Intelligent Design

Why Does It Matter? Because Some Calculations Must Be Literally Unthinkable

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I despise Henry Kissinger. He is an evil man. I am currently reading his On China (2011), and I was reminded of just how evil he is when I read his apology for Zhou Enlai (pp. 241-43). For those who do not remember, as premier of the PPR during the tumultuous 60s and 70s, Zhou was Mao’s chief henchman. The world will never know how many people Mao killed. Estimates range from 40 to 80 million, and Zhou was at his side implementing his policies every step of the way. Of this henchman to a genocidal maniac Kissinger writes:

Surely Zhou’s methods of political survival involved lending his administrative skill to the execution of policies that he may well have found personally distasteful . . .

This makes me want to puke. What kind of sociopath uses the word “distasteful” to describe someone’s response to participation in genocide? It will come as no surprise that Kissinger reveres Machiavelli above all other theorists, and nowhere is this more plain than when he continues[in this passage Zhou is the advisor and Mao is the prince in view ]:

The advisor to the prince occasionally faces the dilemma of balancing the benefits of the ability to alter events against the possibility of exclusion, should he bring his objections to any one policy to a head. How does the ability to modify the prince’s prevailing conduct weigh against the moral onus of participation in his policies? How does one measure the element of nuance over time against the claims of absolutes in the immediate? What is the balance between the cumulative impact of moderating trends against that of a grand (and probably doomed) gesture?

How Kissinger answers these questions and his ultimate assessment of Zhou is not in doubt; he called Zhou “one of the two or three most impressive men I have ever met.” God help us. How could we have let a man who could write these things into the very highest echelons of our leadership for a period spanning over five decades?

Kissinger implies that Zhou was a reluctant participant and a moderating influence to Mao’s reign of terror. This view is hotly disputed. In his Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution, for example, Angang Hu argues that Zhou’s support, far from moderating the Cultural Revolution, kept it going, and that Zhou was Mao’s enabler, not his moderator.

But let us set that argument aside, because ultimately it is morally irrelevant. Assume for the sake of argument that there is some support for the proposition that Hermann Göring was a moderating influence to the most terrible excesses of the Third Reich. If Hitler had conquered Europe, would it have been appropriate for an American statesman to later praise Hermann Göring and even sympathize with him for the terrible burden of “weighing nuance against absolutes” that he had to bear. I admit the analogy is not quite apt, because Mao killed tens of millions more people than Hitler did. Still, the very idea is absurd.

The “dilemma” Kissinger poses is a false dilemma. The kinds of calculations Kissinger has in mind are morally repugnant. Indeed, they should be unthinkable. Moreover, the measuring to which Kissinger alludes is not only morally loathsome; it is also self-referentially incoherent. It is in the very nature of “absolutes” that they cannot be “measured” or “balanced” against anything else (and most especially against “nuance,” whatever that means).

Absolutes admit no calculation. When faced with the choice of whether to engage in formal cooperation with evil of unspeakable proportions, the only moral choice is to refuse to cooperate. Let us say for the sake of argument that Zhou was in fact given the choice of being Mao’s henchman, in which case “only” 60 million people would die, and refusing to be his henchman, in which case 65 million people would die. Still, the only moral choice was for him to refuse to cooperate with Mao’s evil even if more people (including Zhou himself) would die.

This is not a “train switch” scenario. Moral philosopher’s love to talk about the hapless schmo standing at a train switch. An unstoppable runaway train is coming down the track. If the schmo lets it stay on its present track, 100 people will get run over and die. If he pulls the switch and shunts the train to another track, only 50 people will die. The obvious answer to this dilemma is to pull the switch. If death is inevitable due to uncontrollable forces of nature (in this case the forces of gravity and inertia), the only moral choice is the one that leads to the fewest deaths.

How is this different from Zhou’s non-dilemma? The answer is that the Cultural Revolution was not inevitable. It resulted from the conscious choices of moral agents. If all moral agents had refused to participate, not a single person would have died, because the CR would never have happened.

Some of my readers might remember the movie Sophie’s Choice (or the novel of the same name). The eponymous choice of the movie occurred upon Sophie’s arrival at Auschwitz. A guard forced her to choose which one of her two children would be gassed and which would proceed to the labor camp. If she refused to choose, both children would be killed. What was Sophie to do? Is it not the moral choice to choose one of the children to die so that at least one may live? Sophie chooses her son to live and her daughter to die. Sophie’s choice was profoundly immoral. The only moral choice is to refuse to choose even if this means both children must die. By choosing, Sophie entered into formal cooperation with the guard’s evil. And it is always evil to engage in formal cooperation with evil. Some calculations must be unthinkable. One must never engage in profound evil even if one could somehow attempt to justify it with Kissinger’s balancing act. Fiat justitia ruat caelum (“Let justice be done though the heavens fall”)

What does this have to do with Zhou? Just this. Zhou’s choice was Sophie’s choice writ large.

Why does this all matter? I was prompted to write this post by an exchange with Mark Frank.

I wrote:

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

Mark replied:

I disagree. I don’t believe you know moral judgments as “facts” so I would say that as it stands it is false.

Mark added:

I stressed that it was because I don’t regard moral judgments as facts . . . I think they are opinions not facts.

Finally, Mark said:

I don’t know the innermost psyche of the Incas who performed child sacrifices but it seems quite possible they did it for personal pleasure and thought it was morally OK.

No Mark. You are wrong. Hugely, monstrously, horribly wrong.

It absolutely must be an objective fact that torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people or it is not a fact at all. It is a binary question. Yes/No. The only way the proposition can ever be true is if it is indeed an objective fact. The very act of suggesting that the issue is a matter of opinion as opposed to objective fact is immoral because it renders the proposition false. In other words, to even say that it is not unthinkable for the proposition to be untrue is profoundly immoral, because it is equivalent to saying the proposition is false.

Therefore, even assuming for the sake of argument that some Inca thought it was OK to torture infants for pleasure, it does not follow that his opinion on the subject is entitled to any weight whatsoever. Would we credit our hapless Inca’s views if his opinion were that 1+1=3? Of course, not. When the Inca is wrong about objective fact, we must not hesitate to reject his views categorically even if someone might accuse us of being “intolerant.” Error has no rights. The only moral position is to say that it is literally unthinkable for the proposition to ever be false.

As Zhoe’s non-dilemma was not a matter of calculation but of simple courage to do the only right thing, so too this proposition can never be a matter that could possibly vary due to circumstance, calculation or opinion. It is always true or it is never true.

It is immoral to say that the proposition “torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people” is up for grabs. Why is it evil? Because someone might believe you of course! By saying this you have undermined the “unthinkable-ness” of the converse of the proposition. And when you do that, you have opened a door that must always remain shut.

352 Replies to “Why Does It Matter? Because Some Calculations Must Be Literally Unthinkable

  1. 1
    fossil says:

    “I use the curse advisedly as the only appropriate response to the moral squalor on display in this sentence.” No, Barry, for a Christian to use that kind of language is not justifiable. Jesus never used language like that even during His most trying moment and the only reason Peter did in the high priest’s courtyard was to hide his identity as one of the disciples (Mat 26:73-74).

    I basically agree with you on everything else except your intentional decision to use inappropriate language.

  2. 2
    Bob O'H says:

    The only moral choice is to refuse to choose even if this means both children must die. By choosing, Sophie entered into formal cooperation with the guard’s evil.

    Isn’t the point of Sophie’s Choice that she has no alternative but to play the guard’s game? The guard gives her 3 choices: (1) let her son die, (2) let her daughter die, (3) let both die (by not giving an answer). Both she and the guard know this, it’s how power manifests itself.

  3. 3
    Hangonasec says:

    The very act of suggesting that the issue is a matter of opinion as opposed to objective fact is immoral because it renders the proposition false. In other words, to even say that it is not unthinkable for the proposition to be untrue is profoundly immoral, because it is equivalent to saying the proposition is false.

    That is somewhat circular.

    It can be universally agreed that X is ‘wrong’. Momentarily leaving aside the objective/subjective nature of that wrong, it means at least that everybody understands the personal sense of revulsion at it – the ‘brick wall’ as someone put it. That is one kind of objective fact: the fact that all share this same sense.

    But the objective fact being claimed is that it is actually wrong, regardless what everybody – indeed, anybody – thinks about it. And now, to sew it up, anybody disagreeing that it is an objective fact of the second kind is being immoral – that is, it is an objective fact of the second kind to disagree that the wrongness of X is an objective fact of the second kind.

  4. 4
    Mark Frank says:

    Barry
    I have read this OP three or four times but I still find it very hard to  understand your point.  I think (but I am not at all sure) that you are saying that by suggesting that moral statements are subjective I am doing something immoral. Even if this is true – it doesn’t show that moral statements are not subjective. But I also fail to see why it is immoral to argue the case for subjectivism – after all very distinguished people have been doing it round the globe ever since Hume and possibly long before.

    I guess you are implying that by saying something is a matter of opinion I am in some way condoning or accepting the possibility that the other view is right.  That doesn’t follow at all.  A subjectivist can be just as passionate and certain about their view on what is right as anyone else. All it means is that I recognise that if someone has an opposing view then I have no way through observation or logic to definitively prove them wrong. I can try to persuade them. I can summon many compelling arguments to support my position. I can, if I have the power, force them to act according to what I believe to be right. But I can’t confront them with the moral fact – because there is no such fact.

    As argued many times – you are no better off.  You may passionately believe the Zhoe was objectively wrong. Many people disagree with you. You have exactly the same instruments at your disposal to persuade  them. It doesn’t matter how passionately you assert that what you believe is self-evident and what they propose should be unthinkable. They sincerely disagree and do not find it self-evident and you are going to have to find some proof or evidence if you want to change their mind. You also have to face the fact that people can sincerely think something is self-evident and be wrong. That person just might be you.

    You have in the last few days accused me of lying (although I am still not sure what exactly the lie was). You have said of Piotr and myself that we sadden and disgust you in equal measures. And now you appear to be saying it is immoral of me to argue my case.  Do you think we could calm this down a bit and have cool, rational discussion about the nature of morality?  Philosophers have done this in the past without coming to blows or even personal insults.

  5. 5
    hrun0815 says:

    I despise Henry Kissinger. He is an evil man.

    I wonder if this whole post was more compelling if objectivists would actually all agree with this and subjectivists dd not.

  6. 6
    Charles says:

    Mark Frank @ 4:

    Do you think we could calm this down a bit and have cool, rational discussion about the nature of morality?

    Your view is that because you fail to find moral judgements factual in general, then specifically you’re uncertain about torturing an infant for personal pleasure.

    And yet you expect to have credibility in a discussion about your trustworthiness for babysitter, you expect us to weigh your opinion of the guilt or innocence of pedophiles, you expect us to waste bandwidth entertaining your view of morality when you can’t be trusted to advocate for the safety of infants.

    You, Mark Frank, are irrational to expect any audience at all.

  7. 7
    Bilbo I says:

    Henry Kissinger was Bush’s first choice to chair the 9/11 Commission.

  8. 8
    hrun0815 says:

    Bilbo, considering if Kissinger was morally evil or not is clearly moral evil done by subjectivists. Knowing that Kissinger was not evil and wanting him in charge of the commission investigating 9/11 is the sign of a good Christian politician who no doubt considers himself an objectivist.

    Bush just made an honest mistake about morality. While subjectivists in this case might reach the proper conclusion (that Kissinger is evil), but by merely by showing a sign of uncertainty or consideration they have proven themselves to be morally depraved.

  9. 9
    Mark Frank says:

    #6 Charles

    Your view is that because you fail to find moral judgements factual in general, then specifically you’re uncertain about torturing an infant for personal pleasure.

    Where did you get that idea? I have said repeatedly that I strongly believe it is wrong to torture an infant for personal pleasure.

  10. 10
    tjguy says:

    I wonder how Mr. Frank would feel if someone were to torture his child. It’s easy to stand back and say there are no moral absolutes – until it becomes personal and you KNOW you have been morally wronged. Then all of a sudden the moral relativist sees and feels the emptiness of his beliefs. He can only say that an act might be wrong legally and/or that he doesn’t like it. He can say it is wrong in his own opinion, but that holds little weight if the perpetrator does not think it is wrong in his opinion.

  11. 11
    Hangonasec says:

    tjguy

    I wonder how Mr. Frank would feel if someone were to torture his child.

    Good grief! Have a guess! You are confusing subjectivism with relativism. Like every objectivist, ever, it seems.

  12. 12
    hrun0815 says:

    He can say it is wrong in his own opinion, but that holds little weight if the perpetrator does not think it is wrong in his opinion.

    Because everybody knows that if an objectivist say ‘this is wrong’ to a pero they will immediately adopt the morals of the victim… since those are objectively correct.

    I think a had a thought experiment with StephenB about an ISIS fighter with an objectivist and subjectivist hostage. In the end it was pretty clear that two heads would roll.

  13. 13
    Charles says:

    Mark Frank @ 9:

    Where did you get that idea? I have said repeatedly that I strongly believe it is wrong to torture an infant for personal pleasure.

    From you, from where you argue:

    I disagree. I don’t believe you know moral judgments as “facts” so I would say that as it stands [knowing for a certain fact that torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people] is false.

    From your conscious, deliberate, calculated unwillingness to find any moral certitude, to find as moral fact that “torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people”, while simultaneously claiming “to strongly believe it is wrong to torture an infant for personal pleasure”.

    You are irrational thinking you can contribute, credibly, to an intellectually honest discussion about the nature of morality, when your “morality” on the sancity of infants morphs with each post in self-contradiction to accommodate whatever is your bandwidth-sucking argument du jour.

    And now you will equivocate without limit to salvage some intellectual respectibility for your patently irrational view(s).

  14. 14
    Barry Arrington says:

    MF:

    I have said repeatedly that I strongly believe it is wrong to torture an infant for personal pleasure.

    And you have said repeatedly that for all you know, you may be wrong about that.

    [I see Charles has already pointed this out]

  15. 15
    Mark Frank says:

    Charles – I am trying to understand the position of Barry, yourself and others and also make my position clear. This is not easy – there are important but subtle points to make and this is a poor medium for doing it. It makes it much harder if I am subjected to a stream of abuse every time I respond.

    From your conscious, deliberate, calculated unwillingness to find any moral certitude, to find as moral fact that “torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people”, while simultaneously claiming “to strongly believe it is wrong to torture an infant for personal pleasure”.

    You quote from my comment 181 in an earlier thread. I tried to emphasise in that comment that what I disagreed with was the word “fact” because that implied the moral judgement was objective. This is quite different from doubting its certitude. You can be extremely uncertain about objective facts and very certain of subjective judgements. 

    You are irrational thinking you can contribute, credibly, to an intellectually honest discussion about the nature of morality, when your “morality” on the sancity of infants morphs with each post in self-contradiction to accommodate whatever is your bandwidth-sucking argument du jour.

    And now you will equivocate without limit to salvage some intellectual respectibility for your patently irrational view(s).

    My views on the nature of morality have not changed for decades – certainly not during the course of this discussion.  You seem to think that this is some evil strategy of mine. It is simply what I believe and what I am willing to debate. It is not an uncommon view. Many distinguished people have held it for centuries. If you think it is patently irrational and full of self-contradiction and that I cannot contribute credibly to an intellectually honest discussion then you must lay the same charge against generations of world-famous thinkers – Hume, Sartre, Ayer. It could be the basis of a fruitful discussion – but instead people are reacting like I was condoning child torture.

  16. 16
    Barry Arrington says:

    fossil. Thank you for your comment. We will have to disagree. Some things are damnable and are therefore appropriately damned. I disagree that Jesus never cursed anything. Consider the fig tree.

  17. 17
    StephenB says:

    hrun0815

    I think a had a thought experiment with StephenB about an ISIS fighter with an objectivist and subjectivist hostage. In the end it was pretty clear that two heads would roll.

    Well, now, that is a nice piece of slander. Did you make it up all by yourself, or did KeithS help you with it?

  18. 18
    Barry Arrington says:

    MF:

    there are important but subtle points to make

    One of which appears to be that we just can’t be certain that it is evil to torture infants for pleasure. Again, you are monstrously, horribly wrong. We can. It is an objective fact. Your denial of that fact is immoral. You think you are oh so sophisticated and smart. You aren’t. Your evil is banal.

    I suspect that next you will try to distort my argument. You will say that I am saying that “disagreeing with Barry” is immoral. No. It has nothing to do with whether you agree with me. It has everything to do with your refusal to admit that torturing infants for personal pleasure is always wrong for all people, in a places, under all circumstances.

  19. 19
    Mark Frank says:

    Barry – you also are confusing certainty with objectivity. I am as certain as you are that it is evil to torture infants for pleasure. It is not necessary for it to be an objective fact for that to be true. I am certain that the Mona Lisa is a great picture and that the Marx brothers are funny. These are both subjective judgements. It is an objective fact whether the Goldbach conjecture is true – no one is certain it is true.

    You think you are oh so sophisticated and smart. You aren’t. Your evil is banal.

    Barry – I think you can do better than this.

  20. 20
    hrun0815 says:

    Well, now, that is a nice piece of slander. Did you make it up all by yourself, or did KeithS help you with it?

    Instead of accusing me of slander you could have just said that it I am mistaken and it wasn’t you.

    In fact, I am not certain who I had this thought experiment with and I thought it was you (which I indicated in the post). Obviously it was somebody else. I apologize to you– especially since you perceive this as ‘slander’. Wow!

    EDIT: Since now I am at a computer and can actually search properly I can correctly state that the discussion was with KRock and not StephenB.

  21. 21
    Barry Arrington says:

    MF:

    I am as certain as you are that it is evil to torture infants for pleasure.

    No. You are are not. Your assertion is belied by your own testimony. You say “this is just my opinion” and my opinion on the matter is no more valid than the opinion of an Inca who disagrees with me. It beggars belief that you can say both things and not see the contradiction.

  22. 22

    I find the following completely contradictory:

    “Torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people.”

    And, as argued by several absolutists here, one has a moral right and obligation to intervene when others commit such absolutely immoral acts.

    Yet,

    “Sophie’s choice was profoundly immoral. The only moral choice is to refuse to choose even if this means both children must die.”

    Sophie by choosing prevents one child from being tortured (gassed, incinerated) for personal pleasure. Yet you find that choice morally reprehensible.

    It follows that allowing a child to be murdered and incinerated is for you a lessor evil than engaging in formal cooperation with evil, even when that “cooperation” is as coerced as an action can be, and witholding that cooperation a completely empty gesture: Nazi sadism and murder proceeds with equal ease with or without her “cooperation.”

    It follows that for you there are degrees of abolute, unthinkable evil, some acts being more absolutely, unthinkably evil than others. Absolute evils are relative.

    Moreover, “Barry’s Choice” among these absolute but relative evils is to prefer an empty gesture of protest against a mass evil than to rescue a child from torture, murder and incineration.

    Go figure.

  23. 23
    Lilly says:

    This is an excellent OP.
    I think people can become so wrapped up in jejune political games or personal manifestos that they refuse to just stop and read what is on the page. This is not a thought experiment. The equivalent of the entire population of Mexico died at the hands of a power hungry tyrant and those who valued their prestige or money or power more than the lives of 65 million of their neighbors. It did not have to happen. Comments about Bush or insults directed at “objectivists” are simply non-sequiturs (and the former are redundant, the OP already indicated that the leaders of government during the past 5 decades should not have embraced someone who apologizes for genocide).

    For what it’s worth, I don’t believe the ethics of Christ are immediately self-evident, except perhaps to saints and martyrs who are so close to the absolute that they pray for their executioners at death. But this is actually what is most compelling about the higher moral law — it was nothing short of a revolution at a time when the worth of one’s life was entirely determined by gender and social standing. The idea of anything like equality in the eyes of God or the love we are to bear especially for the poor and powerless was entirely opposed to the wisdom of the day. That the highest law is love — of neighbor, of God — is as shocking and astonishingly beautiful today as 2,000 years ago.

  24. 24
    Barry Arrington says:

    Barry – I think you can do better than this.

    It is evil to say that the proposition “torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people” is up for grabs.

    Why is it evil? Because someone might believe you of course!

    Mark, you can do better.

  25. 25
    Zachriel says:

    Reciprocating Bill: It follows that allowing a child to be murdered and incinerated is for you a lessor evil than engaging in formal cooperation with evil, even when that “cooperation” is as coerced as an action can be, and witholding that cooperation a completely empty gesture: Nazi sadism and murder proceeds with equal ease with or without her “cooperation.”

    So Barry Arrington has discovered a case where he considers it more moral to allow a child to be tortured to death than to not be able to ride the high horse. Bravo!

  26. 26
    Barry Arrington says:

    RB @ 22:

    Yes, participating in the murder of one person cannot be justified even to save another person. Murder is never justified. That you don’t understand this is sad. But my view is the only moral view. How do I know? Easy. Let’s put our views to the test by positing worlds where everyone behaves according to our competing view.

    In my world everyone believes they must never cooperate with evil. Calculations about should I kill this person or that person to save another are unthinkable.

    In your world people trade lives for murder.

    Which is the better world? Go figure.

  27. 27
    Mark Frank says:

    You say “this is just my opinion” and my opinion on the matter is no more valid than the opinion of an Inca who disagrees with me.

    Oh dear. I am running out of ways to say this. The question is not whether the Inca priest is certain. It is whether I am certain. For me – my opinion is much more relevant than a hypothetical Inca priest.

    Are you certain that the Mona Lisa is beautiful or are you unsure?

  28. 28
    Barry Arrington says:

    Lilly @ 23: Beautiful comment. Thank you.

  29. 29
    Barry Arrington says:

    Mark @ 27:

    Oh dear. I am running out of ways to say this: It is the subject of your certainty that is the issue. Yes, indeed. You are the world’s leading expert on your own opinion. I don’t care about your opinion. I do care when you undermine the unthinkable-ness of the proposition under consideration just as I would care if you were advising children that playing in a busy highway is not a good idea, but it is just your opinion and you could be wrong.

  30. 30
    Barry Arrington says:

    Zachriel @ 25:

    And you apparently believe it you can justify participation in murder.

    God help us. People, don’t you see? Zhou’s choice was Sophie’s choice writ large.

  31. 31
    Zachriel says:

    Barry Arrington: participating in the murder of one person cannot be justified even to save another person.

    Yes, because living forever in despair after you tried to save one child is the cowardly thing, while letting both children die, and incidentally increasing your own odds of survival, is heroic.

  32. 32
    Barry Arrington says:

    Thank you for participating in this thread Zachriel. You illustrate why it matters still. You are exhibit A for the proposition that there are proto-Zhou’s walking amongst us.

  33. 33
    hrun0815 says:

    Yes, participating in the murder of one person cannot be justified even to save another person. Murder is never justified. That you don’t understand this is sad. But my view is the only moral view. How do I know? Easy. Let’s put our views to the test by positing worlds where everyone behaves according to our competing view.

    Finally someone strongly comes out against all these wars where way too many innocents are murdered for a perceived higher good. I think we all can agree that this is never justified and all our politicians and the military and probably also police force and intelligence agencies is horrible immoral monsters.

  34. 34
    Charles says:

    Parents: Ok then, Mark. We should be home by 1am or so. You’ve got our cell number. Remember, the kids are to be in bed by 8, they can have a story first but no sweet snacks… oh, and don’t invite any friends over.

    Mark Frank: Got it, Mrs & Mr. D. Have a good time and enjoy the movie.

    (front door closes, car pulls out of driveway)

    Kids: Yay! Cookies, ice cream and read to us a story, now!

    Mark: Ok, you kids get your story book and I’ll dish up the cookies and ice cream.

    Kids: Read to us from “Hansel and Gretel” We like the part where the witch is burned to ashes!!! Kewl.

    Mark: Ya know, that witch wasn’t so bad. Gretel was the one who actually drew first blood when she shoved the witch into her own oven.

    Kids: But the witch started it. She wanted to put Hansel in the oven first and then and eat Gretel too.

    Mark: We can’t judge her. Perhaps it was a harsh winter and she just didn’t have enough food.

    Kids: But the witch’s house was made of gingerbread and cakes and candy. She could eat her front porch and that would have kept her alive all winter. She didn’t need to eat Hansel and Gretel, she was just evil.

    Mark: Well calling someone or something “evil” is a moral judgement about which we can’t have any factual certainty.

    Kids: But the witch lied to Hansel and Gretel about letting them sleep in soft beds. She tricked them!!!

    Mark: We don’t know that the witch intended to deceive, she just has a more nuanced view of Feng Shui sleeping arrangements. Besides, don’t forget Hansel and Gretel were left in the woods by their evil (oops strike that) morally unfactual stepmother.

    (loud knock at the door)

    Mark: Who is it?

    Voice: Uh, umm “Candygram”.

    Kids: Yay!!! candy!

    Mark: Sorry. It’s too late for us to have candy.

    Voice: Ok, uh, um “Landshark”

    Mark: What???

    Voice: Landshark. You know. Sorta like a regular shark that eats kids at the shore, but what with climate change and all, the supply of kids are moving inland.

    Mark: But I believe that people who eat kids are evil (oops strike that) morally unfactual.

    Voice: No problemo, muchacho. I’m a landshark and not a person. Therefore what is evil for people can’t be attributed to me, well, morally that is.

    Mark: But eating kids is still morally unfactual.

    Voice: But it is morally factual to asuage personal hunger. You said so yourself about the witch.

    Mark: You were listening?

    Voice: Well, I was lurking, and taking notes on applying your ethical reasoning to my personal circumstances, just in case. I was ever accused. Of something.

    Mark: But I strongly believe it is wrong for landsharks to eat children.

    Voice: Oh, please. That old canard? You can’t possibly know as a moral fact that it is always wrong for landsharks to eat children for nutritional sustenance. Dude! It happens in the ocean all the time. This is just an ethically different locale.

    Mark: Golly, you make some important but subtle points. The kids are just small people and you’re not people, and we’re not at the beach, and I have no moral facts, so ….

    Kids: NNooooo!

    (noise of car pulling in driveway, front door opens)

    Parents: We forgot our tickets. Who was that disgusting person at the door?

    Mark: Oh just some non-judgemental, morally indeterminate guy indifferent to the well-being of your kids, sorta like the stepmother and witch in “Hansel and Gretel”…. great moral dilemmas in that story BTW, Mrs D.

