of the same phenomena/event. Witnesses will offer completely different, contradictory details of events. Upbringing, culture, education, etc. have been shown to be major factors in how people perceive/interpret actual, physical events and report them. Two people can be in exactly the same physical situation and report entirely different feelings and sensations.

    This is a trivially true fact of human nature; whether they are experiencing the subjective or the objective, two humans rarely have the same experience of a thing, even when that thing is an objectively existent suspect right in front of them; their descriptions will often be conflicting.

    Does that mean that the thing they are describing is necessarily subjective in nature? Of course not. That people’s descriptions of an experience varies is not conclusive evidence that what they experience is entirely subjective in nature, any more than agreements of experience is conclusive that they are experiencing an objective commodity.

    It is up to us to choose which premise we should hold about morality, which is what this argument is about.

  95. 95

    KF,

    Sorry – I missed an edit there.

  96. 96

    It’s interesting to me how much of this conversation is objectivists telling relativists, “Here is what you believe,” without bothering to ask questions. When you tell someone else what they believe, you are probably wrong.

    We’re telling you what the logical ramifications of your premises are, not what your beliefs are. In other words, if you hold premise A, then you must rationally also commit to B. That doesn’t mean you actually believe B; it just means that if you do not, you’re being logically inconsistent with regards to your stated premise. We’re actually, for the most part, assuming you do not believe B, even though it is logically implied by your premise.

    It’s our hope that once you realize that B is logically irreconcilable with your premise, you’ll question your premise.

  97. 97
    Alan Fox says:

    Perceptive analysis by Pro Hac Vice at 87.

    It’s interesting to me how much of this conversation is objectivists telling relativists, “Here is what you believe,” without bothering to ask questions. When you tell someone else what they believe, you are probably wrong.

    Indeed, listening is a skill that is in short supply in these comment threads. One feels it almost doesn’t matter or register with William, what one actually writes. He is just going to plough blithely on in his perceptual bubble, unperturbed by reality.

    I love mixing my metaphors!

  98. 98
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    Hi,

    I have a conference call coming up. I’d love to respond further, but may not be able to until later today. Some of what would have been responses here got moved to B Arrington’s new threads, though, if you feel I’m failing to respond to something that matters to you.

    (If you think I’m missing something crucial, please let me know. WJM, thanks for your clarification. I responded in some haste in one of the later threads, will try to do so in more detail here later.)

  99. 99
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    Just one quick note, because I have poor impulse control:

    Once again, these are two different statements:

    A. Everyone has their own moral beliefs.
    B. Everyone’s moral beliefs are equivalent.

    A is not, and does not logically entail, B. I hold to A, but not B.

    If you don’t believe everyone’s moral beliefs are equivalent, then you necessarily need an arbiter.

    Yes!

    You are only left with your “arbiter within”, though, just like me and everyone else.

    Yes!

    So, yes, you must believe everyone’s moral beliefs are either equivalent (because our “arbiters” are equal), or there actually is a real objective right or wrong.

    No!

    Why do you think this? What’s the link you’re relying on? Our arbiters aren’t equal. I think my beliefs are better than other peoples’. This is almost a tautology–if I thought their beliefs were better than mine, I’d adopt them. (Not excepting people who embody better beliefs than I am willing to enact, such as monks who serve their community selflessly and millionaires who give every dime away. The fact that I admire their actions means I share their moral beliefs, but lack the willpower/drive/whatever to put them to such extreme practice.)

    A only ceases to entail B if you accept an objective moral standard.

    No, A only entails B if you are so utterly selfless that you cannot prefer your own beliefs over others’.

    And, once again, that’s the boat we’re all in. No matter how fervently you believe in objective criteria, we keep asking for something that’s actually objective. “I feel it, and I feel that you feel it too” isn’t actually objective. It’s a subjective report of a subjective feeling.

  100. 100
    Barb says:

    Alan responds,

    Not sure that there was a genuine consensus among a majority of the German population for routine industrial disposal of people, all of whom deserved the universal right to life.

    you might try reading a history book sometime. World War II was a war of propaganda. The Jews were demonized by the Nazis.

    Don’t try moving the goalposts, Alan. You said consensus was a good foundation for morality. I presented an example to the contrary and you duck and weave.

    No it was horrendous, barbaric, deserving of the strongest condemnation. It should have been vigorously opposed. Anyone complicit, let alone active in genocide, deserves condemnation and incarceration.

    And, therefore, Alan’s point about consensus being a sound foundation for morality is proven wrong.

    I’m amazed that you think anyone with a vestige of human empathy would think otherwise?

    Spoken to any racists lately? You’d be surprised at how many people are sympathetic to the ideals of the Nazis.

    Personally, I prefer Indiana Jones’s philosophy: “Nazis. I hate these guys.”

  101. 101
  102. 102

    So, my questions to PHV or an moral relativist are:

    1. What principle gives you the authority/right to intervene in the moral affairs of others?

    2. If you feel you have moral obligations, why are you so obligated, and to whom or what?

    3. What happens if you do not meet your moral obligations?

    4. By what criteria do you judge the moral behavior of others?

  103. 103
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    WJM,

    Thanks, these questions may be helpful in fleshing out our positions. I appreciate your making the effort.

    1. What principle gives you the authority/right to intervene in the moral affairs of others?

    You are assuming a default position in which I need authority to intervene in the moral affairs of others. Let’s start from a neutral position and ask whether that’s true. As it happens, I think it is true, but the reason why it’s true is relevant.

    I believe that the sovereignty of others is a moral good. (I believe that largely because I value people who aren’t myself. Many people refuse to believe that about atheists, which frankly makes me sad.) So for me to believe that I have the right to interfere with another’s sovereignty, some principle I value more highly has to be at stake. The analysis would depend on the magnitude of the intervention and the magnitude of the other principle at stake. I would interfere with my neighbor’s sovereignty by calling the police if he was beating his wife, but not if he was downloading music illegally.

    2. If you feel you have moral obligations, why are you so obligated, and to whom or what?

    I do feel that I have moral obligations. I’ve never considered “to whom or what.” I’m not sure that I perceive any such external subject. I would characterize those obligations as a sense of “This thing must/must not be done,” rather than, “X demands that this thing must/must not be done.”

    Those obligations arise largely from my upbringing and social context. But I don’t think of these as obligations to my cultural context.

    3. What happens if you do not meet your moral obligations?

    It depends on the obligation and the circumstances. I would feel guilty to some extent, and responsible for some extent for whatever harm resulted. I might be held accountable by some external force—society, friends, family, whatever—to some degree. It might be that there would be no, or negligible consequences. I feel that I have a moral obligation to pick up after my dog when she poops on the neighbor’s lawn during a walk. But if that neighbor was a horrible bigot or had kicked my dog on another day, I might not feel any consequences if I failed to meet that obligation.

    4. By what criteria do you judge the moral behavior of others?

    I’ve answered this question many times—Brent was very helpful in fleshing this out. By my own, subjective criteria.

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