Intelligent Design

WJM Sums it up Nicely

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

It’s our hope that once you realize that B is logically [implied by] your premise, you’ll question your premise.

82 Replies to “WJM Sums it up Nicely

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    WJM does have a gift for clarity from time to time that is directly to the point, for instance:

    “If you do not assume the law of non-contradiction, you have nothing to argue about. If you do not assume the principles of sound reason, you have nothing to argue with. If you do not assume libertarian free will, you have no one to argue against. If you do not assume morality to be an objective commodity, you have no reason to argue in the first place.”
    – William J Murray

  2. 2
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    What I’m not seeing is the rational connection between A and B, where A is “there are no objective standards” and B seems to mean, “therefore you can’t prefer your morals to someone else’s.”

    It’s almost tautologically wrong. If I agreed with someone eles’s standards, wouldn’t I adopt them? I haven’t because I think mine are better. So in some cases, if I’m called upon to act on my beliefs, I’ll act on mine rather than his or the strange assumption that all beliefs are equal.

    Again, no one actually believes the thing WJM says is logically necessary. That might be because every single MR is an insane liar. It might be because WJM is wrong. I know which one I think is more likely.

  3. 3
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    BA77, unfortunately “fiat” is a byword for “unpersuasive argument” in any context in which people disagree. Those statements aren’t logical necessities, they are convenient but flawed assumptions upon which he’s trying to build a logical argument. That argument fails because the assumptions are flawed.

  4. 4
    Mark Frank says:

    Barry – for the third time of asking in the last few hours.

    You say that you can tell if something is self-evidently true because denying it results in absurdity. You also hold that it is self-evidently true that it is evil to torture an infant for personal pleasure. What absurdity results from holding it is not evil to torture an infant for personal pleasure?

  5. 5
    Alan Fox says:

    What I’m not seeing is the rational connection between A and B

    I think Barry quote-mined Murray, omitting the context. Thank you, Pro Hac Vice, for supplying the relevant information. 🙂

    I propose some concrete examples so we can be clearer about what Barry is getting at. Barry is opposed to homosexuals (and presumably lesbians) having equality under the law, regarding marriage and property rights. Is this a self-evident truth. I say of course not. It’s merely Barry’s prejudice and unfair to gay people. They have (or should have) exactly the same rights as anyone else.

  6. 6
    Axel says:

    ‘What absurdity results from holding it is not evil to torture an infant for personal pleasure?’

    May I interject, Broadway Danny Rose-style?

    Alan, just as the multiverse renders science, indeed, ratiocination of any kind, futile, in the same way, in the moral order, not to consider torturing an infant for personal pleasure evil, renders any meaning of morality AS CUSTOMARILY UNDERSTOOD BY 99.9999999999999999999999999999999999% of mankind completely void, nullifies it, annihilates it. You have to understand that understanding something to be self-evident is, by its very nature, anecdotal.

    And guess what? It is, to the enormous credit of anecdotal knowledge, that it is not dumb distortable data of the kind that pedestrian scientism, whose cult-followers refuse to acknowledge the primacy of mind over matter, aggrandizes, as a child does the less than deafening reports of his cap-gun.

  7. 7
    Axel says:

    ‘understanding something to be self-evident is, by its very nature, anecdotal,’ would be less clumsily expressed as: ‘self-evident knowledge is, by its very nature, anecdotal’.

  8. 8
    Axel says:

    Sorry, AGAIN! I should have been addressing Mark, not Alan.

  9. 9
    Axel says:

    Perhaps, the term, ‘folk knowledge’, would be more apposite than ‘anecdotal knowledge’.

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    EF:

    ‘What absurdity results from holding it is not evil to torture an infant for personal pleasure?’

    Don’t try that cute rhetorical trick in the presence of X, who lost his young son [about 8 YO] in much that way. Not if you value your mouth, teeth, nose and the like.

    For good reason.

    KF

  11. 11
    5for says:

    I wonder if there is a parallel between the development of law and the development of morals. I remember as a law student that there is one school of thought that saw the law as something objective that already existed that judges simply uncovered or discovered when they made decisions. Of course this is nonsense, but it’s a nice fiction. It gives the aura of objectivity to a judgment rather than it just being one judges opinion of what the law is/should be.

  12. 12
    Alan Fox says:

    Ah, just the man, KF. You’re a homophobe, like Barry. How do you justify your homophobia. Is it based on self-evident moral principles?

  13. 13
    Graham2 says:

    KairosFocus @10

    This time you have gone too far.

    (1) Your comments suggest a physically violent response. If they arent removed by the moderator, and if you dont give an apology, then it clearly demonstrates a deplorable standard of behaviour that is tolerated at UD.

    (2) The hypothetical case raised (infant etc) was first raised by your own Barry Arrington in the previous OP (See #52). It has also been frequently used by UD associates in the past, in the tediously frequent rehashing of this subject.

    (3) You cant expect every contributor to have an intimate knowledge of all the personal travails of all the UD associates. Eg, I dont know who ‘X’ is and I dont know the details of what you are referring to. I suspect Mark Frank is also innocent.

  14. 14
    Mung says:

    Alan Fox:

    Ah, just the man, KF. You’re a homophobe, like Barry.

    You’re a liar. You don’t have an argument so you yell HOMOPHOBE!

  15. 15
    bornagain77 says:

    Pro Hac Vice, as to ‘flawed assumptions’, that one flawed assumption gumming up the whole works would be the atheistic naturalism-materialism assumption on your part! And your primary assumption is flawed in a big way in that it is now refuted scientifically! Care to see the empirical evidence? 🙂

    Music – Inspirational:

    Landfill Harmonic- The world sends us garbage… We send back music. – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXynrsrTKbI

  16. 16
    Axel says:

    ‘Music – Inspirational:

    Landfill Harmonic- The world sends us garbage… We send back music. – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXynrsrTKbI

    Winding them up again, Phil?! Music to deride with!

  17. 17

    What I’m not seeing is the rational connection between A and B, where A is “there are no objective standards” and B seems to mean, “therefore you can’t prefer your morals to someone else’s.”

    Your B is a straw man. Mere personal preference is not being challenged as something one would need to rationally justify. Feeling obligated and authorized to act, and then intervening in the private affairs of others in defiance of law, social mores, and putting one’s own safety at risk is what requires rational justification. “Because I felt like it” is not a rational justification.

    Again, no one actually believes the thing WJM says is logically necessary. That might be because every single MR is an insane liar. It might be because WJM is wrong. I know which one I think is more likely.

    I believe it is logically necessary, and so do others here, so that claim is patently false. Also, the options are not “WJM is wrong” or “MRs are insane liars”. MRs could simply have beliefs that are not logically reconcilable with their premises, as I’ve already pointed out is the likely case.

  18. 18

    Is there a reason we must suffer through Alan Fox’s trolling?

  19. 19
    StephenB says:

    Alan Fox:

    Ah, just the man, KF. You’re a homophobe, like Barry. How do you justify your homophobia. Is it based on self-evident moral principles?

    Let’s go ahead and put it on the record. Alan Fox thinks it is a good and wholesome thing for a grown man to use his lower digestive tract as a sex organ.

  20. 20
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    Graham,

    That’s one reason why people use hypos like this, or the Holocaust. It makes people who are trying to disagree with you uncomfortable if you make them feel that disagreeing with you means associating yourself with some unacceptable outcome. Think about WJM’s original post–if you’re a relativist, you’re on the side of NAZIS! Sensationalist or “gotcha” hypos are bad hypos. Bad facts make bad law.

    It’s also a bad hypo because it doesn’t prove anything. If everyone agrees with the principle, is it because it’s self-evident or because it’s so egregious that everyone would agree? When you take an extreme, egregious hypo like that, you’re not covering boundary cases. I think it’s more useful to use hypos that cover cases where people disagree over what might be a “self-evident” moral principle.

    I’m not crazy about the gay rights example, even though it might otherwise fit the bill, because it’s going to come across as an attack. I’m open to more neutral suggestions, but in another thread I used this hypo, based on a real-life case:

    A policeman sees you carrying a firearm in public. You are 100% certain that this is legal (you’ve studied the law in detail) and appropriate (you’re walking from a parking spot to a shooting range a block away). The officer tells you that you aren’t allowed to have the weapon in public, and tries to put you under arrest.

    The officer’s authority is legitimate–he’s a real officer. But you’re certain that he’s abusing his power. Whether or not it’s a good idea, is it self-evidently morally wrong to resist arrest?

    (I like this hypo because it’s less aggressive, and comes from a real-world case that has divided many people regardless of their position on the Second Amendment. We could use lots of others, or more complex ones. All I’m trying to get at is a case in which real people would disagree civilly.)

  21. 21
    Graham2 says:

    PHV: The whole blog is not to be taken seriously. Barry likes to get worked up, then ban anyone who disagrees with him … hardly a polite way to behave. I agree the more nuanced examples are more illuminating, but dont hold your breath.

  22. 22
    Barry Arrington says:

    WJM asks, “Is there a reason we must suffer through Alan Fox’s trolling?”

    A good question that deserves an answer. I actually value Alan’s contributions. As I said in my last post, I suspect he is really a fundamentalist Christian shilling as a materialist, a sort of agent provocateur if you will. I do admit that sometimes he lays it on a little thick.

    Hey Alan, here’s a clue. Some things are just too outrageous even for a materialist. Tone it down a little and you will be more believable in your role as materialist internet troll.

  23. 23
    Graham2 says:

    Barry: Are you going to ignore KF @10 ?

  24. 24
    Brent says:

    PHV,

    From the other thread:

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

    Once again, these are two different statements:
    A. Everyone has their own moral beliefs.
    B. Everyone’s moral beliefs are equivalent.
    A is not, and does not logically entail, B. I hold to A, but not B.

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

    Yes!

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

    Yes!

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

    No!

    Why do you think this? What’s the link you’re relying on? Our arbiters aren’t equal. I think my beliefs are better than other peoples’. This is almost a tautology–if I thought their beliefs were better than mine, I’d adopt them.

    Oh boy!

    So, your arbiter is better than others’? BASED ON WHAT!?

    You have nothing AT ALL to base that on (all the while decrying those who say “self-evident”!!!???).

    Either everyone’s internal arbiter is equal by virtue of being the exact same means of deriving their moral beliefs, or you MUST logically have an external standard by which to judge one’s moral beliefs better than another’s.

    Go ahead and say there is no standard. Fine. In that case, B is necessarily entailed by A; everyone’s moral beliefs must be equivalent because you have no standard by which to judge. If you say you judge by your own standard, then you are just misusing the word ‘standard’. And if you are judging by your own ‘standard’, and I am judging by my own ‘standard’, and Barry by his own and so on, then you HAVE to be saying that everyone’s moral beliefs are equivalent. For what distinction, in that case, would there be??? NONE!

    On your professed understanding, B is either necessarily entailed by A, or you invalidate your position by needing a standard to keep B distinct from A.

  25. 25

    Let’s note the litany of straw man diversions that PHV is attempting:

    A. Everyone has their own moral beliefs.
    B. Everyone’s moral beliefs are equivalent.
    A is not, and does not logically entail, B. I hold to A, but not B.

    Nobody claimed that “everyone’s moral beliefs are equivalent” because everyone has their own moral beliefs.

    Think about WJM’s original post–if you’re a relativist, you’re on the side of NAZIS! Sensationalist or “gotcha” hypos are bad hypos. Bad facts make bad law.

    Only, that wasn’t my argument. My argument was that moral relativism necessarily leads to that conclusion, not that those who claim to be moral relativists actually believe the Nazis were behaving morally.

    What has been said, repeatedly, is that one cannot rationally justify certain beliefs and/or reactions and/or acts from the premise that morality is entirely subjective in nature. This is a relatively trivial observation; not every conclusion can be extracted from every premise. Mutually exclusive and contradictory premises will likely lead to very different conclusions, inferred beliefs and worldviews that come with different sets of reactions to events.

    It is also a trivial observation that humans often hold irrational and logically irreconcilable beliefs. Because one believes that morality is relative doesn’t necessarily mean they accept that what the Nazis did was good; it just means that if they restricted their beliefs to what was logically extractable from their premise, that is what they would have to accept.

    I think it’s more useful to use hypos that cover cases where people disagree over what might be a “self-evident” moral principle.

    Here PHV is trying to broaden and water down the meaning and usefulness of identifying self-evidently true moral statements as if someone claimed that every or most moral claims are supposed to be self-evidently true. Note his trivializing use of “self-evident” in this question:

    Whether or not it’s a good idea, is it self-evidently morally wrong to resist arrest?

    The question is preceded by a lengthy set-up description of the events and situation, ostensibly offered up so we could make a better decision about whether or not the statement is self-evidently true. PHV has had this explained to him/her several times – if you need evidence and argument and additional information to make a decision about the moral truth of a statement, it is by definition not a self-evidently true moral statement.

    PHV has apparently gone into full propaganda mode, not only disinterested in actual debate, but actively obfuscating and misrepresenting the arguments and explanations that have already been repeated several times.

    “Resisting arrest is immoral” is not a self-evidently true moral statement. I can immediately think of scenarios where resisting arrest is the moral thing to do. There are no scenarios where torturing children for personal pleasure could be a good thing to do.

  26. 26
    kairosfocus says:

    G2:

    Stop being a silly sophomoric rhetorical game-player.

    I gave you and your ilk a dose of reality.

    Sad, painful concrete reality.

    Reality you are trying to dodge and divert attention from.

    You see, the tortured, raped, murdered — as in school sock in the mouth causing asphyxiation — case for me is not theoretical. I know a man who lost his young son in just this way to it looks like a gang of pedophile predators, who kidnapped him near the aqueduct that runs on the back side of my uni campus, took him up along the bushy right of way and, had their way with him, leaving him dead.

    I knew the boy and his father.

    I am simply telling you that if you try your nice seminar room clever absurdities in the presence of a simple, straightforward, and very physical man like X, he is — for cause — going to go for you. And, knowing the man, even in his must be seventies now, he is going to do serious damage before anyone could pull him off.

    And frankly, if you were unwise enough to do the sort of silliness in that man’s presence, you would deserve the physical cost. And in my homeland, there is not a police sergeant, or magistrate who would do anything more than a wrist-slap in such a case.

