Intelligent Design

WJM on Subjectivist Equivocations

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The following is from William J. Murray:

The problem inherent in arguments for subjective morality is often that those arguing for subjectivism employ terminology that is unavailable to their argument, such as X “is wrong” or “is immoral”. That phrasing obfuscates what the subjectivist must mean as opposed to what an objectivist means when they say the same thing.

Normally, especially in a debate like this, one would use terms and phrasings that distinguish between personal preference and an implied reference to an objective ruling/measurement. In regular conversation, there would be a situational understanding, like: “No, that’s the wrong color shoes to go with your outfit.” where the term “wrong” would be understood as a strong expression of personal aesthetics.
Usually, the line is drawn more distinctly: “It’s not the right choice for me, but it might be for you.” In a debate about morality, leaving off the qualifying terminology undermines the clarity of the argument and the capacity to recognize logical errors.
What does it mean when a supposed moral subjectivist says, “It’s wrong for others to do X”? Since “doing X” cannot actually in itself “be wrong” under moral subjectivism, in the sense that 2+2=25 is “wrong”, or in the sense that “red + blue = green” is wrong, it must be meant in either a personal or a perceived social sensibility manner, like, “Serving guacamole with halibut is so wrong” or “voting for Romney is wrong”.

When it comes to moral subjectivists, “it’s wrong to rape” or “it’s wrong to torture” cannot be anything more than statements of subjective personal or social-sensibility preference, even if they are very strongly felt and believed; the onus is on the individual to recognize that their preference is just that – a personal preference (even if writ large to a social sensibility).
The question for so-called moral subjectivists is: outside of morality and ethics, would you feel comfortable forcing others to adhere to your personal preferences or your social sensibilities? Are you comfortable forcing people to not serve guacamole with halibut, or forcing them to not vote for Romney?

Now, are you comfortable intervening and forcing someone to stop raping or toturing another person?
This is the line where the obfuscating phrasing cannot go beyond, and it is where supporters of moral subjectivism cast their gaze away from the obvious distinction; even the moral subjectivist agrees that forcing personal preferences or social sensibilities upon others is itself immoral. They will fight against such things as a negative social sensibility against various minorities and certainly against individuals forcing their personal preferences on others.

Hypocritically, though, that’s all that morality is in their worldview; they are guilty of doing the very thing they deem immoral in the first place; in fact, their entire moral mechanism of forcing others to abide their personal preferences or social sensibilities is one they see as immoral everywhere else. They would force a freedom from religion, as if forcing religion on others was in principle different. They would force others to treat minorities equally, but enslaving them is using the exact same in-principle rationale.
Moral subjectivists want there to be some kind of distinction between “morality” and other personal preferences and social sensibilities to purchase a rationale for imposing their views on others, and will refer to moral views as “really strong” feelings; but, no matter how strong those feelings are, unless they posit morality as something else in principle than subjective feelings or social sensibilities, their behavior is the in-principle equivalent of any other moral view.

But, they certainly do not behave that way; they behave (like any moral objectivist) as if they have some authority and obligation beyond what can be accounted for by personal preference and social sensibility, no matter how strong such feelings are. There is an operational boundary between what one is willing to do for what one recognizes as matters of subjective personal taste and social sensibility, and what one is willing to do in cases where an objective, necessary and self-evident boundary is being crossed.
No amount of equivocation can hide the difference in how one behaves when it comes to serious moral matters and matters of personal preference/social sensibility.

Here ends WJM’s comment.

WJM’s interlocutor at this time was a buffoon who styles himself “hrun0815.” Said buffoon responded to the comment as follows:

“Yes, yes, WJM. TL;DR about your whole diatribe.” I take it that “TL;DR” is internet shorthand for “too long; didn’t read.” If that is the case, hrun0815 has proven himself unworthy of being taken seriously on these pages, and I would encourage our readers and posters simply to ignore him.

289 Replies to “WJM on Subjectivist Equivocations

  1. 1
    keith s says:

    William has been repeating these mistakes for years.

    He writes:

    The problem inherent in arguments for subjective morality is often that those arguing for subjectivism employ terminology that is unavailable to their argument, such as X “is wrong” or “is immoral”.

    That’s as silly as arguing that the word “sexy” is unavailable to someone who thinks that sexiness is in the eye of the beholder (as it clearly is). Subjectivity doesn’t make a term “unavailable”.

    “Sexy” is relative to individual standards, and so is “immoral”. Whether you think each of these characteristics is objective is irrelevant, because there is no way to determine objective sexiness or objective immorality, if such things exist at all.

  2. 2
    Box says:

    Keith,

    “immoral” – implying an objective ruling/measurement – is unavailable for the subjective moralist. If one redefines “immoral” as a statement of subjective personal or social-sensibility preference, then it is available for the subjective moralist.
    Are we in agreement?

  3. 3

    Keith,

    I should have said:

    The problem inherent in arguments for subjective morality is that those describing/arguing the subjective position use the same terminologies (“X behavior is wrong”) that is used in descriptions under objective morality, but the two usages have entirely different meanings and cause entirely different chains of inference.

    IOW, when a moral objectivist says “it is wrong”, they mean it in the same sense of 2+2=25 is “wrong”; when a subjectivist uses the same phrase, they (if they are logically consistent) mean it in the Voting for Romney is “wrong” sense. One is considered a matter of objective fact; the other is considered a matter of personal opinion.

    The problem is when subjectivists attempt to rationalize how a matter of opinion – no matter how strongly felt – can engender behavior otherwise reserved for matters one considers to be based on fact.

  4. 4
    Graham2 says:

    Its the same old dreary, endless argument. The believers have objective morality on their side, so they get to tell the rest of how to behave.

    Some evidence for objective morality please, then you can start preaching.

  5. 5
    Learned Hand says:

    I taught a class on negotiation today–more or less my day job. I often tell my students when they negotiate, they’ll come across people they want to believe are stupid or dishonest; negotiation is hard and confrontation often makes people feel the need to dehumanize the other side.

    I ask them instead to assume that the other side in the negotiation is as smart and as honest as they are. Not to trust people blindly, but to assume in the absence of strong evidence to the contrary that misstatements are inadvertent or the result of miscommunication rather than a lie or idiocy.

    I do that because I’ve seen a lot of negotiators devolve into demonizing the other side of the table. Once they start to assume the other side are liars or fools, they stop thinking those people are worth the same respect and attention they want for themselves. They stop listening.

    Moral relativists, we’re told by Barry and Stephen and WJM and others, are sociopaths, liars, willful moral perverts, and worse. We could not possibly believe the things we claim to believe, according to WJM–we aren’t allowed to pass judgment. We are utterly without moral compasses, he claims, just choosing our morals the same way we’d choose a paint chip or taco filling. Sociopaths. Stephen denies us even the basic humanity of having identities and opinions that differ from his own; we are extensions of his beliefs, and if we disagree, we must be lying. Willful moral perverts, deceiving others for our own wicked purposes.

    No matter how often we try to explain that these are caricatures, the response always seems to be the same. KF will always hyperventilate about how we’re leading society to “might makes right.” Someone will ask how could a subjectivist possibly disagree with the Nazis, har har har.

    I don’t expect to change any minds here; these caricatures are invested with a lot of spite and emotion. After all, we’re babykilling sociopathic liar perverts.

    But guys, for the record and KF’s onlookers–you don’t understand how we think. We’re very much like you, in that we have moral beliefs that are as powerful for us as they are for you. But we aren’t exactly like you, and our moral beliefs (like those of most of the world) are different from yours.

    We’ve been extraordinarily patient, trying to explain our perspective to you. Have the caricatures changed? Has anyone stopped to reconsider whether they really understand how subjectivists think, following a long conversation with some real, live examples?

    Barry’s takeaway from the conversation seems to be to take an opportunity to highlight the venomous and dehumanizing caricatures. That’s the point of the conversation to him; perhaps he feels he’ll be less broken if he spreads a little more slime in the world.

    But there’s a real value–a moral value–to understanding your neighbor as a person. Share my morals for a moment, and make the effort.

  6. 6
    Jerad says:

    But there’s a real value–a moral value–to understanding your neighbor as a person. Share my morals for a moment, and make the effort.

    Some of us are here in a sincere attempt to carry on a real dialogue in hopes of increasing understanding. But I too have been called a variety of names just for upholding some rather non-controversial, century-old mathematics.

    Perhaps this isn’t the place it claims to be. Perhaps those seeking a breaking down of stereotypes should look elsewhere . . .

  7. 7
    hrun0815 says:

    Let’s not forget WJM being much more concise and on the point of the matter (which is incidentally the reason why I didn’t care much for an even longer post by WJM).

    Actually, it’s fairly easy to tell moral subjectivists and objectivists apart; actual moral subjectivists are called sociopaths. There’s a difference between using “moral subjectivism” as an intellectual anti-theistic firewall in a debate and actually being (living as) a moral subjectivist.

    And yes, clearly this makes me the buffoon. Because it means that since I’m not a delusional liar I’m actually a sociopath in WJM’s eyes. In fact, I probably prefer buffoon over sociopath.

  8. 8
    Box says:

    What part of the logical consequences of moral relativism don’t you guys understand? The part “but … but I’m not like that” perhaps?

  9. 9
    Graham2 says:

    Box: The consequences are exactly what you see around you, ie: the real world: A confused, muddled, imperfect world. Exactly what you would expect in a world where objective morality doesn’t exist.

  10. 10

    Graham2 said:

    Its the same old dreary, endless argument. The believers have objective morality on their side, so they get to tell the rest of how to behave.

    This has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with my argument. Nobody has objective morality “on their side”, anymore than anyone has gravity “on their side”.

    Some evidence for objective morality please, then you can start preaching.

    Evidence is not required in order to follow the logic of disparate premises to their distinctly different conclusions.

  11. 11
    Mung says:

    keiths:

    William has been repeating these mistakes for years.

    As if William OUGHT NOT make these mistakes and OUGHT NOT repeat them.

    Whether you think each of these characteristics is objective is irrelevant, because there is no way to determine objective sexiness or objective immorality, if such things exist at all.

    As if anyone OUGHT TO believe you. Pathetic really.

  12. 12
    Graham2 says:

    WJM: The whole point of your screed seems to be: making moral judgements makes no sense if we don’t have an objective moral standard.

  13. 13

    Learned Hand said:

    Moral relativists, we’re told by Barry and Stephen and WJM and others, are sociopaths, liars, willful moral perverts, and worse

    No, I drew a distinction between someone that fancies themselves a moral subjectivist due to ideological biases (against theism) and someone who actually lives as if moral subjectivism is true. There are many of the former and few of the latter in this world, IMO, and probably none of the latter involved in this discussion.

    Calling yourself a moral subjectivist doesn’t mean you actually act as if morality is a subjective phenomena – that is the entire point of my argument.

    We’re very much like you, in that we have moral beliefs that are as powerful for us as they are for you.

    I don’t think anyone has ever said otherwise; the argument has never been that atheists/materialists/moral subjectivists are less moral, or even behave in a less moral fashion, but rather that the logic that follows from their premise necessarily leads to fatal flaws in their position (which I and others have put forth).

    We are utterly without moral compasses, he claims, just choosing our morals the same way we’d choose a paint chip or taco filling

    Well, I never said anything like that, but I will use this passage to make a few points:

    1. Compasses all point in the same direction, which is the very principle of a compass – anyone who uses one can find North. I’m not the one saying you are “utterly without a moral compass”; you are, because moral “compasses” do not exist under moral subjectivism. North is whatever anyone happens to feel like it is.

    2. When you compare choosing morals to choosing a taco filling, you phrase it in a negative way – as if choosing morals the same way you choose a taco filling was a bad thing. But a true moral subjectivist would hold that however one chooses their morals – whether it was deeply meaningful or chosen like the taco filling of the day – is equally valid, because morality is subjective. Who are you to denigerate how others choose or employ their morals?

    3. Here is LH being self-righteous about others passing moral judgement on him (while passing moral judgement on them) as if one or the other was objectively wrong, as if we don’t have the same right under moral subjectivism as he does to pass our moral judgements any way we see fit, any way we feel like.

    Under moral subjectivism, this debate cannot be anything other than the simple slinging of feces, with no assumed objective arbiter that would give either of us a reason to consider that we might be wrong. How can you be “wrong” about how you feel, and what you prefer?

  14. 14

    Graham2 said:

    WJM: The whole point of your screed seems to be: making moral judgements makes no sense if we don’t have an objective moral standard.

    No, my point is that forcing others to abide by what we hold to be nothing more than our preferences (whether or not “deeply felt”) for no reason, ultimately, beyond “because we feel like it” (whether or not “deeply felt”), is itself a self-evidently immoral proposition.

    Feeling strongly about something you hold to be a subjective preference doesn’t justify forcing others to do things the way you would prefer.

  15. 15
    Graham2 says:

    WJM: Its a tortured point that you are making. It suggests that forcing our views on others is OK if its an objective moral position, but not OK if its subjective. Is that it ?

  16. 16

    The theory indicates that the desire to control others is cause by the systematics of how any intelligence works. That’s simply what “intelligence” does, controls its muscles and all else that it possibly can such as its environment (territory) and all else in it. It’s therefore no surprise humans have an inherent desire to control knowledge, culture, countries, etc., etc., etc..

  17. 17
    HeKS says:

    WJM,

    Interesting comments. It made me think of one of the first articles I wrote here:

    Reply To An Argument Against Objective Morality: When Words Lose All Meaning

    As well as this comment to Mark Frank on my first article, which went on to spawn the one linked above.

    It’s certainly an interesting and thought-provoking subject for discussion.

  18. 18
    StephenB says:

    The fact remains that when a moral subjectivist uses metaphysical language, such as X “is wrong,” when he really means, “X seems wrong to me,” or “I find X distasteful,” he is, consciously or unconsciously misrepresenting his true position. If it is a conscious misrepresentation, then he is dishonest; if it is an unconscious misrepresentation, then he is delusional.

    This whole deceptive program of narcissistic-oriented morality is an attempt to have it both ways:

    On the one hand, the subjectivist says that “rape is wrong,” because he wants to create the illusion that he is being just as reasonable as the objectivist, who knows that rape is, in fact, wrong. Thus, by using the metaphysical formula, he gets temporary credit for having a modicum of common sense.

    On the other hand, if the subjectivist says what he really means, that is, if he says that “rape seems wrong to me,” or “I find rape distasteful, it would become clear that, by his articulated standard of self-styled morality, the rapist should be equally free to style his own morality of rape. An honest subjectivist, therefore, would never condemn rape because an honest subjectivist would allow the rapist the same freedom he grants to himself–the dubious privilege of being his own lawgiver.

    So, yes, the moral subjectivist is either lying to himself of he is lying to us. The only way a subjectivist can truly be honest is to call things by their right name and say what he really believes. In other words, the honest subjectivist must say that he finds rape distasteful, but he refuses to pass judgment on a rapist who sincerely believes that rape is moral. Are there any honest subjectivists who will step forward and say what they really mean?

  19. 19
    Mark Frank says:

    I suppose it is worth responding to this same old argument one more time.

    I think it turns on this fallacy (my emphasisi):

    What does it mean when a supposed moral subjectivist says, “It’s wrong for others to do X”? Since “doing X” cannot actually in itself “be wrong” under moral subjectivism, in the sense that 2+2=25 is “wrong”, or in the sense that “red + blue = green” is wrong, it must be meant in either a personal or a perceived social sensibility manner, like, “Serving guacamole with halibut is so wrong” or “voting for Romney is wrong”.

    That is a false dichotomy. There are other options. I have pointed this out I don’t know how many times and it just seems to be ignored.

    The following are all statements of the form X is Y – but none of them are objective and none are simply statements of personal preference:

    * This bend is dangerous
    * This film is obscene
    * This scene is hilarious
    * This novel is interesting

    There is also the problem that simply objective statements such as red+blue=green do not entail any kind of action whereas moral statements do. To this extent moral statements are more like statements such as:

    * This is unacceptable
    * This is not negotiable

    which are also not statements of personal taste but committments to action.

    The objective/subjective debate is a debate about the meaning of certain words. The answer requires a detailed and subtle analysis of the use of language.

  20. 20
    Mark Frank says:

    An honest subjectivist, therefore, would never condemn rape because an honest subjectivist would allow the rapist the same freedom he grants to himself–the dubious privilege of being his own lawgiver.

    Wrong. I don’t grant the rapist anything. I recognise that he might have his own sincerely held different ideas about what is right as do Islamic fundamendalists. That doesn’t mean I am being dishonest when I condemn them on the basis of my sincerely held subjective beliefs which I happen to share with lots of other people. Why do you find this so hard to understand?

  21. 21
    Andre says:

    Oh brother. Looks like the morally subjective just don’t get it….

    It is not about who’s said morals are better or true, in your world it just means that you really can’t justify your own morals because they mean nothing. There is no what’s good for the goose is good for the gander scenario, ever.

    Just indifference about everything. I thought you guys are suppose to be smarter?

  22. 22
    Andre says:

    Mark Frank

    You are a dishonest subjectivist, You are claiming that rape is morally wrong. If it is actually subjectime them by its very subjective nature can absolutely not be wrong. It is just your opinion about the matter.

  23. 23
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    Wrong. I don’t grant the rapist anything. I recognise that he might have his own sincerely held different ideas about what is right as do Islamic fundamendalists. That doesn’t mean I am being dishonest when I condemn them on the basis of my sincerely held subjective beliefs which I happen to share with lots of other people. Why do you find this so hard to understand?

    Wrong. By definition, you, as a subjectist, are commited to the proposition that everyone, without exception, is entitled to act on his sincerely held beliefs. You either believe that or you do not. The law of the excluded middle applies here.

    If you really do believe that the rapist is justified in acting on his belief that rape is moral, then you cannot logically condemn his behavior since you cannot logically condemn that which you believe to be legitimate.

    If you do not believe that the rapist is justified in acting on his belief, then you need to explain why it is legitimate for you to act on your sincerely-held beliefs and is not legitimate for the rapist to act on his sincerely-held beliefs.

  24. 24
    Jerad says:

    StephenB #23

    Wrong. By definition, you, as a subjectist, are commited to the proposition that everyone, without exception, is entitled to act on his sincerely held beliefs. You either believe that or you do not. The law of the excluded middle applies here.

    And if I do not believe that everyone is entitled to act on their sincerely held beliefs (including those whose shoot abortion doctors or deny gay people the right to marry) AND I do not believe in any ‘objective’, unchanging moral code then what I am?

    Let’s say you disagree that women should be allowed to be Bishops (I live in England, it’s an issue) then don’t you need to explain why your sincerely held beliefs should trump others who think women should be allowed to be bishops?

  25. 25
    Mark Frank says:

    #23 SB

    Wrong. By definition, you, as a subjectist, are commited to the proposition that everyone, without exception, is entitled to act on his sincerely held beliefs. You either believe that or you do not. The law of the excluded middle applies here.

    “Entitled” can mean legally or morally entitled. Presumably you mean morally entitled. Subjectivism is an account of what morality is. It is not a statement about what is right and wrong.  Therefore, no moral statements of any kind follow from subjectivism – including who is entitled to do what. Therefore my subjectivism does not commit me to the proposition that everyone, without exception, is entitled to act on his sincerely held beliefs. I merely observe that people do have differing sincerely held moral beliefs and while there are many justifications for different beliefs there is no ultimate objective criterion. This is an observation not a moral judgement.

    If you really do believe that the rapist is justified in acting on his belief that rape is moral, then you cannot logically condemn his behavior since you cannot logically condemn that which you believe to be legitimate.

    As discussed I do not believe his activities to be legitimate and therefore I can and do condemn him. I just don’t have an ultimate justification for that condemnation.

    If you do not believe that the rapist is justified in acting on his beliesf, then you need to explain why it is legitimate for you to act on your sincerly-held beliefs and is not legitimate for the rapist to act on his sincerely-held beliefs.

    As explained a million times I have a number of reasons for my moral beliefs – none of them ultimate. Here are some:
     
    Rape means the victim suffers.

    Rape restricts the victims liberty for no good reason.

    The rapist would not accept being raped.

    While these are not ultimate reasons they are widely accepted and I find them very moving.

  26. 26
    Mark Frank says:

    Andre

    You are a dishonest subjectivist, You are claiming that rape is morally wrong. If it is actually subjectime them by its very subjective nature can absolutely not be wrong. It is just your opinion about the matter.

    I believe rape is wrong. I do not believe there is an ultimate justification for this position – just a lot of reasons. What is dishonest about that?

  27. 27
    Me_Think says:

    There is no objective morality. Morality is more what you imbibe from society than what some book tells you. What is moral in one religion’s book need not be moral in another religion. If you say our religious book is correct, it is nothing more than subjective opinion.

  28. 28
    kairosfocus says:

    MF:

    Do you not see the underlying objective appeals to a mutuallybinding expectation of respect rooted in inherent value of the human person in:

    Rape means the victim suffers.

    Rape restricts the victims liberty for no good reason.

    The rapist would not accept being raped.

    In short, the self-referential incoherence of radical relativism shows through, again and again.

    Let’s ask, why should I accept your imposition of your tired bourgeois rules, especially when I am NKVD [or whatever alphabet soup you please] and you are a class-enemy [or racial inferior or whatever] and traitor hiding information that would advance the cause of the party. And, I know that humiliating you in this personal way — apart from being quite enjoyable to me as I feed my sense of power and watch the horror in your eyes (you are of course bound and gagged until you indicate to me that you are going to tell me what I want by nodding, and if you don’t follow-through . . . ) — I can get the information I want?

    And, the Party approves of getting the information in the most efficient way . . . and this way will take fifteen minutes, tops.

    (In case you think this is made up, I am simply extending a point discussed by Solzhenitsyn in Gulag Archipelago.)

    KF

  29. 29
    kairosfocus says:

    LH,

    I think you forgot the case of “the man we can do business with” and the infamous picture of Neville Chamberlain waving the piece of paper in his hand and announcing peace in our time.

    War was then less than a year away.

    I suggest, first, that we have to understand that there is something like the dark triad, and when people like that hold power, agreements not enforceable by a forceful walkaway option that we are known to be willing and able to use are meaningless.

    As in, BATNA on steroids.

    Dark triad?

    Highly Machiavellian, Narcissistic and Sociopathic.

    Manipulative and deceitful, rejoicing in triumphing by tricking the perceived inferiors.

    Narcissistic, so imagining that they have a right to superior treatment that they will not acknowledge to others.

    Sociopathic, with a benumbed conscience and en-darkened mind.

    The lessons of history were paid for in blood and tears, and if we forget or ignore them, we will pay the same price again.

    KF

  30. 30
    Andre says:

    MF

    Why is rape wrong for you? If I’m using rape to spread my genes who are you to tell me that me acting in a completely natural way is wrong? After all is it not about the struggle for survival? I’m simply acting as nature has intended me to, I have to spread my genes.

    You can only have an opinion on that. I don’the care if you think it wrong because nature does no care either.

    Nature does not give guidelines on how I ought to spread my genes.

  31. 31
    JWTruthInLove says:

    @Andre:

    If I’m using rape to spread my genes who are you to tell me that me acting in a completely natural way is wrong?

    Why are you using the word “natural”?? Isn’t it “natural” to not spread your genes?

  32. 32
    Andre says:

    Of course it’s natural to spread ones genes. That is how nature is. Since the first replicator showed it’s will to survive.If that was not the case then there would be no life.

  33. 33
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    I merely observe that people do have differing sincerely held moral beliefs and while there are many justifications for different beliefs there is no ultimate objective criterion. This is an observation not a moral judgement.

    Do you believe that rapists should be punished for their actions?

  34. 34
    Andre says:

    KF

    Is not demonising he is telling you what to look out for.

  35. 35
    Mark Frank says:

    #36 SB

    Do you believe that rapists should be punished for their actions?

    Yes.

  36. 36
    Mark Frank says:

    Andre #31

    Why is rape wrong for you?

    Lots of reasons. I gave some in #25.

    If I’m using rape to spread my genes who are you to tell me that me acting in a completely natural way is wrong? After all is it not about the struggle for survival? I’m simply acting as nature has intended me to, I have to spread my genes.

    Because I (subjectively) believe that “spreading my genes”, whether it be natural or not, is not a moral justification.

    You can only have an opinion on that. I don’the care if you think it wrong because nature does no care either.

    Well I don’t see why you shouldn’t care just because nature doesn’t. 

    Nature does not give guidelines on how I ought to spread my genes

    True.

  37. 37
    kairosfocus says:

    AS, The number of times that one has to deal with powerful people exhibiting dark triad syndrome is sufficient that if a presentation fails to address that in balance to how you negotiate with decent though tough people, it is dangerously flawed and unrealistic, lacking boardroom smarts much less street smarts. And, Chamberlain at that moment is the classic historically pivotal case in point. At that point the holocaust was four years away, but the ruthlessness, manipulation and lack of effective conscience were there for all to see in the aftermath of the night of the long knives. But, the leaders of France and Britain, were willfully blind; as were the media and the public. Churchill, who was the lone voice in halls of power crying out a loud warning, was so isolated and disdained (with disasters such as Gallipoli in his track record, but they forgot that the innovator of the tank should have some notion of the dangers being run . . . ) he was literally suicidally depressed. As though, Cassandra was not there in Homer for all to note on the march of folly. And at Munich they bargained away the framework of alliances and defense lines that were the remaining protection for peace. One look at a map would tell any Lieutenant in a reserve officer training programme the next target: Poland. KF

  38. 38
    Mark Frank says:

    #30 KF

    Do you not see the underlying objective appeals to a mutuallybinding expectation of respect rooted in inherent value of the human person

    I think I understand what this particular word salad is getting at.  It may well be true that all of my reasons can be summarised as “respect for other people”. I am not sure – but it is plausible. That still does not make respect for other people an ultimate justification. Others may say that they do not find respect for other people morally compelling and they are not being irrational (although I profoundly disagree with them)

    Let’s ask, why should I accept your imposition of your tired bourgeois rules, …

    For much the same reasons as you would give to the same person:
    * Human suffering
    * Loss of liberty
    * How would you like it to happen to you
    etc
    The only difference is that I recognise that if he keeps on saying “and why should I care about that” then in the end I will run out of arguments. Exactly the same is true for you. In the end he may say “why should I care about God’s purpose and the natural moral law.

  39. 39
    kairosfocus says:

    MF, Please note 29 above, painful though it is both to read and to have had to write. The point there is, how do you bar the door to that fatal undermining of moral foundations that opens the door to nihilism? The party is the vanguard of the proletariat, the individual is nothing, we cannot make an omelette without cracking a few eggs. KF

  40. 40
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Dismissive language like “word salad” is not going to solve the issues with the position you are taking.

  41. 41
    StephenB says:

    Aurelio Smith

    And let’s not forget Eugenio Pacelli’s rôle in getting the Nazis into power in the 1930?s in the hope of keeping German schools under the control of the Catholic church.

    Here are five major authors who have refuted that slimy lie:

    ————————————————————–

    Ronald J Rychlak Hitler, the War, and the Pope

    David G. Dalin The Myth of Hitler’s Pope.

    Philip Jenkins: The New Anti Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice.

    The Encyclopedia Britannica: A Historical Assessment of Pope Pius XII

    Ken Woodward: The Case Against Pius XII

    ————————————————————

    Now give me your list of authors or historians who will support your slanderous claim.

  42. 42
    Mark Frank says:

    KF

    My #41 was a response to #29 (I made a mistake when I put in #30 and you will see the quote was from #29).

  43. 43
    StephenB says:

    SB: Do you believe that rapists should be punished for their actions?

    Mark Frank

    Yes.

    Why?

  44. 44
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Plato’s warning in The Laws Bk X c 360 BC, again — which of course keeps on being studiously ignored:

    Ath. . . .[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [i.e the classical “material” elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art . . . [such that] all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only [ –> that is, evolutionary materialism is ancient and would trace all things to blind chance and mechanical necessity] . . . .

    [Thus, they hold] that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.-[ –> Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT.] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [ –> Evolutionary materialism — having no IS that can properly ground OUGHT — leads to the promotion of amorality on which the only basis for “OUGHT” is seen to be might (and manipulation: might in “spin”)], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [ –> Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality “naturally” leads to continual contentions and power struggles influenced by that amorality], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is,to live in real dominion over others [ –> such amoral factions, if they gain power, “naturally” tend towards ruthless abuse], and not in legal subjection to them.

    2350 years standing of warning . . .

    Nah, just more “word salad.”

    March of folly time, folks.

    KF

  45. 45
    Mark Frank says:

    #46 SB

    You love inquisitioning people don’t you?

    My answer is the usual reasons for punishing people when they do something wrong.

    * Deterrence
    * Some possible closure for the victim(s)
    * It demonstrates society’s belief that this is wrong
    * If the punishment is well thought out it may cause the perpretrator to come to believe it was wrong

    Possibly a few other things – but those are my main reasons for believing in punishment for wrong-doing.

    Assuming you also think rapists should be punished, why?

  46. 46
    kairosfocus says:

    MF, Nope (while I acknowledge your point on reference), not a proper response to someone who personally faced serious threats from communists. Do you think I just dredged that up from some half-forgotten book for no reason? I have faced nihilists and the havoc they wreak. That’s a big part of why I refuse to surrender to amorality-inducing rhetoric. You (or someone you care about on the next table or in the next cell . . . ) are there, bound and gagged. Mr NKVD is there [doing X with his assistant that makes it clear what is on the table . . . I censor the act Solzhenitsyn indicated], and is saying, you won’t tell us what you know or confess, well I have some quick medicine for you. What answer do you have to his party morality backed up by guns and ruthlessness, other than your preferences and imagination that if the wider public knew about this they would be outraged? Guess who controls what makes it into the papers, on what terms? What do you think lay behind the show trials? Don’t you know, there are things worse than having a gun to your head, much worse? And, that there is only a fine line — if any — between the ruthless and the utterly sociopathic? Do you see the significance of conscience as a sense that detects moral truth as the eyes detect visual truth, but where both can be warped or blinded? That, there is no good reason to argue from possible warping or blindness to, there is nothing there to be accurately seen? Visually or morally? KF

  47. 47
    Jerad says:

    MF #48

    My answer is the usual reasons for punishing people when they do something wrong.

    * Deterrence
    * Some possible closure for the victim(s)
    * It demonstrates society’s belief that this is wrong
    * If the punishment is well thought out it may cause the perpretrator to come to believe it was wrong

    Possibly a few other things – but those are my main reasons for believing in punishment for wrong-doing.

