Intelligent Design

Would Moral Subjectivists Agree to Math and Logic Subjectivism?

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One of the recurring themes on this blog is moral subjectivism vs moral objectivism. Subjectivists argue that morals are fundamentally subjective in nature – akin to personal preferences, although very strongly felt. Let us agree for the sake of argument that they are not the same as simple preferences like flavors or fashion or colors and exclude that comparison from the conversation.

All perceptions of any kind are acquired and processed subjectively. That’s not the question; the question is whether or not it is better, more logical, or even necessary to think and act as if what one is referring to is objective in nature. Even though we all perceive what we call the “outside” world subjectively, I’m sure we’d all agree that it is necessary to think and act as if there is an actual, outside world – even if one is a solipsist. If you do not think and act as if it exists, you are in for a world of hurt.

A couple of other threads here refer to the current trend in some academic circles to consider “engineering rigor”, logic, gender and math part of the so-called “white, heterosexual, patriarchical oppression”; in other words, that such things are also subjective in nature and are largely produced by cultural bias. Link 1. Link 2.

If even the existence of the exterior world can be doubted on the grounds of subjectvism, certainly logic and math, which exist – as far as we can tell – solely in the mind, must be “subjective” in nature. Unless a subjectivist wishes to argue that thoughts can be anything other than subjective in nature, how exactly would they argue that math and logic objectively exist, or are objectively binding for everyone? Why should they be?

I don’t see how that argument can be made. If such abstract models are necessarily subjective in nature, then it follows that “engineering rigor,” which relies on math and logic, is one particular subjective perspective that has been forced on everyone via various building codes and laws. This argument is precisely the same as the argument for moral subjectivism; because something cannot be seen or measured in the exterior world and appears to exist solely in the heart or mind of the observer (which is true of math, logic and morality), then it must be subjective in nature, and must be accepted as such and treated as such.

Would a moral subjectivist be willing to live their life in a society where math and logic are considered subjective? Would they be willing to live in buildings where all features of the construction were left up to the builder’s subjective view of math, logic and engineering rigor? Where people were free to dismantle, change and add on to the structure based on their own subjective views? Exactly how long does one think a building would last if everyone got to change whatever part of it they wanted according to their subjective views? What if someone didn’t like the foundation and just started dismantling it and replacing it with something they subjectively think is better? Would a subjectivist get on a plane or a boat built by engineering subjectivists, or while enroute was being altered by engineering subjectivists?

And yet, the foundation and structure that built and maintains our entire society, informs the social construct and serves as the basis of law, is something moral subjectivists say will survive, thrive and even get better if we embrace moral subjectivism. Would moral subjectivists agree to math and logic subjectivism? To engineering subjectivism? If not, why not? Are they claiming math and logic are objective commodities and universally binding, even though they only exist in the world of mind and are – apparently – capable of being dismissed (by a growing segment) as subjective cultural biases?

197 Replies to “Would Moral Subjectivists Agree to Math and Logic Subjectivism?

  1. 1
    Barry Arrington says:

    This is where the subjectivist view leads: SJW mindset runs amok

  2. 2
    News says:

    William J. Murray, the short answer is no. They will not agree to it. Even now, many are trying to “naturalize” mathematics. See: Can the rot of naturalism be stopped? Relating information to matter and energy might help

    When they succeed, mathematics will be helpless before oncoming hordes demanding credit for who they are and how they feel about it, not for getting correct answers.

    Then science will go the way of arts and a future Bret Weinstein would not get a settlement from his U. He would be to blame for insisting on “rigor.”

  3. 3
    critical rationalist says:

    One of the recurring themes on this blog is moral subjectivism vs moral objectivism.

    You’ve presented a false dilemma. Moral knowledge can exist objectively, but it’s unclear how one could gain access to it when reason has it’s way first.

  4. 4
    Heartlander says:

    Berlinski: There is no argument against religion that is not also an argument against mathematics. Mathematicians are capable of grasping a world of objects that lies beyond space and time….
    Interviewer:… Come again(?) …
    Berlinski: No need to come again: I got to where I was going the first time. The number four, after all, did not come into existence at a particular time, and it is not going to go out of existence at another time. It is neither here nor there. Nonetheless we are in some sense able to grasp the number by a faculty of our minds. Mathematical intuition is utterly mysterious. So for that matter is the fact that mathematical objects such as a Lie Group or a differentiable manifold have the power to interact with elementary particles or accelerating forces. But these are precisely the claims that theologians have always made as well – that human beings are capable by an exercise of their devotional abilities to come to some understanding of the deity; and the deity, although beyond space and time, is capable of interacting with material objects.
    An Interview with David Berlinski

    I argue, as others have done before me, that mathematical concepts and ideas exist objectively, outside of the physical world and outside of the world of consciousness. We mathematicians discover them and are able to connect to this hidden reality through our consciousness. If Leo Tolstoy had not lived we would never have known Anna Karenina. There is no reason to believe that another author would have written that same novel. However, if Pythagoras had not lived, someone else would have discovered exactly the same Pythagoras theorem. Moreover, that theorem means the same to us today as it meant to Pythagoras 2,500 years ago.
    Edward Frenkel

  5. 5
    Bob O'H says:

    All perceptions of any kind are acquired and processed subjectively. … Even though we all perceive what we call the “outside” world subjectively, I’m sure we’d all agree that it is necessary to think and act as if there is an actual, outside world – even if one is a solipsist.

    I think this is at the basis of Riley’s critique of rigour in engineering. I doubt she would object to the idea that engineers shouldn’t build houses that will fall down after 5 minutes, but if I understand her argument right, she’s saying that rigour goes beyond saying what standards should be followed to make sure that this doesn’t happen, but it says that these are the only standards that are needed. Of course, these standards are subjective (i.e. there are other sets of standards that would achieve the same end, so why pick one set over another?).

    With regard to morals, the situation is, I think, similar. If we see the purpose of morals as being a way to make a society work as a society, then it’s evident that there are different ways to achieve this, and the choice of which set of morals to use would then be subjective. On this interpretation of morals (and it might not be the best one), one could, I suspect, make the argument that objective morals would be ones which are needed by any society to make it work. But then you have to explain why “needed by any society to make it work” isn’t a subjective criterion!

  6. 6
    News says:

    From Barry Arrington’s link at 1 above:

    In a section claiming Google tries to “stifle” conservative parenting styles, the suit reads: “Google furnishes a large number of internal mailing lists catering to employees with alternative lifestyles, including furries, polygamy, transgenderism, and plurality, for the purpose of discussing sexual topics. The only lifestyle that seems to not be openly discussed on Google’s internal forums is traditional heterosexual monogamy.””

    Furries?: A moose is loitering outside a hotel in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights. The moose—actually a man in a full-body moose costume—is here for a convention . . . and so is the porcupine a few feet away, as well as the many foxes and wolves. (Vanity Fair, 2001)

    Of course it is better for kids if their folks think they are animals than that they are humans. What could be more obvious?

  7. 7
    AnimatedDust says:

    Thank you for the link, Heartlander @4. The entire interview was delicious. Love DB!

  8. 8
    jdk says:

    I know nothing about the article on rigor – at first glance it looked stupid to me.

    But in general, the question in the OP is mistakenly trying to compare apples and oranges: math and morality are not analogous issues at all.

    Here is a test question that, to those who understand, will illuminate the difference:

    True or False: the sum of the three angles of a triangle = 180°.

  9. 9
    daveS says:

    jdk,

    Here’s my answer. 🙂

  10. 10
    jdk says:

    🙂 Yes, indeed.

    Thanks, Dave!

  11. 11
    Barry Arrington says:

    CR:

    Moral knowledge can exist objectively

    After all this time you still don’t have a grasp on the difference between ontology and epistemology. Fail.

  12. 12
    goodusername says:

    It’s trivially simple to imagine a machine that would answer math questions, and that has two compartments in which one can place, say, rocks, and the machine will answer which his heavier, and which is larger, and harder, etc, because such things are objective.

    I can’t even begin to imagine a machine that can answer questions on morality.

    It seems to me that this is because morality isn’t objective.

    Although, I’m now sure what “objective” even means when referring to morality.
    What would it even mean to give a “right” answer to a morality question?

    If there’s alien life out there that’s at least as intelligent as us, we can be pretty certain that they have discovered that 2 + 2 is 4 and have discovered many of the engineering principles that we have. We can safely assume such things because those things are objective.

    But would their morality be the same as ours?
    This is a common question, and one that already shows that most people realize the role of subjectivity in morality – no one asks whether alien math would be the same as ours.

    If they aren’t a social species, they may not have any system of morality at all. But assuming that they are a social species, then they may have developed empathy, and therefore have a system of morality. But their morality may be quite different from ours based on their desires.

    Assuming that they have a similar desire to live, and have empathy, they will probably see murder as wrong. But in many other ways it would likely be very different from ours, depending on what they care about.

    The link between desires and morality would seem to point towards subjectivity.

    If humans didn’t care about personal property, stealing wouldn’t be seen as immoral.

    This separates morality from math. What 2 + 2 equals has nothing to do with desires.

    Humans generally have a desire to live, and so don’t want to be murdered, nor to be robbed, to not be raped, to not be lied to, etc, and therefore there’s an inter-subjectivity here – I don’t want those things to happen to me, and I recognize that others don’t want those things to happen to them – and because of empathy, it pains me to see such things happening to others.

    This is why morality is different from a preference for ice cream flavor.

  13. 13
    Barry Arrington says:

    GUN:

    What would it even mean to give a “right” answer to a morality question?

    Suppose the following exchange:

    GUN: Hey, Barry is is evil to torture an infant for personal pleasure?

    Barry: Yes, GUN, it is.

    Did I supply a “right” answer to a moral question?

  14. 14
    jdk says:

    to Barry re 8 above: in math you can having logical systems that are logical consistent within themselves, with true statements that derive from the premises, but which are nevertheless different than other systems which have different versions of the premises.

    The iconic example involves, Euclidean (plane), spherical, and hyperbolic geometry. Each starts with a different premise about parallel lines, none of which are more true, or not, than the others: they are just different beginning assumptions. None of the geometries are more true than any of the others, but they reach different conclusions: for instance, in spherical and hyperbolic the sum of the angles in a triangle does not equal 180°.

    If you want to draw an analogy between math and morality, the correct analogy would be that there are different moral systems that derive from different starting premises: premises which are a matter of choice, not of “self-evidently true-ness.”

  15. 15
    Origenes says:

    WJM,

    Excellent article.

    It seems to me that a consistent subjectivist about truth must hold that there is no truth at all. There are just a bunch of theories and it entirely up to personal taste which one is chosen.
    But this is not what we see. The ‘subjectivists’ on this forum continually speak of ‘better knowledge’, ‘good and bad explanations’ and so forth. But what do those terms mean? Or rather, how can it be that they mean anything to the subjectivist? For the consistent subjectivist there is no scale from bad to good or from false to true. And there is no ‘closer to the truth’ or ‘further from the truth’ because there is no truth.
    Obviously we see the same patterns in discussions about ethics.

    Perhaps I am mistaken about subjectivism.

    So, my question is: what does subjectivism mean?

  16. 16
    goodusername says:

    Barry,

    Suppose the following exchange:

    GUN: Hey, Barry is is evil to torture an infant for personal pleasure?

    Barry: Yes, GUN, it is.

    Did I supply a “right” answer to a moral question?

    Such a thing certainly shocks my sense of empathy, and so I would fight to stop such a thing, as would most others. So the answer is right in that sense. If there’s another way it is right, I don’t know what that would be.

  17. 17
    Barry Arrington says:

    GUN @ 12

    What would it even mean to give a “right” answer to a morality question?

    GUN @ 16

    So the answer is right

    So you do know what it means to give a “right” answer to a morality question. Now having established that you are full of crap, we can safely disregard pretty much everything else you have to say.

  18. 18
    Seversky says:

    Would Moral Subjectivists Agree to Math and Logic Subjectivism?

    From my perspective, no. Apples and oranges. Math and logic are “languages” for describing and modeling what is. Morality is about what a subject thinks ought to be. It’s the is/ought gap again.

    Objective reality is what we assume continues to exist even when there is no conscious, intelligent agent to perceive or conceive it. According to cosmology, this Universe existed for billions of years before self-aware and, yes, moralistic beings like ourselves emerged. Do we assume that the moral prescriptions for how human beings ought to behave were floating around out there for all that time just waiting for us to come along or could it be that they appeared when we did because we developed them?

  19. 19
    goodusername says:

    Barry,

    So you do know what it means to give a “right” answer to a morality question. Now having established that you are full of crap, we can safely disregard pretty much everything else you have to say.

    So that’s all that’s meant by objective morality?

    In that case I trust that we can disregard all the years of prior posts claiming that materialism entails subjective morality, and we won’t be seeing any such claims in the future.

    That is unless you’re full of crap.

  20. 20
    Barry Arrington says:

    GUN

    So that’s all that’s meant by objective morality?

    There you go with the crap again. You know for a certain fact that statement is not true, but you can’t seem to stop yourself.

    We were talking about whether you knew the right answer to a moral question. And you did, after first stating you did not even know what that means. Then you added to your error by lying about what we were talking about. Good heavens man. The text is right up there. If you’re going to lie at least try to make it convincing.