    Do you understand that one of the functions of justice and law is to appropriately channel deep moral intuitions about the need to pay for wrong and harm done and the implications of clan blood feuds [especially in defense of the clan’s women and children], by interposing justice as principle and process leading to appropriate degree of punishment?

    Which needs to be supported by the people as a whole, in order to obtain and preserve legitimacy?

    Do you realise that by undermining that process through silly seminar room games, you are destroying that consensus and again unleashing that blood feud process, including settling matters of insult and outrage by physical exchange of blows?

    In short, I am pointing to a deeper level of the absurdities and chaos implicit in those silly games.

    And in your sophomoric gotcha attempt above, you utterly revealed the absurdity and failure of situation awareness that mark you and ilk as out of contact with reality.

    Wake up, man!

    KF

  27. 27
    Graham2 says:

    KF: I will retract my first objection: I understood that you were threatening violence, now I see you were warning of violence. It was so badly worded, it was hard to tell.

    The remaining 2 points remain. Barry Arrington was the first to raise the issue (#52 in the previous OP). Why didnt you object then ?

    The rest of your screed is incoherent.

  28. 28
    kairosfocus says:

    AF: You too? FYI, objecting to a specific real life case of pedophile kidnapping, rape, torture and murder that happens to be male homosexual — girls do not leave semen deposits, etc.[as in, they don’t have the equipment to do so . . . ] — is not to exhibit a presumed IRRATIONAL fear of homosexuality. [I could have used a female case of kidnap- rape- murder, but I only know of such by news, the personal acquaintance with the now murdered boy and his still grieving father deprived of justice are an important part of the matter. Remember, this is reality here of a nightmare that started when a young boy did not report home from school and could not be found . . . , not some concocted story.] Just so, objecting to intentional destruction of the foundational morally tinged institution of civilisation (marriage and the family) under false colours of equality — and with a patent intent onwards to impose unjust law over principled conscience and freedom of worship an integral part of the game plan — is not an IRRATIONAL fear. No, I am giving a duly weighted threat assessment and a response that says: wake up from silly seminar room pipe dream games and face reality in the face of X and his remaining sons, and frankly the majority of the community who would back X to the hilt, literally. KF

  29. 29
    kairosfocus says:

    G2, with all due respect, stop the silly rhetorical word games, take a time out and do some serious thinking. KF

  30. 30
    Graham2 says:

    KF: Get a grip. Its a blog.

  31. 31
    kairosfocus says:

    5for:

    Pardon, spell that blood feud revenge and uprisings of the oppressed vs justice expressed in sound law and credible — legitimate — institutions, reflect on concrete reality [similar to the case I have cited], then look at the debates over what justice is in the Plato dialogues with a fresh eye, and you will see that your silly theory is rooted in underlying sound intuition and rational principles leading to institutionalisation of the underlying logic.

    Let me bring this back to focus by citing again how Locke reasoned at the pivotal point where he cited Hooker in Ch 2 sec 5 of his second essay on civil gov’t, to ground what would become modern liberty and democracy:

    . . . 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]

    These principles and premises are the root of justice systems, insofar as they bear moral legitimacy.

    The problem we face is that in our time, thanks to the dressing up of the ancient chaos-force of evolutionary materialism in the lab coat, elites and fellow travellers have been busily digging away at the foundations of the dam that restrains the barbarism of the clan blood feud.

    It is time to wake up and realise what can ever so easily be unleashed if the dam should fail.

    KF

  32. 32
    kairosfocus says:

    No, G2,

    It is a civilisation being undermined through the amoral absurdities of evolutionary materialism and its fellow travellers again let loose. This blog, among other fora, is a place where the ideological contest for the survival of our civilisation is being carried out.

    Your lack of situation awareness, rude and silly rhetorical games and flippancy all show signs of the underlying problem. (And BTW, all the way up to comment 10, it is blatant that you had no excuse to misread or twist the situation, which I made clear is real world up to concealed names.)

    Let me again remind you and your ilk of Plato’s grim, history-backed, paid- for- in- blood, warning in The Laws, Bk X. Here he is, speaking in the voice of the Athenian Stranger, ghost of Socrates hovering just to the right:

    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, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and 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. [[In short, evolutionary materialism premised on chance plus necessity acting without intelligent guidance on primordial matter is hardly a new or a primarily “scientific” view! Notice also, the trichotomy of causal factors: (a) chance/accident, (b) mechanical necessity of nature, (c) art or intelligent design and direction.] . . . .

    [[Thus, they hold that t]he Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and 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 leads to the promotion of amorality], 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; cf. dramatisation here], 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 tyranny], and not in legal subjection to them.

    My dad used to remind me of the old saying that experience is a very good teacher, albeit his fees are very dear. Alas for fools, they will learn from none other.

    But subsequently, I have learned that there is a yet worse class of fools who refuse to learn from experience, whether personal or that institutionalised as sound and sensible history. (And the silly notion that history is nothing but the propaganda of the victors, is one of the strongest signs of what has gone wrong.)

    It is Marx of all people who warned that History repeats itself twice, the first time as tragedy, the next as farce.

    We have passed farce and are headed for blatant absurdity, folly and it looks like collective suicide through the march of folly.

    I only hope we can wake up and turn back before it is bloodily too late.

    Blood, rivers of blood, is the most awful price of all.

    One, I shrink from with revulsion and outright horror.

    (And right now, unless things change real soon, it looks like the Mullahs are setting about collecting on the rent in blood that is fast becoming past due.)

    KF

  33. 33
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Before going back to sleep,one has a perfect right to resist arrest when it is the 4 am break down the door attack of the torture police. And if enough had done so in good time, Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Russia etc would have been impossible. But then, that is part of why such make sure the public are disarmed (save for kitchen knives and broom sticks . . . ), confused, divided and intimidated first. KF

  34. 34
    Mark Frank says:

    As far as I can see Barry his still failed to respond to my repeated challenge in #4 (KF for some reason thinks it is a “cute rhetorical trick” but that does not answer the question). Now I know how easy it is not to notice challenges amongst all the many comments that are posted so I will repeat it. And take the opportunity to explain it a bit more.

    Barry and WJM amongst others have stressed that it is self-evidently true that it is evil to torture an infant for personal pleasure and therefore morality is objective.  Now I think we all agree that is obviously true that it is evil to torture an infant for personal pleasure.  But things can be obviously true and subjective e.g. dog shit smells bad, Charlie Chaplin is funny, the Mona Lisa is a beautiful picture.  When challenged to ask how we can tell the difference between self-evidently true and obviously true Barry was quite specific – if you deny something is self-evidently true then it leads to absurdity. All I want to know is what absurdity results from holding it is not evil to torture an infant for personal pleasure?
    I have never seen an answer to this question. I am beginning to wonder if I ever will.

  35. 35
    Mark Frank says:

    KF #10

    I have no idea who X is. But if his child was tortured to death for pleasure then I absolutely condemn the action. It is an awful, awful thing way beyond my experience.

    I don’t think any of us disagree that such a thing is terribly wrong. But I thought we were having a philosophical debate about the justification and meaning of that judgement which (we all agree on). I don’t suppose any of our arguments here (yours or mine) make any difference to that poor man.

    You seem to think that holding my philosophical position on ethics would justify this man in being violent to me. This is a nice example of how ideology can lead to justifying violence.

  36. 36
    kairosfocus says:

    MF:

    X is all too real, and his son — a bit mischievous as ever so many active boys are — was victimised as described. facts forever riveted in my memory.

    As is the wail of a neighbour’s 5 yo son when he realised that his father would never be coming home again (having been stabbed on the way to work that morning by a delusional mad man for reasons that don’t make sense . . . here, not in JA).

    Now, the issue is, why do we respond as we do as conscious, self-aware, feeling, judging persons, to such events.

    Knowledge, awareness and judgements are always subjective, as we are . . . subjects.

    But that gives us no more right to infer that the judgement that such acts are wrong or that the mad man in the second incident has a somewhat diminished (but specifically not nil) responsibility are simply subjective, than we have to infer that the judgement that two incidents appear simultaneous to us is simply subjective and can be dismissed at whim without consequence. (The latter being of course a major concept in the Special Theory of Relativity, a point where the observer implicitly enters the scene. And s/he never leaves.)

    In short, what is really driving the subjectivism or relativism is not the brute fact of subjectivity.

    Instead, the driver is the imposition of the a priori assumption of evolutionary materialism or its fellow traveller views, or the spreading influence of that view or its fellows. Such a view, having in it no IS that can ground OUGHT, and being presented wearing the Lab Coat, leads many of us to blindly accept its implications.

    But such an ideology also implies the utter unreliability of mind and the reduction of insightful, reasoned thought to computation by a processor substrate that — without empirical warrant for imagining such a leap — somehow came about and became self-aware by blind chance and mechanical necessity, regardless of the search space challenge imposed by the FSCO/I involved. In short, we have no good empirically grounded reason to accept it.

    It cannot properly claim to be observationally grounded science.

    Never mind the imposing presence of the lab coat. Or should that be, The Lab Coat.

    Likewise — absent the force of the hard lesson of Nazi Germany, we know that the view drastically undermines the concept of human equality, worth, value and dignity; as say that student of Huxley, H G Wells pointed out so strongly in the opening chapter of War of the worlds, in 1897. Thus, when it is unchecked by externally imposed constraints, it further undermines the concept of equal, quasi-infinite value and dignity that naturally attaches to a human being by reciprocity rooted in our self-awareness and recognition that others are as we are.

    So then, we have every good reason to challenge this view and its fellow travellers: provide a credible worldview foundational IS that grounds OUGHT, or else be seen as amoral and opening the gates of the city to the chaos-force of nihilism.

    To which, as a rule, there is simply no answer but to try to distract, undermine and rhetorically attack.

    Big, red warning flags.

    So, we come back to intuitions we have excellent reason to trust and the insights they consistently deliver.

    They tell us of our own worth and that of those we care about.

    They tell us of our common roots, and thus fundamental equality and worth as persons.

    So, we understand to view and value neighbour as self.

    And we see from how we quarrel by invariably appealing to the binding nature of ought, that by common consent, we are morally governed by the force of ought.

    Which gives us very good reason indeed to hold that we live in a world where ought is grounded and binding.

    And if that strongly points to common creation by an inherently good God as the best explanation, so be it.

    Where also, shocking cases like that man X and his son, or even Y and his father point to us that murder, torture of helpless innocents and rape violate the worth and dignity we instinctively recognise in one another without formal proof, and recognise that if such is GENERALLY violated so that it breaks down as a norm, will lead to utter disintegration of the community we all need for survival. (And yes, I am knowingly invoking the CI, being aware of equivalent forms. Evil is recognisable from parasiting off others and exploiting the fact that it is essentially exceptional.)

    Such, in short, are self-evident.

    And to demand “proof” apart from the chaotically absurd impact of abandoning or denying such as a community, is itself absurd.

    Which brings us to your no 4:

    You say that you can tell if something is self-evidently true because denying it results in absurdity. You also hold that it is self-evidently true that it is evil to torture an infant for personal pleasure. What absurdity results from holding it is not evil to torture an infant for personal pleasure?

    Do you see how this has been answered — many times in fact — from the absurdity of undermining canons of human dignity and the duty of justice, especially to innocent life?

    Do you also see how the presumption of the superiority of dismissive skepticism also tends ever so strongly to lead us astray?

    KF

    PS: Note also, that I have answered you on the subject of the self evidence of the parallel lines axiom, in the other thread, here on. In a nutshell, the denial of the premise leads to a shifting of the subject from a plane space to something else. In a plane space the postulate holds, necessarily holds and will lead to absurdity if violated. Spaces where it does not, are not plane spaces. (This can be extended to 3-d spaces by using i, j and k as three-fold roots of unity that give a 3-d Cartesian vector space. And yes that is part of why I used j as sqrt – 1. Resort to such is needed to clarify just what I mean by the type of space. Of course, whether our world in the large is such a space is doubtful, but that is besides the point. On the small, it is at least approximately Euclidean, and that opens the door to the insights.)

  37. 37
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: MF seems to misunderstand the warning on the alternatives for enforcing justice: laws, backed by community consensus that refrains from promoting chaotic absurdities and the clan blood feud in defence of its members. A simple, straightforward man who predictably would lash out at someone so uncaring and unfeeling as to insult the appalling and wantonly wicked death of his child is acting by the principles of the blood feud. Specifically, a man must defend his family and its members. I gave the concrete example, not to endorse the blood feud, but to point out that if laws are carelessly undermined, the instinctive alternative WILL emerge. In short, the rhetorical games of the seminar room have real life consequences, in this case again revealing the absurdities implied in denying human dignity and our being under the governing force of OUGHT. And if you doubt that such a loaded question carries that import, there is some Caribbean beach front property for sale in Alberta, Canada, available at special rates for you.

  38. 38
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    Brent,

    So, your arbiter is better than others’? BASED ON WHAT!?
    You have nothing AT ALL to base that on (all the while decrying those who say “self-evident”!!!???).

    I don’t understand why you’re making this assumption. Isn’t it a matter of plain, empirical fact that I think my beliefs, and therefore my ‘arbiter,’ is better than others’? I would adopt their beliefs if I was incapable of preferring my own, wouldn’t I?

    Of course I can prefer my own beliefs over others’! I base my preference on the sources of my moral beliefs, which in my opinion are not universal objective standards but common inputs like my upbringing, cultural context, etc. I acknowledge that others are brought to different conclusions, but that does not entail any obligation to regard their beliefs as equal to my own.

    Either everyone’s internal arbiter is equal by virtue of being the exact same means of deriving their moral beliefs, or you MUST logically have an external standard by which to judge one’s moral beliefs better than another’s.

    You keep using the word “logically,” but I don’t think you’re actually applying any logic here. This is what you’re saying:

    A. Everyone’s internal arbiter is equal; or
    B. They are inequal because of some external standard.

    But this doesn’t actually reflect the real world, or any logical standard. Partly I think the word “equal” in A is tripping you up. I acknowledge that I can’t use objective standards to prove that my “arbiter” is better than anyone else’s. But that does not mean that I consider my “arbiter” to be equal to everyone else’s.