    I’ve got to add: to stop them doing it again. As when you lock them up and, sometimes, throw away the key.

    I am not speaking for anyone but myself but it seems to me that if someone cannot stop hurting others then they need to be removed from normal society. It doesn’t matter why they do what they do, what matters is protecting other people. Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy . . . people like that have to be isolated. I’m a bit on the fence about the death penalty but I am clear that some folks should not be allowed the same civic freedoms the rest of us are granted.

  48. 48
    Andre says:

    MF

    Closure for the victim? Who said they are a victim? How is that even possible? I just used one of the methods nature has provided me with to spread my genes! I’m the victim here I just did what I can do!

    Society’s beliefs have what to do with subjectivity? Just because the majority might think it right does not mean it is right to punish me!

    If I never thought it wrong in the first place why would I change my mind?

    Lastly why do you say its wrong? You’re forcing your view on me! You’re forcing punishment on me and you want to force corrective measures on me for something I don’t believe to be completely natural….. How do you know its? How do we know your version of right and wrong is the right one? Why not mine? I just did what nature allows me to do!

  49. 49
    kairosfocus says:

    Jerad, Solzhenitsyn went on to talk about SMERSH/NKVD etc torturers in honoured retirement as seemingly mild grandpas dandling their grandchildren or the like. That is the sort of thing that is there in the background for this discussion. KF

  50. 50
    Jerad says:

    KF #52

    Jerad, Solzhenitsyn went on to talk about SMERSH/NKVD etc torturers in honoured retirement as seemingly mild grandpas dandling their grandchildren or the like. That is the sort of thing that is there in the background for this discussion. KF

    I was speaking very generally for a fairly democratic society, one with a non-corrupt police and judiciary and lots of support from the population. Like the US, Canada, western European nations.

    My response was not considering your statement which I doesn’t necessarily become the backdrop for everyone’s contribution to the thread. Which is why I didn’t reference your comment in my response.

    Obviously I find the behaviour described by Dr Solzhenitsyn to be appalling and should be punished as maximally as possible.

  51. 51
    Mark Frank says:

    KF

    Lay off the argument #49 by emotion and stick to logic.

    What answer do you have to his party morality backed up by guns and ruthlessness, other than your preferences and imagination that if the wider public knew about this they would be outraged?

    How are you going to persuade him? By reference to the Natural Moral Law?

  52. 52
    hrun0815 says:

    After browsing through the comments here and in the ‘broken’ thread I think that my chosen stance of TL;DR was perfectly reasonable. The matter of the fact remains that virtually all objectivist a posting here believe subjectivists to either be sociopaths or liars (or delusional if lying unconsciously).

    Can you imagine that anything a self-professed subjectivist could say that would sway their opinion? Of course not. When you argue with a sociopath or liar you will not consider changing your mind no matter what they say.

    The fact that there is near unanimous agreement on the matter makes this ‘discussion’ utterly pointless. It is laced with answers to questions that actually explain many of the misconceptions about subjectivists, but in the end they count for nothing. Since no matter how many questions you answer, no matter how much you explain, no matter how many of fallacies you point out, … in the end you still remain a liar or sociopath and objective morality HAS to be right.

    Very well. I said it before and I say it again: I am glad that I (and more and more people around the world) get to live in secular societies that live in full acknowledgement of the fact that morality is subjective. I guess it takes a sociopath to contentedly live in a society of sociopaths.

  53. 53

    Graham2 asks:

    WJM: Its a tortured point that you are making. It suggests that forcing our views on others is OK if its an objective moral position, but not OK if its subjective. Is that it ?

    Is the difference between educating your children in mathematics and indoctrinating them with your personal views a “tortured point”?

    If morality is nothing more than personal, subjective feelings that describe how you prefer others behave, then when you tell your child that it is wrong to harm other children or steal their stuff, you cannot in principle be doing anything substantively different from any parent that influences their child in any way – like hating other groups of people.

    Is there a difference between educating a child and indoctrinating them? Would that difference be that one is the teaching of objective facts and the other is the teaching of subjective feelings as if they were facts?

    If it is not a fact that proposition X is morally wrong, then teaching any child any set of moral values is necessarily the equivalent indoctrination of personal, subjective views.

    If one holds that morality, instead, refers to some objective commodity, then they are at least attempting to educate their child about navigating an actually existent moral landscape.

    The difference between those that intellectually hold to subjectivism and those that hold to moral objectivism is that the former can only be conducting indoctrination and the latter at least has the capacity to be educating others about an actual moral landscape – like teaching a child about the factual dangers of their environment.

    So, to answer your question: under moral subjectivism one can (logically) only be forcing their personal, subjective views on others, while under objective morality, one at least has the capacity to be at least attempting to educate others about facts and attempting to protect them from actual, objective harm.

  54. 54

    Not all moralities considered objective are equal, and the mere acceptance that morality must logically refer to an objective commodity doesn’t guarantee a moral structure that is fully rational and impervious to error and misconception.

    However, without the objective premise, morality becomes nothing more than a term that hides the truth: subjectivism boils down to doing what you feel like doing. Under subjectivism, raising a child to share your moral views cannot be anything other than simply indoctrinating them into accordance with your own personal feelings. Under subjectivism, arguments about morality cannot be anything other than irrational, emotional pleading and rhetoric driven by some selfish desire to get others to feel the same way you do even while admitting that the way they feel is just as valid and moral as your own feelings.

  55. 55
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    You love inquisitioning people don’t you?

    It’s all part of the dialogue.

    My answer is the usual reasons for punishing people when they do something wrong.

    Again, you are misusing words. When you say “wrong,” we both know that you mean wrong “for you,” but that isn’t what the word really means.

    Wrong means immoral, not correct, impropoer, or out of order according to an objective standard of judgment. If someone gets an answer wrong on a test, it isn’t just wrong “for him,” it is just wrong, period. If a person gets a sequence out of order, it isn’t just out of order for him, it is out of order, period. In both cases, there is a failure to measure up to an objective standard.

    Similarly, if someone commits a wrong act, such as rape, it isn’t just wrong for him, it is wrong, period. It violates an objective standard of moral justice.

    By contrast, you say that there is no such thing as objective right or wrong; yet you insist that the rapist should be punished for doing something wrong, which means, objectively wrong.

    And, of course, the answers you do give, beg the question. It assumes that victims “ought” to have closure, or that the rapist “ought” to be deterred. Why should these things be? To soothe your feelings, or satisfy the demands of justice?

    Other facets of your answer are self contradictory. You say, for example, that the rapist should be punished because society thinks it is wrong. That’s true, but society defines wrong in objective terms. The entire legal system is based on the standards of objective morality. So your definition of wrong is different from society’s definition, yet you appeal to society’s judgment on rape in support of your own, as if you were both on the same page.

    Assuming you also think rapists should be punished, why?

    Because they did something objectively and egregiously wrong: They violated the inherent dignity of the human person. Both components are important. Generally, people should not be severely punished for committing a minor wrong or for doing something that merely seems wrong (to you, perhaps) and may not really be wrong.

  56. 56
    kairosfocus says:

    MF, I am bringing to the table real-world cases, and am pointing out the issue of in effect saying that since vision can be warped or blinded, it can be dismissed when it testifies to our conscious awareness; whether by eye or by conscience. I am not merely appealing to emotion, I am remembering what it was like to personally have to deal with Communist agitators, in the context of Solzhenitsyn’s testimony and warning. Remember, he wrote from real cases. KF

  57. 57
    Seversky says:

    Andre @ 51

    Society’s beliefs have what to do with subjectivity? Just because the majority might think it right does not mean it is right to punish me!

    Doesn’t it? Who else should decide what is right or wrong? How else do we decide what is right or wrong?

    What right do we have to take any action against psychopathic rapists and murderers? It’s very simple. I do not want to be raped or murdered by such an individual. I do not want members of my family or friends to be raped or murdered by such an individual. I am reasonably sure the overwhelming majority of society feels the same way. That is sufficient justification for us doing whatever we can to stop such people harming others ever again.

    Yes, mobs are dangerous but they are not necessarily the same as a majority. Mobs were what lynched blacks in the South. Slavery was abolished when a majority became convinced that such a practice was indefensible.

    I ask again: “Who else should decide what is right or wrong? ” God? What makes His decrees any more than just another individual’s opinions? Certainly, if He exists as Christians believe Him to be, He has the power to impose His rules and enforce His laws but if you allow that then you allow the ultimate version of ‘might makes right’ which sort of defeats the object, doesn’t it?

  58. 58
    kairosfocus says:

    WJM, notice the consistent shift from is there an objectively binding OUGHT that reasonably governs the human condition, to you are imposing YOUR view . . . with the implication, you OUGHT NOT “impose” (but “we” can . . . might and manipulation make ‘right’ etc ) The inconsistency is already telling, but the refusal to address the objectivity of our moral sense speaks volumes. Especially when we realise this is a major facet of our self aware minded consciousness, guiding our decision-making. As I cited, there is a consistent implication of illusion, really delusion. But as there are no firewalls in mindedness, we need to think through how such a view undermines the whole project of responsible, reasonable freedom. With sobering implications. KF

  59. 59
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky, we do not DECIDE as to what is right or wrong, we recognise or acknowledge it. And, we can come to understand why it is wrong on a principled basis, if we are but willing: love does no harm, for one, if we recognise our worth and expect to be respected on core rights then we owe recognition of the same for others, if we would not be dealt with extremely we should recognise the same for those who are as we are, and the like of which no one is justifiably ignorant. KF

    PS: Note the implication of responsible freedom in saying we can decide, as opposed to being conditioned by nature and nurture, ultimately tracing to the non-rational.

  60. 60

    Seversky offers a great example of the problem of subjective morality @60; he blatantly states that he has the moral right to an act simply because of his wants:

    What right do we have to take any action against psychopathic rapists and murderers? It’s very simple. I do not want to be raped or murdered by such an individual. I do not want members of my family or friends to be raped or murdered by such an individual. I am reasonably sure the overwhelming majority of society feels the same way. That is sufficient justification for us doing whatever we can to stop such people harming others ever again.

    It appears to be lost on him that justifying an act as moral because of one’s wants also justifies the behavior of those he is acting to stop. In the end, Seversky’s morality boils down to “because I want to” and “because I can”.

    Seversky continues:

    I ask again: “Who else should decide what is right or wrong? ” God? What makes His decrees any more than just another individual’s opinions?

    Divine decree morality is just as problematic as subjective morality. If god is the foundational root of existence, and “good” is an immutable characteristic of that foundation, then morality, which refers to what is good, is an immutable aspect of our existence. We cannot change it, god cannot change it; it simply is, and it is up to us to understand it as best we can.

    Certainly, if He exists as Christians believe Him to be, He has the power to impose His rules and enforce His laws but if you allow that then you allow the ultimate version of ‘might makes right’ which sort of defeats the object, doesn’t it?

    Which is why Divine command morality should not be considered the correct form of objective morality. What is good is good, and nothing – not even god – can change it.

  61. 61
    Me_Think says:

    KF,
    It is dangerous to follow morality preached by religious texts without due diligence. Look at what is happening with Muslims. For them what Koran preaches is objective morality.
    Imagine if Deuteronomy’s morality was in force today, how many women will be stoned to death:

    Deuteronomy 22:20-1 But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

    Look at how Man is given power over the fairer sex and slaves:

    Ephesians 5:22-24 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
    Exodus 21:20-21 When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.

  62. 62

    kf,

    Having been in their shoes, I think the fear of oppressive religious indoctrination and persecution done in the name of morality is keeping them transfixed and locked in a logically unsustainable position. In their mind, even the rationally incoherent is preferable to logically consistent religious persecution.

    It’s a false dichotomy based on, IMO, a highly limited, cartoonish concept of alternatives. They are willing to embrace the absurd in order to avoid that which they know to be wrong (religious persecution and indoctrination).

    The problem is that they can’t conceive of a theism that grounds objective morality and is free from religious persecution and indoctrination.

    It’s kind of admirable, in a way, given the alternatives they believe to be available.

  63. 63
    Mark Frank says:

    SB

    Again, you are misusing words. When you say “wrong,” we both know that you mean wrong “for you,” but that isn’t what the word really means. Wrong means immoral, not correct, impropoer, or out of order according to an objective standard of judgment.

    We are debating what moral words such as “wrong” mean. The paragraph above assumes you are right. You are simply setting out your position – not arguing for it. I disagree.

    If someone gets an answer wrong on a test, it isn’t just wrong “for him,” it is just wrong, period. If a person gets a sequence out of order, it isn’t just out of order for him, it is out of order, period. In both cases, there is a failure to measure up to an objective standard. Similarly, if something commits a wrong act, such as rape, it isn’t just wrong for him, it is wrong, period. It violates an objective standard of moral justice.

    Sometime people are right or wrong according to an objective standard – sometimes it is based on a gut-feel or a complex mix of both. Even subjectivists sometimes use objective standards. They just recognise that the value of the standard itself can always be challenged – was this a good test? was this a good sequence to choose? So in the end it comes down to a subjective decision.

    By contrast, you say that there is no such thing as objective right or wrong; yet you insist that the rapist should be punished for doing something wrong, which means, objectively wrong.

    See above – you are assuming what you are arguing for.

    And, of course, the answers you do give, beg the question. It assumes that victims “ought” to have closure, or that the rapist “ought” to be deterred. Why should these things be? To soothe your feelings, or satisfy the demands of justice?

    I didn’t assume any such thing . You asked for my reasons. Those were my reasons. Period. For any reason for any action you can go on asking why is that a reason indefinitely. There has to come a point when you simply say – that is a good enough reason. I am drawing the line with the reasons I gave. If you don’t find those to be reasons without further justification then we differ in that respect and that is the essence of subjectivism.

    Other facets of your answer are self contradictory. You say, for example, that the rapist should be punished because society thinks it is wrong. That’s true, but society defines wrong in objective terms. The entire legal system is based on the standards of objective morality. So your definition of wrong is different from society’s definition, yet you appeal to society’s judgment on rape in support of your own, as if you were both on the same page.

    Please read my response carefully. I wrote: It demonstrates society’s belief that this is wrong. This not the same as punishing him because society thinks it is wrong. My point is that society’s attitude (and I do not accept that society defines wrong in objective terms) coincides with mine so I am really happy that it should reinforce its attitude through punishment.

    Because they did something objectively and egregiously wrong:

    Assuming there is such a thing as objectively wrong why should they be punished for that?

    They violated the inherent dignity of the human person.

    Why should they be punished for that?

     

  64. 64

    Aurelio Smith said:

    Indeed, for all the protestations about the degeneracy of atheists and agnostics, there doesn’t seem to be any descent into chaos. Glancing at those countries in Scandinavia where secularism is taken for granted, the populations seem to be fairly free from sociopaths.

    It appears that in the case of several posters here, there is a mental narrative generating a high degree of cognitive bias. The argument is not about comparative behaviors, but rather about the necessary logical conclusions that can be reasoned from the two separate premises (objective vs subjective morality).

    Because a nation is secular doesn’t mean that the people there actually live as if subjective morality is true. Indeed, one of the main aspects of this argument is to logically demonstrate that non-sociopaths do not and cannot actually live as if subjective morality is actually true.

    For example, this debate is rife with arguments presented by self-styled “moral subjectivists” that cannot help but lace their arguments with objective morality implications, references, and cannot help but argue as if we are all morally bound to pursue the truth of this matter as if our moral predilections are more than just a matter of personal preference. They cannot help but lace their commentary with references to the moral positions of others (religious believers) as if such positions can be demonstrated immoral, as if those views are not necessarily as valid as the subjectivists by the subjectivist’s own standard..

    There is a difference between espousing moral subjectivism and actually living, thinking and arguing according to the logically necessary conclusions of that perspective. Few people can own up to those conclusions, much less live accordingly.

    Dawkins at least owns up to them, but even he admits they cannot be lived by.

  65. 65
    hrun0815 says:

    Because a nation is secular doesn’t mean that the people there actually live as if subjective morality is true. Indeed, one of the main aspects of this argument is to logically demonstrate that non-sociopaths do not and cannot actually live as if subjective morality is actually true.

    If you like I can also state that I am happy that more and more people get to live in secular societies that acknowledge the subjectivity of morality. I guess it takes a delusional liar to happily live among delusional liars.

  66. 66
    hrun0815 says:

    This has to be the most amazing claim to mind-reading powers I have come across. WJM reads the minds of whole nations!!!

    Actually, no. Why? Because WJM KNOWS that he’s correct no matter what facts on the ground say. There is no mind reading involved. They HAVE to either be sociopaths or delusional liars, the whole lot of them.

    Since there is no convincing there is just acceptance. Embrace your inner liar. I did.

    Funny thing is that even though objectivists claim to have unchanging morals, they tend to change rather quickly to the good. Just look at the rapid shift in acceptance of gay marriage in the US. A generation from now there’ll be a new WJM or KF or BA who will argue that the right to gay marriage is natural God given moral law.

    So just like I have to make peace with the fact that I only imagine to be a subjectivist, the objectivists will have to come to terms with the fact that secular societies develop and evolve as if morals are subjective. It seems like a fair trade off.

  67. 67
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    We are debating what moral words such as “wrong” mean. The paragraph above assumes you are right. You are simply setting out your position – not arguing for it. I disagree.

    No. I am using the dictionary definition of the word, which you refuse to accept. Feel free to look it up. Words mean things. You are misusing words.

    Sometime people are right or wrong according to an objective standard – sometimes it is based on a gut-feel or a complex mix of both.

    You will not find the words “gut feeling” associated with the words “correct.” Incorrect means not correct. You are free to attach the words “gut feeling” to the words as an add on if you like, but you are not free (logically) to change the meaning of the word itself.

    See above – you are assuming what you are arguing for.

    No, I am giving you the definition of a word, which you misuse for purposes of rhetorical strategy. A definition is not a cicular argument. It is impossible to carry on a rational discussion with someone who does not honor the meanings of words.

    Assuming there is such a thing as objectively wrong why should they be punished for that?

    Because justice demands that those who hurt others should pay a price. There is no free lunch, either in the physical world or the moral word. That is what it means to live in a rational universe, which of course, you reject in principle.

    The one reason they should not pay a price is because you disapprove of their behavior. Your feelings about morality have nothing to do with justice, which of course, you do not believe in. It is impossible to believe in justice without believing in objective morality. I am sure that you can understand that.

    SB: They violated the inherent dignity of the human person.

    Why should they be punished for that?

    You have value and dignity as a person because of who and what you are, not because society thinks so, or because I think so, or because you think so. It is inherent. If, therefore, someone compromises something of value, as in the case of rape, justice demands payment.

    Law and morality are inextricably tied together. Society’s moral principles inform the civil law. But the laws, thus established, also influence people’s moral ideas.

    Accordingly, there is no escape from the question: Is it a just law or an unjust law? If it is a just law, people will be treated fairly; if it is an unjust law, they will not be treated fairly.

    For you, there are no just laws or fair treatment. There are only laws that you like and laws that you don’t like. You don’t believe in the existence of justice and fairness, for the same reason that you don’t believe in the good, which sets the standard for justice and fairness.

    Justice means giving people what they are due, either in the form of a good, a reward, or bad-a punishment. It has nothing at all to do with your personal preferences or your subjective morality

  68. 68
    Florabama says:

    Graham2 @ 4, the evidence for objective morality is that everyone absolutely believes in it even as they reject it which is easily demonstrated and was the whole point of WJM’s post that managed to sail right over yours and several others’ obtuse heads. You are right that it has been hashed out many times before and was a favorite “evidence” of C.S. Lewis aka Mere Christianity, but it is still an extremely powerful argument and it’s also great fun to watch moral relativists dance and squirm when you ask them something like this:

    Graham2, if I came into your home and killed you and your children then raped your wife would that be wrong in an objective sense? There are only two possible answers — either rape and murder are objectively wrong or they are not. Objective morality NECESSARILY REQUIRES transcendence. If there is nothing transcendent, and we are all there is, then right and wrong are just a matter of opinion. Comprende?

  69. 69
    kairosfocus says:

    MT, you are playing a familiar game of out of context snipping and sniping at scripture. Rather than entertaining you in it (you will be able to find sound, balanced teaching if you are really interested, I give just the clue that husbands are to love wives as Christ loved the church his Bride . . . and willingly suffered unjust death for it), I will point to the main presentation of the core Judaeo-Christian moral position by its principal teacher. Given, in his most famous sermon, the most famous sermon of all time:

    __________________

    >> Matthew 5-7English Standard Version (ESV)
    The Sermon on the Mount

    5 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
    The Beatitudes

    2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

    3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

    5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

    6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

    7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

    8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

    9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.

    10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
    Salt and Light

    13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

    14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[b] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
    Christ Came to Fulfill the Law

    17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
    Anger

    21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother[c] will be liable to judgment; whoever insults[d] his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell[e] of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.[f]
    Lust

    27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
    Divorce

    31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
    Oaths

    33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.[g]
    Retaliation

    38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic,[h] let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
    Love Your Enemies

    43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
    Giving to the Needy

    6 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

    2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
    The Lord’s Prayer

    5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

    7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:

    “Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name.[j]
    10 Your kingdom come,
    your will be done,[k]
    on earth as it is in heaven.
    11 Give us this day our daily bread,[l]
    12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
    13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.[m]

    14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
    Fasting

    16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
    Lay Up Treasures in Heaven

    19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[n] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

    22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

    24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.[o]
    Do Not Be Anxious

    25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[p] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

    34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
    Judging Others

    7 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

    6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
    Ask, and It Will Be Given

    7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
    The Golden Rule

    12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

    13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[q] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
    A Tree and Its Fruit

    15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
    I Never Knew You

    21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
    Build Your House on the Rock

    24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
    The Authority of Jesus

    28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. >>
    ___________________

    If your perception of the Judaeo-Christian moral framework is at material variance with that then it is distorted. And if someone comes along and claims to be speaking in the name of that position but what he says is at material variance, he is wrong. Doesn’t matter what office he may hold — and yes, that means it is possible to be a wolf in sheep’s [–> shepherd’s] clothing.

    On the other side, I think there is a problem of a one sided unbalanced litany of accusations that seeks to rob Christians of their positive contributions to world history, and to pile up a litany of accusations.

    A more balanced view is needed.

    Not least, as our democratic self government is largely rooted in the Judaeo-Christian view, especially as touching the foundations of responsible freedom, justice and core community institutions such as the family.

    Ill-informed and too often arrogantly presumptuous tampering with these is doing serious damage, and threatens to wreak havoc.

    But then, when one has become en-darkened in the name of enlightenment, one of the implications is that one is expecting things to line up with the falsities perceived as truth. Which, by definition the real truth will not do.

    So, a saner point to start from is worldview foundations, as far back as first principles of right reason [LOI, LNC, LEM especially] and the self evident truth, error exists. If you want to seriously assess the Judaeo-Christian worldview, here is where one needs to begin. Trying to make major decisions on ethics when one has problems with foundations of truth, reason and knowledge, modes of being, causality etc is a prescription for error if ever I have seen one.

    Then, one can rebuild a sound understanding.

    But, I expect that things are going to have to crash and burn horribly before there will be a willingness to be truly enlightened. As, happened with Marxism-Leninism at the turn of the ’90’s . . . and until after things crashed, many Marxists refused to hear or heed correction.

    Yes, I am deeply pessimistic and saddened by the march of folly that is our civilisation in our time. Even, as I have long been about a homeland whose name I cannot say without pain.

    KF

  70. 70
    Mark Frank says:

    SB

    No. I am using the dictionary definition of the word, which you refuse to accept. Feel free to look it up. Words mean things. You are misusing words.

    Good idea. If a dictionary will settle our argument then we can save a lot of effort. I am talking about moral language in general so it is hard to know which specific moral words to look up. “Good” and “bad” have hundreds of definitions so let’s take a word that is specifically moral: “evil”.  If I Google “define evil” I get:
    wicked, bad, wrong, immoral, sinful, foul, vile, dishonorable, corrupt, iniquitous, depraved, reprobate, villainous, nefarious, vicious, malicious;
    i.e a lot other moral language and thus no clarification as to whether moral language is objective or subjective. I am afraid the dictionary is not going to resolve our dispute. We are going to have to debate what these darn words mean (thought I will get bored with this quite soon).

    You will not find the words “gut feeling” associated with the words “correct.” Incorrect means not correct. You are free to attach the words “gut feeling” to the words as an add on if you like, but you are not free (logically) to change the meaning of the word itself.

    I said “right or wrong” not “correct”. “Correct” is more specific than right or wrong. It focuses on those contexts where “good” or “right” is in virtue of conforming to some standard (and it is still true that any standard may in itself be right or wrong). But right or wrong are broader than that. It makes perfect sense to say “I don’t think he is behaving correctly but I have a gut-feel it is a good thing”.

    No, I am giving you the definition of a word, which you misuse for purposes of rhetorical strategy. A definition is not a cicular argument. It is impossible to carry on a rational discussion with someone who does not honor the meanings of words.

    See above. If we are debating the meaning of a word then it is unsound to take as a premise that the word means what you believe it to mean.

    Because justice demands that those who hurt others should pay a price.

    I guess “justice demands” means “people ought to be punished when they do wrong”. So why do what justice demands? (My point being to prove you can go on asking “why” forever).

    Your feelings about morality have nothing to do with justice, which of course, you do not believe in. It is impossible to believe in justice without believing in objective morality. I am sure that you can understand that.

    I don’t understand that and I disagree – but let’s keep the discussion within bounds.

    You have value and dignity as a person because of who and what you are, not because society thinks so, or because I think so, or because you think so. It is inherent. If, therefore, someone compromises something of value, as in the case of rape, justice demands payment.

    Interesting example. Value rather clearly does arise because of what society thinks. If a jewel has a value of $200 that is because people are prepared to pay that much.

    Law and morality are inextricably tied together. Society’s moral principles inform the civil law. But the laws, thus established, also influence people’s moral ideas.
    Accordingly, there is no escape from the question: Is it a just law or an unjust law? If it is a just law, people will be treated fairly; if it is an unjust law, they will not be treated fairly.

    Agreed.

    For you, there are no just laws or fair treatment. There are only laws that you like and laws that you don’t like. You don’t believe in the existence of justice and fairness, for the same reason that you don’t believe in the good, which sets the standard for justice and fairness.
    Justice means giving people what they are due, either in the form of a good, a reward, or bad-a punishment. It has nothing at all to do with your personal preferences or your subjective morality

    That is debating equivalent of shouting “I am right you are wrong”.

    I don’t think you are interested in an analysis of what we mean when we use moral language. Which is a shame because without that it is not possible to make much progress.

  71. 71
    kairosfocus says:

    WJM, I hear you on indoctrination. I remember Morris Cargill (a senior Jamaican pundit) writing that the best way to get a man set up for a blow from behind him on his left is to get him focussed on a threat in front of him and to his right. In our case, a one sided hysteria keyed up by a sustained litany of indoctrination against an imaginary vast conspiracy and threat of right-wing theocracy and linked, targetted scapegoats . . . ignorant, stupid, insane and/or wicked of course [as in have we even learned the first lesson about bigotry and prejudice?], has opened the way for a radical, self referentially incoherent subjectivist and/or relativist a priori materialist, scientism-riddled secularism that is increasingly domineering and suicidally destructive. A first step to addressing it is to go back to worldview foundations, as just linked. Including, of course, the objectivity of morality — just what so many here utterly refuse to soundly assess. Then, we can take a saner look at the history of the rise of modern liberty and democracy [e.g. cf here at 101 level], and at issues that confront us in our time. Sound truth, ever, is the answer to error. And, the lessons of history were paid for in blood and tears. If we refuse to soundly learn and heed them in our time, we will foolishly doom ourselves to pay the same price, over and over and over again. KF

    PS: A simple indicator as to how far we have been manipulated is that we think the National Socialist German Labour Party (I love the C 1930’s translation I saw) was RIGHT-wing. Right of Stalinism, yes, but by no means Right of Centre.

  72. 72
    hrun0815 says:

    So I took KF to heart and pondered the matter some more. It turns out this is really revealing. It explains not only why it is pointless to attempt understanding with this type of objectivists. It also explains why it is pointless to debate ID and evolution scientifically as well.

    BA, KF, WJM, and others are very clear that morally acting subjectivists can simply not exist. So everybody is either a sociopath or an objectivist. Since not everybody is a sociopath it must mean that objectivism is true and there is indeed a creator who made us and endowed us with morality.

    This means that ID also HAS to be true. There is simply no other logical possibility. That means there will never be, for example, arguments of the kind that look at what it would entail were ID or evolution right. Since evolution HAS to be wrong such approach is logically flawed.

    So, thank you.

  73. 73

    Aurelio Smith said:

    Indeed, for all the protestations about the degeneracy of atheists and agnostics, there doesn’t seem to be any descent into chaos. Glancing at those countries in Scandinavia where secularism is taken for granted, the populations seem to be fairly free from sociopaths.

    In this, AS apparently thinks that a secularist society in itself necessarily means that most members of that society (1) hold morality to be subjective and (2) actually act as if moral subjectivism is true. In the first place, this is a complete non-sequitur; social secularism does not necessarily entail moral subjectivism; in the second place, even if AS could find some sort of study that directly polled whether or not Scandinavians considered morality “subjective” or “objective” in nature, the very point of my argument is that people (other than sociopaths) who fancy themselves moral subjectivists do not and can not actually live according to the logic of of moral subjectivism.

    I responded:

    Because a nation is secular doesn’t mean that the people there actually live as if subjective morality is true. Indeed, one of the main aspects of this argument is to logically demonstrate that non-sociopaths do not and cannot actually live as if subjective morality is actually true.

    Note that not only is AS making an unwarrnted and unsupported association between social secularism and moral subjectivism, he simply assumes the very thing in contention – that those who call themselves moral subjectivists (overlooking the fact that AS has presented no evidence that most Scandinavians consider themselves moral subjectivists) actually behave according to the logic of moral subjectivism.

    IOW, it was AS who was apparently “mind reading” the entire population of Scandinavia to both identify the majority as “moral subjectivists” and to ascertain that they actually lived in accordance with the logical consequences of that view in order to present “Scandinavia” as a supposed refuation of my argument!