  21. 21
    john_a_designer says:

    I try to avoid getting involved in discussions or debates with any of our regular interlocutors because I don’t believe they are being intellectually or ethically honest. The logic here is really very basic and straightforward: If there are no true interpersonal moral standards or obligations how can we trust anything anyone says or asserts? I don’t think that we can. To have an honest discussion or debate you need some kind of interpersonal, or “transcendent,” standard of truth and honesty– even if it’s a traditional or some kind of “conventional” standard. Why would I trust somebody else’s subjective standard for honesty and truth when he starts out by arguing there is no standard of truth or honesty?

  22. 22
    rvb8 says:

    j_a_d,

    you don’t, ‘try to avoid getting involved’, in anything here.

    Will you now post a correction, as I sometimes do, pointing out your false modesty?

  23. 23
    mike1962 says:

    What about Yahweh ordering the killing of women and children and babies?

    Whatever the True Morality is, it can’t be contained in the Old Testament.

    Barry, if you’re gonna have any moral authority, you gotta come clean.

    WJM agrees with this, I know he does.

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Notice how the angle-sum triangle or parallel lines postulate is wrenched into an illustration of subjectivity and relativism?

    Yes.

    By taking terms out of context, injecting ambiguities then using that without proper notice to produce apparent contradictions.

    The classical parallel lines postulate comes up in the context of a naturally obvious case of an abstract 2 or 3 dimensional space with certain properties. That space is a context that is implicit but can be made explicit.

    For instance, we can extend distinct identity, W = {A|~A} into recognition of two-ness (with one-ness and no-thing-ness being already implicitly present). From this the von Neumann construction can get to the naturals and extensions such as the surreals game can yield negatives then continuuum etc.

    Then go to algebra, x a real, with i*x a rotation such that i*i*x = -x. We now have an unambiguous definition of the plane due to algebraic vectors, known as complex numbers. and can define an origin O and polar axis Ox, with orthogonal axis i*x, and label this y for convenience.

    Now, observe a generic equation for a straight line in the abstract 2-d planar “Euclidean” space extended to incorporate co-ordinate geometry:

    y = m*x + c, m a slope term and c a y-intercept.

    All of this is to sketch an exploration to bring out a necessary property.

    Set m = M, a fixed value, and let c be for one line C_1 and for another a distinct C_2. At each point along Ox, we will have points along curves 1 and 2 of fixed, uniform separation. Thus, for any value of x we can reach, the two lines will neither converge or diverge; they are parallel, and that is immediately and necessarily true to one able to understand, on pain of absurdities. Of course, far fewer understand algebra and complex numbers than can grasp geometry.

    So, we see how subjectivist manipulaton of an objective abstract realm of thought leads to the perception that objective or necessary or self-evident truth have been fatally undermined.

    Now, the objectors above, on long experience, know or should full well know the above.

    What does this tell us about what is going on and where the agenda is headed, and how it manipulates and misleads us?

    I submit, a lot.

    KF

  25. 25
    Bob O'H says:

    Barry @ 20 –

    GUN

    So that’s all that’s meant by objective morality?

    There you go with the crap again. You know for a certain fact that statement is not true, but you can’t seem to stop yourself.

    Are you suggesting that the standard for something to be objectively true is if GoodUserName is certain it is true? I can see how that would make things easier, but somehow I doubt that that’s what you are suggesting.

    To come back to the comparison with mathematics, if I give you a statement, how do you determine that it objectively morally correct? Mathematics has set procedures for this, but what are the equivalents for morals? “Ask someone if they are certain that it is morally correct” doesn’t seem right.

  26. 26
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: The same distinct identity leads to logic and reasoning. We as reasoners find ourselves inescapably duty-bound to truth, soundness in reasoning and the like to the point where it is an implicit premise of objections above that we should surrender our views due to the clever correctives presented. Of course, the subjectivist or relativist hyperskepticism parasites off that normies, Eloi and sheeple will not spot that pervasive duty AND the implicit agenda-serving exception. Thus, we are already well along the way to the Categorical Imperative in maxim universalisability form. where the implicit premise is that human life or similar morally governed rationally and responsibly free beings are intrinsically quasi-infinite in value as an axiomatic premise or postulate. Second implicit premise, we are inherently social and need communities of common interest and mutual support to thrive from Fallopian tubes to golden years. Thus something disintegrative to community if universalised can be detected as ruinous and exploitive parasitical evil. We see further that assigning the moral sense termed conscience to delusion utterly undermines rationality by setting grand delusion loose and soft nihilism of might and manipulation making right etc in its train. Leading to the plumbline test of Barry’s challenge above.

  27. 27
    kairosfocus says:

    BO’H: I just outlined a framework, with the further cross-check of self-evident moral truths. Tell us, kindly: is the following moral claim (regrettably, a real-world case) true or false, why:

    It is wrong, evil, wicked to kidnap, bind and gag, sexually assault, torture and violate then murder a young child for one’s lustful pleasure.

    Let us hear. KF

  28. 28
    kairosfocus says:

    M-62, kindly, inform us, why it was written that for the hardness of men’s hearts, certain things were regulated? What is the significance here of the paradigm case of divorce regulations i/l/o Mal 2:16, “I hate divorce”? In that light, what of the sort of concerns we may find here on in context, at 101 level — including how can one deal with hereditary blood feud warfare with consequences of great moment in the stakes? How could the circumstances faced by statesmen such as Churchill, Roosevelt and Truman c. 1942 – 45 in nuke threshold warfare or that faced by Petain and Haig from February 1916 further illustrate the matter? KF

  29. 29
    Bob O'H says:

    kf @ 27 – I assume you are referring to your comment @ 26. You suggest two implicit premises, but why chose these two premises? Are they the only set of premises that would also provide a moral system?

    I’m not asking you to justify that these premises form the basis of a moral system, BTW. Rather, I want to know why these premises, rather than (for example) a set of premises that include the Golden Rule.

  30. 30
    kairosfocus says:

    BO’H: Try to deny the relevant premises and see where it rapidly leads. Note, the three other logically equivalent forms of the CI as you do so. BTW, the CI (never mind Kant’s irritation on the point) is actually closely related to the GR, so much so that I sometimes have spoken to the GR/CI in the context of discussing sustainability of development. KF

  31. 31
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: HT Wiki, four forms, three being main, the last as recently highlighted:

    1] Universalisability: “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.”

    2] Dignity of Morally Governed Creatures: “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.” (This is v. close to the GR, and it anchors the sustainability principle, once we admit the legitimacy of the claims of future, as yet unborn generations, posterity.)

    3] Cosmic Legislator: “Act as if the maxims of your action were to become through your will a universal law of nature.” Or, “Thus the third practical principle follows [from the first two] as the ultimate condition of their harmony with practical reason: the idea of the will of every rational being as a universally legislating will.” (In short, do not act as a chaos lord.)

    4] Community of Legislators form: “Act according to maxims of a universally legislating member of a merely possible kingdom of ends.”

  32. 32
    Origenes says:

    Seversky @18

    WJM: Would Moral Subjectivists Agree to Math and Logic Subjectivism?

    Seversky: From my perspective, no. Apples and oranges. Math and logic are “languages” for describing and modeling what is. Morality is about what a subject thinks ought to be. It’s the is/ought gap again.

    Is that true? It seems to me that math and logic also tell us what ought to be. For instance, if we know two variables of a triangle with a right angle, the Pythagoras Theorem tells us what the third variable ought to be. Similarly, logic informs us which conclusion ought to be and which ought not to be. Laws tell us what ought to happen.

  33. 33

    mike 1962 @ 23: The killing of women, children, and babies is considered moral by a/mat liberals whenever their favorite politician slaughters families, villages, towns, cities, and even countries… all in the name of peace, of course.

    Such hypocrites.

  34. 34
    Bob O'H says:

    kf – I’m afraid the answer to “why this set of principles” needs to be something more than “think about it” if you want to assert that morals are objective. You’re making the same mistake that Barry did, except that now I’m the arbiter of objective morality, not goodusername?

  35. 35
    kairosfocus says:

    BO’H: Kindly, remember context going back some weeks now, for example this OP (BTW, this highlights Math) and here more recently. I have here briefly outlined a context of argument that ties to the inescapable moral government we face in reasoning — something that is implicit in your responses, that we ought to be governed by duty to truth, sound reason, prudence, fairness etc. Such cannot be delusional, on pain of reduction to grand delusion and/or the soft nihilism of manipulation makes “consensus” [cf here today for where that seems to be taking Google], or “truth” or “right” or “rights” etc. We can probe for why, and two things become obvious, an inherent dignity or quasi-infinite worth of individuals who are as we are, and the readily confirmed fact that we need community for lifelong thriving. So, what directly exploits, manipulates or undermines sound community can be recognised as wrongful. Which is hardly news, Kant’s arguments/postulates run along these lines and the same goes back to antiquity. Similarly, the invitation to ponder cases is in effect saying, see for yourself. The real question is, what sort of world-root best makes sense of all of this. KF

  36. 36
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: More on the consensus game: http://www.nationalreview.com/.....n-colleges

    PPS: Looks like that edit window is shrinking bit by bit.

  37. 37
    Bob O'H says:

    kf – I’m looking for some justification for why certain moral principles are objective. So far all I’ve been told is “think about it” and “we’ve thought about it”. I’m afraid that sounds like it is subjective at its core. But if morals are objective, there has to be something more. Why is “quasi-infinite worth of individuals” necessarily foundational? Could one not take the Golden Rule as foundational (and from that derive “quasi-infinite worth of individuals”), for example?

    By saying that you have two foundational principles, you are implying that there is no other way that objective moral principles can be derived. But how do you demonstrate that?

  38. 38

    Seversky said:

    From my perspective, no. Apples and oranges. Math and logic are “languages” for describing and modeling what is. Morality is about what a subject thinks ought to be. It’s the is/ought gap again.

    Actually, math and logic are models that recognize fundamental, Self-Evident Truths that cannot be proven by those models (because the SETs form the basis of those evaluatory models), and are each used to ascertain the truth-value of statements and formulas in order to provide oughts – how one ought build a plane, how one ought to balance their checkbook, etc., to arrive at a correct answer.

    Objective morality begins with SETs and uses those to inform moral models that describe how we ought correctly behave in future situations.

    Objective reality is what we assume continues to exist even when there is no conscious, intelligent agent to perceive or conceive it.

    Not according to some quantum theorists, including several of the founders of quantum theory. But we’ll table that for another thread and move on.

    According to cosmology, this Universe existed for billions of years before self-aware and, yes, moralistic beings like ourselves emerged. Do we assume that the moral prescriptions for how human beings ought to behave were floating around out there for all that time just waiting for us to come along or could it be that they appeared when we did because we developed them?

    Were the concepts of math and logic floating around all that time waiting for humans, or could it be they appeared when we did because we developed them?

    I thought you said were were talking about apples and oranges? Math, logic and morality are all abstract concepts and models; they all deal with real, objective-world situations; they all in some way describe how we ought proceed in various aspects of our lives; we all act as if all three are objectively binding (or else we wouldn’t try to impose our moral views on others or expect them to behave according to our moral views).

    The ONLY reason, IMO, some insist morality is subjective is because they don’t like where the concept of objective morality leads.

    I wonder if those who consider math a form of white, patriarchical oppression would mind if they were charged $1000 for a couple of sodas because the cashier used his own, subjective math to add the cost up? Or if their bank used their own form of math? I wonder if they would submit to a judge’s personal logic in a court of law?

  39. 39
    jdk says:

    kf writes,

    F/N: Notice how the angle-sum triangle or parallel lines postulate is wrenched into an illustration of subjectivity and relativism?

    Notice how the OP is about math and logic, and about, among other things, the role that “self evident truths” play. I think my point was quite relevant to the OP, not “wrenched in”.

    FWIW

  40. 40
    daveS says:

    KF (and anyone else interested),

    The Continuum Hypotheses states:

    There is no set whose cardinality is strictly between that of the integers and the real numbers.

    So far, there is no clear consensus on whether this statement is true, false, or whether it simply has no answer.

    My question is: Does the CH have an objective truth value? You don’t need to say whether it actually is true or false, just whether there is an objective truth value “waiting to be found”.

    (to KF: I believe this has come up in our discussions before, where we have both noted, among other things, that the CH is independent of ZFC.)

  41. 41

    Bob O’H said:

    I’m looking for some justification for why certain moral principles are objective.

    What is the justification for accepting the Law of Identity and the Law of Non-Contradiction as objective? What is the justification for accepting basic math principles as objective?

