Wednesday, May 06, 2009

More on the moral argument

First of all, I have an argument addressed to people who are moral relativists, but who nonetheless think there are real human rights. That is, on some moral questions, they give all the relativist responses (who's to say?), but when basic human rights are violated, they say that is wrong. I teach ethics classes, and I can tell you there are plenty of people like that. What they don't realize is that the position is logically inconsistent. If the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are absolute, then there is an objective standard of moral value according to which they are absolute. I'm betting that when you point this out to them, they will admit that they believe in objective moral values, as opposed to relativism.

Premise 1 is a little more complex, in there are obviously moral philosophies do not directly ground ethics in God which are nonentheless objective. However, these systems, as I pointed out in a previous post, make metaphysical commitments that conflict with contemporary naturalism, (Plato's forms which we knew in a past life, and recollect now, is a good example, Aristotelian entelechies would be another), and these world-views lend themselves to theistic arguments in a way that contemporary materialism does not. I do think that attempting to work out these metaphysical systems in a consistent way is going to lead one at least in the direction of theism.

Objects in a naturalistic world are not supposed to have moral properties. That is ruled out by any reasonable definition of naturalism. Particle arrangements are just not going to get you there.

So if we accept the idea of objectively binding human rights, we reduce the number of world-views which are acceptable, and enhance the probability of theism, on which the existence of these values can be easily understood.

45 comments:

Jesse said...

I like to give a similar argument beginning with what I believe is the consequence (and I think it's relevant here):

Subjectivity (the view of subjective moral values) is the basis for might makes right, which runs counter to a rationally based ethic; an ethic which all persons are rationally obligated to uphold, and which forms the basis for freedom and true happiness.

The logic of subjectivity goes like this: If value and morality are purely subjective, that is, exist only in your head and not as a reflection of reality, then when you say that such and such is wrong you are really saying you feel or imagine such and such is wrong *even though it's really not*. The 'really not' logically accompanies every expression of your subjective moral view *if value and morality are purely subjective.*

Now, when I say 'really' I mean 'in truth', and I accept the classic definition of truth: 'the conformity of the mind to reality.' Therefore, to take the subjectivist line looks like this, in real terms: Think of an atrocity -- take the holocaust for example; most likely, you believe it's appalling and just plain wrong. However, if you take the line subjectivist x takes, you will be saying, "I feel the holocaust was wrong, but it really wasn't." Or, "I think dragging homosexuals behind my car is wrong, but it's really not."

This in itself is not an argument for God's existence, but first things first...

Clayton said...

"First of all, I have an argument addressed to people who are moral relativists, but who nonetheless think there are real human rights. That is, on some moral questions, they give all the relativist responses (who's to say?), but when basic human rights are violated, they say that is wrong. I teach ethics classes, and I can tell you there are plenty of people like that. What they don't realize is that the position is logically inconsistent"

The position you describe is not logically inconsistent. Suppose there's no objective fact of the matter as to whether you're obliged to say 'Bless you' when someone sneezes. How does that entail that there's no such thing as the right to bodily autonomy?

If you have a relativist view that says 'X is right' only if the speaker's cultural standards are such that those standards say that X is right, it only follows from relativism that there are no real human rights if we add the additional contingent premise that there are in fact such cultural standards. If you add in the contingent premise that asserts that there are no such standards, then you get rights from relativism with an ancillary premise.

This is the same mistake I think you were making in your earlier post on relativism that I tried to correct with my example involving honesty and utilitarianism. You're making the mistake of saying that since relativism alone doesn't entail that there are rights relativism entails that there are no rights. It's a fallacious inference.

As for premise 1, I guess I don't see yet why all these views make commitments inconsistent with contemporary naturalism. Where's the inconsistency in, say, naturalism and act utilitarianism or naturalism and Kantian ethics? Naturalism and Ross' pluralism?

Doctor Logic said...

Victor,

"If the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are absolute, then there is an objective standard of moral value according to which they are absolute. I'm betting that when you point this out to them, they will admit that they believe in objective moral values, as opposed to relativism."