    I merely pointed out his unsupported assumption about what is in the mind of Scandinavians and how they lived; I never claimed anything about them at all, and I certainly didn’t claim or imply that I knew how they thought or acted (other than, logically, if they aren’t sociopaths they must act like moral objectivists, which is my argument about people in general).

    Aurelio Smith apparently did the mind reading; my argument is only about the logic following from the premises.

  74. 74
    kairosfocus says:

    HR,

    Pardon, but that is a loaded strawman caricature.

    We are all — unless we are sociopaths — aware of moral sense attaching to actions, thoughts, decisions etc. We often call this conscience.

    Like our eyes, such can be warped or blinded, but that in no wise implies that overall it is a grand illusion. That is, as an example, there is something grossly mistaken in this as an example:

    We must think again especially about our so-called ‘ethical principles.’ The question is not whether biology—specifically, our evolution—is connected with ethics, but how. As evolutionists, we see that no justification of the traditional kind is possible. Morality, or more strictly our belief in morality, is merely an adaptation put in place to further our reproductive ends. Hence the basis of ethics does not lie in God’s will … In an important sense, ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate. It is without external grounding… Ethics is illusory inasmuch as it persuades us that it has an objective reference. This is the crux of the biological position. Once it is grasped, everything falls into place.

    [Michael Ruse & E. O. Wilson, “The Evolution of Ethics,” Religion and the Natural Sciences: The Range of Engagement, , ed. J. E. Hutchingson, Orlando, Fl.:Harcourt and Brace, 1991.]

    (And, this is by no means isolated.)

    on such a view, first, a major feature of our conscious minded life is delusional. There are no firewalls, it implies general delusion, and is self-referentially incoherent. It is therefore error.

    Instead, we start afresh from acknowledging our sense that we have intrinsic quasi-infinite worth and a reasonable expectation that core rights should be respected, that extends to others of like nature. On this, a civil peace of justice can be built.

    But also, it implies that OUGHT is objectively real, not just a perception. So, we must address the gap between IS and OUGHT. There is an is in the world that grounds ought, under which we are morally governed.

    The only serious candidate is the inherently good Creator God, a necessary and maximally great being, the root of reality. One, worthy of service and such that doing the right in light of a sound understanding will make sense. The principles of ought, in short are not arbitrary.

    Principles long since summed up by Locke when he set out to ground modern liberty and just government, by citing Hooker, in his 2nd Chapter of his 2nd essay on cibvil gov’t:

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

    Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics have been known for 2300 years, about the same age as the Septuagint. Jesus and Paul are C1. Justinian’s Corpus Juris Civilis is C C6 AD. Hooker is c 1600 and Locke 1690 or so. Blackstone is 1760-70 or so.

    Not exactly hard to find.

    Not to mention, repeatedly cited during the current exchanges.

    KF

    PS: That the world of life, directly or indirectly, was designed is not equal to, it shows empirically reliable signs that indicate design. The same, for the cosmos. That the one shows empirically tested reliable signs of design, and the other, signs of fine tuning fitting it for C-chemistry aqueous medium cell based life, are separate, empirically grounded insights. Your attempt to conflate such with a different matter, that we have good reason to hold morality objective and in so doing to respect the general (but not absolute) testimony of conscience, fails.

  75. 75
    hrun0815 says:

    Pardon, but that is a loaded strawman caricature.

    KF, you are pardoned. Take it up with WJM, BA, or yourself though.

    These are not my arguments but yours.

  76. 76
    kairosfocus says:

    HR, no, you have utterly distorted what I have argued, what WJM has argued and what BA argued also. I suggest to you that you need to revise your representation of our views. a good place to begin is to see if you can accurately paraphrase what I just wrote to you. Unless, what you imply is that you have no duty of fairness to us so long as you think you can get away with it. KF

  77. 77
    hrun0815 says:

    Didn’t WJM argue that every subjectivist is either deluded or a sociopath?

    Since we are not all sociopaths does that not mean there HAS to be a creator who endowed us with morality?

    Does this not mean that ID HAS to be true?

  78. 78
    hrun0815 says:

    Or we can put it the other way round:

    Do you believe it is possible to be a moral subjectivist and not a sociopath?

    Do you believe it is possible for evolution to be true, yet we still can be moral beings that live according to rules other than might makes right?

    Two simple yes/no answers will suffice, KF. I know this will be very challenging for you even though many could answer these questions for you based exclusively on your previous posts.

  79. 79
    Mark Frank says:

    A previous comment has been put into moderation. But not this one. Did I offend or was it an accident?

  80. 80

    The bolded sentence already proved to be an argument from ignorance (see comment 16):

    We must think again especially about our so-called ‘ethical principles.’ The question is not whether biology—specifically, our evolution—is connected with ethics, but how. As evolutionists, we see that no justification of the traditional kind is possible. Morality, or more strictly our belief in morality, is merely an adaptation put in place to further our reproductive ends. Hence the basis of ethics does not lie in God’s will … In an important sense, ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate. It is without external grounding… Ethics is illusory inasmuch as it persuades us that it has an objective reference. This is the crux of the biological position. Once it is grasped, everything falls into place.

    [Michael Ruse & E. O. Wilson, “The Evolution of Ethics,” Religion and the Natural Sciences: The Range of Engagement, , ed. J. E. Hutchingson, Orlando, Fl.:Harcourt and Brace, 1991.]

    Religious arguments against it only helps to make it appear that the statement is true. The only thing that will defeat it is science pertaining to how intelligence of any kind works.

  81. 81
    Mark Frank says:

    SB #74

    (I will try repeating the comment – see if it still moderated)

    No. I am using the dictionary definition of the word, which you refuse to accept. Feel free to look it up. Words mean things. You are misusing words.

    Good idea. If a dictionary will settle our argument then we can save a lot of effort. I am talking about moral language in general so it is hard to know which specific moral words to look up. “Good” and “bad” have hundreds of definitions so let’s take a word that is specifically moral: “evil”.  If I Google “define evil” I get:wicked, bad, wrong, immoral, sinful, foul, vile, dishonorable, corrupt, iniquitous, depraved, reprobate, villainous, nefarious, vicious, malicious;i.e a lot other moral language and thus no clarification as to whether moral language is objective or subjective. I am afraid the dictionary is not going to resolve our dispute. We are going to have to debate what these darn words mean (thought I will get bored with this quite soon).

    You will not find the words “gut feeling” associated with the words “correct.” Incorrect means not correct. You are free to attach the words “gut feeling” to the words as an add on if you like, but you are not free (logically) to change the meaning of the word itself.

    I said “right or wrong” not “correct”. “Correct” is more specific than right or wrong. It focuses on those contexts where “good” or “right” is in virtue of conforming to some standard (and it is still true that any standard may in itself be right or wrong). But right or wrong are broader than that. It makes perfect sense to say “I don’t think he is behaving correctly but I have a gut-feel it is a good thing”.

    No, I am giving you the definition of a word, which you misuse for purposes of rhetorical strategy. A definition is not a cicular argument. It is impossible to carry on a rational discussion with someone who does not honor the meanings of words.

    See above. If we are debating the meaning of a word then it is unsound to take as a premise that the word means what you believe it to mean.

    Because justice demands that those who hurt others should pay a price.

    I guess “justice demands” means “people ought to be punished when they do wrong”. So why do what justice demands? (My point being to prove you can go on asking “why” forever).

    Your feelings about morality have nothing to do with justice, which of course, you do not believe in. It is impossible to believe in justice without believing in objective morality. I am sure that you can understand that.

    I don’t understand that and I disagree – but let’s keep the discussion within bounds.

    You have value and dignity as a person because of who and what you are, not because society thinks so, or because I think so, or because you think so. It is inherent. If, therefore, someone compromises something of value, as in the case of rape, justice demands payment.

    Interesting example. Value rather clearly does arise because of what society thinks. If a jewel has a value of $200 that is because people are prepared to pay that much.

    Law and morality are inextricably tied together. Society’s moral principles inform the civil law. But the laws, thus established, also influence people’s moral ideas.Accordingly, there is no escape from the question: Is it a just law or an unjust law? If it is a just law, people will be treated fairly; if it is an unjust law, they will not be treated fairly.

    Agreed.

    For you, there are no just laws or fair treatment. There are only laws that you like and laws that you don’t like. You don’t believe in the existence of justice and fairness, for the same reason that you don’t believe in the good, which sets the standard for justice and fairness.Justice means giving people what they are due, either in the form of a good, a reward, or bad-a punishment. It has nothing at all to do with your personal preferences or your subjective morality

    That is debating equivalent of shouting “I am right you are wrong”.
    I don’t think you are interested in an analysis of what we mean when we use moral language. Which is a shame because without that it is not possible to make much progress.

  82. 82
    Mark Frank says:

    SB #74

    No. I am using the dictionary definition of the word, which you refuse to accept. Feel free to look it up. Words mean things. You are misusing words.

    Good idea. If a dictionary will settle our argument then we can save a lot of effort. I am talking about moral language in general so it is hard to know which specific moral words to look up. “Good” and “bad” have hundreds of definitions so let’s take a word that is specifically moral: “evil”.  If I Google “define evil” I get:wicked, bad, wrong, immoral, sinful, foul, vile, dishonorable, corrupt, iniquitous, depraved, reprobate, villainous, nefarious, vicious, malicious;i.e a lot other moral language and thus no clarification as to whether moral language is objective or subjective. I am afraid the dictionary is not going to resolve our dispute. We are going to have to debate what these darn words mean (thought I will get bored with this quite soon).

    You will not find the words “gut feeling” associated with the words “correct.” Incorrect means not correct. You are free to attach the words “gut feeling” to the words as an add on if you like, but you are not free (logically) to change the meaning of the word itself.

    I said “right or wrong” not “correct”. “Correct” is more specific than right or wrong. It focuses on those contexts where “good” or “right” is in virtue of conforming to some standard (and it is still true that any standard may in itself be right or wrong). But right or wrong are broader than that. It makes perfect sense to say “I don’t think he is behaving correctly but I have a gut-feel it is a good thing”.

    No, I am giving you the definition of a word, which you misuse for purposes of rhetorical strategy. A definition is not a cicular argument. It is impossible to carry on a rational discussion with someone who does not honor the meanings of words.

    See above. If we are debating the meaning of a word then it is unsound to take as a premise that the word means what you believe it to mean.

  83. 83
    kairosfocus says:

    MF, did you have a lot of links? Use odd words? Offend the Word Press gods some other way? (I doubt any active attention is being paid by the owner etc, but WP is sometimes odd.) KF

  84. 84
    kairosfocus says:

    GSG,

    I have simply cited one of many cases on the import of evolutionary materialism for ethics and more.

    Just for a second witness here is William Provine at the 1998 Darwin Day event at U Tenn, in one of the most clear statements:

    Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . .

    The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will . . .

    And, here is Dawkins from River of Eden, 1986 was it, now in Sci Am ’95:

    Somewhere between windscreen wipers and tin openers on the one hand, and rocks and the universe on the other, lie living creatures. Living bodies and their organs are objects that, unlike rocks, seem to have purpose written all over them . . . . The true process that has endowed wings, eyes, beaks, nesting instincts and everything else about life with the strong illusion of purposeful design is now well understood.
    It is Darwinian natural selection . . . . The true utility function of life, that which is being maximized in the natural world, is DNA survival. But DNA is not floating free; it is locked up in living bodies, and it has to make the most of the levers of power at its disposal. Genetic sequences that find themselves in cheetah bodies maximize their survival by causing those bodies to kill gazelles. Sequences that find themselves in gazelle bodies increase their chance of survival by promoting opposite ends. But the same utility function-the survival of DNA-explains the “purpose” of both the cheetah [–> i.e. predator] and the gazelle [–> i.e. prey] . . . .

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

    And nope, that’s not a “religious” sentiment, it is philosophical analysis speaking. A world premised on matter, energy, space time and blind chance and or mechanical necessity inherently has no room for responsible freedom, thence no room for morality, OUGHT as opposed to IS.

    Here is Crick on that and on how alien it is to us in the 1994 Astonishing Hypothesis:

    . . . that “You”, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing.

    I’d say, such is astonishing indeed, as it is self-referentially incoherent.

    Thus, one half falsifies the other and vice versa, causing collapse into necessary falsity.

    Evolutionary materialism is incoherent, irretrievably so, once it has to address mind and reason — necessarily involving reasoned choice.

    KF

  85. 85
    Seversky says:

    kairosfocus @ 62

    Seversky, we do not DECIDE as to what is right or wrong, we recognise or acknowledge it. And, we can come to understand why it is wrong on a principled basis, if we are but willing: love does no harm, for one, if we recognise our worth and expect to be respected on core rights then we owe recognition of the same for others, if we would not be dealt with extremely we should recognise the same for those who are as we are, and the like of which no one is justifiably ignorant. KF

    PS: Note the implication of responsible freedom in saying we can decide, as opposed to being conditioned by nature and nurture, ultimately tracing to the non-rational.

    The difference between us is that you believe in the existence of an objective morality, an objective right or wrong and I don’t.

    My argument against an objective morality is twofold.

    The first is that if goodness were a physical property or force like, say, gravity or electro-magnetism, we would expect it to be manifest and observable regularly under suitable conditions. Just as if you or I or anyone else falls towards the ground under the influence of gravity if we jump off a chair, so we should see people drawn inexorably towards doing good under the right conditions. In my view, we do not observe this. Yes, we see some people doing what we call good but not, I would submit, with anything like the regularity we might expect if goodness were a property of objective reality.

    The second is that it looks very much like a case of trying to do an end-run round the is/ought fallacy. Goodness is essentially what is beneficial in some way to us, bad is what is detrimental or harmful to us. Morality subsists in enjoining people to do good towards others in society rather than harming them. Why? Because very few of us actually want ourselves or those we love to be harmed by others You are trying to redefine an ‘ought’, what is good for us into an objective property of the Universe when there is no reason to think it is except for human hubris. We can imagine some vast, alien super-intelligence that would look on us in much the same way as I might regard the microbes on my counter-top, if I could see them, something to be wiped away without a second thought. We might object strongly, just as my counter-top microbes might if they were able, but it would not matter to me any more than our obliteration would matter to the aliens and we have no reason to think that the Universe would not continue blithely on its way as if either we or the microbes had never existed.

    I say that we decide for ourselves what is moral because there is no one else around to do it for us. The moralities extolled by the world’s faiths are, in some ways, a good thing. They can be viewed as the distillation of that society’s thinking on such matters over hundreds our thousands of years. Where the mark is overstepped, however, is where one of those faiths attempts to claim a spurious authority for its own particular morality over all others by declaring it to be in some way a property of objective reality. What is immediately apparent in this case, for example, is that the objective morality being asserted is not Buddhist or Islamic or Hindu or Sikh but Protestant Christian. I can understand why Christians believe that but why should anyone else?

  86. 86
    Mark Frank says:

    SB #74

    No. I am using the dictionary definition of the word, which you refuse to accept. Feel free to look it up. Words mean things. You are misusing words.

    Good idea. If a dictionary will settle our argument then we can save a lot of effort. I am talking about moral language in general so it is hard to know which specific moral words to look up. “Good” and “bad” have hundreds of definitions so let’s take a word that is specifically moral: “evil”.  If I Google “define evil” I get: wicked, bad, wrong, immoral, sinful, foul, vile, dishonorable, corrupt, iniquitous, depraved, reprobate, villainous, nefarious, vicious, malicious; i.e a lot other moral language and thus no clarification as to whether moral language is objective or subjective. I am afraid the dictionary is not going to resolve our dispute. We are going to have to debate what these darn words mean (thought I will get bored with this quite soon).

    You will not find the words “gut feeling” associated with the words “correct.” Incorrect means not correct. You are free to attach the words “gut feeling” to the words as an add on if you like, but you are not free (logically) to change the meaning of the word itself.

    I said “right or wrong” not “correct”. “Correct” is more specific than right or wrong. It focuses on those contexts where “good” or “right” is in virtue of conforming to some standard (and it is still true that any standard may in itself be right or wrong). But right or wrong are broader than that. It makes perfect sense to say “I don’t think he is behaving correctly but I have a gut-feel it is a good thing”.

    No, I am giving you the definition of a word, which you misuse for purposes of rhetorical strategy. A definition is not a cicular argument. It is impossible to carry on a rational discussion with someone who does not honor the meanings of words.

    See above. If we are debating the meaning of a word then it is unsound to take as a premise that the word means what you believe it to mean.

    Because justice demands that those who hurt others should pay a price.

    I guess “justice demands” means “people ought to be punished when they do wrong”. So why do what justice demands? (My point being to prove you can go on asking “why” forever).

    Your feelings about morality have nothing to do with justice, which of course, you do not believe in. It is impossible to believe in justice without believing in objective morality. I am sure that you can understand that.

    I don’t understand that and I disagree – but let’s keep the discussion within bounds.

    You have value and dignity as a person because of who and what you are, not because society thinks so, or because I think so, or because you think so. It is inherent. If, therefore, someone compromises something of value, as in the case of rape, justice demands payment.

    Interesting example. Value rather clearly does arise because of what society thinks. If a jewel has a value of $200 that is because people are prepared to pay that much.

    Law and morality are inextricably tied together. Society’s moral principles inform the civil law. But the laws, thus established, also influence people’s moral ideas.Accordingly, there is no escape from the question: Is it a just law or an unjust law? If it is a just law, people will be treated fairly; if it is an unjust law, they will not be treated fairly.

    Agreed.

    For you, there are no just laws or fair treatment. There are only laws that you like and laws that you don’t like. You don’t believe in the existence of justice and fairness, for the same reason that you don’t believe in the good, which sets the standard for justice and fairness.Justice means giving people what they are due, either in the form of a good, a reward, or bad-a punishment. It has nothing at all to do with your personal preferences or your subjective morality

    That is debating equivalent of shouting “I am right you are wrong”.
    I don’t think you are interested in an analysis of what we mean when we use moral language. Which is a shame because without that it is not possible to make much progress.

  87. 87
    Mark Frank says:

    My comment #90 was the one in moderation. KF was right – it was the number of links. Whoever is moderating can remove anything moderation.

  88. 88
    faded_Glory says:

    There is a lot of confusion in this thread.

    The moral objectivists here constantly berate the subjectivists for not having a standard against which to judge the morality of actions, yet, they say, the subjectivists do judge others, ergo they are illogical and irrational (or lying about their subjectivism).

    This is nonsense. Moral subjectivism is the claim that each person possesses their own standard by which to judge morality. Moral subjectivism is not the absence of moral standards – on the contrary, it is the presence of as many standards as there are thinking people. Moral subjectivism simply holds that the standard against which to judge actions as good or bad exists only in a person’s mind, and nowhere else.

    Another confusion is the argument that moral subjectivists are not justified in disapproving actions that are abhorrent to them. It is claimed that a moral subjectivist should allow terrorists etc. to carry out their murderous actions, because under moral subjectivism each moral standard is equally valid.

    This is also nonsense. Moral subjectivism does not entail that everybody’s moral standard has to be equally acceptable. It merely claims that an objective moral standard external to individual minds does not exist. It does not follow that therefore all individual moral standards should be considered equally valid by the moral subjectivist. The subjectivist fully accepts the essence of morality, which after all is judging actions against one’s own moral standards and not against someone else’s. Moral subjectivists are fully justified in judging others against their own personal standards, regardless if these are the same as those held by others or not.

    Objectivists claim their moral standards to be more valid because they are supposedly the ones imposed by no-one less than the Creator of the Universe. Unfortunately for the objectivist, the truth of this claim cannot be objectively established and has to be taken on faith, which makes the objectivist’s position just as subjective as the subjectivist’s.

    The failure of the model of objective morality to explain what actually happens in the real world (and has happened there for thousands of years) except by declaring everybody who disagrees with it as irrational and/or lying should be a clear sign that this model is a very poor one indeed.

    fG

  89. 89
    Seversky says:

    William J Murray @ 63

    Seversky offers a great example of the problem of subjective morality @60; he blatantly states that he has the moral right to an act simply because of his wants:

    No, what I am arguing is that you and I and everyone else is entitled to take action against anyone bent on doing harm to us and our interests. You allege that, from a subjectivist perspective, there can be no difference, in terms of moral authority, between the psychopath who derives pleasure from harming others and anyone who doesn’t. I say there are two differences. The first is that the psychopath intends harm to others, the rest of us don’t. The second is that dangerous psychopaths are a tiny fraction of any large human population. Their need for the pleasure of harming others is vastly outweighed by the need of their potential victims not to be harmed. Do you not agree?

    It appears to be lost on him that justifying an act as moral because of one’s wants also justifies the behavior of those he is acting to stop. In the end, Seversky’s morality boils down to “because I want to” and “because I can”.

    No, that is a misrepresentation of my position. I hold that moral guidance is most properly directed towards preserving the happiness, well-being and interests of all individuals in society. Where an individual acts in ways of which others might disapprove but which causes no harm to others, then society has no grounds for intervention. A psychopath, for example, might play out fantasies of rape and murder in a virtual reality environment like the “holodeck” in Star Trek without incurring any punitive response from society. When the same psychopath assaults other human beings is when society can and should take preventative and punitive action against him and is, in my view, fully justified in so doing. There is no need to appeal to some convenient fiction for some sort of ultimate but entirely unnecessary approval.

  90. 90

    Kairosfocus I certainly agree that Darwinian theory and others are being used to arrive at conclusions that are way beyond what they can reliably predict. This you quoted in comment #88 is an excellent summary:

    William Provine at the 1998 Darwin Day event at U Tenn, in one of the most clear statements:

    Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . .

    BioLogos argues that Evolutionary Creationism is all well and good for Christianity while Atheists (basically another sect of Evolutionary Creationism) argue the opposite. That results in one side trying to control the other even through federal court and political actions because intelligent behavior inherent controls things like a control freak, which is why it’s so fascinatingly powerful and able to do both good and bad. For the sake of control humanity even has the free will and ability to incinerate all or part of the planet and its atmosphere with nuclear weapons, which for the sake of all other living things on this planet should not be made. Hopefully the culture shock caused by global travel and communication making it a small world after all will be over soon so that humanity can rid itself of doomsday devices. Until then we must ourselves all be careful not to underestimate our power and start a World War over ID related issues.

    Since I am another human who is understandably just as much a control freak as everyone else here I’m showing no mercy by going right for the jugular and “beating them that their own game” by controlling knowledge pertaining to how intelligence and what scientifically qualifies as “intelligent cause” works. I’m shutting off the source of the conflict using testable models and obligatory operational theory, which makes all the religious arguments that would otherwise be forever argued in circles made gone for good. Science makes it fair to do so. Only need a useful theory that adds new scientific knowledge to what was around before the ID debate that started in around 1999.

    At least in my case the new knowledge was enough to show me that a Creator worth having is already in science. The limits of Darwinian theory are this way made self-evident. Following the scientific evidence wherever it leads makes it so that there is plenty of science fun ahead while answering big-questions (science can indeed answer) that we will discover the answer to “when we get there”. It’s already clear that an “ultimate foundation for ethics” does exist, which took a Theory of Intelligent Design to make relatively obvious in our behavior at a place like UD with a mission that boils down to controlling knowledge too. What can be learned might be surprising like this but the search for our Creator/God/Allah/etc. keeps going on and on further and further into science.

  91. 91
    Graham2 says:

    Florabama @75: the evidence for objective morality is that everyone absolutely believes in it even as they reject it

    What on earth does that mean ?

  92. 92

    Seversky said:

    No, what I am arguing is that you and I and everyone else is entitled to take action against anyone bent on doing harm to us and our interests. You allege that, from a subjectivist perspective, there can be no difference, in terms of moral authority, between the psychopath who derives pleasure from harming others and anyone who doesn’t.

    Yes.

    I say there are two differences. The first is that the psychopath intends harm to others, the rest of us don’t.

    The moral authority to harm others or to act to prevent harm from coming to others is the same – subjective preference. Choosing “not harming others” rather than “harming others” doesn’t give you any extra authority unless “not harming others” is considered an objectively valid moral principle – meaning, it necessarily applies to everyone whether they agree to it or not.

    The second is that dangerous psychopaths are a tiny fraction of any large human population.

    Choosing “majority” over “minority” adds no extra authority in a morality where moral authority is derived from subjective, personal preference.

    Their need for the pleasure of harming others is vastly outweighed by the need of their potential victims not to be harmed.

    That would only be true if “benefit of majority” or “not being harmed” were the principles that granted the moral authority available under moral subjectivism.

    However, since “benefit of the majority” and “not being harmed” are not considered universal, objective moral principles under moral subjectivism, those particular moral maxims carry no more intrinsic moral authority (under subjectivism) than their counterparts “benefit of the few” and “harming others”. They are just two of the many available moral maxims an individual or a group may choose to adhere to. They have no extra moral authority than any other moral maxim authorized by subjectivism.

    Under moral subjectivism, there is no meaningful way to “weigh” one moral maxim against another; they are all equally valid.

  93. 93

    AS said:

    I’m simply dismissing your assertion of some “objectivism” out of hand because it is evidence-free.

    I haven’t asserted that morality is objective in nature; I’ve used that position, and the position that morality is subjective in nature, as the premises of a logical argument detailing the logical ramifications, structurally and for behavior, of those premises and how they necessarily diverge.

    You’ve mistaken arguments based on assumed premises for an assertion of fact.

  94. 94

    AS said:

    People keep telling him that rules for social living generally adopt the idea that the individual has rights.

    That makes no difference to the argument whatsoever because the opposite to any such rule can be adopted with equal moral authority under moral subjectivism. Moral subjectivism as a philosophical framework accepts all moral views and principles that are subjectively held equally because there is no objective moral principle by which to weigh the differences. If one accepts individual rights and another dismisses the idea, they are equally valid moral views contained within the broad umbrella of moral subjectivism.

    For example, in most current “civilised”societies, the right to life, the right not to be killed, robbed, raped, eaten etc is generally accepted. Secular societies have, for the most part, signed up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Is WJM telling us this is meaningless?

    I said that logically speaking, under moral subjectivism, there is no meaningful moral distinction between any two moral systems because their moral authority is ultimately derived from the subjective preferences of an individual or a group. It would be like trying to determine which is the better preference: a preference for vanilla, or a preference for chocolate? Blondes or brunettes? A cultural preference for sushi, or a cultural preference for hummus?

    They are just two different subjective preferences.

  95. 95
    Box says:

    Aurelio Smith: People keep telling him that rules for social living generally adopt the idea that the individual has rights.

    Those people keep missing the point. People should start telling him (WJM) on what basis rules are adopted. That would (finally!) address the point that WJM is making: which is – under moral subjectivism – there is no such basis available.

  96. 96
    Florabama says:

    Graham2@95 and Aurelio Smith@96, Graham2 was asked a question that he avoided in his response to me that would demonstrate “what on earth that means.” Here is the question again.

    Graham2, or Aurelio Smith, if I came into your home and killed you and your children then raped your wife, would that be wrong in an objective sense?

  97. 97
    Graham2 says:

    FL: If there was such a thing as an objective moral standard, then I would simply consult that standard to give you the answer. Since absolutely no one here (you & me included) is able to tell me whats on the menu, this is not possible, so my answer is: I don’t know.

    If there is no absolute standard, then your question is meaningless. (there isn’t & it is).

  98. 98
    Florabama says:

    faded Glory@92, you have it exactly right. There is no confusion at all. You said,

    “Moral subjectivism is the claim that each person possesses their own standard by which to judge morality. Moral subjectivism is not the absence of moral standards – on the contrary, it is the presence of as many standards as there are thinking people. Moral subjectivism simply holds that the standard against which to judge actions as good or bad exists only in a person’s mind, and nowhere else.”

    EXACTLY! BINGO! THAT IS A HIT! You have it exactly right.

    Now, if there is no transcendent standard of morality, when there is a disagreement – say like when a man thinks that rape is acceptable and a woman thinks it’s wrong — how do you decide who is wrong?

    De Sade said, “Might Makes right;” Machiavelli said, “Power makes right;” Hilter said, “Race makes right.” By your own words, none of them were wrong. They were only following their own inner standard of morality and since there is no other standard outside of “a person’s mind,” how do you condemn their actions?

  99. 99
    Florabama says:

    Graham2@104, please avoid the psychobabble. Would it be wrong for a man to kill you and your children and rape your wife? Yes or no?

  100. 100
    Mung says:

    Mark Frank:

    We are debating what moral words such as “wrong” mean.

    Why?

    Mark Frank:

    We are debating what moral words such as “wrong” mean.

    And how did you conclude that “wrong” is a moral word?

  101. 101
    Graham2 says:

    FLA: babble ? I have no idea what you are talking about. You are the one proposing an ‘objective standard’, then asking me if some act is wrong as per this standard. The answer is obviously not what I think, its what the standard says. That’s the point of an ‘objective’ standard, but if we cant consult the standard, then whats the point of having one ? Its like having a lovely book of answers to everything, that just happens to be written in Voynich.

    I think that what you are asking me is simply: “Do I think its wrong?’. My answer is yes, I think rape is wrong, but you could also ask me about gay marriage, the proper length of a ladys skirt, or whatever, and my answer would be as varied as everyone elses. Some ‘standard’ eh?

  102. 102
    Andre says:

    Graham

    But how can rape be wrong if I’m using it as one of the means to spread my genes?

    Again does nature provide us with some right or wrong guide?

    The point is not about what is right or wrong. The point is if moral subjectivism is true then there really is no right or wrong because everything everyone does is right according to their own moral code. Therefore how can you judge other moral codes? Do you compare it to your own and if you do how do we know yours is right?

  103. 103
    Graham2 says:

    Andre: how can you judge other moral codes … you cant. That is exactly the point. That is the whole point. You are getting there at last.

  104. 104
    Andre says:

    Them how can you say rape is wrong if its right in my moral code?

    You obviously still don’t get it..

  105. 105
    Andre says:

    The best you can do as a moral subjectivist when something happens to you is to accept that the other person’s moral code is different than yours. You can’t lay claim to it being unjust because if you do what are you comparing it to?

  106. 106
    Graham2 says:

    Andre: Do you actually see what is going on around you ? The world that is around you. Do you ever open your eyes ?

    Im pretty sure we don’t agree on gay marriage (for example), so who is right ? You ? Me ? If there is an objective standard, then why don’t we all just follow it ? Why are some US states in favour, some not ? cant you see what is going on around you ?

  107. 107
    Andre says:

    Graham

    Emotional appeals won’t work. In your world nothing is wrong so what is the issue?