  42. 42
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK, kindly read my comment. The trick of changing the space is a case of injecting manipulative ambiguity to create a false perception. For one who has the background to understand, parallel lines properly understood will not converge or diverge. And, patent absurdity is the direct result of attempted denial. The known rhetorical context for the switch the space trick, is to create a false perception that here we have a failed self-evident truth, so discard the notion. That is further generally used in specific support of subjectivism and relativism, an issue that is highly germane to an OP with title: “Would Moral Subjectivists Agree to Math and Logic Subjectivism?” KF

  43. 43
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, Insofar as the CH asserts a claim as to what is or is not, it is propositional. Its accuracy in describing reality or failing to do so is an ontological matter and is hopefully amenable to our discovery at some point. Our frustrating position in Math theorising is an epistemological one. These are categorically distinct. Onward, even if this turns out to become a generally known undecidable this leads only to possible worlds in which it holds and others in which it does not. It certainly is not a SET, and it is currently in the world of unknowns. KF

  44. 44
    kairosfocus says:

    BO’H & WJM: objective truths are those amenable to more or less credible and reliable — as opposed to strictly infallible — warrant. There is abundant basis to see that many moral principles pass such a test. We have been more interested in things beyond this, things that can serve as plumb-line tests that help create that sort of warrant. For instance the case of the kidnapped, violated, murdered child destroyed for perverted pleasure practically begs us to draw out principles of human dignity, rights, duties, neighbourliness, community and more. The reluctance of ever so many critics to seriously engage in dialogue on such a case speaks volumes. KF

  45. 45
    Latemarch says:

    Let me just toss this quote from CS Lewis, Mere Christianity in here as possibly clarifying.

    There are two reasons for saying it belongs to the same class as mathematics. The first is, as I said in the first chapter, that though there are differences between the moral ideas of one time or country and those of another, the differences are not really very great — not nearly so great as most people imagine — and you can recognize the same lay running through them all: whereas mere conventions, like the rule of the road of the kinds or clothes people wear, may differ to any extent. The other reason is this. When you think about these differences between the morality of one people and another, do you think that the morality of one people is ever better or worse than that of another? Have any of the changes been improvements? If not, then of course there could never be any moral progress. Progress means not just changing, but changing for the better. If no set of moral ideas were truer or better than any other, there would be no sense in preferring civilized morality to savage morality, or Christian morality to Nazi morality. In fact, of course, we all do believe that some moralities are better than others. We do believe that some of the people who tried to change the moral ideas of their own age were what we would call Reformers or Pioneers — people who understood morality better than their neighbors did. Very well then. The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other. But the standard that measures two things is something different from either. You are, in fact, comparing them both with some Real Morality, admitting that there is such a thing as a real Right, independent of what people think, and that some people’s ideas get nearer to that real Right than others. Or put it this way. If your moral ideas can be truer, and those of the Nazis less true, there must be something — some Real Morality — for them to be true about. The reason why your idea of New York can be truer of less true than mine is that New York is a real place, existing quite apart from what either of us thinks. If when each of us said ‘New York’ each means merely ‘The town I am imagining in my own head’, how could one of us have truer ideas than the other? There would be no question of truth or falsehood at all.

  46. 46
    DiEb says:

    @daveS: The Continuum Hypothesis is independent of ZFC set theory. So, the statement

    So far, there is no clear consensus on whether this statement is true, false, or whether it simply has no answer.

    does not make sense. You can postulate that the CH is true, and get a working set theory, or you can postulate that the CH is false, and get a working set theory, too.

    It is indeed a similar situation to the parallel postulate: over centuries, mathematicians tried to prove this postulate using the original four postulates of geometry, just to realize that it is independent from them: assuming the postulate, you get Euclidian geometry, choosing another version, you get something other which will work well, too.

  47. 47
    daveS says:

    KF,

    I believe I agree with the first part of your post; the question is ontological. And I’m not at all concerned with whether humans, for example, will ever be able to resolve the question of whether the CH is true, false, or has no objective truth value.

    Onward, even if this turns out to become a generally known undecidable this leads only to possible worlds in which it holds and others in which it does not.

    Hm. In this case, I take it the CH would be a contingently true mathematical proposition, which is rather mind-blowing.

    If the CH were true in possible world A and false in possible world B, how would A and B differ?

  48. 48
    JSmith says:

    KF

    BO’H & WJM: objective truths are those amenable to more or less credible and reliable — as opposed to strictly infallible — warrant.

    Defining objective as something that is not consistent with the definition of objective may play into your personal view of the world, but it doesn’t help in determining if there are objective moral truths.

  49. 49
    daveS says:

    DiEb,

    You can postulate that the CH is true, and get a working set theory, or you can postulate that the CH is false, and get a working set theory, too.

    This is true, but if you are a platonist about mathematics, you can hold that the CH is objectively true (or false). For a platonist, these sets have an objective existence and the question is just whether sets of certain cardinality exist.

  50. 50
    jdk says:

    kf, it is not a “trick” to point out that three different versions of the parallel postulate produce three different geometries. All your comment did was to set up the conditions for a Euclidean plane, and then show that in that space parallel lines had certain properties consistent with one of those three possiible premises.

    You did not address at all my point that other beginning premises produce other geometries. It is not “self evident” that one of the three premises is true and the other two are not.I fact, from a the point of view of math and logic, asking which is true is a meaningless question.

  51. 51
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, why are undecidables strange to you? KF

  52. 52
    ET says:

    In a Darwinian world objectivity could very well get in the way of your objective. 😎

  53. 53
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK, rhetorically loaded, unannounced equivocation in real world contexts. The normal use of “parallel” is in the context of a certain kind of space. This is not the first time that this one has come up at UD. I resorted to establishing an abstract plane to show that there is nothing wrong with the traditional understanding. Yes, we subsequently learned that this is not the only possible abstract space but that is a different issue. KF

  54. 54
    Bob O'H says:

    WJM @ 41 – indeed, see DiEb’s comment @ 46. It wouldn’t surprised me if some mathematician has tried to develop mathematical system in which these laws don’t hold.

  55. 55
    Latemarch says:

    2+2=4 (true) 2+2=10 (also true) Oh! did I forget to tell you that the second equation is in base 4 arithmetic?
    Similar to the triangle nonsense above. Injecting a non sequitur into the argument to lead astray. (KF is right….objectively right.)
    And now we’re off into arcane math…objective accomplished.
    So somehow that is supposed to be a serious objection to the OP.

    Really?

    Oops Base 4…it’s been a while.

  56. 56
    kairosfocus says:

    LM,

    I think it’s actually base 4 you intended.

    10 = 1 x 4^1 + 0 x 4^0.

    2 = 2 x 4^0.

    Hey we can add:

    2 + 2 = 11

    11 = 1 x 3^1 + 1 x 3^0.

    (I used to teach digital technology stuff.)

    KF

  57. 57
    Bob O'H says:

    Latemarch – I think the point is that in mathematics you have to state your assumptions, and that different assumptions lead to different conclusions. I’ve been trying to suggest that the same is true for morals.

    The obvious question with respect to objectivity (of morals or maths) is whether the choice of assumptions is objective.

  58. 58
    DiEb says:

    daveS @49:

    This is true, but if you are a platonist about mathematics, you can hold that the CH is objectively true (or false). For a platonist, these sets have an objective existence and the question is just whether sets of certain cardinality exist.

    And even for a platonist, both version can be true under different circumstances – similar to various geometries: Euclidian and Minkowski geometry are both true for space…

  59. 59
    daveS says:

    KF,

    DS, why are undecidables strange to you? KF

    They aren’t, particularly.

  60. 60
    jdk says:

    kf writes,

    Yes, we subsequently learned that this is not the only possible abstract space but that is a different issue. KF

    No that is not a different issue: that is a centrally important issue. As Bob says at 57, “in mathematics you have to state your assumptions, and … different assumptions lead to different conclusions.” I don’t know why this is a difficult point to acknowledge.

  61. 61
    Latemarch says:

    Bob O’H@57

    Latemarch – I think the point is that in mathematics you have to state your assumptions, and that different assumptions lead to different conclusions. I’ve been trying to suggest that the same is true for morals.

    So torturing babies for fun. Just someone starting with different assumptions.
    Does this suggest to you that it might not be true for morals?

  62. 62
    daveS says:

    DiEb,

    And even for a platonist, both version can be true under different circumstances – similar to various geometries: Euclidian and Minkowski geometry are both true for space…

    This is a good point, but I’ll see what I can come up with by way of response.

    Are we talking about physical space? If so, I would say that given a particular point or region in space, there is a particular “true” geometry of that region, and it cannot be simultaneously uniformly Euclidean and hyperbolic. Even for a particular abstract model, the “true” geometry is set. The Cartesian plane with the usual metric is definitely Euclidean everywhere, and the surface of a sphere is not.

    Similarly, if you consider sets, and choose an arbitrary one, either its cardinality is strictly between that of the integers and reals, or not (according to a platonist, anyway). This should be true regardless of what extra assumptions we attempt to impose regarding the CH.

  63. 63
    jdk says:

    The question of the formal mathematical truth of the three geometries is different from the question of which geometry best describes a given physical space. That, however, has nothing to do with “self-evidency”. That is an empirical question that at least in theory is approachable by means of evidence.

  64. 64
    daveS says:

    jdk,

    Yes, I should have left out any discussion of physical space above.

    PS to my #62: What I have in mind is a platonic mathematician investigating various structures, just as a child might investigate the properties of pebbles on a beach (to steal a famous metaphor).

    She might observe “this geometric structure is Euclidean, while this other one is hyperbolic”, or “the cardinality of this set is strictly between that of the integers and reals but that’s not true of this other set”.

    There’s nothing wrong with working in a system where one assumes that all triangles have an angle sum of 180 degrees (for example), but that assumption does not say anything about what pebbles actually exist on this metaphorical beach.

  65. 65

    Bob O’H:

    Would you accept it if your bank and lenders decide to use a private formulation of math, based on different assumptions and resulting in you having less money and paying more, in order to process your accounts?

    If not, then all you (and others) are doing is avoiding the point via wordplay. We all act and expect others to act as if these things are objective and universally binding, the ability to imagine alternate systems notwithstanding.

  66. 66
    daveS says:

    KF,

    I might have misunderstood your post:

    DS, why are undecidables strange to you? KF

    What does sounds strange to me is the CH being contingently true. To use Newton’s metaphor again, how could different possible worlds have different pebbles on their mathematical beaches?

  67. 67
    kairosfocus says:

    BO’H & DiEb: The issue is not bare assumptions, it is context and the matter of slipped in, unannounced context change is a significant matter. particularly, when it is used as it so often is, to communicate something that is materially false by changing the sense of a key term or concept. This is a warning flag about how even mathematics can be manipulated to seem to say what it does not. here that parallel lines are at one and the same time in one and the same circumstances parallel and not parallel. That behaviour has to be faced and acknowledged. KF

  68. 68
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, I suggest this speaks to the irreducible complexity of Mathematics. We do not know what the truth value of the proposition is, but we do know it is independent of a major system. This suggests that there is a world of mathematics that can be constructed on one alternative and similarly on another, at least on a trial basis. Just as, there is a “flat” space in which triangles sum to 180 degrees and there are other possible spaces in which they sum to different values, the issue is to avoid slipping into different spaces while not recognising it, or using results from one domain to suggest that something specific to another is not really so. KF

  69. 69
    john_a_designer says:

    To paraphrase C.S. Lewis: Moral progress “means not just changing, but changing for the better.” (see full quote above @ 45.)

    Without an interpersonal objective standard there is no such thing as better, no basis for criminal justice or universal human rights. Furthermore, I don’t see how a moral subjectivist has any kind of basis for any kind of rational argument. How am I obligated to give any consideration to someone else’s moral opinions if they are presented by him as just his subjective moral opinions? How do we reach any kind of consensus in a society where there is no kind of objective standard for morality, law and human rights?

  70. 70
    daveS says:

    KF,

    We do not know what the truth value of the proposition is, but we do know it is independent of a major system.

    I do agree with this, at least when I am wearing my platonist hat (which is most of the time).

  71. 71
    StephenB says:

    BoB O’H

    I’m afraid the answer to “why this set of principles” needs to be something more than “think about it”

    Bob, humans have a distinct nature that exists in the objective realm. Among other things, this nature includes the faculty of intelligence, by which we can know what is good, and the power of free will, by which we can do what is good. Because human nature exists as an objective reality, it follows that the morality proper to human nature would also exist as an objective reality.

  72. 72
    critical rationalist says:

    After all this time you still don’t have a grasp on the difference between ontology and epistemology. Fail.

    And, apparently, you still haven’t grasped that It doesn’t actually help you, in practice. Nor have you explained how to get around the issue.

    What’s the difference between “I believe X is the right moral thing to do” and “There is objectively morally right thing to do and I believe it is X”?

    Why should I be any more compelled do X? Because you belief it is objectivity right thing to do? You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t find that very compelling.

    The thing you’re accusing me of doing? Apparently, you lack the introspection to realize you did it too when you selected a supposed infallible source out of many. And you do it to when decide when to defer to that source. And you do it when you interpret that source.

    Ontologically speaking, I think there is objective moral knowledge, but not in the sense that you do.

  73. 73
    critical rationalist says:

    @Barry

    What is morality for if not to help us solve concrete moral problems?

    If not, what is it for? Please be specific.

  74. 74
    mike1962 says:

    Barry and WJM do not agree what “objective” morality actually is.

    Barry won’t deal with the Old Testament god’s prescriptions, and WJM (who I generally like) won’t hold him to account.

    Can’t you see what this topic is ridiculous, even among theists.

    Stop it.

  75. 75
    polistra says:

    The whole point is null. Nobody is morally subjective or tolerant. Everyone has strict taboos and requirements.

    People who CLAIM to be loose and tolerant are either intentionally sowing doubt to ruin civilization, or foolishly and thoughtlessly following the current fashion set by the demonic doubt-sowers.