    (Parents stare at each other, kids bouncing off the walls from the sugary cookies & ice cream)

    Parents: Mark, we’ll stay home tonight. See yourself out.

    Mark: But you promised I’d earn at least 50 bucks tonight.

    Parents: Well seeing as how we’re all non-judgemental, morally indeterminate adults here, there are no moral facts by which you can judge our unwillingness to pay you now. Situations morph and morals have to morph with them, right? What good are ethics if they constrain us from whatever pleases us. I mean, if there are no moral facts about eating children, there are certainly no moral facts about paying you.

    Parents: G’ night. Say hi to your folks. By the way, can you mow our lawn next Saturday?

  35. 35
    Lilly says:

    Bill, you have made a lot of assumptions about which child will ultimately suffer most while on earth. In fact, as a mother I would have an extraordinarily difficult time deciding which fate was worse and which would lead to more suffering. It’s like the Toni Morrison book about the enslaved woman who killed her child rather than give her up to a life of being abused and considered nothing but chattel. I think it takes an enormous amount of courage to place your child in the hands of people who do not value them as individuals and do not care if they suffer (or worse get enjoyment from their suffering). IOW the decision is far more subtle than you imagine.

    I’m not sure I ultimately agree with the OP here though. It is a very difficult question about whether we have the right to choose death for our children. The mother is not in the position that Mao’s gang was in. She, unlike the adults who cooperated with Mao, would have gladly given her own life to save her children if they could be saved and if she was anything like most mothers. We definitely are making a moral decision by laying down our lives for others, even if it does not stop the evil. Bonhoeffer was not cooperating with evil by giving up his life, and would not stop the Nazis, but his sacrifice was an incredibly powerful rebuttal to those who rationalized the genocide of the Jews based on the arbitrary and nonsensical ideas of superior/inferior races. But that moral decisions can be difficult and ultimately may be beyond the ability of the finite to discern with complete clarity does not change the nature of ultimate reality (the absolute).

  36. 36
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    My views on the nature of morality have not changed for decades – certainly not during the course of this discussion.

    Mark, here is what you don’t understand. There is a big difference between believing something is wrong and knowing that it is wrong. For some reason, you cannot accept the fact that some ideas are poisonous and inherently destructive to human society. The purpose of the intellectual life is not to simply arrive at a belief system or to feel strongly about it. Militant Islamists who murder “the infidel” have strong beliefs. Abortionists who slaughter unborn children have strong beliefs. What good is that?

    The real task is to make sure that your beliefs are in correspondence with the truth. That is what the intellectual life is supposed to be about. Philosophy means “love of wisdom.” The philosophers that you quote disdain the very idea of wisdom. In truth, they are not philosophers at all; they are sophists. Socrates and Plato exposed those kinds of thinkers over 2000 years ago. If you think that Hume or the “sophisticated” verificationists had any new ideas, go back and discover how the ancient Greeks put it.

  37. 37
    hrun0815 says:

    Bill, you have made a lot of assumptions about which child will ultimately suffer most while on earth. In fact, as a mother I would have an extraordinarily difficult time deciding which fate was worse and which would lead to more suffering. It’s like the Toni Morrison book about the enslaved woman who killed her child rather than give her up to a life of being abused and considered nothing but chattel. I think it takes an enormous amount of courage to place your child in the hands of people who do not value them as individuals and do not care if they suffer (or worse get enjoyment from their suffering). IOW the decision is far more subtle than you imagine.

    I wonder if according to Barry the moral calculation of whether to kill a child or let it live a life of slavery is another unthinkable calculation or if, in this case, it is a perfectly fine calculation worthy of good Christian moral objectivists.

  38. 38
    Zachriel says:

    There seems to be some confusion in the original post concerning objectivism vs. absolutism. A subjectivist can be just as absolutist as an objectivist. Most people understand the idea that there are trade-offs, and while we might admire someone who puts their own life at risk to oppose tyranny, it’s another thing entirely to put the lives of others at risk, and that compromises are a necessary part of life. That’s as much true for the rational objectivist as it is for a rational subjectivist.

    In any case, Barry Arrington provided an example where, in his view, it is better to let a child be tortured and die rather than his moral sensibilities be, shall we say, besmudged. That answers the question he posed in the previous thread.

  39. 39
    Lilly says:

    Hrun, whether I agree with Barry ultimately about the fictional Sophie or not, I respect both his intelligence and his argument, and I do understand what he is saying and ultimately he may be right. I am not claiming that what the enslaved woman did was the right thing, and while I do not fault her for choosing between the two horrible options that she faced because of the intensely immoral actions of others who held slaves as chattel, I do not think she ultimately had the right to kill her child. I just think it requires an enormous amount of courage and faith to give up your child to the “evil institution” as slavery has been known throughout history and I empathize with her. The decision ultimately drove her mad, and the other decision likely would have done the same.

  40. 40
    Lilly says:

    Zachriel @ 38
    Your categorization of Barry as eager to have children tortured is entirely unfair and I’m guessing you are aware of that. The question is one that is extraordinarily subtle and the fact that Sophie herself faced a dilemma and could not give an answer like, hey that’s an easy one, kill the girl, immediately should inform us that there are deeper questions of morality to ponder, especially within a system so monstrously distorted by evil.

  41. 41
    fossil says:

    Barry @16, let us reason together. Read the incident of the fig tree in the Bible as found in the two places it is told Mat 21:19 and Mk 11:13-14. Question, did Jesus do what you have done?

  42. 42
    Zachriel says:

    Lilly: Your categorization of Barry as eager to have children tortured is entirely unfair and I’m guessing you are aware of that.

    We are quite certain that Barry Arrington is no more eager to have children tortured and killed than is Mark Frank.

    Lilly: The question is one that is extraordinarily subtle …

    To which Barry Arrington gave a facile answer.

  43. 43
    Florabama says:

    At least Mark Frank is consistent. If there are no transcendent moral absolutes that stand outside of man, then no action can ever be rationally deemed immoral — even torturing an infant for pleasure or practicing genocide for political power. Neither of those things can ever be immoral if there are no transcendent moral absolutes. To judge them one way or the other simply amounts to opinion and one opinion does not outrank another. For most antinomians, this is where they become irrational. They want THEIR morals to be higher and count for more than your morals. Whether it’s Dawkins crusade against the evils of religion or the Left’s lack of tolerance for intolerance, there is always some moral they elevate above all others without ever realizing that they have no foundation for moralism. Without transcendent moral absolutes, we are all just animals, and when your house cat plays “cat and mouse,” until he lays the dead mouse on your door step, he has not acted immorally. He is just being an animal. Welcome to the world of those who reject their Creator.

  44. 44
    Zachriel says:

    Florabama: To judge them one way or the other simply amounts to opinion and one opinion does not outrank another.

    That is incorrect. Subjectivists do rank moral opinions, and will frequently enforce the moral opinion through social rules or laws. Indeed, they make common cause with objectivists in this endeavor when there is common ground.

    UD Editor: Zach, try to read for comprehension. He never said subjectivists do not rank moral opinions. He said they DO rank moral opinions. Jeepers man; the comment was not that long and you said it said the opposite of what it clearly said. What is the matter with you? What he said, the issue from which you steadfastly averted your gaze, was that subjectivists have no basis upon which to rank moral opinions other than their personal preference. That you ignore (and indeed mischaracterize) what he actually said speaks volumes.

  45. 45
    Lilly says:

    Zachriel at 42: I don’t agree that it is a facile answer. The question poised in a moral rather than sentimental light is whether Sophie herself becomes a collaborator with an evil system by accepting rather than rejecting outright any “deal” offered by the system. That is, can she trade the life of one of her children for the life of the other which is essentially what she does. It is an abhorrently unjust thing to do. Yet there is a competing moral consideration: does she have the right to reject the possible survival of one of her children, and would the rejection of the deal make her a collaborator in his death, which is really just another way of asking the original question. I don’t know the answer, because the question itself is so sickeningly unjust. But it is because of this, that the question is inherently immoral that Barry’s answer, to choose not to actively participate in a thoroughly evil calculation, makes sense.

  46. 46
    Mark Frank says:

    SB

    Mark, here is what you don’t understand. There is a big difference between believing something is wrong and knowing that it is wrong.

    The commonly accepted definition when I was a philosophy undergrad was that knowledge was true, justified belief. i.e. a belief that was based on good grounds and happens to be true. I remember writing essays about it. Do you have a different definition?

    For some reason, you cannot accept the fact that some ideas are poisonous and inherently destructive to human society.

    I absolutely accept that – although we probably differ as to which they are.

    The purpose of the intellectual life is not to simply arrive at a belief system or to feel strongly about it. Militant Islamists who murder “the infidel” have strong beliefs. Abortionists who slaughter unborn children have strong beliefs. What good is that?

    Absolutely. As far as I am concerned the purpose of intellectual enquiry is to try and arrive at the truth – calling other people liars, evil and such like is generally considered to destructive to that enterprise.

    The real task is to make sure that your beliefs are in correspondence with the truth. That is what the intellectual life is supposed to be about. Philosophy means “love of wisdom.”

    Sure.

    The philosophers that you quote disdain the very idea of wisdom. In truth, they are not philosophers at all; they are sophists. Socrates and Plato exposed those kinds of thinkers over 2000 years ago. If you think that Hume or the “sophisticated” verificationists had any new ideas, go back and discover how the ancient Greeks put it.

    I look forward to reading your essay about this. Until then it remains a controversial proposition with no evidence. Meanwhile I leave you with a quote from GE Anscombe

    But with Hume it is otherwise: hence he is a very profound and great philosopher, in spite of his sophistry

              
              
             

  47. 47
    Zachriel says:

    Lilly: I don’t know the answer, because the question itself is so sickeningly unjust.

    Barry Arrington: Sophie’s choice was profoundly immoral. The only moral choice is to refuse to choose even if this means both children must die.

    Not only is this Barry Arrington’s answer, but he claims it is the *only* moral choice, objectively. It’s a nice pat answer that just happens to increase Sophie’s chance of survival. Rather, real people, both objectivists and subjectivists, try to balance competing values to find the best possible path through life.

  48. 48
    StephenB says:

    hrun0815

    Instead of accusing me of slander you could have just said that it I am mistaken and it wasn’t you.

    If it was a case of mistaken identity, then it’s no problem. I make mistakes every day.

    In fact, I am not certain who I had this thought experiment with and I thought it was you (which I indicated in the post). Obviously it was somebody else. I apologize to you– especially since you perceive this as ‘slander’. Wow!

    The offense was less about being a personal attack on me and more about the insinuation that a psychotic Islamist murderer is following the tenets of objective morality.

  49. 49
    Lilly says:

    Perhaps “objectivists” and “subjectivists” could agree on some things in principle based on something like the Tao or the golden rule, etc. The real threat to individuals arises on earth largely because of scarcity and the will to power. And today it is fashionable to demean and dehumanize large parts of the population based on differing worldviews and political opinions, so some principles must be held to be absolute rights. If what is “moral” is simply what is accepted by part of the population according to current fashions of thought, or what is best for the “common good” then we have no protection from the bloody “solutions” of the last century.

  50. 50
    Zachriel says:

    Lilly: Perhaps “objectivists” and “subjectivists” could agree on some things in principle based on something like the Tao or the golden rule, etc.

    Or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Or just particulars, such as prohibitions against murder or running red lights.

    Lilly: today it is fashionable to demean and dehumanize large parts of the population based on differing worldviews and political opinions, so some principles must be held to be absolute rights.

    Not sure that is a new phenomenon. In any case, subjectivists can be just as absolutist as objectivists.

    Lilly: If what is “moral” is simply what is accepted by part of the population according to current fashions of thought, or what is best for the “common good” then we have no protection from the bloody “solutions” of the last century.

    Subjectivism does not equal Relativism.

  51. 51
    Barry Arrington says:

    fossil @ 41. Jesus said to the fig tree: “I curse you.” Since Jesus is God, that is literally the same as saying “God damn you.” And, of course, we know while the story is on its face about Jesus cursing a plant, at a deeper level, the level at which it is meant to be read, it is not about a plant at all.

  52. 52
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    The commonly accepted definition when I was a philosophy undergrad was that knowledge was true, justified belief. i.e. a belief that was based on good grounds and happens to be true. I remember writing essays about it. Do you have a different definition?

    Close enough for our purposes.

    Absolutely. As far as I am concerned the purpose of intellectual enquiry is to try and arrive at the truth –

    I don’t think that you believe what you are saying. You are satisfied to declare your moral truth, which is subjective, not to arrive at the moral truth, which is, by definition, objective. You choose to believe that there is no objective moral truth to arrive at. Is that because you would prefer not to arrive there?

    calling other people liars, evil and such like is generally considered to destructive to that enterprise.

    That’s a little one sided don’t you think? It is also true that lying is destructive to that enterprise.

  53. 53
    Lilly says:

    Zachriel: @50: Fair enough, I honestly don’t know enough about subjectivism to add anything to the conversation at this point. Any primary sources you could point me to for a better understanding? I can agree with the prohibition of murder and running red lights 🙂

  54. 54
    hrun0815 says:

    The offense was less about being a personal attack on me and more about the insinuation that a psychotic Islamist murderer is following the tenets of objective morality.

    Wait, so self-described subjectivists are either delusional objectivists or they are sociopaths. And self-described objectivists with the wrong morals are not real objectivists after all?

    This is getting really confusing to me.

    EDIT: Also please note that for this thought experiment it is completely irrelevant if the ISIS fighter is an objectivist or a subjectivist. The point is about the objectivist and subjectivist hostages.

    Both hostages say: Hey, what you are doing is immoral.
    ISIS fighter: No way. I am killing infidels like God commanded. It is perfectly moral.
    The subjectivist stops talking and starts looking for a board with a nail in it.
    The objectivist goes on to say: But look, I am an objectivist; my morals were given to me by the one and only true God. I KNOW they are right. Surely this will be more convincing to you than this subjectivist claiming that he believes what you are doing is morally wrong, which just happens to be his personal opinion.
    At this stage the ISIS fighter …

  55. 55
    drc466 says:

    So, I think I finally understand what Mark Frank, Zachriel, RDFish, et. al. are saying:

    1) As a Subjectivist, I believe that every individual’s morals are the result of personal opinion, and there is no such thing as an objective morality.
    2) Based on my personal morality, I believe certain actions (e.g. torturing infants) to be morally wrong for everyone, regardless of what their subjective opinion may be.

    Is this correct? If so – how is #2 different from objectivism – that our understanding of objective morality is subjective, but that there are moral absolutes?

  56. 56
    faded_Glory says:

    StephenB:

    There is a big difference between believing something is wrong and knowing that it is wrong. For some reason, you cannot accept the fact that some ideas are poisonous and inherently destructive to human society. The purpose of the intellectual life is not to simply arrive at a belief system or to feel strongly about it. Militant Islamists who murder “the infidel” have strong beliefs. Abortionists who slaughter unborn children have strong beliefs. What good is that?

    The real task is to make sure that your beliefs are in correspondence with the truth.

    This all sounds very wise and uplifting, but when it comes to actually deciding on what this truth is, all you can offer is that it is ‘self-evident’.

    If it was that easy there wouldn’t have been debates about this for centuries.

    I see a different truth: people have had different views on moral issues throughout the ages, regardless of whether they are objectivists or subjectivists. In all that time, nobody has been able to pinpoint the one and only objective moral code to the satisfaction of everybody else. Should that not tell you something?

    fG

  57. 57
    fossil says:

    Barry @ 51, I will not bother you anymore on this but I do wonder what translation you are using because of all 18 versions I have visible on my BibleWorks program none of them records Jesus as saying “I curse you.” They all say approximately what the King James Version says “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever” (Matt. 21:19 KJV).

  58. 58
    Barry Arrington says:

    fossil, of course I paraphrased. And the paraphrase is fair. Any way you look at it, that’s a curse, and what did the tree look like the next day?

  59. 59
    faded_Glory says:

    drc466:

    So, I think I finally understand what Mark Frank, Zachriel, RDFish, et. al. are saying:

    1) As a Subjectivist, I believe that every individual’s morals are the result of personal opinion, and there is no such thing as an objective morality.
    2) Based on my personal morality, I believe certain actions (e.g. torturing infants) to be morally wrong for everyone, regardless of what their subjective opinion may be.

    Is this correct? If so – how is #2 different from objectivism – that our understanding of objective morality is subjective, but that there are moral absolutes?

    I might quibble about ‘personal opinion’ because I think it goes deeper than that, but in essence, yes, I can agree with that.

    How this is different from objectivism is that under objectivism, the moral code exists outside of and independent from the human mind. Subjectivists do not believe this to be the case, so that in essence morality will die out with the last person on Earth.

    In practice, of course, there is no difference. Objectivists and subjectivists behave in precisely the same way. That is why it is quite unnecessary for people such as Barry Arrington and other here to get so worked up about what is really just an academic question.

    fG

  60. 60
    Barry Arrington says:

    drc466 and Faded Glory, you ask the question answered in the OP as if it were never addressed, far less answered. I can only conclude you are not really interested in the answer; you just want to post your talking points. OK; you’ve posted them. Move along.

  61. 61
    StephenB says:

    hrun0815

    Wait, so self-described subjectivists are either delusional objectivists or they are sociopaths. And self-described objectivists with the wrong morals are not real objectivists after all?

    You are confusing the morality that comes from an allegedly divine source, which can be wrong if it comes from a false god, with the natural moral law, which cannot be wrong since it is proper to human nature.

    Also, if a person invents a false religion, it means that he also invented the morality contained in the religion, which makes it subjective. Militant Islam is nothing more than subjectivism on steroids.

  62. 62
    hrun0815 says:

    You are confusing the morality that comes from an allegedly divine source, which can be wrong if it comes from a false god, with the natural moral law, which cannot be wrong since it is proper to human nature.

    Also, if a person invents a false religion, it means that he also invented the morality contained in the religion, which makes it subjective. Militant Islam is nothing more than subjectivism on steroids.

    Ok. Got it: A subjectivist (unless sociopathic) is actually an objectivist who (unless he adheres to the right religion–which I presume happens to be identical to StephenB’s) is actually a subjectivst!

    EDIT: Ah, yes, that makes perfect sense. It just means that a self-proclaimed objectivist who bases his morality on a false religion is actually one of the rare subjectivist sociopaths.

  63. 63
    faded_Glory says:

    Barry,

    Let’s look at your answer then:

    It is immoral to say that the proposition “torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people” is up for grabs. Why is it evil? Because someone might believe you of course! By saying this you have undermined the “unthinkable-ness” of the converse of the proposition. And when you do that, you have opened a door that must always remain shut.

    I believe morality is subjective, and I hold to the proposition that torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people. This is not up for grabs as far as I am concerned. However, I disagree that the proposition is an objective fact that somehow exists outside the human mind. That’s all.

    fG

  64. 64
    StephenB says:

    hrun0815

    Ok. Got it: A subjectivist (unless sociopathic) is actually an objectivist who (unless he adheres to the right religion–which I presume happens to be identical to StephenB’s) is actually a subjectivst!

    No, you don’t got it. But thank your for playing.

  65. 65
    Barry Arrington says:

    We are at 64 comments in the comment thread as I write this. I shall summarize:

    Question 1 (from the OP): Is it an objective fact that it is evil in all times and at all places and under all circumstances to participate in implementing the policies of a genocidal maniac.

    Barry’s answer: Yes.

    Kissinger’s answer: No. It’s all nuance-y. Sure genocide is distasteful. It may even be downright gauche. And having to measure and balance all of the factors that go into the calculation about whether to participate in it is a terrible burden, and we should sympathize with those who must bear it.

    Qestion 2: Is it a certain objective fact that torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people?

    Barry’s answer: Yes.

    Mark Frank (and other materialists): No. There are important but subtle points to make (i.e., it’s all nuance-y). Certainly in my humble opinion the answer is yes. But that’s just my opinion and if someone else has a different opinion, well who am I to say they are wrong. Certainly it is not a “fact,” because there is no such thing as a moral fact. It’s all just one opinion or another.

    Dear readers, monsters and their apologists walk among us. It is sobering and frightening to reflect on this.

  66. 66
    StephenB says:

    faded glory

    This all sounds very wise and uplifting, but when it comes to actually deciding on what this truth is, all you can offer is that it is ‘self-evident’.

    That isn’t true at all. Very few truths are self-evident, but many can be arrived at through reason.

    I see a different truth: people have had different views on moral issues throughout the ages, regardless of whether they are objectivists or subjectivists. In all that time, nobody has been able to pinpoint the one and only objective moral code to the satisfaction of everybody else. Should that not tell you something?

    Yes, it tells me a great deal. If a man refuses to conform his behavior to the objective moral code, he will soon find a subjective moral code that conforms to his behavior. Such was the case for Machiavelli, whose ugly shadow looms large in this OP.

  67. 67
    StephenB says:

    Barry @65, I think that is a fair summary. The key words here “objective fact.” It is interesting that subjectivists tend to manipulate the word “truth,” as in “my truth,” more readily than the word “fact,” since it is harder to say, “my fact.” Even so, a truth is no less pliable than a fact and is equally unforgiving of wrong opinions.

  68. 68
    Mark Frank says:

    drc466 #55

    Thank you for making the effort to understand. I agree with FG’s response at #59.

  69. 69
    hrun0815 says:

    Re #55:

    Is this correct? If so – how is #2 different from objectivism – that our understanding of objective morality is subjective, but that there are moral absolutes?

    Yes. That is correct. Whether or not you agree, it is great that somebody at least understands.

    And also, you are correct to identify that, at least from the perspective of a subjectivist, there is no difference to objective morality in practical terms. Everybody can only say that they feel an action is morally wrong (for everybody) and then argue about why the believe this is so.

  70. 70
    StephenB says:

    Barry

    Dear readers, monsters and their apologists walk among us. It is sobering and frightening to reflect on this.

    Yes, and just before they gather up the ropes and the knives, they echo the abortionist’s battle cry: “I am personally opposed to this slaughter, but”….

    Where have I heard this before? Oh yes, “I find no guilt in this man. I wash my hands of this whole affair.”—–Pontius Pilate, king of the subjectivists.

  71. 71
    Mark Frank says:

    SB #52

    I don’t think that you believe what you are saying. You are satisfied to declare your moral truth, which is subjective, not to arrive at the moral truth, which is, by definition, objective. You choose to believe that there is no objective moral truth to arrive at. Is that because you would prefer not to arrive there?

    Why do you keep assuming things about your opponent’s motives? I didn’t choose to believe there is no objective moral truth. I came to the conclusion there is no objective moral truth. If you are interested I can explain how I came to that conclusion, but you don’t seem to be that interested in understanding opposing viewpoints.

    Mark: calling other people liars, evil and such like is generally considered to destructive to that enterprise.

    SB:That’s a little one sided don’t you think? It is also true that lying is destructive to that enterprise.

    So do you agree that calling other people liars, evil and such like is  destructive to intellectual inquiry? Because you and Barry have been doing that and I haven’t. I have made no assumptions about your motives. I just triedto address your arguments as best I can – although it is hard to address an argument that goes “I am self-evidently right and you are an evil liar”.

    I agree that lying is also destructive to intellectual inquiry. I may have made errors or been wrong but I haven’t lied and while Barry has accused me of it several times (and you more or less imply be saying you don’t think I believe what I am saying) he has presented no evidence – in fact he hasn’t even said exactly what the lie is I am supposed to have told.

    Do you really think I would spend all this time and effort on some kind of intellectual game deliberately saying things I believed to be false? What motivates me it is intense irritation at seeing the subjectivist position being so much misunderstood – plus a rather natural response to be called an evil liar.

    Stepping back it is interesting to consider what is going on in the debate. It feels to me like I you or Barry assert a rather ambiguous statement. I try to clarify into two or three possibilities some of which I agree with and some I don’t. You fail to understand the distinction and accuse me of contradicting myself and being a liar and latterly much worse and doing it out of some kind of weird spite.

  72. 72
    Mark Frank says:

    It is interesting that subjectivists tend to manipulate the word “truth,” as in “my truth,” more readily than the word “fact,” since it is harder to say, “my fact.” Even so, a truth is no less pliable than a fact and is equally unforgiving of wrong opinions.

    I just did a search on “my truth”. It doesn’t occur anywhere in the thread. Can you actually point to an instance of this manipulating the word “truth”?

  73. 73
    StephenB says:

    faded glory

    I believe morality is subjective, and I hold to the proposition that torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people. This is not up for grabs as far as I am concerned. However, I disagree that the proposition is an objective fact that somehow exists outside the human mind. That’s all.

    What if another subjectivist thinks that it is up for grabs? Is he as entitled to his subjective morality as you are to yours?

  74. 74
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    I just did a search on “my truth”. It doesn’t occur anywhere in the thread. Can you actually point to an instance of this manipulating the word “truth”?

    Oh please, Mark. Get real. Just Google, “its true for you, but not for me.” It means exactly the same thing.

  75. 75
    faded_Glory says:

    Barry Arrington:

    Mark Frank (and other materialists): No. There are important but subtle points to make (i.e., it’s all nuance-y). Certainly in my humble opinion the answer is yes. But that’s just my opinion and if someone else has a different opinion, well who am I to say they are wrong. Certainly it is not a “fact,” because there is no such thing as a moral fact. It’s all just one opinion or another.

    I bolded the part where you demonstrate that, after hundreds of posts, you still don’t understand the subjectivist’s position.

    Maybe you should ask drc466 to explain it to you. At least (s)he made the effort to really understand what we are saying.

    fG

  76. 76
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank;

    If you are interested I can explain how I came to that conclusion, but you don’t seem to be that interested in understanding opposing viewpoints.

    Actually, I am very interested. I would be honored if you would share that information.

  77. 77
    faded_Glory says:

    Stephenb:

    What if another subjectivist thinks that it is up for grabs? Is he as entitled to his subjective morality as you are to yours?

    Of course everybody is entitled to their own moral beliefs. We don’t police what other people think.

    However, if he were to translate such beliefs into actions, we will oppose him because our own moral standards compel us to do so.

    Now I can ask a question: what if two moral objectivists disagree, are they both entitled to their own interpretations?

    fG

  78. 78
    Mark Frank says:

    SB

    You wrote it is interesting how subjectivists manipulate the word truth. It then turns out that you can’t point to an example in this thread. So which subjectivists were you talking about?