  108. 108
    Graham2 says:

    It was precisely NOT an emotional appeal I was making, it was a plea for some logic on your part, to just consider the world that is around you, that’s all, just look. What you are seeing is precisely what you would expect if there was no god.

  109. 109
    faded_Glory says:

    Florabama @ 105 said:

    Now, if there is no transcendent standard of morality, when there is a disagreement – say like when a man thinks that rape is acceptable and a woman thinks it’s wrong — how do you decide who is wrong?

    De Sade said, “Might Makes right;” Machiavelli said, “Power makes right;” Hilter said, “Race makes right.” By your own words, none of them were wrong. They were only following their own inner standard of morality and since there is no other standard outside of “a person’s mind,” how do you condemn their actions?
    ——————-

    I find it curious that right after I explain what the subjectivist’s moral standard is, and you applaud me for getting that right, you ask me how I decide what is wrong with rape, and how I condemn the actions of various criminal individuals.

    I decide that these things are wrong by measuring them against my moral standard, of course. How can you not understand that?

    fG

  110. 110
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    I am talking about moral language in general so it is hard to know which specific moral words to look up.

    Mark, the word “wrong” has a specific meaning. If we break it down, we find that it is always used in the objective mode and never used in the subjective mode:

    Wrong

    1.
    not correct or true.
    “that is the wrong answer”
    synonyms: incorrect, mistaken, in error, erroneous, inaccurate, inexact, imprecise, fallacious, wide of the mark, off target, unsound, faulty;

    All those synonyms are in the objective mode. In no case do we find formulations such as, “incorrect to me,” or “seemingly imprecise,” “feeling wide of the mark.”

    Notice the example in the form of a sentence:

    “I was wrong about him being on the yacht that evening”

    Again, the word “wrong” is placed in the objective mode. The author doesn’t say, “I thought I was wrong,” or “it seemed wrong,” or “it felt wrong.” Wrong means objectively wrong–objectively incorrect, objectively off the mark, etc.

    The definition is further developed:

    inappropriate, unsuitable, inapt, inapposite, undesirable; More
    ill-advised, ill-considered, ill-judged, impolitic, injudicious, infelicitous, unfitting, out of keeping, improper;
    informalout of order
    “he knew he had said the wrong thing”
    antonyms: appropriate
    in a bad or abnormal condition; amiss.
    “something was wrong with the pump”
    synonyms: amiss, awry, out of order, not right, faulty, flawed, defective
    “there’s something wrong with the engine”

    ***Everything is in the objective mode.***

    It is the same thing when the word “wrong” is placed in a moral context. The mode remains objective:

    2.
    unjust, dishonest, or immoral.
    “they were wrong to take the law into their own hands”
    synonyms: illegal, unlawful, illicit, criminal, dishonest, dishonorable, corrupt; More
    unethical, immoral, bad, wicked, sinful, iniquitous, nefarious, blameworthy, reprehensible;
    informalcrooked
    “I’ve done nothing wrong”

    ————————————————————————————————————————————

    Thus, when you said that the rapist should be punished because he did something “wrong,” you were saying that his behavior was objectively wrong. Yet we both know that you don’t think there is any such thing as objective right and wrong. You were, therefore, musing the word “wrong.”

    I am asking you to acknowledge the point that you think the rapist should be punished because he did something that you find distasteful, or something that offends your personal sense of morality, not because he did something that was “wrong.”

    If you continue to misuse that word in order to argue both ways, then I will just have to assume that you do not want to have a rational discussion. In that case, I will simply wish you well and move on.

  111. 111
    Mark Frank says:

    SB

    illegal, unlawful, illicit, criminal, corrupt are not synonyms for morally wrong. They are reasons why someone might be in wrong – but as you surely acknowledge you can be illegal and morally right.

    unethical, immoral, bad, wicked, sinful, iniquitous, nefarious, blameworthy, reprehensible are close to being synonyms for morally wrong but contain elements of judgement and are not objective

    dishonest, dishonorable, are interesting ones which could go either way depending on context

    You seem to be blind to these distinctions which seem so obvious to me and not even interested in them.

    However, if you are not prepared to even debate whether ethical language might have a subject element then you are declaring yourself to have won before we start and you are right, we might as well save a lot of time and move on. I think it is a shame because exploring the nature of moral language is fascinating and fruitful – and we might actually learn something.

  112. 112
    faded_Glory says:

    Andre @ 109 said:

    The point is not about what is right or wrong. The point is if moral subjectivism is true then there really is no right or wrong because everything everyone does is right according to their own moral code. Therefore how can you judge other moral codes? Do you compare it to your own and if you do how do we know yours is right?

    —————————

    These are good questions.

    I believe that one’s concept of right and wrong, one’s moral compass, is a deeply fundamental element of who we are as persons. Generally speaking, most people share many common moral concepts which I believe are founded in our ancestry as social animals. Most animals will defend their offspring against predators, and social animals often defend their own group against outsiders. These are deep rooted traits that are still very pervasive in humans.

    What makes humans different from other animals is our significantly more developed consciousness and intelligence, and our ability to pass on our knowledge, experience and opinions to our fellow humans and offspring. The result of this is the emergence of human culture.

    Everyone grows up in a culture of some form or another, and their incipient personalities are imbued with the moral values that are held by the group they grow up in – their parents, siblings, friends, teachers, their religion and the wider community in which they live. Individuals adopt those values to a greater or lesser degree, depending on factors such as their innate personalities and their particular life experiences.

    The result of all this is that every single one of us has strongly held beliefs on what is right and what is wrong. Because of the multitude of factors influencing the shaping of these beliefs it is however unlikely that there is 100% agreement on these beliefs between any two people. People’s moral beliefs guide the choices they have to make in life, and they determine to a large extent how they react to the actions of themselves and others.

    When we are confronted with moral codes different from our own, we react to those using our own moral concepts as the standard. It is what we do as beings with a sense of right and wrong. It is incoherent, and I believe actually impossible, for anyone to judge a moral code using any other yardstick than their own. It is not logically possible for someone who considers Hitler a criminal to think at the same time that he was actually not a criminal because he did whatever he thought was the right thing to do. The incoherency is obvious.

    So, my answer to your question ‘how do you judge other moral codes’ is: I judge those against my own.

    And my answer to your question ‘how do we know yours is right’ is: you compare the two moral codes, yours and mine, carefully think about the differences, and either decide to stick with the one you already had (i.e. yours was right all along), or you adjust yours to a greater or lesser degree to the tenets of mine, if you conclude that there is some value in that.

    This is how I do it. Do you do something different?

    Added in edit: you also said:

    ‘The point is if moral subjectivism is true then there really is no right or wrong because everything everyone does is right according to their own moral code. ‘

    I don’t think this is always the case. People can and will sometimes do things that go against their moral code, and upon reflection regret their actions.

    fG

  113. 113
    faded_Glory says:

    StephenB, I think you are confusing a subjective standard with the absence of a standard.

    Words like ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ require a standard to have a meaning, in this you are correct. However, such a standard may be subjective without the words losing their meaning.

    fG

  114. 114
    Dionisio says:

    fG @ 120

    Would their meaning be also subjective?

    Would that also mean relative?

    In the case of driving an automobile on a road, is it always right to be on the right side of the road? Anywhere in the world? Is there any place in the world where the local authority could tell me that driving on the right side of the raid is wrong?

    In such case, is the right side right or wrong?

  115. 115
    Mark Frank says:

    FG #120

    Words like ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ require a standard to have a meaning, in this you are correct.

    I don’t think this is always true – or at least it is only true in the sense that we always have a reason for judging something morally right or wrong. But “standard” seems to imply some kind of rule or code and that doesn’t seem to me to apply all the time. When Boko Haram use a 10 year old girl as a suicide bomber I don’t compare it to a standard (below minimum age for suicide bombing?) to judge it as deeply wrong. I just react.

    And to anticipate all the objectivists’ reaction – I do think some members of Boko Haram may sincerely think it is morally justified – largely because they think they know the ultimate objective moral code. I can’t definitively prove them wrong. But I can be utterly morally repelled why what they do and do what very little I can to prevent it.

  116. 116
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    However, if you are not prepared to even debate whether ethical language might have a subject element then you are declaring yourself to have won before we start and you are right, we might as well save a lot of time and move on. I think it is a shame because exploring the nature of moral language is fascinating and fruitful – and we might actually learn something.

    Mark, objective morality always has a subjective component for the simple reason that the individual subject, the person, must apply the general principle, which is the object. There is nothing to debate about that. I am, in no way, questioning the fact that morality has a subjective component.

    That has absolutely nothing to do with the meaning of the word, “wrong.” Nothing. You are confusing an argument with a definition. If you don’t respect the meanings of words, you cannot make a rational argument. You can’t say, “If A, then B, if no one knows what you mean by A.

    “Wrong” means objectively wrong, just as “incorrect” means objectively incorrect. it doesn’t mean subjectively wrong or subjectively incorrect. To transform those words into the subjective mode, you need to add other words to them, such as, “to me, its wrong” or “from my moral perspective, it wrong,” or “it seems wrong to me.” You cannot say, it “is” wrong and remain in the subjective mode. That metaphysical formulation makes it objective, just as the dictionary informs us.

    Again, if you will not respect the meanings of words, I will no longer dialogue with you. It is impossible to have a rational discussion with those who equivocate on meanings.

  117. 117
    Mark Frank says:

    “Wrong” means objectively wrong,

    And I disagree. You have done nothing to prove this – just asserted it. When you tried turning to the dictionary you came up with things that were either not synonyms or no more objective than “wrong”.

    You say that anyone who does not agree with your definition is not respecting the meaning of the word when actually what they are doing is not respecting what you want the word to mean. You are not going to bully me into saying something I don’t agree with just by asserting it very confidently.

    I would be interested in discussing whether moral language is subjective but not on the basis that I have to admit you are right before we begin!

  118. 118
    faded_Glory says:

    I see very little difference in the objective/subjective status between the expressions ‘this is beautiful’ and ‘this is wrong’.

    Is our sense of beauty objective? Or is it subjective and we are not really allowed to say ‘this is beautiful’ on pain of abusing the language?

    Or, do we all understand that we mean ‘it is beautiful to me’ when we say ‘it is beautiful’, and we just don’t make a big deal out of it?

    fG

  119. 119
    Dionisio says:

    fG @ 120

    [correcting errors in my post #121]

    I think you are confusing a subjective standard with the absence of a standard.

    Words like ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ require a standard to have a meaning, in this you are correct. However, such a standard may be subjective without the words losing their meaning.

    Would their meaning be also subjective?

    Would that also mean relative?

    In the case of driving an automobile on a road, is it always right to be on the right side of the road? Anywhere in the world? Is there any place in the world where the local authority could tell me that driving on the right side of the road is wrong?

    Universally, is driving on the right side of a road absolutely right or absolutely wrong?

    1. Absolutely right
    2. Absolutely wrong
    3. Neither one.
    4. Something else. Specify:________

    Perhaps what StephenB was trying to say is that in the absence of an absolute standard, judgmental terms like ‘right’/’wrong’ lack absolute meaning?

    The above road example illustrates a case where ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ lack absolute (universal) meaning, although one must obey the local road regulations, which define their own particular set of ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ that are valid solely within that given territory.

  120. 120
    Box says:

    Graham2,

    I applaud you for logical consistency. On Florabama’s question:

    #103 (…) if I came into your home and killed you and your children then raped your wife, would that be wrong in an objective sense?

    you answer:

    Graham2 #104: (…) I don’t know.

    you go on explaining that there is no basis to pass judgment:

    Graham2 #104: If there is no absolute standard, then your question is meaningless. (there isn’t & it is).
    #114: If there is an objective standard, then why don’t we all just follow it ?
    #115: (…) just consider the world that is around you, that’s all, just look. What you are seeing is precisely what you would expect if there was no god.

    IOW you accept the simple fact that under subjective morality there is no objective standard and follow the logical consequences.
    A good theory describes reality with accuracy. When witnessing how someone intentionally harms a child, can “I don’t know if it is wrong” (as a logical derivation from subjective morality) be an accurate description of reality? I mean: who is capable of holding such a position? I would like to suggest that only a total intellectual disconnect from reality provides a basis for “I don’t know if it is wrong”. And if there is no one ( psychopaths excluded) who is able to hold this “I don’t know if it is wrong” – because it goes against everything a person is – then doesn’t that in itself inform us that subjective morality is wrong?

  121. 121
    StephenB says:

    “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory’,” Alice said.
    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t- till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!'”
    “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean- neither more nor less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master-that’s all.”
    Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. “They’ve a temper some of them- particularly verbs: they’re the proudest- adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs- however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!”
    Through the Looking Glass, Ch. VI

    “Then you should say what you mean,” the March Hare went on.
    “I do, “Alice hastily replied; “at least I mean what I say, that’s the same thing, you know.”
    “Not the same thing a bit!” said the Hatter. “Why, you might just as well say that “I see what I eat” is the same thing as “I eat what I see!”
    Alice in Wonderland.

    “For a complete logical argument”, Arthur began with admirable solemnity, “we need two prim Misses –”
    “Of course!” she interrupted. “I remember that word now. And they produce –”
    “A Delusion,” said Arthur.
    “Ye-es?” she said dubiously. “I don’t seem to remember that so well. But what is the whole argument called?”
    “A Sillygism.”
    Sylvie and Bruno.

  122. 122
    Andre says:

    Faded Glory

    So your moral code is better than mine? How do you know? Say if I don’t accept your moral code because I find consenting sex immoral. How will you rectify that? But again how do we know your moral code is the true and correct one?

  123. 123
    faded_Glory says:

    Box:

    A good theory describes reality with accuracy. When witnessing how someone intentionally harms a child, can “I don’t know if it is wrong” (as a logical derivation from subjective morality) be an accurate description of reality? I mean: who is capable of holding such a position? I would like to suggest that only a total intellectual disconnect from reality provides a basis for “I don’t know if it is wrong”.

    Graham2 didn’t say he doesn’t know if it is wrong. He said he doesn’t know if it is objectively wrong. He also gave his reason for saying that: he can’t consult the objective standard to see if it is objectively wrong or not.

    If you asked me the question, my answer would be: yes, it is wrong. The standard I use to make this judgement is my own moral standard. The answer ‘I don’t know if it is wrong’ does not follow logically from subjective morality. It would follow logically if there are no moral standards at all, but nobody here makes that claim.

    Which standard would you use to answer the question, and can you show me where it is? I presume you can, since you claim it objectively exists somewhere?

    fG

  124. 124
    Andre says:

    Faded Glory

    The rest of the tripe you conjured in your mind is of course the standard Darwin story, about us being animals that just got lucky.

    If you make such outlandish claims you need to back it up with evidence. Non morality can not evolve into morality. Natural selection can not act on anything immaterial.

  125. 125
    faded_Glory says:

    Andre:

    So your moral code is better than mine? How do you know? Say if I don’t accept your moral code because I find consenting sex immoral. How will you rectify that? But again how do we know your moral code is the true and correct one?

    I didn’t say that mine is better than yours, and I don’t know if it is, because I don’t know yours. It is also highly unlikely that everything in your moral code would be different than in mine (see my post above where I explain what I believe about the origin of our moral codes). More likely we have different views on the morality of some things, but not all. I believe you will find that such differences exist between virtually all people, if you were to compare their moral codes in sufficient detail.

    If you have a different view on certain issues than me, I have the choice to ignore that (if I don’t find the difference important enough), or we can have a discussion in which I can try to persuade you that my view is better than yours. I am surprised that you don’t know this, because such discussions take place everywhere and all the time. Don’t you follow what is going on in the world around you? You don’t even have to leave UD to read such discussions, they are taking place in this very thread!

    Finally, you ask again how you would know that my moral code is the true and correct one. This question shows that you still don’t grasp the nature of subjective morality (which, in my view, is the only one that exists): there exists no ‘true’ and ‘correct’ moral code. We all have our own, and they will all differ in some aspects.

    The challenge is not to figure out which one is the ‘real’ one, but rather it is to work out how we can all best live together in the light of such differences.

    fG

  126. 126
    faded_Glory says:

    Andre:

    The rest of the tripe you conjured in your mind is of course the standard Darwin story, about us being animals that just got lucky.
    If you make such outlandish claims you need to back it up with evidence. Non morality can not evolve into morality. Natural selection can not act on anything immaterial.

    I don’t know if we got ‘lucky’, that depends on what you count as luck I suppose. I sometimes think that my cat has a far luckier life than I do!

    I disagree that my explanation of the origin of moral codes (what you charmingly call ‘tripe’) is ‘outlandish’. You will that find this explanation, or something similar, is fairly widely (but not universally) held in the academic world where these things are being studied. There is plenty of evidence that certain social mammals can behave in ways that resemble human moral traits such as altruism. You could check out the work of Frans de Waal for starters.

    Finally, of course natural selection can work on immaterial things. Animal behaviour has a direct influence on their reproductive success. Come to think of it, so does human behaviour.

    fG

  127. 127
    Andre says:

    Spare me the just so stories. Have you ever considered that Darwinism has a problem? It explains everything. I’ll say it again morality did not evolve from non morality….. It is impossible and if you claim it can then you need to back yourself . Morals are immaterial, natural selection can not act the immaterial.

  128. 128
    Box says:

    Faded_Glory: Graham2 didn’t say he doesn’t know if it is wrong. He said he doesn’t know if it is objectively wrong.

    Not sure why you say this, since I quote Graham2 saying that he doesn’t know if it is objectively wrong. Moreover, when I use ‘wrong’ I always mean it in the objective sense. Frankly I’m not sure what ‘wrong’ means in the subjective sense. I guess is it means something like: feeling that 753*951=726103 is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but having no way of (objectively) checking it. Maybe you can elucidate the matter.

    Faded_Glory: He also gave his reason for saying that: he can’t consult the objective standard to see if it is objectively wrong or not.

    Again I’m not sure as to why you say this. I quote Graham2 saying just that.

    Faded_Glory: The answer ‘I don’t know if it is wrong’ does not follow logically from subjective morality.

    Here, you split ways with Graham2 and clearly refer to ‘wrong’ in a subjective sense, which I would like you to elucidate.

    Which standard would you use to answer the question, and can you show me where it is? I presume you can, since you claim it objectively exists somewhere?

    I can and I will – in time – however for the sake of clarity of discussion let’s focus on the validity of subjective morality.

  129. 129
    faded_Glory says:

    Box,

    Maybe an analogy will help. ‘Wrong’ in ethics is like ‘ugly’ in aesthetics.

    ‘This is wrong’ describes our reaction when we experience, or consider, acts that go against our moral standards.

    fG

  130. 130
    faded_Glory says:

    Andre,

    You say ‘just-so stories’, but did you check out Frans de Waal? Here is a link to a 15 minute lecture where he presents various experiments on primates and elephants that show pretty convincingly that such animals can act in ways we would call moral, if they had been human. It is very interesting and funny too.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/frans.....ave_morals

    Again you claim that natural selection cannot work on the immaterial. Do you consider behaviour material or immaterial?

    fG

  131. 131
    Box says:

    Faded-Glory,

    Care to elaborate? Some questions come to mind: What is the basis of a subjective moral standard? Is it purely irrational/emotional? Also, is it flexible – like one’s sense of beauty?

  132. 132
    Andre says:

    Morals and behaviour or not the same thing. I might be moral but my behaviour can be contra to my morality. Animals do not have morals. It is absurd to even think that some behaviour from an animal can be considered moral. Animals do not and cannot contemplate their own morality.

  133. 133
    Florabama says:

    Graham2

    “…how can you judge other moral codes … you cant. That is exactly the point. That is the whole point.”

    Ahh, but you did. You said that it would be “wrong” for me to kill you and your children and rape your wife.

    Which takes us right back to the beginning. I said subjectivists absolutely believe in objective right and wrong simultaneously as they reject it.

    You said you didn’t understand and you were right — you don’t understand — but you demonstrated my point exactly. You believe in objective right and wrong — when it’s your ass on the line — but then you turn around and say it doesn’t exist.

    “You are getting there at last.”

    Right again. My point was to demonstrate your irrationality. And we did get there indeed.

  134. 134
    Andre says:

    Who says it’s a right not to be raped, robbed or murdered?

  135. 135

    This document, for example. The list of countries not having signed up is short and interesting.

    So if that document said rape was okay, would you still abide by it as your moral authority?

  136. 136
    Mark Frank says:

    SB #132

    I suppose when you have run out of arguments then quoting Lewis Carroll is an alternative.

    To summarise this little spat for posterity.

    The thread is about whether morality is objective or subjective.

    One way of expressing this is to ask when we make a moral judgement are we making an objective statement or expressing our own opinion or something in between. 

    As we make moral judgements using moral language this is equivalent to asking what does moral language mean.

    However, SB insists that anyone who does not use moral language objectively is misusing the word.  He challenges me to look up the meaning of wrong to confirm this. 

    I am sceptical that a dictionary will resolve the debate over the meaning of the word. But clearly if it does then it will save a lot of time. As “wrong” has many definitions very few of which are anything to do with morality I look up the moral word evil instead. I am not surprised to find that the definitions are only other moral words so this throws no light on whether moral language is objective.

    SB ignores this and responds with what he says are synonyms of “wrong” in a moral context.

    I point out that  they aren’t synonyms (I was quite surprised to find an educated chap like SB doesn’t notice this). “Illegal” is clearly not a synonym of “morally wrong”. Other words are closer to being synonyms but are moral language and not surprisingly equally subjective.

    SB ignores this. He presents no more arguments to support his case but reiterates his belief in stronger language:

    Again, if you will not respect the meanings of words, I will no longer dialogue with you. It is impossible to have a rational discussion with those who equivocate on meanings.

    I am not aware of having equivocated on anything. I have always been insistent that moral language is subjective.  Throughout the spat I have suggested that it would be valuable to analyse/debate what moral language means. So end up saying:

    I would be interested in discussing whether moral language is subjective but not on the basis that I have to admit you are right before we begin!

    SB ignores this and gives us some quotes from Lewis Carroll.

    And that is the end of a rather tawdry little exchange.

  137. 137
    faded_Glory says:

    Box:

    Some questions come to mind: What is the basis of a subjective moral standard? Is it purely irrational/emotional? Also, is it flexible – like one’s sense of beauty?

    I can’t really speak for others, but in my case I am pretty sure that the basis for my moral standard is a mix of my innate character, influence of upbringing, feeling and reasoning.

    I’m not sure what exactly you mean by ‘flexible’ in this context. There will be grey areas, for sure, and I would hope that I also have the capacity for learning so that certain things that might have appeared as moral to me 20 or 30 years ago no longer do so, and vice versa.

    fG

  138. 138
    faded_Glory says:

    Andre:

    Morals and behaviour or not the same thing.

    Agreed.

    I might be moral but my behaviour can be contra to my morality.

    Agreed

    Animals do not have morals. It is absurd to even think that some behaviour from an animal can be considered moral. Animals do not and cannot contemplate their own morality.

    That is a very glib dismissal indeed. I think this subject would benefit from a more expansive treatment but I am not sure this is the right thread for that. However, allow me a few comments.

    Truth is that there are a vast number of unknowns when it comes to what animals are conscious of, what the nature and extent of their intelligence is, how they arrive at decisions etc. etc. Of course this is also the case with humans, where the truth is that we are nowhere near answering the same questions. We can have conversations with people where they can describe their inner experiences, which we can’t do with animals, so it is even more difficult to get at the answers there.

    I suspect that, as in the case of intelligence, there is a sliding scale between having a moral compass and not having one. There is a rich field of study on Moral Development in humans, and it is clear that people are not born with a fully fledged sense of morality, nor do they wake up one day and suddenly find themselves in the possession of a complete moral compass that they lacked the day before. These things are gradational.
    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_development

    Intelligence in animals is gradational too. My dog is more intelligent than my hamster who in turn is more intelligent than my goldfish. Could it be possible that a similar gradation exists for morality? Frans de Waal’s studies, and those of others, suggest that we can’t rule this out.

    I find it a fascinating subject, and declaring the answer to be ‘no’ out of hand robs us of the opportunity to learn an awful lot about the animal world as well as ourselves.

    fG

  139. 139
    Andre says:

    Is wide spread consensus not exactly like might makes right? Until the 17th century the consensus was that the sun revolved around the earth. As late as the 20th century the consensus was that and to degree still is if you believe in evolution that an African is just above a Gorilla.

    Consensus morality does not mean it true.

    I can justify why rape and murder is moral

    1. If I kill you, you can no longer have offspring thus I’m guaranteeing my reproductive success.
    2. If I rape as many woman as I want I increase my reproductive fitness.
    3. My moral code is about survival, therefore my actions are moral.

  140. 140

    AS said:

    But I’m not citing it as a “moral authority”. I’m citing it as an example of widespread consensus.

    When someone asks you, “says who?”, what they are asking you is “on who’s authority?” or “by what authority?” Is “widespread consensus” then your moral authority?

    If “widespread consensus” said that rape was okay, would you agree that rape was moral or ethical?

    And I agree with the document because it makes sense. If it sanctioned rape, neither I nor, I suspect, the vast majority of civilized people, would accept it.

    But if the document did sanction it, and the vast majority of humanity agreed, then would you submit to that view?

  141. 141
    Dionisio says:

    To some people it makes sense and it’s acceptable to kill other people in order to eat them. Why not? What kind of persuasive ‘moral’ argument can anyone present in order to make the cannibals change their attitude and behavior?

    http://quotes.dictionary.com/M.....ountry_and

    Basically, subjective standards are created, established, implemented, promoted, enforced, by people. They lack universal validity, unless they are 100% based on absolute standards.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-542670

  142. 142

    faded_glory said:

    The challenge is not to figure out which one is the ‘real’ one, but rather it is to work out how we can all best live together in the light of such differences.

    Why should anyone care about how to best live together wrt their moral differences?

  143. 143
    Andre says:

    Faded Glory

    As much as you’d like to lower humans to animal status It just won’t work, animals can not vote, they can not agree nor sign a contract, they can’t do volunteer work, they can’t pay tax, they will never tell you how they feel.

    I’m not disputing animal intelligence, some sure are smart, We have an African Gray, he can speak incredibly well, even the occasional cuss word, Do you think the parrot knows it’s swearing? How does this foul language weigh-in on his morality? His favorite saying is. “Look they are stealing chickens” yeah he is a farm bird…. Do you think he knows what that means?

    Humans have duties and responsibilities animals don’t.

  144. 144
    onething says:

    Interesting topic. Smart people on both sides. A supposition I see here which I think almost entirely false, is that if one happens to believe in God and soul, one has a moral compass and this compass will make a real difference in one’s own morality. But in reality people do what they want and justify it how they will. In reality, an outward belief in some strong moral precepts given from on high and with a whacking stick to create fear works only intermittently and for the grossest sins. And even if it does work, maybe someone refrains from stealing, it is still a very low level of moral development that even requires this.

    In the end, if we do have souls, and if we are to learn moral development, don’t we want beings who have internalized morality, i.e., do not need an outer authority? Who prefer fairness and kindness of itself?

    It may be so that there is such a thing as an objective source of morality, but in the end it is all subjective anyway – for to accept any belief such as in God requires a subjective judgment. If I decide to accept a particular church or outlook in the Christian religion, for example, it seems, if you don’t introspect too deeply, that you have accepted an outer authority. But in the end every moral decision or belief system we ever make is made internally and subjectively, and the morality of our choices has everything to do with our personal level of development and ability to listen to the still, small voice. Often people do not like or agree with something, and switch churches. Whether rightly or wrongly is not my point. My point is that in the end your morality is a matter of your own, very subjective conscience. Belief in God is subjective.

    I am not saying that morality does not come from God. I am saying that if you think that gives you a real leg up, it is not really true as moral development is a subjective matter, and in the depths of our hearts we hold the cards of judgment.

    As for the subjectivists, though, while I can agree that many things we call moral could be the result of evolutionary life processes, that seems to apply mostly to groups close to oneself. I would like to know if anyone can give me an answer to the question of, if a certain Aryanist dictator prevailed and decided to wipe out all of humanity so as to give some elbow room to what he determined to be the best race, leaving an entire blond, blue eyed planet, would this have been wrong?

  145. 145

    faded_glory said:

    If you asked me the question, my answer would be: yes, it is wrong. The standard I use to make this judgement is my own moral standard. The answer ‘I don’t know if it is wrong’ does not follow logically from subjective morality. It would follow logically if there are no moral standards at all, but nobody here makes that claim.

    If morality is a subjective phenomena, then “moral wrongness” is a subjective phenomena. This means the moral wrongness of any act can only be determined by the individual committing the act.

    A third party cannot determine if the act is morally wrong for the person committing the act; the only thing a third party can know is if that act would be morally wrong for themselves if they committed the act.

    The only way to have the logical capacity to claim that an act is wrong when someone else does it is by assuming that how you feel about it represents some kind of transpersonal, binding judgement on the behavior of others as well, regardless of how they personally feel about it.

    This is the problem when a moral subjectivist says that the behavior of others “is wrong”. Logically, they can say it would be wrong if they themsleves did it, but they have no way of assessing if it is wrong for the other person to do it, because the “wrongness” of any act is wholly contained in the subjective mind of the individual committing or contemplating the act.

    As I said in the other thread:

    The statement “I feel it’s wrong when others abuse people” can be truthfully said by someone who believes themselves to be a moral subjectivist, but the such feelings are inconsistent with the subjectivist model, because rights and wrongs are entirely set by each individual under that model. A statement that is consistent with the subjectivist model would be:

    “I feel it is wrong for others to abuse people, but logically that must be based on projecting myself into their position and evaluating the behavior from my own subjective point of view. Since I am not them, I do not know what is moral for them, and so my projections are not valid evaluators of their moral experience. Therefore, although I feel that their behavior is wrong, those feelings must be erroneous projections of my own moral preferences as if they also applied to someone else.”

    You can’t have it both ways; morality is either subjective and thus you have no capacity to pass judgement on the morals of others (because there is no objective standard by which to pass such judgement), or morality is objective and subject to external judgement.

    Under moral subjectivism, saying that the behavior of someone else is wrong is the equivalent of saying that their preference for vanilla ice cream is wrong, or that their preference for brunettes is wrong. Their personal preferences cannot be “wrong” regardless of how strongly anyone else dislikes their personal preferences. It is a category error, a complete non-sequitur.

    Subjective morals are personal preferences, no matter how strongly felt; as such, they simply cannot be “wrong”, and certainly cannot be meaningfully judged “wrong” by any third party.