  76. 76
    kairosfocus says:

    M62, such a discussion begins to run beyond the proper focus for UD, but if you have concerns, here on (as has already been referenced) may be of help as a 101. Note its link to VJT’s earlier discussion, as well as the remarks of Rabbi Boteach and those of Bernard Lewis. It is also noteworthy that Internet Atheist soapbox efforts tend to distort views on the actual core of Judaeo-Christian ethical teachings, a point I addressed here at UD just a few days ago. Observe the gap between the actual teaching and the tendency of the more aggressive objectors to ethical theism to speak as though the Christian faith is little more than the Nazi party at prayers. KF

  77. 77
    Bob O'H says:

    Latemarch @ 61 – we both (I hope!) find the notion of torturing babies for fun horrendous. But that on its own doesn’t preclude there being moral systems where this is acceptable, rather it means that we would not want to accept those moral systems.

    If you are going to show that moral systems necessarily exclude torturing babies for fun, then you have to show that this exclusion must be an inevitable consequence of a moral system being a moral system. I’ve no idea if that’s possible or not.

  78. 78
    Bob O'H says:

    WJM @ 65 – in that scenario I would at least have the option of banking with that bank or not, so in that sense I would accept it, but I might move to another bank.

    So there you go – I’m not avoiding the point by wordplay. 🙂

  79. 79
    Bob O'H says:

    StephenB @ 71 – How do we know what is good, though? Your answer doesn’t seem to be any different from “think about it” (it’s a but more complex: it seems to be “human nature means we know, so think about it”!). The problem is that people have had and still do have different views on moral issues (e.g. slavery, of you want to think historically).

    Another problem with appealing to Human Nature is that you might find you’re just appealing to a naturalistic fallacy. I’m not sure if that can be avoided.

  80. 80
    kairosfocus says:

    CR, warrant is the big question in epistemology. reality is the big question in ontology. KF

    PS: How do “Pluto exists” and” we know Pluto exists post 1930 or thereabouts” differ?

  81. 81
    StephenB says:

    Bob O’H

    StephenB @ 71 – How do we know what is good, though? Your answer doesn’t seem to be any different from “think about it” (it’s a but more complex: it seems to be “human nature means we know, so think about it”!). The problem is that people have had and still do have different views on moral issues (e.g. slavery, of you want to think historically).

    I am alluding to fundamental goods that can be known about human nature. Example, it is *good* for humans to [a] seek the good, including their highest good [b] to survive, [c] to perpetuate the species, [d] to live in a community, [e] to use their faculties of intellect and will for making moral decisions. Can there be any doubt that these things are good for human beings?

    Another problem with appealing to Human Nature is that you might find you’re just appealing to a naturalistic fallacy. I’m not sure if that can be avoided.

    I would argue that the good is that which is in accord with the nature of a thing. A good pen is one that writes well. The standard of goodness was determined by the manufacturer, who decided what the pen is for. That is its nature. So it is with a can opener. It is the nature of a can opener to open cans, so a good can opener is one that can do that and a bad can opener is one that cannot. Without that standard, the words “good” and “bad” are meaningless. By extension, a good human is one that acts in accordance with its created nature. Does is seek its highest good? Is it progressing int that direction? Then it is a good human being. If there is no such thing as good, then there can be no morality. I don’t think the word “natural” can capture this idea. It is natural to steal if we are poor or kill people if we are angry, but I don’t think that these natural acts would qualify as good acts.

    In terms of the is-ought problem, I agree that you cannot derive an ought from the is (defined as observed behavioral facts on the ground), which is the point of the controversy, but I submit that we can definitely derive the ought from the metaphysical is (human nature, God, free will etc)

  82. 82
    Bob O'H says:

    StephenB @ 81 –

    I would argue that the good is that which is in accord with the nature of a thing.

    I’m not sure that’s a good answer, as it really just moves the problem from “what is good” to “what is the nature of a thing”. Even worse, if it’s in the nature of some people to torture children for fun, then you’re saying that that is good. I don’t think that’s the conclusion you’re looking for. 🙂

    You give some examples of what is considered good, but are they morally good, and are they the only ways to build a good moral system? For example, it may be good to survive and live in communities, but does that mean that we can be nasty towards other communities? And if they are, why these choices of “fundamental goods”, which don’t include the Golden rule, for example?

    My problem is that if you want to say that something is objectively good, how do you show this? Saying “just think about it” doesn’t work, because my thoughts are subjective. Saying “everyone decent thinks this” might be a bit better, but it might just mean that morals are socially constructed, and hence a result of lots of subjective negotiation.

  83. 83
    StephenB says:

    Bob

    I’m not sure that’s a good answer, as it really just moves the problem from “what is good” to “what is the nature of a thing”. Even worse, if it’s in the nature of some people to torture children for fun, then you’re saying that that is good. I don’t think that’s the conclusion you’re looking for. ????

    Humans can pervert their individual natures by ignoring the moral code that was designed for them. It is not consistent with the nature of a human being to become an alcoholic, but habitual drinking can damage that nature. In like fashion, one can learn to be a sadist.

    You give some examples of what is considered good, but are they morally good, and are they the only ways to build a good moral system? For example, it may be good to survive and live in communities, but does that mean that we can be nasty towards other communities? And if they are, why these choices of “fundamental goods”, which don’t include the Golden rule, for example?

    From the basic good, we can derive the morality. Morality is a code that is based on (what is known to be, or for others, what is perceived to be) good for or bad for humans. If, for example, it is good and moral for humans to live in and form communities, then it is immoral for them to stop other communities from doing the same. On the other hand, survival is also a basic good, so if one society chooses to destroy another, then the latter is morally justified to defend itself. The golden rule is admirable, of course, but it doesn’t go very deep or answer many moral questions.

    My problem is that if you want to say that something is objectively good, how do you show this? Saying “just think about it” doesn’t work, because my thoughts are subjective.

    Your thoughts are subjective but the substance of what you are thinking about is objective. We have an investigator (subject) and the object of the investigation (objective). It is not always necessary to “think about it,” since self evident truths do not require any thought. It is self-evident (I hope) that it is good for humans to use their talents or seek what is good for them. The thinking part comes in after the self evident truth is acknowledged.

    Saying “everyone decent thinks this” might be a bit better, but it might just mean that morals are socially constructed, and hence a result of lots of subjective negotiation.

    What happens when unit A socially constructs one basic morality and unit B constructs another one? All the basic issues are non-negotiable. Subjectivists are typically pro-abortion; objectivists are typically pro-life. Who or what decides which moral code ought to prevail and what standard should they use when consensus is not an option?

  84. 84
    Bob O'H says:

    We have an investigator (subject) and the object of the investigation (objective). It is not always necessary to “think about it,” since self evident truths do not require any thought.

    I find that approach problematic: are you sure what you think is a “self evident truth” is actually true? Could a “self evident truth” actually just something that was ingrained into you from an early age?

    I think it might be similar to language: what is that papery thing I read? “a book” you would say, without thinking. But ‘kirja’, “buch’, or ‘bog’ would all also be right: they are just in a different language. The only reason you think “book” not “kirja” is because you learned English as a young child.

    What happens when unit A socially constructs one basic morality and unit B constructs another one? All the basic issues are non-negotiable.

    I think they are negotiated, in one way or another. Whether it is by democratic, legal processes, or others (e.g. civil war). This will, of course, still be a problem if both groups think their morals are objective.

  85. 85
    StephenB says:

    I find that approach problematic: are you sure what you think is a “self evident truth” is actually true? Could a “self evident truth” actually just something that was ingrained into you from an early age?

    No. A self evident truth is not indoctrination. If it is was self-evident, no indoctrination would be needed. Do you need to be indoctrinated in order to know that a whole pie weighs more than any one it its slices?

    SB: What happens when unit A socially constructs one basic morality and unit B constructs another one? All the basic issues are non-negotiable.

    I think they are negotiated, in one way or another. Whether it is by democratic, legal processes, or others (e.g. civil war).

    The first two parts of your answer are incorrect. The last part is correct. War is not negotiation. Subjective morality always leads to a war of all against all, followed by tyranny.

    This will, of course, still be a problem if both groups think their morals are objective.

    Different aspects of objective morality cannot clash. There is only one objective morality. There are many subjective moralities. Only subjective moralities or subjective moralities mistakenly perceived as objective moralities can clash.

  86. 86
    Bob O'H says:

    No. A self evident truth is not indoctrination. If it is was self-evident, no indoctrination would be needed.

    But how can we distinguish between indoctrination and self-evident truth?

    Different aspects of objective morality cannot clash. There is only one objective morality.

    Fair enough, I think. But given there are several moralities, how do we know which one is the objective one?

    (yes, I now I’ve basically asked the same question twice)

  87. 87
    kairosfocus says:

    BO’H: SET’s are such that once one of sufficient experience and insight to understand what is being said sees them, s/he will realise they are true and are necessarily true on pain of patent absurdity on attempted denial. Patent, as no detailed stepwise abstruse analysis is required to carry out a reductio ad absurdum. For example 2 + 3 = 5 is SET, but 1,932 x 965 = 1,864,380 is not though the latter is necessarily true. Likewise, it is self-evident that a conscious individual cannot be deceived that s/he is conscious as a bare fact, though of course many things in that consciousness may be in error. Where, that error exists is also SET. Often but nor always the absurdity will be an immediate contradiction or a self-referential inconsistency multiplied by an infinite regress. On moral truths, the absurdity comes about typically by radically and instantly undermining human dignity and fundamental quasi-infinite value or by effectively dehumanising the other, or by pointing to utter breakdown of community or by reducing our rational life to grand delusion. It is self evidently true that we are under moral government, and that it is evil to kidnap, bind, sexually violate and murder a young child for pleasure. This latter is an instructive case that then allows us to draw out a lot of key moral principles that have far wider utility. Such cases are not question-begging, but are not subject to proof from even more plausible first points only. They would be more certain than the claimed proof — why I would see more sense in using an instructive SET to draw out broadly applicable principles. For instance, distinct identity exists and has as corollaries LOI, LNC, LEM, and these cannot be proved as proofs would rely implicitly on them. KF

  88. 88
    kairosfocus says:

    BO’H: This may be helpful:

    Excerpted chapter summary, on Subjectivism, Relativism, and Emotivism, in Doing Ethics 3rd Edn, by Lewis Vaughn, W W Norton, 2012. [Also see here and here.] Clipping:

    . . . Subjective relativism is the view that an action is morally right if one approves of it. A person’s approval makes the action right. This doctrine (as well as cultural relativism) is in stark contrast to moral objectivism, the view that some moral principles are valid for everyone.. Subjective relativism, though, has some troubling implications. It implies that each person is morally infallible and that individuals can never have a genuine moral disagreement

    Cultural relativism is the view that an action is morally right if one’s culture approves of it. The argument for this doctrine is based on the diversity of moral judgments among cultures: because people’s judgments about right and wrong differ from culture to culture, right and wrong must be relative to culture, and there are no objective moral principles. This argument is defective, however, because the diversity of moral views does not imply that morality is relative to cultures. In addition, the alleged diversity of basic moral standards among cultures may be only apparent, not real. Societies whose moral judgments conflict may be differing not over moral principles but over nonmoral facts.

    Some think that tolerance is entailed by cultural relativism. But there is no necessary connection between tolerance and the doctrine. Indeed, the cultural relativist cannot consistently advocate tolerance while maintaining his relativist standpoint. To advocate tolerance is to advocate an objective moral value. But if tolerance is an objective moral value, then cultural relativism must be false, because it says that there are no objective moral values.

    Like subjective relativism, cultural relativism has some disturbing consequences. It implies that cultures are morally infallible, that social reformers can never be morally right, that moral disagreements between individuals in the same culture amount to arguments over whether they disagree with their culture, that other cultures cannot be legitimately criticized, and that moral progress is impossible.

    Emotivism is the view that moral utterances are neither true nor false but are expressions of emotions or attitudes. It leads to the conclusion that people can disagree only in attitude, not in beliefs. People cannot disagree over the moral facts, because there are no moral facts. Emotivism also implies that presenting reasons in support of a moral utterance is a matter of offering nonmoral facts that can influence someone’s attitude. It seems that any nonmoral facts will do, as long as they affect attitudes. Perhaps the most far-reaching implication of emotivism is that nothing is actually good or bad. There simply are no properties of goodness and badness. There is only the expression of favorable or unfavorable emotions or attitudes toward something.

    KF

  89. 89
    Bob O'H says:

    kf @ 87, 88 – sorry, that’s not helpful at all. I still don’t know how one can distinguish between indoctrination and self evidence truths.

  90. 90
    kairosfocus says:

    BO’H: Pardon, but I don’t believe you at this point. Indoctrination aka brainwashing is the opposite of an invitation to reasoning and to examination on claims, contexts, significance, what happens when one tries to deny a claim. The above sets out to do that rational examination. We can start with, if one is conscious, that bare fact is self-evident, indeed who tries to deny this faces: and who is aware of trying to deny it? Likewise, this illustrates how error exists is self-evident also, as the exercise immediately has that result, just as the analysis on E and asserting ~E meaning it would be an error to assert that error exists shows this is undeniable. Likewise 2 + 3 = 5 is self-evident. Similarly, from consciousness, we are aware of our distinct identity so we know A vs ~A, thus world W = {A|~A} thence the triple first principles of right reason as immediate and self-evident corollaries: LOI, LNC, LEM. Kindly, explain to us how you could even conceive of such as attempted brainwashing under false colours of education. KF

  91. 91
    Bob O'H says:

    kf – how do you get from those (a) being conscious, errors existing, 2 + 3 = 5, our distinct identity, and A vs ~A, to three TLAs (LOI, LNC, LEM, whatever they are)? I’m afraid I still don’t follow you.