  79. 79
    Barry Arrington says:

    Habits of mind are vitally important. The man who taught me firearms told me, “never point a gun at something you are unwilling to destroy.” Why did he say that? Certainly it is not because if I were to ignore his advice I would in fact destroy something I did not want to destroy every time I pointed a gun the wrong way. In fact, I might never have done so. And even if I had, the odds were probably around 99.999999999% against it.

    So why did he say it? He said it to encourage me to develop a safe habit of mind. Safe habits of mind operate at the margin.

    Subjectivism is an unsafe habit of mind. Surely at the margin it makes a difference in behavior among billions of people making countless trillions of moral decisions, whether the prevailing view is that moral claims are grounded on nothing but subjective personal preferences instead of objective fact.

  80. 80
    Barry Arrington says:

    MF @ 71:

    Barry:

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

    Mark:

    I disagree.

    What you don’t seem to understand is that I am actually giving you the benefit of the doubt when I say you are lying. If I were convinced that you truly believe what you say — that it is possible, in principle, for the act of torturing an infant for personal pleasure to ever be other than an unmitigated evil — then I would immediately conclude you are a morally loathsome monster of the highest order. Better a liar than a monster.

  81. 81
    StephenB says:

    Here is drc466’s summary of subjectivism, which every subjectivist on this site has supported:

    1) As a Subjectivist, I believe that every individual’s morals are the result of personal opinion, and there is no such thing as an objective morality.
    2) Based on my personal morality, I believe certain actions (e.g. torturing infants) to be morally wrong for everyone, regardless of what their subjective opinion may be.

    OK, subjectivists, I have a question:

    First, you say that all subjectivists are entitled to decide for themselves what is right and wrong. Then, you say that some actions are “wrong for everyone,” including all other subjectivists. So, which is it? Is the subjectivist right insofar as he, like you, gets to decide on his own moral code, even if it permits actions that you think are universally wrong, or is he wrong because his personal moral code conflicts with your personal moral code?

  82. 82
    Piotr says:

    Barry,

    In the 17th century, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth prided itself on its religious tolerance. It was a multiethnic and multicultural state. Though Catholicism had a dominant position in the west, and Eastern Orthodox Christianity in the east, Protestantism and various dissident denominations found a safe haven there at a time when most of Europe was torn by religious conflicts (Christians killing Christians over small doctrinal disagreements). Even Jewish and Muslim communities had little to fear and were generally sheltered from persecution.

    There was, however, one exception: evil atheists. As argued by philosophers and lawyers at the time, atheism was not a safe habit of mind. If you refused to swear on the Bible, how could a court trust your testimony? If you didn’t fear God, who could guarantee that you wouldn’t break any oath, any contract, and any law? The stability of the social order was at stake, so any atheist caught denying the existence of God had to face the consequences. For example, in 1634, Kazimierz Lyszczynski, a well-educated nobleman and a former student od philosophy at a Jesuit college, was condemned to death for being the author of an unpublished manuscript of a treatise entitled De non existentia Dei, purloined from him by a good Catholic who happened to be Lyszczynski’s debtor, unwilling to pay him back a huge sum of money. Despite a feeble attempt by the King of Poland to protect Lyszczynski, he was eventually executed in the following way:

    After recantation the culprit was conducted to the scaffold, where the executioner tore with a burning iron the tongue and the mouth, with which he had been cruel against God; after which his hands, the instruments of the abominable production, were burnt at a slow fire, the sacrilegious paper was thrown into the flames; finally himself, that monster of his century, this deicide was thrown into the expiatory flames; expiatory if such a crime may be atoned for.

    [emphasis mine]

    I’m sure the prosecutors, the judges, the executioners, and the audience were all objectivists, and people of a safe habit of mind. Lyszczynski hadn’t done the least harm to anyone, but who knows what he could be up to potentially? It’s safer to pacify a monster (your word) before it’s too late.

  83. 83
    Barry Arrington says:

    Piotr @ 82.

    Your attempt to conflate my views with someone who tortured an atheist to death is pathetic. You are utterly shameless, but it’s OK, because your naked emotional appeal is also very ham fisted, and that mitigates its effect to a large degree.

    The issue is whether atheism is an unsafe habit of mind. If you could line up the ghosts of Mao’s and Zhou’s victims and ask them one by one, I suspect they would say that it is. Oh wait, at the rate of one minute per victim every minute of every day without stopping, that would take over 123 years. Better hurry.

    Yeah, religious people did some bad things, but for really wholesale slaughter in which the victims are numbered in the tens of millions, you can’t beat an atheist.

  84. 84
    Zachriel says:

    Lilly: I honestly don’t know enough about subjectivism to add anything to the conversation at this point. Any primary sources you could point me to for a better understanding? I can agree with the prohibition of murder and running red lights

    Sorry, Lilly. We’re not trying to be pedantic. These are secondary sources, but should give you an idea of what is meant.

    Relativism
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_relativism

    Subjectivism
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethical_subjectivism

  85. 85
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    You wrote it is interesting how subjectivists manipulate the word truth. It then turns out that you can’t point to an example in this thread. So which subjectivists were you talking about?

    I wasn’t necessarily referring to any activity on this thread. The point is that truth is pliable and personalized for subjectivists. Accordingly, they often personalize the word truth by spouting such nonsense as, “it may be true for you, but not for me.” That would be manipulating the word “truth.”

    Meanwhile, you have some substantive issues to deal with:

    If all subjectivists are entitled to decide for themselves whether or not it is immoral to torture babies for fun, how can it be that, for you, that behavior is wrong for everyone, including the subjectivists who think that it is not wrong. Is such an action moral for them because their code allows it, or is it immoral because your code doesn’t allow it? If it is not moral, whatever happened to their prerogative to decide that question for themselves?

  86. 86
    Zachriel says:

    drc466: 1) As a Subjectivist, I believe that every individual’s morals are the result of personal opinion, and there is no such thing as an objective morality.
    2) Based on my personal morality, I believe certain actions (e.g. torturing infants) to be morally wrong for everyone, regardless of what their subjective opinion may be. Is this correct?

    Yes, though it is generally more than mere opinion.

    drc466: If so – how is #2 different from objectivism – that our understanding of objective morality is subjective, but that there are moral absolutes?

    Objectivism doesn’t equate to absolutism. For instance, an objectivist can believe that lying is wrong, but may lie about hiding Jews in their attic; while a subjectivist might be a total prig.

    Barry Arrington: Habits of mind are vitally important.

    You might make a utilitarian argument to teach objectivism, e.g. fire and brimstone, but that doesn’t make it true.

    StephenB: First, you say that all subjectivists are entitled to decide for themselves what is right and wrong. Then, you say that some actions are “wrong for everyone,” including all other subjectivists.

    Aye, there’s the rub. A subjectivist doesn’t necessarily say that everyone is entitled to decide for themselves, just that they do. No responsible person, for instance, thinks a child should decide moral questions without guidance. No reasonable person thinks that murderers should be able to murder with impunity whether they are objectivists or not.

  87. 87
    StephenB says:

    piotr

    I’m sure the prosecutors, the judges, the executioners, and the audience were all objectivists, and people of a safe habit of mind.

    What a silly comment. It was precisely their refusal to live up to the objective moral code that brought about their unsafe habit of mind. As a subjectivist, you would recognize it as desire to be a law unto yourself, which describes exactly their state of mind at the time.

  88. 88
    Piotr says:

    #83 Barry,

    It was just your repeated use of the word “monster” that struck me and rang a bell. Little wonder, for the argumentation of seventeenth-century bigots was very similar to yours. Fortunately, in comparison with their predecessors, modern bigots have very little power left.

  89. 89
    StephenB says:

    Zachriel

    Aye, there’s the rub. A subjectivist doesn’t necessarily say that everyone is entitled to decide for themselves, just that they do.

    So you agree that a subjectivist is not entitled to decide for himself what is right or wrong. Thank you.

  90. 90
    Piotr says:

    #87 StephenB

    Of course. They were no true Scots… I mean objectivists.

  91. 91
    StephenB says:

    piotr

    Fortunately, in comparison with their predecessors, modern bigots have very little power left.

    On the contrary, the Western world is crawling with anti-Theists and anti-Christian bigots. Not only do they have power, they rule the roost.

  92. 92
    Dionisio says:

    The greatest injustice in history was committed by religious zealots in the name of religion: the crucifixion of Christ. However, it was also according to the will of God, according to His plan. That unique event can help us to explain any other event in human history.

    Given that maximal horrendous precedent at the beginning of this age of grace, which clearly illustrates the miserable condition of the natural human heart, what else is new in history?

    A true Christian is still a sinner, but forgiven through the saving faith in the redemptive power of the blood of Christ, poured to reconcile us with our gracious and merciful Maker.

    A true Christian wants to obey Christ’s main commandments: to love God with all our strength and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. According to Christ, all the other commandments revealed in the Old Testament, are derived from the main two that Jesus told.

    Jesus said that the road to perdition is wide, but the road that leads to true salvation is very narrow. He also said that He will not accept many who may have publicly claimed to having done things in His name, but really have done things against His will.
    This is written in the New Testament for all to verify it.

    Let’s not be fooled by pretenders who didn’t or don’t care about living according to God’s will and for His glory.
    Let’s not use those pretenders as examples of Christianity. They are not.

    Claiming to be an astronaut won’t make me one. Anyone can claim to be anything. God knows the true motives in our hearts, and that’s what counts at the end of the day. Appearances can be deceiving to us mortal humans, but not to omniscient God.

    We better inform ourselves better from valid sources, before giving misleading opinions based on misinformation, misconceptions, distorted stories, half trues or full lies.

  93. 93
    Zachriel says:

    StephenB: So you agree that a subjectivist is not entitled to decide for himself what is right or wrong.

    Subjectivism means that everyone does decide for themselves, even if that means deciding to defer to authority.

  94. 94
    StephenB says:

    piotr

    Of course. They were no true Scots… I mean objectivists.

    Doesn’t apply. A true Scotsman has never been defined. Objective morality has been defined. But thank you for playing.

  95. 95
    StephenB says:

    SB: So you agree that a subjectivist is not entitled to decide for himself what is right or wrong.

    Zachriel

    Subjectivism means that everyone does decide for themselves, even if that means deciding to defer to authority.

    Irrelevant to my point. You agreed that a subjectivist is not entitled to decide for himself what is right or wrong. That you feel the need to change the subject suggests that you are uncomfortable with your admission. Perhaps Mark Frank or piotr will intervene and argue that subjectivists are entitled to decide these things for themselves. Or, perhaps the will remain silent since they know which question is coming next.

  96. 96

    Barry:

    Murder is never justified. That you don’t understand this is sad.

    It is the action you recommend (for Sophie) by virtue of absolute morality that results in the torture and murder of a yet another child.

    And it is you who finds justification for that child’s murder in an absolute moral duty to refuse to cooperate with evil in every circumstance, even when the supposed cooperation is utterly coerced and in no practical way abets that evil (Nazis didn’t need Sophie’s cooperation to commit murders).

  97. 97
    Zachriel says:

    StephenB: Irrelevant to my point. You agreed that a subjectivist is not entitled to decide for himself what is right or wrong.

    No. Here is what we said.

    Z: A subjectivist doesn’t necessarily say that everyone is entitled to decide for themselves, just that they do.

    A subjectivist may or may not think everyone is *entitled* to decide for themselves. A subjectivist might even want to impose their views on everyone, or not.

  98. 98
    Robert Byers says:

    I dislike this Kissinger too for many reasons. he truly was a failed advisor and in losing Vietnam although one should not have been there first.
    Great statecraft for christian nations is whether right can be done over wrong without the killing of people. God says one can only kill in self defence or judicial punishment.
    Its that simple. Justifying killing for good reasons or needed reasons is murder.
    I don’t know what happened in china but this advisor was a disator for america and Reagan was right to exclude him from his government and so accomplishment in human progress.

  99. 99
    Barry Arrington says:

    RB @ 96:

    And it is you who finds justification for that child’s murder

    Are you barking mad? I wholly condemn murder, and it is only the choice I urge that would result in NOT justifying any murder.

    RB says, “go ahead and kill that one; it’s worth it.”

    Barry says, “I will never choose to kill either of them.”

    And RB says Barry is the one who has justified murder. Madness, sheer madness. Call black white much?

  100. 100
    Box says:

    Zac: No responsible person, for instance, thinks a child should decide moral questions without guidance. No reasonable person thinks that murderers should be able to murder with impunity whether they are objectivists or not.

    So what? Under subjectivism being responsible or being reasonable has no intrinsic moral value.

  101. 101
    StephenB says:

    Zachriel

    A subjectivist may or may not think everyone is *entitled* to decide for themselves. A subjectivist might even want to impose their views on everyone, or not.

    You are a subjectivist. Do you believe that you are entitled to decide on your own moral code?

  102. 102

    Barry:

    “I will never choose to kill either of them.”

    And by so saying, at that time and place, two children are tortured and murdered rather than one.

    “Barry’s choice” results in the torture and murder of a child.

  103. 103
    Me_Think says:

    It is ridiculous to put our self in the position of a distraught mother and claim pompously that we would have done it differently.No one in her situation will be thinking of morality. A mother loves her children more than any stranger can ever do. If she has to part with a child to save another child, the amount of anguish that she would experience can’t be felt by someone who is not at all related.The bottom line is, she saved one child.

  104. 104
    Tim says:

    On Sophie’s choice–

    According to the premises as retold above, Sophie understands that should she choose a child, that child will survive and the other will perish, but if she fails to make a choice both children will perish.

    Sophie chose to have the boy live. Barry is correct; her participation was wrong. This seems backwards (and Barry a . . .troglodyte), but it is the correct analysis.

    Perhaps is would be easier to understand if we look at it this way: The guard offered Sophie an opportunity and she took it. She chose to have her daughter die. Were we to end there, it would be easy to see that it was immoral.

    Further, we might continue on the other track, the guard offered Sophie an opportunity to choose to have one of her children killed, but she declined to participate; she then suffered with the knowledge that the Nazis had killed her children.

    ((This is crucial. The result of her in-action in this case results in the death of both her children, and yet she is morally culpable for neither death.))

    In this case, although she would have made the right decision, her story would have been about unimaginable suffering. And unfortunately for the materialist, the story ends in a suffering so great that the decision to save one must be the only acceptable moral choice. But for the Christian, such stories do not necessarily end in suffering, but in redemption and restoration . . . “Behold, I make all things new.”

    The analysis thus far, I know, seems quite wrong to the utilitarians and other outcome-based philosophers out there. That is because of their attempts to minimize suffering. Obviously, their’s would be the correct analysis if all of this occurred only in the context of limiting suffering.

    And just as obviously, for those who understand our lives to be informed by natural moral law, while limiting suffering is there, avoiding evil is important, and suffering in the face of evil sustained by a faith in God’s grace can be the only right answer. This context is quite different. We are not (only) about limiting suffering, but about being in right relation.

    Having said that, I must confess that in that situation, I might have acted immorally. Yes, I must confess. . .

  105. 105
    DesignDetectiveDave says:

    How about a burning house with only time to save one child?

  106. 106
    Lilly says:

    Barry @ 99
    I don’t think it’s a choice most non-fictional mothers could make. It’s certainly not one any mother should ever have to make. And I believe in objective truth and morality as you do. I just cannot find Sophie as culpable as Mao’s henchmen because I reserve that designation for the Nazis about to murder her children, and also because Sophie does have a moral obligation to protect her children. But as I said above, it is wrong to choose one of her children to live and one to die.

    The subtlety I was referring to above was originally directed at a poster who seemed to characterize this as an easy choice to save one of the children — I wanted to point out that leaving him in the arms of Nazis is not something any mother would ever, ever want to do and would not be easy, nor would it remotely guarantee his survival. I also used it to refer to the issue of whether Sophie becomes responsible for the deaths by not choosing and upon reflection I agree with you that she does not.

  107. 107
    Box says:

    Tim,

    How exactly is Sophie’s in-action not a choice? Like Bob O’H wrote in post #2:

    Isn’t the point of Sophie’s Choice that she has no alternative but to play the guard’s game? The guard gives her 3 choices: (1) let her son die, (2) let her daughter die, (3) let both die (by not giving an answer).

  108. 108
    Graham2 says:

    Barry: The only difference between this and the 50 other repetitions of the baby thing, is your repulsive solution to Sophies choice.

  109. 109
    Barry Arrington says:

    Graham2, there is a non-repulsive solution to Sophie’s choice? Do tell.

  110. 110
    Graham2 says:

    I think she did the right thing, as Im sure just about every mother on the planet would do likewise, but the point really is that no-one except the person concerned is qualified to pontificate. Once you are actually in that position, then you can talk.

  111. 111
    Mark Frank says:

    #85 SB

    Mark Frank: You wrote it is interesting how subjectivists manipulate the word truth. It then turns out that you can’t point to an example in this thread. So which subjectivists were you talking about?
    SB: I wasn’t necessarily referring to any activity on this thread. The point is that truth is pliable and personalized for subjectivists. Accordingly, they often personalize the word truth by spouting such nonsense as, “it may be true for you, but not for me.” That would be manipulating the word “truth.”

    A neat sidestep. You make an accusation and it turns out you can’t point to single instance of it so you revert to saying “they often spout such nonsense”. (I dare say if you search the whole of the internet you will find an example). 

    Meanwhile, you have some substantive issues to deal with:

    You raised it but you are right it is not important. I would not have addressed it if you had not been lecturing me about lying and lack of intellectual honesty.

    If all subjectivists are entitled to decide for themselves whether or not it is immoral to torture babies for fun,

    I never said everyone is entitled to their own opinion. It is just a fact that they do have their own opinion and there is no moral fact to prove them wrong only a bunch of reasons for our different opinions. Entitlement is either a legal concept – and people are entitled to any opinion under any law I am aware of – or a moral concept in which case it is itself a subjective opinion.

    how can it be that, for you, that behavior is wrong for everyone, including the subjectivists who think that it is not wrong.

    Why not?

    Is such an action moral for them because their code allows it, or is it immoral because your code doesn’t allow it?

    They think it is moral. I think it is immoral. Period. You are trying to force my views into an objective framework. Let’s take an analogy. Suppose I find the Mona Lisa beautiful and you don’t. You are doing the equivalent of asking is it beautiful because I think it is beautiful or not because you don’t.

    If it is not moral, whatever happened to their prerogative to decide that question for themselves?

    See my comment on entitlement.

  112. 112
    Mark Frank says:

    #80 BA
    MF @ 71:

    Barry:
    It is a certain, objective fact that torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people.
    Mark:
    I disagree.

    What you don’t seem to understand is that I am actually giving you the benefit of the doubt when I say you are lying. If I were convinced that you truly believe what you say — that it is possible, in principle, for the act of torturing an infant for personal pleasure to ever be other than an unmitigated evil — then I would immediately conclude you are a morally loathsome monster of the highest order. Better a liar than a monster.

    Barry – why did you edit my response? I  said I agree that torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people. I repeated this many, many times.  I just disagree that it is an objective fact because moral statements are not like that. So I am still confused as to what the “lie” is.

    I guess you feel that by proposing that moral statements are at core subjective I am somehow conceding that therefore child torture might under some circumstances be morally OK. That just doesn’t follow.

  113. 113
    Mark Frank says:

    SB #76

    Mark Frank; If you are interested I can explain how I came to that conclusion, but you don’t seem to be that interested in understanding opposing viewpoints.
    SB Actually, I am very interested. I would be honored if you would share that information.

    I will try to be brief. I am happy to enlarge on any point provided I have time and the query is phrased in a reasonably friendly manner.

    1) Subjectivism is what I observe myself and others doing. On the whole when people make moral judgements they exchange reasons but they don’t come to a final decision by matching the situation against some standard. They make an emotional (but reasoned) response.

    2) The IS/OUGHT gap cannot be bridged. Whatever brand of objectivism you believe in (and there are hundreds of objective standards to choose from) it is always possible to ask “why ought I subscribe to that standard”. In the end the only answer can be – “because I feel I ought to …..”  which is subjectivism.

    3) Other issues which are accepted as subjective show that you can have good powerful reasons for subjective opinions – it is not just a matter of opinion.

    4) When I say something is morally evil I mean that I disapprove of it and want others to stop doing it. I know what I mean. And it seems most implausible that we are actually talking about different things when we say something is evil.

    5) If saying something were evil were merely an objective fact like noting it was red then there would be no reason for avoiding or discouraging evil – yet avoiding it or discouraging it is built into the very meaning of the word. If you understand that calling something evil is a prescriptive act calling upon people not to do it then that problem is solved.

    There are  other reasons but that will do for a start.

    It is not an argument for subjectivism – but it is worth noting that it makes no difference that I can see to how people behave whether they are subjectivists or objectivists. They still have some moral views which they believe in very firmly and others they are less sure of.

  114. 114
    faded_Glory says:

    StephenB:

    If all subjectivists are entitled to decide for themselves whether or not it is immoral to torture babies for fun, how can it be that, for you, that behavior is wrong for everyone, including the subjectivists who think that it is not wrong. Is such an action moral for them because their code allows it, or is it immoral because your code doesn’t allow it? If it is not moral, whatever happened to their prerogative to decide that question for themselves?

    In my view, everybody is entitled to believe whatever they believe, even if I find their beliefs distasteful, wrong or downright evil. How could it be otherwise? We cannot police other people’s beliefs. Therefore, what they ‘decide’ about the morality of TBFF (Torturing Babies For Fun) is of no concern to me or to anyone.

    Things are very different when it comes to actions, in particular actions that affect other people in some way or form. Since morality is in essence about how we react to actions, I will react to other people’s actions depending on where they fit in my moral framework (good, bad, indifferent). If I see someone engaging in TBFF I will try to stop him, compelled by my moral sense. In doing so I am no different from an objectivist.

    The only difference between you and me is that I do not believe there exists a moral standard independent from, and outside of, the human mind. That is all. This position is no more dangerous than that of being an objectivist and mistaken about what the objective moral standard is (ref. the Inca from another thread, or the Polish philosophers and lawyers torturing an atheist from this thread).

    Perhaps you care to answer a question I asked Barry several times now, but that he declines to answer:

    If it is possible to be mistaken about the objective moral standard (cf. the Inca and the Polish philosophers and lawyers) – how do you know that your own understanding of it is correct, and not flawed as well? What makes you so much more clever than those people? How do you know?

    fG

  115. 115
    Bob O'H says:

    Are you barking mad? I wholly condemn murder, and it is only the choice I urge that would result in NOT justifying any murder.

    RB says, “go ahead and kill that one; it’s worth it.”

    Barry says, “I will never choose to kill either of them.”

    No, Barry. But instead your choice (not to cooperate) means that two children die, instead of one. If you wholly condemn murder, why would you prefer the murder of two children to one child? I hope, at the very least, you can see why your choice (to not make a calculation and therefore cause more children to be murdered) would cause some disquiet.

  116. 116
    Mark Frank says:

    BA #29
     
    I just saw this one.
     

    I do care when you undermine the unthinkable-ness of the proposition under consideration just as I would care if you were advising children that playing in a busy highway is not a good idea, but it is just your opinion and you could be wrong.

     
    Whether a road is dangerous is rather a relevant example. In some contexts the judgement that a road is dangerous is subjective (suppose it is new road so it based on a subjective assessment of certain features). Nevertheless I can be very certain it is dangerous and be prepared to enforce that opinion and I certainly wouldn’t describe it as “just my opinion and I could be wrong”.
     
    I repeat: objectivity and certainty are not the same thing. You can be uncertain about objective matters and certain about subjective matters.

  117. 117
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: On the literary dilemma presented to Sophie (and used to undermine the conscience of ever so many) I suggest that the claimed choice is false as well as corrupting.

    It is not a choice to save one alive, it is just the postponement of morally certain murder no 2 by trying to torture the for now surviving child with the horror of a mother involved in murdering the other child. An enhancement to the art of corruption.

    The true witness at that point would be to confront the evil and challenge the murderer, even his soul is in the stakes after all.

    All this brings to mind a text:

    Heb 5:11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. [ESV]

    Sophie/s Choice and many other things of like ilk are about giving tainted meat to infants needing pure milk. Something which seems to be an increasingly common error of our time.

    As for Mao and his enabler, though I must express a language concern, BA is right to say that participating in mass murder on the excuse that you reduce the number of victims is just what was said: participation.

    Kissinger is in grave error to try to justify such, and it brings his undoubted knowledge, skills and influence into sadly deserved disrepute.

    We cannot change the past but surely we can learn from it.

    KF

  118. 118
    Brent says:

    Mark Frank,

    I’d like to ask you a question (or two), but don’t have time to type now. If you’d kindly not disregard this thread (I know there will come a time when you feel it’s pointless to continue), I’d appreciate it.

    Thanks.

  119. 119
    Mark Frank says:

    Brent

    I still happen to be doing morning e-mails so I caught this. No problem.

  120. 120
    Graham2 says:

    So KF, rather than bother the conscience of the surviving child, would rather see it killed. Christian morals ? Jeez, this is sick sick sick.

  121. 121
    faded_Glory says:

    Unsurprisingly, different people here come to different conclusions on this horrible dilemma. Can anyone show us the objective moral standard that gives us the correct answer, so that we will all agree and can move on to the next topic?

    fG

  122. 122
    Zachriel says:

    Box: Under subjectivism being responsible or being reasonable has no intrinsic moral value.

    Value is assigned subjectively. Grownups generally think that responsibility is a positive value.

    Tim: Perhaps is would be easier to understand if we look at it this way: The guard offered Sophie an opportunity and she took it. She chose to have her daughter die. Were we to end there, it would be easy to see that it was immoral.

    She chose to have her son live. She pulled one child from the fire, when she couldn’t save both. See the Chinese movie Aftershock based on the 1976 Tangshan earthquake for a similar situation.

    Tim: it is the correct analysis

    There’s your problem right there. Saving a child, for most people, is a much higher value than your wearisome moral “analysis”.

  123. 123
    Box says:

    Barry: Sophie entered into formal cooperation with the guard’s evil. And it is always evil to engage in formal cooperation with evil.

    In the grand scheme of things isn’t “cooperation” unavoidable during this less than ideal earthly existence? We make deals with criminals in exchange for their testimony. We negotiate with hostage-takers.
    We are here and have to interact with evil because more often than not there is no way out; in-action generally leads to the worst result.
    Sending young men and women to war is a terrible thing to do, but in-action towards ISIS may be even worse.

  124. 124
    Barry Arrington says:

    MF

    I guess you feel that by proposing that moral statements are at core subjective I am somehow conceding that therefore child torture might under some circumstances be morally OK.