  146. 146
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    I suppose when you have run out of arguments then quoting Lewis Carroll is an alternative.

    I haven’t run out of arguments at all, I just wanted you to know that your proclivity to misuse words is a classic problem. The story of Alice in Wonderland clearly applies to you, inasmuch as you think words mean whatever you want them to mean. It doesn’t work that way.

    The thread is about whether morality is objective or subjective.

    No, sorry. When all else fails, read the title of the thread. It is about “subjectivist “equivocations,” and, by extension, your subjectivist equivocations.

    However, SB insists that anyone who does not use moral language objectively is misusing the word. He challenges me to look up the meaning of wrong to confirm this.

    No, SB insists that words mean things. Whenever someone misuses a word in order to take both sides of an argument, as you clearly do, I call them out for it.

    I am sceptical that a dictionary will resolve the debate over the meaning of the word.

    It is not surprising that someone who misuses words and distorts their meaning would be skeptical about dictionary definitions.

    SB ignores this and responds with what he says are synonyms of “wrong” in a moral context.

    No, SB is simply pointing out that all of the words, some of which come closer by being synonyms than others, are all in the objective mode.

    I point out that they aren’t synonyms (I was quite surprised to find an educated chap like SB doesn’t notice this). “Illegal” is clearly not a synonym of “morally wrong”.

    You miss the point in a spectacular way. Some of the words come closer to being synonyms than others, but it should be obvious that if they are all being used to express the meaning of the word in question, which is the word “wrong, they have something important in common, namely their objective meaning. That is the point. They are all in the objective mode. None are in the subjective mode. If you think otherwise, tell me which word you think is in the subjective mode.

    He presents no more arguments to support his case but reiterates his belief in stronger language:

    Obviously, Mark is very confused. One first settles on the meaning of terms and then makes arguments. One does not make arguments to establish a word’s meaning. The whole point is agree on the meaning of words in order to have a rational discussion, something that I have not yet attained with Mark.

    I am not aware of having equivocated on anything. I have always been insistent that moral language is subjective.

    Aren’t you? You have stated that rape is “wrong.” Please define the word, “wrong” as you are using it.

    <

  147. 147

    Aurelio Smith said:

    But it doesn’t.

    Philosophers and scientists use hypotheticals to test out their premises, inferences and conclusions – that way they can examine their views from a variety of “what if” scenarios to see how they hold up.

    Well, I’m having a hard time imagining this scenario. Do you think this is a likely scenario? If not, why should I worry. It is not going to arise.

    The purpose of the hypothetical scenario is to test whether your appeal to consensus holds up. If you prefer a real-world scenario, let’s try this one out: if the consensus of the country you live in denies gay marriage or equal rights to women because such things were considered immoral, would you agree with the consensus that gay marriage or equal women’s rights was immoral?

    What do you think of the actual content of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    Well it starts out great, but at about #22 it devolved into progressivist fantasy.

  148. 148

    AS said:

    What do you think of the actual content of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    AS said:

    I see you have answered already!

    WJM said: Subjective morals are personal preferences, no matter how strongly felt; as such, they simply cannot be “wrong”, and certainly cannot be meaningfully judged “wrong” by any third party.

    What does the document you linked to have to do with moral subjectivism?

  149. 149
    Seversky says:

    William J Murray @ 101

    The moral authority to harm others or to act to prevent harm from coming to others is the same – subjective preference. Choosing “not harming others” rather than “harming others” doesn’t give you any extra authority unless “not harming others” is considered an objectively valid moral principle – meaning, it necessarily applies to everyone whether they agree to it or not.

    I’m not sure what you mean by an “objectively valid moral principle”. I think if you asked a large group of people if they preferred to be harmed or not harmed, the overwhelming majority would opt for not being harmed. I would not call that an objective moral principle. It is, rather, a consensus of subjective preferences but I think it is the closest you are ever going to get to an objective morality.

    Choosing “majority” over “minority” adds no extra authority in a morality where moral authority is derived from subjective, personal preference.

    Actually, I would say that it does. Just as, in as democracy, a govenment is presumed to derive its legitimacy and authority from the support of a majority of the electorate, so the moral principles, that guide the behavior of members of a society towards one another, derive their authority from being the consensus of their individual subjective preferences.

    Under moral subjectivism, there is no meaningful way to “weigh” one moral maxim against another; they are all equally valid.

    The absence of any objective standard against which to measure or “weigh” moral maxims does not necessarily mean they are all of equal value, that we have no way to discriminate between them. If there are no objective moral standards, as I hold, we can still resort to the only means of judging open to us, what you call “subjective preference” and seek a consensus thereof.

  150. 150
    Graham2 says:

    The entire discussion hinges on whether or not an objective moral standard exists. Thats it. Thats what the whole fuss is about.

    So, could one of the believers just give us their best evidence for the existence of an objective moral standard. Put us all out of our misery.

  151. 151
    Seversky says:

    Andre @ 146

    Who says it’s a right not to be raped, robbed or murdered?

    All the people who’d prefer not to be raped, robbed, or murdered? Which would probably be just about everyone. Doesn’t a majority opinion count for something? Actually, in the absence of any kind of objective morality doesn’t a majority opinion count for everything, given that there is nothing else?

  152. 152
    niwrad says:

    Graham4 #167

    “So, could one of the believers just give us their best evidence for the existence of an objective moral standard.”

    The “objective moral standard” is based on the metaphysical fact that we are all One in God. This Union forces us to be good, friendly and just. When we are invited to an important party we clean ourselves, wear our best dress and behave politely. To greater reason if we are invited to the party of our Union with God we all must be at our best. This is the “objective moral standard” based on the Unity of metaphysics.

  153. 153
    Seversky says:

    Andre @ 153

    Is wide spread consensus not exactly like might makes right? Until the 17th century the consensus was that the sun revolved around the earth. As late as the 20th century the consensus was that and to degree still is if you believe in evolution that an African is just above a Gorilla.

    Claims about ‘what is’ can be true or false. They can be compared to what we actually observe to see how accurately they describe it. The claim that the Sun goes around the Earth can be tested by observation. It is capable of being true or false. Initially, as you say, the consensus was that the Sun went around the Earth. That was how it looked at first glance. Later observations and calculations showed that the Earth orbits the Sun and that is now the consensus. On matters of fact a consensus might be true or false. The ultimate arbiter is objective reality itself

    Consensus morality does not mean it true.

    Or false. Moral claims are neither. They are not about the nature of objective reality – ‘what is‘ – they are prescriptive claims about how human beings ought to behave towards one another.

    I can justify why rape and murder is moral

    1. If I kill you, you can no longer have offspring thus I’m guaranteeing my reproductive success.
    2. If I rape as many woman as I want I increase my reproductive fitness.
    3. My moral code is about survival, therefore my actions are moral.

    All you have done here is commit the naturalistic fallacy three times. Your priority might well be your survival. Killing off all potential rivals might well improve your chances of reproductive success. Raping as many women as possible might well increase your reproductive fitness.

    So what?

    None of that tells us anything about why you ought to be so privileged, why your reproductive success should matter to anyone but you. More likely, given the high price others would pay, the response from potential victims, their families, their friends and most of the rest of society would be to tell you what you could go do with your reproductive fitness. Why should that opinion count for any less than yours?

  154. 154

    AS said:

    But I’m not citing it [the U.N. Document – WJM] as a “moral authority”. I’m citing it as an example of widespread consensus. And I agree with the document because it makes sense. If it sanctioned rape, neither I nor, I suspect, the vast majority of civilized people, would accept it.

    In the above, AS refers to consensus and “the vast majority” as if those references provided subjective moral systems with some sort of binding authority. The UN document he linked to explicitly states how individuals “must” be treated and what they have inalienable “rights” to.

    His moral principle, then, seems to stem from moral consensus and the vast majority; otherwise, why mention them when attempting to support one’s moral views?

    Later, after I challenged AS about a majority that held homosexuality immoral, AS said:

    The word immoral doesn’t seem necessary here. Considered immoral by whom?

    By the consensus of those in the country, of course.

    I see no reason to prevent same-sex couples entering into legally supported unions and I see no justification for a legally sanctioned discrimination based on sex.

    You provided the justification when you referred to consensus or “the vast majority” as if they supported your subjectivist morality. If consensus or majority grants validity to a moral position (as your statements directly imply, or else why invoke them when defending your views?), then if the consensus considers homosexuality immoral, one would think that a moral subjectivism validated by consensus would then agree that homosexuality is immoral.

    I’d be unhappy if I found myself in a country where such laws held sway and I’d do what I could to persuade people to change. But we have to live somewhere today and can work for change tomorrow.

    Why would you be unhappy? If morality is determined/validated by consensus, why would such a moral position make you unhappy? By what moral authority would you work to change the view of the consensus?

    The point being: under moral subjectivism such as yours, appeals to “the vast majority” or “consensus” are red herrings, because you will abandon “the vast majority” and “consensus” as soon as your own moral views diverge sufficiently from them.

    Similarly, appeals to “benefit of society” as the basis of one’s morals will be abandoned as soon as those in power decide that a “benefit” is something you strongly disagree with.

    Ultimately, subjective morality boils down to personal preference, and such things as “benefit to society”, “consensus” and “the majority” are abandoned as soon as the individual disagrees with them.

  155. 155

    Graham2 said:

    The entire discussion hinges on whether or not an objective moral standard exists.

    Then you do not understand the debate at all. Whether or not objective moral standards actually exist is entirely irrelevant to the argument.

  156. 156

    Seversky said:

    I’m not sure what you mean by an “objectively valid moral principle”.

    I mean, the moral principle is true whether anyone agrees with it or not.

    I think if you asked a large group of people if they preferred to be harmed or not harmed, the overwhelming majority would opt for not being harmed.

    I imagine virtually everyone would opt for not being harmed. Not near as many would opt for not harming others.

    I would not call that an objective moral principle. It is, rather, a consensus of subjective preferences but I think it is the closest you are ever going to get to an objective morality.

    I agree to calling it a consensus of moral preferences. However, I’m sure you’ll agree that a consensus of moral preferences can include all sorts of things, and historically has included all sorts of things, and currently includes all sorts of things that you and I will agree are immoral.

    Referring to such a consensus, then, offers nothing of consequence to the subjectivist position – yet, they keep referring to it as if it was significant in some way.

    WJM said:

    Choosing “majority” over “minority” adds no extra authority in a morality where moral authority is derived from subjective, personal preference.

    Seversky responded:

    Actually, I would say that it does. Just as, in as democracy, a govenment is presumed to derive its legitimacy and authority from the support of a majority of the electorate, so the moral principles, that guide the behavior of members of a society towards one another, derive their authority from being the consensus of their individual subjective preferences.

    If you are willing to alter your personal moral preferences to align with the consensus, then you could say that an appeal to “the majority” lends greater moral authority, but we both know that is not the case.

    What carries the sole authority under moral subjectivism is personal preference. Consensus and majority will be abandoned and worked against if it conflicts significantly with the individual’s moral preference.

    Andre said:

    Who says it’s a right not to be raped, robbed or murdered?

    Seversky responds:

    All the people who’d prefer not to be raped, robbed, or murdered? Which would probably be just about everyone.

    You are mistaking the desire to not be raped, robbed or murdered with the view that it is ones right not to be raped, robbed or murdered. Certainly, even rapists, roberers and murderers desire not to be raped, robbed and murdered, but they don’t seem to thinnk that it is a right not to be raped, robbed or murdered.

    Doesn’t a majority opinion count for something? Actually, in the absence of any kind of objective morality doesn’t a majority opinion count for everything, given that there is nothing else?

    It might count for everything if moral subjectivists committed themselves to aligning their moral views with the majority/consensus, but do they? Would you? An appeal to majority or consensus as moral authority means nothing unless you are willing to bend your personal morality into agreement.

    So, if majority “is everything” when it comes to moral authority, if the majority considers homosexuality immoral, or slavery moral, I suppose you’re “all in” with that.

    I think not.

  157. 157
    Mark Frank says:

    SB #162

    I will resist the temptation to respond to everything you have written.
    You finish:

    You have stated that rape is “wrong.” Please define the word, “wrong” as you are using it.

    That sounds like you are prepared to discuss the meaning of moral language such the moral use of “wrong” after all. It is complicated and subtle subject. Luckily I wrote myself a bit of an essay on the subject a few years ago. I more or less stick by what it is in it.

  158. 158

    The red herrings of “majority”, “consensus”, and “social benefit” can be seen clearly for what they are when one asks a self-styled “moral subjectivist” if they are willing to adopt “majority”, “consensus”, or “social benefit” moral rules they strongly disagree with simply because the majority, consensus, or advocates of social benefit considers a proposition moral (or immoral).

    The answer is “no”. Their personal view (under subjectivism) takes precedence over all other considerations. They will not bend their moral views simply to acquiesce to some majority or external authority (working for social benefit) when they disagreement is strong enough.

    What they are left with is, as a moral authority and justification, simply “because I feel like it”.

    Nothing more. Nothing less. Everything else is just equivocation and obfuscation.

  159. 159
    Graham2 says:

    WJM: Whether or not objective moral standards actually exist is entirely irrelevant to the argument

    Are you serious ? or just winding me up ?

  160. 160
    StephenB says:

    SB: You have stated that rape is “wrong.” Please define the word, “wrong” as you are using it.

    Mark Frank

    That sounds like you are prepared to discuss the meaning of moral language such the moral use of “wrong” after all.

    No, I am simply asking you to define your terms. When you say that rapists should be punished because rape “is wrong,” I know that you are misusing words because I know that you don’t believe any such thing as right or wrong exists. I am, therefore, asking you what you mean when you use the word “wrong.”

    It is complicated and subtle subject. Luckily I wrote myself a bit of an essay on the subject a few years ago. I more or less stick by what it is in it.

    It isn’t complicated and subtle at all. You either know what you mean or you don’t.

  161. 161

    Graham2 asks:

    Are you serious ? or just winding me up ?

    I’m serious. The debate is about the logical consequences stemming from two disparate premises (subjective vs objective morality), not about whether or not objective morality actually exists.

    We live, and must live, as if morality refers to an objective (existent in itself) commodity. No one except sociopaths can actually live as if morality is a subjective commodity.

    (So-called subjective moralists utilize equivocations, misdirections and obfuscation to deny this, consciously or not.)

    But, that doesn’t mean that objective morality actually exists; it just means that, logically and practically speaking, we must live as if it actually exists.

  162. 162
    Graham2 says:

    WJM: You & BA should hop into bed together. No, objective morality doesn’t exist. That’s what the heathens have been trying to tell you all along. Morality is something we make up as we go along. I qualify this because basic morality is built in (genetic), and we elaborate on that.

    Monkeys display a basic morality (though they don’t have to fuss over gay marriage). They inherit it in their genes. We could never function as a social species if we didn’t inherit some basic rules. Ditto all other social species.

    Your ‘objective morality’ is a religious construct.

    If there really was some objective standard, then
    (a) Whats the evidence for it ?
    (b) Why on earth wouldn’t we be using it ? Why do we have endless,endless,endless arguments about all the moral issues of the day ?

  163. 163
    Daniel King says:

    Murray:

    I’m serious. The debate is about the logical consequences stemming from two disparate premises (subjective vs objective morality), not about whether or not objective morality actually exists.

    Logical consequences are irrelevant to any theory of social behavior. What counts are the empirical consequences. When you have evidence to support the hypothesis that the empirical consequences of belief in objective morality trump the empirical consequences of belief in subjective morality, let the world know.

    In passing, you might provide criteria for evaluating the empirical consequences of either belief. How do you score “better” behavior?

  164. 164
    Graham2 says:

    WJM: I will fess up. I didn’t read your post with the care it merited. Now, having read it properly, Im more confused than ever. What does this sentence mean …

    We must live as if objective morality exists.

    Sorry, that’s meaningless.

    BTW, your hero W Lane Craig uses the existence of objective morality as an argument for the existence of god.

  165. 165
    Cross says:

    Graham2 @ 181

    “BTW, your hero W Lane Craig uses the existence of objective morality as an argument for the existence of god.”

    It’s a pretty good argument, where do you disagree and why?

  166. 166
    Graham2 says:

    Cross: 2 reasons:
    (a) Objective morality & god seem to be descriptions of the same thing.
    (b) Neither is supported by evidence, but there is actually evidence for the absence of objective morality.

  167. 167
    Cross says:

    Graham2 @ 182

    “(a) Objective morality & god seem to be descriptions of the same thing.”
    Perhaps they are, in the sense that we are created in the image of God and thus inherit His morality?

    “(b) Neither is supported by evidence, but there is actually evidence for the absence of objective morality.”

    In 179 you said” Morality is something we make up as we go along. I qualify this because basic morality is built in (genetic)”
    Aren’t you then arguing that an object morality is built in, just that it’s source is genetic ie it’s in the genes.

  168. 168
    Graham2 says:

    object morality is built in … not at all. The built-in morality we each have is our own, not a universal (objective) standard. I presume it is different for each of us.

  169. 169
    Cross says:

    Graham2 @ 185

    “object morality is built in … not at all. The built-in morality we each have is our own, not a universal (objective) standard. I presume it is different for each of us.”

    Confusing, The built-in basic morality is in a gene, we have all inherited that same gene, yet it’s not a universal, objective standard?

  170. 170
    Graham2 says:

    I doubt that its a ‘gene’ (singular). We don’t all have the same face, do we ?

  171. 171
    Me_Think says:

    Cross @ 186
    We have a morality gene ? so morality is ‘materialistic’ ? Wow.

  172. 172
    Cross says:

    Me_Think @ 188

    “We have a morality gene ? so morality is ‘materialistic’ ? Wow.”

    I was only following Graham2’s statements. I don’t think any such thing. As I posted before, I think that we have inherited a built in objective morality from God, as we were created in His image. I am not asking you to believe that, just trying to work out where Graham2 believes morality comes from in a materialists view.

  173. 173

    Graham2 said:

    No, objective morality doesn’t exist.

    Since I doubt anyone can substantively support such an assertion of a universal negative, I marvel at your materialist faith.

    At least I can admit that I don’t know if it exists or not.

    Your ‘objective morality’ is a religious construct.

    I think your “objective morality doesn’t exist” certainty is more a religious construct than my position of not knowing whether it exists or not.

    Why do we have endless,endless,endless arguments about all the moral issues of the day ?

    Free will, I would imagine – which is another thing we must live as if it exists, whether it does or not.

    Unfortunately, such arguments seem to be outside of your wheelhouse.

  174. 174

    Graham2 said:

    “BTW, your hero W Lane Craig uses the existence of objective morality as an argument for the existence of god.”

    Where on earth did you get the idea that Craig is my hero?

  175. 175
    Graham2 says:

    WJM: ‘Free will’. Love it. If each person carries around a different moral compass, then either objective morality doesn’t exist, or it does but we are oblivious of its presence. Either way, its effectively not there.

  176. 176

    Logical consequences are irrelevant to any theory of social behavior.

    That would matter if I was attempting to construct a theory of social behavior. I’m not. My debate has always been about the logical ramifications derived from the premises.

    What counts are the empirical consequences.

    “What counts” depends on what the argument is about and why the argument is being made. The purpose of my argument is to demonstrate that the logical ramifications of subjective morality are internally incoherent and impossible to actually live in accordance with. The purpose of my argument is not to prove objective morality exists and is not to demonstrate one superior to the other in practice (which would be an interesting conundrum, given “morality” could literally mean anything if subjective in nature.)

    When you have evidence to support the hypothesis that the empirical consequences of belief in objective morality trump the empirical consequences of belief in subjective morality, let the world know.

    One wonders what “trump” might mean here. “Produce a more moral outcome”, perhaps? How could any system be measured to produce a more moral outcome than another if morality is itself subjective? Your challenge presumes an objective moral basis for such a comparison.

    In passing, you might provide criteria for evaluating the empirical consequences of either belief. How do you score “better” behavior?

    That’s your argument, not mine.

  177. 177

    graham2 said:

    ‘Free will’. Love it. If each person carries around a different moral compass, then either objective morality doesn’t exist, or it does but we are oblivious of its presence. Either way, its effectively not there.

    No sane, non-sociopathic entity is “oblivious” to the information their conscience delivers to them; the only question is if the conscience is internally generated and thus subjective, or is a kind of sensory capacity through which a real moral landscape is being perceived.

    Free Will can be used to deny the conscience, degrade it, refine it, use reason to interpret it, pursue understanding of what it represents, ignore it in favor of other things, etc. Just because people have different ideas about what morality is doesn’t mean morality is subjective, any more than the existence of conflicting eye-witness testimony means that no actual crime occurred.

  178. 178
    Graham2 says:

    WJM: You seem to be making a meal of this. We make moral decisions all the time, every moment of the day. I have no idea how my brain/consciousness does it, but it ends up delivering a decision & I act.

    If there was some sort of objective standard (real moral landscape ?) then we should see some evidence for it, but what we see is everyone making their own decisions as they go along. The simplest explanation is that we are each making decisions according to our own internal rules.

    If you propose some sort of external standard, then you have your work ahead of you, explaining to us the evidence for this.

  179. 179

    Graham2

    If there was some sort of objective standard (real moral landscape ?) then we should see some evidence for it,

    The argument has nothing to do with whether or not objective morality actually exists or can be evidenced.

    The simplest explanation is that we are each making decisions according to our own internal rules.

    The argument is about how logically consistent and functionally practical the explanatory model is, not how simple it is. Moral subjectivism is a logical mess and cannot even be employed as a moral modus operandi in the real world other than by sociopaths.

  180. 180
    Graham2 says:

    I agree that if our morals are subjective, then we end up in a mess, but then that’s exactly where we are: why do you think we have such endless arguments about what is right ?

  181. 181

    Graham2 said:

    I agree that if our morals are subjective, then we end up in a mess, but then that’s exactly where we are: why do you think we have such endless arguments about what is right ?

    If our morals are considered subjective, our moral system necessarily ends up a logical mess (unless one is a sociopath and subscribes to the moral maxim “because I feel like it”). Only the premise that morality is objective can straighten out the logical mess subjectivists find themselves in.

    If you’re talking about a “mess” of competing ideas between different people about what behavior is moral, that’s entirely irrelevant to my argument and doesn’t impact it one bit.

  182. 182
    onething says:

    But on what basis does God decide what is immoral or moral? Is it his arbitrary personal preference? If it is, then aren’t we back to square one, only with someone else in charge rather than ourselves?

  183. 183
    Andre says:

    Graham2

    We could never function as a social species if we didn’t inherit some basic rules.

    You have to show me how morality evolved from non-morality, please………. Natural selection can not act on that which is immaterial……… It is simply not possible no matter how much you’d like it to be!

  184. 184
    Mapou says:

    Graham2:

    I agree that if our morals are subjective, then we end up in a mess, but then that’s exactly where we are: why do you think we have such endless arguments about what is right ?

    Both Zen Buddhism and Christianity teach us what objective morality is. It can be summed up with one word: UNITY. This is the reason that Jesus prayed to the Father thus, “Let them [humanity] be ONE with us as we are ONE together.”

    Only opposites are ONE. Jesus and the Father are opposites in the true yin and yang sense of the word. That is to say, the Father is the Master and Jesus is the servant. They are ONE by virtue of being opposites. By analogy, the two hemispheres of the brain are ONE, meaning that one hemisphere is the master and the other is the slave. Otherwise, we’d be in a heap of trouble because we would be of two minds. One day, humanity, too, will become ONE with God.

    It’s very simple, really.

  185. 185
    Andre says:

    Seversky

    None of that tells us anything about why you ought to be so privileged, why your reproductive success should matter to anyone but you. More likely, given the high price others would pay, the response from potential victims, their families, their friends and most of the rest of society would be to tell you what you could go do with your reproductive fitness. Why should that opinion count for any less than yours?

    I don’t consider those I murder and rape as victims! I’m the victim here for being hindered. The spreading and survival of my genes is all that matters! I don’t consider other moral values because they have no meaning to me! I’m not here to get along or be nice! That is not my moral code! I ought to be nothing because passing my genes just is!

  186. 186
    Graham2 says:

    Mapou: You really are a worry.

  187. 187
    Mark Frank says:

    SB #177

    MF That sounds like you are prepared to discuss the meaning of moral language such the moral use of “wrong” after all.

    SB No, I am simply asking you to define your terms.

    This is a subtle distinction! “I am not prepared to discuss the meaning of wrong but I want you to tell me what you mean by it”.

    When you say that rapists should be punished because rape “is wrong,” I know that you are misusing words because I know that you don’t believe any such thing as right or wrong exists.

    Just because a sentence has the form X is Y it doesn’t entail that Y refers to some property of X. For example, “Casual dress is acceptable” does not refer to a property of casual dress.

    I am, therefore, asking you what you mean when you use the word “wrong.”

    Which is exactly the same way as everyone else, including you, uses it.  It just a question of describing that use in detail and precisely.

    MF: It is complicated and subtle subject. Luckily I wrote myself a bit of an essay on the subject a few years ago. I more or less stick by what it is in it.

    SB: It isn’t complicated and subtle at all. You either know what you mean or you don’t.

    It is easy to know what you mean in the sense of using the language confidently. It is often extremely difficult to describe that meaning except by substituting other words that throw no light on it. I have however tried to answer your challenge in the little essay I linked to. I can summarise it if it helps:

    To say X is morally wrong is not describe a property of X its “wrongness”. It is a speech act (see Wittgenstein, JL Austen, Searle) which does these things:

    1. Expresses a specific kind of antipathy to X (I can enlarge on this if you like)

    2. Commits to trying to prevent X other things being equal

    3. Because most people have the kind of antipathy mentioned in 1 for similar reasons it also implies that some subset of those reasons are present e.g. suffering, injustice, cowardice, failure to meet committments – although the exact subset will vary according to context

    4. It may also express a conviction that others can be brought to share this opinion with sufficient time

    I am sorry it is a bit long – but I said it was complicated.

    Late addition to comment:

    I forgot to mention R.M. Hare “The Language of Morals” – easier to understand than the others and gets at the essence of it.

  188. 188
    Andre says:

    Graham2

    Mapou: You really are a worry.

    So? what does it matter? Mapou’s moral code is subjective as is yours……… Which one is correct Graham? His or yours?

  189. 189
    Andre says:

    MF

    suffering, injustice, cowardice, failure to meet committments – although the exact subset will vary according to context

    So what are you comparing these things to? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has an idea of what a straight line is……

  190. 190
    faded_Glory says:

    The debate has moved one and I can’t respond to everything that has been said in the meantime. A couple of things caught my eye though.

    William J Murray:

    We live, and must live, as if morality refers to an objective (existent in itself) commodity. No one except sociopaths can actually live as if morality is a subjective commodity.
    But, that doesn’t mean that objective morality actually exists; it just means that, logically and practically speaking, we must live as if it actually exists.


    With this statement, you have completely undermined your position. If you don’t know if objective morality even exists, you cannot possibly know what it would be if it does exists. If you don’t know what it would be, you cannot live by it.

    What you are actually doing is sticking the label ‘objective’ to your moral values so that you can avoid having to face the fact that they are just as subjective as everyone else’s.

    Go ahead if it makes you feel better. I don’t see how this affects the rest of us.

    Andre:

    Natural selection can not act on that which is immaterial……… It is simply not possible no matter how much you’d like it to be!

    For the third time I will ask you: do you think that natural selection can’t act on behaviours? Or do you think that behaviours are material?

    Morality is about behaviours, because if thoughts never turn into actions it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. Rape fantasies are harmless unless they get acted out.

    Animals and people who behave in ways that promote their reproduction stand a higher chance of procreating. If they can also pass on their behaviours to their offspring, as many do, over time these behaviours will become more prevalent in the population than ones that hinder their procreation. At some point they may become the norm. Couple this with self-consciousness and sufficient intelligence, and morality is born. From there it can evolve and grow, as part of the human culture.

    StephenB:

    You are keen on dictionary definitions to support your position. When I check the definition of objective we find things like:

    – existing independent of or external to the mind
    – existing independently of perception or an individual’s conceptions
    – belonging to the object of thought rather than to the thinking subject

    etc.

    If morality is objective, i.e. independent of people’s minds, will it still exist even when the last person on earth has died? If so, where exactly does it exist?

    fG

  191. 191
    Mark Frank says:

    Andre #206

    I don’t find it necessary to compare suffering to anything to recognise it. Do you? If so, what do you compare it to?

    Mark

  192. 192
    Graham2 says:

    FG: Frustrating, aint it?
    Natural selection can not act on that which is immaterial … its just word-salad all the way down.

  193. 193
    StephenB says:

    SB: What do you mean by “wrong” in that context?”

    Mark Frank

    Which is exactly the same way as everyone else, including you, uses it. It just a question of describing that use in detail and precisely.

    That is not a true statement. You are not using the word the way I and everyone else uses it. I explained that “wrong,” by definition, means objectively wrong. It means, as the dictionary makes clear,

    “not in accordance with fact”

    “wide of the mark,”

    “off target”

    Clearly, to be not in accordance with fact or wide of the mark or off target indicates a failure to measure up to an objective standard. To get a wrong answer on a test is to make a mistake about an objective fact. Thus, morally wrong means a failure to measure up to an objective moral standard.

    You rejected my meaning and the dictionary definition of the word, saying

    I am sceptical [skeptical] that a dictionary will resolve the debate over the meaning of the word.

    So please don’t say that you mean the same thing that I and everyone else means.

    Further, we know that you reject any sense of an objectively wrong act inasmuch as you do not believe in objective morality or any objective sense of right and wrong.

    So, once again, I must ask you what you mean when you say that a rapist should be punished because he did something “wrong.”

    Don’t misunderstand. I know exactly what you mean. I just want you to admit it so I can explain what is wrong with it. However, if you continue to run away from the issue, we cannot move forward.

    All you have to do is define the word “wrong” as you are using it. This is basic to any rational discussion.

  194. 194
    StephenB says:

    Faded Glory

    When I check the definition of objective we find things like:

    – existing independent of or external to the mind
    – existing independently of perception or an individual’s conceptions
    – belonging to the object of thought rather than to the thinking subject

    Yes, that is the correct meaning of objective.

    If morality is objective, i.e. independent of people’s minds, will it still exist even when the last person on earth has died? If so, where exactly does it exist?

    Objective truth does not die or change. If it could change, it wouldn’t be true; if it could die, it wouldn’t be abstract.

