The responses from subjectivists to my latest post have been drearily predictable. I invite readers to go back and review the post, but in summary I posited a conversation between a subjectivist named Bob and a Saudi over whether is it good to execute homosexuals. The obvious point was that Bob has literally no logical argument he can make, because his own premises lead to the conclusion that for the Saudi executing homosexuals is in fact morally good.
Bob has no logical ground to assert that his personal subjective preference for vanilla ice cream is superior to the Saudi’s personal subjective preference for chocolate ice cream. In exactly the same way, Bob has no logical ground to assert that his personal subjective preference for refraining from executing homosexuals is superior to the Saudi’s personal subjective preference for executing homosexuals.
Predictably, the subjectivists raged and scoffed. Yet not a single one of them was able to provide a cogent logical ground for arguing that one subjective preference is superior to another. Here is a sampling of their responses and my replies:
- In the very first comment JDK writes:
I would make it clear that I strongly disagree with them.
Under some hypothetical situations, I would act to help prevent them killing someone.
JDK implicitly concedes my point. The only thing he could do is to make clear that he has a very strong personal preference regarding the matter, and under some circumstances, he would attempt to impose his preference on others. Essentially admitting my point is a strange way to argue against it.
- In commnet 9 RJ Sawyer says:
I can give a damn good reason, backed up by logic and rational reason, why in is subjectively wrong. Shouldn’t that be enough?
Noticeably absent from RJ’s reply: the “damn good reason, backed up by logic and rational reason” to which he alludes. If RJ has a reason why his subjective preferences are superior to the Saudi’s subjective preferences, it is very curious that he did not favor us with it. File this one under “Bluster and Empty Promises.”
- In comment 10 JDK has another run at it:
Saying, “well, you can’t really justify your choices because they are nothing but your choices – they don’t have an objective referent”, is, in my opinion, empty rhetoric that, among things, is wrong because it assumes, without proof, that such objective referents can even exist.
Nonsense on a stick. An argument must, by definition, be based on objective referents. To argue means that one points to inter-subjective premises that lead to a logically compelled conclusion. “It is my personal subjective preference not to execute homosexuals” is not an argument. It is an expression of a personal preference. I assume JDK would never dream of saying “I prefer vanilla; that settles the question of whether vanilla is superior.” Yet, he has offered no reason why his subjective preferences with respect to the matter at hand is any different.
Further, JDK is plainly wrong when he states that my argument is empty rhetoric unless I can demonstrate that objective morality exists. I believe that it does. But even if it does not, my argument is not affected one wit. My argument is that there is nothing to arbitrate between Bob’s and the Saudi’s preferences. This is true if subjectivism is false. Notice that it is also true if subjectivism is correct. It may be that I am wrong, and there is no objective morality. We shall see. But if I am wrong, that means it really is the case that there is no way to demonstrate that Bob’s preference is superior to the Saudi’s.
JDK writes at 18: “There is no reason why the Saudi’s should care about my beliefs”
Good for you JDK. Given your premises, that is exactly correct. Again, however, agreeing with the post is a strange way to argue against it.
- At 22 JDK tries to walk it back:
I think you made something out of my statement that is not there.
So now you are saying there is a reason why the Saudi should care about my beliefs? By all means Jack; tell us what that reason is. Should the Saudi also care about your subjective taste in ice cream flavor?
- Mimus jumps in at 26:
Why don’t you tell us why they should care about your personal preference for an objective basis to morality?
This is just silly. If there is an objective morality, my personal preferences regarding it are plainly irrelevant.
- JDK at 28:
I have moral codes that are different then yours. I support your right to have your moral codes, but I still can, and will, when the opportunity arises, resist your acting on your moral codes if it impacts situations that I am involved in.
It is nothing short of astonishing that JDK does not recognize the internal incoherence of this statement. He literally says “I respect your right to have a different opinion; unless I don’t in which case I will seek to impose my opinion on you.”
It hardly needs to be refuted. It refutes itself.
- Bob O’H jumps in at 30:
One thing I’ve never seen is a statement of these objective moral referents, and a demonstration that they are objective. It seems to me that without that this whole discussion is pointless:
As I explained at 3, my argument is that there is nothing to arbitrate between Bob’s and the Saudi’s preferences. This is true if subjectivism is false. Notice that it is also true if subjectivism is correct. It may be that I am wrong, and there is no objective morality. We shall see. But if I am wrong, that means it really is the case that there is no way to demonstrate that Bob’s preference is superior to the Saudi’s.
So Bob’s objection turns out to be a red herring that he uses to avoid having to deal with the argument in the post.
Look I get it. When it turns out that you have literally nothing to say to a Saudi who wants to execute people for being homosexual, it is not surprising that you will come up with ways to avoid having to face that fact.
And the comments went on and on and on in a similar vein. As of this writing there are 175 comments in the combox. Not a single one of those comments attempts to refute the argument I made. To be sure, there is plenty of rage, scoffing, heated rhetoric, personal attacks on me, red herrings, straw men, and other distractions. But no one has refuted my point. Bob has literally nothing to say to the Saudi when it comes to making an argument based on reason, because if subjectivist premises are true, there is literally no reason the Saudi should care about anything Bob says.