I think this is a case of equivocation on the term absolute. The student can mean absolute as in "I absolutely won't eat red peppers," and their intuitive meaning is still intact.

When you ask someone, is it wrong to enslave people, they are placing themselves in certain mental positions in order to response.

Position #1) They are placing themselves in the position of setting policy. Will my policy be to impose slavery? They can intuit a "No", and add that they cannot imagine themselves setting such a policy.

Position #2) They can imagine themselves as victim of the enslavement policy, and intuit that they would be adamant in opposition to the policy.

Position #3) They can imagine themselves in a position to aid another person, and intuitively decide that they will take risks to free an enslaved person.

None of these responses implies objective morality. They imply a firm intuition. Illicitly, you say that no one can have such an intuition unless there is an objective morality to back it up. That's question-begging. Why are moral intuitions to be banned?

I agree that, a posteriori, physicalism does not get us to objective morality, but that's another story. The problem with your argument is that advocating for rights, intuiting an inalienable right, does not imply objectivity of the intuition.

Doctor Logic said...

Jesse,

Subjectivity (the view of subjective moral values) is the basis for might makes right, which runs counter to a rationally based ethic;

No, it isn't. "Might makes right" means that whatever the boss wants is morally correct. Show me a relativist who believes this.

What you mean is that there are limits to what can be resolved through rational discourse if subjectivism is the case. This is true. However, the same is true for objectivists.

A rabbi, a muslim cleric and the pope walk into a bar. Soon thereafter, the police and paramedics are called. The three objectivists are not going to resolve their moral differences using rational discourse because they don't share moral axioms. Furthermore, their moral axioms cannot be fixed by any possible observation of the world. So there are just as many limits to the power of rational discourse if objectivism is true. In fact, there are probably more.

There was a post about psychoanalysis a few days back. I don't like to psychoanalyze, but I do think there's an irrational fear on the part of objectivists that all hell will break loose if objectivism dies. But, really, nothing much is going to change. In the absence of objectivism, we'll use democratic, social contract, liberalism, which , ironically, I've seen held up as one of the great achievements of Christianity.

Finney said...

"This is true. However, the same is true for objectivists."

I agree, Doc. I think the situation between objectivists/subjectivists is the same in the context of free-will/determinism. Neither determinist or libertarian thinks that they experience the world differently; they only interpret it differently. They ask "What is a basis for thinking that this belief is true?"

Yet, I do find a world where everyone believed in subjective morals much more scary than one in which they believed in objective morals.

normajean said...

Doc and Clay, under normal circumstances you both say some reasonable things. Your arguments here are just not convincing at all. Reppert's leading by at least two here. Love you guys though!

Crude said...

DL,

You say Victor is equivocating on absolute. But it seems like you're equivocating on 'wrong'. In all three of your positions you're describing possible responses a person can give for being against slavery while not believing in objective morals. But being against something isn't the same as thinking it's wrong, unless wrong has become 'That which I subjectively dislike'.

It IS possible for someone to both claim to be a subjectivist about morals yet be inconsistent about this (say, really believe that certain things are truly and inexcusably wrong.)

As for the eventual fruits of a thorough subjective approach to morality - I for one don't doubt that society and culture can somehow putter along with such an approach. What it will result in (Obvious inconsistencies? Diminished integrity? Regarding the 'real' value of democracy, social contract, and otherwise as worthless or distractions?) is another question.

Clayton said...

Normajean,

What did I say that was wrong?

A little help would be nice.

Clayton said...

Victor,

Why should anyone accept this: "Objects in a naturalistic world are not supposed to have moral properties. That is ruled out by any reasonable definition of naturalism. Particle arrangements are just not going to get you there."

Are you going to offer arguments to back any of this up or is it just trivial that natural means no moral properties because of the definition of 'natural'?

Jesse said...

Hello Dr. L.

You write:

::No, it isn't. "Might makes right" means that whatever the boss wants is morally correct. Show me a relativist who believes this.