  92. 92
    kairosfocus says:

    BO’H: Each of the claims is a SET. Distinct identity is intuitively recognised by us from awareness of self [A] and not self, rest of world [~A]. W = {A|~A}. This is a clean dichotomy. We see A is itself, law of identity. No x in W is both A AND ~A, law of non-contradiction. Similarly, any x in W will be A X-OR ~A, law of excluded middle. The abbreviations are fairly common. These are implicitly in use just to communicate textually or orally etc, so any attempt to prove will be futile. But to try to deny ends in absurdity also, implicitly relying on them. KF

  93. 93
    Bob O'H says:

    Ah, OK, Luckily I can work out what SET means.

    But how do these relate to distinguishing between indoctrination and self evidence truths? Apparently objective morals are based on self-evident truths, but none of what you have suggested are self-evident truths relate to morality, at least as far as I can see.

  94. 94
    kairosfocus says:

    BO’H:

    We gave specific examples. The criterion they pass shows how establishing or coming to awareness of a SET categorically differs from how one may be brainwashed to believe a notion.

    One comes to recognise a SET by examination and reflection on experience driven insights, then cross-checks for the import of attempted denial. No patent absurdity, no SET.

    Such absurdities come in various flavours but the catastrophic impact on mind or on something of like order shows that something has gone drastically wrong.

    When I have seen indoctrination [whether communist or cultic], invariably, there is exclusion of seeking to understand and to address oh what if we were to try to take a different view.

    As for moral SET’s, let us establish the relatively easy case first.

    Try 2 + 3 = 5, stick representation of the set-joining operation of a two-set and a three-set, each in turn based on distinct identity of let’s imagine sticks or the like:

    || + ||| –> |||||

    Can you successfully deny that the result is and necessarily is a five-set?

    Say, assert a six set:

    || + ||| –> ||||||

    Striking off in 1:1 correspondence, successively on LHS and RHS:

    || + ||| –> ||||||

    Or, 0 = 1, absurd.

    This is just one example.

    And it brings out the issue of patent absurdity.

    A stubborn child may insist that he has not got his sums wrong, but will be in the position of arguing that nothing is the same as something.

    Oops, that is what was being argued recently in trying to pull a cosmos out of nothing.

    KF

  95. 95
    daveS says:

    Hm. Is there any equivalent of these stick/set diagrams for moral SETs?

  96. 96
    Bob O'H says:

    kf @ 94 – I’m still not seeing the connection to morality. And for arithmetical SETs, we actually have proofs (thanks to Russel & Whitehead, we even have a theorem that proves that 1+1=2). So self-evidence isn’t even needed their truth can be demonstrated!

  97. 97
    kairosfocus says:

    BO’H: before we try to fly, let us crawl first: do you accept that we have shown several SET’s and so the set SET is non-empty? And, the self-evidence of certain basic math facts is more certain than the elaborate axiomatic and proof frameworks that are adduced to try to eliminate. I did not say that you cannot contrive a framework that would imply a SET, just that such would be less plausible than the SET per direct insight and absurdity on attempted denial. Next, such a framework will necessarily involve the priority of distinct identity and its corollaries; this particular case is one where proofs are impossible, this is prior to any proof we may construct. That, too, is involved. KF

  98. 98
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, Moral SET’s require a different level of understanding and world-awareness, and though their presentation could doubtless be rendered in some symbolic or graphical form, that does not give any more demonstration; indeed it is likely such would be far more complex and abstruse than a description in words. That would not do anything more than complicate matters. I chose the arithmetic case precisely because it is so directly easy to illustrate. Can you acknowledge that we see here a case of SET, in this arithmetic example? KF

  99. 99
    Bob O'H says:

    kf – I’m happy to accept, fir the purpose of this discussion, the existence of self evident truths.

    Now, how do we distinguish self evident truths from indoctrination?

  100. 100
    daveS says:

    KF,

    You have sketched a proof of the statement 2 + 3 ≠ 6 above. As with any proof, it rests on premises, including our acceptance of 0 ≠ 1 and that certain manipulations of these stick models preserve (in)equality of natural numbers.

    I agree that 0 ≠ 1 is a self-evident truth. So is the premise that subtraction of an equal number of sticks from two groups preserves (in)equality in N.

    Whether 2 + 3 ≠ 6 is a self-evident truth, I’m not sure. It follows from other self-evident truths, in any case.

  101. 101
    kairosfocus says:

    BO’H: Given that reductio’s are part of this, for argument acceptance is not really good enough. Do you think that 2 +3 = 5 could ever fail in this or another possible world, or that there was ever a time when it did not hold? That is, is it a necessary truth? [We can I believe presume understanding.] Then, is it a truth that if denied lands immediately in blatant absurdity? No need for grand abstruse reduction arguments? KF

  102. 102
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, I did not try to prove per deductions from non-question-begging premises that an equation is false. I showed that a common sense tick-off process would land very quickly in absurdity, illustrating in a way that instructs understanding — a very different thing. Similarly that nothing would join with nothing to result in something is absurd is a truth we intuit, not assume or prove; yes, that too is self-evident. The SET in focus was something we can see on our fingers: 2 + 3 = 5. KF

  103. 103
    kairosfocus says:

    BO’H: That was already shown and explained. If you disagree with what I said on the distinction between the two, kindly specify just what the disagreement is and why you have it. KF

  104. 104
    daveS says:

    KF,

    DS, I did not try to prove per deductions from non-question-begging premises that an equation is false. I showed that a common sense tick-off process would land very quickly in absurdity, illustrating in a way that instructs understanding — a very different thing.

    What’s the difference between this and a reductio proof? It looks like you have shown that 2 + 3 = 6 leads to an absurd conclusion. Therefore 2 + 3 = 6 is false, hence 2 + 3 ≠ 6.

  105. 105

    Bob O’H asks:

    Now, how do we distinguish self evident truths from indoctrination?

    Self-evident truths are statements which are necessary to recognize as true or else reasoning about the subject cannot ensue.

    If you deny the principles of identity and non-contradiction, it is impossible to have a rational conversation regardless of any beliefs you have been indoctrinated with, because we cannot hold any of the words to have identifiable, non-contradictory meaning or value.

    Unless one agrees that evil exists, one cannot have a rational debate about morality.

    Etc.

  106. 106
    JSmith says:

    Bob O’H

    Now, how do we distinguish self evident truths from indoctrination?

    You don’t unless you are open to questioning all “self-evident moral truths”. Which is the process that was used to throw out other “self-evident truths” like blacks are inferior, women do not have the intellectual and emotional stability to have the vote, and homosexuality is not natural and a sin. If it is truly a “truth” it will always pass a rational, logical, evidence based examination.

  107. 107
    LarTanner says:

    WJM @105 —

    Unless one agrees that evil exists, one cannot have a rational debate about morality.

    In what sense exactly does evil exist?

  108. 108
    JSmith says:

    WJM

    Unless one agrees that evil exists, one cannot have a rational debate about morality.

    If you want to limit your ability to have a rational debate, that is your choice. Since morality exists independent of the existence of evil, I have no problem having a rational discussion about it.

  109. 109
    kairosfocus says:

    LT, recognising that evil exists through examples is in a sense antecedent to understanding its core characteristics. For me the shock one afternoon in the 1980’s will never leave me. A familiar youngster, child of an even more familiar campus character was ripped from us, brutally seized, bound and gagged so he could not cry for help or fight for his life, violated and murdered by someone seeking to fulfill pleasures that in no world could weigh more than the life of a child. Such a case is highly instructive. KF

    PS: This case illustrates how evils degrade, frustrate, pervert and destroy that which has by nature an end that is higher than that. I think even of feral chickens squawking and fleeing a car on a road for their lives, or agoutis eating fruit with front paws while sitting on haunches while ever watching for danger and contrast a puppy I once saw that was too dejected to even get up out of the way on a road.

  110. 110
    LarTanner says:

    KF @109 –

    While I appreciate your comment, I don’t understand if my actual question is answered directly. Again, I am asking WJM — or someone – to explain in what sense evil exists.

    WJM obviously asserts that it does exist. I want to know exactly what he means by “exists.”

    Perhaps my question does not make sense, but I believe his response is fundamental to a productive follow-on discussion. If my question needs to be clarified further, I will try to elaborate, but I want to avoid muddying the conversation and hope instead that WJM will understand my meaning and provide a direct reply.

  111. 111
    ET says:

    Evil, and good, have objective reality. That is what it means “to exist”.

  112. 112
    ET says:

    JSmith:

    If you want to limit your ability to have a rational debate, that is your choice.

    Any debate with you is going to be very limited and it isn’t by our choice.

    Since morality exists independent of the existence of evil,

    It does? Morality is defined as “principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.” So if there isn’t any evil, ie badness, then morality is moot.

  113. 113
    ET says:

    Bob O’H:

    Now, how do we distinguish self evident truths from indoctrination?

    Put them to a test. Self-evident truths will pass whereas indoctrination will not.

  114. 114
    JSmith says:

    ET

    It does? Morality is defined as “principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.” So if there isn’t any evil, ie badness, then morality is moot.

    Bad and wrong are not synonymous with evil.

  115. 115
    StephenB says:

    JS

    You don’t unless you are open to questioning all “self-evident moral truths”.

    A self evident truth is not open to question. What is the point of questioning the truth if it is known to be true?

    Which is the process [questioning] that was used to throw out other “self-evident truths” like blacks are inferior, women do not have the intellectual and emotional stability to have the vote, and homosexuality is not natural and a sin. If it is truly a “truth” it will always pass a rational, logical, evidence based examination.

    None of those examples qualify as self evident truths. They are not immediately known to be true. In fact, except for the evil of homosexuality, which can be derived from the natural law, they are false. It is clear that you do not know the meaning of a self evident truth even after all this time. Is it willful ignorance?

  116. 116
    ET says:

    Wow- evil is a concept that connotes immorality. Evil is bad and evil is wrong. Without evil you cannot have immorality.

    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/evil

    the fact of suffering or wrongdoing

    bad behavior or moral state

    https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/evil

    Synonyms of evil:

    adverse, bad, baleful, baneful, damaging, dangerous, deleterious, detrimental, harmful, hurtful, ill, injurious, mischievous, nocuous, noxious, pernicious, prejudicial, wicked

  117. 117
    StephenB says:

    JS

    If you want to limit your ability to have a rational debate, that is your choice. Since morality exists independent of the existence of evil, I have no problem having a rational discussion about it.

    No. You do have a problem in that area. It is impossible to have a rational discussion about morality without recognizing that morality is about good and bad (evil) actions, thoughts, and intentions. According to your “morality,” which is really a misuse of the term, there are only actions, thoughts, and intentions that you like and don’t like.

  118. 118
    JSmith says:

    SB

    A self evident truth is not open to question. What is the point of questioning the truth if it is known to be true?

    We are talking about self evident moral truths. These are the ones that should be questioned.

    None of those examples qualify as self evident truths.

    Yet the arguments for retaining the previous injustices were that they were self-evident truths.

    I really don’t understand the reluctance to examining our moral value. If the moral value is really self-evident, or absolute, it is going to survive any rational examination. Can you really conceive of a situation where a rational examination of the moral value that kidnapping, raping, torturing and killing a young child would conclude that it is morally acceptable?

  119. 119
    StephenB says:

    Lar Tanner

    While I appreciate your comment, I don’t understand if my actual question is answered directly. Again, I am asking WJM — or someone – to explain in what sense evil exists.

    Metaphysically, evil exists as a privation of the good or a working against the good.
    Psychologically, evil exists as a perversion of the will.

  120. 120
    ET says:

    JSmith:

    Can you really conceive of a situation where a rational examination of the moral value that kidnapping, raping, torturing and killing a young child would conclude that it is morally acceptable?

    Yes- in a materialistic world there wouldn’t be anything wrong with that. In that world there is no place or need for morals.

  121. 121
    StephenB says:

    JS

    We are talking about self evident moral truths. These are the ones that should be questioned.

    Why should the self-evident truth of the existence of good and evil and self-evident truth that some actions are good and bad be questioned?

    Yet the arguments for retaining the previous injustices were that they were self-evident truths.

    No such argument has ever been made by anyone who knows the definition of a self evident truth.

  122. 122
    StephenB says:

    JS

    I really don’t understand the reluctance to examining our moral value. If the moral value is really self-evident, or absolute, it is going to survive any rational examination. Can you really conceive of a situation where a rational examination of the moral value that kidnapping, raping, torturing and killing a young child would conclude that it is morally acceptable?

    Subjectivists find these actions morally acceptable insofar as they will not acknowledge the moral law as objectively binding for all people at all times. You, for example, believe that every person, including the rapist and child-murderer, is entitled to formulate his own personal morality and decide what is good “for him,” regardless of whether such actions are objectively good. Thus, you support the child murderer in his decision to be a subjectivist. Unless, of course, you want to say that you are entitled to choose your personal morality but no one else is. Which way would you like to go on that one?