    Practical example, using our previous hypo: I think to myself, Allan wants to fire Bob because he’s Jewish. I think that’s wrong. Allan thinks that’s right. The key phrase is, I think that’s wrong. The fact that Allan disagrees does not override my moral beliefs. I don’t put his beliefs on an equal footing with my own, because I disagree with them. I have evaluated them and found them wanting, according to my own subjective standards.

    Go ahead and say there is no standard. Fine. In that case, B is necessarily entailed by A; everyone’s moral beliefs must be equivalent because you have no standard by which to judge.

    That would only be true if an objective standard were the only way to discriminate between arbiters. But it’s not—I can use my own subjective beliefs to evaluate my arbiter against someone else’s.

    If you say you judge by your own standard, then you are just misusing the word ‘standard’.

    Only if you a priori define “standard” to be “objective standard.” But I really, really don’t want to get bogged down in a war of definitions. Can we leave this one simply as a mutual understanding, without fighting over what “standard” means? You can say that I mean “preference” if you want, I suppose.

    And if you are judging by your own ‘standard’, and I am judging by my own ‘standard’, and Barry by his own and so on, then you HAVE to be saying that everyone’s moral beliefs are equivalent. For what distinction, in that case, would there be??? NONE!

    This is where I really don’t understand the leap you’re making. Yes, I’m judging by my standard. Yes, you’re judging by your standard. (This seems to be empirically true, or else people wouldn’t disagree over moral truths, no?)

    But that only means that all moral truths are equivalent if you mean objectively equivalent, and remember that I don’t think there’s any objective standard, so that’s an incoherent statement to me. I judge moral truths through the lens of my own subjective beliefs, and they are not all equivalent in that analysis.

    In other words, I think this is a fair summary of our discussion—please let me know if I’m wrong. You’re saying that A entails B because without an objective standard, I can’t assess different moral “truths” against one another. I think that means that you’re looking for an objective assessment, though, which I don’t believe is possible. I say that I assess different moral “truths” using my own beliefs as a subjective standard. We agree that my position does not result in any objective evaluation of moral beliefs—I cannot and would not say that my beliefs are objectively better than anyone else’s. But I can and do say they’re better than others’ according to my own lights, and that’s enough for me to act on.

    (And, again, I think that’s true for everyone, since even objectivists have to admit the possibility of error in their assessment of “objective” standards.)

  39. 39
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    WJM,

    Let’s note the litany of straw man diversions that PHV is attempting:

    A. Everyone has their own moral beliefs.
    B. Everyone’s moral beliefs are equivalent.
    A is not, and does not logically entail, B. I hold to A, but not B.

    Nobody claimed that “everyone’s moral beliefs are equivalent” because everyone has their own moral beliefs.

    I think you misunderstood me. I am trying to frame the logical argument you’re making from the perspective of a relativist. I understood that to be, “You can’t prefer your own morality to another’s without objectivity, therefore you have no ground to disapprove of the Nazis.” Please let me know if that’s incorrect.

    What has been said, repeatedly, is that one cannot rationally justify certain beliefs and/or reactions and/or acts from the premise that morality is entirely subjective in nature. This is a relatively trivial observation; not every conclusion can be extracted from every premise.

    But saying is not the same as proving it, logically or empirically. Your statement is trivially wrong. I can absolutely justify beliefs, reactions, and acts according to subjective standards: I believe that genocide is wrong. Hitler is committing genocide. I should stop Hitler. I might also stop to acknowledge, Hitler thinks genocide is right, but so what? Why do his beliefs trump my own?

    Here PHV is trying to broaden and water down the meaning and usefulness of identifying self-evidently true moral statements as if someone claimed that every or most moral claims are supposed to be self-evidently true.

    No, what I’m doing is what I was trained to do in law school and legal practice, which is to use progressively more difficult hypotheticals to flesh out nebulous propositions. It’s working! We’ve already established something we hadn’t before: not every moral claim is self-evidently true. Next I’d like to know, how do you tell one that’s self-evident from one that’s not? What if two people disagree about that?

    The question is preceded by a lengthy set-up description of the events and situation, ostensibly offered up so we could make a better decision about whether or not the statement is self-evidently true. PHV has had this explained to him/her several times – if you need evidence and argument and additional information to make a decision about the moral truth of a statement, it is by definition not a self-evidently true moral statement.

    Hypos are hypos because they set up a hypothetical fact pattern. The facts matter! Apparently not for you, but I suspect your definition of “objective” moral standard is, ironically, not shared by all.

    You’ve brought us back to the Grand Because. Why is WJM right? Because! What is his evidence or argument? He doesn’t need any! Because! Because it’s self-evident? Why is it self-evident? Because! This would be more persuasive if people agreed on the set of self-evident moral truths. But they don’t! Conservative, Bible-believing Christians have differed on questions such as: Is abortion wrong? Is it wrong if the life of the mother is in jeopardy? Is it wrong if the baby is certain to die anyway? Is it wrong if the baby 51% likely to die anyway? Is slavery wrong? Is capital punishment wrong?

    Are those self-evident moral truths? I dunno. WJM hasn’t given us a tool to tell, other than that if there’s any argument required, it’s not self-evident. Fine, but that leaves us with essentially no self-evident moral truths other than the questions on which we can reach total consensus—for example, torturing children for pleasure is wrong. But what practical use is an objective moral standard if it only applies where everyone already agrees anyway?

    PHV has apparently gone into full propaganda mode, not only disinterested in actual debate, but actively obfuscating and misrepresenting the arguments and explanations that have already been repeated several times.

    I’m honestly sorry that this discussion has been difficult for you. I would like to suggest to you that you’re a very combative person, and that people can and do disagree in good faith. This is a complex conversation. If you can’t navigate it without personalizing it and accusing those who disagree with you of evil motives, you might consider taking a few hours to decompress. Is your goal here to persuade, or to demonize the opposition?

    “Resisting arrest is immoral” is not a self-evidently true moral statement. I can immediately think of scenarios where resisting arrest is the moral thing to do. There are no scenarios where torturing children for personal pleasure could be a good thing to do.

    Thank you, that’s a useful addition to the discussion. I ask it because I think there are people who believe that resisting lawful authority is categorically, self-evidently wrong. I can also see people who would think the exact opposite, that it would categorically never be morally wrong to resist the wrongful exercise of lawful authority.

  40. 40

    I think you misunderstood me. I am trying to frame the logical argument you’re making from the perspective of a relativist. I understood that to be, “You can’t prefer your own morality to another’s without objectivity, therefore you have no ground to disapprove of the Nazis.” Please let me know if that’s incorrect.

    If you’re serious about having a meaningful debate, then you might want to do some introspective analysis about what you just wrote above. Nowhere have I said, argued, or implied that you cannot prefer you morality, or that you have no grounds to “disapprove” of the Nazis, whether on is a moral objectivist or relativist. You might ask yourself why you stubbornly cling to this misconception even though I’ve corrected you.

    You are free to prefer whatever you want; you are free to disapprove of whatever you want. You require no “grounds” other than “personal proclivity” or “subjective feelings” to “prefer” or “disapprove” of virtually anything.

    But saying is not the same as proving it, logically or empirically. Your statement is trivially wrong. I can absolutely justify beliefs, reactions, and acts according to subjective standards: I believe that genocide is wrong. Hitler is committing genocide. I should stop Hitler. I might also stop to acknowledge, Hitler thinks genocide is right, but so what? Why do his beliefs trump my own?

    Under moral relativism, “wrong” only means the that thing in question contradicts your personal preferences – and that is ALL it means. Under moral relativism, “right” and “good” are synonymous with “what I prefer”, and “wrong, evil” are synonyms for “things I personally dislike”. So, when you say “what Hitler did was wrong”, it carries no more meaning than when you say “I dislike banana pudding” or “I hate banana pudding”.

    Unless you are willing to go to war with the manufacturers of banana pudding to get them to stop, morality must have some quality that distinguishes it from “personal preference”, or else you’d treat moral issues the same way you treat other personal preference issues.

    What is the difference between moral issues and other personal preference issues, under moral subjectivism/relativism, that justifies the qualitative behavioral differential?

  41. 41

    Thank you, that’s a useful addition to the discussion. I ask it because I think there are people who believe that resisting lawful authority is categorically, self-evidently wrong. I can also see people who would think the exact opposite, that it would categorically never be morally wrong to resist the wrongful exercise of lawful authority.

    “I think there are people that ..” .. “I can see people that …” In other words, you’re using imaginary people to help you obfuscate the meaning of “self-evidently true” by attributing to those imaginary people a misguided concept of what “self-evidently true” means.

    Why don’t you just start flinging feces?

  42. 42
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    Nowhere have I said, argued, or implied that you cannot prefer you morality, or that you have no grounds to “disapprove” of the Nazis, whether on is a moral objectivist or relativist. You might ask yourself why you stubbornly cling to this misconception even though I’ve corrected you.

    I’m having trouble reconciling this with what you wrote in the first piece, that in the eyes of moral relativists, “only moral good was likely happening, since the Nazis believed what they were doing was right” and that we “must hold that we should not have interfered with the Nazis.

    How can I both be free to disapprove of the Nazis and be forced, under your fiat declaration, to conclude that “only moral good was likely happening”?

    It also seems like you’re drawing a distinction between approval and action. I can, according to your summary declarations, sort of disapprove of the Nazis, even though I have to conclude that they were likely doing moral good. But I can’t act on that disapproval? The wall between those two seems entirely constructed out of convenient assumptions. If I disapprove of them, and my disapproval outweighs my desire to respect the sovereignty of others, then why can’t I take action based on my own beliefs? The fact that the Nazis had their own beliefs just doesn’t enter into the logical calculation—my actions are predicated on my beliefs, not theirs.

    So, when you say “what Hitler did was wrong”, it carries no more meaning than when you say “I dislike banana pudding” or “I hate banana pudding”. Unless you are willing to go to war with the manufacturers of banana pudding to get them to stop, morality must have some quality that distinguishes it from “personal preference”, or else you’d treat moral issues the same way you treat other personal preference issues.

    Once again, you’re starting with enormous assumptions and calling them logical necessities. In this case, you’re assuming that my “preference” against genocide carries equal weight as my “preference” for banana pudding. That is self-evidently (!) absurd. Someone else used an interesting analogy: I prefer not to have dog poop in my living room. I will immediately take action to enforce that preference. I do not feel anything near the same compulsion to rid my living room of the smell of banana pudding. How much more import, then, do you think my preference against genocide has? Even if we grant that all relativist moral principles are a matter of preference, I hope you can acknowledge that those preferences can differ enormously in terms of urgency and weight.

    What is the difference between moral issues and other personal preference issues, under moral subjectivism/relativism, that justifies the qualitative behavioral differential?

    (It just occurred to me, seeing your construction here, that I’ve been using “relativism” as a synonym for “subjectivism.” That’s probably inaccurate. It doesn’t seem to have caused any confusion so far, but just in case.)

    A moral issue implies a question of “ought.” I ought to prevent genocide. I want pudding. Those are different notions. I acknowledge that you can call the ought there a matter of preference, since it assumes that I have a preference against genocide, and indeed this distinction may itself be subjective—I don’t know whether other people characterize their moral beliefs in the same way.

    If you prefer, we can call it all a matter of preference, so long as we acknowledge also that those preferences can be astronomically different in terms of significance. My preference not to see innocent people tortured far outweighs my taste for any particular food. You keep assuming otherwise, despite clear evidence that, in fact, subjectivists can and do consider moral “preferences” more important than hedonistic preferences.

    You keep using “pie!” and “pudding!” to trivialize subjectivists’ moral preferences, the way you use “Nazi!” to try to shame us. These rhetorical devices do not substitute for actual logical analysis.

  43. 43
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    “I think there are people that ..” .. “I can see people that …” In other words, you’re using imaginary people to help you obfuscate the meaning of “self-evidently true” by attributing to those imaginary people a misguided concept of what “self-evidently true” means.

    Why don’t you just start flinging feces?

    Mr. Murray, I don’t believe that you’re prepared to have a conversation that stretches outside your preconceived notions. I’m sorry that our discussion was neither interesting nor productive for you. I will consider the matter closed between us with your crass rejoinder.

  44. 44
    Brent says:

    PHV,

    Thanks for the response. Though I couldn’t possibly disagree with your position any more than I do, I do respect that, finally, you are honest that your “morality” is subjective. It is deceptive to call a subjective system of ethics actually ethics, however, and if you don’t see a clear problem with this already I’m not going to be able to help you.

    My question to you is simply: What is the crucial difference between what you call ethics and preferences — preferences on the order of preferring a certain flavored ice cream? My challenge to you is to show how there is any meaningful difference between what you call morality and simple preference. I cannot understand how this can be the position of someone trained in law.

    Do you not believe that when you call an act unethical that you are saying that act is wrong?

    Do you not believe that to say that something is wrong is to immediately be in need of an objective standard that shows it is wrong? If you say my measurement of twelve inches is wrong, it is because you can use a ruler to check. Why does this not apply in ethics? And if it doesn’t apply, how can you really say anything is wrong?

    What standard, for example, do you appeal to to say that my mass murdering of people is wrong? If that ‘standard’ you appeal to is only subjective, why should I or anybody else care about it? I can say, validly, it is just your opinion, and nothing more.

  45. 45
    Graham2 says:

    Brent: One more time: Show us the standard. There is no standard. You insist there is some moral-standard-in-the-sky, but, where is the evidence for such a standard?. The heathens like me would accept such a standard, if only there was some evidence for it.

    What we see is exactly what you would expect in a world with no objective morality: Huge numbers of people believe different things. Sure, when pushed to some extreme limit (the holocaust etc) we tend to group together, but, eg, how many people used to believe slavery was OK ? How many now believe its not OK ? Were we right then ? Are we right now ?

    Brent: Could you cite just one moral question whose result derives from objective morality (easy) then give us the evidence to support your claim. (not so easy).

    If pushed, I actually find the idea of a god-given (I presume this is what its all about) standard rather repulsive. I dont want to think that every time I make a moral judgement, I am being manipulated by some sky-fairy.

  46. 46
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    Brent,

    Thanks, I think? I’m sorry if you were uncertain that I believe my moral beliefs are subjective–I certainly thought I was extremely open about that from the very beginning.

    First, I’d ask you to compare your “preference” for ice cream to your “preference” that genocide not happen. But do those things feel the same to you? At all? I assume that they don’t. They don’t to me, either. Subjectivists really, truly aren’t sociopathic monsters. Nor are we logically required to be by our premises.