    You are conceding that the unthinkable could be thinkable. If you are correct, there really is no such thing as morality. There really is such a thing as morality. Therefore, you are not correct. If you are correct, there really is no such thing as right and wrong. There is only the strong who do what they want and the weak who endure that which they cannot prevent. The world you describe is not a world I want to live in. Mao, on the other hand, would appreciate the freedom from any limit your moral viewpoint gives him, and we all know how that turned out.

    I apologize for saying you are liar. You are just deeply deeply, mind boggling misguided. It makes me sad, and it frightens the hell out of me. There are monsters out there. I am certain you are not one of them. You’ve always seemed like a descent fellow. But the 20th century was one long blood-soaked testament to what happens when monsters are taught the lesson you are teaching and take it to heart. I can personally attest that so was Columbine. At a moral theory level, Eric Harris made it clear in the record he left behind that Columbine was a microcosm of the 20th century. Ironic perhaps that in occurred in 1999. The massacre was Mao writ small.

  125. 125
    faded_Glory says:

    I too have always found Mark Frank uncommonly descent 🙂

    fG

  126. 126
    Brent says:

    Mark Frank,

    Thank you.

    The question I want to ask is whether, according to your moral sensibilities, it is moral to force your idea of morality on others? Someone earlier had said it was not moral to do so, but I don’t know your stance on it.

    I surely had time to post that question before, but wasn’t sure how I should ask it.

  127. 127
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    I am happy to enlarge on any point provided I have time and the query is phrased in a reasonably friendly manner.

    I understood that you were going to tell me “how” you became a subjectivist, as opposed to repeating your definition of a subjectivist. I was expecting a brief story. You didn’t begin as subjectivist. No one does. What turned it for you?

  128. 128
    hrun0815 says:

    I understood that you were going to tell me “how” you became a subjectivist, as opposed to repeating your definition of a subjectivist. I was expecting a brief story. You didn’t begin as subjectivist. No one does. What turned it for you?

    Hah, tell that to my kids (and every single child I have observed). Turns out that kids are born moral subjectivists (actually they are born moral nothings, but turn relatively rapidly into moral subjectivists). It is only once they learn empathy that they might even consider that any morals that should apply to others also should apply to them. And that is still a far cry from claiming there is objective morality.

  129. 129
    Tim says:

    Box cautions me,

    Tim,

    How exactly is Sophie’s in-action not a choice? Like Bob O’H wrote in post #2:

    Isn’t the point of Sophie’s Choice that she has no alternative but to play the guard’s game? The guard gives her 3 choices: (1) let her son die, (2) let her daughter die, (3) let both die (by not giving an answer).

    And Zachriel chides:

    Tim: Perhaps is would be easier to understand if we look at it this way: The guard offered Sophie an opportunity and she took it. She chose to have her daughter die. Were we to end there, it would be easy to see that it was immoral.

    She chose to have her son live. She pulled one child from the fire, when she couldn’t save both. See the Chinese movie Aftershock based on the 1976 Tangshan earthquake for a similar situation.

    Tim: it is the correct analysis

    There’s your problem right there. Saving a child, for most people, is a much higher value than your wearisome moral “analysis”.

    To Box I say: The choices were not “letting” her children die, one or both. If she participated, she would be choosing the death of one of her children. In the face of the unimaginable suffering, Sophie’s “inaction” choice was to suffer.

    To Zachriel I say: Thank you for pointing out that “most people” find saving a child a much higher value than my “wearisome moral analysis.” I will allow the reader to decide if it is wearisome; I find the idea that in the face of utter coercion, unheard of psychological torture, evil resulting in the death of her children in which she is unfairly implicated, Sophie’s choice to suffer would have been a retelling of one of the greatest stories of all time, one foretold by an old man walking silently toward Moriah.

    I note that both Box and Zachriel have assiduously avoided that aspect of my previous post.

  130. 130
    Tim says:

    Hah! Hrun@128, that is hilarious. When the toddler cries “Mine” it is not because he is being subjective, it is because he is asserting an objective “fact”. (One that is often in error.) The toddler is not weighing another child’s subjective truth of “ownership”; children at that age must be taught that the desires of other children even exist. Most parents do this through applying natural moral law whether they know it or not.

  131. 131
    Mark Frank says:

    #127 SB

    Sorry I misunderstood you. To be honest I can’t remember. Subjectivism has always seemed obvious since I can remember. One of my tutors at Cambridge really helped me clarify the reasons. These kind of debates help me articulate it better – at least to myself!

    When you say no one begins as a subjectivist that is literally true – but they don’t begin as objectivists either. Most people just “do” morality and don’t dwell on what it is they are doing – metaethics is a minority sport. My experience is if I explore the subject with young people I know they are almost universally subjectivists. They find it patently obvious that morality is at core a matter of opinion – which doesn’t stop them being thoroughly moral.

  132. 132
    hrun0815 says:

    Re @130: I am glad you are amused. I was not talking about toddlers crying ‘mine’. I was talking about conversations that go something like:

    Kid: ‘Waaaaahhhhh, that kid hit me.’
    Me: ‘What did you do?’
    Kid: ‘I took one of his toys.’
    Me: ‘So do you think that’s the reason he hit you?’
    Kid: ‘But he shouldn’t hit me.’

    Ten minutes later, some other kid is crying.

    Me: ‘What happened?’
    Kid: ‘I hit him!’
    Me: ‘Why did you hit him? Don’t you remember, you didn’t like it when you got hit?’
    Kid: ‘Yes. But he took one of my toys…’

    If you interact enough with small children you will have such conversations all the time. They are adamant that certain actions are wrong when done by somebody else, but not wrong when done by them. So they do not, in fact, believe that there is one objective morality that is true for everyone.

  133. 133
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    A neat sidestep. You make an accusation and it turns out you can’t point to single instance of it so you revert to saying “they often spout such nonsense”.

    I didn’t side step anything. I said that subjectivists misuse and manipulate the word truth. I didn’t say that a subjectivist did it on this thread. You just made that up.

    In fact, subjectivists do misuse the word truth on a regular basis each time they use the phrase “it’s true for you, but not for me.” I provided evidence to support my claim. It’s all over the internet. When I brought this evidence to your attention, you ignored the point and changed the subject. So I did support my accusation with facts.

    With that out of the way (I hope) you have not addressed the main issue:

    You say that, for the subjectivist–for any and all subjectivists–right and wrong is determined by his personal convictions. That is the definition of moral subjectivism. Yet you also say that some things, such as torturing babies, is wrong for all subjectivists , including the subjectivists whose convictions are in conflict with your convictions. This is a contradiction. It cannot be both right for him (by virtue of his subjectively- held convictions), and wrong for him (by virtue of your claim that it is wrong for all subjectivists, including him). You cannot escape this contradiction.

  134. 134
    Brent says:

    hrun0815,

    Be honest now! How did the rest of that second conversation play out? Wasn’t it a “do unto others” sort of moment? And don’t you imply in that that subjectivism isn’t viable?

  135. 135
    c hand says:

    MF
    If “morality is at core a matter of opinion” how could anyone fail to be “thoroughly moral”? We are all “thoroughly moral”?

  136. 136
    hrun0815 says:

    Re #134:

    Be honest now! How did the rest of that second conversation play out? Wasn’t it a “do unto others” sort of moment? And don’t you imply in that that subjectivism isn’t viable?

    Of, course it was, Brent. But just because I say it does not mean the kid believes it. Not for a matter of years!

    And no, this does not imply that subjectivism isn’t viable. It implies that subjectivism without empathy is not. Kids learn empathy later. And with empathy they realize that yes, being mean to others is not nice.

    But that is still a far cry from coming to believe that there is something like objective morality.

  137. 137
    Box says:

    Tim: To Box I say: The choices were not “letting” her children die, one or both. If she participated, she would be choosing the death of one of her children. In the face of the unimaginable suffering, Sophie’s “inaction” choice was to suffer.

    IMHO Sophie participates whether she wants it or not. She is a key determinant whether she wants it or not.

    Similarly we are all part of this world whether we want it or not. We can either sacrifice young men and women by ordering them to fight ISIS or not. There is no moral safe haven for us by doing nothing and not to ‘participate’ with ISIS. On the contrary: in this world in-action is not a moral safe haven at all, it is a choice with consequences instead.

  138. 138
    Brent says:

    hrun0815,

    It implies that subjectivism without empathy is not. Kids learn empathy later. And with empathy they realize that yes, being mean to others is not nice.

    I hadn’t said anything in response to this, and yet you were compelled to add this tidbit with no reasoning to back it up.

    But that is still a far cry from coming to believe that there is something like objective morality.

    No! It is not. And you felt compelled to add this because you know it. In this scenario, I’m afraid you’ve just let your cat out of the bag. You really think that empathy is an objective moral standard. As well as not being nice.

    You objectivist you!

  139. 139
    Tim says:

    Box @137:

    She is a key determinant whether she wants it or not

    Emphasis mine.

    Respectfully, I disagree. Morally, one can not be a “determinant” in this situation. Prior even to hearing her “choices”, the evil has been done by others.

    Hrun@132,
    Your examples of the kid getting hit and having a toy swiped are each examples of objectivism, not subjectivism! The child has correctly identified a moral wrong (and conveniently overlooked his/her own moral wrong), welcome to human nature! Hah!

  140. 140
    Mark Frank says:

    Brent #126
     

    The question I want to ask is whether, according to your moral sensibilities, it is moral to force your idea of morality on others? Someone earlier had said it was not moral to do so, but I don’t know your stance on it.

    It depends. You can’t force someone to have an opinion or belief (unless we are talking about hypnotism) so presumably you are talking about forcing someone to act according to my moral opinions. That depends on the particular moral issue. I think it immoral to unpunctual but I wouldn’t threaten someone with a gun for not doing it  (although I sometimes feel like it). On the other hand if they were considering murder I would.
     
    Why do you ask?

  141. 141
    hrun0815 says:

    Re #138: I guess next time I will restrict myself to only saying anything about what Brent brought up first.

    Re #139: Have it your way. That’s fine. You can go on believing that this is indeed a child who ‘overlooks’ that objective morality applies to all, including himself, rather than a child that has yet to learn empathy.

  142. 142
    faded_Glory says:

    Brent:

    The question I want to ask is whether, according to your moral sensibilities, it is moral to force your idea of morality on others? Someone earlier had said it was not moral to do so, but I don’t know your stance on it.

    Speaking for myself, I would try to strike a balance. I don’t think it is always justified to force my idea of morality on others. There certainly are times when someone’s actions are not fully moral in my view, yet the costs of forcing them to act in a way that I would consider wholly moral are not worth it. At other times, their actions may be so immoral according to my standards that I have no choice (towards myself) than to act against them.

    fG

  143. 143
    Brent says:

    Well, I take that as a yes.

    So, according to your subjectivism, you are inconsistent by saying that you are free to impose your subjective moral values on others who have differing subjective moral values. You say that you can point to no objective standard to validate your values as true, and yet you impose your values as if they actually are true and adhering to some standard by which you can actually judge them such.

    Is it moral to impose your moral views on someone else if you don’t know you’re right? Nay! If you CAN’T know you’re right? Or the other wrong?

    Is it moral in your view to do more than just suggest to someone else he/she may be wrong, as opposed to IS wrong, when you have differing subjective moral values? To the point of threatening with a gun???

    Is it moral to insist you are in the right, and the other in the wrong, when in fact you CANNOT know?

    You’ve said you will do it. But is it moral?

    If I am teaching a student some equation and the student gives an answer that I don’t THINK is right, but I’m not sure either, is it fair for me to mark the student’s answer as wrong before I verify? And if I am not able to verify, am I then justified in insisting that the student is wrong?

  144. 144
    Silver Asiatic says:

    I take a different view on objective morality than most here, I think. Objective morality (in my view) has several sources. The weakest and most difficult to access and evaluate is the authority of conscience pointing to objective, universal moral norms. Those are only general norms, but even those can be misinterpreted. They reference the human conscience – which can be corrupted.

    Therefore, even assuming for the sake of argument that some Inca thought it was OK to torture infants for pleasure, it does not follow that his opinion on the subject is entitled to any weight whatsoever.

    We have to measure his view against a standard. The Inca acted with regard to objective norms sourced through his religious teachings and not merely from natural law. You could evaluate Inca religious belief (polytheism) as the source of moral authority – and thus the reason for child sacrifice.

    But I don’t think you could say that their ideas are self-evidently wrong or worthy of no weight.

    Would we credit our hapless Inca’s views if his opinion were that 1+1=3? Of course, not.

    I don’t think these comparisons of morality with mathemetics work. Of course, we can add one apple to one apple and arrive at the sum total. We can’t do that with moral ideas.

    When the Inca is wrong about objective fact, we must not hesitate to reject his views categorically even if someone might accuse us of being “intolerant.” Error has no rights. The only moral position is to say that it is literally unthinkable for the proposition to ever be false.

    I agree that ‘error has no rights’ but I think we can only reject his views on a comparative basis and not caetgorically.

    Rather than taking a specific example: “to torture infants for pleasure” – the natural moral law is generalized and doesn’t detail every instance.

    A better approach might be “pleasure is always the correct motive to determine that an act is morally good” – which conflicts with the objective morality of conscience.

    That seems to speak more directly the the universal, objective moral law of conscience.

    But it’s a weak proof and only very generalized.

    Is this moral precept an objective moral fact?:

    “It is morally necessary to worship God”.

    If so, then the natural moral law points to the necessity of religious belief and worship.

  145. 145
    Mark Frank says:

    Sb 133
     

    You say that, for the subjectivist–for any and all subjectivists–right and wrong is determined by his personal convictions. That is the definition of moral subjectivism. Yet you also say that some things, such as torturing babies, is wrong for all subjectivists , including the subjectivists whose convictions are in conflict with your convictions. This is a contradiction. It cannot be both right for him (by virtue of his subjectively- held convictions), and wrong for him (by virtue of your claim that it is wrong for all subjectivists, including him). You cannot escape this contradiction.

     
    Remember I believe that a moral statement is a statement of opinion. There is no contradiction between:
     
    In my opinion  A is doing wrong.
     
    and
     
    In A’s opinion A is doing right.
     
    Just as there is no contradiction between:
     
    In my opinion A is beautiful.
     
    and
     
    In A’s opinion A is ugly.
     
    There is only a contradiction if you think “A is doing right” is an objective fact and that it is true in virtue of someone thinking it to be true – which would be a very odd position to hold.

  146. 146
    Box says:

    Tim #139,

    Sophie is a key determinant whether she wants it or not

    Tim: Respectfully, I disagree. Morally, one can not be a “determinant” in this situation. Prior even to hearing her “choices”, the evil has been done by others.

    I fully agree that the evil has been done by others. During all of history people are placed in horrible positions due to the evil done by others. We did not choose Communist-China nor the Nazi-regime nor ISIS. However we have to deal with the reality at hand whether we want or not – we are part of this world. I don’t see how we can extract ourselves morally from a situation- created by others -by “in-action”.

  147. 147
    faded_Glory says:

    StephenB:

    You say that, for the subjectivist–for any and all subjectivists–right and wrong is determined by his personal convictions. That is the definition of moral subjectivism. Yet you also say that some things, such as torturing babies, is wrong for all subjectivists , including the subjectivists whose convictions are in conflict with your convictions. This is a contradiction. It cannot be both right for him (by virtue of his subjectively- held convictions), and wrong for him (by virtue of your claim that it is wrong for all subjectivists, including him). You cannot escape this contradiction.

    You are still trying to force subjective morality into an objective framework. I know you are trying hard to understand our point of view and I appreciate it.

    The solution is simple: he considers it right for him, and I consider it wrong for him. There is no contradiction here.

    If you are looking for a single, definitive, objective solution to the difference (“ok, ok, I get that, but who is actually right?”), there is no such thing, if subjective morality is true.

    fG

  148. 148
    Brent says:

    fG,

    (towards myself)

    I think that’s an important thing you’ve said. It’s long been my feeling that objective moral duty calls on us not to stand up for ourselves, but for others. We are too partial to ourselves to be objective. But a subjectivist stance seems only to offer standing up for oneself.

  149. 149
    Mark Frank says:

    #143 Brent (I guess the response is intended for me)
    This has come up many times over the last few days. I really don’t want to go over it yet again.  Please look back through the thread and the preceding two threads. (I am sorry but I really haven’t the will to track down exactly where it was discussed.)

  150. 150
    Mark Frank says:

    c hand

    If “morality is at core a matter of opinion” how could anyone fail to be “thoroughly moral”?

    Because we have motives other than the desire to do what we consider good and all too often those other motives win out. FOr a thoroughly moral person they win out less often.

  151. 151
    Zachriel says:

    Brent: But a subjectivist stance seems only to offer standing up for oneself.

    That is not the case. Subjectivism just means that if someone values something, then they will defend it, whether that something is themselves, their family, their neighbors, or even intangibles, such as liberty or pride. Nor is subjectivism incompatible with adopting moral or legal codes.

  152. 152
    faded_Glory says:

    Brent:

    I think that’s an important thing you’ve said. It’s long been my feeling that objective moral duty calls on us not to stand up for ourselves, but for others. We are too partial to ourselves to be objective. But a subjectivist stance seems only to offer standing up for oneself.

    Obviously, the purpose of me stopping him would be to prevent him harming someone. What I meant with ‘having no choice (towards myself)’ was that I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I hadn’t taken an action to stop him.

    I’m not sure you understood it that way.

    fG

  153. 153
    Brent says:

    Zachriel,

    No. I mean it more subtly than that. I.E., ultimately, it is a private subjective opinion of what does or should matter enough to us to stand up for.

  154. 154
    Brent says:

    Mark Frank,

    If I am teaching a student some equation and the student gives an answer that I don’t THINK is right, but I’m not sure either, is it fair for me to mark the student’s answer as wrong before I verify? And if I am not able to verify, am I then justified in insisting that the student is wrong?

    You’ve answered a question put like that? If you say you did, then I’ll look, but I’ve missed it if you have.

  155. 155
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    The solution is simple: he considers it right for him, and I consider it wrong for him. There is no contradiction here.

    The contradiction is obvious. It can’t be both right for him and wrong for him.

  156. 156
    Zachriel says:

    Brent: No. I mean it more subtly than that. I.E., ultimately, it is a private subjective opinion of what does or should matter enough to us to stand up for.

    It may be subjective that you love your children, but as you do love them, you will stand up for them. It takes no objective standard to motivate someone to stand up for something they personally value, to stand up for someone other than oneself.

  157. 157
    Brent says:

    fG @152,

    I think that’s the way I initially took it, but I was pointing at how it can be taken at another level (i.e., @153).

  158. 158
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Mark

    There is no contradiction between:

    In my opinion A is doing wrong.

    and

    In A’s opinion A is doing right.

    By my standard I claim A is doing wrong. But my standard is totally irrelevant and does not apply to to A.

    A’s actions can only be considered right or wrong by A’s standards, not by mine.
    It is incorrect to say “A is doing wrong” by any other standard than A’s (within subjectivism).

    By my standard of English pronunciation, a person who speaks only Russian is speaking bad English.

    Obviously, that is nonsense. You’re judging the person by an irrelevant standard.

    In my opinion, A speaks English badly.

    In A’s opinion, A speaks Russian very well.

    Your opinion is meaningless in this case.

    Here again …

    In my opinion, A thinks he is a rhinoceros.

    In A’s opinion, A thinks he is a human being.

    This is a contradiction and illustrates that your opinion about what A thinks is irrelevant.

    Whatever you think about A’s morality is irrelevant to the fact that what A decided as morally good, is in fact, morally good for A.

    What A decided as morally good is, in fact, morally good for A.

    To then say …

    What A decided as morally good is morally bad for A – is a contradiction.

  159. 159
    Mark Frank says:

    BA ‘#124
     

    You are conceding that the unthinkable could be thinkable. If you are correct, there really is no such thing as morality.

    These are two rather broad statements which could mean many different things. I am surprised to find, given your profession, that you are rather averse to detailed objective analysis but I will do it anyway.
    “Unthinkable” clearly does not mean “it is impossible to think about it”. You have to think about it to reject it. In a moral context it usually means something like “so bad it should not even be considered as a course of action”. I certainly would never consider child torture a possible course of action.  It is remotely possible that someone else might – but that’s true under objectivism as well. So I really don’t see what you are claiming.
      The key differences between our positions could be described as I regard morality as a human activity, you regard it as a set of facts about the world. If you mean that if I am correct there is no set of moral facts – I agree. If you mean no one is geniunely thinking certain things are right or wrong then I strongly disagree. Do you think there is such a thing as beauty or humour?
       

    There really is such a thing as morality. Therefore, you are not correct. If you are correct, there really is no such thing as right and wrong. There is only the strong who do what they want and the weak who endure that which they cannot prevent. The world you describe is not a world I want to live in. Mao, on the other hand, would appreciate the freedom from any limit your moral viewpoint gives him, and we all know how that turned out.

      If you still genuinely think this after all these exchanges then I can do no more.
     

    I apologize for saying you are liar.

      Thank you.
     

    You are just deeply deeply, mind boggling misguided. It makes me sad, and it frightens the hell out of me.

      Of course we both think each other misguided – otherwise there would be no debate. You frighten me a bit as well.
     

    There are monsters out there. I am certain you are not one of them. You’ve always seemed like a descent fellow. But the 20th century was one long blood-soaked testament to what happens when monsters are taught the lesson you are teaching and take it to heart. I can personally attest that so was Columbine. At a moral theory level, Eric Harris made it clear in the record he left behind that Columbine was a microcosm of the 20th century. Ironic perhaps that in occurred in 1999. The massacre was Mao writ small.
     

    I don’t disagree there are monsters. I think it is utterly implausible that their views on metaethics were responsible.  Even if they were responsible it is not evidence for or against any particular view.

  160. 160
    faded_Glory says:

    Brent in 143:

    Is it moral to impose your moral views on someone else if you don’t know you’re right? Nay! If you CAN’T know you’re right? Or the other wrong?

    As Mark Frank says, this has been explained many times already. Like StephenB, you are still trying to force subjective morality into an objective framework. That is why you spot inconsistencies. Seen purely from a subjective point of view, there are none.

    Like everybody else, within my subjective framework I am certain of the (im)morality of some things, and less certain of the (im)morality of other things. Many times I DO know that I am right, according to my moral standards. No different from an objectivist, I am sure.

    Is it moral in your view to do more than just suggest to someone else he/she may be wrong, as opposed to IS wrong, when you have differing subjective moral values? To the point of threatening with a gun???

    If someone is, say, TBFF, I am certain that they are wrong according to my moral standard. In a case like that I would surely point a gun at them, if I had one.

    Is it moral to insist you are in the right, and the other in the wrong, when in fact you CANNOT know?

    When I am uncertain if something is moral according to my standards, I would not insist that I am right. When I am certain, I will insist that I am right. Just like an objectivist.

    If I am teaching a student some equation and the student gives an answer that I don’t THINK is right, but I’m not sure either, is it fair for me to mark the student’s answer as wrong before I verify? And if I am not able to verify, am I then justified in insisting that the student is wrong?

    Here you go again, forcing subjectivity into an objective framework. You assume that the question has an objectively correct answer. This will be the case for some questions (the solution to an equation), but not for others (e.g. is the Mona Lisa a beautiful painting?). Morality falls into the latter category, in my view.

    fG

  161. 161
    faded_Glory says:

    StephenB:

    The contradiction is obvious. It can’t be both right for him and wrong for him.

    That is not what I said.

    I said:

    The solution is simple: he considers it right for him, and I consider it wrong for him.

    There is no contradiction here.

    You are the one introducing a contradiction that isn’t there, by insisting that there is an independent objective standard against which his right-ness or wrong-ness is measured.
    According to us subjectivists there is no such standard, so it makes literally no sense to keep trying to bring it into the conversation.

    fG

  162. 162
    Brent says:

    Zachriel,

    I understand your point, and have for some time now after reading the thread. I of course still think there are glaring problems with your view. Nonetheless, I think you’ll have to admit that in the sense I am talking, no one really stands up for others (in your scenario of morality) since one’s moral beliefs are ultimately subjective. I.E., “I stood up for my kid because “I” believe it was wrong that he was about to be clobbered. I stood up for my wife because “I” believe she shouldn’t have to put up with harrassment. I stood up for the stranger because “I” thought he should be treated the same as everybody else.” Every time a subjectivist stands up for others, it really is him/her standing up for their own private values.

  163. 163
    Zachriel says:

    Brent: Every time a subjectivist stands up for others, it really is him/her standing up for their own private values.

    Of course, but the action is considered selfless if it requires the sacrifice of one for another. That’s true of anyone, subjectivist or objectivist. Indeed, while we often think of society in terms of law, when someone risks their life for another, it’s not because of law, but because of their own sense of morality propelling them to action.

  164. 164
    Brent says:

    fG,

    If I am teaching a student some equation and the student gives an answer that I don’t THINK is right, but I’m not sure either, is it fair for me to mark the student’s answer as wrong before I verify? And if I am not able to verify, am I then justified in insisting that the student is wrong?

    Here you go again, forcing subjectivity into an objective framework. You assume that the question has an objectively correct answer. This will be the case for some questions (the solution to an equation), but not for others (e.g. is the Mona Lisa a beautiful painting?). Morality falls into the latter category, in my view.

    I don’t think you appreciate the appropriateness of the question. Because we are talking mathematical equations you are assuming there is an objectively correct answer. But in the analogy I’m saying we don’t know what it is. In reality, however, though you and I are convinced of our own views on morality, we don’t KNOW that our view is correct. There may be an OBJECTIVE, or SUBJECTIVE answer. We don’t know what the answer is. It is as the analogy.

    Now, is it, according to your own subjective morality, moral to insist that one is wrong when you don’t know?

    EDIT: Sorry! I should have made that question more explicit.

    Again: Is it, according to your own subjective morality, moral to insist that one IS wrong when you don’t know if they are wrong, even if privately you strongly believe they are?

  165. 165
    Barry Arrington says:

    MF:

    I think it is utterly implausible that their views on metaethics were responsible.

    Are you nuts? A person’s views on ethics are responsible for all of their ethical choices.

    Bound up in that sentence is everything that is wrong with your views and the views of most of the materialists who comment on these pages. You think it is all a big game with no real world consequences. It is not.