  123. 123
    JSmith says:

    SB

    None of those examples qualify as self evident truths.

    Says you. Sadly, they were claimed to be self-evident truths.

    http://www.ushistory.org/us/images/00034650.jpg

    Why are you so certain that the self-evident truths that you now hold are actually self-evident truths? Don’t you think that those in the 1500s, 1600s, 1700s, 1800s and 1900s had the same level of certainty that you have? Why are humans in 2018 more certain of their self-evident truths than those of previous centuries? That seems to me like the height of arrogance.

  124. 124
    ET says:

    JSmith:

    Sadly, they were claimed to be self-evident truths.

    By who? Clearly not by the majority of people in the world. But then again you seem to have problems with definitions.

  125. 125
    kairosfocus says:

    JS,

    just as a notice to onlookers who haven’t kept close watch for several weeks, you are credibly a sock-puppet persona of a notorious, animus-driven troll and unsurprisingly are playing the trollish tactic of drumbeat repetition of the long since adequately answered.

    Trivially, anyone may question or challenge any knowledge claim, fact claim, principle etc that he pleases.

    That has been a given.

    No-one can stop that.

    But where that falls apart is when the self-referentially incoherent and infinitely regressive notion of radical fallibilism and linked selective hyperskeptisism are brought into play. In short, SB’s point is that we need to respect warrant and we need to recognise first principles without which responsible discussion collapses. And, relevant warrant has been put up any number of times, just studiously and irresponsibly evaded.

    In very brief summary for record, even your objections are implicitly assuming and expecting that WE — the sheeple/ normies/ eloi/ dummies etc. you so patently despise, mock and disdain in your natural environment of skeptic sites running on toxic hostility [and we have the links as you know A b/ W S/ JS / many other sockpuppet identities] — will recognise and respect the moral governance that is inextricably entangled with reasoning. Stupid little things like duties to truth, to sound logic, to fairness, to honour and decency, etc. If that governance is dismissed as delusion or the like, what it does is it poisons and perverts intellect into the tool of ruthless deception and manipulation, radically undermining the fabric of community necessary for human thriving. Yes, we see here the soft nihilism of might and manipulation making ‘right’ ‘truth’ ‘warrant’ ‘knowledge’ ‘justice’ and more. Patent absurdity.

    Going further, moral government is inextricable from reasoning, so if it is delusional, the virus taints all of mindedness. Rationality and responsible discussion, creation of trustworthy bodies of knowledge and more collapse. Again, absurdity.

    We therefore have every good reason — notice the entanglement there — to accept that the intuitive sense of moral government over our rational life is not delusion. Indeed that the attempt to dismiss its objectivity ends in absurdities and in outright threats to civilisation. As we can see all around. Starting with the ongoing abortion holocaust that trollish behaviour such as you have indulged for years enables. A holocaust that mounts up at a million more victims from our living posterity in the womb per week, on a baseline of 800+ millions since the early 1970’s.

    But that gets a little ahead of where we are.

    What we see so far is that it is self-evident that we are morally governed. This means that we live in a world where the world-root must be such that it adequately grounds that. Thus, we must face the IS-OUGHT gap that you have sneered at, and we must see that post Hume’s guillotine, the world root is the only place it can be bridged.

    As a troll persona, your dismissals will only further show why your credibility is zero.

    For the moment, I will leave that matter as a point to be resolved.

    Something else is needed.

    And despite your evasions, it is highly instructive that the sadly real world case already given is self-evident. Yes, we may see that it is evil to kidnap, bind, violate and murder a child for pleasure. This will teach us much on neighbourliness, the inherent value of the human person or any other responsible, rational creature of like order, the significance of community as a critical means of supporting human thriving across the lifespan, the priority of the civil peace of justice and more. From such, many more principles will come.

    So, the issue is not oh you want to suppress questioning moral principles but that there are those who under that colour, will refuse to respect good warrant and will set out to deceive, manipulate, intimidate and mislead through soft nihilism. And don’t you even try clever little word games about how moral perceptions and “values” have a shadowy subjective existence in our heads. You full well know or should know that subjectivism, relativism and emotivism backed by radical fallibilism is tantamount to these things are figments of the imagination. So let us play the manipulation game to impose our will to power.

    Enough for the moment.

    KF

  126. 126
    JSmith says:

    ET

    By who? Clearly not by the majority of people in the world.

    Since when did you guys think that majority rules? That only leads to might and manipulation make right.

  127. 127
    JSmith says:

    KF

    just as a notice to onlookers who haven’t kept close watch for several weeks, you are credibly a sock-puppet persona of a notorious, animus-driven troll and unsurprisingly are playing the trollish tactic of drumbeat repetition of the long since adequately answered.

    I guess that it is always easier to attack the character of those who disagree with you than to rationally attack their arguments. Duly noted. However, I prefer to take a more adult and mature approach.

    When you are capable of responding to comments without resorting to childish personal attacks, I will respond. Until then, you simply have nothing of value to hear.

  128. 128
    ET says:

    JSmith:

    Since when did you guys think that majority rules?

    If the majority of people do not accept it then it clearly is NOT self-evident

    That only leads to might and manipulation make right.

    That’s your opinion and it clearly isn’t self-evident

  129. 129
    ET says:

    JSmith:

    However, I prefer to take a more adult and mature approach.

    All evidence to the contrary, of course.

  130. 130
    daveS says:

    KF,

    Any comment on #104?

  131. 131
    JSmith says:

    ET

    If the majority of people do not accept it then it clearly is NOT self-evident.

    Then God is not self evident. Do you want to tell KF or should I?

  132. 132
    ET says:

    JSmith:

    Then God is not self evident.

    How do you figure?

  133. 133
    kairosfocus says:

    JS, first, turnabout accusations in the teeth of already grounded facts are yet another trollish tactic. (onlookers go to the onward linked.) Second, you have taken yet another convenient excuse to evade dealing with substantial matters in front of you. The implication — drawn for cause — is, you have no intent of being responsible before the merits of the matter. KF

  134. 134
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Just for note, the notion that the majority of people disbelieve in the existence of God is first false, blatantly and manifestly false. Secondly, the relevant majority of people for SET’s is those who are in a position to understand based on their background, and in our day we have seen ever so many ill-founded propaganda campaigns to try to discredit the reality of first principles of right reason, or that we can know some things to undeniable certainty, much less the reality of God, even to the point of suggesting that to believe in God is little more than dangerous, potentially violent lunacy; some of it done while dressed up in the lab coat. As in, Sagan’s “demons.” I would suggest, finally, that when you stand before God in judgement, try to explain to him. You account to him, not me.

  135. 135
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, I already spoke to the subject at 102, which you partly cited. The full comment is:

    I did not try to prove per deductions from non-question-begging premises that an equation is false. I showed that a common sense tick-off process would land very quickly in absurdity, illustrating in a way that instructs understanding — a very different thing. Similarly that nothing would join with nothing to result in something is absurd is a truth we intuit, not assume or prove; yes, that too is self-evident. The SET in focus was something we can see on our fingers: 2 + 3 = 5.

    The absurdity in question is not a reductio proof, in many relevant cases, such an attempt would entail a vast exercise, which would be far less certain and clear than the instructive demonstration or the pointing out of the absurdity or the like.

    An educational exercise intended to draw out insight is not a proof.

    remember, too that what was at stake is that 2 + 3 = 5 cannot be denied but on pain of absurdity. there are literally infinitely many cases that would have to be enumerated if the approach were offered as a proof, instead I illustrated a general and fairly obvious pattern by concrete instructive example.

    KF

  136. 136
    daveS says:

    KF,

    remember, too that what was at stake is that 2 + 3 = 5 cannot be denied but on pain of absurdity. there are literally infinitely many cases that would have to be enumerated if the approach were offered as a proof, instead I illustrated a general and fairly obvious pattern by concrete instructive example.

    Thanks, I see the distinction now. You didn’t prove 2 + 3 = 5, but rather were showing that 2 + 3 = 6 is impossible.

  137. 137
    StephenB says:

    SB: None of those examples qualify as self evident truths.

    Says you. Sadly, they were claimed to be self-evident truths.

    I didn’t say that no one ever *claimed* they weren’t self evident truths. People lie and make ignorant statements for political gain all the time. I said they were not self evident truths as understood by those who discovered the nature of self evident truths (and everyone else who is honest). There are only a few of them and you ought to know what they are by now.

    Meanwhile, you didn’t answer my question: Either you support the child-murderer’s right to form his own subjective morality, or else you believe that you are the only one entitled to do that. Which is it?

  138. 138
    JSmith says:

    ET

    How do you figure?

    The majority of people may believe in a god(s). But there is no majority view on what or who this god is. Therefore, the Christian god is not a SET. The Muslim god is not a SET. The Jewish god is not a SET. The Hindu gods are not SETs. The FSM is not a SET (although he is tasty with a nice tomato sauce).

    You are the one who made the rule.

    When the majority believed that Africans were inferior, did that make it a SET? When the majority believed that woman were inferior to men, did that make it a SET? The majority now believe that same sex couples have the right to marry. Does that make that a SETs?

  139. 139
    Martha K says:

    Kairosfocus@133.
    I have gone back and read through many, although not all, of JSmith’s comments. Although I disagree with many of his views, I don’t see anything that would warrant the venom and viscous accusations that you are tossing his way. If any of my students treated another student the way you treat JSmith, I would be trotting you down to the principal’s office.

    Forgive me for being so blunt, but I didn’t feel that I could leave this alone.

  140. 140
    ET says:

    JSmith:

    The majority of people may believe in a god(s). But there is no majority view on what or who this god is.

    So what?

    Therefore, the Christian god is not a SET. The Muslim god is not a SET. The Jewish god is not a SET.

    Same God- all have the God of Abraham.

    When the majority believed that Africans were inferior,

    What majority? Surely not the majority of Africans. Not the majority of Chinese and not the majority of Indians.

    When the majority believed that woman were inferior to men

    What majority?

    The majority now believe that same sex couples have the right to marry

    What majority?

    Do you really think that your spewage is meaningful?

  141. 141
    ET says:

    Martha:

    If any of my students treated another student the way you treat JSmith, I would be trotting you down to the principal’s office.

    If any student spewed the nonsense that JSmith spews and you allowed it then you would be part of the problem.

  142. 142
    StephenB says:

    JS

    Then God is not self evident.

    The requires some explanation. If one understands God in terms of his attributes, then His existence is self evident. If one doesn’t understand God in that way, then His existence is not self evident. However, the existence of an eternal being is self evident to anyone, building on that self evident truth, you can conclude that God exists.

  143. 143
    JSmith says:

    ET

    Do you really think that your spewage is meaningful?

    I don’t know. But I wasn’t the one who said that SETs are determined by the majority.

  144. 144
    ET says:

    JSmith:

    But I wasn’t the one who said that SETs are determined by the majority.

    Clueless, totally clueless. SETs aren’t “determined” by a majority. SETs are accepted by the vast majority. Only the dullards don’t accept them and thankfully they are the minority.

  145. 145
    Martha K says:

    ET@141

    If any student spewed the nonsense that JSmith spews and you allowed it then you would be part of the problem.

    Sorry Sonny-buck, but you are not qualified to comment on my teaching abilities. And given the fact that you find it necessary to resort to derogatory comments in almost all of your interactions, I can only conclude that you never had the opportunity to experience the benefits of having good teachers. Or a good education. Sad, really, because you appear to be otherwise intelligent.

  146. 146
    ET says:

    Martha K:

    Sorry Sonny-buck, but you are not qualified to comment on my teaching abilities.

    LoL! I didn’t comment on your teaching abilities. Clearly you have reading issues.

    And given the fact that you find it necessary to resort to derogatory comments in almost all of your interactions,

    Sorry, lady-doe, but you are not qualified to make such a statement given the small sample of interactions you have observed. heck you even butted in and were shown to be wrong.

    I can only conclude that you never had the opportunity to experience the benefits of having good teachers.

    And you are not qualified to make that statement either. You don’t seem educated enough to be a teacher. Thankfully you are not in my school district

  147. 147
    ET says:

    JSmith @ 114:

    Bad and wrong are not synonymous with evil.

    evil- thesaurus

    2 not conforming to a high moral standard; morally unacceptable
    their evil deeds rank among the worst in history

    Synonyms of evil

    black, dark, bad, immoral, iniquitous, nefarious, rotten, sinful, unethical, unlawful, unrighteous, unsavory, vicious, vile, villainous, wicked, wrong

    It is very telling that Martha K, allegedly a teacher, had nothing to say about JSmith’s obvious error.

  148. 148
    JSmith says:

    ET at 147, so, everything that is bad or wrong is also evil? Let’s check out Mr. Thesaurus.