    Truth, unlike matter, is not extended in time and space. As an abstract reality, it has no “location.”

  195. 195
    Box says:

    194

    WJM: the only question is if the conscience is internally generated and thus subjective, or is a kind of sensory capacity through which a real moral landscape is being perceived.

    An important argument in favor of the existence of a real moral landscape – objective morality – is the presence of brick walls: we all have to agree that certain behavior is wrong. We have no choice in the matter, we are all subordinate to a higher law – excluding psychopaths.

    IOW we are all forced to agree on certain moral issues.

  196. 196
    Me_Think says:

    There is nothing objective in morality:

    The term “morality” can be used either
    – descriptively to refer to some codes of conduct put forward by a society or,
    – some other group, such as a religion, or
    accepted by an individual for her own behavior or
    – normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

  197. 197
    StephenB says:

    Me–Think

    There is nothing objective in morality:

    That is not what the Stanford Encyclopedia says.

    It says that the term “morality” can be used in different ways, as is clearly the case. It makes no claim that objective morality doesn’t exist.

  198. 198
    Mark Frank says:

    SB

    All you have to do is define the word “wrong” as you are using it. This is basic to any rational discussion.

    I wrote my reply n #204. I will repeat it here with a bit of tidying up:

    When I say something is morally wrong I am performing a speech act (see Wittgenstein, JL Austen, Searle, R.M. Hare) which does these things:

    1. Expresses a specific kind of antipathy to X (I can enlarge on this if you like)

    2. Commits to trying to prevent X other things being equal

    3. Because most people have the kind of antipathy mentioned in 1 for similar reasons it also implies that some subset of those reasons are present e.g. suffering, injustice, cowardice, failure to meet committments – although the exact subset will vary according to context

    4. It may also express a conviction that others can be brought to share this opinion with sufficient time

    I am sorry I know of no simpler or shorter way of explaining what I mean. The only alternative is to substitute phrases that raise exactly the same issues about objectivity and subjectivity such as evil or blameworthy.

    If you think it is simple then perhaps you can tell me what you mean by “morally wrong”? (Please don’t confuse this with your reasons for thinking something is morally wrong). If you think it means “off target” then explain

    why someone should be punished for doing something off target – in fact why any kind of action flows from simply being off-target

    which particular target you had in mind and why anyone else should care about that target

  199. 199
    Me_Think says:

    StephenB @ 214
    That is your subjective interpretation 🙂 No where is ‘Morality’ defined as a primordial set of rules.

  200. 200
    StephenB says:

    Me–Think

    That is your subjective interpretation 🙂 No where is ‘Morality’ defined as a primordial set of rules.

    It is not my subjective interpretation. It is common knowledge:

    Encyclopedia Britannica

    “Natural law, in philosophy, a system of right or justice held to be common to all humans and derived from nature rather than from the rules of society, or positive law.”

  201. 201
    StephenB says:

    Also, from your own reference, the Stanford Encyclopedia, which acknowledges Aquinas as the primary source for the natural moral law:

    “The precepts of the natural law are binding by nature: no beings could share our human nature yet fail to be bound by the precepts of the natural law. This is so because these precepts direct us toward the good as such and various particular goods (ST IaIIae 94, 2). The good and goods provide reasons for us rational beings to act, to pursue the good and these particular goods. As good is what is perfective of us given the natures that we have (ST Ia 5, 1), the good and these various goods have their status as such naturally. It is sufficient for certain things to be good that we have the natures that we have; it is in virtue of our common human nature that the good for us is what it is.

    The precepts of the natural law are also knowable by nature. All human beings possess a basic knowledge of the principles of the natural law (ST IaIIae 94, 4). This knowledge is exhibited in our intrinsic directedness toward the various goods that the natural law enjoins us to pursue, and we can make this implicit awareness explicit and propositional through reflection on practice. Aquinas takes it that there is a core of practical knowledge that all human beings have, even if the implications of that knowledge can be hard to work out or the efficacy of that knowledge can be thwarted by strong emotion or evil dispositions (ST IaIIae 94, 6).”

  202. 202
    Mark Frank says:

    Sb #217

    Am I missing something? You seem to have given a definition of natural moral law not of morality. Like Me-Think. I would be intrigued to see where morality is defined as a primordial set of rules.

  203. 203
    Andre says:

    MF

    I don’t compare it to anything, as I’ve said my morality does not consider the well beings of others, yours does…..

  204. 204
    Me_Think says:

    StephenB @ 217
    I see no consensus even on what is Natural law [natural moral law -Thanks MF] is. How can something which itself is subjective give raise to something objective? From your own Link:

    Aristotle (384–322 bce) held that what was “just by nature” was not always the same as what was “just by law,”However, he drew his examples of natural law primarily from his observation of the Greeks in their city-states, who subordinated women to men, slaves to citizens, and “barbarians” to Hellenes.
    Stoics conceived of an entirely egalitarian law of nature in conformity with the logos (reason) inherent in the human mind.

    Roman jurists paid lip service to this notion, which was reflected in the writings of St. Paul

    In the 12th century, Gratian, an Italian monk and father of the study of canon law, equated natural law with divine law
    According to St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1224/25–1274) The law of nature, is “nothing else than the participation of the eternal law in the rational creature,”

    Other scholastic thinkers, including the Franciscan philosophers John Duns Scotus (1266–1308) and William of Ockham (c. 1285–1347/49) and the Spanish theologian Francisco Suárez (1548–1617), emphasized divine will instead of divine reason as the source of law

  205. 205
    Andre says:

    faded_glory

    For the third time I will ask you: do you think that natural selection can’t act on behaviours? Or do you think that behaviours are material?

    Morality, like reason and logic are not material…….. Natural selection is unable to act on the immaterial, it only has power over material things. Are you acknowledging the immaterial faded_glory? Careful now…….

  206. 206
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    When I say something is morally wrong I am performing a speech act (see Wittgenstein, JL Austen, Searle, R.M. Hare) which does these things:

    1. Expresses a specific kind of antipathy to X (I can enlarge on this if you like)

    2. Commits to trying to prevent X other things being equal

    3. Because most people have the kind of antipathy mentioned in 1 for similar reasons it also implies that some subset of those reasons are present e.g. suffering, injustice, cowardice, failure to meet committments – although the exact subset will vary according to context

    4. It may also express a conviction that others can be brought to share this opinion with sufficient time

    Thank you for explaining what you mean by a morally wrong act. In your judgment, then, a person should be punished for committing an act (of a serious and consequential nature) that you and most other people would find distasteful and would likely try to prevent. I take this to mean that it is wrong if the majority finds it to be so for all of the other reasons stated, i.e. suffering, injustice, context, etc. So, the key ingredient here is opinions and convictions of the majority. Is that a fair assessment?

  207. 207
    Mark Frank says:

    SB #223

    Thank you for explaining what you mean by a morally wrong act. In your judgment, then, a person should be punished for committing an act (of a serious and consequential nature) that you and most other people would find distasteful and would likely try to prevent. I take this to mean that it is wrong if the majority finds it to be so for all of the other reasons stated, i.e. suffering, injustice, context, etc. So, the key ingredient here is opinions and convictions of the majority. Is that a fair assessment?

    No. I judge something to be wrong and deserving of punishment based on reasons that happen to be shared by the majority of people. That doesn’t mean I make that judgement because they are shared by the majority of people. However, the fact that they are shared means that my statement “X is wrong” implies (but does not entail) that X share features such as suffering that others would also judge to be wrong.

    Could I return to the questions I asked you (simplified):

    Can tell me what you mean by “morally wrong”? (Please don’t confuse this with your reasons for thinking something is morally wrong). Based on your earlier comment I think you will reply something like “off-target”. If so then maybe you could explain whether the particular target is part of the meaning i.e. does “morally wrong” mean “failed to conform to NML” or does it mean “failed to meet a moral code of some kind”. 

  208. 208
    faded_Glory says:

    Andre,

    I don’t know why you find it so hard to answer a simple question?

    Do you think natural selection can act on behaviours, or not?

    Certainly I consider behaviours immaterial. Behaviours are processes and are not ‘material things’.

    I have often noticed a proclivity on this site to classify everything as either material or immaterial ‘things’. What seems to be missing is the acknowledgement that an awful lot of ‘immaterial things’ are actually processes involving material entities. Specifically, I view morality as a process in the brains of people – a process where a person witnesses or contemplates an action, forms a judgement and may trigger a reaction.

    Material vs immaterial has nothing to do with this discussion.

    fG

  209. 209

    faded_glory said:

    With this statement, you have completely undermined your position.

    I haven’t undermined my actual position, although I may have undermined a position you mistakenly believe I’m arguing for.

    If you don’t know if objective morality even exists, you cannot possibly know what it would be if it does exists.

    It’s analogous to scientific theory that proposes an X commodity to explain observable phenomena. You don’t know that X actually exists, but you can glean a theoretical understanding of what X must be like in order to account for the observable phenomena.

    In the case of an objective basis for morality, it is proposed to account for experiential phenomena – our conscience, how we act and live (and must live) wrt moral rights and obligations, the similarities of moral interpretation by those we commonly agree have highly refined sense of conscience and capacity for reason – and to solve the fatal logical flaws that any theory of subjective morality ultimately falls prey to.

    What you are actually doing is sticking the label ‘objective’ to your moral values so that you can avoid having to face the fact that they are just as subjective as everyone else’s.

    The reason I have chosen to operate under the theoretical framework that morality refers to an objective source is because it is the only logically-consistent option that successfully explains how I – and every other non-sociopath in the world – actually live wrt moral behavior.

    I prefer my theoretical existential models to actually be rationally consistent and in agreement with factual experience.

    If you don’t know what it would be, you cannot live by it.

    I have stated repeatedly what it would be, theoretically, if it exists; a universal mental/spiritual landscape (so to speak) that can be sensed by the conscience and best interpreted and understood by applying reason to that sensory input.

    To fulfill the requirements necessary to solve what the proposed commodity needs to solve (existential and logical problems that subjective morality cannot explain), this commodity must be an absolute and unchanging universal mental landscape of “the good”, much like whatever causes gravity is posited as a universal and unchanging (wrt its effects) force that can be utilized to better navigate our physical existence if we commit to understanding it as best we can.

    So, under my theory, all non-sociopaths are in touch with (or can be) and experience (or can experience) objective morality through their conscience, and can refine that sense or ignore it, and with logic can interpret that input to the degree they have developed their reason.

    Because we have free will (again, theoretically), we are free to damage or refine or ignore our conscience; we are free to believe it is a purely subjective phenomena. We are free to choose in contradiction to our conscience. However, under my moral theory, conflicting with the moral good carries with it negative necessary consequences, just as acting in conflict with gravity carries necessary negative consequences.

    Not because any god chooses to punish you, but simply because that is the cause and effect product of immoral behavior. If god exists, god cannot any more save you from those consequences than god can make an evil thing good.

    Under my natural law moral theory, that is. I’m not speaking for anyone else’s views. I’ve constructed all my existential models to be rationally consistent and reflect the factual, empirical experience of my life. Whether or not they are true isn’t of concern to me because I have no way of knowing; I may be a disembodied head in a vat suffering from delusions.

    What concerns me is whether or not my existential models appear to work in my experience (whatever that “really” is) wrt my capacity to (1) live as a good person who (2) enjoys life as much as possible (while maintaining #1).

  210. 210
    Andre says:

    faded_glory

    Natural selection can act on behaviour? Really you have actual empirical evidence that nothing can act on something?

    Please provide this proof!

  211. 211
    StephenB says:

    Me–Think

    I see no consensus even on what is Natural law [natural moral law

    The NML is simply the law of morality proper to human nature.

    How can something which itself is subjective give raise to something objective?

    What objective thing do you perceive as giving rise to some objective thing?

  212. 212

    Box said:

    An important argument in favor of the existence of a real moral landscape – objective morality – is the presence of brick walls: we all have to agree that certain behavior is wrong. We have no choice in the matter, we are all subordinate to a higher law – excluding psychopaths.

    IOW we are all forced to agree on certain moral issues.

    Exactly, which is where the “gratuitous child torture” example comes in. The existence of self-evidently true moral statements that reflect what no sane human being can accommodate as “good” may not prove that morality refers to an objective source, but self-evident moral truths must be accounted for in one’s theoretical moral model.

    The problem with the evolutionary model, such as the theory that all humans share a genetic expression that puts that moral brick wall in our brain (and perhaps sociopaths lack that particular trait), is the same problem that plagues subjective morality: operational morality is reduced to personal feelings (even if those feelings are generated by genetics).

    IOW, if morality = genetically expressed feelings, then everyone’s morality is valid – even the sociopath’s.

  213. 213
    faded_Glory says:

    Andre:

    Natural selection can act on behaviour? Really you have actual empirical evidence that nothing can act on something?
    Please provide this proof!


    Andre, if you were to Google ‘natural selection of behaviour’, you would get 7,480,000 hits.

    Why don’t you spend a bit of time going through some of that material? It might prevent you participating in discussions where you don’t know what you are talking about.

    fG

  214. 214
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    I judge something to be wrong and deserving of punishment based on reasons that happen to be shared by the majority of people.

    Well, we know that these things change from to time to time and from place to place. A good example would be public perceptions about the morality of homosexuality and slavery. How do you determine which time and which place is morally correct?

    Can tell me what you mean by “morally wrong”?

    Yes, an immoral act would be anything that violates the law of love, anything that violates the moral standards derived through reason from the Natural Moral Law, or as set forth in The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount.

    Based on your earlier comment I think you will reply something like “off-target”

    Correct.

    If so then maybe you could explain whether the particular target is part of the meaning i.e. does “morally wrong” mean “failed to conform to NML” or does it mean “failed to meet a moral code of some kind”.

    Yes. To commit a morally wrong act means to do something inconsistent with the moral laws that govern human behavior. It is to do something that is inconsistent with what is proper for a thinking human being endowed with free will and capable of loving. Any act that violates the law of love is an immoral act.

  215. 215

    faded_glory responds to Andre:

    Andre, if you were to Google ‘natural selection of behaviour’, you would get 7,480,000 hits.

    Why don’t you spend a bit of time going through some of that material? It might prevent you participating in discussions where you don’t know what you are talking about.

    faded_glory, what percentage of those google hits contain information that supports the idea that natural selection can affect behavior, and what percentage of them contain information that contradicts that theory?

    Both sides of that argument would be included in a google search using the phrase “natural selection of behaviour”.

    Instead of using a google search as if the hits all represent support for your position, why not provide what Andre has asked for to make it clear you actually have support for your assertion?

  216. 216
    Mark Frank says:

    SB

    Well, we know that these things change from to time to time and from place to place. A good example would be public perceptions about the morality of homosexuality and slavery. How do you determine which time and which place is morally correct?

    There is no need or sense in me making this decision.  I wrote:

    I judge something to be wrong and deserving of punishment based on reasons that happen to be shared by the majority of people. That doesn’t mean I make that judgement because they are shared by the majority of people.

    I don’t make my judgement that an action is wrong on the basis of what other people think, so the time and location of those people is irrelevant. It so happens that my judgement often coincides with the judgement of my contemporaries which means that they can reasonably infer a bit about what did cause me to make me judgement because it is very likely the same factors would lead them to judge it wrong.
     

    To commit a morally wrong act means to do something inconsistent with the moral laws that govern human behavior. It is to do something that is inconsistent with what is proper for a thinking human being endowed with free will and capable of loving. Any act that violates the law of love is an immoral act.

    I have (at least) two problems with this.

    1. There are people all around you – atheists and theists – who regularly talk about what is right and wrong and may not even have heard of the NML and will believe things to be right that do not conform to it.

    You seem to have two options:

    Either

    They mean something different by “morally right and wrong” from what you do. In which case your only dispute with an atheist who thinks abortion is morally right is a semantic one about the correct use of the word “right”. He is talking about something completely different from you when he says it is right and why should that bother you.

    Or

    They mean the same as you (i.e. conforms to NML) and when they say homosexuality is morally right they mean that it conforms to a code they have never heard of! While it may or may not in fact conform to that code – to actually mean that something conforms to a certain code without knowing it is absurd.

    2. It is part of the logic of moral language that it doesn’t just describe but is also a call to action. If someone said “that’s morally very wrong – but I don’t see that’s a reason for doing anything to prevent it” you would have to say they don’t understand the meaning of “morally wrong”. However, it is logically quite sensible to say – that breaks the NML but I don’t see that’s a reason doing anything to prevent it  (e.g. because I don’t believe in God).” Any definition of moral words that leaves out the prescriptive element has failed to capture the full meaning.

  217. 217
    Box says:

    MF: I judge something to be wrong and deserving of punishment based on reasons that happen to be shared by the majority of people.

    The moral subjectivists in this thread tend to mention shared values. Relevant or not, somehow they feel that it supports the case for subjective morality.
    Quite the opposite is true: when something is deemed wrong by a vast majority of people it may very well be indicative of a ‘brick wall’ – IOW the existence of an objective moral landscape.

  218. 218
    Mark Frank says:

    #234 Box

    The moral subjectivists in this thread tend to mention shared values. Relevant or not, somehow they feel that it supports the case for subjective morality.

    Well I don’t think it is relevant. The point I was making was that while I may happen to share my values with a lot of people that is not why I hold them.

  219. 219
    Andre says:

    faded_glory

    There are 46 100 000 hits for astrology, is it true?

    There is a 148 000 000 hits for bigfoot, is it true?

    There are 85 000 000 hits for UFO’s, is it true?

    There are 12 800 000 hits for the pink unicorn, is it true?

    There are 1 200 000 000 hits for God, is it true?

    By your breath-taking logic and your amazing reason, God must be true, how can one argue with 1 200 000 000 hits on Google?

  220. 220
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    There is no need or sense in me making this decision.

    If your standard is based on the reasons of the majority, as you stated earlier, then I am asking you how you decide what is morally wrong if there is a conflict in the majority perspectives presented at different times and places on the same moral problem.

    I judge something to be wrong and deserving of punishment based on reasons that happen to be shared by the majority of people. That doesn’t mean I make that judgement because they are shared by the majority of people.

    The reasons shared by the majority that supported slavery changed when the reasons shared by the majority rejected it. How do you decide which set of reasons should prevail?

    I don’t make my judgement that an action is wrong on the basis of what other people think, so the time and location of those people is irrelevant.

    What happened to you earlier standard based on the reasons held by the majority. You appear to be contradicting yourself about your standard for making moral decisions. I thought we had that issue settled. Now you are reversing course. At this point, I have to ask you all over again. On what do you base your moral judgement? You are not being at all clear about this.

    I have (at least) two problems with this. [The Natural Moral Law]

    OK, we can discuss it.

    1. There are people all around you – atheists and theists – who regularly talk about what is right and wrong and may not even have heard of the NML and will believe things to be right that do not conform to it.

    They [may] mean the same as you (i.e. conforms to NML) and when they say homosexuality is morally right they mean that it conforms to a code they have never heard of! While it may or may not in fact conform to that code – to actually mean that something conforms to a certain code without knowing it is absurd.

    The precepts of the natural moral law are not always clearly understood and immediately perceived. Much of it is contingent on a person’s disposition. While everyone grasps its principles in a primitive way, some may be so disposed that they would prefer not to grow in that knowledge. Others come to understand it gradually.

    Still others may have been brainwashed, as in the case of a suicide bomber, and have lost much of their moral sense of right and wrong. A bad education can have the same effect. Still others are no longer open to the truth because they have become enslaved by a bad habit. Someone who is emotionally invested in financial greed, for example, may feel a sense of reproach when that vice is mentioned and will, as a result, feel a sense of reproach and be less likely to follow the light of reason.

    2. It is part of the logic of moral language that it doesn’t just describe but is also a call to action. If someone said “that’s morally very wrong – but I don’t see that’s a reason for doing anything to prevent it” you would have to say they don’t understand the meaning of “morally wrong”.

    Good point. Yes. One cannot be totally passive and neutral about the adverse consequences of immoral behavior and still remain moral.

    However, it is logically quite sensible to say – that breaks the NML but I don’t see that’s a reason doing anything to prevent it (e.g. because I don’t believe in God).” Any definition of moral words that leaves out the prescriptive element has failed to capture the full meaning.

    I am not sure that I agree with that. A definition of a moral concept would not seem to be the same thing as a call to action. Can you elaborate?

  221. 221
    faded_Glory says:

    Andre,

    The 7.5 million hits are not an argument that evolution of behaviours is true and I did not make that argument.

    I suggested that you take the time to read up a bit on the subject, using some of those links, because your categorical statement that natural selection is incapable to work on behaviours is so far off the mark that you would do well to educate yourself a bit more on the subject before giving your opinions. I am not going to do that here is the space of a few forum posts. You can continue in your misconceptions or you can learn – up to you.

    fG

  222. 222
    faded_Glory says:

    William J. Murray:

    I have stated repeatedly what it would be, theoretically, if it exists; a universal mental/spiritual landscape (so to speak) that can be sensed by the conscience and best interpreted and understood by applying reason to that sensory input.

    That might be what it is, but it doesn’t provide any insights as to what the tenets of this objective morality actually are. Is abortion moral? Homosexuality? White lies? Worshipping Allah? How can you tell?

    So, under my theory, all non-sociopaths are in touch with (or can be) and experience (or can experience) objective morality through their conscience, and can refine that sense or ignore it, and with logic can interpret that input to the degree they have developed their reason.

    The obvious problem is that not everybody agrees on what is moral and what is not. People will have different views from you on many subjects. This could be for three reasons: 1) they have it wrong; 2) you have it wrong; 3) both you and they have it wrong.

    How do you solve this conundrum? I suspect that all you can do is decide that you have a more refined sense than them, therefore you are right and they are wrong. Am I correct?

    If so, you are making yourself the measure of all things moral.

    How is this any different from subjective morality?

    fG

  223. 223
    faded_Glory says:

    Box:

    The moral subjectivists in this thread tend to mention shared values. Relevant or not, somehow they feel that it supports the case for subjective morality.
    Quite the opposite is true: when something is deemed wrong by a vast majority of people it may very well be indicative of a ‘brick wall’ – IOW the existence of an objective moral landscape.

    For clarity, I am not a great fan of the ‘morality by majority’ argument. I believe that someone’s moral compass is deeply personal and an integral part of the person they are, and should not just depend of the environment they live in (although this environment will in reality have had a large influence during the development of one’s morals).

    Sure, if a particular moral view held by a great many people conflicts with your own, this could be a flag that you need to re-think this particular issue. However, in and by itself it should not be the deciding factor to change your views.

    Moral concepts need to stand up to scrutiny on their own, regardless of who else shares them. In my opinion, that is.

    fG

  224. 224
    faded_Glory says:

    StephenB:

    Objective truth does not die or change. If it could change, it wouldn’t be true; if it could die, it wouldn’t be abstract.
    Truth, unlike matter, is not extended in time and space. As an abstract reality, it has no “location.”

    I am not sure why you suddenly use the word ‘truth’. I thought we were discussing morality?

    Anyway, I have a real hard time understanding how something can exist without having a location (although I do realise that QM tells us that there is some fuzziness around this).

    I believe that abstract ideas exist in the human brain when they think about them. They can also be represented in physical media such as books and computers, but to become actual, someone needs to think about them. Without human thought there are no abstract entities, in my view.

    This concept is simple, clear, and agrees with our empirical observations. It avoids the incomprehensible notion that something can exist without ‘being anywhere’.

    fG

  225. 225
    Mark Frank says:

    SB

    If your standard is based on the reasons of the majority, as you stated earlier, then I am asking you how you decide what is morally wrong if there is a conflict in the majority perspectives presented at different times and places on the same moral problem.

    The reasons shared by the majority that supported slavery changed when the reasons shared by the majority rejected it. How do you decide which set of reasons should prevail?

    What happened to you earlier standard based on the reasons held by the majority.

    I don’t know where you got this from. I tried to emphasis that my decision was not based on the what the majority thought. I have my own reasons. It it just so happens that the majority share most of them. I thought I said this three times in different ways.

    At this point, I have to ask you all over again. On what do you base your moral judgement? You are not being at all clear about this.

    You asked me what I meant by morally wrong. This is a different question from what asking on what do I base my moral judgement. Different people based their moral judgement on different things (although they have a lot in common). However, they all mean the same thing by morally right. To give an analogy. Different people find different things beautiful – but they all means the same thing by the word beautiful. To try and summarise very briefly. When I say something is morally wrong I am not describing the thing – I am expressing (not describing) my feelings about it and calling for it to be stopped. That is what it means. I have various reasons for doing this – suffering etc. These are the basis of my moral judgement.

    The precepts of the natural moral law are not always clearly understood and immediately perceived. Much of it is contingent on a person’s disposition. While everyone grasps its principles in a primitive way, some may be so disposed that they would prefer not to grow in that knowledge. Others come to understand it gradually.

    Still others may have been brainwashed, as in the case of a suicide bomber, and have lost much of their moral sense of right and wrong. A bad education can have the same effect. Still others are no longer open to the truth because they have become enslaved by a bad habit. Someone who is emotionally invested in financial greed, for example, may feel a sense of reproach when that vice is mentioned and will, as a result, feel a sense of reproach and be less likely to follow the light of reason.

    These are reasons why people may fail to follow to understand or perceive  the NLM. It doesn’t affect my argument. You appear to agree that people mean the same thing as you when they say something is morally right. Yet some of these people may never have heard of the NLM. How can you mean something you have never heard of?
     

    I am not sure that I agree with that. A definition of a moral concept would not seem to be the same thing as a call to action. Can you elaborate?

    I will try to – but really you need to read Hare.  Moral language is prescriptive, not descriptive. It is asking for/demanding action not just describing whether some thing happens to match some description. Imagine a race that had obtained a copy of the NML (possibly from you!) and noted down whether actions conformed to the NML, called such actions squiggly, but took no other notice of the results i.e. did not act on them in anyway. Would you say that “squiggly” meant “good”? I don’t think so. It just means conforming to the NML.

  226. 226

    faded glory said:

    That might be what it is, but it doesn’t provide any insights as to what the tenets of this objective morality actually are. Is abortion moral? Homosexuality? White lies? Worshipping Allah? How can you tell?

    You can tell by honestly exploring what your conscience tells you using reason and going forward by refining both your conscience and your ability to correctly apply logic. Like the exploration of any natural law commodity, developing a sound moral theory takes time and effort.

    “Tenets” would be interpretations of what the conscience senses in the best terms an individual can express.

    The obvious problem is that not everybody agrees on what is moral and what is not.

    I don’t understand why you would consider this a “problem”; it’s not a problem logically, nor is it a problem functionally as one goes about their moral business. Universal agreement is certainly not required for any practical functioning in the real world on any matter objective or subjective.

    People will have different views from you on many subjects. This could be for three reasons: 1) they have it wrong; 2) you have it wrong; 3) both you and they have it wrong.

    Yes, someone has it wrong. What’s the problem? We cannot live as if everyone’s morality is right, even those which contradict each other, which would be the case under subjective morality.

  227. 227
    Andre says:

    faded_glory

    Nice backtrack lol…… You made the claim. I called your bluff now you make another claim.

  228. 228
    Mapou says:

    Graham2:

    Mapou: You really are a worry.

    I aim to please. 😀

  229. 229
    faded_Glory says:

    Andre,

    It is getting rather tedious to discuss this subject with you. You seem to take some pride in your ignorance.

    However, since I am at heart a helpful person I will give you one link, to a chapter from one of the classical textbooks on behavioural ecology. As it happens, this chapter gives a number of examples of how natural selection works on animal behaviour.

    http://www.zoo.ox.ac.uk/group/.....apter1.pdf

    The rest is up to you.

    fG

  230. 230
    faded_Glory says:

    William J Murray, care to respond also to the remainder of my post?

    How do you solve this conundrum? I suspect that all you can do is decide that you have a more refined sense than them, therefore you are right and they are wrong. Am I correct?
    If so, you are making yourself the measure of all things moral.
    How is this any different from subjective morality?

    fG

  231. 231
    faded_Glory says:

    William J Murray:

    We cannot live as if everyone’s morality is right, even those which contradict each other, which would be the case under subjective morality.

    Subjective morality does not hold that everyone’s morality is right. It merely claims that the source of one’s moral compass lies within a person, and not in some objective outside realm.

    fG

  232. 232
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    I tried to emphasis that my decision was not based on the what the majority thought. I have my own reasons. It it just so happens that the majority share most of them.

    That is what I am asking. What are your reasons for judging an act to be morally wrong? What is the standard for your moral judgments?>

  233. 233
    StephenB says:

    Mark Franl

    Moral language is prescriptive, not descriptive.

    I don’t understand why that must be true. Some moral language is definitive; some is descriptive; some is prescriptive.

    It is asking for/demanding action not just describing whether some thing happens to match some description.

    It may also simply refer to a moral fact. OR, it may entail a definition.

    Imagine a race that had obtained a copy of the NML (possibly from you!) and noted down whether actions conformed to the NML, called such actions squiggly, but took no other notice of the results i.e. did not act on them in anyway. Would you say that “squiggly” meant “good”? I don’t think so. It just means conforming to the NML.

    I am not following your example. How can an “action that conforms to the NML” also be an example of someone who didn’t “act on it, anyway.”

    Just come up with an everyday example of a moral problem, killing, stealing, lying, etc. Relate it to your claim that moral language is always prescriptive.

  234. 234
    StephenB says:

    Faded Glory

    I am not sure why you suddenly use the word ‘truth’. I thought we were discussing morality?

    The natural moral law is an expression of moral truth. It exists, but not as concrete matter.

    Anyway, I have a real hard time understanding how something can exist without having a location (although I do realise that QM tells us that there is some fuzziness around this).

    A good example of things that exist without location would be Justice, fairness, truth, beauty, unity, equality, concepts, virtue, vice etc. They are abstract realities; they are not made of matter. Only something that is made of matter and is extended in time and space can exist at a location.

    Where is truth located? How much does it weigh? What are its dimensions? If you think carefully, you will realize that it has no weight, dimension, or location. If it did, people would have to visit the place to come in contact with it. If it was too heavy, they couldn’t carry it. If it was too bulky, they couldn’t take hold of it. Nevertheless, truth exists as an abstract principle.