    Someone taught Eric Harris (God help that person; his hands are soaked in blood even if he does not know or admit it) the ethical premises of materialism: There is no foundation for good and evil; it is all fallible opinion; people are nothing but clever hairless apes; we are deluding ourselves if we think people have “rights” any more than any other animal. Harris worked out the ethical implications of those premises for his life and acted on his conclusions.

    From similar premises Mao worked out the conclusion that it all boils down to who is holding the gun.

    I am glad I scare you only a little. You (and by “you” I don’t mean you personally; I mean everyone who thinks it is a good idea to deny the existence of morality) scare me a lot, and for good reason.

  166. 166
    Zachriel says:

    Brent: Every time a subjectivist stands up for others, it really is him/her standing up for their own private values.

    Let’s take a case. A man saves a child from a burning house fire. The press, of course, make him out to be a hero. He says, “I’m not a hero. I only did what anyone would do given the situation.”

    He’s stating what he considers to be a universal standard of behavior. But that doesn’t necessarily imply he is an objectivist. He could very well be a subjectivist who thinks that that is what people should do given the circumstances. He is reinforcing what he considers to be right-behavior in order to instill that belief in others. Perhaps his own children are watching.

  167. 167
    hrun0815 says:

    Re #165:

    I am glad I scare you only a little. You (and by “you” I don’t mean you personally; I mean everyone who thinks it is a good idea to deny the existence of morality) scare me a lot, and for good reason.

    I do not believe that you scare MF (or other subjectivists for that matter) in the way that you’d like.

    You’re scary to me in the sense that I will work wherever and whenever I can to show people just how scary and misguided your views are. Not sure that’s what you are going for here. You certainly will not scare anybody ‘straight’ with your posts.

  168. 168
    Silver Asiatic says:

    faded_Glory

    The solution is simple: he considers it right for him, and I consider it wrong for him.

    There is no contradiction here.

    See #158.

    “He considers it right for him – and within subjectivism therefore, it is in fact, right for him”.

    “I consider it wrong for him based on my standard which does not apply to him.”

    But we already determined, by his standard, which is the only standard that applies to him, “it is right”.

    There is nothing about objectivism here — it’s all subjectivism.

    By subjectivism, “it is right for him” – period.

  169. 169
    faded_Glory says:

    Barry, there isn’t anyone here who denies the existence of morality.

    The disagreement is about whether morality exists external or internal to human beings.

    ———————-

    By now these discussions are clearly going round in circles. To step back a little, I notice a couple of things:

    – Objectivists find it extremely hard to think like subjectivists, even briefly and for the sake of argument. Time after time they attempt to ‘catch’ the subjectivists by making references to what the ‘real’ moral answers are. They seemingly cannot understand that this is literally a meaningless question if morality is subjective, in the same way that it is a meaningless question if, say, Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ is really a beautiful painting or not. Why is this so hard?

    – On the other had, I as a subjectivist cannot comprehend how an objectivist can be so sure that his or her personal understanding of the objective moral code is correct. I am sure you guys are convinced that you are correct, but I am unable to understand why you think so, and why you are so sure that many other objectivists down the ages did get it wrong so often. What am I missing?

    In the end, contrary to Barry, I do not believe that there is so much at stake in this debate. People with either conviction have committed gruesome crimes throughout history. I do not think that the line separating decent people from monsters runs along the division between subjectivists and objectivists.

    fG

  170. 170
    faded_Glory says:

    Silver Asiatic:

    The solution is simple: he considers it right for him, and I consider it wrong for him. You get two different answers because there are two different standards.

    That is as far as it goes. All the rest is simply you bringing in objectivism where it shouldn’t be.

    Edited to add: my standard applies to everybody in the world, when it comes to me making judgements. his standard applies to everybody in the world, when it comes to him making judgements.

    To determine if it is right for him or not, you must choose which of the two standards to apply. You cannot answer the question without first specifying that. By omitting this specification, you are unwittingly assuming there is a single standard – this is where you bring in objectivism.

    fG

  171. 171
    Silver Asiatic says:

    faded_Glory

    The solution is simple: he considers it right for him, and I consider it wrong for him. You get two different answers because there are two different standards.

    We’re using only one moral system here, not two.

    Within subjectivism, it is right for him. Period.

    To then say “it is wrong for him” is a contradiction.

  172. 172
    faded_Glory says:

    SA, you probably missed my edit, which I made for clarification.

    fG

  173. 173
    Silver Asiatic says:

    my standard applies to everybody in the world,

    If so, then yours is an objective standard. Everyone in the world would have access to it. They would conform to an external standard (your standard), not their own individual standard. That’s not subjectivism.

    when it comes to me making judgements. his standard applies to everybody in the world, when it comes to him making judgements.

    A subjective standard applies to the individual. What the individual decides as morally good, is morally good for that individual. In subjectivism, an external, objective standard cannot be applied to other individuals. That would conflict with subjectivism.

    By omitting this specification, you are unwittingly assuming there is a single standard – this is where you bring in objectivism.

    An objective code would apply to everyone – as you said your code does. So, you’re not talking about subjectivism.

    A subjective code applies only to the individual.

    If your code applies to everyone, then that’s objective – external, independent of the individual. Everyone has to comply with your code (how would they even know what your code is though?).

    That’s objective morality. We observe a code, external to the individual and conform to it.

    The objective code can be based on philosophical constructs or religious revelation (among other things), but the authority for that code is not in the individual.

    In your case, applying your code to the whole world makes you the moral authority for everyone.

    That’s perfectly fine (as far as it goes) but it’s not subjectivism.

  174. 174
    faded_Glory says:

    SA,

    You are drawing the line between subjective and objective morality somewhere else than I am, so we are talking past each other. I see no point in continuing this conversation, no offense meant.

    fG

  175. 175
    hrun0815 says:

    Re #173: This view of objectivism also seems to clash with others here. Check out for example #48 from StephenB in this very thread.

  176. 176
    StephenB says:

    StephenB:

    The contradiction is obvious. It can’t be both right for him and wrong for him.

    faded glory

    The solution is simple: he considers it right for him, and I consider it wrong for him.

    That doesn’t help you. According to subjectivism, which is your standard, he determines the rightness or the wrongness of the act. He has determined that it is right.

    If, therefore, you say that you believe his act is wrong for him, you are contradicting yourself, since you have also said that you believe that subjectivism determines that it is right for him.

    It is clear contradiction. You cannot escape it.

  177. 177
    Silver Asiatic says:

    hrun

    True, my view of objective morality conflicts with that.

    I believe some people mean by “objective morality” the same as “objectively true, correct morality”.

    For me, I believe the term “objective moral code” refers to several codes which are objective in nature and which can be evaluated as better or worse based on their authority.

    Aristotle’s code of virtue
    Catholic Moral Norms
    Orthodox Jewish Morality
    Stoicism
    The Way of Shinto
    Universal norms accessed by conscience (natural law)
    among many others are objective moral codes

    Islamic, objective moral codes reference the prophet Muhammad (so ultimately an understanding of God) and the Koran as the source of authority.

  178. 178
    Silver Asiatic says:

    174 FG

    Ok, I don’t see it that way but I understand.

  179. 179
    Mark Frank says:

    SB

    If I say a girl is beautiful and she says she is not is there a contradiction or just a difference of opinion? It is the same with ethics.

  180. 180
    Silver Asiatic says:

    MF

    If I say a girl is beautiful and she says she is not is there a contradiction or just a difference of opinion?

    If a girl says she thinks she is not beautiful, and you say she does think she is beautiful, there is a contradiction.

    If a subjectivist decides X is morally good for him, it is, in fact good for him (within subjectivism).
    If another subjectivist says X is not morally good for him, there is a contradiction.

    He determined what is morally good based on the ultimate authority – himself.

  181. 181
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    If I say a girl is beautiful and she says she is not is there a contradiction or just a difference of opinion? It is the same with ethics.

    Is that they way you answer a refutation, by changing the subject? Your analogy is not properly set up in terms of your philosophy.

    If her features are beautiful to her, then they are beautiful to her. It is, therefore a contradiction to say that you believe her features are not beautiful to her.

    Why not stay with the ethics? According to your philosophy, if a subjectivist believes that it is moral for him to torture babies, then it is, by your standard, moral for him. When, therefore, you say that torturing babies is immoral for everyone, including the subjectivist for whom it is moral, you are contradicting your own subjectivist standards. You are saying that it is moral for him and not moral for him. As I keep telling you, subjectivism is irrational. It contradicts itself just as surely as you are contradicting yourself.

  182. 182
    StephenB says:

    Silver Asiatic @180.

    Yes, the contradiction is clear.

    He determined what is morally good based on the ultimate authority – himself.

    Precisely.

  183. 183
    Brent says:

    fG and Mark Frank,

    I’m still giving you the benefit of the doubt here, but it is a bit concerning that you haven’t answered my question.

    If I am teaching a student some equation and the student gives an answer that I don’t THINK is right, but I’m not sure either, is it fair for me to mark the student’s answer as wrong before I verify? And if I am not able to verify, am I then justified in insisting that the student is wrong?

    Again: Is it, according to your own subjective morality, moral to insist that one IS wrong when you don’t know if they are wrong, even if privately you strongly believe they are?

    fG, you said:

    By now these discussions are clearly going round in circles. To step back a little, I notice a couple of things:

    – Objectivists find it extremely hard to think like subjectivists, even briefly and for the sake of argument. Time after time they attempt to ‘catch’ the subjectivists by making references to what the ‘real’ moral answers are. They seemingly cannot understand that this is literally a meaningless question if morality is subjective, in the same way that it is a meaningless question if, say, Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ is really a beautiful painting or not. Why is this so hard?

    fG, this appears to me to be a cop-out. SB, SA, and myself are not smuggling in objectivism to show subjectivism wrong. We are showing you that it is internally inconsistent even by your own standards of morality, and it will ever hopelessly be such unless and until you drop the attempt to dress it up and make it seem as robust as an objective moral standard. Please do not, now, go off on a tangent about “nobody can show me the objective standard to which we all agree” misdirect. That may be a point to be gotten to, but for now, you appear to have no way to be internally consistent with your own moral standards. That’s what’s on the table.

    Please then:

    If I am teaching a student some equation and the student gives an answer that I don’t THINK is right, but I’m not sure either, is it fair for me to mark the student’s answer as wrong before I verify? And if I am not able to verify, am I then justified in insisting that the student is wrong?

    Again: Is it, according to your own subjective morality, moral to insist that one IS wrong when you don’t know if they are wrong, even if privately you strongly believe they are?

  184. 184
    Graham2 says:

    Brent: You are supposing that all moral dilemmas must have an answer. Im guessing that this is a direct result of your assumption that there exists an objective standard that we can consult, and come up with a definite answer every time.

    Some moral dilemmas (most ? all?) simply don’t have an answer. That’s why the world is a messy place, and why Sophies choice, the trolley problem etc etc etc have been argued about forever. Its why judges ‘judge’.

    The answer to your question is that the teacher just has to muddle through. Sorry, the universe doesn’t have nice pat answers for you.

  185. 185
    Brent says:

    Graham2,

    No! I’m asking for the subjectivist answer. What about “your own subjective morality” don’t you understand? I’m asking for the answer from within your own framework. It’s a profoundly simple yes/no question.

  186. 186
    Graham2 says:

    No, Brent. Its not a simple ‘yes/no’ question. Lots of questions are not ‘yes/no’. The trolley problem is famous for this, thats why its so well known. If there was a simple answer, it would have been provided long ago, and we wouldn’t have a ‘trolley problem’.

    Regarding your question, If a teacher cant mark the answers to a test, then the teacher is unqualified, and shouldnt be doing it. Its not a moral question, its a simple administrative one.

  187. 187
    Brent says:

    Great! I don’t ask anything remotely like the difficult ‘trolley problem’; this one is NOT difficult. I don’t need to be told “lots of questions are not ‘yes/no’; this question IS. I would just like to be told whether your answer, explicitly stated by me to be YOUR OWN subjective answer (for crying out loud), is either yes or no.

    You avoid the question at all costs by answering what I haven’t asked. Do you not think it is obvious that you have been caught out?

  188. 188
    franklin says:

    Brent

    If I am teaching a student some equation and the student gives an answer that I don’t THINK is right, but I’m not sure either, is it fair for me to mark the student’s answer as wrong before I verify? And if I am not able to verify, am I then justified in insisting that the student is wrong?

    I would say that you shouldn’t be teaching the student if you aren’t familiar with the material in sufficient depth that you aren’t befuddled by the math you are supposed to be teaching.

    I would try another example and see how that works.

  189. 189
    Me_Think says:

    Brent @ 187
    If there is a book which gives the correct answer with proof, then you can verify, but if there is no such book, the student’s answer is as good as your answer. However if you are teaching an equation, it should have a proof. May be you are teaching CSI formula (which has no proof) , in which case I am inclined to agree with the student’s answer!

  190. 190
    Brent says:

    The subjectivist’s have the non-answer answer down pat.

  191. 191
    Me_Think says:

    Brent @ 190
    That is your subjective view.

  192. 192
    Graham2 says:

    Brent: Then why not put us out of our misery … what is your answer ?

  193. 193
    Brent says:

    No thanks, Graham2. I’ll respectfully wait for fG and Mark Frank to reply so I can see if they are able to more artfully dodge such an easy question as you all have. Should be fun.

  194. 194
    franklin says:

    Brent

    No thanks, Graham2. I’ll respectfully wait for fG and Mark Frank to reply so I can see if they are able to more artfully dodge such an easy question as you all have. Should be fun.

    Brent, I did answer your question. In my subjectivist opinion you acted dishonestly when you first started teaching a student when you knew you didn’t understand the material. Of course the whole affair is unfair to the student you (the rhetorical you in this case) committed fraud by framing yourself as being competent to teach the material when you were not..

  195. 195
    Barry Arrington says:

    Brent:

    The subjectivist’s have the non-answer answer down pat.

    Figured that out did you? Yes, when an answer pins down their irrationality they will dance around it; answer questions you did not ask; try to change the subject; ask how you would answer it — anything other than face the poverty and intellectual bankruptcy of their worldview. One would think it would give them pause about holding a worldview that compels them to dance like that. But it doesn’t. It’s really an amazing thing to watch, but I’ve seen it countless times.

  196. 196
    Graham2 says:

    I think Brent is asking how can we assume to persuade others when we are aware of the fallibility of our own beliefs.

    Jeez, we do this all the time, eg: we advise our children to avoid drugs. What on earth is the problem ?

  197. 197
    Brent says:

    You guys must be competing to see who can tally the highest non-answer/evade count. Could be a pretty close race.

  198. 198
    Graham2 says:

    I think the creationists are just as good at dodging questions. I asked Brent to answer his own question … got a dodge. I asked Barry to answer his … got edited out.

    UDEditors: Graham2, yes, you evade and obfuscate and try to turn the table. But you don’t reflect on the poverty of your response. Sad.

  199. 199
    Mark Frank says:

    SB
     

    Is that they way you answer a refutation, by changing the subject? Your analogy is not properly set up in terms of your philosophy.

    I was trying to explain something to you by using an analogy. I appear to have failed.

    If her features are beautiful to her, then they are beautiful to her. It is, therefore a contradiction to say that you believe her features are not beautiful to her.

    But I am not. I am saying they are beautiful to me and not beautiful to her.

    Why not stay with the ethics? According to your philosophy, if a subjectivist believes that it is moral for him to torture babies, then it is, by your standard, moral for him. When, therefore, you say that torturing babies is immoral for everyone, including the subjectivist for whom it is moral, you are contradicting your own subjectivist standards. You are saying that it is moral for him and not moral for him. As I keep telling you, subjectivism is irrational. It contradicts itself just as surely as you are contradicting yourself.

    You are confusing the person making the judgement with the person who is the object of the judgement. When I say torturing babies is immoral for everyone, “everyone” refers to the people doing the torturing not the people making the judgement. I am the person making the judgement. Likewise some nutter might decide it is moral for everyone to torture babies. He would be the one making the judgement and “everyone” (including himself) would be the object of the judgement. There is a severe disagreement between us but no contradiction in the concept of morality. Do I really have to explain this? It is elementary logic.

  200. 200
    Brent says:

    Mark Frank @199,

    Actually, it is you who are confused. When SB says, “According to your philosophy, if a subjectivist believes that it is moral for him to torture babies, then it is, by your standard, moral for him,” you immediately jump to the fact that you don’t believe it is moral for him because you personally believe it to be morally wrong conduct. But SB is saying, rightly, that, according to your philosophy which states that morality is subjective to each individual, you are both implicitly and, often, explicitly, saying that it is right for him in that he only has his own personal moral compass to consult with. When you are confronted you jump between two ideas of “right for him” to suit your argument. You are indeed, even emphatically, saying, “it is right for him and it is wrong for him.”

    Again, drop the pretense about how your idea of morality is as robust as the objectivist and your problem immediately goes away. The new problem would be, then, that even you start to see Barry’s monster in your bathroom mirror.

  201. 201
    Mark Frank says:

    Brent
     

    If I am teaching a student some equation and the student gives an answer that I don’t THINK is right, but I’m not sure either, is it fair for me to mark the student’s answer as wrong before I verify? And if I am not able to verify, am I then justified in insisting that the student is wrong?

     
    I didn’t bother answering this because I couldn’t see its relevance to our debate. My (subjective!) opinion is you are not justified. That’s because it is mathematics and there is an objective right answer.  As a subjectivist I believe there is no single definitive right answer to moral questions – just opinions which can be held more or less firmly. The rub being that on moral matters mutually incompatible action results from the judgement so you can’t just agree to differ (If you think homosexuality is wrong and I think it is morally permissible then you are going to try to stop it and I am going to try to allow it). A better analogy would be that the teacher proposes extending the lesson for 10 minutes and the student disagrees.

  202. 202
    Mark Frank says:

    FG #169

    That’s a very nice and fair analysis of this frustrating circular debate.

  203. 203
    Brent says:

    Well, you’ve really changed the question, but this will do anyway.

    Am I justified to mark an answer wrong when I do not know the objective answer? You say no, in your subjective opinion, I am not (and I agree in my objective opinion 😉 ).

    So your stance is that when one does not know an objective answer they are not justified — are doing an injustice and acting immoral — in insisting another is wrong; again, according to your own subjective morality.

    Now you made it a point to say “because there is an objective right answer,” and I understand why you said it. That doesn’t alleviate your problem though. You say that it is only immoral to insist one is wrong — or like I had been saying above earlier, to impose your sense of morality on another — if there is an objectively known standard somewhere, even if we don’t happen to know the relevant way which it may presently apply. How on God’s green earth do you reconcile, then, imposing your subjective moral values on another — remember, to the point of pointing a gun at someone — if you not only don’t know, but for good grief CANNOT know, and even INSIST UNTIL YOU’RE BLUE IN THE FACE THAT THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS, AN OBJECTIVE ANSWER???

    — So, you have it:

    It is morally wrong to insist another is wrong about something, no matter how strongly you feel they are, when there is presumably an objective answer out there, even if no one knows it.

    It magically becomes morally acceptable, however, to insist that someone is wrong — even pointing a gun at them to get their undivided attention — when there is no objective standard to which to turn.

    — That is nonsense.

    If it is immoral to insist someone is wrong when there is an objective standard, but we’re not sure how the standard may apply to that ‘someone’s’ case, then it is a MORE certain fact that it is immoral to do so in cases where no objective standard even exists.

    Your subjectivism is internally inconsistent and contradictory — sigh!, again, because you are attempting to insist it is as robust as an objectivist morality. It can never be.

    Check that mirror, Mark.

  204. 204
    faded_Glory says:

    Brent:

    If I am teaching a student some equation and the student gives an answer that I don’t THINK is right, but I’m not sure either, is it fair for me to mark the student’s answer as wrong before I verify? And if I am not able to verify, am I then justified in insisting that the student is wrong?

    Again: Is it, according to your own subjective morality, moral to insist that one IS wrong when you don’t know if they are wrong, even if privately you strongly believe they are?

    Brent, I can answer the questions but I do not see them as equivalent in the context of the discussion about morality. You think they are, because you are an objectivist who thinks there is a ‘true’ answer out there somewhere on moral questions. I am a subjectivist who thinks there is no such thing, which makes the classroom scenario very different from a moral problem.

    – In the classroom the teacher should check the answer before marking the student’s answer. If he doesn’t do that, he is being unfair to mark it as wrong.

    – When I know someone is wrong, for instance when he is TBFF, I will insist that he is wrong. When I am unsure if someone is wrong, for instance in the Sophie’s choice scenario, I would not insist that she is wrong if she makes a choice that I would not. I would recognise that the situation doesn’t have a single correct answer and would respect their choice under the circumstances.

    Morality involves making judgements and in many cases things are not black and white. If I insist someone is wrong even though my inner voice has some doubts about that, I am overstating my case and that would not be right. The topic would then benefit from further analysis, discussion and reflection before speaking out strongly one way or another.

    These are my honest answers, which you are free to respect or ridicule.

    I now expect you to counter by saying that since I can’t know for sure if objective morality exist, I am overstating my case whenever I insist someone is wrong. I would consider that equivalent to arguing that since we don’t know for sure that the world wasn’t created last Thursday, we’re overstating our case when we say that Napoleon really existed. Frankly, I lost interest in such nonsense since I was about 18 or so.

    Nobody has ever demonstrated that an objective morality exists. It is an empty claim, exactly like saying that the world was created last Thursday. For all practical purposes it doesn’t matter if there exists an objective morality out there somewhere when we have no access to it and can’t determine what it says. It is therefore justified to ignore that possibility when it comes to making our moral judgements in real life, something we have to do using our best subjective judgements.

    fG

  205. 205
    faded_Glory says:

    Brent,

    I see that while I was writing my post you answered Mark Frank exactly as I predicted.

    The truth is that the objectivist has exactly the same problem. Since they can be mistaken in their interpretation of the objective moral code (ref. Inca’s and Polish philosophers and lawyers from earlier discussions), they would not be justified either in pointing a gun at someone when they think he is violating objective morality, BECAUSE THEY CANNOT BE SURE.

    In other words, this line of reasoning leads nowhere for everybody. Exactly like last-Thursdayism.

    fG

  206. 206
    Mark Frank says:

    #200 Brent
     
    You are suffering from the same confusion.  You are using “right for him” to mean two different things:
     
    * Right in his opinion
    * Right for him to do it (without specifying whose opinion)
     
    I will try to illustrate this in your comment. My additions in bold.

    When SB says, “According to your philosophy, if a subjectivist believes that it is moral for him (in his opinion) to torture babies, then it is, by your standard (moral in my opinion), moral for him (moral for him to do it),”

    This is not true. Subjectivists certainly don’t hold that if it is moral in one person’s opinion then it is moral another person’s opinion.
     

    you immediately jump to the fact that you don’t believe it is moral for him (in my opinion it is not moral for him to do it) because you personally believe it to be morally wrong conduct .

      I don’t see the jump. That is my opinion.
     

    But SB is saying, rightly, that, according to your philosophy which states that morality is subjective to each individual, you are both implicitly and, often, explicitly, saying that it is right for him in that he only has his own personal moral compass to consult with.

    I struggle with what this sentence means. As a subjectivist I say that his opinion will be based on his own “moral compass” and there is no definitive objective standard. However, I am not saying that therefore if he thinks he is right then I think he is right.
     

    When you are confronted you jump between two ideas of “right for him” to suit your argument. You are indeed, even emphatically, saying, “it is right for him and it is wrong for him.”

    I was trying  hard to distinguish two ideas of “right for him” but I think it may a different distinction to the one your are making. I am confused as to what your two ideas are but I think they may a distinction between my personal idea  of what is right for him and some other idea of “right for him” which does not belong to anyone. The second concept does not exist from a subjectivist point of view.
     

    Again, drop the pretense about how your idea of morality is as robust as the objectivist and your problem immediately goes away. The new problem would be, then, that even you start to see Barry’s monster in your bathroom mirror.

    I don’t know what you mean by robust. If you mean it is not objective then that goes without saying. If you mean it is not passionate and based on reasons then I strongly disagree.

  207. 207

    The willingness to personally force on others what one believes and argues to be nothing more than a subjective feeling/personal preference, no matter how strongly felt, is monstrously immoral no matter how one attempts to intellectually rationalize it.

    At least moral objectivism offers the framework for the possibility that forcing compliance in important moral situations is a morally and rationally justifiable exercise.

    The subjectivist argument that it is okay to force on others one’s personal preferences/strong feelings is, as Mr. Arrington points out, a dangerous and scary message. And, that is the very message Mark and others here are promoting; it is okay to force on others that which you believe to be nothing more objective in nature than personal feelings and preferences.

  208. 208
    Graham2 says:

    It would be good if the objectivists could give us some evidence for their belief that objective morality exists.

    UDEditors: The evidence has been pushed in your face time and again. That you make this statement again demonstrates your inability to reflect. Sad; very sad.

  209. 209
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    You are confusing the person making the judgement with the person who is the object of the judgement.

    I am sorry, Mark, but you are the one who is confused.

    I am the person making the judgement.

    You are the person making two contrary judgments:

    According to your subjectivist philosophy, it is the torturer’s personal convictions that determine the morality of his actions. If he strongly believes torturing babies is moral, then it is moral for him. This is not his philosophy or my philosophy; this is your philosophy.

    Thus, when you also say that it is not moral for him to torture babies, you are contradicting yourself. You are saying that it is right for him and that it is wrong for him. There is no question about it. It’s an open and shut case.

  210. 210
    Mark Frank says:

    Brent #203
      Two things

    1) To be clear – you can never insist that someone believe or have an opinion. You can only insist that they act as though they had that belief or opinion.

    2) Your example was set in a specific context so I was able to make a subjective judgement. That doesn’t mean it is always wrong  to insist that another person act on your belief as opposed to theirs.

    If as a teacher I am pretty certain but not sure that there is a bomb in the building I will insist that the student act as though I am right even if they disagree. When I marking their test score that is different.

    The same is true of subjective opinions. Sometimes I find it morally acceptable to force others to act according to my opinion, sometimes I don’t. If they are about to murder someone – yes. If they are going to be late for dinner – no. As I said I have been through this before – please don’t make me do it again.

  211. 211

    Graham2 said:

    It would be good if the objectivists could give us some evidence for their belief that objective morality exists.

    What is your evidence that morality is in fact only subjective in nature?