    So the first difference is that they feel enormously different. Why do they feel different? I think an objectivist would say that it’s because they represent universal standards. But I can’t reconcile that with objectivists’ absolute, echoing failure to actually define those standards, propose a working tool with which to identify them, explain why they change over time, etc.

    So I believe, instead, that those feelings arise from my upbringing, culture, personal past, etc.

    So if nothing else, I suppose you could say it’s a question of magnitude. This skirts the is/ought distinction, to which I pointed in an earlier answer, but as I’ve been thinking about it I’m not sure that was a good answer. The ought still depends on what you could call “preferences” – freedom is good, suffering is bad, etc.

    As a side note, I don’t see how objectivists escape that reduction. Even if there is an objective good, isn’t your decision to adhere to a matter of preferring good over bad? Isn’t that a “preference”?

    Second, my moral principles derive from what I consider to be first principles–freedom is good, suffering is bad, etc. You could call those preferences, too, but I think that’s true for everyone. We all think liberty, as an abstract concept, is good, right? Again, I think this is a product of my personal context and history; objectivists would disagree.

    I’m sure I’ll think of some other reasons later; it’s such an odd question.

    I cannot understand how this can be the position of someone trained in law.

    What is the connection, in your mind, to my position and legal training? In my opinion, it runs quite the other way. In law school (and certainly in practice) you very quickly learn that you cannot simply appeal to “objective” standards to win a debate or establish a fair rule of law. Because people don’t agree on what those “objective” standards are. Even for dyed-in-the-wool objectivists, the practice of law is about operating in a relativist world: applying agreed-upon mortal rules, rather than some ethereal and objective moral standard.

    Do you not believe that when you call an act unethical that you are saying that act is wrong?

    Yes. Well, sort of. I can conceive of unethical acts that aren’t morally wrong, like underbilling a client in desperate financial need. But I think that’s neither here nor there.

    I have no problem calling certain acts “wrong.” None. I do so according to my subjective standards, which I prefer to the standards of others. So I feel free to apply that judgment even though someone else might disagree with me. It works the same way for everyone, all the time–the key difference is that I think my underlying moral principles are subjective, while others think theirs are objective.

    Do you not believe that to say that something is wrong is to immediately be in need of an objective standard that shows it is wrong?

    No. I think I need a standard, but it can be subjective. Using a subjective standard renders the judgment subjective, rather than objective. I’m OK with that. It doesn’t make a practical difference, as it doesn’t preclude me (logically or practically) from acting on my beliefs.

    If you say my measurement of twelve inches is wrong, it is because you can use a ruler to check. Why does this not apply in ethics?

    Your measurement is a physical thing, to which we can apply a truly objective measure. If I ask, “What is the objective measurement”, you can say, “Here. It’s this ruler.” I can see it, touch it, test it. Critically, I can compare it to Allan’s ruler and Bob’s ruler and Cindy’s ruler. If those rulers don’t agree, then we don’t really have an objective standard until we figure it out.

    Your value measurements don’t have physical, empirical dimensions. When I ask, “What’s the ruler?”, I get silence or incoherent statements like, “It’s just self-evident, and it doesn’t need to be tested or proved.” Without a real objective test, I can’t call your value measurements (or mine) “objective.” Critically, I can’t directly compare yours to Allan’s to Bob’s to Cindy’s. I can quite easily see that they’re different, though. Allan’s a racist, Bob’s in an interracial relationship. There’s no objective standard to compare their respective values to.

    I can, however, compare Allan’s and Bob’s values to my values. Which I think are the right values; that’s virtually a tautology, because they wouldn’t be my values if I didn’t think they were right. (Again, according to my upbringing, culture, past history, etc.) And when Allan’s values don’t measure up to mine, there’s no logical reason I can’t condemn him. Nor is there any logical reason I can’t put my preferences into action by, say, voting for equal protection laws.

    What standard, for example, do you appeal to to say that my mass murdering of people is wrong? If that ‘standard’ you appeal to is only subjective, why should I or anybody else care about it? I can say, validly, it is just your opinion, and nothing more.

    Thanks, prefer working with practical hypos like this. I think it sharpens the discussion.

    I apply my standard. I think mass murder is wrong. I think that is a subjective standard. If I’m trying to get you to adopt my standard, I use the same tools an objectivist would: persuasion and coercion.

    Let’s say I’d start by identifying our commonalities. Do we both think life overall is good? Maybe you don’t–obviously this is hypothetical. But maybe you love your mother. So I’d try to appeal to that to create a principle we could build on: killing all these people will make their mothers sad, will be killing mothers, etc.

    If that didn’t work, I’d go to coercion. I’d vote for more funding for the police, or stricter anti-mass-murder laws, or I’d just go all Batman on you. The stock phrase for this sort of thing is: “There are three boxes. Soap box, ballot box, ammo box. Use them in that order.”

    Obviously this omits one tool that objectivists can use in theory, the appeal to objective standards. (I could try it too, but I want to stay with tools that are consistent with my worldview.) But that’s a non-starter when the stakes are high. The Union didn’t free the slaves by telling the South, “Hey! God really doesn’t like slavery, your opinions to the contrary are objectively wrong!” The Allies didn’t stop the Holocaust by citing objective moral principles of life and liberty.

    If that ‘standard’ you appeal to is only subjective, why should I or anybody else care about it?

    Here’s where I think you’ve lost sight of the real world. Whenever you cite an objective value that’s different from someone else’s, they think it’s just your opinion. Why, then, should they or anybody else care about it? It’s on you to persuade or coerce them. Works the same way for everybody, including objectivists.

    I can say, validly, it is just your opinion, and nothing more.

    Yes you can. And you will, if you disagree with my opinion. Just like any objectivist who disagreed with your version of “objective” standards would say to you.

    The other day on the AM radio, I heard three or four guys debating the meaning of Romans 13. They disagreed vehemently with one another and the callers. Every party to that conversation believed that he knew the objective truth, and felt no need to abandon that truth just because some other guy’s got an opinion.

    And if it doesn’t apply, how can you really say anything is wrong?

    I saved this question for last. Can I ask you a favor? It will require some work on your part, but I think it will be interesting. Feel free to decline, of course. I think I’ve answered this many times. It’s not sinking in. I don’t mean you–no one on your side of this discussion seems to have heard a word I’ve said. Possibly I’m just a terrible communicator, but possibly we’re just in one of those internet spats where people are more interested in talking than listening.

    Would you mind answering that question for me? I’d like to see how you think I would answer it. Not how I should answer according to your analysis of my principles, but how you think I’d actually answer it if I were to do so right now. I’m very curious how you see my side of this discussion.

    (This, by the way, is a version of the Ideological Turing Test. I don’t ask to test you, though, but because I’m curious as to whether I’m communicating effectively at all.)

  47. 47
    Graham2 says:

    PHV: Heres my take on all this: The entire discussion is pointless because we are talking about different things.

    The crew at UD just believe. Gods/demons/angels/soul/heaven/mind/objective-morality/etc etc etc. They just believe. Evidence is not required, faith is enough. If people were able to make up their mind on moral questions, then it would leave their god with nothing to do.

    The heathens on the other hand, prefer to see some evidence before accepting stuff, its a totally different approach. You cant really have a rational discussion between these 2 partys.

  48. 48
    Brent says:

    PHV & G2,

    I’m sorry, but I cannot respond now or very soon; maybe tomorrow. I appreciate your comments and responses.

  49. 49
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    Brent,

    No problem, take your time. Hope all is well.

  50. 50
    Mark Frank says:

    PHV #46 (in response to Brent #44)
    You spend some time on the difference between a preference for ice-cream and a moral judgement.  I think you are quite right that there is something fundamentally different and it isn’t just that moral judgement is more important. After all some moral judgements are of little importance and having the right ice-cream can be of great importance to some people (I hear).  I wrote something about this which I am pleased with and I often refer to on this forum.  In summary– the key difference is that while moral judgements are subjective they logically affect other people; while judgements about ice-cream rarely affect other people. If I judge some act to be evil I not only disapprove of it but I accept that it is a reason for not only refraining myself but for preventing others doing it other things being equal.  This is one of the aspects of morality that gives it an objective flavour although there is  a subjective element a core.  In my little document I try to illustrate this by taking something which appears purely subjective – is a film funny – and showing how in a context where your judgement of whether it is funny affects others it takes on an objective feel and is more like a moral judgement.

  51. 51
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    Thanks MF, that’s extremely interesting. I’ll have to put some thought into it, but my first reaction is, “That precisely describes the delineation I feel. Why didn’t I think of that?”

  52. 52
    Mung says:

    kairosfocus:

    G2, with all due respect, stop the silly rhetorical word games, take a time out and do some serious thinking.

    Graham2:

    KF: Get a grip. Its a blog.

    Poster child.

  53. 53

    PHV claims that morality is an entirely subjective commodity – a personal preference, albeit a very strongly felt one. PHV also holds that it is acceptable for a person to coerce one’s subjective morality on others if they feel sufficiently strongly about it, without even considering the subjective views or morality of those PHV is coercing.

    PHV also says that the principle that justifies coercing his personal preferences on others is simply that very thing – a strongly felt personal preference. So, the adjudicating principle between conflicting moral views, under PHV’s argument, is “because I feel like it, and because I can” – IOW, might makes right.

    If one holds that morality is subjective personal preference that allows us to coerce our views on others, then logically everyone who coerces their views on others because of strong personal preference is justifed in so doing through PHV’s argument. Logically, PHV must admit that by his own principle of personal preference of the individual committing an act, the Nazis were doing good from their perspective.

    PHV attempts to solve this problem by claiming that he personally feels that what the Nazis were doing was wrong, and by saying that what the Nazis believe doesn’t factor into his views or actions. Since what the Nazis believe doesn’t factor into PHV’s views or actions, and because morality, according to PHV, is entirely subjective personal preference, there is no hope of any kind of logical debate or arbitration between the two. There is no reason to look for a shared fundamental premise from which a convincing argument can be made to get the other side to change their views because, according to PHV’s view, the fundamental premise of both sides is necessarily just how they subjectively feel about it.

    How can one be logically convinced that their subjective feelings are wrong if the premise of the thing being debated is that subjective feelings are the essence of what is right?

    IOW, PHV’s position is that personal feelings are the very thing that identifies what is morally right to do; trying to convince others that their feelings are wrong on the subject of a moral question is an absurdity.

    Thus, under PHV’s view, no reasoned debate or argument is possible; both sides of the conflict, under PHV’s view, are validated as utterly moral by PHV’s principle of personal preference. There’s no rational argument that can bridge this conflict. PHV’s perspective is that gassing the Jews can be both moral and immoral, at the same time, in the same place, when viewed by two different sets of people. The Nazis are completely justified in their view; PHV and others are completely justified in their view.

    There’s nothing left to do but to fight it out and see who wins, and whichever side wins and subjugates the other, that becomes the dominant “moral good”. What is “right”, in society, is necessarily determined by might (and/or manipulation) under PHV’s view, because there is no possible rational arbiter between personal preferences.

    Therefore, PHV’s view formally dismisses reason and necessarily endorses might and manipulation as that which must be used in moral disagreements.

  54. 54

    So now we come to the question of “justification”, which is what sinks PHV’s argument. Merriam Webster defines justification thusly:

    : to provide or be a good reason for (something) : to prove or show (something) to be just, right, or reasonable

    : to provide a good reason for the actions of (someone)

    PHV claims that the only justification one needs to coerce their moral views on others is to feel really strongly about it; a strong personal preference. If the Nazis felt strongly about obliterating the Jews, then PHV must admit that according to his/her own principle, the Nazis were justified in gassing the Jews. After all, they applied the very same principle that PHV claims justifies any similar interventions or coercions: he/she feels really strongly about doing it.

    You can see the problem here; if PHV admits (as he/she must, according to the offered principle of justification) that the Nazis are justified (have good reason, are right, reasonable) in their actions, how can PHV then turn around and claim that what the Nazis are doing is wrong?

    You can’t have it both ways, either the Nazis are justified in their actions, or what they are doing is wrong. PHV’s principle of “strong personal feelings” necessarily justifies the actions of the Nazis; PHV then cannot rationally hold their actions “wrong”.

    PHV’s position here is blatantly irrational; but then, PHV doesn’t claim his/her argument is rational, or based on any logic – it’s based entirely on feeling. If PHV’s feelings generate irrational beliefs and result in hypocritical or contradictory actions, it doesn’t matter, because it is PHV’s feelings that provide PHV all the justification he/she requires to do anything PHV wants, including forcing his/her will on others and calling it “morality”.

  55. 55
    Mark Frank says:

    WJM #53
    I need  a break from work, so I will have one more go – though I hold out  no great hope of a breakthrough.
     

    Since what the Nazis believe doesn’t factor into PHV’s views or actions, and because morality, according to PHV, is entirely subjective personal preference, there is no hope of any kind of logical debate or arbitration between the two. There is no reason to look for a shared fundamental premise from which a convincing argument can be made to get the other side to change their views because, according to PHV’s view, the fundamental premise of both sides is necessarily just how they subjectively feel about it.

    You overstate your case.  The extreme committed Nazi’s were so alien and perverted that it might have turned out that there was no way to present a convincing argument (how does your “objective” view help you present one if they don’t share it?). However, in this ethical dispute, like all others, there is plenty of reason to look for shared premises (I don’t know whether they would turn out to be fundamental but I don’t see that matters. ). Although morality is in essence subjective we have a core of common subjective opinions with almost everyone. If you can find that common ground then you can argue from it.

    Thus, under PHV’s view, no reasoned debate or argument is possible …. Therefore, PHV’s view formally dismisses reason and necessarily endorses might and manipulation as that which must be used in moral disagreements.

    No. Subjectivity does not exclude reasoned debate.  You can have a reasoned debate about whether Mozart is a better composer than Beethoven – but I think that in the end we all recognise it is a subjective judgement.

  56. 56
    Brent says:

    PHV,

    With apologies up front because I’m sure the formatting is messed up somewhere and there must be some mistakes I’ve missed as well.

    I said:

    If you say my measurement of twelve inches is wrong, it is because you can use a ruler to check. Why does this not apply in ethics? And if it doesn’t apply, how can you really say anything is wrong?