  235. 235
    kairosfocus says:

    FG, there are moral truths that are knowable, even to self evident certainty in certain cases. Try, it IS wrong and evil to kidnap, bind, torture, sexually abuse and murder a young child. Try, cor., it is our duty to try to stop such and rescue the child were we to come across this in progress. KF

  236. 236
    Graham2 says:

    KF: Don’t tell us, tell all those catholic priests.

  237. 237
    faded_Glory says:

    StephenB:

    A good example of things that exist without location would be Justice, fairness, truth, beauty, unity, equality, concepts, virtue, vice etc. They are abstract realities; they are not made of matter. Only something that is made of matter and is extended in time and space can exist at a location.
    Where is truth located? How much does it weigh? What are its dimensions? If you think carefully, you will realize that it has no weight, dimension, or location. If it did, people would have to visit the place to come in contact with it. If it was too heavy, they couldn’t carry it. If it was too bulky, they couldn’t take hold of it. Nevertheless, truth exists as an abstract principle.


    Abstractions cannot actually be found anywhere in the world except in people’s thoughts and intercourse, and, as a derivation of this, in recorded media such as books etc.

    Therefore, it is reasonable to hold that abstractions are real, and that they exist as mental processes, i.e. thoughts, in the brains of people at the times when they are thinking about them. Being thoughts, they are not material but rather processes between material entities such as the neurons of a brain.

    I find it literally incomprehensible that abstractions would somehow have a separate existence outside of this realm.

    fG

  238. 238
    Graham2 says:

    WJM @243: You can tell by honestly exploring what your conscience tells you using reason and going forward by refining both your conscience and your ability to correctly apply logic

    Just repeating what FG has already said, this is nothing more than a plea for subjective morality. Took a while, but you got there.

  239. 239
    Mark Frank says:

    SB #249

    What are your reasons for judging an act to be morally wrong? What is the standard for your moral judgments?

    I think I have answered this before but here goes again. I think “standard” is the wrong word – that implies a top down inflexible criterion. I prefer reasons. My reasons for judging something morally good or bad are various. Let’s take bad – causes suffering, unfair (in the sense of giving rewards or pain unequally for no reason), failure to meet commitments – there are probably others I haven’t thought about.
    SB #250

    I don’t understand why that must be true. Some moral language is definitive; some is descriptive; some is prescriptive.
    It may also simply refer to a moral fact. OR, it may entail a definition.

    This is best addressed by the example below.

    MF: Imagine a race that had obtained a copy of the NML (possibly from you!) and noted down whether actions conformed to the NML, called such actions squiggly, but took no other notice of the results i.e. did not act on them in anyway. Would you say that “squiggly” meant “good”? I don’t think so. It just means conforming to the NML.

    SB: I am not following your example. How can an “action that conforms to the NML” also be an example of someone who didn’t “act on it, anyway.”

    Just come up with an everyday example of a moral problem, killing, stealing, lying, etc. Relate it to your claim that moral language is always prescriptive.

    Let me try to be more specific. This race (quite possibly alien)  observes mankind going about its business. It has a copy of the natural moral code and being thorough types they note down acts that are against the code – murder, robbery, being late for dinner parties etc – and also acts that conform the code – saving people from drowning, giving to charity, abstaining from smelly food on trains. (noting down moral facts if you like) They call the first type wiggly acts and the second type squiggly. However, they are not at all excited or concerned about whether an act is wiggly or squiggly and take no measures to encourage or deter them. The words wiggly and squiggly exactly match your definitions of morally bad and morally good. However, I am sure you will agree they are not using the words with the same meaning as we do. It is part of calling something morally right or wrong, good or bad, that it expresses your reaction and that you encourage or deter that type of thing.

    I think there is a chink of an opportunity for closing the gap between us here.

    If you understand and accept that there is a prescriptive element to moral judgements then I think the key differences between us are:

    * I take the prescriptive element as being what defines morality. The descriptive element is just whatever leads to that prescriptive reaction. It varies from one person to another although as a matter of fact a core of similar things lead to that prescriptive reaction in most people.

    * You think morality must include a descriptive element as well and that specifically that descriptive element is “to what extent does X conform to the NML”. And that people (sometimes without knowing it) are trying to describe how closely something corresponds to the NML when they make moral judgements (as well as doing the prescriptive bit) – although may do this badly for various reasons.

    It seems to that the observed results would be very similar in both cases although I am still a bit confused how people can be trying to describe how something conforms to a code they have never heard of or seen – but maybe that’s where God comes in.

  240. 240
    faded_Glory says:

    Hm, let me try that again then:

    http://www.zoo.ox.ac.uk/group/.....apter1.pdf

    Hopefully this will work now.

    fG

  241. 241
    faded_Glory says:

    Bah, the HTML tag is not working properly.

    You can try copy and paste this URL:

    http://www.zoo.ox.ac.uk/group/.....apter1.pdf

    fG

    Edited to add: I think this one works now.

  242. 242

    Graham2:

    Just repeating what FG has already said, this is nothing more than a plea for subjective morality. Took a while, but you got there.

    No, it’s not. They are two entirely different things.

  243. 243

    faded_glory said:

    How do you solve this conundrum?

    That some people are right about some things, and others are wrong, is not a “conundrum”; it’s a fact inherent to all objective phenomena that are being imperfectly sensed and interpreted by subjective viewers.

    I suspect that all you can do is decide that you have a more refined sense than them, therefore you are right and they are wrong. Am I correct?

    Certainly not. There is always the potential for error. Sometimes differences between objective morality perspectives can be resolved; sometimes they cannot, but those arguments are worth making (necessary consequences) and at least offer the potential that a person can reason that their view is incorrect. Subjective morality doesn’t offer those capacities. Subjective morality cannot be “wrong”, and such arguments aren’t worth making (outside of selfishly wanting others to behave as you do).

    If so, you are making yourself the measure of all things moral.

    I certainly don’t hold myself to be a very good assessor of what is moral – my moral compass, my conscience, suffered far too much damage during my atheist/materialist days for me to put much faith in my capacity to state anything other than the morally self-evident and the morally necessary.

    I strive to be good enough. That’s about it.

    How is this any different from subjective morality?

    Perhaps you are thinking that there is some operational difference or some result difference I’m claiming will occur if someone accepts that morality refers to an objective commodity.

    If so, then you haven’t been paying attention at all. Try and understand this: everyone except sociopaths already acts and lives as if morality is an objective commodity. I’ve said this several times now; apparently, you don’t comprehend what it means.

    IOW, sociopaths demonstrate what it means to actually live as a logically consistent moral subjectivist. Everyone else demonstrates the panoply of behaviors that are consistent with moral objectivity under the guidance of free will and various levels of reasoning and introspective capacity, even if they don’t believe in objective morality and free will.

    What you refer to as “subjective morality”, probably in reference to your own views and behaviors and those of other such self-styled moral subjectivists, is not subjective morality at all, but rather objective morality dressed up with misleading terms and phrases that serve anti-theistic ideological bias.

    I’m not making the case that others should become moral objectivists; I’m making the case that you’re already a de facto moral objectivist essentially living in denial.

  244. 244
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    I prefer reasons.

    OK.

    My reasons for judging something morally good or bad are various. Let’s take bad – causes suffering, unfair (in the sense of giving rewards or pain unequally for no reason), failure to meet commitments – there are probably others I haven’t thought about.

    Yes, I understand, but that seems to beg the question. Taking it back one step, what are your reasons for thinking suffering is a bad thing? My reasons are clear. A suffering person lacks some objective good that he ought to have, ie. sustenance, health, or peace of mind. But you don’t believe that any such thing as an objective good exists. So, I don’t understand your reason for thinking that suffering is a bad thing.

    Also, we have the same problem with your second reason. To say that something is “unfair,” is equally problematic for a subjectivist. As a proponent of the NML, I can say that something is unfair because it doesn’t conform to an objective standard of justice. But you don’t believe that any such standard exists, so your notion of fairness would have to be totally arbitrary and based on whim.

    Under the circumstances, then, I would say that your “reasons” aren’t really reasons. I think they are just personal preferences or feelings.

    Let me try to be more specific. This race (quite possibly alien) observes mankind going about its business. It has a copy of the natural moral code and being thorough types they note down acts that are against the code – murder, robbery, being late for dinner parties etc – and also acts that conform the code – saving people from drowning, giving to charity, abstaining from smelly food on trains. (noting down moral facts if you like) They call the first type wiggly acts and the second type squiggly. However, they are not at all excited or concerned about whether an act is wiggly or squiggly and take no measures to encourage or deter them. The words wiggly and squiggly exactly match your definitions of morally bad and morally good. However, I am sure you will agree they are not using the words with the same meaning as we do. It is part of calling something morally right or wrong, good or bad, that it expresses your reaction and that you encourage or deter that type of thing.

    If the aliens in question understand that conforming to the NML is a good thing and that flouting it is a bad thing, then it seems to me that they are using different words to say the same thing that I say. If they don’t get excited about it, it is because they are not part of the drama. If humans practice virtue and love each other, the aliens will not be edified, if humans fall into vice and hate each other, the aliens will not be harmed. What is there to get excited about?

    In any case, what are the consequences of believing that all moral language is prescriptive or is not prescriptive? How will it change the human drama either way? It seems like a useless academic exercise to me–something that was conceived to avoid the real moral issues.

  245. 245
    Graham2 says:

    SB: But you don’t believe that any such thing as an objective good exists

    This really is annoying. Could you tell us 2 things:

    (a) Where does an objective good come from ?
    (b) Your evidence for this.

  246. 246
    Andre says:

    faded_glory

    You said;

    Finally, of course natural selection can work on immaterial things. Animal behaviour has a direct influence on their reproductive success. Come to think of it, so does human behaviour.

    I said, show me this evidence! Then you said you don’t think it true but I should check it out anyway….. Did you ever consider that I have? Did you ever consider that for the most part of my life I did actually believe this tripe but when I applied my mind and studied it in detail I came to the conclusion that it is just fluff……. That is what Darwinism is, its fluff and its a distraction of the mind, that has to actually at sometime confront the hard question?

    Why is there something rather than nothing?

  247. 247
    Mark Frank says:

    SB #263
     
    I am slightly disappointed. I have done the “morality is objective” argument hundreds of times on UD over the years and have recently avoided it because it gets repetitive. I stuck with it this time because I thought we might actually move on but some how it has slipped back into the same ruts. However, you are being very polite and listening so I will go on for a bit.

    Yes, I understand, but that seems to beg the question. Taking it back one step, what are your reasons for thinking suffering is a bad thing? My reasons are clear. A suffering person lacks some objective good that he ought to have, ie. sustenance, health, or peace of mind. But you don’t believe that any such thing as an objective good exists. So, I don’t understand your reason for thinking that suffering is a bad thing.
    Also, we have the same problem with your second reason. To say that something is “unfair,” is equally problematic for a subjectivist. As a proponent of the NML, I can say that something is unfair because it doesn’t conform to an objective standard of justice. But you don’t believe that any such standard exists, so your notion of fairness would have to be totally arbitrary and based on whim.

    Under the circumstances, then, I would say that your “reasons” aren’t really reasons. I think they are just personal preferences or feelings.

    Yes they are feelings (the word “just” rather belittles them) – feelings that I really don’t want people and animals to suffer, feelings that I want rewards and punishments to be distributed equally unless there is reason not to, feelings that I want people to keep to their commitments. That is what subjectivism means. It doesn’t mean those feelings are trivial. I think you know the next step in the argument. If you define “good” as conforming to the NML or fulfilling God’s purpose of whatever – why do you want to do it? In the end the reasons have to stop somewhere. My reasons stop at “avoid suffering etc”, yours stop at “conform to the NML”. The subjectivist position is that in both cases this is morality. But we have been over this many, many times before I know the moves in the debate.  The next bit is more novel ….
     

    If the aliens in question understand that conforming to the NML is a good thing and that flouting it is a bad thing, then it seems to me that they are using different words to say the same thing that I say. If they don’t get excited about it, it is because they are not part of the drama. If humans practice virtue and love each other, the aliens will not be edified, if humans fall into vice and hate each other, the aliens will not be harmed. What is there to get excited about?

    But I didn’t say they understand that conforming to the NML is a good thing. They just have words for conforming to the NML – period.  They don’t see any particular interest or importance to conforming to the NML – it just part of their growing library of observations about human behaviour. They have not even noticed that people seem to get excited about whether other people   conform or not.  So in this circumstance are the words wiggly and squiggly equivalent to “morally bad” and “morally good”, or have they missed an essential element? And if so, what is it?
     

    In any case, what are the consequences of believing that all moral language is prescriptive or is not prescriptive? How will it change the human drama either way? It seems like a useless academic exercise to me–something that was conceived to avoid the real moral issues.

    Because what I am trying to demonstrate is that the human drama – the prescriptive element – the encouraging and discouraging – is absolutely core to morality. Morality is a part of the way we live not an objective property. I am not trying to avoid moral issues but (for me at least) this is a meta-discussion about what kind of thing moral issues are. To give an analogy – we are debating the rules of chess not  chess strategy.

  248. 248
    faded_Glory says:

    Andre,

    I said, show me this evidence!

    I pointed you to some of the evidence in the link to the textbook by Davies, Krebs and West. There is a lot more out there.

    Out of interest, Nature had a glowing review of this book here:
    http://www.zoo.ox.ac.uk/group/.....Review.pdf

    Why is there something rather than nothing?

    I don’t know and neither do you.

    fG

  249. 249
    faded_Glory says:

    William J Murray:

    Try and understand this: everyone except sociopaths already acts and lives as if morality is an objective commodity. I’ve said this several times now; apparently, you don’t comprehend what it means.

    IOW, sociopaths demonstrate what it means to actually live as a logically consistent moral subjectivist. Everyone else demonstrates the panoply of behaviors that are consistent with moral objectivity under the guidance of free will and various levels of reasoning and introspective capacity, even if they don’t believe in objective morality and free will.

    What you refer to as “subjective morality”, probably in reference to your own views and behaviors and those of other such self-styled moral subjectivists, is not subjective morality at all, but rather objective morality dressed up with misleading terms and phrases that serve anti-theistic ideological bias.

    I’m not making the case that others should become moral objectivists; I’m making the case that you’re already a de facto moral objectivist essentially living in denial.

    I think I see where the problem lies. From the above I understand that you believe that subjective morality is:

    1. the position that there exists no objective moral standard outside of the human mind,

    2. that every person has their own moral standard,

    3. that these are all different to some degree,

    4. and and that these are all equally valid.

    -which leads to the logical problem that nobody has the right to critisise anyone else’s moral standards. However, subjectivists still do this, so they are not real subjectivists even if they claim otherwise.

    Do I get this right?

    It is perhaps time to get a bit more technical about our concepts and definitions. Wikipedia has a page about Moral Relativism which seems to cover what we here call Subjective Morality.

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

    They describe three subsets of Moral Relativism:

    a. Descriptive moral relativism holds only that some people do in fact disagree about what is moral.

    b. Meta-ethical moral relativism holds that in such disagreements, nobody is objectively right or wrong.

    c. Normative moral relativism holds that because nobody is right or wrong, we ought to tolerate the behavior of others even when we disagree about the morality of it.

    I would argue that descriptive moral relativism (a) is a fact of life. Sure, there may be people whose acts go against their own sense of right and wrong, but in many cases the perpetrators of what we consider crimes do sincerely believe that they act for the moral good. Violent religious and political conflicts would be prime examples of this.

    What the moral subjectivists in the discussion here are arguing for is meta-ethical moral relativism (b) – when different people have different moral values, nobody is objectively wrong. This is because there exists no objective standard of morality outside of the individual’s minds.

    What you are arguing is that normative moral relativism ( c) follows logically from (b), but that in practice nobody acts as if ( c) is true, which makes their position logically inconsistent.

    I agree with you that in practice nobody (or very few) will act as if ( c) is true. What I disagree with is that ( c) follows logically from (b). If it doesn’t, there is no logical problem with meta-ethical moral relativism (i.e. subjective morality as I use the term), and in fact it corresponds closer to observed reality because we all know that it is true that different people have different concepts of right and wrong, and also the challenge of demonstrating the existence of an objective moral standard has never been met (you agree with the latter since you only assume it exists).

    So now I challenge you to demonstrate why normative moral relativism ( c) has to follow logically from meta-ethical moral relativism (b). Can you do that?

    fG

  250. 250
    Mark Frank says:

    #268 FG

    Nice clear comment (I wish we had a like button)

  251. 251
    faded_Glory says:

    Just to add a clarification.

    Personally, I don’t really bother to judge other people’s moral standards. What they think and believe about good and bad is none of my business and doesn’t really affect me. In my view, freedom of thought is more absolute even than freedom of speech.

    What I do criticise and judge, and what I may activate against, is their actions insofar as those negatively affect the welfare of myself, the ones I care about, and other innocent people. If such actions go against my moral standards I criticise them not only because of their negative effect but also because of their negative intent.

    I believe that all people have the right to do this. In no way does this mean that therefore I somehow lose that right myself when there is a conflict in moral viewpoints.

    fG

  252. 252
    Andre says:

    In my view, freedom of thought is more absolute even than freedom of speech.

    Lay of the sci-fi juice for a bit, you speak as if thoughts are somehow material things that can be controlled……

    Seriously neither you nor anybody else in the existence of the universe can read or control thought……..

    Atheists say the darnest things!

  253. 253
    Alicia Renard says:

    Echoing Mark Frank, faded_Glory neatly encapsulates the fallacy in WJM’s thinking.

    William, I too would be interested in seeing your response to

    So now I challenge you to demonstrate why normative moral relativism ( c) has to follow logically from meta-ethical moral relativism (b). Can you do that?

  254. 254
    Andre says:

    faded_glory

    I’ve given your recommendation a reading, now before I begin to highlight the problem, I need to make a comment, I can do this because I’ve got the relevant experience. Atheists and materialist are the most superstitious people you will ever meet, I am certain this is the case because on an intellectual level they don’t really understand how to differentiate fact from fiction. Why do I say that? Well let me show you and once you’ve master this trick you will be well on your way to become a recovering Darwinist.

    From your book;

    In terms of evolutionary history or phylogeny. This answer would be about how song had evolved in starlings from their avian ancestors. The most primitive living birds make very simple sounds, so it is reasonable to assume that the complex songs of starlings and other song birds have evolved from simpler ancestral calls.

    Imagine a species of bird in which a female lays two eggs and there is no over-exploitation
    of the food resources. Suppose the tendency to lay two eggs is inherited. Now consider a mutant that lays three eggs. Since the population is not over-exploiting its food supplies, there will be plenty of food for the young and because the three-egg genotype produces 50% more offspring it will rapidly increase at the expense of the two-egg genotype.

    What he attempted to explain was how adaptation ,could have arisen without a creator or, put another way, how you could get the appearance of design without a designer.

    So lets look at this paper…..

    We have;

    Assumptions, imagine, could, suppose…..

    These are not empirical observations are they? No they are just fluff conjured in the minds of people that really wish they could explain away design in nature. This book is also a religious work and not scientific at all because it is promoting naturalism which really is just another belief system, like Buddhism, Hindi or Christianity.

    You are gullible because you don’t know what to look for. Try my advice the next time you read a paper look for these words and instead of swallowing up the nonsense as Gospel truth question it, and hold onto the good.

  255. 255
    Andre says:

    I’ll give you another example

    On the Origin of Species

    Chapter 1: Variation under domestication

    Assume used 4 times
    Suppose used 9 times
    Imagine used 1 time
    Believe used 23 times

    Chapter 2: Variation under Nature

    Assume used 1 time
    Suppose used 5 times
    Imagine not used
    Believe used 4 times

    Chapter 3: Struggle for existence

    Assume used 1 time
    Suppose used 1 time
    Imagine used 1 time
    Believe used 8 times

    Chapter 4: Natural Selection

    Assume used 3 times
    Suppose used 35 times
    Imagine not used
    Believe used 30 times

    You can do this exercise yourself. When a paper uses “suppose” 35 times and “believe” 30 times in its chapter that explains the fundamental aspect of its theory the alarm bells should go off………

  256. 256
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    Yes they are feelings (the word “just” rather belittles them) – feelings that I really don’t want people and animals to suffer, feelings that I want rewards and punishments to be distributed equally unless there is reason not to, feelings that I want people to keep to their commitments. That is what subjectivism means. It doesn’t mean those feelings are trivial.

    Surely, you can grasp the problem here, Mark. Think back on our journey. Literally hundreds of times we have pointed out that subjective morality is not and cannot be grounded in reason. It is based solely on the subjectivist’s feelings, preferences, and personal biases.

    You beg to differ, insisting that the subjectivist’s view on morality is misunderstood. In that context, you say that you can present reasons to support such notions, and you ask only that we give you a fair hearing. It seems to me that I have given you ample opportunity to make your case, but it is clear that the arguments presented have no substance.

    In the early part, you placed a heavy emphasis on the majority view only to tell me later that you don’t base your views on other people’s reasons. Very well. Naturally, I reverted back to the same question that I have been asking all along: What, then, are your reasons for believing in subjective morality?

    In response, you stated that two important elements of your subjectivist reasoning involve an antipathy to suffering and injustice. The real question, though, as I continue to point out, is this: Why, in your judgment, are suffering and injustice bad things. What are your “reasons” for saying that they are bad?

    To be sure, I know why they are bad: As an advocate of objective morality and the natural moral law, I know that “bad” means an absence of some objective good. Suffering is an absence of sustenance, health, or peace of mind, and injustice is an absence of justice; that is what makes them bad things. Those are reasons, not feelings

    By contrast, you don’t believe that any such thing as an objective good exists, so you cannot say that suffering and injustice are bad things on the grounds they represent a lack of some objective good. As it turns out, you really don’t have any rationale for saying that these things are bad. You can say that these things exist, but you can pass no judgment on their moral or ontological worth because you have no rational means of making that assessment. In the final analysis, your antipathy toward them is based solely on your feelings. You don’t “like” suffering and injustice, but you really can’t say anything against them. You cannot say that they “ought not to be”

    So this is where we are. After yet another marathon discussion with its bizarre twists and turns, you finally acknowledge that we were right all along. Your philosophy is based on feelings, not reasons. As you put it,

    Yes they are feelings (the word “just” rather belittles them) – feelings that I really don’t want people and animals to suffer, feelings that I want rewards and punishments to be distributed equally unless there is reason not to, feelings that I want people to keep to their commitments. That is what subjectivism means. It doesn’t mean those feelings are trivial.

    Notice, though, that even when you call things by their right name, that is, when you indicate that your morality is based on your feelings, not your “reasons.” you immediately and abruptly move the goalposts again and start discussing other people’s feelings, as if that were relevant to your argument (though, as we have discovered, it isn’t really an argument at all, it is a conviction based on your personal feelings, not others’ feelings).

    I think you know the next step in the argument. If you define “good” as conforming to the NML or fulfilling God’s purpose of whatever – why do you want to do it?

    The answer to this question should be obvious. When we do good, we contribute to our good and the good of others. Yes, for Christians, God’s otherworldly purposes loom large, but good actions also make this world a better place while bad actions cause the very things you disdain, suffering and injustice. Indeed, that is one of the reasons (not the only reason) that they are bad.

    In the end the reasons have to stop somewhere. My reasons stop at “avoid suffering etc”, yours stop at “conform to the NML”.

    No, no, no. The Natural Moral Law is a means to an end; it is not an end in itself. The purpose of the natural moral law is to foster happiness and eliminate unnecessary suffering. The Natural Moral Law, the Ten Commandments, and the Sermon on the Mount serve as the instruction manual for human beings. They teach us how to love. It isn’t solely about “feeling love,” though that is a good thing. It is about performing loving actions based on realistic and objective standards that define what it means to love in a selfless way.

    The purpose for putting oil in your car is to keep in running smoothly and prevent it from ruin; the purpose of the natural moral law is to keep your life running smoothly and prevent you from ruin. The purpose of your car is not to drink oil. Its purpose is to serve you. Your purpose is not to follow laws. Your purpose is to love others and be happy. (Most of all, it is to love God, but you are not ready for that yet).

    …the prescriptive element – the encouraging and discouraging – is absolutely core to morality. Morality is a part of the way we live not an objective property. I am not trying to avoid moral issues but (for me at least) this is a meta-discussion about what kind of thing moral issues are. To give an analogy – we are debating the rules of chess not chess strategy.

    Morality is a set of principles that bind us to act morally, which would certainly include the elements of encouraging and discouraging. But it also includes many other things such as enduring and waiting. Should we, therefore, define morality as a principle that includes action imperatives like enduring and waiting? No, there is a lot to it than that, just as there is a lot more to it that encouraging and discouraging.

    Accordingly, I think your attempt to conflate the principle with the action and make it all of one piece is misguided. A principle is a principle and an action is an action; a principle is not an action. This is why we have language, to make distinctions. It is a misuse of language to call one thing by another name. In ethics and religion, orthodoxy (correct belief) is distinguished from Orthopraxy (right action). It would be a terrible intellectual error to define one as the other or conflate them into a single unit. Yes, they are related, but they are not the same thing.

    There are many corollaries implicit in individual moral principles that can be illuminated by the natural moral law. “Thou Shalt Not Steal,” also means, “Thou Shalt Be Generous.” It also means, “Thou Shalt Love THY Neighbor Such That You Wouldn’t Dream of Taking Away His Goods.” It is much more important to probe morality at its deepest level so we can know how to translate these laws into loving actions. The last thing we need to do is conflate them with specific action imperatives, such as encouraging and discouraging–imperatives that are already implied in the principle anyway, while excluding other action imperatives that are equally important, such as enduring, waiting, rebuking, supporting, protecting, educating, training, loving, sacrificing etc. The list is almost endless.

  257. 257
    Mark Frank says:

    SB

    When I read what you have written I despair at Internet debates as a means of communication. It feels like all the thousands of words I have written in the last few days have been wasted. No doubt you have similar feelings about what you have written. Looking through your comments I think I should try once more to explain my position and then pick up a couple of specific misunderstandings.

    Also I would very much like to know your response to this question I raised last time with respect to the aliens who have words for “conform to the moral law”.

    They just have words for conforming to the NML – period.  They don’t see any particular interest or importance to conforming to the NML – it just part of their growing library of observations about human behaviour. They have not even noticed that people seem to get excited about whether other people   conform or not.  So in this circumstance are the words wiggly and squiggly equivalent to “morally bad” and “morally good”, or have they missed an essential element? And if so, what is it?

      My position is that

      a) I have reasons for specific moral judgements such as using 10 year old girls as suicide bombers is evil.

      b) Those reasons are things like the suffering involved.

      c) For any reason X, logically you can always ask “and  why  is X bad?” So you can ask why is suffering bad? (This is another way of putting Hume’s is/ought gap and it applies to any reason you might offer as well).

      d) However, the chain has to stop somewhere. For me it stops at a collection of things like “causes suffering”. If you really have to question why suffering is bad (and I don’t think you do) then we are so far apart in our moral feelings that no kind of debate would be possible on a specific moral issue.

      e) Those end-points are my subjective feelings. So I have a passionate subjective feeling that I want suffering to be minimised. I don’t find anything wrong with that. In the end all action is powered by feelings. Reason can help you understand the consequences of what you do – it can’t tell you what you want to do.

      f) You might legitimately ask what distinguishes those moral feelings from other feelings such as I want to be comfortable and loved. This is the hardest question because the best way to describe them is that they are moral  feelings which is circular. They are a loosely connected set of feelings that are to do with the satisfaction of sacrificing my personal comforts to see others benefit – but that does not do justice to them.

      Now for a couple of specific misunderstandings.

    In the early part, you placed a heavy emphasis on the majority view only to tell me later that you don’t base your views on other people’s reasons.

    I only mentioned the majority view in order to explain why is was not the basis of subjective morality. I really don’t know where you got this from.

     

    So this is where we are. After yet another marathon discussion with its bizarre twists and turns, you finally acknowledge that we were right all along. Your philosophy is based on feelings, not reasons.

    As I hope I have explained above my philosophy is based on both – my reasons are feelings.

    Notice, though, that even when you call things by their right name, that is, when you indicate that your morality is based on your feelings, not your “reasons.” you immediately and abruptly move the goalposts again and start discussing other people’s feelings, as if that were relevant to your argument (though, as we have discovered, it isn’t really an argument at all, it is a conviction based on your personal feelings, not others’ feelings).

    Where did this come from? I only discussed other people’s feelings in the sense that they contribute to their moral judgements just as mine contribute to mine.

    The answer to this question should be obvious. When we do good, we contribute to our good and the good of others.

    I think you may be in danger of playing on words here. When you write “our good and the good of others” do you mean what you approve of as morally good or do you mean things like our comfort and happiness? If the former, this is circular. If the latter, I ask “And why is that morally good?”.

    They teach us how to love. It isn’t solely about “feeling love,” though that is a good thing. It is about performing loving actions based on realistic and objective standards that define what it means to love in a selfless way.

    So why is performing loving actions in selfless way morally good?

    Your purpose is to love others and be happy. (Most of all, it is to love God, but you are not ready for that yet).

    So why is fulfilling my purpose, loving others and loving God morally good?

    Morality is a set of principles that bind us to act morally, which would certainly include the elements of encouraging and discouraging. But it also includes many other things such as enduring and waiting. Should we, therefore, define morality as a principle that includes action imperatives like enduring and waiting? No, there is a lot to it than that, just as there is a lot more to it that encouraging and discouraging.

    I did not mean to limit the actions associated with moral behaviour to encouraging and discouraging – only to use them as examples. It is an interesting discussion as to which actions are essential parts of morality and which are just loosely associated. Which leads me back to the question at the top.

  258. 258
    faded_Glory says:

    Andre,

    It is a pity that all you take away from the biological work in the linked textbook is that at times biologists make assumptions.

    Making assumptions, drawing provisional conclusions and formulating hypotheses are fundamental parts of the scientific method. The crux is that the biologists don’t leave it at that – they then devise experiments that can either confirm or reject their proposed hypotheses.

    You seem not to have noticed the abundance of observations, facts and experimental analyses that are also clearly presented in that chapter.

    Let me highlight a few:

    Thus, in Drosophila different individual foraging behaviours are caused by differences in alleles of the for gene, while in honeybees the switch in behaviour within individuals is caused by changes in for gene expression.