  212. 212
    Mark Frank says:

    SB

    According to your subjectivist philosophy, it is the torturer’s personal convictions that determine the morality of his actions. If he strongly believes torturing babies is moral, then it is moral for him. This is not his philosophy or my philosophy; this is your philosophy.

    That’s a misunderstanding of subjectivism. There is no “morality of his actions” independent of a specific person’s opinion. The torturer’s person convictions determine his view of what is right. I have my different view of the morality of his actions. Period.

    Do you really not understand that?

  213. 213
    Brent says:

    If it is morally wrong to insist someone is wrong when we don’t know an objective answer as to whether they are wrong, then it is morally wrong to insist someone is wrong when we don’t know an objective answer as to whether they are wrong.

    It is morally wrong to insist someone is wrong when we don’t know an objective answer as to whether they are wrong.

    Therefore, it is morally wrong to insist someone is wrong when we don’t know an objective answer as to whether they are wrong.

    I think this is elementary logic?

  214. 214
    Piotr says:

    #211, WJM

    Are you demanding that we should demonstrate the non-existence of objective (universal, human-independent) moral standards? Sorry, but the burden of the proof is on your shoulders.

  215. 215
    Brent says:

    fG @204, 205,

    WJM says exactly what I would. At least we are consistent within our own framework. You are hopelessly inconsistent.

    Further, can you KNOW for 100% certain you are not incorrect about there not being an objective moral standard? You know you you cannot be 100% certain, and as soon as you admit this, as you must, then you are even more squarely in the mathematics teacher’s position. There could be an objective answer, but you aren’t able to find it.

    And note, I predicted this very misdirect would come. I’m only focusing on your internal inconsistency and contradictions. Deal with that first. You can’t.

  216. 216

    Another scary thing about moral subjectivism is that one cannot be “wrong” about their moral views, because there is no possible external arbiter. The logically-consistent subjectivist has no rational argument to make against anyone else’s morality because there is no objective, quantifiable moral commodity to refer to in making such a case.

    All that is left is simply attempting to manipulate others into agreeing with their own personal, moral views for the benefit of their own personal desires and preferences.

    How can such an enterprise be considered remotely moral? Moral subjectivism makes the de facto case that manipulating others to pursue ones own personal interests is not only morally acceptable, but is in fact the essence of any moral “debate” – nothing more, ultimately, than rhetoric and manipulation for personal gain.

  217. 217
    Piotr says:

    Brent:

    An implication of the form (A => A) => A is always trivially equivalent to A, so the first two paragraphs are superfluous. You can leave elementary logic alone. You are merely stipulating that the following is universally true:

    It is morally wrong to insist someone is wrong when we don’t know an objective answer as to whether they are wrong.

    Why should this be the case, especially if we don’t know whether “an objective answer” exists at all?

  218. 218

    Piotr said:

    Are you demanding that we should demonstrate the non-existence of objective (universal, human-independent) moral standards? Sorry, but the burden of the proof is on your shoulders.

    The burden of proof is on any assertion. Asserting that morality is subjective is still an assertion; if you cannot support such an assertion, retract it.

    I have never asserted that morality is objective in nature; my only arguments here have been that everyone (except sociopaths) act as if morality refers to an objective commodity (hence rights and obligations to act, forcing compliance on others). I have made arguments about the logical coherence of the two competing perspectives, not about whether or not either are the factual state of affairs.

    I do not know if morality is objective or subjective in nature; what I do know is that I must act as if it is objective in nature. So must all non-sociopaths, even if they intellectually believe morality is subjective.

  219. 219
    Brent says:

    Graham2,

    I was gonna just let this go, but . . .

    It would be good if the objectivists could give us some evidence for their belief that objective morality exists.

    Could you give us some evidence for numbers? Think about this.

    UDEditors: As we’ve pointed out above, Graham2 seems incapable of reflection. Your plea to him to “think” will fall on deaf ears. Sad.

  220. 220
    Mark Frank says:

    #213 Brent

    That is correct logic but, as I said in #210, I dispute your premiss. Sometimes it is wrong and sometimes it isn’t depending on the circumstances.

  221. 221
    Brent says:

    Piotr,

    I was having a little fun at Mark Frank’s expense.

    We sometimes don’t know whether an equation has a solution. Not all do.

  222. 222

    Piotr said:

    Why should this be the case, especially if we don’t know whether “an objective answer” exists at all?

    So, you’re saying you’re okay with insisting someone is wrong and forcing compliance with what you consider “right” without at least believing that you are “right” and they are “wrong” in some objectively valid way?

  223. 223
    Piotr says:

    #218, WJM,

    I don’t think even you deny the existence of internal, subjective moral norms. Therefore, I don’t have to prove their existence. It’s a different problem that you don’t like the idea that there is no other source of morality. You propose that there is some kind of eternal and universal moral code, so please prove it. I don’t feel obliged to provide any proofs of non-existence.

  224. 224
    Piotr says:

    #222

    Yaaaawn…. How many times has this been asked and answered above?

  225. 225
    Brent says:

    Mark @220,

    You’ve given no good reason for this. You’ve shown clearly that you understand the concept of needing an objective standard by which to impose your beliefs on someone else, no matter how you feel. What is the logic behind not needing that standard at times? You keep giving situations and hoping that I’ll accept them. I want you to explain the relevant difference when it comes to some situation where you not only don’t know of any objective standard, but emphatically insist one doesn’t even exist.

  226. 226

    SB said:

    According to your subjectivist philosophy, it is the torturer’s personal convictions that determine the morality of his actions. If he strongly believes torturing babies is moral, then it is moral for him. This is not his philosophy or my philosophy; this is your philosophy.

    MF responds

    That’s a misunderstanding of subjectivism. There is no “morality of his actions” independent of a specific person’s opinion. The torturer’s person convictions determine his view of what is right. I have my different view of the morality of his actions. Period.

    Do you really not understand that?

    MF, if morality is subjective in nature, then only an individual can determine what is moral for them. You cannot determine what is moral or not moral for them to do, because you are not them. So the statement “it is wrong for them to do X” is logically incoherent under moral relativism – you cannot possibly know this because you are not them with their moral views and personal perspective doing X.

    Under subjectivism, the only thing such a statement can possibly refer to is a recognition that, under your moral views personal perspective, it would be wrong for you to do what they are doing.

    “What they are doing is morally wrong” is thus shown to be at best a misleading statement under subjectivism, better stated as “What they are doing would be morally wrong for me to do, but I have no idea if it is morally wrong for them to do.”

    You might not like what they do; you might find it distasteful or ugly, but if morality is in fact subjective in nature, you cannot pass judgement on the moral quality of their behavior because you are not them.

    To use your “beauty” example, if someone else is going to buy a painting because they find it to be beautiful, you cannot logically state they are buying the wrong painting and justify intervening in their purchase. If you hold considerations such as “beauty” to be subjective, then even if you consider the painting ugly, you accept that your concept of beauty is not binding on others and you leave them to their own subjective tastes.

    You can say they are not buying the painting you would buy, but you cannot rationally say they are buying the “wrong” painting because you would understand and accept that the “right” or “wrong” of it depends entirely upon that person’s individual, personal preference and not on your concept of “beauty”.

    You are using the terms “right” and “wrong” in an inappropriate way. If moral=beauty and immoral=ugly, then the “wrongness” of any painting purchase can only be determined by the individual buyer; you, as an outside observer, cannot determine the rightness or wrongness of the purchases of others. You have no rational means by which to claim they have made the wrong purchase based on your own preferences.

  227. 227
    Mark Frank says:

    Brent
     

    You’ve shown clearly that you understand the concept of needing an objective standard by which to impose your beliefs on someone else, no matter how you feel. What is the logic behind not needing that standard at times?

    I am going to be going away in about an hour so this may be my last comment in an increasingly tortuous and repetitive debate. The decision as to whether it right to make someone act as though your beliefs or opinions are true is of course a moral judgement and many different factors go into a moral judgement which have to be balanced against each other – I assume you accept this?
     
    In the case of a teacher marking a student the cost of getting it wrong i.e. marking the student as wrong when he is in fact right is rather high with consequences for the student’s self-esteem, the reputation of the exam, etc. while the cost of admitting you are not sure is rather low. In the case of believing there is a bomb in the building the costs are the other way round. Hence it is morally wrong to make the student act on your belief in the first case and not in the second.  Note that this is nothing particularly about needing an objective standard – it is simply balancing the costs of outcomes.
     
    When it comes to a subjective opinion you are similarly balancing things – although they are slightly different things.  Although I believe it is morally wrong to be late for dinner I am not that worked up about it – it is not worth the cost of forcing someone to be punctual (embarrassment, damage to our relationship etc.)  I much more strongly believe it is wrong to kill people and I am quite prepared to use considerable force (and take the cost) to make someone comply to my subjective opinion on this. You can see a similar balance on other subjective issues. I would be prepared to use various strategies (although probably not violence) to stop someone sabotaging a performance of King Lear which in my subjective opinion was brilliant but they did not. I would not be prepared to impose my views on ice-cream.

  228. 228
    Mark Frank says:

    WJM

    “You cannot determine what is moral or not moral for them to do, because you are not them. ”

    Rubbish – I make my own assessment as to what they doing is morally right or wrong. Otherwise I would have to restrict my moral judgements to what I did and noone else! My assessment might be different from theirs but that is subjectivism.

  229. 229

    I don’t think even you deny the existence of internal, subjective moral norms. Therefore, I don’t have to prove their existence.

    That’s not what I challenged. I challenged the assertion that morality refers only to subjective commodities. If it is your assertion that there is no objective moral referential commodity, then it is your obligation to support that assertion when challenged regardless of what you think I do or do not deny.

    It’s a different problem that you don’t like the idea that there is no other source of morality. You propose that there is some kind of eternal and universal moral code, so please prove it. I don’t feel obliged to provide any proofs of non-existence.

    I have only ever proposed objective morality as a logical premise for logical examination – just as I’ve proposed the premise of moral subjectivism for similar examination. I’ve never asserted that morality is in fact an objective commodity.

    I don’t know if it is objective or not and, frankly, it doesn’t matter if it is or not, because as a practical matter we all have to behave as if it is anyway.

  230. 230

    MF said:

    Rubbish – I make my own assessment as to what they doing is morally right or wrong. Otherwise I would have to restrict my moral judgements to what I did and noone else! My assessment might be different from theirs but that is subjectivism.

    This is precisely where your blind spot is, MF, where your insistence on the ideological truth of moral subjectivism blinds you to the logical contradiction that is readily apparent. This is precisely what moral subjectivism necessarily means; that you only know what is moral for you; you cannot know what is moral for others, in the same sense that you can only know what is beautiful to you and you cannot know what is beautiful to others. You can know what painting you should buy; you cannot know what painting they should buy.

    They may buy a painting you wouldn’t buy, but under subjectivism, that is up to them. You may consider the painting they buy really ugly and offensive, but you cannot consider it the “wrong” painting for them to buy.

    Under subjectivism, “wrong” can only mean “wrong for me” and cannot mean “wrong for them”. This is why you cannot actually act like a moral subjectivist unless you are a sociopath.

  231. 231

    MF said:

    The decision as to whether it right to make someone act as though your beliefs or opinions are true is of course a moral judgement and many different factors go into a moral judgement which have to be balanced against each other – I assume you accept this?

    Above, MF explicitly admits that moral judgements and interventions thereof are moral decisions where one acts, and forces others to act, as if those beliefs/views are “true”, meaning, I can only assume, objectively valid.

    MF, is it morally acceptable to force others to comply with your views if you do not believe your views have any objective basis whatsoever?

  232. 232
    faded_Glory says:

    StephenB:

    According to your subjectivist philosophy, it is the torturer’s personal convictions that determine the morality of his actions. If he strongly believes torturing babies is moral, then it is moral for him. This is not his philosophy or my philosophy; this is your philosophy.

    Thus, when you also say that it is not moral for him to torture babies, you are contradicting yourself. You are saying that it is right for him and that it is wrong for him. There is no question about it. It’s an open and shut case.

    It is right from his viewpoint. From my viewpoint it is not. This is pefectly possible without any contradiction. I say he is wrong, he says he is right. So what? When I act to stop him, I always act from my own viewpoint. We all do.

    Subjective morality does not mean that one has to abandon one’s own viewpoint when it comes to moral actions, merely because someone else has a different view. That would be nonsense.

    When I decide to act on my moral conviction, whether or not the person I am acting against thinks he is right or wrong is not an issue. Him thinking he is right doesn’t make him right from my point of view. I can still say that he is wrong. Everybody, including you, who makes moral choices always does this only from their own point of view, never from somebody else’s. There is no contradiction.

    fG

  233. 233
    faded_Glory says:

    Brent:

    Further, can you KNOW for 100% certain you are not incorrect about there not being an objective moral standard? You know you you cannot be 100% certain, and as soon as you admit this, as you must, then you are even more squarely in the mathematics teacher’s position. There could be an objective answer, but you aren’t able to find it.

    The reason why is the math teacher is wrong to mark the error is that he can actually be 100% certain that there is a correct answer, but he just can’t be bothered to go and look it up. That is the negligence for which he can be faulted.

    This is really very different from someone who doesn’t know for certain that there is no objective morality, but is very sure that it is not possible to actually find out what it is. In that situation all anyone can do is make the best of one’s personal judgement.

    Your analogy fails.

    fG

  234. 234

    fg said:

    It is right from his viewpoint. From my viewpoint it is not. This is pefectly possible without any contradiction.

    You can say there is no contradiction, but there is if you are making a statement about the morality of his act. You can logicallyt say it would be wrong for you to commit the act, but you cannot logically say it is wrong for him to commit the act because the morality of an act is entirely determined by the subjective state of mind of the actor.

    Just as you cannot say it is wrong for someone to buy a painting you consider ugly – you can only say that it would be wrong for you. Whether it is wrong for someone else can only be subjectively determined by that person.

    I say he is wrong, he says he is right.

    Under moral subjectivism, you have no logical grounds by which to say he is wrong because you are not him and don’t operate by his perceptions; all you can logically say is that it would be wrong for you. Otherwise, you are erroneously extending your own personal perspective as if it provided an objective basis for the evaluation of the behavior of others.

    So what? When I act to stop him, I always act from my own viewpoint. We all do.

    We act in all matters “from our own viewpoint” whether we are avoiding a brick wall or choosing a flavor of ice cream. The issue is whether our actions are in accordance with the idea that “what we are acting in relation to” is believed to an objective or subjective commodity.

    Subjective morality does not mean that one has to abandon one’s own viewpoint when it comes to moral actions, merely because someone else has a different view. That would be nonsense.

    Logically, subjective morality means that one must accept that they do not know what is moral for others to do because they are not that person, just as you cannot know what flavor of ice cream someone else should buy or what kind of paintings they should decorate their home with. You many not like their choices and think them repugnant, but their choices, under subjectivism, cannot be “wrong”. As a subjectivist, you should realize you personal moral views are not binding on others and thus you have no standing to intervene in their affairs, any more than you have logical standing to stop someone from buying a painting you think is ugly.

    Unless your subjective moral principle is that you can force your subjective preferences on others if you wish (“because I feel like it”), your morality is logically inconsistent with your behavior. If that is indeed your moral principle, your morality is self-evidently abhorrent.

    When I decide to act on my moral conviction, whether or not the person I am acting against thinks he is right or wrong is not an issue.

    IOW, you are willing to force what you believe are nothing more than personal, subjective convictions on others for no more reason, ultimately, than because you feel like it. If that’s your morality, it’s self-evidently monstrous.

    Him thinking he is right doesn’t make him right from my point of view.

    Him thinking he is morally right, under logically-consistent moral subjectivism, necessarily makes him right from the point of view of a logically consistent moral subjectivist. In fact, him thinking he is morally right is the very definition of what makes a thing morally right under moral subjectivism. You have no logical capacity to think that he is wrong under moral subjectivism because there is no means (under subjectivism) for him to be wrong; the very fact that you think he is “wrong” demonstrates your operational, de facto moral objectivism.

    If you were an actual, operational moral subjectivist, you would treat morality as you do any other commodity believed to be entirely subjective in nature – to each their own.

    Everybody, including you, who makes moral choices always does this only from their own point of view, never from somebody else’s. There is no contradiction.

    That we all do things in all circumstances (objective or subjective) “from our own point of view” is a trivial, irrelevant observation. The question isn’t if we do things “from our point of view”, but rather if our self-described “point of view” is consistent with our behavior. You can claim that morality is subjective all day long, but you cannot act as if it is subjective, and your arguments in support of that position are not rationally sound.

  235. 235
    Zachriel says:

    Silver Asiatic: I believe some people mean by “objective morality” the same as “objectively true, correct morality”. For me, I believe the term “objective moral code” refers to several codes which are objective in nature and which can be evaluated as better or worse based on their authority.

    No one doubts the existence of moral codes. The question is whether morality exists independent of human sensibilities.

    William J Murray: You can logically say it would be wrong for you to commit the act, but you cannot logically say it is wrong for him to commit the act because the morality of an act is entirely determined by the subjective state of mind of the actor.

    That is incorrect. A subjectivist can coherently judge acts as moral or not regardless of the state of the actor’s own moral sensibility.

  236. 236
    faded_Glory says:

    William J Murray:

    because the morality of an act is entirely determined by the subjective state of mind of the actor.

    Of course not. Every one of us decides for ourselves the morality of everything that everybody does (including ourselves). Since morality is subjective it is to expected that different people come to different conclusions – as indeed we often observe in real life.

    fG

  237. 237
    faded_Glory says:

    William J Murray:

    Unless your subjective moral principle is that you can force your subjective preferences on others if you wish (“because I feel like it”), your morality is logically inconsistent with your behavior. If that is indeed your moral principle, your morality is self-evidently abhorrent.

    No, not because I feel like it, but because I am compelled to do so by my moral standard. As do you. It makes zero difference if that standard exists merely in my own head or also somewhere external to all humans (where???). Given that after all these discussions still not a single objectivist has raised to the challenge of demonstrating that their objectove morality actually exists, it is safe to say that they can’t and that it doesn’t.

    And I had to laugh about your ‘self-evidently abhorrent’. ‘Self-evident’ is the magic ‘poof’ of the objectivist – the last resort when running out of arguments. A bit like you guys see ’emergence’.

    fG

  238. 238

    Zachriel said:

    That is incorrect. A subjectivist can coherently judge acts as moral or not regardless of the state of the actor’s own moral sensibility.

    He can judge whether or not the act would be immoral for himself – IOW, how he feels about committing such an act, but he has no capacity to judge whether the act would be immoral for the other guy, since the morality of a thing is, under subjectivism, determined solely by the subjective mind of an actor.

    IOW, the subjectivist can consider it immoral in terms of if he himself were the actor, but would require the subjective mind of others to determine if the act is immoral for them, because it is each subjective mind that determines what is moral or immoral for themselves, just as it is each subjective mind that determines what is and is not beautiful for themselves.

    Again, their behavior may be subjectively repugnant or distasteful, but calling it “wrong”, as SB has pointed out, is a category error that cannot be used in that way in subjective matters. I cannot be wrong about what I prefer, and no one else can (logically, with any merit) tell me that I am wrong about subjective, personal choice matters.

    Being “wrong”, in that sense, requires a presumed objective component to the judgement. Otherwise, to each their own.

  239. 239
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    That’s a misunderstanding of subjectivism. There is no “morality of his actions” independent of a specific person’s opinion. The torturer’s person convictions determine his view of what is right. I have my different view of the morality of his actions. Period.

    That’s really silly. The phrase, “in his view, it is right” means exactly the same thing as “it is right, for him.” The problem is, and always has been, that you keep switching formulas in mid flight, looking for ways to say one thing and mean another.

    In the beginning, you say “in his view, it is right,” and “in my view, it is wrong.” So far, so good. But then you begin to obfuscate and equivocate by retaining the first part [“in his view, it is right,”] and transforming the second part from [“in my view, it is wrong”] into [“it is wrong.—period.”]

    Then, when I remind you of the change, you turn right around and change back again, saying that, “it is wrong” means “it is wrong, in my view.” So, when you want to defend your subjectivism, you use “in my view, it is wrong,” but when you want to avoid the irrational trappings of subjectivism, you use “it is wrong—period.”

    The subjectivist shuffle is a wonder to behold.

  240. 240

    WJM said:

    …because the morality of an act is entirely determined by the subjective state of mind of the actor.

    fG said:

    Of course not.

    Then you are rejecting moral subjectivism.

    Every one of us decide for ourselves the morality of everything that everybody does (including ourselves).

    This stated, trivial observation has zero relevance to the argument at hand. The question is not “how do we act”, but rather “is how we act in correlation to our stated beliefs?” Yes, as a matter of fact we judge the moral behavior of others as right or wrong; the problem for subjectivists is that such moral judging is not logically derivable from their premise.

    The best a logically consistent moral subjectivist can say is that such behavior would not be moral if they themselves behaved that way and admit that they simply don’t know if it is moral for the other guy or not.

    Since morality is subjective it is to expected that different people come to different conclusions – as indeed we often observe in real life.

    People come to different conclusions about all sorts of things both objective and subjective in nature. Because people reach different conclusions about a thing, or describe it differently, is not evidence the thing itself doesn’t exist.

    No matter how one argues against, the claim that something someone else is doing “is immoral”, is a de facto agreement that some form of objective morality exists and can be used to judge the behavior of others.

  241. 241
    Zachriel says:

    William J Murry: He can judge whether or not the act would be immoral for himself – IOW, how he feels about committing such an act, but he has no capacity to judge whether the act would be immoral for the other guy, since the morality of a thing is, under subjectivism, determined solely by the subjective mind of an actor.

    Subjectivists can and do morally judge actions by others, and do so based on their own sentiments concerning morality.

  242. 242

    Zachriel said:

    Subjectivists can and do morally judge actions by others, and do so based on their own sentiments concerning morality.

    People who call themselves moral subjectivists do those things; whether or not those activities are logically consistent with the premise of moral subjectivism is the matter under debate.

  243. 243
    Box says:

    Zac,

    Zachriel: Subjectivists can and do morally judge actions by others, and do so based on their own sentiments concerning morality.

    You are referring to logically impaired subjectivists.

    WJM: (…) the morality of a thing is, under subjectivism, determined solely by the subjective mind of an actor.
    No matter how one argues against, the claim that something someone else is doing “is immoral”, is a de facto agreement that some form of objective morality exists and can be used to judge the behavior of others.

  244. 244
    Zachriel says:

    William J Murray: the morality of a thing is, under subjectivism, determined solely by the subjective mind of an actor.

    No. The morality of the thing is, under subjectivism, determined solely by the subjective mind of the one who is judging.

  245. 245
    Mark Frank says:

    SB

    Written from a tablet and therefore brief.

    When I write “it is moral” I always mean “moral” in some person’s opinion. If I fail to say whose opinion then you can assume it is my opinion- just as “this is beautiful” implies “this is beautiful in my opinion”. On the other hand you seem to use “right for him” to mean both “right in his opinion” and “right for him do” (without specifying whose opinion) thus giving yourself the false impression of a contradiction.

  246. 246
    Mark Frank says:

    I am stunned by the inability of the objectivists to differentiate between the person making the judgement and the person performing the action they are judging (which may occasionally be the same but often isn’t).

  247. 247

    fG said:

    No, not because I feel like it, but because I am compelled to do so by my moral standard.

    And so you admit that you are willing to force what you believe to be nothing more than personal standards and views on others. Correct?

    Morally abhorrent.

    As do you.

    The difference is in what we hold “compelled to by our moral standards” to be in reference to; under moral subjectivism, that phrase means “I am willing to force what I believe to be nothing more than my personal, subjective views and standards on others”. Under moral objectivism, that phrase means “I am willing to force what I believe to objectively, universally true standards on others.”

    Same sequence of words (“compelled by our moral standards”), two entirely different meanings under the two different premises. One is obviously morally monstrous, the other a reasonable justification for at least some necessary moral interventions.

    It makes zero difference if that standard exists merely in my own head or also somewhere external to all humans (where???).

    I agree that it makes no difference if the objective standard actually exists or not; the monstrous nature of moral subjectivism by itself is all that is required for reasonable, good people to abandon the premise.

    Let’s all remember that under moral subjectivism, one must logically agree that they are willing to force what they agree are nothing more than their personal views and standards on others.

    In my morality, it is immoral to force on others that which I hold to be nothing more than my personal views and standards.

  248. 248

    Z said:

    No. The morality of the thing is, under subjectivism, determined solely by the subjective mind of the one who is judging.

    If the judgement is of a commodity held to be subjective in nature, the judger agrees that his judgement is only valid for him and not valid for others or binding on others, and certainly offers no basis for intervening in the subjective-value proclivities of others and forcing compliance to their own subjective judgements.

  249. 249
    Zachriel says:

    William J Murray: the judger agrees that his judgement is only valid for him and not valid for others or binding on others

    That is not a necessary facet of subjectivism. A subjectivist may certainly believe they know best, indeed, may feel a moral imperative to impose their beliefs on others.

  250. 250

    MF said:

    I am stunned by the inability of the objectivists to differentiate between the person making the judgement and the person performing the action they are judging (which may occasionally be the same but often isn’t).

    I was thinking the same thing about subjectivists; they are confusing themselves for the other person when they judge the other person’s behavior wrong based on their own personal, subjective views and standards.

    A subjectivist should be able to recognize that they are not that other person and thus have no capacity to understand if that person’s act is immoral or not. Yes, the act would be wrong for the subjectivist in question, but only the third party can say if it is wrong for him.

  251. 251
    Zachriel says:

    William J Murray: A subjectivist should be able to recognize that they are not that other person and thus have no capacity to understand if that person’s act is immoral or not.

    Subjectivists are quite aware that other people may judge their own acts differently. That’s rather the point actually. When someone says an act is immoral, they are referring to their own moral judgment, and yes, that can include judging the acts of others. Just because Hitler thought he was justified doesn’t mean he isn’t judged by others by their own moral standards, even if those standards are subjective.

    A toy model can be devised by placing a subjective valuation on things.

    Chocolate 10
    Children 100
    Poke in the eye -25
    A hurt child -50
    Busybodies -10

    So intervening to prevent a child being hurt might be +50 for the prevention, -10 for bothering someone, with a possible poke in the eye by the person imposed upon -25. The net benefit is +15 or more depending on whether you get poked in the eye.

    There’s nothing incoherent about subjectivism. It’s hard to imagine why you would think so.