    And you asked me to give the response that I think you would give.

    It seems to me you’ve already answered it pretty clearly: You don’t think an objective standard is necessary, only your subjective one. I.E., you think it’s enough to say, only, that you think it is wrong. You believe that since something isn’t a physical object, but a value judgment, that there is no standard to appeal to, and therefore unnecessary.

    Moving on . . .

    First, I’d ask you to compare your “preference” for ice cream to your “preference” that genocide not happen. But do those things feel the same to you? At all? I assume that they don’t. They don’t to me, either. Subjectivists really, truly aren’t sociopathic monsters. Nor are we logically required to be by our premises.

    So the first difference is that they feel enormously different.

    Again, it’s baffling to me that you appeal to feelings while being perplexed that an objectivist might say “self-evident”. Very strange. So, the objectivist position, by your own admission it seems, has as much evidence for objective standards as you do for subjective standards. I get the difference, that you would say that because they are just feelings they shouldn’t be considered anything but subjective, while the objectivist says they are something more than subjective; but you want to apply your subjective standards as if they weren’t. The inconsistency seems to be on the subjectivist position.

    Perhaps that is confusing, but it isn’t the main thing I want to say.

    You have the world upside-down. Of course my preference that genocide doesn’t happen is of much greater importance and weight, or “feeling”, than my preference for vanilla ice cream. And for good reason, then, I don’t think I’m feeling the same thing. Why do you? Genocide may not directly affect me, or you, but not getting our favorite ice cream does. Why do we care what may happen to a group of people on the other side of the world?

    And about feeling, will a judge sit idle while the prosecution says they feel the defendant is guilty? No; they had better bring some evidence. The point is, feelings are not robust enough to convict someone for. But you say they are. You only feel murder is wrong; I say I know murder is wrong. But don’t get tripped up here just yet because I said I know. Hold on a minute. The main point is I believe murder IS wrong, and with that, I can have confidence to convict a guilty man.

    Why do they feel different? I think an objectivist would say that it’s because they represent universal standards. But I can’t reconcile that with objectivists’ absolute, echoing failure to actually define those standards, propose a working tool with which to identify them, explain why they change over time, etc.

    Exactly. They feel different because they are different. Now, if you want the standard, I’ll say it is God Himself, or if you want something more “concrete”, His Holy Bible. Assuming you won’t accept that (not that you have a good reason, of course), let’s just say for the sake of argument that I cannot define or identify the standards. I actually don’t have to. To be rational, I only have to give good reasons for believing they exist, and more to the point and practical part of this, give good reasons for believing that the moral intuitions that we do have are probably a good indication of what those objective standards are.

    I say that there can be no objective standard in the absence of God. And, if God exists, objective moral standards exist automatically by virtue of whatever His nature is. In that case, every argument for the existence of God is also an argument for objective moral values. One of the arguments for God, of course, is the moral argument itself. This has as its premise that objective moral values do exist, however, which is what we’re talking about.

    And so here we are, at the moral argument. You brought up some interesting and good observations, such as:

    The ought still depends on what you could call “preferences” – freedom is good, suffering is bad, etc.

    and

    As a side note, I don’t see how objectivists escape that reduction. Even if there is an objective good, isn’t your decision to adhere to a matter of preferring good over bad? Isn’t that a “preference”?

    In like manner of thinking, it is funny that people say you cannot get an ought from an is. Leave it to materialists to have it 100% wrong. In fact, the only place you can get an ought is from an is. If the ruler isn’t the standard, how ought I decide what 12 inches is? If the mile isn’t the standard, how ought manufacturers produce a meaningful speedometer? These can only be accomplished because there is an is; a law has been made that such and such a distance is an inch, and such and such a distance is a mile. Oughts can only be derived from iss.

    Of course, the mile and the inch might have been something else. They are arbitrary and subjective and perhaps will be changed some day. So, what is the problem with subjective moral standards? Nothing, if you don’t mind, for instance, condemning someone to death for subjective standards.

    So let me ask you: Is it moral in your opinion to unjustly convict a man? Let’s say there is a murder suspect but you have no evidence, just feeling. Should he be convicted? You’ll say no, of course. But let’s ask it in reverse: there is evidence for the act, but no evidence that murder is wrong, just feeling. Why is objective evidence necessary in your opinion on the one side, but not the other? If the feeling that a man committed an act of murder isn’t enough to convict him, it doesn’t bother you that feeling murder is wrong is enough to convict him?

    So, if you think it is unjust to convict an innocent man, then you have nothing but injustice, for on your position not only don’t you know if a man is guilty of any objective moral transgression, but openly claim there isn’t even any way to know, or objective thing as, moral transgression.

    Now, to you, it may appear that we could put each other over this same barrel. But you’d be wrong. You may feel I need evidence of these absolute ISs to prove my case, but it isn’t the case. Why? Because I am consistent with my belief (actually knowledge, but for your sake . . . ) about the nature of morality, that it’s objective ought based on IS. I can convict a man based on a solid Standard, while you convict him on a subjective standard. On the one hand you say you need to know if a man is really guilty, but on the other hand you don’t. You say a man is guilty while only claiming to know half of what guilt really is. I claim to need to know not only what a man does in order to decide his guilt, but also that what he did do is worthy of actual guilt.

    You like hypos, you said: Your position convicts a man for trespassing only based on knowing that a man walked in such and such an area. My position needs to know not only that a man walked in such and such an area, but also that such and such an area really was prohibited to be walked in. You say you feel it was prohibited. I say I know it was prohibited. A judge would throw your case out, and not mine.

    Even if there is an objective good, isn’t your decision to adhere to a matter of preferring good over bad? Isn’t that a “preference”?

    To respond more directly to this, I think you’ve missed the point. If good isn’t simply subjective as you believe, then although one may choose or prefer it, it is what they ought to choose and prefer. Choosing, per se, is neither here nor there. We choose either to act in accordance with our own moral standards or not, which speaks nothing towards their subjective or objective nature.

    I’m sure I’ll think of some other reasons later; it’s such an odd question.

    It seems like an odd question because you have an odd position.

    What is the connection, in your mind, to my position and legal training? In my opinion, it runs quite the other way. In law school (and certainly in practice) you very quickly learn that you cannot simply appeal to “objective” standards to win a debate or establish a fair rule of law. Because people don’t agree on what those “objective” standards are. Even for dyed-in-the-wool objectivists, the practice of law is about operating in a relativist world: applying agreed-upon mortal rules, rather than some ethereal and objective moral standard.

    This is just begging the question. The moral values are not different themselves, and so no conflict need arise for anyone practicing law of whether our moral values, upon which laws are based, are either subjective or objective. The problem is as I was getting at above: how can someone trained in law be at peace with himself if he believes that the moral values undergirding the law are only subjective?

    I have no problem calling certain acts “wrong.” None. I do so according to my subjective standards, which I prefer to the standards of others. So I feel free to apply that judgment even though someone else might disagree with me. It works the same way for everyone, all the time–the key difference is that I think my underlying moral principles are subjective, while others think theirs are objective.

    No. I think I need a standard, but it can be subjective. Using a subjective standard renders the judgment subjective, rather than objective. I’m OK with that. It doesn’t make a practical difference, as it doesn’t preclude me (logically or practically) from acting on my beliefs.

    If you say my measurement of twelve inches is wrong, it is because you can use a ruler to check. Why does this not apply in ethics?

    Your measurement is a physical thing, to which we can apply a truly objective measure. If I ask, “What is the objective measurement”, you can say, “Here. It’s this ruler.” I can see it, touch it, test it. Critically, I can compare it to Allan’s ruler and Bob’s ruler and Cindy’s ruler. If those rulers don’t agree, then we don’t really have an objective standard until we figure it out.

    Again, your world is upside-down. You need an objective standard for unimportant things, but for the most important things feelings will do.

    Your value measurements don’t have physical, empirical dimensions. When I ask, “What’s the ruler?”, I get silence or incoherent statements like, “It’s just self-evident, and it doesn’t need to be tested or proved.”

    But you are only interested in “seeing the ruler” when confronting objectivists. When you are confronted, feelings are enough. You’ll forgive me for saying that’s a double standard?

    Without a real objective test, I can’t call your value measurements (or mine) “objective.” Critically, I can’t directly compare yours to Allan’s to Bob’s to Cindy’s. I can quite easily see that they’re different, though. Allan’s a racist, Bob’s in an interracial relationship. There’s no objective standard to compare their respective values to.

    Again, the moral values of the subjectivist and objectivist are the same. Any differences could just as well be differences between two subjectivists or objectivists. And I’d say there is an objective standard to compare them to.

    I can, however, compare Allan’s and Bob’s values to my values. Which I think are the right values; that’s virtually a tautology, because they wouldn’t be my values if I didn’t think they were right. (Again, according to my upbringing, culture, past history, etc.) And when Allan’s values don’t measure up to mine, there’s no logical reason I can’t condemn him. Nor is there any logical reason I can’t put my preferences into action by, say, voting for equal protection laws.

    What standard, for example, do you appeal to to say that my mass murdering of people is wrong? If that ‘standard’ you appeal to is only subjective, why should I or anybody else care about it? I can say, validly, it is just your opinion, and nothing more.

    Thanks, prefer working with practical hypos like this. I think it sharpens the discussion.

    I apply my standard. I think mass murder is wrong. I think that is a subjective standard. If I’m trying to get you to adopt my standard, I use the same tools an objectivist would: persuasion and coercion.

    Let’s say I’d start by identifying our commonalities. Do we both think life overall is good? Maybe you don’t–obviously this is hypothetical. But maybe you love your mother. So I’d try to appeal to that to create a principle we could build on: killing all these people will make their mothers sad, will be killing mothers, etc.

    If that didn’t work, I’d go to coercion. I’d vote for more funding for the police, or stricter anti-mass-murder laws, or I’d just go all Batman on you. The stock phrase for this sort of thing is: “There are three boxes. Soap box, ballot box, ammo box. Use them in that order.”

    I appreciate your explanation, but this is just describing practical outworkings, again, of moral values that we agree on. It doesn’t get at whether they are objective or subjective.

    Obviously this omits one tool that objectivists can use in theory, the appeal to objective standards. (I could try it too, but I want to stay with tools that are consistent with my worldview.) But that’s a non-starter when the stakes are high. The Union didn’t free the slaves by telling the South, “Hey! God really doesn’t like slavery, your opinions to the contrary are objectively wrong!” The Allies didn’t stop the Holocaust by citing objective moral principles of life and liberty.

    Absolutely agree and disagree with the emboldened. Of course the slaves were not freed by telling the south they were objectively wrong. But it WAS because people BELIEVED that they were objectively wrong that they put their own lives on the line! The Holocaust was stopped because principled men and women believed there was a Principal behind their principles that gave them ought!

    If that ‘standard’ you appeal to is only subjective, why should I or anybody else care about it?

    Here’s where I think you’ve lost sight of the real world. Whenever you cite an objective value that’s different from someone else’s, they think it’s just your opinion. Why, then, should they or anybody else care about it? It’s on you to persuade or coerce them. Works the same way for everybody, including objectivists.

    I can say, validly, it is just your opinion, and nothing more.

    Yes you can. And you will, if you disagree with my opinion. Just like any objectivist who disagreed with your version of “objective” standards would say to you.

    This again isn’t speaking to the main issue. I may think someone mistaken about a moral issue, but what I’m getting at with you and the subjectivist position is that all moral values are mistaken. They simply do not rise, actually, to morality at all. This is hard to get the subjectivist to see because, as I’ve said, his values are really the same as mine and I agree with him. It isn’t really the values themselves, but the grounding for them that he has eradicated.

    The other day on the AM radio, I heard three or four guys debating the meaning of Romans 13. They disagreed vehemently with one another and the callers. Every party to that conversation believed that he knew the objective truth, and felt no need to abandon that truth just because some other guy’s got an opinion.

    Again, missing the point. They disagree over who has the correct understanding, but not whether there is a correct understanding to be had.

  57. 57

    The extreme committed Nazi’s were so alien and perverted that it might have turned out that there was no way to present a convincing argument (how does your “objective” view help you present one if they don’t share it?).

    Under PHV’s argument, the terms “alien and perverted” only mean “strongly differ from your own”. You and PHV keep using phrasings that imply an objective standard when the argument at hand is that there is no such thing.

    The existence of some assumed objective standard, even if not your own, gives a foothold to make a rational case using the assumed objective standard and logic extending from it to convince them that they are wrong – according to their own standard. If “the standard” is “however they happen to feel”, there is no rational basis for argument.

    However, in this ethical dispute, like all others, there is plenty of reason to look for shared premises (I don’t know whether they would turn out to be fundamental but I don’t see that matters.

    PHV has stated that the fundamental premise for moral rights and wrongs is how one feels about a thing. That premise dictates there is no common ground when feelings are in direct conflict; you feel gassing Jews is wrong; they feel it is right. That is all the justification either of you need under PHV’s argument.

    Although morality is in essence subjective we have a core of common subjective opinions with almost everyone. If you can find that common ground then you can argue from it.

    You’re addressing something other than the question at hand. The question is not about things people that might agree upon, but rather about that which they disagree on. While one can always “argue” via rhetoric, emotional pleading, etc., if the premise is that feeling justifies behavior, then behavior doesn’t have to be explained further than feeling. Even asking “why do you feel that way” refers to a justification that PHV has said isn’t necessary. You don’t have to justify why you feel that way; you only have to feel that way.

  58. 58

    Mark Frank said:

    No. Subjectivity does not exclude reasoned debate.

    I didn’t say it did. What I said was that the assumption that a commodity is entirely subjective excludes rational (logical) debate.

    You can have a reasoned debate about whether Mozart is a better composer than Beethoven – but I think that in the end we all recognise it is a subjective judgement.

    Go ahead, MF. Put up or shut up. Provide a rational argument why one is better than the other.

    Put up or shut up, MF. Make a reasoned argument that one is better than the other.

  59. 59

    Eh, I thought I had edited that last line out.

  60. 60

    Also, I put quotes on the second paragraph instead of the first in #57. GAH!