    Thesaurus: Bad

    abominable, amiss, atrocious, awful, bad news, beastly, blah*, bottom out, bummer, careless, cheap, cheesy*, crappy*, cruddy, crummy, defective, deficient, diddly, dissatisfactory, downer, dreadful, erroneous, fallacious, faulty, garbage, godawful, grody, gross*, grungy, icky, imperfect, inadequate, incorrect, inferior, junky, lousy*, not good, off, poor, raunchy*, rough, sad, slipshod, stinking, substandard, synthetic, the pits, unacceptable, unsatisfactory

    Thesaurus: wrong:

    amiss, askew, astray, at fault, awry, bad, counterfactual, defective, erratic, erring, erroneous, fallacious, false, faulty, fluffed, goofed, in error, inaccurate, inexact, miscalculated, misconstrued, misfigured, misguided, mishandled, mistaken, not precise, not right, not working, off-target, on the wrong track, out, out of commission, out of line, out of order, perverse, rotten*, sophistical, specious, spurious, ungrounded, unsatisfactory, unsound, unsubstantial, untrue, wide

    Maybe you should have paid more attention in Ms. K’s class.

  149. 149
    ET says:

    LoL! JSmith is proven to be illiterate and throws a hissy fit to try to cover it up.

    so, everything that is bad or wrong is also evil?

    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bad:

    a : morally objectionable : evil

    It all depends on the CONTEXT

  150. 150
    kairosfocus says:

    MarthaK: Kindly note, I draw to “your” attention what was already linked from 133 above and was exposed here (and what is to be found onward HERE at a well known attack site by one of its denizens) — already credible reason for banning for cause; at this point JS is now here in a context where he is a known, declared throwaway persona of a troll who claims to have multiple further identities. In short, we have in hand a direct declaration or confession. Frankly, given his statement, I have to be concerned that “you” may be yet another persona. That is how tainting the underlying behaviour is. And no, I am not about to go into a thread-jacked tangential exchange. What A b stated in that context speaks clearly, decisively and to the utter discredit of JS. Where, before closing, I should warn that yet another tactic we have seen is the sudden withdrawal of a persona, with a claim made by other personas or confederates of “censorship” without due cause. I trust this will be clear enough if you are a genuinely separate person, and in any case it is a statement of truth for record, so that the truth will be known to all who need it. There is a REASON why JS can be held to be an acknowledged “sock[puppet]” of a notorious troll who has been banned here for cause multiple times, and therefore has zero personal credibility. There is reason to see that there are likely others here at this time. There is reason to hold that others may pop up, including those of the so-called “concern troll” variety. As at now, JS is to be understood as a typical representative of the talking points, rhetorical agenda and self-admitted manipulative tactics of those from the penumbra of animus-driven attack sites. Where, just in case there is something going on at the slightly less disreputable front site, The Skeptical Zone, that too must be included despite the fact that it also has a number of decent people involved. KF

    PS: I excerpt from the linked post, the specific confession of A b:

    It is so much fun getting him [KF] wound up. Unfortunately, it usually ends up in me burning a sock. But I have several in the works that KF hasn’t figured out yet.

    PPS: In this comment is excerpted an assertion that I closed off comments in a thread “He pulled a classic KF and closed out commenting when the comments got too rational” and that “That would make him a True Creationist (in a cheap ID kilt).” In fact, JS twice in rapid succession resorted to acrostics for notorious obscenities. I snipped them and on grounds that I have neither time nor energy to police a thread for such, closed it. Comment is a privilege on good behaviour. And no, this is not an excuse for onward threadjacking tangential behaviour.

  151. 151
    kairosfocus says:

    ET, kindly, dial back tone. If the counter-accusation of JS et al is correct, you too were banned for cause here some time back and have returned with a new fresh-start persona. While it is in fact UD policy that a fresh start is a fresh start comment is a privilege on good behaviour. So, if ET is of this character, you made a good start, kindly keep it up. KF

  152. 152
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: it seems there was an exchange on definition of evil. I would suggest that the relevant one is that evil has no independent existence as such, it is a term that denotes the twisting, perversion, frustration, destruction or abuse and misuse, or the privation more formally of what is good and valuable out of its fit and proper course or end. So, the seizing of a child walking home from school to his home is an evil known as kidnapping. The binding of said child is an evil that robbed him of ability to flee or fight in defence of his life and person. The gagging was an evil that robbed him of his ability to plead for justice or cry out for help. The subsequent forceful violation of his body for perverted criminal pleasure was an evil that violated his right to his body and privacy. The further subsequent murder was an evil that robbed him of his life, the first right, also it robbed his family of its posterity and robbed his nation of his potential which was being developed in the school. All of these are highly instructive on rights, principles of moral government and more, including the purposes of the state that provides a defence of the civil peace of justice in promotion of the community that is a needed context that supports the thriving of individuals and families. Where, man is a social creature. KF

  153. 153
    Bob O'H says:

    Oh dear, this thread blew up. 🙂

    Just to pick up on one point a few people have made, e.g. WJM @ 105 –

    Unless one agrees that evil exists, one cannot have a rational debate about morality.

    Could one not also argue that this is backwards? i.e. morality defines good & evil? Otherwise I can’t see how we can decide that some act is evil.

  154. 154
    kairosfocus says:

    Folks,

    I suggest what we are fishing for is that OUGHTNESS is the root of morality, and of course the IS-OUGHT gap fits right in.

    In this context, evil is privation of the in-built telos that drives the ought.

    And that reveals at once the issue why worldviews that deprecate fundamental purpose and thus having a real nature that flows towards that purpose cannot ground OUGHTNESS. So, we have a choice, the sense of oughtness that governs even our rational life is either a delusion or it speaks in the main accurately.

    If a delusion it takes down rationality with it; hence say Cicero and his defining of law as highest reason that directs us in accordance with oughtness.

    If not, we must ground purpose in the world. One of the big worldview level decisions we must each make and must needs face the consequences of.

    In short, I would point out that once we see the issue of oughtness and how it is inextricably entangled with rational, responsible freedom, then we are forced to a worldview that can bridge IS and OUGHT at the only level that they can be bridged, the world-root.

    After centuries there is but one serious candidate, and to dispute this, kindly put up a coherent and adequate alternative: ______ . I predict, this will not be cogently addressed. The candidate to beat: the inherently good and wise creator God, a necessary and maximally great being, worthy of loyalty and of the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good in accord with our evident nature.

    Evident nature, of course points out that we are not dealing with arbitrary commands, the sense of telos and proper course of a given manifest nature lead to the point that the good and the right will be reasonable and responsible. By contrast what is bad or evil will be privation, wrenching and ultimately chaotic.

    Which points straight to the significance of the Kantian Categorical Imperative and its derivatives or assosciated principles in moral reasoning.

    Telos also points to the importance of virtue, integrity, the spirit of truth and soundness, to character formed in the context of disciplined habit.

    And of course, natural law comes out as that law that is the logic of the telos of our evident nature.

    All of which then reflects into key self-evident test cases as we have been looking at for weeks.

    That, sirs, is how far our civilisation has fallen. 2050 years past, Cicero knew better.

    For shame!

    KF

  155. 155
    JSmith says:

    Bob O’H

    Could one not also argue that this is backwards? i.e. morality defines good & evil? Otherwise I can’t see how we can decide that some act is evil.

    If we can’t agree on whether objective moral truth exists, we certainly are not going to be able to agree on whether evil objectively exists. The concept of “evil” also has a religious connotation that only clouds the issue.

    Is it evil to cheat on my taxes? Is it evil to lie? Is it evil to take the Lord’s name in vain? Of course not. But even atheists would agree that it is wrong to do these things. But wrong based on some objective truth? Of course not. They are wrong in that they have an impact on the stable functioning of society

  156. 156

    KF @ 151: I really appreciate your spirit, KF. I also understand ET’s frustration with the a/mats who regularly troll this site. Yours is the better course, but it doesn’t come easily for some of us… especially me. Thanks for the guidance.

  157. 157
    kairosfocus says:

    JS, the existence of and warrant for the reality of moral truth is not held hostage to “agreement.” And, that’s all to the good. Those who are in and wish to cling to convenient moral error will always want to put up a crooked yardstick and insist that it be used as a standard of what is straight, accurate and upright. Plumbline, what plumbline, they will predictably say. KF

  158. 158
    ET says:

    kairosfocus:

    ET, kindly, dial back tone.

    10-4. Dialing back my tone to the “simpering coward” level. 😉 (just kidding, I get it.)

  159. 159

    Bob O’H:

    Could one not also argue that this is backwards? i.e. morality defines good & evil? Otherwise I can’t see how we can decide that some act is evil.

    Do you need a moral system to decide if it is evil to torture innocent children for pleasure? Do you need to weigh the pros and cons, do a cost/benefit analysis, consider various philosophical and psychological perspectives? Or do you just know it is evil as soon as you see it?

    Do you think it is possible, in any world, using any argument no matter how reasonable, even if I threatened to torture you, that you could come to agree (in your mind) that torturing an innocent child for your personal pleasure was a good thing?

  160. 160
    LarTanner says:

    WJM @159 —

    Do you need a moral system to decide if it is evil to torture innocent children for pleasure?

    Isn’t it precisely your claim that there is such a moral system? If so, why say that for some actions — seemingly depending on the actor’s motivation — we do NOT need a moral system to determine their identification as “evil” or “good.”

    WJM, I had asked earlier if you would explain your comment from 105. In what sense does evil exist, exactly? Is evil a natural/physical entity? A non-natural (abstract or Platonic) entity? A supernatural entity?

    Some on this thread have asserted that evil is a privation of the good, but this assertion leaves the same question: Does good exist as a natural, non-natural, or supernatural entity?

    What is your stance — and then your argument — for the existence of evil/good in the sense you believe?

  161. 161
    JSmith says:

    LT

    Some on this thread have asserted that evil is a privation of the good…

    I don’t think that this is a valid description either. I can live my entire life never doing anything “good”, and still not be “evil” or do anything “evil”.

    I would define “evil” as an act that the vast majority of us would consider to be at the extreme end of “bad/wrong”, that is done with full knowledge of the consequences to others, and with full intent. I realize that this is clumsy wording, but I hope that my point gets across.

    The question I have for people who believe that objective evil exists, are some acts more evil than others? Or are all evil acts equally evil?

  162. 162

    LT said:

    Isn’t it precisely your claim that there is such a moral system?

    I said there are objective moral values, and that there are self-evident moral truths.

    If so, why say that for some actions — seemingly depending on the actor’s motivation — we do NOT need a moral system to determine their identification as “evil” or “good.”

    System: “a set of principles or procedures according to which something is done; an organized scheme or method.”

    Self-evident moral truths reveal fundamental moral principles. From those basics of natural moral law we can reason forward towards necessarily true moral statements and conditionally true moral statements. That is how a “moral system” is derived from, originally, self-evident moral truths.

    To answer your other question, what we call morality exists in exactly the same way as what we call logic and math exist – they are language-based representations of fundamental, objectively real aspects of mind (not the physical brain), in virtually all cases recognizable by any mind sufficiently sentient to operate at rudimentary levels of abstract thought.

  163. 163
    kairosfocus says:

    JS, if you spend your live in wrenching or frustrating things from their proper course and end, then your behaviour will be evil, period. KF

  164. 164
    StephenB says:

    J Smith

    The question I have for people who believe that objective evil exists, are some acts more evil than others? Or are all evil acts equally evil?

    No, some acts are more evil than others and some people are more evil than others. In this context, we can distinguish a bad man from a truly evil man. (Usually the words can be used interchangeably, but in this context, we can make a few distinctions. )

    A bad man may rob banks or commit acts of violence, but he realizes that he is not a good person. He doesn’t deny goodness or the fact that he could be good if he tried. He accepts the existence of the natural moral law, but he simply refuses to do what he knows he ought to do.

    A truly evil man not only refuses to follow the natural moral law, he seeks to take others with him on the road to perdition. Accordingly, he tries to corrupt youth and fill young skulls full of mush with lies. His objective is to make them slaves to their passions, indoctrinate them with secularist ideas, and most importantly, destroy their minds so that they lose the freedom to pursue the truth. He begins by telling them that there is no such thing as truth.

    So the man who simply does bad things and falls short of the good is not as evil as the man who conspires against the good. The first type doesn’t follow the moral map, but the second type throws out the map, claims that it doesn’t exist, and hides it from those who would like to have known about it.

    Meanwhile, you didn’t answer my question: Either you support the child-murderer’s right to form his own subjective morality, or else you believe that you are the only one entitled to do that. Which is it?

  165. 165
    JSmith says:

    KF

    JS, if you spend your live in wrenching or frustrating things from their proper course and end, then your behaviour will be evil, period. KF

    Your evasion is duly noted.

  166. 166
    JSmith says:

    SB, thank you for answering my question. I agree with you but I wasn’t sure if everyone had the same view.

    Meanwhile, you didn’t answer my question: Either you support the child-murderer’s right to form his own subjective morality, or else you believe that you are the only one entitled to do that. Which is it?

    I think the fact that we all form our own subjective morality answers the question. I certainly support the child killers right to form his own subjective morality. But that is not the same thing as me supporting him acting on his morality.

  167. 167
    StephenB says:

    JS

    I certainly support the child killers right to form his own subjective morality. But that is not the same thing as me supporting him acting on his morality.

    Thank you for your forthright answer. Do you believe that you are entitled to act on your subjective morality? If so, why do you not grant that same right to the subjectivist child killer?

  168. 168
    JSmith says:

    SB

    Thank you for your forthright answer. Do you believe that you are entitled to act on your subjective morality?