    —————————

    Males produce a courtship song by vibrating their wings and the temporal pattern of the song varies between species. Breeding experiments and molecular genetic analysis reveal that these differences in song structure are caused by differences in the period gene.
    Transfer of a small piece of the period gene from D.simulans to D. melanogaster causes melanogaster males to produce the simulans song rather than melanogaster song

    ——————————-
    Variation in the same gene controls colour in the rock pocket mouse (Chaetodipus intermedius). In the Pinacate desert of Arizona, the mouse occurs in two colour forms. Dark, melanic mice live on black lava flows while sandy coloured mice live in sandy, desert habitat. There is selective predation by owls against mice which do not match their background (Nachman et al ., 2003)

    ——————-
    Peter Berthold and colleagues have investigated the genetic basis for migration distance and direction in blackcaps, Sylvia atricapilla (Fig. 1.3a). Populations in southern Germany are highly migratory while those in the Canary Islands are sedentary. When birds from these two populations were cross-bred in aviaries, their offspring showed intermediate migratory restlessness, suggesting genetic control (Fig. 1.3b). Selection experiments confirmed that there was a genetic basis to differences in migration behaviour.

    There is more.

    Are you still claiming that natural selection cannot act on behaviours, even after you have been shown the evidence that certain behaviours are genetically determined?

    fG

  259. 259
    StephenB says:

    Mark, I don’t think it is possible to have a rational discussion with you. It is a waste of time to try. Adios.

  260. 260
    faded_Glory says:

    Andre:


    Seriously neither you nor anybody else in the existence of the universe can read or control thought……..


    Indeed, that appears to be the case.

    This has never stopped authoritarian institutions from trying to outlaw dissenting thought, though. History is rife with examples such as the Church, Islamic authorities, fascist dictatorships, communist regimes and others telling people what they are and are not allowed to think on pain of serious sanction, including death.

    If only everybody would agree that thoughts cannot be controlled and it is therefore futile to introduce rules and laws that try to do just that, the world would be a better place. Don’t you think so?

    fG

  261. 261
    Mark Frank says:

    #278 SB

    Mark, I don’t think it is possible to have a rational discussion with you. It is a waste of time to try. Adios.

    That is fair enough and will stop me being distracted from my job. I like to think that as a good Christian you have the humility to share the blame for that failure. I certainly recognise my share – I struggle to communicate my ideas clearly and concisely and I often fail to understand yours.

  262. 262
    Andre says:

    faded_glory

    Different genes is not a evolutionary or Darwinian truth claim. It is a biological observation.

  263. 263
    Andre says:

    MF

    Shame on you for playing the you are a bad Christian card……

  264. 264
    Andre says:

    faded_glory

    And atheist regimes are the beacons of hope for the world right?

  265. 265

    faded_glory said:

    So now I challenge you to demonstrate why normative moral relativism ( c) has to follow logically from meta-ethical moral relativism (b). Can you do that?

    Well, if we’re going to start employing some technical terminology, you might start out by getting the terminology right; my argument is about moral subjectivism vs moral objectivism. The only tangential thing it has to do with moral relativism is that I consider all moral relativists to be, when it comes down to it, moral subjectivists.

    More on this later.

  266. 266
    faded_Glory says:

    Andre,

    Let’s remind ourselves where this conversation started.

    You claimed in post 135:

    If you make such outlandish claims you need to back it up with evidence. Non morality can not evolve into morality. Natural selection can not act on anything immaterial.

    to counter my statement that animal behaviour can evolve, and potentially be a factor in the development of morality, or at least some elements of it, over the course of evolutionary history. To back up my statement I then pointed you to a biology textbook that contains real examples of how at least some animal behaviours are genetically controlled.

    Therefore, natural selection can, and does, indeed affect behaviours through elimination or reinforcement of genes that contribute to animal behaviour.

    I take it that this subject is now satisfactorily resolved.

    fG

  267. 267
    faded_Glory says:

    William J Murray,

    There may be be some confusion about terminology. In this discussion when I use the term ‘Subjective Morality’ I pretty much mean a combination of what the Wikipedia page calls ‘descriptive moral relativism’ and ‘meta-ethical moral relativism’:

    a. Descriptive moral relativism holds only that some people do in fact disagree about what is moral.

    b. Meta-ethical moral relativism holds that in such disagreements, nobody is objectively right or wrong.

    A corrollary of this is that moral concepts reside in the minds of people and nowhere else.

    On the other hand, when I refer to objective morality I am talking about the existence of a moral standard ‘somewhere’ (without a specified location) independent of human minds.

    If you mean something different with these terms we may have been talking at cross-purpose.

    fG

  268. 268
    Andre says:

    faded_glory

    Perhaps you are mistaken about something. I am not anti-evolution. Let us clear that up. There is such a thing as evolution, but is not the blind watchmaker one. I would say that I’m aligned with Alfred Wallace. Hope that helps before you assume incorrectly again.

    Natural selection is not the force you hope it to be. It is capable of some changes but tends to break things more than it builds.

  269. 269
    Andre says:

    It is not resolved. In the old days natural selection was deemed so powerful it even replaced God. We are now in the 21st century and our view about what natural selection can do is waning. Perhaps it’s time for you to do some reading on the subject?

  270. 270
  271. 271
    StephenB says:

    Mark

    I like to think that as a good Christian you have the humility to share the blame for that failure. I certainly recognise my share – I struggle to communicate my ideas clearly and concisely and I often fail to understand yours.

    OK. Let us part in peace.

  272. 272
    Andre says:

    faded_glory

    Did you read the paper? Did you spot it? If not I highlighted the issue……

    It says;

    Natural selection is based on the assumption that in nature there is a constant struggle for survival. It favours organisms with traits that best enable them to cope with pressures exerted by the environment. At the end of this struggle, the strongest ones, the ones most suited to natural conditions, survive. For example, in a herd of deer under threat from predators, those individuals that can run fastest will naturally survive. As a consequence, the herd of deer will eventually consist of only fast-running individuals.

    If you think these guys are just making a mistake….. How about this one?

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.....4/abstract

    Natural selection has always been assumed to be the major force of evolution, but its presence has been difficult to demonstrate. A review of the evidence for selective differences among genotypes for most human genetic polymorphisms indicates there is little of a direct nature. Indirect theoretical evidence, however, seems to support a major role for natural selection, and it does not seem to support the hypothesis that most amino acid substitutions within the human species are neutral.

    So faded_glory before you come here and make statements on the truthfulness of Natural selection and behaviour maybe you like Darwin should stop assuming things, rather give us testable and verifiable evidence that supports your assumptions.

    Please

  273. 273
    Zachriel says:

    Andre: How about this one? http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.....4/abstract

    The paper is more than thirty years old and primarily concerns human evolution. From the paper,

    Many other indirect kinds of evidence have been used to detect, if not measure, selection… Although these correlations are good evidence for selection, there seems to be no method to estimate directly its magnitude or effect.

    Since then, there have been many studies that directly measure natural selection in natural populations.

    Andre: Natural selection is based on the assumption that in nature there is a constant struggle for survival.

    Is that not a reasonable assumption?

    Andre: On the Origin of Species, Chapter 1: Variation under domestication

    Assume used 4 times
    Suppose used 9 times
    Imagine used 1 time
    Believe used 23 times

    You do understand that a scientific hypothesis is an assumption, meaning that virtually every scientific paper ever written starts with an assumption?

  274. 274
    Andre says:

    Zachriel you should know better by now, no doubt your chemical reactions from goo via the zoo to you are not fit for truth……. only survival.

    Its 2007 so lets see…..

    2007 – 1859 = 148 years

    Ater 148 years of research still an assumption. Because the theory itself is weak and there is no observational evidence for its assumptions.

    Apart from the theoretical weaknesses mentioned above, the theory of evolution by natural selection comes up against a fundamental impasse when faced with concrete scientific findings. The scientific value of a theory must be assessed according to its success or failure in experiment and observation. Evolution by natural selection fails on both counts.

    http://www.biology-online.org/.....lit=Banner

    But let me tell you about a really cool proverb……

    Assumption is the mother of all……

  275. 275
    faded_Glory says:

    Andre,

    You make a lot of assertions, but the reality is that the very book I linked you to gives several examples of observed natural selection at work on animal behaviours.

    Why don’t you actually read it for comprehension, instead of counting the number of words you think indicate that the authors don’t know what they are talking about?

    fG

  276. 276
    faded_Glory says:

    Andre,

    It is too funny, really. I present a chapter of a well known modern textbook on behavioural ecology that lists several well documented examples of natural selection at work on animal behaviours, a textbook that has had a glowing review in Nature.

    To counter that, you link to some internet forum post by an anonymous poster called Thermopylae, who cuts and pastes a number of assertions straight from the creationist play book, without any shred of evidence that he actually works in the field or has produced any peer reviewed academic work.

    And you expect us to take this seriously? Who do you think you are kidding?

    fG

  277. 277
    Andre says:

    faded_glory

    I have read it and I’m telling you know it has not been observed it is assumed…..

    If a guy that builds molecular machines for a living tells you he does not know how it works, perhaps you should hear him out?

    If papers today question the dogma you should hear them out….

    I told you I’m a recovering Darwinist.

  278. 278
    Andre says:

    faded glory…..

    Every word the “plagiarist” (another tactic used by the Darwinists)said is true…..

    Natural selection is an assumption and it has no observable or verifiable evidence, indirect yes but that’s about it……

  279. 279
    faded_Glory says:

    Andre:

    Perhaps you are mistaken about something. I am not anti-evolution. Let us clear that up. There is such a thing as evolution, but is not the blind watchmaker one. I would say that I’m aligned with Alfred Wallace. Hope that helps before you assume incorrectly again.

    Lol. Alfred Wallace himself came up with the idea of natural selection. You say you are aligned with him but you don’t think natural selection is effective.

    Come again?

    fG

  280. 280

    faded_glory said:

    There may be be some confusion about terminology.

    Considering I used the correct terms repeatedly, and spelled out what I meant by those terms throughout, I’d say any confusion that exists is entirely on your end.

    a. Descriptive moral relativism holds only that some people do in fact disagree about what is moral.

    This is a trivial statement. Even people that adhere to the same source of objective morality can disagree about what is moral.

    b. Meta-ethical moral relativism holds that in such disagreements, nobody is objectively right or wrong.

    A corrollary of this is that moral concepts reside in the minds of people and nowhere else.

    Not exactly. From: http://plato.stanford.edu/entr.....sm/#ForArg

    Metaethical Moral Relativism (MMR). The truth or falsity of moral judgments, or their justification, is not absolute or universal, but is relative to the traditions, convictions, or practices of a group of persons.

    Under moral relativism, a moral statement can be true and not not be mind-dependent, even though it is not held as absolutely or universally true.

    On the other hand, when I refer to objective morality I am talking about the existence of a moral standard ‘somewhere’ (without a specified location) independent of human minds.

    Moral Objectivism holds that at least some moral truths are factually, universally true.

    If you mean something different with these terms we may have been talking at cross-purpose.

    I’m not sure how I can be more explicit that actually using the correct terms multiple times and also explaining what I mean throughout the debate.

    Let’s look at your challenge, though:

    Normative moral relativism holds that because nobody is right or wrong, we ought to tolerate the behavior of others even when we disagree about the morality of it.

    So now I challenge you to demonstrate why normative moral relativism ( c) has to follow logically from meta-ethical moral relativism (b). Can you do that?

    Only, I haven’t argued that a moral subjectivist (whose morals exist only in his/her head) ought tolerate moralities other than their own. Rather, I argued that the only principle available for not tolerating the moralities of others is “because I feel like it”.

    If a moral subjectivist agrees that the principle that empowers their moral views is “because I feel like it”, then not tolerating the moralities of others because they don’t feel like tolerating them is logically consistent.

    The descriptive term for such people is “sociopaths”.

    Let’s say a moral subjectivist or relativist argues that “because I feel like it” is not their empowering moral principle – is not their moral authority, or that which legitimizes their behaviors and judgements. What, then, can a subjectivist or relativist point to?

    Social mores? Majority? Law? Some list of moral oughts and rights and obligations printed down somewhere? If the moral subjectivist/relativist disagrees strongly enough with any of these, they will abandon that so-called authority, meaning that something else must be the actual authority that guides their moral behavior, because it can overrule any majority, social, or written rule.

    For any non-objectivist that is willing to defy/work to change any exterior moral rule or tradition they disagree with strongly enough, the only possible principle of moral authority available is “because I feel like it”. Feel free to offer up another that does not question-beg back into “because I feel like it”.

    You may feel really, really strongly about it, but that’s still the only principle available.

    So, the only rationally coherent way of being a true moral subjectivist and not tolerating what you consider sufficiently “wrong” behavior in others is by living by the moral code: because I feel like it.

    Everything else is an equivocation or an obfuscation, consciously offered or not.

    But, you’re not sociopaths; you’re just people that have an ideological bias against moral objectivism because you think it means admitting god must exist, and so cognitive bias has you running in circles. You behave like moral objectivists while telling yourselves and arguing with others that you are not.

  281. 281
    Learned Hand says:

    Rather, I argued that the only principle available for not tolerating the moralities of others is “because I feel like it”.

    Given that objectivists must access any objective moral code by feeling it (or feeling the values underlying any attempt to reason it out), this accomplishes exactly nothing.

    Why should an objectivist prefer good to evil? “Because I feel like it.” Or perhaps because God commands it–but then, of course, why should you obey God? “Because I feel like it.” Or perhaps because God will punish us if we don’t–but then, of course, why should we work to avoid punishment? “Because I feel like it.”

    Ultimately it all boils down to feelings.

  282. 282

    LH said:

    Given that objectivists must access any objective moral code by feeling it (or feeling the values underlying any attempt to reason it out), this accomplishes exactly nothing.

    Incorrect, it allows one to live in rational correspondence with one’s moral premises without being a sociopath.

    Whether morality is rooted in an objective or subjective source, and whether conscience is limited to being an internal feeling or is a sensory capacity that can sense the moral landscape, both are moral theories. You don’t know that morality is subjective and conscience a purely internal feeling any more than I know morality is objective and the conscience is a sensory capacity.

    The question is, which theory best describes how we actually live? The subjectivist theory inexorably leads to a “because I feel like it” morality. The objectivist theory, which posits conscience as sensory capacity, provides a theoretical objective framework that would provide a sound alternative explanation for our behavior that does not end up in an immoral moral principle (because I feel like it).

    Ultimately it all boils down to feelings.

    Only if you assume that’s all there is when it comes to morality; but that’s all you’re doing – assuming your conclusion that the conscience is nothing but an internal feeling like other internal feelings.

    However, if you truly believe it all boils down to feelings, then your moral principle is “because I feel like it”. Unless you are a sociopath, you simply cannot live that way, even if you assert that you do.

  283. 283
    Mark Frank says:

    #301 WJM

    You don’t know that morality is subjective and conscience a purely internal feeling any more than I know morality is objective and the conscience is a sensory capacity.

    Interesting. This suggests that the nature of morality is in some way hidden from us. This is strange as we use morality every day so confidentally. It is part of subjectivism (at least my interpretation) that morality is not at all mysterious or hidden. It is just part of human nature which we participate in and observe all the time. The only reason we are confused and have this debate at all is our intelligence is bewitched by the language. In particular, moral statements are of the form X is Y (e.g. abortion is evil) and this makes us think there is a property corresponding to Y when Y is an actually prescriptive not descriptive (a bit like “ties are mandatory” is not a description of a property of ties).

  284. 284
    faded_Glory says:

    WJM:

    You still haven’t addressed the conundrum that rises from your assertion that morality is an objective commodity: if someone disagrees with you on a particular tenet of this objective morality, what do you do? You don’t have direct access to the objective standard, as you admit, so on what basis do you conclude that your view is better than theirs?

    It cannot be anything else than your personal interpretation of what the correct position is. In other words, when choosing between conflicting moral positions you use your subjective judgement just like everybody else.

    Does that make you a sociopath too?

    fG

  285. 285

    faded_glory said:

    You still haven’t addressed the conundrum that rises from your assertion that morality is an objective commodity: if someone disagrees with you on a particular tenet of this objective morality, what do you do?

    I’ve already answered this. Its baffling to me why you consider a simple disagreement over the proper interpretation of a presumed objective phenomena represents a “conundrum”. Humans do it all the time. Many physicists are still in disagreement about how to interpret various quantum phenomena. Those are not “conundrums” in any sense of the term; they are interpretive disagreements.

    Also, how many times do I have to tell you that it is my argument that every non-sociopath already acts like a moral objectivist? Non-sociopaths do all sorts of things when attempting to solve moral disagreements – use logic, find common-ground agreements and work from there, compromise, go to war, etc.

    You don’t have direct access to the objective standard, as you admit, so on what basis do you conclude that your view is better than theirs?

    I don’t have direct access to any phenomena I sense with any of my senses. So?

    It’s not a matter of whether or not my interpretation of the moral landscape is “better” than anyone else’s; I don’t know if it is or not. I confidently hold (but do not “know”)that it is obviously better than some, just as I’m sure you do – better than radical Islam, for example. Moral subjectivists, however, cannot logically consider their moral perspective “better” (in any substantive sense) than anyone else’s.

    The argument is about the logical consistency of competing moral worldviews. Regardless of what people do to resolve their moral disagreements, the only logically consistent moral worldview (outside of that which demands one become a sociopath) is moral objectivism.

    It cannot be anything else than your personal interpretation of what the correct position is. In other words, when choosing between conflicting moral positions you use your subjective judgement just like everybody else.

    Of course I do. When choosing what to do about anything in the presumed objectively existent world your senses reveal, you use your personal interpretation of that sensory data to develop behaviors that reflect what you are observing to the best of your personal judgement.

    You’re stating the trivially true observation that with regard to all things one experiences, we experience and then interpret that experience subjectively as if it somehow causes a problem for my argument.

    This is one of the places where your cognitive bias is, IMO, causing you to make absurd arguments, as if “no direct access”, “personal judgement” and “personal interpretations” are not limiting qualities also true of our interaction with all presumed objective phenomena.

    Does that make you a sociopath too?

    Since we all personally interpret and use personal judgement on the information our other senses bring us about a presumed objectively existent world, does that make us all solipsists?

    Of course not. Nobody except the insane can actually act like solipsists (physical experience subjectivists) or moral subjectivists.

  286. 286
    faded_Glory says:

    WJM:

    I don’t accept your equation of accessing objective moral values through your sense with accepting other objective entities through your senses.

    As you very well know, when different people take measurements on objective entities, they arrive at pretty much the same values. This is a direct consequence of the principle of objectiveness, heck, it comes petty close to being the very meaning of the word ‘objective’.

    Nobody uses their ‘personal judgement’ to determine the length of a piece of string. They use a ruler which displays a commonly agreed standard and read off the value that corresponds to the length of the string. You ask 1000 people to do this and they will arrive at the same value, with a small error bar caused by trivial issues such as the accuracy of their eyesight or temperature variations between measurements.

    This is what happens when we study objective entities. It is not what happens when we study divisive moral issues such as gay marriage or abortion. Take 1000 random people, ask them if such issues are morally right, and their views will be distributed all over the compass from totally agree to totally disagree.

    Your point might be valid if differences on moral issues between people were trivially small compared to the importance of the issues. In a lot of cases they are not.

    You say that physicists have different ideas about the interpretations of QM phenomena. Indeed they do. However, what they do not differ about are the measurements of the QM phenomena. It is the phenomena themselves that are the objective entities, not the physicists interpretations. The phenomena can and are reproduced routinely, independent of whatever personal view the practising physicist holds of them.

    Not so with moral values. All we have is the personal views. Nobody has ever observed or measured anything underlying these views. In the complete absence of any observable and measurable phenomena it is quite unreasonable to assume that anything objective actually exists behind the subjective views of people.

    The conundrum with your position is not the disagreement over moral values itself. The conundrum is that when there is such disagreement, the only way to resolve it is by subjective judgement because there is nothing objective you can study and measure.

    So, you still have not given an adequate response to my challenge that when you declare your own moral interpretation to be better than someone else’s, say on Radical Islam, you are doing anything different from what a moral subjectivist does – you use your personal judgement to declare your views valid and theirs not, and you can’t back it up with any objective evidence.

    This is as subjective as anything can be. Welcome to the worldwide club of sociopaths.

    Anyway, the crux of our disagreement is that you think that the position ( c) that ‘because nobody is objectively right or wrong, we ought to tolerate the behavior of others even when we disagree about the morality of it’ follows logically from the position (b) that ‘in such (moral) disagreements, nobody is objectively right or wrong’.

    I don’t think it does. And if I’m right, your claim that subjectivists – who accept (b) but not ( c) – live as though objectivism is true, is false.

    fG

  287. 287

    As you very well know, when different people take measurements on objective entities, they arrive at pretty much the same values. This is a direct consequence of the principle of objectiveness, heck, it comes petty close to being the very meaning of the word ‘objective’.

    No. Objective doesn’t mean consensus or agreement. It means that if the object is X in length then it is X in length even if everyone who measures it, measures it to be Y in length.

    Nobody uses their ‘personal judgement’ to determine the length of a piece of string.

    You’re apparently confusing “personal judgement” with “conscience”. They are not the same thing in my argument. Conscience is the sensory capacity by which we all attempt to measure the string. Interpretation and personal judgement are what we employ to examine the results of that sensory measurement (an estimation of its length) and determine what to do with afterward.

    Your point might be valid if differences on moral issues between people were trivially small compared to the importance of the issues. In a lot of cases they are not.

    Knowing whether or not the difference are “trivially” small would require knowing what morality actually is, and which issues are actually “trivially small” and which are not. Your explicit implication that some moral issues are trivial and some or not has no basis in subjective morality. Even as you argue against moral objectivism, you explicitly implicate it and utilize it in an attempt to make a point.

    Because moral theory cannot produce scientifically exact moral measurements does not support the argument that morality is actually subjective in nature unless one also assumes scientism is true. I’m not sure how one would reconcile scientism with moral objectivism, so requiring the capacity to scientifically measure moralness before it it can be considered an objectively existent phenomena is either assuming your conclusion or an unnecessary, convenient precondition.

    You say that physicists have different ideas about the interpretations of QM phenomena. Indeed they do. However, what they do not differ about are the measurements of the QM phenomena. It is the phenomena themselves that are the objective entities, not the physicists interpretations. The phenomena can and are reproduced routinely, independent of whatever personal view the practising physicist holds of them.

    Just as the measurement of some phenomena, as you say, can be reproduced in universal agreement with all sane physicists, the measurement of the moral wrongness of some things can be reproduced in all sane people: such as, it is wrong to gratuitously torture children.

    No sane person disagrees with that statement, and the measurement of wrongness involved is as universal as measuring a string; it’s pretty much as wrong as wrong gets.

    At this point I’d like to warn you about taking the moral objectivism / scientific objectivism comparison too far. Moral objectivism is comparable to, but not the same as, scientific objectivism. Scientific objectivism measures and describes physical commodities; morality is not posited as a physical commodity. I have been making a comparison, not drawing a 1 to 1 equivalence.

    Not so with moral values. All we have is the personal views.

    Assuming your conclusion. However, if conscience is a sensory capacity experiencing an objectively real phenomena that is subject to logical analysis, we have more than personal view; we have a basis for the development of an objective moral theory, not to be confused with a scientific theory, but which may be comparable to a scientific theory and may be in some ways testable.

    Nobody has ever observed or measured anything underlying these views.

    Please support this assertion.

    In the complete absence of any observable and measurable phenomena it is quite unreasonable to assume that anything objective actually exists behind the subjective views of people.

    As I have said repeatedly, I’m not making an argument that objective morality actually exists; my argument is that we all behave as if it does, and must behave as if it does. Your explicit implication about a difference between trivial and non-trivial moral issues demonstrates that you cannot argue as if moral subjectivism is true even while you are making that argument.

    The conundrum with your position is not the disagreement over moral values itself. The conundrum is that when there is such disagreement, the only way to resolve it is by subjective judgement because there is nothing objective you can study and measure.

    The conundrum, then only exists in your assumption that “there is nothing objective you can study and measure”. I have repeatedly offered my theoretical objective object of study: the actual moral landscape, using the measuring instrument (sensory apparatus) of our conscience and employing the self-regulatory methodology of logic aided by good judgement.

    So, you still have not given an adequate response to my challenge that when you declare your own moral interpretation to be better than someone else’s, say on Radical Islam, you are doing anything different from what a moral subjectivist does – you use your personal judgement to declare your views valid and theirs not, and you can’t back it up with any objective evidence.

    I don’t require objective evidence for a logical argument stemming from assumed premises. You seem to be cognitively unable to grasp certain things I’ve repeated over and over – I’m not saying you’re unable to believe them, but just that you’re unable to grasp the concept.

    Note above, where you say that I do what any “moral subjectvist” does. Where have you made a case about what behaviors and perspectives moral subjectivism logically entails/produces?

    Nowhere that I can see. So what are you referring to when you make claims about what “any moral subjectivist does”?

    You are describing, I suppose, what you would be doing in making a moral decision and using that as a model of what a logically consistent moral subjectivist would do, even though my argument is that how you and all other sane people behave is according to moral objectivism; you’re using the very behavior under dispute as assumed evidence for your position without even presenting a case that the behavior/perspective you are describing is actualy rationally consistent with moral subjectivism. You’re just assuming that it is because you’re assuming you are an example of a rationally consistent moral subjectivist.

    This is as subjective as anything can be. Welcome to the worldwide club of sociopaths.

    Another indication that you simply cannot grasp the nature of the argument. Logically consistent moral subjectivists do not use “personal judgement” to determine “what is right and wrong”; personal preference and morality are the same thing under moral subjectivism. There is no “judgement” beyond “how one feels about it”; and any equivocation using the term “judgement” is a question-begging mask that leads back to personal preference.

    Under logically consistent subjective morality, conscience is nothing more than an internal feeling; it is not in contact with any “real” moral commodity that requires interpretation, judgement and logical examination/argument/introspection. Feelings are essentially irrational; there is no need to make judgements on them, rationalize them, justify them, and if you were to try, what would you ultimately be rationalizing or justifying or judging them by?

    As you yourself have asserted, in your opinion, it all boils down to personal, subjective feelings. The logically consistent moral subjectivist simply accepts that very thing – their feelings = what is moral and what is not, their feelings = what moral rights they have, and they intervene in the lives of others in whatever way they feel like.

    IOW, for the moral subjectivist, there is nothing left but “morality = whatever I feel like”.

    Anyway, the crux of our disagreement is that you think that the position ( c) that ‘because nobody is objectively right or wrong, we ought to tolerate the behavior of others even when we disagree about the morality of it’ follows logically from the position (b) that ‘in such (moral) disagreements, nobody is objectively right or wrong’.

    I’ve already corrected this erroneous extrapolation from moral relativism and pointed out that actual moral subjectivists need not tolerate anything as long as they admit their actual moral authority is “because I feel like it”.

    I’d like to add that I appreciate your honest admission that moral subjectivism boils down to “because I feel like it”. I think any honest, sane person capable of relatively unbiased perspective knows that “because I feel like it” is not, and cannot ever be a valid moral authority, but is pretty much the antithesis of morality.

  288. 288
    faded_Glory says:

    WJM,

    I am going to wrap this up because we are clearly going round in circles.

    Just a couple of comments on your last post and I will leave it at that. This does not mean that I concede my position, merely that I see no point in continuing to bang my head against a brick wall.

    – Objectiveness means independent of the mind, in other words an objective entity has properties that do not depend on whoever is studying it. Therefore it stands to reason that most, if not all, observers will arrive at the same conclusions regarding the properties of an objective entity. Indeed this is what we see anywhere else in the world of objective entities. It can’t be otherwise without ‘objectiveness’ losing its meaning. This stands in stark contrast to moral questions where a great many topics cause extreme disagreement between people.

    – Your extreme example of torturing children for gratuitous pleasure is just that – extreme. This discussion would be far more interesting if you would show how your presumed objective morality informs your moral choices on less extreme issues such as gay marriage, abortion and such like. I notice that you stay clear of such debates that are far less extreme yet in clear dispute between many people. Could it be that your ‘objective moral landscape’ is so vague and distant here that you can’t discern it very clearly at all, and that you use subjective judgement to decide on your positions?

    Your explicit implication that some moral issues are trivial and some or[sic] not has no basis in subjective morality.

    This is nonsense and shows that you still don’t even understand what you are arguing against. Moreover, pray tell how you can decide which of your assumed objective moral issues are trivial and others not. Don’t handwave, show your work.

    Note above, where you say that I do what any “moral subjectvist” does. Where have you made a case about what behaviors and perspectives moral subjectivism logically entails/produces?
    Nowhere that I can see. So what are you referring to when you make claims about what “any moral subjectivist does”?


    Failure of reading comprehension on your part, I’m afraid. I said you use your personal judgement to declare your views valid and theirs not, and you can’t back it up with any objective evidence.

    This is what a moral subjectivist does. If morality was objective you would simply study the evidence and arrive at your conclusion, which would also be arrived at (within narrow margins) by everyone else who studies it, without a need for personal judgement and without everybody disagreeing along the full spectrum from totally moral to totally immoral. This is what happens when people study objective entities. Clearly, morality does not work that way. Most logical conclusion: it isn’t objective.

    I’d like to add that I appreciate your honest admission that moral subjectivism boils down to “because I feel like it”.

    What? I have not admitted this, and in fact I disagree with it. What I said, ages ago at the start of my involvement in this thread, is that a person’s moral compass is an intensely personal combination of a number of things: their evolutionary heritage, their unique personality, their culture, their upbringing, their social environment, their life’s experiences. This does not reduce to ‘just because I feel like it’. There is plenty of room for reasoning and logic in the formation of a subjective moral framework and in making subjective judgements, and most thinking people put a lot of thought in deciding whether certain actions are moral or not.

    Except torturing children for gratuitous pleasure – considering that one immoral seems pretty hard wired into almost everybody. Did you really have to reason your way to the conclusion that it is immoral? Scary stuff.

    fG

  289. 289
    LarTanner says:

    fg,

    What I said, ages ago at the start of my involvement in this thread, is that a person’s moral compass is an intensely personal combination of a number of things: their evolutionary heritage, their unique personality, their culture, their upbringing, their social environment, their life’s experiences. This does not reduce to ‘just because I feel like it’. There is plenty of room for reasoning and logic in the formation of a subjective moral framework and in making subjective judgements, and most thinking people put a lot of thought in deciding whether certain actions are moral or not.

    ID-ers don’t care. To them, morality either comes from Allah or comes from “because I feel like it.”

    You may as well just use “Allah” as shorthand for the nuanced picture you give; it’s what the theists do anyway.

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