  252. 252
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    When I write “it is moral” I always mean “moral” in some person’s opinion.

    Until I point out the flaw, in which case you will change your definition and say that you really meant something else.

    If I fail to say whose opinion then you can assume it is my opinion- just as “this is beautiful” implies “this is beautiful in my opinion”.

    Unbelievable. It happened already. In the preceding sentence, you said moral means moral in “someone’s opinion.” Now, you say means moral in “my opinion.”

    It’s more of the same subjectivist shuffle. So now we have your third definition: For you, “moral” can mean “moral in your view” “moral in someone’s view,” or “it is moral-period!”

    The subjectivist shuffle is a wonder to behold.

  253. 253
    Brent says:

    Mark Frank @246,

    You are stunned because the objectivists are not letting you get away with word games. You’ve already shown you know it is immoral, even by your own standard, to impose your beliefs on others when you have no objective basis for your judgment, but continue to act as if it is OK for some unfathomable (nor yet rationally explained) reason.

    All I’m getting are stories of scenarios that don’t deal with the dilemma, and you expect us to accept them because, as far as they go, they are describing scenarios that we all face or understand. No one is saying there aren’t times when it is difficult to know what is the right thing to do, or how much of a stand is warranted. The question is direct and not in the least bit a tricky one. Why is it okay for you to impose your privately and subjectively held moral values on others, in matters either small or great, when you do not have a standard by which to determine you are actually right?

  254. 254
    faded_Glory says:

    StephenB,

    Better to use the word ‘immoral’ instead of ‘wrong’. The trouble with the word ‘wrong’ is that it can mean different things: incorrect, when it refers to something objective, or immoral when it refers to how we judge people’s actions.

    Under subjective morality, ‘it is immoral’ always means ‘it is immoral in my view’. It cannot be otherwise.

    Very similar to ‘it is beautiful’, or ‘it is exciting’, or numerous other words that describe a personal reaction to an outside thing or event. We routinely leave out the cumbersome ‘in my view’ bit. This is simply the use of language, from which you can’t conclude that the thing under discussion is objective. You will need much stronger arguments than that – how about some actual evidence that this objective morality actually exists, for starters? Or, failing evidence, why not specify where it exists, if anywhere else apart from in people’s heads?

    fG

  255. 255
    Zachriel says:

    StephenB: “moral in someone’s view,”

    Of course. It may mean moral in your opinion. Or it might mean moral in terms of widespread social convention. After all, people within a culture share many of the same moral views. The context will usually tell you which sense is being used. It’s not that complicated.

  256. 256

    That is not a necessary facet of subjectivism.

    Yes, it is. In fact, it is what differentiates subjectivism from relativism and objectivism – morality is accepted as being something that lies entirely within the mind of the individual.

    A subjectivist may certainly believe they know best,

    Not if they are rationally consistent subjectivists, since there is nothing external or objective that their views could be the “best” in relation to.

    indeed, may feel a moral imperative to impose their beliefs on others.

    They can feel whatever the wish; the question is if those feelings are rationally consistent with and can be rationally justified via moral subjectivism. That psychopaths can run around calling themselves moral subjectivists and feel compelled to force their admittedly personal, subjective morality on others is not relevant to the argument at hand.

    The fact is that if you are a rationally consistent moral subjectivist, you certainly don’t feel compelled to force what are admittedly nothing more than personal standards and views on others. That would be irrational. The rational methodology is that there is no reason to even attempt to coerce others unless there is something objectively real and important at stake.

  257. 257
    faded_Glory says:

    Brent:

    Why is it okay for you to impose your privately and subjectively held moral values on others, in matters either small or great, when you do not have a standard by which to determine you are actually right?

    Brent, Brent, Brent, you are not paying attention. We do have a standard by which to determine who is actually right. We all do – our own personal standard. Look around you – that is precisely how the world works!

    For the umpteenth time, subjective morality is not the absence of a moral standard. On the contrary, there are as many standards as there are people.

    fG

  258. 258
    Zachriel says:

    Brent: Why is it okay for you to impose your privately and subjectively held moral values on others, in matters either small or great, when you do not have a standard by which to determine you are actually right?

    For most subjectivists, it’s because of a sensation of a moral imperative, that some things are important enough to impose their moral judgment on others. So if someone sees a child being hurt, the sense of moral righteousness is strong enough to compel action.

  259. 259
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    I am stunned by the inability of the objectivists to differentiate between the person making the judgement and the person performing the action they are judging (which may occasionally be the same but often isn’t).

    On the contrary, it is our ability to make that distinction that allows us to expose the poverty of your philosophy. It is you who cannot (or will not) make that distinction, as is clear from your multiplicity of definitions for the word “morality.”

  260. 260
    faded_Glory says:

    William J Murray:

    In my morality, it is immoral to force on others that which I hold to be nothing more than my personal views and standards.

    Lol! I presume you can show us where your objective morality actually says so? Oh wait, no, you can’t – you only assume it does.

    My my, what tangled webs we weave. How ridiculous to wave the word ‘abhorrent’ around for someone doing exactly the same as you do, apart from refraining to make an unfounded assumption about the existence of something you freely admit you can’t demonstrate.

    Bizarre doesn’t even come close to describing your ‘argument’.

    fG

  261. 261
    Zachriel says:

    William J Murray: In fact, it is what differentiates subjectivism from relativism and objectivism – morality is accepted as being something that lies entirely within the mind of the individual.

    Here’s your statement: “the judger agrees that his judgement is only valid for him and not valid for others or binding on others”

    That is incorrect. Recognizing that someone may differ on what is moral does not mean that someone may not feel a moral imperative to impose their own morality on others.

    William J Murray: Not if they are rationally consistent subjectivists, since there is nothing external or objective that their views could be the “best” in relation to.

    Um, “best” is subjective.

    William J Murray: They can feel whatever the wish; the question is if those feelings are rationally consistent with and can be rationally justified via moral subjectivism.

    One doesn’t justify sensibilities. Abstract thought has nothing to do with why someone doesn’t like to see others in pain. They just do or they don’t. However, subjectivism is not inconsistent with rational thought.

    William J Murray: That psychopaths can run around calling themselves moral subjectivists and feel compelled to force their admittedly personal, subjective morality on others is not relevant to the argument at hand.

    That psychopaths can run around calling themselves moral objectivists and feel compelled to force their admittedly personal, objective morality on others is not relevant to the argument at hand.

    William J Murray: The fact is that if you are a rationally consistent moral subjectivist, you certainly don’t feel compelled to force what are admittedly nothing more than personal standards and views on others. That would be irrational.

    No. Not unless you place a higher moral value on non-intervention than on the result of intervention.

    William J Murray: The rational methodology is that there is no reason to even attempt to coerce others unless there is something objectively real and important at stake.

    Most people place a value on minding their own business, so intervention does have to be important enough to overcome this barrier. However, it doesn’t have to be objective, just important. While emotions are not based on rational choice, they are not inconsistent with rationality.

  262. 262
    Brent says:

    Let me continue to sharpen this point.

    Why is it okay for you to impose your privately and subjectively held moral values on others, in matters either small or great, when you do not have a standard by which to determine you are actually right?

    You said, Mark, one OUGHT NOT, in your subjective moral opinion, impose their standard on someone with regards to a mathematical equation they believed was wrong if that person cannot point to an objective standard justifying their action.

    You also said, Mark, one MUST (not to mean they cannot choose not to, but it’s their only option if they are to judge), in your subjective moral opinion, impose their standard on someone with regards to life and death matters even though they CANNOT have an objective standard to justify their actions.

    In the one case, of academics, one ought not act without an objective warrant, but in the infinitely more weighty cases, even of life and death, one need not an objective warrant to act.

    Can it get any more backwards?

  263. 263
    faded_Glory says:

    Brent, unless you get off this track of misunderstanding our position you will never have an argument.

    It is quite unbelievable that you are still saying:

    Why is it okay for you to impose your privately and subjectively held moral values on others, in matters either small or great, when you do not have a standard by which to determine you are actually right?

    Your mission is to demonstrate how subjective morality is incoherent within its own premises. You are not doing that.

    When you put the word ‘actually’ in there, you are trying to smuggle in objectivity where it doesn’t belong.

    If you were to leave out the word ‘actually’ you would simply be wrong, because subjective morality does not equal the absence of standards – in fact the opposite, there are as many standards as there are people.

    So, either way, your premise fails, because you are still not thinking like a subjectivist.

    fG

  264. 264
    Brent says:

    fG,

    I’m sorry, but it is actually you who didn’t pay attention. I’m quite sure I understand your point.

    I said:

    Why is it okay for you to impose your privately and subjectively held moral values on others, in matters either small or great, when you do not have a standard by which to determine you are actually right?

    The bolded should have been taken to mean ‘objectively’.

    Also fG, and Zachriel @258,

    The discussion over an objective or subjective moral standard has other fronts, but without dealing with this first and foundational issue of an impossibly incoherent subjectivist stance, it will do little good to get into it. Let’s deal with what’s at hand.

    As subjectivists, why not just admit that, since you believe morals to be thoroughly private and subjective, they are something to be held privately and never held up to another in an attempt to judge their action? Many would be subjectivists have, as far as I know, given up on morality and just said it doesn’t exist. That’s because they are trying very hard to live consistently with their basic beliefs, which compel them to say that, since no objective moral standard exists, no actual morality exists. It is the nature of morality that it is what governs man. If it turns out that it is man’s private and subjective opinion as to what is moral, well obviously it is the same as saying that man has no governor, or moral obligations, and he is a law unto himself.

  265. 265
    Brent says:

    fG,

    Read again. I put in ‘actually’, just as you understand, to be taken as ‘objectively’. I wasn’t trying to hide or smuggle anything. My question is MY question, and it is the one that needs answering.

    In ANY other instance, your own morality says that you need objective warrant to impose your will on others, but that warrant is not necessary in greater matters of morality. WHY???

  266. 266
    faded_Glory says:

    Brent,

    Because that is what morality is – judging actions of ourselves and others to be good or bad, and promoting or preventing them according to how we judge them.

    There is no disagreement about this, I trust.

    The subject of the discussion is if the standard for judgement exists solely inside the human mind, or also exists as something external and independent.

    You haven’t even started to make the case that it does. All the endless arguing about how subjectivists are supposedly illogical doesn’t remove this elephant from the room.

    fG

  267. 267
    StephenB says:

    Zachriel

    For most subjectivists, it’s because of a sensation of a moral imperative, that some things are important enough to impose their moral judgment on others.

    So, subjectivists who oppose child torture seek to impose their moral imperative on the torturer and the subjectivist torturer seeks to impose his moral imperative on those who would interfere. Who decides which moral imperative should prevail and how is that decision justified?

  268. 268
    Zachriel says:

    Brent: As subjectivists, why not just admit that, since you believe morals to be thoroughly private and subjective, they are something to be held privately and never held up to another in an attempt to judge their action?

    Because that’s not an accurate view of subjectivism. If someone experiences a moral imperative to act, then they will act, even if it means imposing their moral judgment on others.

    Brent: Many would be subjectivists have, as far as I know, given up on morality and just said it doesn’t exist.

    Humans certainly have moral sensibilities.

    Brent: If it turns out that it is man’s private and subjective opinion as to what is moral, well obviously it is the same as saying that man has no governor, or moral obligations, and he is a law unto himself.

    Well, no. Subjectivists, along with objectivists, can often find common ground, agreeing that the rule of law has its own moral value.

  269. 269
    faded_Glory says:

    Brent:

    In ANY other instance, your own morality says that you need objective warrant to impose your will on others, but that warrant is not necessary in greater matters of morality. WHY???

    I’m sorry, I don’t really understand what you mean. I say that the math teacher is negligent based on my subjective moral standard of fairness. There is nothing objective about me saying that he is negligent – it is simply how I subjectively judge his actions.

    fG

  270. 270
    Zachriel says:

    StephenB: So, subjectivists who oppose child torture seek to impose their moral imperative on the torturer and the subjectivist torturer seeks to impose his moral imperative on those who would interfere. Who decides which moral imperative should prevail and how is that decision justified?

    Turns out that everyone decides for themselves, but those who oppose torture have slowly been able to impose their moral values through the rule of law and other social mechanisms. However, the effort is far from complete.

  271. 271
    faded_Glory says:

    StephenB:

    So, subjectivists who oppose child torture seek to impose their moral imperative on the torturer and the subjectivist torturer seeks to impose his moral imperative on those who would interfere. Who decides which moral imperative should prevail and how is that decision justified?

    Remember that Inca from a while back, who performed child sacrifice because he was following the moral code of his religion?

    So, objectivists who oppose child torture seek to impose their moral imperative on the torturer and the objectivist torturer seeks to impose his moral imperative on those who would interfere. Who decides which moral imperative should prevail and how is that decision justified?

    Is there a difference? I don’t see it.

    fG

  272. 272
    Brent says:

    fG,

    Why don’t you need an objective standard to make a moral judgment on others’ actions?

    ________________

    Subjectivists

    Q: Do you need an objective standard to mark a math equation wrong?

    Subjectivist answer: Yes

    Q: Do you need an objective standard to justify putting a gun to someone’s head?

    Subjectivist answer: No
    ________________

    I just want to know: Why isn’t it necessary in the second case.

  273. 273
    Brent says:

    I’m off to bed which I’m sure will bring a sigh of relief from some at least.

  274. 274
    faded_Glory says:

    Because math questions have objective answers and morality questions don’t.

    I am not being flippant.

    fG

    Edited to add: Goodnight, and let this debate not disturb your sleep! It isn’t worth it!

  275. 275
    Barry Arrington says:

    Brent to Mark Frank

    Why is it okay for you to impose your privately and subjectively held moral values on others, in matters either small or great, when you do not have a standard by which to determine you are actually right?

    Brent, MF has already answered this question: I can give no account for why it is “okay.” Nevertheless, sometimes I feel like doing so and sometimes I don’t.

  276. 276
    Zachriel says:

    Brent: Why is it okay for you to impose your privately and subjectively held moral values on others …

    Values.

  277. 277
    StephenB says:

    Who decides on which subjectivist morality should prevail?

    faded glory

    Remember that Inca from a while back, who performed child sacrifice because he was following the moral code of his religion?

    So you have no answer. Thank you.

  278. 278
    Barry Arrington says:

    SB:

    So, subjectivists who oppose child torture seek to impose their moral imperative on the torturer and the subjectivist torturer seeks to impose his moral imperative on those who would interfere. Who decides which moral imperative should prevail and how is that decision justified?

    SB, the answer is obvious on subjectivist premises: No one can decide; justification is not possible. The next question, of course, is who then prevails? And the answer to this question is just as obvious: The stronger.

    The subjectivist world is the jungle.

  279. 279
    StephenB says:

    SB:Whose subjective morality should prevail?

    Zachriel

    Turns out that everyone decides for themselves, but those who oppose torture have slowly been able to impose their moral values through the rule of law and other social mechanisms. However, the effort is far from complete.

    So you have no answer except to say that whoever wins, wins. Thank you.

  280. 280
    Barry Arrington says:

    Brent: Why is it okay for you to impose your privately and subjectively held moral values on others …

    Zach: Values.

    It is okay for you to impose your personal subjective beliefs on other people, because you personally value doing so. Well OK then. And if you are strong enough you are able to impose your personal beliefs on them, and if you not strong enough you are not. That is what we have been trying to get you to admit all along. Thank you for finally doing so. Now, the next step is for you to admit that the world in which your philosophy prevails is the world described by Orwell: A boot in the face. Forever.

  281. 281
    Zachriel says:

    Barry Arrington: No one can decide;

    Everyone determines their own moral views.

    Barry Arrington: justification is not possible.

    Justification comes from shared principles, even if those principles are subjective.

    Barry Arrington: The next question, of course, is who then prevails? And the answer to this question is just as obvious: The stronger.

    Turns out that humans share many moral sensibilities, so those sensibilities get expressed in the culture, society, and government.

  282. 282
    Barry Arrington says:

    Zach @ 281:

    Turns out that humans share many moral sensibilities . . .

    The phrase “moral sensibilities” is for a subjectivist redundant, because a subjectivist believes morals are nothing but sensibilities — things a person feels subjectively.

    Yes, many sensibilities are shared. But, you artful dodger you, you dodged the question. When sensibilities are shared the question I asked does not arise.

    Now, think real real hard. Focus, focus. Here’s the question again (I’ll use your term to make it easier): Who prevails when “sensibilities” conflict? And of course, on subjectivest premises, the answer is obvious: the stronger.

  283. 283
    StephenB says:

    Barry @278.

    The subjectivist world is the jungle.

    Barry, absolutely right. For a subjectivist, it’s a war of all against all. A perfect breeding ground for the Machiavellians and Kissingers of the world.

  284. 284
    JWTruthInLove says:

    @Barry-sama:

    And of course, on subjectivest premises, the answer is obvious: the stronger.

    By stronger you mean the one who has more children?

  285. 285
    kairosfocus says:

    Folks,

    Let’s pull some Bronze Age wisdom from a book that so many subjectivists and relativists despise, famously from the mouth of Solomon:

    Prov 16:25 There is a way that seems right to a man,
    but its end is the way to death. [ESV]

    This is of course the fatal heel of subjectivism, and it is also the refutation of their strawman caricature of those who hold that there are self-evident moral truths and that by and large conscience is on to something real. For, to acknowledge conscience is to often have to face its rebuke, thence the realisation that “all have sinned,” us included.

    And in that context, when one must stand in the face of evil it is conscience that lets us know justice is worth standing for and even falling for in the fight.

    As, this very week a pilot and a king from Jordan remind us.

    KF

    PS: Those who notice how the theme might and manipulation make ‘right’ seeping out through the cracks in subjectivist rhetoric, yes you are seeing what is there. Take due warning from the ghost of Plato.

    PPS: On objectivity of morality once the fog clears:

    http://nicenesystheol.blogspot.....#u2_morals

  286. 286
    Graham2 says:

    Im in a different time zone and so out of sync with the group, but regarding evidence for objective morality, if its been posted before, could someone direct me to the particular post ? Thank you.

    UDEditors: *sigh*

  287. 287
    Graham2 says:

    I asked for evidence and was told its already been posted, So, can you direct me to the post ? Its a simple question. I was after an answer, not a sigh.

  288. 288
    Barry Arrington says:

    Will you stop it already Graham2? You have embarrassed yourself quite enough for one day.

  289. 289
    mike1962 says:

    Speaking of Proverbs 16…

    Barry: “Sophie chooses her son to live and her daughter to die. Sophie’s choice was profoundly immoral. The only moral choice is to refuse to choose even if this means both children must die. By choosing, Sophie entered into formal cooperation with the guard’s evil. And it is always evil to engage in formal cooperation with evil. Some calculations must be unthinkable.”

    There is something else Sophie could have done: she could have cast lots (rolled dice, flipped a coin) and let God/chance/fate decide. (See Proverbs 16:33, Leviticus 16:8, Acts 1:26, etc) One of the children would have lived, but it would not have been her choice which one lived.

    Would that have been evil? Or at least less evil?

  290. 290
    Mung says:

    why surprised?

  291. 291

    Self-described subjectivists agree (and must logically agree) that they consider it morally sound to force what they believe are nothing more than personal, subjective views and standards on others if they feel (really strongly) like doing so.

    I’m completely content to let the argument rest on that admission for all interested observers.

  292. 292
    Graham2 says:

    Its a simple question, I don’t see the problem. Do you have something to hide Barry ?

  293. 293
    kairosfocus says:

    M62, it is not reasonable to ask God to help you choose which of your children to be a part of the murder of just now, searing the other with the realisation that mom is a murderer. The very premise is wrong. KF

  294. 294
    Mung says:

    Graham2: Its a simple question, I don’t see the problem. Do you have something to hide Barry?

    What is obvious to some is hidden to others.

    What do you have to hide, Graham2?

    Why ought Barry, or anyone else for that matter, give you so much as the time of day?

    Do your best to give an objective reason, please, not just your subjective opinion.

  295. 295
    goodusername says:

    WJM,

    Self-described subjectivists agree (and must logically agree) that they consider it morally sound to force what they believe are nothing more than personal, subjective views and standards on others if they feel (really strongly) like doing so.

    I’m completely content to let the argument rest on that admission for all interested observers.

    Do you believe there should be speed limits? A legal age for consensual sex? Tax rates?

    Is there an actual objectively correct speed limit? An objectively correct strike of midnight after which sex should be legal?

  296. 296
    mike1962 says:

    KF @ 293,

    I disagree. And my disagreement is based on similar moral reasoning Barry uses:

    This is not a “train switch” scenario. Moral philosopher’s love to talk about the hapless schmo standing at a train switch. An unstoppable runaway train is coming down the track. If the schmo lets it stay on its present track, 100 people will get run over and die. If he pulls the switch and shunts the train to another track, only 50 people will die. The obvious answer to this dilemma is to pull the switch. If death is inevitable due to uncontrollable forces of nature (in this case the forces of gravity and inertia), the only moral choice is the one that leads to the fewest deaths.

    Rolling dice to determine which one of Sophie’s children would die reduces the number of deaths and puts the explicit choice out of Sophie’s hands. Sophie has the opportunity to decrease the number of deaths, and yet bears no responsibility for an explicit choice about who dies.

    Three scenarios:

    1. Sophie takes no action and two die.

    2. Sophie makes an explicit choice resulting in one death. Sophie is responsible for an explicit choice of who dies.

    3. Sophie rolls the dice and let’s the chance/dice/fate/God “choose.” One death results and Sophie is not responsible for an explicit (and judgmental) choice of who dies.

    Since at least one will die, due to forces outside of Sophie’s control, the obvious choice is for Sophie to leave the choice of the identity of the particular victim to the dice/fate/chance/God, resulting in only one death, and yet be spared from making an explicit choice of whom would be killed.

  297. 297
    Graham2 says:

    I rather like the M1962 solution. Now, will it satisfy KF/BA etc, or are they determined to see both children executed.

  298. 298
    faded_Glory says:

    StephenB: So, subjectivists who oppose child torture seek to impose their moral imperative on the torturer and the subjectivist torturer seeks to impose his moral imperative on those who would interfere. Who decides which moral imperative should prevail and how is that decision justified?

    Barry Arrington: SB, the answer is obvious on subjectivist premises: No one can decide; justification is not possible. The next question, of course, is who then prevails? And the answer to this question is just as obvious: The stronger.

    – People have to decide for themselves who is right in moral questions. That goes for me, and for you, and for StephenB, and for all of us. This is a burden nobody can escape from. People come to their decisions in different ways, depending very much on their personality, their culture, their background, their upbringing, their religion, their peers and their life experiences.

    The true cowards are those who let someone else decide for them, and blindly follow their leaders or the customs of their group without taking heed of their own inner voice.

    – People sort out their differences using the tools available for human interaction. Those who use the tools to the best advantage will prevail. Note that there are many other tools than compulsion: reasoned argumentation, persuasion, compromising, bargaining, pleading, etc. etc.

    People are not always out for their own advantage. There are many people who deeply care for others and would gladly sacrifice something or all for a loved one, or help a stranger for no gain to themselves. They do this out of the goodness of their hearts. There is a lot of social cohesion in the jungle too, you know.

    It is hard to understand why you can’t accept this. I suspect it has something to do with an obnoxious religious view that all people are ‘depraved’ and incapable of doing good by themselves. I do not subscribe to this sad philosophy, which I do not find supported by fact.

    Now, return me the favour and explain to me who decides who is right, and who prevails, if morality is an objective commodity that exists outside of and independent from human minds. Please elucidate clearly what the differences are with the answers I gave above.

    Thanks.

    fG

  299. 299
    Piotr says:

    Aurelio Smith: Which God, Barry?

    The answer is obvious: the stronger. 😉

  300. 300
    Graham2 says:

    Barry, et al just believe in objective morality, period. Its their starting point. The concept of ‘evidence’ is meaningless to them because objective morality is axiomatic, what you take as true before trying to prove the rest. You have to realise that before even starting a conversation with them.

  301. 301
    kairosfocus says:

    M62, Sophie is not locked into a situation of participating in murder of her children (and as I noted far above, the murders are practically certain in the course of a death camp’s operation . . . survival is against the odds). This is not natural forces at work, it is conscious agents subject to moral government by ought. The obvious alternative is to challenge the whole scheme and explicitly even loudly call for repentance by the persecutor. That may lead to martyrdom but that is in an utterly distinct category from being a murderer of her own child. As a parallel, it is said that in pagan Rome, Christians were dressed up in gladiator costumes and pushed into the arena to fight. They dropped their arms and hugged one another in prayer. Think also of Fr Kolbe who went to the starvation cell in place of another, and shepherded his fellow victims across the river. The first thing we must do is expose the corruption of these cruel thought exercises. KF

  302. 302
    kairosfocus says:

    G2, I suggest you respond to this, to see one reason why objective morality makes good sense and why implying that the testimony of conscience that we are under moral law via OUGHT is a grand delusion, ends in utter self referential incoherence. Clinging to absurdities that imply general delusion exposes one to the implications of ex falso quodlibet. KF

  303. 303
    Mark Frank says:

    Barry #282

    Now, think real real hard. Focus, focus. Here’s the question again (I’ll use your term to make it easier): Who prevails when “sensibilities” conflict? And of course, on subjectivest premises, the answer is obvious: the stronger.

    Barry – think real, real hard. Focus, focus. Who prevails when objectivists’ standards conflict? Or when any two people disagree about a moral issue?

  304. 304
    Mark Frank says:

    WJM

    Self-described subjectivists agree (and must logically agree) that they consider it morally sound to force what they believe are nothing more than personal, subjective views and standards on others if they feel (really strongly) like doing so.

    I’m completely content to let the argument rest on that admission for all interested observers.

    Self-described objectivists agree (and must logically agree) that they consider it morally sound to force what they believe are nothing more than their own assessment of the objective truth on others if they feel (really strongly) like doing so.

  305. 305
    Mark Frank says:

    SB #252

    MF: When I write “it is moral” I always mean “moral” in some person’s opinion.

    MF: If I fail to say whose opinion then you can assume it is my opinion- just as “this is beautiful” implies “this is beautiful in my opinion”.

    SB: Unbelievable. It happened already. In the preceding sentence, you said moral means moral in “someone’s opinion.” Now, you say means moral in “my opinion.”

    Do you think I am not a person?