  61. 61

    To make this more simple:

    If your view is that behavior is justified as moral ultimately by the subjective feelings of the actor, then you are logically obliged (not mentally forced) to agree that the behavior of the Nazis was justified by your fundamental moral principle, as long as they believed it was the right thing to do.

    You cannot hold that behavior is both justifiable and wrong. Either the Nazis’ behavior is justified by the principle (even if subjective), OR it is wrong by the moral principle (even if subjective).

    You cannot have it both ways.

  62. 62
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    WJM,

    I indicated earlier that our conversation was done, as you were being both silly and rude. Your restatement in #61 is such a simple explanation of your position, though, that I think it’s worthwhile to point out the failure in your logic.

    If your view is that behavior is justified as moral ultimately by the subjective feelings of the actor, then you are logically obliged (not mentally forced) to agree that the behavior of the Nazis was justified in the Nazis’ own opinion, as long as they believed it was the right thing to do.

    I have altered what you wrote to add the critical thing you omitted, in bold. As a subjectivist, I do acknowledge that the Nazis believed they were justified. Objectivists would typically agree with that. (Except perhaps those that believe that everyone secretly shares their own moral beliefs.) A subjectivist need not, and would not, say that the Nazis were justified in any other sense—it would contravene the meaning of subjectivism.

    To a subjectivist, the Nazis’ behavior was justifiable only to other Nazis—it’s an internal, subjective justification. Their behavior is wrong to everyone else. Your statement that we “cannot hold that behavior is both justifiable and wrong” conflates these two perspectives.

    It’s like saying that we can’t hold that a light is both bright and dim. Of course we can—to a person who has been staring at a floodlight, it’s dim. To someone who’s been blindfolded for an hour, it’s bright. Those positions are only contradictory if you ascribe objective meaning to those subjective evaluations.

  63. 63
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    Brent,

    Thanks for your response. This is kind of a disjointed point-by-point comment; we might want to abandon this format for future responses lest we get into ridiculous lengths.

    You had originally said,

    If you say my measurement of twelve inches is wrong, it is because you can use a ruler to check. Why does this not apply in ethics? And if it doesn’t apply, how can you really say anything is wrong?

    And answered as you thought I would:

    It seems to me you’ve already answered it pretty clearly: You don’t think an objective standard is necessary, only your subjective one. I.E., you think it’s enough to say, only, that you think it is wrong. You believe that since something isn’t a physical object, but a value judgment, that there is no standard to appeal to, and therefore unnecessary.

    I think this is pretty close. I’d focus on the impossibility of identifying an objective moral standard, rather than simply calling it unnecessary, but I think both are true. Thank you for putting in the work to understand my perspective.

    Again, it’s baffling to me that you appeal to feelings while being perplexed that an objectivist might say “self-evident”. Very strange. So, the objectivist position, by your own admission it seems, has as much evidence for objective standards as you do for subjective standards. I get the difference, that you would say that because they are just feelings they shouldn’t be considered anything but subjective, while the objectivist says they are something more than subjective; but you want to apply your subjective standards as if they weren’t. The inconsistency seems to be on the subjectivist position.

    I like this response, both because you’re identified an important issue and sharpened a point of our disagreement. First, you’re exactly right that the “feelings” I’m pointing to are functionally the same as the objectivists’ feelings of “self-evidency.” But where you say “the objectivist position . . . has as much evidence for objective standards as you do for subjective standards,” I strongly disagree. The objectivist has as much evidence for their subjective feelings regarding self-evident moral truths. What they don’t have is evidence that those feelings actually reflect any real objective moral standard.

    Of course, you accurately predicted that response. I don’t understand what you think is the inconsistency, though. That I want to apply my subjective standards as if they were objective? I don’t think that I do. I think that I’m applying subjective standards, period. I may apply them to govern my interactions with other people, but I don’t think that makes them objective or that they need to actually be objective to do so.

    You have the world upside-down. Of course my preference that genocide doesn’t happen is of much greater importance and weight, or “feeling”, than my preference for vanilla ice cream. And for good reason, then, I don’t think I’m feeling the same thing. Why do you? Genocide may not directly affect me, or you, but not getting our favorite ice cream does. Why do we care what may happen to a group of people on the other side of the world?

    This is a good question that often confuses people. I think the clearest and best answer is that I value people who aren’t me. I care about the typhoon victims in the Philippines, even though I’ve never been there and don’t know anyone directly affected. Why? Because I value those people. I value them less than I value myself, or else I’d be on the next plane dedicating my life to helping them. I value them less than my immediate family, or else ditto. But I value them. So genocide, or natural disaster, or whatever, affects people I value even if it doesn’t affect me. An economist would say that therefore those things do affect me.

    This is sometimes a very difficult thing for people who aren’t atheists or subjectivists to understand. I have had people ask me why I’d value someone other than myself. I think, again, it’s largely down to my upbringing and socialization, although there may also be some biology to it.

    And about feeling, will a judge sit idle while the prosecution says they feel the defendant is guilty? No; they had better bring some evidence. The point is, feelings are not robust enough to convict someone for. But you say they are. You only feelmurder is wrong; I say I know murder is wrong. But don’t get tripped up here just yet because I said I know. Hold on a minute. The main point is I believe murder IS wrong, and with that, I can have confidence to convict a guilty man.

    I’m a little confused about your point here. You’re correct that the court will consider evidence in order to convict a defendant according to an objective standard—but not the kind of transcendent objective standard we’re discussing here. Rather, that’s a standard that people agreed upon using their own subjective moral beliefs as an input. The law is an agreed-upon standard, a created objective metric. The ruler we built for moral questions because the universe didn’t give us one. Using the law, we can say that something is objectively wrong. But only according to our human-built standard.

    Of course, and I say this as someone with (limited) experience practicing criminal law, you don’t need to be an objectivist to have the confidence to convict a guilty man. A subjectivist can feel just as strongly and passionately that the guilty deserve to be punished!

    Now, if you want the standard, I’ll say it is God Himself, or if you want something more “concrete”, His Holy Bible. Assuming you won’t accept that (not that you have a good reason, of course), let’s just say for the sake of argument that I cannot define or identify the standards.

    Catholic or Protestant Bible? Original languages or in translation? When two people disagree about how to interpret a verse, such as Romans 13, how do you tell who is right? How do you objectively prove your answer? The fact that all of the answers to these questions are subjective gives me, I think, quite good reason to reject the Bible as an objective standard of morality.

    I actually don’t have to. To be rational, I only have to give good reasons for believing they exist, and more to the point and practical part of this, give good reasons for believing that the moral intuitions that we do have are probably a good indication of what those objective standards are.
    I say that there can be no objective standard in the absence of God. And, if God exists, objective moral standards exist automatically by virtue of whatever His nature is. In that case, every argument for the existence of God is also an argument for objective moral values. One of the arguments for God, of course, is the moral argument itself. This has as its premise that objective moral values do exist, however, which is what we’re talking about.

    Thanks, I appreciate the explanation of your position. Even when I was a theist, though, I think I would have disagreed. You’ve outlined an argument for believing that objective moral standards exist. But that’s not even halfway there. What we need is some way of telling what they are that’s based on more than subjective feeling. How do we tell if any particular moral dilemma has an objective answer? How do we tell what that answer is if people disagree? Even if we agreed that God exists and imposes objective moral standards, if we can’t identify them we’re still living in a subjectivist world.

    In like manner of thinking, it is funny that people say you cannot get an ought from an is…

    I’m omitting a substantive response to your thoughts on this because I think they’re orthogonal to our discussion. They’re interesting, but not really something that’s germane to our dispute. Please let me know if you disagree or want me to respond, but otherwise I’ll refrain from commenting on them.

    Of course, the mile and the inch might have been something else. They are arbitrary and subjective and perhaps will be changed some day. So, what is the problem with subjective moral standards? Nothing, if you don’t mind, for instance, condemning someone to death for subjective standards.

    We only condemn people to death for subjective standards. There’s an objective law at issue, of course, but that’s the temporal human-built kind of objectivity, not the transcendent eternal kind of objectivity. And the law is built through subjective moral processes. At no point is there an objective standard employed that resolves the question. Humans, with disagreements about the underlying moral principles, argue with one another about the right rule to enact. Subjective process, subjective result.

    So let me ask you: Is it moral in your opinion to unjustly convict a man? Let’s say there is a murder suspect but you have no evidence, just feeling. Should he be convicted? You’ll say no, of course. But let’s ask it in reverse: there is evidence for the act, but no evidence that murder is wrong, just feeling. Why is objective evidence necessary in your opinion on the one side, but not the other? If the feeling that a man committed an act of murder isn’t enough to convict him, it doesn’t bother you that feeling murder is wrong is enough to convict him?

    Thanks again, I love hypos. No, I don’t think it’s moral to unjustly convict someone. And yes, you’d need evidence to justly convict them. But no, I don’t think we need evidence that murder is objectively wrong. First of all, no such evidence exists. Bear in mind the utter failure of objectivists to identify such evidence—“I feel it to be true” being neither objective nor, in any useful sense, evidence.

    I’m comfortable with living under laws based on our collective feelings because we live in a democracy, and our laws (more or less) represent our consensus view. I also feel protected from the tyranny of the majority, and overall feel that our justice system is highly ethical and moral. Not perfect, but I don’t expect (only wish for) a perfect system.

    Let’s take that hypo in a new direction. “Objective” morality breaks down even further when the questions get complicated. It’s easy to say that hedonistically torturing children is wrong, because everyone agrees, regardless of whether or not objective standards exist. But when the questions require actual thought and consideration, I think objectivity goes out the window. What’s the objective moral solution to the N Guilty Men problem? (I linked to this in the other thread—in other words, how many guilty men should be let free before convicting an innocent man?) The classical answer is 10. You could say 0 or 1 or -10 (that 10 innocent men should be jailed rather than letting a guilty one go free). What’s the objectively true answer?

    One response would be to say there’s no objective answer to that particular problem. But how do you know? Does your feeling for whether there’s an objective answer just happen to track your subjective evaluation of the problem?

    So, if you think it is unjust to convict an innocent man, then you have nothing but injustice, for on your position not only don’t you know if a man is guilty of any objective moral transgression, but openly claim there isn’t even any way to know, or objective thing as, moral transgression.

    No, here you’re making some unnecessary assumptions. I don’t need to know that he’s guilty of an objective transgression to feel, just as strongly as you do, that he’s guilty. I feel he’s guilty as I define guilt, which is true for all of us. I believe my standard is good and correct. Of course he may disagree, but (big surprise) criminal defendants always do, objective morality or no. (It’s even easier because here he’s transgressed our codified, human-built “objective” standards.)

    You like hypos, you said: Your position convicts a man for trespassing only based on knowing that a man walked in such and such an area. My position needs to know not only that a man walked in such and such an area, but also that such and such an area really was prohibited to be walked in. You say you feel it was prohibited. I say Iknow it was prohibited. A judge would throw your case out, and not mine.

    I’m not sure that I understand this hypo. Do you mean this as an actual court case, or a metaphysical process? If this is a court of law, I need to prove that the area was prohibited under the law and that he was in it. To feel comfortable prosecuting him, I need to feel that it’s right to do so. I can achieve that by believing either that this law is good or that the law overall is good, and this law is not so bad as to override my general preference for a codified justice system. I’d also need to believe that he actually violated that law.

    The problem is as I was getting at above: how can someone trained in law be at peace with himself if he believes that the moral values undergirding the law are only subjective?

    Quite easily. Again, I think my moral beliefs are good. I have no problem taking action based on them so long as the need to so, in my opinion, outweighs by belief in the right of others to do as they please. (Whether or not that’s true depends of course on the circumstances.)

    But of course as a subjectivist, I think we need to come together as a community and set rules that bind us so that we don’t have to hash out every moral problem every time it arises. That’s what the law is for. It’s designed by and for subjective human beings, but creates a temporal “objectivity” we can use to resolve these sorts of questions. Unlike the phantom objectivity that lots of people here believe in but can’t demonstrate, I can point to the law and say, “Yes, it’s definitely illegal to double park here. It may or may not be transcendently wrong—there’s no way to tell—but it’s definitely illegal.”

    Again, your world is upside-down. You need an objective standard for unimportant things, but for the most important things feelings will do.

    It’s not a question of what we need, it’ a question of what we have. We don’t have a metaphysical ruler to point to, regardless of how much we feel we need one.

    But you are only interested in “seeing the ruler” when confronting objectivists. When you are confronted, feelings are enough. You’ll forgive me for saying that’s a double standard?

    I think it’s the same standard! I absolutely accept that objectivists are operating based on their feelings, just as I am. What I don’t accept is that those feelings are proof of a transcendent objective standard. Their feelings are only proof of their feelings. The same analysis applies to them and to me.

    Absolutely agree and disagree with the emboldened. Of course the slaves were not freed by telling the south they were objectively wrong. But it WAS because people BELIEVED that they were objectively wrong that they put their own lives on the line! The Holocaust was stopped because principled men and women believed there was a Principal behind their principles that gave them ought!

    Yes, they believed it. First, the fact that they believed it is not evidence that they were right. Second, the fact that they believed it does not dispose of the fact that the South believed otherwise, deflating the idea of an objective principle. Third, there were atheists fighting for the good guys in both of those wars—you don’t have to believe in an objective standard to risk yourself for an abstract value. And fourth, this just illustrates that objective principles seem to get worked out by subjective disputes—it took a war to get us to the point where everyone agrees that slavery is wrong. No objective voice clarified that for us.

    Again, missing the point. They disagree over who has the correct understanding, but not whether there is a correct understanding to be had.

    I think this is an important point—even if there is an objectively correct understanding, if there’s no objective way to determine what it is, then we live in a subjectivist world.

  64. 64
    Mark Frank says:

    WJM – I am confused by which parts of the above comments you intended or not. However, I think I can throw light on #61.
    It is not my subjective feelings that justify my moral beliefs. Rather my subjective feelings are justified by all sorts of considerations such as suffering and fairness which result in my subjective judgement that the Nazis were deeply wrong.Possibly they may have had their own justifications for their subjective judgement – I would almost certainly subjectively reject those justifications.

    But I have an idea. Rather than rehash old arguments over and over again. Show me how you can rationally argue that the Nazi’s were objectively wrong. I will role play a Nazi you are trying to convince.

    My opening line is:

    “Inferior races should be eliminated to allow superior races to fulfil their manifest destiny.”