    I think that we all feel entitled to act according to our morality, whether it is subjective or objective.

    If so, why do you not grant that same right to the subjectivist child killer?

    For the same reason that people may intervene in my acting on my moral values. Humans are variable and don’t always agree.

  169. 169
    kairosfocus says:

    JS, a typical trollish talking point. They are past sell-by date. You tried to make distinctions without a difference, I pointed out how the definition of evil applies. And while there are degrees of evil, relatively low degree is not tantamount to absence. KF

  170. 170
    StephenB says:

    SB: If so, why do you not grant that same right to the subjectivist child killer?

    JS

    For the same reason that people may intervene in my acting on my moral values. Humans are variable and don’t always agree.

    But don’t you understand why this doesn’t work? By your philosophy, the subjectivist is, by definition, entitled to form his own moral code and act on it. That is your stated philosophy. And yet, when another subjectivist forms a moral code that you don’t like, you reverse your field and say that only those subjectivsts you agree with are entitled to act on their code.

  171. 171
    JSmith says:

    SB

    By your philosophy, the subjectivist is, by definition, entitled to form his own moral code and act on it. That is your stated philosophy.

    No. Everyone is entitled to form their own moral code. Which is quite obvious given the differences we see on this fringe web site. But whether or not they are entitled to act on it will depend on those they want to live around. The society. For example, Joe and Steve think that it is morally acceptable for them to be married. Thirty years ago, the rest of society would have said no, and KF would be happy. Today, society says yes, and KF is apoplectic.

  172. 172
    StephenB says:

    JS

    Everyone is entitled to form their own moral code. Which is quite obvious given the differences we see on this fringe web site. But whether or not they are entitled to act on it will depend on those they want to live around.

    First, you say that everyone is entitled to act on his subjective moral code. Then you say only those whose moral code you agree with are entitled to act on their personal code. Now you say that only those whose moral code society agrees with are entitled to act on their code.

    So if society approves of the subjectivists code, let’s say slave trading or genocide, then those who hold these views are entitled to act on them?

  173. 173
    JSmith says:

    SB

    First, you say that everyone is entitled to act on his subjective moral code.

    Nope. Never said that. I said that people feel entitled to act on their moral code. Which can be confirmed by simply watching the news. Whether society allows them to do so is a different thing.

    So if society approves of the subjectivists code, let’s say slave trading or genocide, then those who hold these views are entitled to act on them?

    Well, history suggests that the answer is yes. But entitlements are not absolute and eternal. Up until well into the last century husbands were entitled to hit their wives. Up until quite recently, employers were entitled to deny employment to homosexuals. Up until the sixties bus drivers were entitled to make black people sit at the back of the bus. Up until quite recently, golf courses were entitled to deny me membership because of my Jewish heritage.

  174. 174
    JSmith says:

    KF

    JS, a typical trollish talking point.

    Your opinion is duly noted and given the attention it deserves.

  175. 175
    ET says:

    JSmith:

    Everyone is entitled to form their own moral code.

    Spoken like a mad man

  176. 176
    StephenB says:

    SB: So if society approves of the subjectivists code, let’s say slave trading or genocide, then those who hold these views are entitled to act on them?

    JS

    Well, history suggests that the answer is yes.

    I am not asking you what history says, I am asking what you say. If society approves the subjectivist’s code at a given time, then is the subjectivist entitled to act on it?

  177. 177
    JSmith says:

    SB

    I am not asking you what history says, I am asking what you say. If society approves the subjectivist’s code at a given time, then is the subjectivist entitled to act on it?

    Yes, they are legally entitled. And as per the morals at the time, they would be morally entitled. The bible says that you are morally entitled to own and to beat your slave. In the sixties in the southern US, you would have been legally and morally entitled to refuse service to a person purely because of the colour of their skin. Up until the middle of the last century you would have been legally and morally entitled to hit your wife. Up until recently, you would be legally and morally entitled to fire an employee for being gay. And these were at a time when moral values were generally believed to be objective.

  178. 178
    StephenB says:

    Yes, they are legally entitled. And as per the morals at the time, they would be morally entitled.

    Thank you. So that means that, in your judgment, the subjectivist, whose morality permits wanton murder, is entitled, legally and morally, to act on his morality if society approves. And, of course, it follows that the subjectivist, whose morality promotes death camps for Jews, is also entitled to act on his morality if society approves. I appreciate your forthright answer.

    The bible says that you are morally entitled to own and to beat your slave. In the sixties in the southern US, you would have been legally and morally entitled to refuse service to a person purely because of the colour of their skin. Up until the middle of the last century you would have been legally and morally entitled to hit your wife. Up until recently, you would be legally and morally entitled to fire an employee for being gay. And these were at a time when moral values were generally believed to be objective.

  179. 179
    JSmith says:

    SB

    Thank you. So that means that, in your judgment, the subjectivist, whose morality permits wanton murder, is entitled, legally and morally, to act on his morality if society approves.

    Yes. But can you envision such a society surviving for any length of time? I can’t.

    And, of course, it follows that the subjectivist, whose morality promotes death camps for Jews, is also entitled to act on his morality if society approves.

    If the killing of the wives and infants of your defeated enemies is moral, then yes.

  180. 180
    StephenB says:

    I should note that I forgot to put the second paragraph @179 in quotes. They are JSmith’s comments and not my own.

  181. 181
    kairosfocus says:

    FYI-FTR: JS, “sock[puppet]” troll persona — the unmasking (by Ab at a notorious objector site) — here.

  182. 182
    Bob O'H says:

    WJM @ 159 –

    Do you need a moral system to decide if it is evil to torture innocent children for pleasure?

    I don’t see how you can make that judgment without a moral system. Isn’t that exactly a moral judgment?

    Do you need to weigh the pros and cons, do a cost/benefit analysis, consider various philosophical and psychological perspectives? Or do you just know it is evil as soon as you see it?

    That’s a bit like asking if I know that 4+7=11 as soon as I see it, without having to go to set theory to prove it. We all know some things because we were taught it when we were young, so we don’t even think about them – they’re just obvious.

    Do you think it is possible, in any world, using any argument no matter how reasonable, even if I threatened to torture you, that you could come to agree (in your mind) that torturing an innocent child for your personal pleasure was a good thing?

    Wait, you’re asking for a subjective judgment? 🙂

    Actually I can’t, but kf has already given an example of someone who has (if, perhaps, without intending to):

    In consequence of which mutual connection of justice and human felicity, he has not perplexed the law of nature with a multitude of abstracted rules and precepts, referring merely to the fitness or unfitness of things, as some have vainly surmised; but has graciously reduced the rule of obedience to this one paternal precept, “that man should pursue his own true and substantial happiness.

    Blackstone assumes that people are inherently good, which seems a bit optimistic. Without that assumption, his moral code can become distinctly immoral (and yes, that is a subjective judgment!).

  183. 183

    Bob O’H:

    You might read my response to LT @ 162 wrt what a “moral system” is.

    That’s a bit like asking if I know that 4+7=11 as soon as I see it, without having to go to set theory to prove it.

    Well, Bob, if you’re going to say you wouldn’t be able to recognize that 1+1=2 without first having been taught set theory, I guess we’ve exhausted the potential of the conversation. I appreciate your time. BTW, “set theory” is extracted from obviously true mathematical statements. It explains what we innately recognized to be true. To claim set theory comes first is like claiming that if we randomly decided that 1+1=28 and built our math on that, then we would immediately recognize the truth value of 1+1=28 and everything we do using that math would work just fine.

  184. 184
    Bob O'H says:

    WJM – my point was precisely that I recognise 4+7=11 as being true without having to prove it from first principles. But that doesn’t mean it’s a self-evident truth, it means I was taught it at school. Although I could try to prove it, I don’t have to. My argument is that, in a similar way, I don’t have to go through a long argument for why torturing children for fun is morally wrong, I can take a short-cut because I have been taught morals well enough that the conclusion is obvious.

    You still haven’t explained whether it’s possible to a judgment that torturing children for fun is evil without a moral system. But I think this is important: it’s about working out what could be a self-evident truth, and what is an inference derived from what could be self-evident truths.

  185. 185
    LarTanner says:

    WJM@162: I agree with this, on first pass:

    what we call morality exists in exactly the same way as what we call logic and math exist – they are language-based representations of fundamental, objectively real aspects of mind (not the physical brain), in virtually all cases recognizable by any mind sufficiently sentient to operate at rudimentary levels of abstract thought.

    I don’t quite get what you refer to by “objectively real aspects of mind,” but I get the distinction between mind and brain. For me, I tend to follow Pinker’s definition of mind as the brain at work, a computational system. I’m paraphrasing, of course, as Pinker’s definition is more elaborate and nuanced. So, you might be referring to actual operations performed in certain centers of the brain. If so, I’m in agreement.

    Most moral subjectivists could, I think, assent to the idea that morality exists as language-based representations in the mind.

  186. 186
    kairosfocus says:

    BO’H:

    Did you notice why I distinguished self-evident from necessary truths? (As in patent absurdity on attempted denial.)

    2 + 3 = 5

    || + ||| –> |||||

    But 1965 x 937 = 1,841,205

    is necessary but not self-evident.

    Whether one was taught by teachers is irrelevant. What is, is that from understanding what is said on background adequate to have insight [not rote memory], one sees that the claim is true, is necessarily true, and is so on pain of patent absurdity on attempted denial.

    Obviousness per having been taught [soundly] is not the same. And one can be taught error.

    Zere’s a diffrance, mon!

    KF

  187. 187
    Bob O'H says:

    kf – OK, but then how do we know that moral “self evident truths” are self evident and not taught?

    Actually, is 2 + 3 = 5 self-evident to someone who hasn’t been taught to count? I agree it’s necessary, but is it obvious?

  188. 188
    tribune7 says:

    Actually, is 2 + 3 = 5 self-evident to someone who hasn’t been taught to count?

    That’s a great point. i would note that it would be self evident that five oranges are more than three oranges and it would also be self-evident that three oranges are more than two oranges. Would it be self evident that combining two oranges with three oranges give one just as many oranges as the person with five oranges? I will say yes.

  189. 189
    daveS says:

    KF,

    But 1965 x 937 = 1,841,205

    is necessary but not self-evident.

    😮

    It seems like we’re using different definitions of “self-evident” at various points.

    Surely if you attempt to deny the truth of this equation, you will be led to absurdity.

    Furthermore, it’s true based only on the meanings of the symbols.

    Therefore I might argue that it’s self-evident.

    Now it’s not “obvious” to most of us, without a calculation at least, but I thought “self-evident” meant something different than “obvious”.

  190. 190
    StephenB says:

    After being grilled for a week, JSmith finally confesses. And so the process has ended:

    SB: I am not asking you what history says, I am asking what you say. If society approves the subjectivist’s code at a given time, then is the subjectivist entitled to act on it?

    Yes, they are legally entitled. And as per the morals at the time, they would be morally entitled.

    SB: Thank you. So that means that, in your judgment, the subjectivist, whose morality permits wanton murder, is entitled, legally and morally, to act on his morality if society approves. And, of course, it follows that the subjectivist, whose morality promotes death camps for Jews, is also entitled to act on his morality if society approves.

    Yes. (followed by an anti-biblical rant)

  191. 191
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, yes to deny the multiplication will lead to absurdity but that is not patent, instantly manifest. In short this is not a matter of lengthy reductio proofs. KF

  192. 192
    kairosfocus says:

    BO’H: I say yes as we can see:

    || + ||| –> |||||

    The labels and symbols are secondary.

    I think there is a degree of experience and familiarity required to come to understand, but that is part of the framework.

    KF

  193. 193
    daveS says:

    KF,

    Perhaps I’ve heard this sort of joke too many times:

    One mathematician was showing his new theorem to another. The colleague pointed at the chalkboard and asked how the theorem went from one step to the next. The first mathematician said, “That’s obvious.” The second went to a second blackboard, spent an hour filling it up with complex calculations, then stepped back and said, “You’re right, it IS obvious.”

  194. 194
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, I gather somewhere something much like that actually happened. That sort of abstruse stepwise analysis and derivation is just what I do not have in mind. If it is not pretty much immediately clear, it is not patent. KF

  195. 195
    Bob O'H says:

    kf @ 192 – I’m guessing that you were taught to count. So the fact that it is obvious to you (as it is to me) may not mean much in deciding whether it is obvious to someone not taught to count.

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    kairosfocus says:

    BO’H: Having an education is part of relevant experience. Relying on rote rather than first principles or insights is not. KF

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    LT @ 185: No, I don’t mean the mind as a processing result of physical states. That would render free will a physical effect and morality meaningless. I mean mind as a transcendent dimension, so to speak, a landscape with objectively real commodities. Just as in the physical we have physical bodies that lawfully abide gravity and other so-called natural laws, so to is the transcendent dimension of mind a mental world populated by mental entities (like us) and mental “laws”.

    Bob O’H: I think plenty of information has been provided to you to chew on internally if you see fit. At the end of the day, I – and no one else – can convince you of anything. In my view, we have the free will to believe whatever we wish to believe. If you wish to believe that morality is subjective, that’s your prerogative. It’s not my desire to change your views; that’s not why I participate in venues like this.

    I do appreciate the intellectual and non-acrimonious discussion.

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