    I think maybe the misunderstanding here is in my first sentence which could just possibly be read two ways:

    * When I write “it is moral” I always have in mind a person or group of people who has that opinion.

    or

    * When I write “it is moral” I mean there exists at least one person who holds that view.

    That would be a very perverse form of objectivism and would indeed lead to contradictions. Maybe that is the root cause of all this confusion.

    For the umpteenth time – think of the analogy of “she is beautiful”. Some people may be on the opinion that she is beautiful. Others may disagree. That doesn’t mean she is both beautiful and not beautiful in some kind of logical contradiction.  The situation with moral judgements is the same in this respect. Why do you find this so hard to understand?  I think last time I offered this you accused me of changing the subject – but I am saying morality is like beauty in this respect – so the last you can do is explain why it isn’t (without assuming it is objective).

  306. 306
    kairosfocus says:

    MF,

    to agree there is objective truth is real implies that one may be in error about it. Therefore, one needs standards of reasonable warrant as foundation to all else, and one needs to face squarely that one is finite, fallible, morally struggling and too often ill-willed. (And, ill-willed imposition of error is a grave wrong; an issue that — bought with hero-martyr’s blood — is literally written into my name and stands above the doors of the Parliament of my homeland. So, please do not ever again suggest lack of awareness of such, at this stage that is little less than an insult.)

    As we have been around the debate points on so many times, that points to the plumb-line role of self evident first principles of right reason and key self-evident truths. A premise that you have made it utterly clear that per your radical relativism, you reject.

    I would suggest that projecting your problem unto us is not a sound approach.

    At any rate, let me clip on one of those key first steps in reasoning and where I took it in the just linked, namely Josiah Royce’s point about error existing:

    For instance, consider Josiah Royce’s subtle but simple claim: error exists.

    To try to deny it only ends up giving an instance of its truth; it is undeniably true . . . .

    [elaboration omitted] . . . .

    So — while we can be mistaken about it — truth exists and we can in some cases confidently know it on pain of absurdity if we try to deny it.

    In particular, it is well warranted and credibly true beyond reasonable doubt or dispute that error exists. Truth therefore exists, and knowledge — i.e. the set of warranted, credibly true [and reliable] claims — also exists. (As noted already, but it bears repeating as it is hard for some to accept: this cuts a wide swath across many commonly encountered worldview ideas of our time; such as, the idea that there is no truth beyond what seems true to you or me, or that we cannot know the truth on important matters beyond conflicting opinions.)

    So, we already know that radical relativism and subjectivism do not, cannot make the cut. On pain of ex falso quodlibet. They stand irretrievably falsified long before we get to specifically moral truths.

    Now, of course, in trying to undermine objectivity of morality, the view that OUGHT is real, is intelligible, is perceived in a generally accurate manner by that faculty of mind we call conscience (though it too can err especially if benumbed by sensualism, deception, error and fallacies), you tried to reduce objectivity concerning moral truth to the appeal your system substitutes, might and clever manipulation make ‘right’ and ‘truth’ etc:

    Self-described objectivists agree (and must logically agree) that they consider it morally sound to force what they believe are nothing more than their own assessment of the objective truth on others if they feel (really strongly) like doing so.

    False.

    First, false because genuine refgorm works by moral suasion and uses the voice of conscience backed reason as a witness that we must treat neighbour as we would be treated. Second, because generally force and manipulation to back error are — as history abundantly tells us — typically NOT on the side of genuine reformers and prophets, who ever so often face not mere shunning, ridicule and the like but dungeon, fire, sword and worse. So, too often, genuine reformers prevail from martyr’s graves. As we all know or should know if we will but heed a patent facet of the well known but now so widely disregarded and despised message of the cross.

    For shame!

    Next, I draw your attention yet again to a very practical bit of objective moral reasoning cited by Locke when he sought to ground what would become modern liberty and democracy, in his 2nd Treatise on civil govt ch 2:

    . . . 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 and alluding to Justinian’s synthesis of Roman Law in Corpus Juris Civilis that also brings these same thoughts to bear:] 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]

    Of course, much more is here, but I suspect this will as usual be studiously sidestepped.

    But, the record is there for those who genuinely wish to look.

    KF

  307. 307

    Mark Frank said:

    Self-described objectivists agree (and must logically agree) that they consider it morally sound to force what they believe are nothing more than their own assessment of the objective truth on others if they feel (really strongly) like doing so.

    Yes, Mark, the same as I would if I observed a person in physical danger due to my own assessment of what I considered to be the objective truth/factual reality of that situation.

    Do you really not see the profound difference between (1) acting to force others in compliance with what you consider to be an objective truth or fact of reality and (2) forcing others into compliance with what you hold to be nothing more than your own personal views and standards?

    It boggles my mind to think there are people who cannot understand this.

  308. 308
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    When I write “it is moral” I always mean “moral” in some person’s opinion.

    Except when you are saying you mean “in your view,” which is by no means the same thing.

    If I fail to say whose opinion then you can assume it is my opinion- just as “this is beautiful” implies “this is beautiful in my opinion”.

    There you go again. Beautiful in “my” opinion is not the same thing as beautiful in “someone’s” opinion. Not even close.

    Do you think I am not a person?

    Of course, you are “some person,” but that doesn’t mean some person is “you.” For someone who claims to value logic, you don’t appear to know the meaning of a “bi-conditional.”

    And you haven’t even begun to explain what you mean by “it is wrong—period.” Which is really an objective formulation.

    For the umpteenth time – think of the analogy of “she is beautiful”. Some people may be on the opinion that she is beautiful. Others may disagree. That doesn’t mean she is both beautiful and not beautiful in some kind of logical contradiction. The situation with moral judgements is the same in this respect. Why do you find this so hard to understand?

    I understand every thing you say. That is why it is so easy to find the logical flaws. The problem is that you don’t understand what you say.

  309. 309
    Zachriel says:

    StephenB: So you have no answer except to say that whoever wins, wins.

    That is the lesson of history.

    “I’ve found that evil usually triumphs – unless good is very, very careful.” — Dr. McCoy
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6smm_pN3dBg

    Barry Arrington: It is okay for you to impose your personal subjective beliefs on other people, because you personally value doing so.

    Generally, it is shared values that tend to become imposed.

    Barry Arrington: The phrase “moral sensibilities” is for a subjectivist redundant, because a subjectivist believes morals are nothing but sensibilities — things a person feels subjectively.

    No, it’s not redundant as there are other types of sensibilities.

    Barry Arrington: Who prevails when “sensibilities” conflict?

    It’s historically contingent. However, cooperative human societies have tended to prevail.

    mike1962: Since at least one will die, due to forces outside of Sophie’s control, the obvious choice is for Sophie to leave the choice of the identity of the particular victim to the dice/fate/chance/God, resulting in only one death, and yet be spared from making an explicit choice of whom would be killed.

    That might alleviate some of her guilt, but the proper course is to choose the strongest child, the older boy, the one with the greatest chance of survival, which is what she did.

    Mark Frank: For the umpteenth time – think of the analogy of “she is beautiful”.

    Led Zeppelin is objectively the best rock band of all time!

  310. 310
    Zachriel says:

    William J Murray: Do you really not see the profound difference between (1) acting to force others in compliance with what you consider to be an objective truth or fact of reality and (2) forcing others into compliance with what you hold to be nothing more than your own personal views and standards?

    Sure there’s a huge difference. The problem is you can’t show the existence of objective morality, meaning a moral universe that exists independent of human sensibility.

  311. 311
    Zachriel says:

    StephenB: And you haven’t even begun to explain what you mean by “it is wrong—period.” Which is really an objective formulation.

    “It is wrong—period” is an idiom. It just means the speaker asserts there is no doubt it is wrong, regardless of whether the speaker’s standard is personal, social, or objective. Not sure why you are belaboring semantics.

  312. 312
    Jerad says:

    Zach #311

    Led Zeppelin is objectively the best rock band of all time!

    Bollocks. It’s clearly The Who!!

    🙂

  313. 313
    faded_Glory says:

    Wiliam J Murray:
    Do you really not see the profound difference between (1) acting to force others in compliance with what you consider to be an objective truth or fact of reality and (2) forcing others into compliance with what you hold to be nothing more than your own personal views and standards?

    No, I don’t see a difference. The clue is in the words ‘what you consider’. You simply move the subjectivity from the moral belief one step up, to your belief in the nature of morality. There is nothing objective about this and it cannot provide a better justification than whatever a subjectivist would offer.

    You provide warrant for anyone who believes in whatever whacky idea to be ‘objective reality ‘ to do as they please. In your view the inquisitor is justified in burning the heretic because he believes that it is an objective fact that God wants him to do this. Are you sure you want to go there?

    I say: it matters not what one believes about the nature of reality. All that matters is how one acts towards their fellow men. That is where the justification, or lack of, has to be found.

    You either have to commit to genuinely believing that morality is objective, like SB and BA do, or to accept that you are a subjectivist after all. You are just fooling yourself with your half-way house of assumptions.

    fG

  314. 314
    faded_Glory says:

    Graham2:

    Barry, et al just believe in objective morality, period. Its their starting point. The concept of ‘evidence’ is meaningless to them because objective morality is axiomatic, what you take as true before trying to prove the rest. You have to realise that before even starting a conversation with them.

    You know, you are right. This entire debate is actually about the existence of God, using different words. It is just as unlikely ever to lead to agreement.

    fG

  315. 315
    Mark Frank says:

    SB
     

    And you haven’t even begun to explain what you mean by “it is wrong—period.” Which is really an objective formulation

    Could it be because I never wrote it?  I certainly don’t remember writing it and I can’t find it on this thread.  The closest I can find is:

    The torturer’s person convictions determine his view of what is right. I have my different view of the morality of his actions. Period.

    You have omitted the context so maybe I did somewhere else and have forgotten. I wonder. If you can’t find it will you apologise and retract the comment?

  316. 316
    Barry Arrington says:

    KF:

    So, too often, genuine reformers prevail from martyr’s graves.

    A profound insight.

  317. 317
    Mark Frank says:

    SB #310
     

    Of course, you are “some person,” but that doesn’t mean some person is “you.” For someone who claims to value logic, you don’t appear to know the meaning of a “bi-conditional.”

     
    Why did you omit the rest of my comment which I think explains this:
     

    I think maybe the misunderstanding here is in my first sentence which could just possibly be read two ways:
    * When I write “it is moral” I always have in mind a person or group of people who has that opinion.
    or
    * When I write “it is moral” I mean there exists at least one person who holds that view.
    That would be a very perverse form of objectivism and would indeed lead to contradictions. Maybe that is the root cause of all this confusion.

     
    I am really surprised that you interpreted the sentence the second way which is actually objectivist. But the first way is clearly completely consistent with my saying that when the person is not given explicitly you can assume it is me.
     
    (I don’t understand the reference to bi—conditional. There is no logical “and” that I can detect in what I wrote.)
     
    Meanwhile you continue to evade the analogy of “beautiful” which should clear up all this definition nonsense.

  318. 318
    Bob O'H says:

    Now, think real real hard. Focus, focus. Here’s the question again (I’ll use your term to make it easier): Who prevails when “sensibilities” conflict? And of course, on subjectivest premises, the answer is obvious: the stronger.

    Isn’t that answer the one any realist would give, whether they subscribe to an objectivist or subjectivist view of morals? Whether we like it or not, that’s the way the world works.

    The good news is that “stronger” may mean the one with the best argument, e.g. that is logically more compelling, or aligns more closely with the values of the relevant actors.

  319. 319
    JWTruthInLove says:

    @Bob O’H

    The good news is that “stronger” may mean the one with the best argument, e.g. that is logically more compelling, or aligns more closely with the values of the relevant actors.

    I’ve asked Barry-sama what he meant by “stronger” @284. From a darwinistic point of view “having more children” seems like a reasonable interpretation. Unfortunately Barry-sama doesn’t care to clarify his ambiguous writings.

  320. 320
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    My question for the subjectivist is. What do you make of the times when the moral battle is not with other people but within yourself?

    It’s been my experience that my conscience is most active is when it is convicting me of things that I had previously determined to be perfectly morally acceptable.

    This often happens when I judge a particular behavior to be wrong in someone else only to recall that I have done the very same thing in the past and had thought it to be ok at the time.

    I don’t think I could pacify my guilt with the argument that moral sensibilities are fluid and what was OK last month when I did it is now immoral when a another person does it.

    What do you do in such a case?

    quote:
    They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them
    (Rom 2:15)
    end quote:

    peace

  321. 321
    Barry Arrington says:

    Mark and Bob. Please read KF’s comment at 308.

    Yes, in the short run the stronger prevails in both. But in the subjectivist view, the stronger prevails because his position IS the moral position. In the objectivist view, truth exists whether or not it is trammeled under foot in any particular instance. The subjectivist position tells us “there is no truth” about moral issues to prevail.

    MF says to the Nazi who laments the failure of the holocaust: “In my humble opinion, you are wrong, but God help me (not that there is a God to help me; it’s a figure of speech you understand), there is nothing and no one to arbitrate our difference if you have a different opinion. Your opinion that the holocaust is a good thing is, in that sense, exactly equal to mine.”

    Barry says, if I were the only person on earth who believed the holocaust was evil, I would be right and everyone else would be wrong.

    Surely you don’t believe the difference makes no difference.

  322. 322
    Bob O'H says:

    But in the subjectivist view, the stronger prevails because his position IS the moral position.

    That’s certainly not my view (as a subjectivist). Power and morals aren’t necessarily correlated: the stronger prevails because it is stronger, not because it is morally right.

  323. 323
    Mark Frank says:

    #323 BA

    Yes, in the short run the stronger prevails in both. But in the subjectivist view, the stronger prevails because his position IS the moral position.

    Uh? The stronger prevails because is the stronger.

    In the objectivist view, truth exists whether or not it is trammeled under foot in any particular instance. The subjectivist position tells us “there is no truth” about moral issues to prevail.

    Sure

    MF says to the Nazi who laments the failure of the holocaust: “In my humble opinion, you are wrong, but God help me (not that there is a God to help me; it’s a figure of speech you understand), there is nothing and no one to arbitrate our difference if you have a different opinion. Your opinion that the holocaust is a good thing is, in that sense, exactly equal to mine.”

    That’s just putting words into my mouth. What I would actually say is something on the lines of – you have a done terrible thing because of the horrendous human suffering you have created (and a list of other things). How many more times do I have to remind you that subjective opinions can have reasons and be passionate and confident?

    Barry says, if I were the only person on earth who believed the holocaust was evil, I would be right and everyone else would be wrong.

    And the Nazi says “You have made a mistake.”

    Surely you don’t believe the difference makes no difference.

    Not really. What would count would not be whether Barry or I thought they were objective or subjective. What would count would be the strength and persuasiveness of the reasons we presented.
    But in any case this is a discussion about the supposed consequences of objectivism/subjectivism. It is nothing to do with which one is correct.

  324. 324
    Mark Frank says:

    5MM

    My question for the subjectivist is. What do you make of the times when the moral battle is not with other people but within yourself?

    It means that you have are having an inner struggle about what your subjective opinion is – just as one has an internal debate and changes one’s mind about whether a novel is really good or picture beautiful.

  325. 325
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    (I don’t understand the reference to bi—conditional. There is no logical “and” that I can detect in what I wrote.)

    Oh please, Mark. To say “it is my view, therefore, it is someone’s view” is correct. To reverse it and say “it is someone’s view, therefore it is “my view,” is incorrect.

    When I explained to you that you were using (at least) two definitions for morality [a] “it is moral in someone’s view,” and [b] “It is moral in my view” you responded by saying “Am I not a person?” as if “someone’s” person’s view is synonymous with “my view.” Obviously, that is illogical.

    So far, you have at least three definitions of moral: “moral in my view,” “moral in someone’s view,” and “moral in some group’s view.” Will Mark’s real definition of moral please stand up.

    Meanwhile you continue to evade the analogy of “beautiful” which should clear up all this definition nonsense.

    So you think that it is nonsense to ask a subjectivist to define his terms, especially a subjectivist who has provided three different and incompatible definitions of “morality?” That’s really interesting–and understandable. The last thing an equivocating subjectivist wants to do is define his terms.

    If you don’t know what you mean by “moral,” then jumping over to the word “beautiful” will not help you. Once you define both terms (and stay with those definitions) we might have a discussion.

    You have also said, on other occasions, that some things are “immoral” for everyone, which of course adds still more confusion to your claims.

  326. 326
    kairosfocus says:

    BA, that lesson is literally written into my name, with my family’s martyred blood. There is a reason why my homeland’s parliament stands on a certain former house’s site and literally has my name over the door, for I am a name-bearer. But then the lessons of history were bought with blood and tears. If we reject or distort or treat them lightly, we doom ourselves to pay the same price again, too often over and over again. And right now that is what I feel about our whole civilisation and its patent march of willfully blind folly. Which, is reflected in too much of the above. KF

  327. 327
    REC says:

    I think it is interesting Barry’s hypothetical conversations with a Nazi often have both sides speaking in subjective terms. Nazis so often sought to establish objective moral proof of their actions, including the very same source that Barry claims repudiates them:

    “During the Third Reich, German Protestant theologians, motivated by racism and tapping into traditional Christian anti-Semitism, redefined Jesus as an Aryan and Christianity as a religion at war with Judaism. In 1939, these theologians established the Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Religious Life. In The Aryan Jesus, Susannah Heschel shows that during the Third Reich, the Institute became the most important propaganda organ of German Protestantism, exerting a widespread influence and producing a nazified Christianity that placed anti-Semitism at its theological center.”

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Arya.....0691148058

    The view that all that seems good in the world is due to objective morality and all that is bad comes from subjective ethics is quite refuted by the world around us.

  328. 328

    Zachriel said.

    Sure there’s a huge difference. The problem is you can’t show the existence of objective morality, meaning a moral universe that exists independent of human sensibility.

    I’m encouraged by the fact that at least someone on that side of the argument recognizes the “huge difference”.

    My point is that it makes no difference whether or not I can demonstrate an actual, objective moral foundation when it comes to (1) recognizing the profound difference between the motivation/justification for action the two different premises provide, and (2) recognizing that subjectivist morality (the former) should be immediately recognizable as an immoral proposition (forcing others to comply with what we believe are nothing more than personal views and subjective standards).

    IMO, calling morality under subjectivism “morality” is either self-deception, semantic sophistry or just a bald-faced lie; there’s nothing moral, nor can there be anything moral, about forcing others to comply with what you believe to be nothing more than personal, subjective views and standards.

  329. 329
    Barry Arrington says:

    REC @ 329. Evil men perverted the truth. And that proves what again?

    Again, you insist on using the language of objective morality even though you have no logical right to do so given your premises. As WJM has been saying over and over and over, you act as if objective morality is true even while claiming it is false. Or are you really going to say, with Mark Frank, that the only difference between your view and the Nazis’ view is a difference between your fallible opinion and their fallible opinion?

    You say the holocaust was evil. Is it possible for you to be wrong about that? If your answer is “no” then I would like to welcome you to the moral objectivist side.

  330. 330
    REC says:

    Barry @331. How do you know you aren’t an evil man perverting the truth?

    Welcome to the subjectivist side.

  331. 331
    REC says:

    I’m not using the language of objective morality-I am critiquing its use.

    The Nazi’s objectively thought they were right. I think that thought is a subjective interpretation of a non-existent objective order.

    I’m not sure what you mean by ‘fallible?’ Not God-given? I think my view that the Nazis were wrong is more consistent with the beliefs and desires of most of humanity. But not all of it at all times. Sadly.

  332. 332
    Barry Arrington says:

    MF @ 325:

    What I would actually say is something on the lines of – you have a done terrible thing because of the horrendous human suffering you have created (and a list of other things).

    Yes, I said you would say something similar to that. And to be consistent with the other things you have said in this thread, you would also have to say:

    but God help me (not that there is a God to help me; it’s a figure of speech you understand), there is nothing and no one to arbitrate our difference if you have a different opinion. Your opinion that the holocaust is a good thing is, in that sense, exactly equal to mine.

    Mark, mere contradiction is not argument. If this statement is inconsistent with what you’ve argued, show me how.

    How many more times do I have to remind you that subjective opinions can have reasons and be passionate and confident?

    I have never denied you have been passionate and confident. I don’t know why you think I’ve denied that. But what a person holding a subjective opinion cannot have is any basis for arbitrating between his and a conflicting subjective opinion. If this is not so, please tell me why it is not so.

  333. 333
    Barry Arrington says:

    REC @ 333. You dodged my question. I knew you would. Refusing to answer the question is answer enough. Thanks for playing.

    If you want to continue to play I will ask it again:

    You say the holocaust was evil. Is it possible for you to be wrong about that?

  334. 334
    Barry Arrington says:

    REC,

    When I asked you a tough question you wet yourself and dove for cover. I am not a coward, I will face yours head on. Here is your question:

    “How do you know you aren’t an evil man perverting the truth?”

    I know because it is literally unthinkable for the holocaust to be other than evil.

  335. 335
    skram says:

    I am no REC, but I can give my own answer.

    It is possible that the holocaust was part of God’s plan. God is infinitely good, so whatever is part of his plan cannot be evil by definition.

    It’s not like God didn’t kill—or command to kill—entire peoples—according to the Book.

  336. 336
    Barry Arrington says:

    REC:

    I’m not using the language of objective morality-I am critiquing its use.

    You are denying that it exists while acting as if it exists.

  337. 337
    REC says:

    Barry, you’ve never answered one of my questions. Like:

    Barry @331. How do you know you aren’t an evil man perverting the truth?

    Saying I didn’t answer your question, at best, implies a lack of reading comprehension on your part.

    “You say the holocaust was evil. Is it possible for you to be wrong about that?”

    Yes, and the Nazi Protestants would say I am OBJECTIVELY wrong about that.

  338. 338
    Barry Arrington says:

    skram demonstrates that he is a moral monster by suggesting that it is possible for the holocaust to have been good.

    Since skram is a moral monster, we can safely discount everything he has to say from now on.

    REC, your turn.

  339. 339
    REC says:

    This is a subjectivist’s answer:

    I know because it is literally unthinkable for the holocaust to be other than evil.

    This, then is also my answer. It does not depend on the existence of a God.

  340. 340
    Zachriel says:

    William J Murray: I’m encouraged by the fact that at least someone on that side of the argument recognizes the “huge difference”.

    The difference would only exist if you could show the existence of an objective morality. Otherwise, the point is moot.

    William J Murray: My point is that it makes no difference whether or not I can demonstrate an actual, objective moral foundation …

    Then we read you incorrectly.

    William J Murray: when it comes to (1) recognizing the profound difference between the motivation/justification for action the two different premises provide, and (2) recognizing that subjectivist morality (the former) should be immediately recognizable as an immoral proposition (forcing others to comply with what we believe are nothing more than personal views and subjective standards).

    As for (1), people who are subjectivist can be as motivated as objectivists when it comes to enforcing their predispositions on others.

    As for (2), it’s only immoral if you disagree with the imposition. If you think the behavior being imposed is moral, and if you also think imposing is morally justified in the particular case, then you wouldn’t find it immoral.

    William J Murray: IMO, calling morality under subjectivism “morality” is either self-deception, semantic sophistry or just a bald-faced lie; there’s nothing moral, nor can there be anything moral, about forcing others to comply with what you believe to be nothing more than personal, subjective views and standards.

    That’s just silly. If you see someone kidnapping a child, and intervene due to a strong feeling righteous indignation, you’ll think it’s moral, even if in philosophical reflection you determine that your morality is subjective.

    Barry Arrington: You say the holocaust was evil. Is it possible for you to be wrong about that?

    The Holocaust was evil.

    Barry Arrington: If your answer is “no” then I would like to welcome you to the moral objectivist side.

    Certainty doesn’t make something objective.

  341. 341
    REC says:

    “you wet yourself and dove for cover”

    Really?

  342. 342
    skram says:

    Barry:

    Since skram is a moral monster, we can safely discount everything he has to say from now on.

    Demonizing your opponent is not an argument. It is a fallacy known as argumentum ad hominem.

    If you wish to engage in a serious argument, you’ll have to explain why you think that the holocaust couldn’t have been part of God’s plan. Huffing and puffing isn’t very convincing.

  343. 343
    Barry Arrington says:

    REC @ 343:
    Yes, really. I see the question remains unanswered.

  344. 344
    JWTruthInLove says:

    @skram:

    It’s not like God didn’t kill—or command to kill—entire peoples—according to the Book.

    That might be slander against God. Please provide evidence, that those parts in the “Book” were inspired by God!

  345. 345
    Barry Arrington says:

    skram @ 344: You say it is possible for the holocaust to have been good. You are evil. We can discount everything you say as the rantings of an evil man.

  346. 346
    skram says:

    Barry, repeating an ad hominem is still an ad hominem.

    Try again. 🙂

  347. 347
    Zachriel says:

    skram: It is possible that the holocaust was part of God’s plan.

    That’s actually not an uncommon argument within apocalyptic Christianity, as the Holocaust led to the founding of modern state of Israel. Next: Armageddon.

  348. 348
    REC says:

    Yes, really. I see the question remains unanswered.

    Could you read my posts?

    “You say the holocaust was evil. Is it possible for you to be wrong about that?”

    I could never force myself to believe that the holocaust was anything than evil. I could be wrong, and in fact, the Nazi Protestants would say I am OBJECTIVELY wrong about that.

  349. 349
    skram says:

    JWTruthInLove, have you heard of the Flood? 🙂

  350. 350
    Barry Arrington says:

    REC @ 341.

    REC has admitted the existence of self-evident moral truth. Again, welcome to the objectivist fold.

    UPDATE: Never mind. REC contradicted himself in his very next comment.

  351. 351
    JWTruthInLove says:

    @skram:

    JWTruthInLove, have you heard of the Flood?

    I’ve heard of many many floods with many many causalties. Which of those was caused by God and what is your evidence?

    Barry-sama:

    Thank you REC for demonstrating the truth of the OP. Here endeth the argument. Comments are now closed.

    Why are comments closed?

  352. 352
    Barry Arrington says:

    REC @ 350:

    “It is possible for me to be wrong about the holocaust being evil.”

    There you have it people. Are you listening Mark Frank?

    This is why it makes a difference. We are right back to the OP.

    Some things must be literally unthinkable. REC says that it is “thinkable” for the holocaust to have been other than evil. And that, itself, is evil.

    Thank you REC for demonstrating the truth of the OP. Here endeth the argument. Comments are now closed.

Comments are closed.