    How do you prove me wrong?

  65. 65
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    To PHV, WJM said:It is also a trivial observation that humans often hold irrational and logically irreconcilable beliefs. Because one believes that morality is relative doesn’t necessarily mean they accept that what the Nazis did was good; it just means that if they restricted their beliefs to what was logically extractable from their premise, that is what they would have to accept. (bold added.)

    What you’re saying is “philosophically true” (in my opinion). And makes for interesting discussion around academic firesides and Internet blogs. But in the Real World, it doesn’t matter. People generally don’t give a hoot or even think about what logically follows from premises they hold. People generally act on emotion not from rigorous philosophical arguments.

    Whether or not God or some transcendent morality exists, PVH is essentially right when he says it’s a relativistic world. It’s hard to see how it could be any different, unless some Higher Power shows up and enforces the Transcendent Law, if such exists.

  66. 66
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    What you’re saying is “philosophically true” (in my opinion). And makes for interesting discussion around academic firesides and Internet blogs.

    Fortunately, that’s where we are.

    It’s important to me to clarify what WJM has been eliding: the subjectivist need only acknowledge that the Nazi is justified in the Nazi’s own mind. There is no logical requirement for the subjectivist to say that a Nazi is justified in any other way.

    In fact, the subjectivist can’t logically say that the Nazi is justified in any broader sense. A subjectivist doesn’t believe in an objective state of justification; the Nazi can, logically, only be justified to himself or in the subjective opinion of observers. The Nazi is trivially justified in his own mind, and not at all justified in the minds of others applying their own moral standards.

  67. 67

    PHV admits that the Nazis were justified in the sense that they believed what they were doing was right, that “in their opinion” they were “justfied”, but they were not justified “in other senses”,or in PHV’s opinion.

    The problem here is that PHV is using deceptive (probably self-deceptively, as well) phrasings and terms in order to avoid the necessary logical ramifications of his/her position – something many materialists and atheists do, consciously or subconsciously.

    PHV tries to create some space between “determining principle” and “in their opinion” by substituting one for the other and saying one is entirely different from the other. The problem is that there is no difference in the meaning between those two phrases under PHV’s argument, because the determining principle (of whether or not an act is moral) **is** the personal opinion of the actor.

    PHV says that the acts of the Nazis may not be justified “in every sense”, even if they are justified in the “it’s their opinion sense”, but once again, PHV fails to see the obvious problem. The only sense that matters is the personal opinion of the actor. There is no other “sense” that can justifyan act as moral. PHV has even said that the views and beliefs of others are irrelevant when determining what is moral, so what PHV believes is entirely irrelevant and inadmissable when determining if what the Nazis are doing is moral; all that matters is the feelings of the actor.

    The problem for PHV is that, under his/her subjective morality position, there isn’t any other sense that matters besides “in their opinion” when it comes to justifying an act as morally good. PHV tries a failed analogy to gain some ground:

    It’s like saying that we can’t hold that a light is both bright and dim.

    … but this analogy is improper. Nobody is talking about degrees of morality, but rather if a thing is moral or not. The light cannot be off and on at the same time.

    Either an act is morally justified by the feelings of the actor, or it is not. That one dislikes what the actor is doing doesn’t make it immoral for the actor to do it. It may be immoral for PHV to gas Jews, but PHV cannot pass judgement on what the Nazis are doing because he is not them, and is not feeling what they are feeling.

    And that is the key. Moral judgements only be made by the actor under moral subjectivism; only the actor knows they are feeling and can say if what their actions are moral or not; PHV doesn’t know what the Nazis are feeling, so he/she cannot say if the act is moral or not, because that is the only way to judge if an act is moral or not.

    Looking over the scenario, PHV must logically admit that what the Nazis are doing is moral by the the principle of “it’s their opinion”. We can agree that it would be immoral for PHV to gas the jews (he doesn’t like it), but it is not immoral for the Nazis to gas the Jews (they like it).

    What then, under PHV’s moral subjectivism, could logically support PHV’s intervention in the admittedly moral activities of the Nazis? PHV says that he doesn’t like what they are doing – doesn’t like it so much, in fact, that he/she must intervene, meaning it would be immoral for PHV to not intervene.

    But, why would PHV feel morally compelled to intervene in what PHV must admit is an entirely justified, moral act – justified in the only sense and by the only criteria admissible, the opinion of those committing the act?

  68. 68

    It’s important to me to clarify what WJM has been eliding: the subjectivist need only acknowledge that the Nazi is justified in the Nazi’s own mind. There is no logical requirement for the subjectivist to say that a Nazi is justified in any other way.

    Unfortunately, that is the only justification that matters or is at all relevant, because under your own argument, it is only the opinion of the actor that validates any act as moral.

    It may be immoral for you to gas Jews (you don’t like it), and it may be moral for you to intervene and stop the Nazis from gassing the Jews (you feel like doing it), but you are logically obliged to admit that it is moral for the Nazis to gas the Jews. There’s no way around it. Your opinion on their behavior is entirely irrelevant to the morality of their behavior, which can only be determined by how they feel about it.

    But then you’re faced with the problem of accounting for why you are morally compelled to stop what you must admit is a morally good action by the Nazis.

  69. 69
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    Once again you are misstating my position, perhaps in hopes that I won’t respond. But I find your constant invention of convenient “logical” requirements with no actual logical support worth of correcting. I particularly dislike being continually slimed with the word “Nazi,” when the justification for doing so is so tawdry and paper-thin.

    [W]hat PHV believes is entirely irrelevant and inadmissable when determining if what the Nazis are doing is moral; all that matters is the feelings of the actor.

    I think this is the core of your confusion. You are incorrect. What I believe is relevant to my assessment of whether the Nazis were moral by my standards. Their beliefs are not logically required for or relevant to that assessment.

    Either an act is morally justified by the feelings of the actor, or it is not. That one dislikes what the actor is doing doesn’t make it immoral for the actor to do it. It may be immoral for PHV to gas Jews, but PHV cannot pass judgement on what the Nazis are doing because he is not them, and is not feeling what they are feeling.

    A subjectivist need not logically stop to consider whether an actor believes himself justified in order to pass judgment on that actor. There’s just no logical connection there.

    A subjectivist, Alfred, can logically condemn another person, Betty, whether or not Betty believes herself to be justified. Betty’s opinion simply isn’t necessary for, or even necessarily relevant to, Alfred’s analysis. You have failed to construct any logical argument to the contrary, much less a convincing one.

    Looking over the scenario, PHV must logically admit that what the Nazis are doing is moral by the the principle of “it’s their opinion”. We can agree that it would be immoral for PHV to gas the jews (he doesn’t like it), but it is not immoral for the Nazis to gas the Jews (they like it).

    You should take more care with your phrasing; whether intentionally or not, you are equivocating between subjective and objective standards. You say “it is not immoral for the Nazis to gas the Jews,” but immoral to whom? To the Nazis? It’s trivially true that it’s not immoral in their own opinion. But that’s irrelevant to my subjective analysis.

    I logically need admit only that the Nazis believe that the Nazis were justified. I do not logically need to admit that their actions were moral in any larger sense; it would be incoherent for me to do so, since my position assumes no larger sense exists. Since the Nazis’ beliefs about their own actions are irrelevant to me, they do not factor into my assessment of the morality of their actions.

    What then, under PHV’s moral subjectivism, could logically support PHV’s intervention in the admittedly moral activities of the Nazis? PHV says that he doesn’t like what they are doing – doesn’t like it so much, in fact, that he/she must intervene, meaning it would be immoral for PHV to not intervene.
    But, why would PHV feel morally compelled to intervene in what PHV must admit is an entirely justified, moral act – justified in the only sense and by the only criteria admissible, the opinion of those committing the act?

    Because I need not, and do not, admit the Nazis actions are either justified or moral. The Nazis believe that, not me. I do not need to and do not consider their beliefs as a predicate for putting my own into practice.

    Here’s a summary of the logical process:

    A. I deny the existence of objective moral standards.
    B. I subjectively believe that all people have rights, including the rights to life and some self-determination.
    C. The Nazis are committing genocide on Jews, homosexuals and others.
    D. In my estimation, those victims’ right to life far outweighs the Nazis’ right to self-determination.
    E. I therefore think I am entitled to act to stop the genocide.
    F. My sense of the significance of the moral issue far outweighs my own personal well-being.
    G. I therefore think I am obligated to act to stop the genocide.

    There is no link in the chain that stops to consider whether the Nazis consider themselves to be justified, because it’s irrelevant to my evaluation.

    Nor is there a link that stops to ask whether the Nazis’ beliefs are equivalent to my own, because it would be logically incoherent. I don’t acknowledge a greater context in which they would be equivalent, so the only question would be whether I consider them equal to my own, and of course—tautologically—I do not.

  70. 70
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    One thing that might prevent further miscommunication: the next time you try to set out the logical result of my beliefs in terms of “PHV think this is good,” or “PHV thinks this is justified,” please don’t elide the “to whom“. Good to whom?

  71. 71

    It is not my subjective feelings that justify my moral beliefs.

    The argument I’m making is against what PHV is advocating, which is that subjective feelings justify moral acts and beliefs. Not all moral subjectivists attempt to overtly make that case.

    Rather my subjective feelings are justified by all sorts of considerations such as suffering and fairness which result in my subjective judgement that the Nazis were deeply wrong.Possibly they may have had their own justifications for their subjective judgement – I would almost certainly subjectively reject those justifications.

    The problem is that, under subjectivism, so what? Everyone’s moral actions and views are justified by whatever they feel justifies them. That you accept or reject them by your personal preference is irrelevant with whether or not they are behaving moarlly.

    But I have an idea. Rather than rehash old arguments over and over again. Show me how you can rationally argue that the Nazi’s were objectively wrong. I will role play a Nazi you are trying to convince.

    My opening line is:

    “Inferior races should be eliminated to allow superior races to fulfil their manifest destiny.”

    How do you prove me wrong?

    I never claimed I could prove anyone “wrong” about their morality, including moral subjectivists.

  72. 72

    I think this is the core of your confusion. You are incorrect. What I believe is relevant to my assessment of whether the Nazis were moral by my standards. Their beliefs are not logically required for or relevant to that assessment.

    Your standards are irrelevant to the question of if the Nazis are behaving morally. All that matters under moral relativism is the Nazi standard when it comes to Nazi behavior. Unless you admit that you hold your morality as binding on the behavior of the Nazis, there is no reason to consider your views, much less enforce them on the Nazis.

    Under moral relativism, you do not get to decree or judge what is moral for others to do. If you do that, then you are treating your personal standard as if it was objective and that the Nazis **should** behave according to your standard.

    All you are doing here is trying to intellectually dodge what is blatantly obvious. You cannot actually live as if morality is nothing more than a personal preference based on feelings.

  73. 73

    A. I deny the existence of objective moral standards.
    B. I subjectively believe that all people have rights, including the rights to life and some self-determination.

    Every belief anyone has is a subjectively held belief, even if it is a belief that an objective commodity exists.

    Saying that you “subjectively believe” in something doesn’t change what follows. What follows at B is a description of moral standards you hold to be universally applicable and actionable.

    That’s the very definition of “objective morality”.

    Moral standards one believes to be universally applicable and actionable.

    Saying that you subjectively believe in objective morality is the same as saying you believe in objective morality.

    Your A and B directly contradict each other.

    Cognitive dissonance, anyone?

  74. 74

    The second quote shouldn’t be quoted, it should be bold. Sorry.

  75. 75
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    Unless you admit that you hold your morality as binding on the behavior of the Nazis, there is no reason to consider your views, much less enforce them on the Nazis.

    You still aren’t asking, “for whom”? No reason for whom to consider my views? The Nazis? No, they probably don’t feel that they have a moral obligation to consider my views. For me? Yes, I have plenty of reasons to consider my own opinions. Even third parties like the UN would have reasons to consider my opinions, although they’d evaluate it through their own subjective lens.

    You are assuming some kind of objective, neutral perspective under which you can say, “there’s no reason for this,” or “that is justified,” or “this is good,” without specifying for whom. It’s not just a question of leaving it understood but unwritten—you aren’t thinking about this at all, and operating as if there’s an objective framework that makes “for whom?” unnecessary. That’s assuming your conclusion, at best, and just screamingly incoherent at worst.
    You are making pronouncements about the logical results of subjectivism, remember? Subjectivism doesn’t admit to any such outside perspective in which there is a moral principal without an actor to hold it. You failed to analyze subjectivism according to its own premises, which kept you from performing any real logical analysis of where it leads under its own assumptions.

    Under moral relativism, you do not get to decree or judge what is moral for others to do.

    This is your starting assumption, not the conclusion of some logical process. If you start with this conclusion, then your subsequent pronouncements make sense. You aren’t analyzing any real person’s philosophy, but it’s an internally consistent straw man.
    Actual subjectivists, unlike the scarecrows you’ve outlined, are logically quite free to judge what is moral for others. They simply do so with a subjective standard. In other words, you assumed your conclusion. All you’ve done is driven in a circle, shouting about Nazis.

    If you do that, then you are treating your personal standard as if it was objective and that the Nazis **should** behave according to your standard.

    There’s that assumption of objectivity again. Should according to whom? To the Nazis, or to me? According to me, and as a subjectivist that’s the total framework of my analysis, the Nazis should behave according to my standards. Why? Because my standards are better than theirs. The fact that they would disagree is irrelevant to me.

    All you are doing here is trying to intellectually dodge what is blatantly obvious. You cannot actually live as if morality is nothing more than a personal preference based on feelings.

    “Blatantly obvious” is not an argument. It’s a way of escaping the need to make one. But at some point you have to actually put some rigorous argument down on paper. “Blatantly obvious,” “it’s so!”, and “Nazi!” only cut it with people who already agree with your preconceived notions and won’t ask hard questions.

    Your statement here is trivially false. Real people live as subjectivists every single day. I outlined a simple version of how this works above; repeating your conclusions over again is a poor rebuttal.

    Let’s revisit your hasty initial post. Talking with Brent, Box and StephenB has sharpened my thinking on the subject; I particularly appreciate the way they’ve put some thought into their responses.

    The way that moral relativists attempt to wiggle out of this is by saying that in their opinion, Hitler was behaving immorally. Unfortunately, they have no rational basis for making this statement. It is a category error, a non-sequitur under moral subjectivism, offered as if there was some means by which to pass judgement [sic] on what others consider to be right.

    I think it’s clear now, at least to onlookers, that you simply assumed that subjectivists need an objective standard by which to pass judgment on others. I’m sure you believe that, so it’s understandable that it snuck into your thinking here.

    But you’re trying to model a subjectivist analysis, remember? And subjectivists don’t think they need an external framework. You introduced an outside a priori assumption that has no place in the mindset you’re trying to analyze, and tried to draw a logical conclusion from it. Logic doesn’t work that way—if you’re going to determine the logical outcome of applying a particular framework, you have to stay within that framework.
    In other words, the subjectivist doesn’t need some external “means by which to pass judgment on what others consider to be right.” The subjectivist makes his own internal assessment of what’s right and acts accordingly; nothing logically requires him to stop and take into account the fact that the other person disagrees with him.

    Their principle necessarily endorses the actions of the Nazis as morally good as long as they (the Nazis) believed what they were doing was right; what anyone else thought or thinks is entirely irrelevant.

    Here’s where the missing “to whom” tripped you up—you’re looking at “morally good” as if it’s an objective quality, and assuming subjectivists would do the same. But of course they wouldn’t, that’s what makes them subjectivists.

    Morally good to whom? The Nazis? Congratulations, you’ve proved that subjectivists believe that the Nazis think that the Nazis were doing a great job. A rather trivial result.

    Morally good to anyone else? Not hardly. Everyone else judges the “moral good” of the Nazis through their own subjective lenses, and, not being Nazis, finds no good at all. And to a subjectivist, those are the only perspectives that matter—there’s no external, objective framework to say, “Well, as long as it’s good to someone then it’s just plain good because every perspective is equal.” You always have to understand, “to whom?”

    I think you’re in a tough spot, logically speaking. You tried to analyze the end results of the subjectivist approach without actually following that approach, and although the results probably made you feel good they aren’t valid or logical. Your argument is either incoherent or circular.

    If you disagree, I’d ask you to go back and fill in those missing “to whoms” and restate your case. I don’t think you can do it coherently.

  76. 76
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    Saying that you “subjectively believe” in something doesn’t change what follows. What follows at B is a description of moral standards you hold to be universally applicable and actionable.

    That’s the very definition of “objective morality”.

    This is just silliness. It’s like saying the belief that all food is tasty is an objective belief, since it’s “universally applicable.” (“Actionable” doesn’t make any difference one way or another to the distinction between subjective and objective.)

    I’m defining subjectivism, for our purposes, as the belief that moral principles have no determinable objective reality. That definition is perfectly consistent with the belief that all people have rights. The subjectivist assumes that those rights are human creations, whereas an objectivist would say they come from an objective, perhaps transcendent source. Your definition collapses that distinction, which is quite convenient but makes no sense whatsoever.

    A person can, obviously and trivially, have beliefs that they subjectively believe are universally applicable. What makes them a subjectivist is the belief that those principles lack any determinable objective reality. I.e., I believe all people have rights, but I acknowledge that’s a subjective belief because I can’t prove it with any objective standard. It’s the source of the principle that matters, not the size of the set to which the belief applies.

  77. 77
    Brent says:

    PHV,

    Foregoing a direct response to your points @63, I want in this post to just explore something that struck me upon reading that response. I have many more things to say, but will reply in a separate post.

    You keep saying that since we only have feelings to go on, there is no reason to think there is an objective standard to refer to behind those feelings. For instance:

    I think it’s the same standard! I absolutely accept that objectivists are operating based on their feelings, just as I am. What I don’t accept is that those feelings are proof of a transcendent objective standard. Their feelings are only proof of their feelings. The same analysis applies to them and to me.

    What strikes me is this, that all of our feelings, no matter the magnitude, are, actually, traced to objectively existing causes. Perhaps anecdotally, the feeling of pain associated with burning one’s finger, for instance. But, even feelings of remorse, for example, are traced to an act that caused the feelings. Sadness may be attributed to the death of a loved one, happiness to the birth of a child. Even, I could say, my preference for vanilla ice cream can be traced to the physical sensations associated with its taste.

    So, upon some further thought, it occurs to me that our feelings, all of them, are grounded in an objective IS, as it were.

    If that is the case, then why would you, or anyone, conclude that our feelings on morality, our moral intuitions, are not grounded in an objective reality?

    And please don’t miss this point. The moral argument for the existence of God itself exists as proof pointing to God, not that we reasoned from God to them. Therefore, every time you say an objectivist must point to the objective standards he is referring to, you are missing the point. No; objectivists don’t claim they found these objective standards in the woods somewhere, but rather that, finding the same moral intuitions that the subjectivist has recognized, he sees that they must, also, like all other feelings, be rooted in some objectively existing reality.

  78. 78
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    WJM: The problem here is that PHV is using deceptive (probably self-deceptively, as well) phrasings and terms in order to avoid the necessary logical ramifications of his/her position – something many materialists and atheists do, consciously or subconsciously.

    Whether PHV is doing what you say is one thing and I’ll leave that up to you guys to hash out. However, I submit it doesn’t matter because in the Real World people don’t operate on the basis of necessary logical ramifications of their feelings. The British and Americans went to war against the Nazis because the average person was persuaded in their feelings, objectivist and subjectivist alike, that what the Nazis were doing was “bad” and should be opposed. And then acted accordingly. I didn’t take nuanced philosophy to get people to feel and act against the Nazis. Nor did many subjectivists fail to oppose the Nazis on the basis that the subjectivist’s failure to see the logical ramifications of their core philosophy.

    It’s a relativistic world. People generally act on feeling and emotion (based on whatever nature and nurture has endowed them with) without regard to the logical ramifications of their worldview.

  79. 79

    However, I submit it doesn’t matter because in the Real World people don’t operate on the basis of necessary logical ramifications of their feelings. The British and Americans went to war against the Nazis because the average person was persuaded in their feelings, objectivist and subjectivist alike, that what the Nazis were doing was “bad” and should be opposed.

    Of course, I admit I have no rational argument against anyone who doesn’t care if their belief system and behavior is irrational.

    It’s a relativistic world. People generally act on feeling and emotion (based on whatever nature and nurture has endowed them with) without regard to the logical ramifications of their worldview.

    I agree. I strive, however, to keep my worldview logically consistent and my behavior rational and in accordance with my premises, and I both enjoy and learn via debates like this.

  80. 80

    This is just silliness. It’s like saying the belief that all food is tasty is an objective belief, since it’s “universally applicable.” (“Actionable” doesn’t make any difference one way or another to the distinction between subjective and objective.)

    Nope. You are conflating the inescapable nature of believing anything (always subjective) with a claim about the nature of the thing you have the belief about. You can subjectively believe that X is an objective commodity, or you can subjectively believe that X is a subjective commodity. You cannot “objectively believe” anything.

    When you claim that you believe X is universally applicable and actionable to all humans whether they agree with you are not, you are describing a subjective belief that morality is an objective commodity, because that’s how we define “objective morality”- universally applicable and actionable.

    While you say that morality is subjective in nature, what you describe is the very definition of morality that is objective in nature. You can say you are pointing at an apple, but if it’s an orange, you saying it’s an apple doesn’t make it an apple. You saying that you are pointing at “subjective morality” doesn’t change the fact that what you are pointing at (describing) is actually objective morality.

    This really is much like having an argument with a materialist who claims to have free will via compatibalism. He points at something that is not free will, calls it free will and then says “see, I have free will”.

  81. 81
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    When you claim that you believe X is universally applicable and actionable to all humans whether they agree with you are not, you are describing a subjective belief that morality is an objective commodity, because that’s how we define “objective morality”- universally applicable and actionable.

    This is just nonsense. The claim is that X is applicable in my subjective opinion, not objectively outside my own perspective, rendering that belief obviously subjective. Once again you assume an objective framework, and refuse to attempt to think outside it–this makes you particularly inept at following a subjectivist train of thought.

    If someone believes that all cats everywhere are pretty and should be petted, universally, it is still a subjective belief. Similarly, if I acknowledge my moral beliefs arise from my own head and have no objective, external reality, they are subjective beliefs–even if those beliefs are about the set of all people. The distinction between “subjective” and “objective,” as those terms have been used throughout this conversation, arises from the perceived source of the belief rather than the the size of the set of subjects to which the belief applies.

    If you would like to go back to having a serious conversation, please go back and rephrase your original argument without omitting the various “to whoms,” as I explained above. I think that would be interesting, as I doubt it can be done coherently. That is a consequence of the incoherent and circular nature of your argument.

  82. 82
    kairosfocus says:

    PHV:

    Pardon, but the subjectivity of the self-aware, thinking subject does not entail the ideology of subjectivism.

    This is vital, in light of the need to ground rationality and knowledge, in general and in the domain you wish to consign to irretrievable subjectivism, morality. (BTW, I take it that despite your silence you have duly noted the response to the guilty persons issue, and I trust you are a bit better.)

    In this, the issue of self-evident truth is crucial.

    For specific instance, consider a rock. It has no dreams and cannot be deluded that it is conscious. Likewise, suppose that you are in reality a brain in a vat on planet xzcvbn, deluded to think you are walking around here on Earth. Your subjectivity would be infected by error, but there is something else you could not be mistaken on. The fact that you are self-conscious, aware, not just a mindless computing object like those peculiarly designed rocks made of doped silicon we call microprocessors.

    Like unto this, you are obviously very aware of the abstract possibility of error; to the point that it is a major subtext of your focus on subjectivity.

    However, as Josiah Royce and Elton Trueblood remind us, the consciousness on the reality of error has much to teach us. Take the Royce proposition, Error exists — E. Try to deny it, NOT_E or ~E. Now, let’s use a sledgehammer on the nut: push the two together E AND ~E. This must be false, so one is false. And given the meaning, the false part is ~E. That error exists is undeniable, not just a matter of subjectively experienced perceptions labelled as “fact.”

    We have now seen the reality of self-evident, incorrigibly true assertions that move beyond subjectivity to objective and indeed certain truth. That is they accurately describe reality and we as knowing subjects can be sure of them to certainty beyond correction. Indeed, to try to deny is to descend into immediate absurdity. (Think about who is imagining that his self awareness is a delusion, he is like a rock.)

    Likewise, consider a red ball on a table, say A.

    From this we see a world partition: W = A | ~A)

    Immediately, the law of identity drops out as A is A, and non-contradiction is there as it is impossible for the ball to be both A and ~A in the same sense and circumstances. Where by the brute fact of dichotomy, exclude3d middle also is there (the best expression for that law is the X-OR of logic, i.e. one stands on one or the other side of the dichotomy.)

    We can go further, to a self-evident weak form of the principle of sufficient reason: For a given A, we may ask why it is there, and seek and hope for a reasonable answer.

    This opens the door to the principle of causality, e.g. if A begins, and may cease, it has one or more necessary enabling on/off factors that must be present and enabled if A is to be or to continue to be. Such are causes.

    So, we have grounds for understanding that there are objective truths that we subjects can access and know, even to undeniable certainty.

    The question behind this thread is whether this extends to the domain of OUGHT.

    And, a specific (and unfortunately, real world) candidate has been put: that it is self evident that it is wrong to kidnap, torture, sexually violate [i.e. rape] and murder a child.

    The peculiar thing is that for all the skeptical arguments that have been raised, we find very little evidence of open denial. Instinctively, objectors realise that to deny this truth plainly is to admit to moral deficiency, to be morally defective in an absurd way. So, the challenged raised have been indirect intended to undermine and redefine morality in ways that — while such is not usually openly admitted — it can be shown amount to might and manipulation make ‘right.’ Where of course the child is a proverbial example of one who is not able to appeal to strength especially in the face of a kidnapper.

    So, we see indirect inadvertent evidence that even those who deny objectivity to morality recognise it. Thus testifying against interests that hey are aware of an inner sense — usually termed conscience — that senses morality even as eyes sense light and ears sound thence minds manifest an awareness of the world based on sight and sound.

    That brings up the root, conscience is invisible, as conscious mind is invisible, and in a materialism-influenced age, seeing is believing. Oops, seeing depends on that invisible consciousness, and rocks — whether fancy bits of silicon or peculiar cells that pass ion currents and thus signals in networks similar to logic gates in that bit of silicon, have no dreams.

    Yet another sign of the irretrievable incoherence and factual inadequacy of materialism and its fellow travellers.

    So, we have no good reason to reject the objectivity of being bound by OUGHT.

    And, just by observing the pattern of human quarrels, we find that the sense of ought is near universal and forms a core consensus that we ought to be treated fairly in light of simply being human, the exceptions being accountable for on much the same grounds as that some people have become blind. (I will never forget the videotaped last words cry of a man in a gas chamber as the gases were released: I am a human being! [How this was allowed out on news, I don’t know.])

    We recognise that we have quasi-infinite worth, which should not be violated. Thus, our sense of justice and of the difference between luring and catching a fish to become lunch and luring and despoiling then destroying a child. (Where, that some take pity on the fish and will go out of their way to eat only vegetables is itself further eloquent testimony on the point. [Notice, there is no “people for the ethical treatment of fruit, root starches, grains and vegetables” movement.])

    There is no better reason to imagine that we live in a moral Plato’s Cave, than that we live in a physical Plato’s Cave.

    So, we see the absurdities implied by attempted denial of moral reality through reducing it to mere delusional perceptions. For, if our minds are that delusional on so important a matter, we have decisively undercut the mind, period. Which should be patent, once we give it a moment’s thought in light of our experience and understanding of the world we live in.

    OUGHT is credibly real; which then points to a foundational IS that properly bears the weight of OUGHT.

    Notoriously (post Hume’s guillotine and post the Euthyphro dilemma argument), there is but one level of reality where that can enter, the foundation. Namely, the inherently good creator God who has endowed us with minds, hearts, consciences and rights thus also duties.

    Thus, the force of Locke’s point in his second essay in civil govt where he sets out to ground what would become modern liberty and democracy by citing “The judicious [Anglican Canon Richard] Hooker [in his 1594+ Ecclesiastical Polity]”:

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

    Where of course the latter part plays a pivotal role in Justinian’s Corpus Juris Civilis, in its built in didactic component.

    KF

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