“Might makes right” means that if you have the might to do as you please there is no “ought” stopping you. Whatever you want to do is therefore moral. Is it moral to your line-up of relativists who don’t have the might and don’t want to do what the boss wants? Without an objective standard the question is irrelevant! You see, you’re saying, whatever I choose to say is moral is moral, which, universalized, becomes the principle, whatever someone wants to say is moral, is moral. If, therefore, someone’s morals contradict your own, then logic involves you in saying, “though I personally feel this or that is wrong,” you’re adding, at the same time and by virtue of your rationality, “still, it’s not really wrong.” Let’s use a specific example. You, Dr. L., may not feel “the boss” should do whatever he wants, however, by your own logic you cannot say he’s really wrong to do so.

::What you mean is that there are limits to what can be resolved through rational discourse if subjectivism is the case. This is true. However, the same is true for objectivists.

Not really. I mean, that’s not what I’m getting at. Though I agree there are limits to what can be resolved through rational discourse, my problem concerns the “ought” of morality; that is, whether it’s strictly hypothetical and thus can only be agreed upon between those who desire a “contract” of sorts, or an imperative, which makes morality absolute, and allows us therefore to say, for instance, murdering Jews *really* is wrong.

Doctor Logic said...

Crude,

In all three of your positions you're describing possible responses a person can give for being against slavery while not believing in objective morals. But being against something isn't the same as thinking it's wrong, unless wrong has become 'That which I subjectively dislike'.

I'm not saying that, by definition, we know that thinking X is wrong means exactly the same thing as not liking X. To say that this was true by definition would be begging the question for subjectivism.

I'm saying that a subjectivist is a person who believes (for whatever reasons) that they are equivalent.

A person who is a moral objectivist believes (for whatever reasons) that wrongness is equivalent to absolute wrongness.

And it is question begging for you to say that wrongness is defined to equate with objective wrongness.

If you want to make that claim, back it up with an argument. The moral realists here all think it's self-evident, but it isn't.

It IS possible for someone to both claim to be a subjectivist about morals yet be inconsistent about this (say, really believe that certain things are truly and inexcusably wrong.)

Question-begging again. I think bananas are truly delicious. I can use this pattern of speech and express a strong view. It doesn't make bananas objectively delicious, and so it isn't a contradiction.

Martinbg said...

Hi. I am, to start by introducing myself, not really a moral philosopher, or philosopher of any kind; my background is from psychology, where I've been a student for many years. I do however consider moral standards to be as good as objectively true (although I'm not sure of the precise definition of “objectively true”), yet not in conflict with what I understand to be naturalism. I believe moral standards to be a consequence of people's quite natural acts of moral judgement, but I also believe that such acts are, in turn, consequences of circumstances common to most people. I don't know exactly what those circumstances are, but I believe it has something to do with the challenges that quite naturally arise from our way of living as social beings. Even if individual acts of moral judgement may contradict one another, because they are caused by the same circumstances, they will tend to point in the same direction, and it is in that direction I will look for moral standards.

This means that if nobody else thought that the Holocaust was wrong, I would have some difficulties defending my belief that it was (although there might still be ways); but it also means that because the general judgement that the Holocaust was wrong is likely to have been caused by conditions common to most people, a situation where nobody else made such a judgement would be unlikely to occur.

(Or something like that; as I'm not a philosopher, and on top of that not a native English speaker, I can't be completely sure that what I just said is equal to what I intended to say.)

Crude said...

DL,

And it is question begging for you to say that wrongness is defined to equate with objective wrongness.

If you want to make that claim, back it up with an argument. The moral realists here all think it's self-evident, but it isn't.
Honestly, this sounds more like an exercise in rhetoric than actual argument. Using the language of objective values while meaning something radically different in order to say 'See! Subjectivism isn't really that bad!'

I accounted for defining 'wrong' to mean 'that which I subjectively dislike'. If that's not what you mean by 'wrong', then I'd love to hear what you do mean. Otherwise it sounds like you're playing a game that amounts to newspeak.

Question-begging again. I think bananas are truly delicious. I can use this pattern of speech and express a strong view. It doesn't make bananas objectively delicious, and so it isn't a contradiction.More rhetoric and fluff. You are denying the possibility for a person can be inconsistent on this subject? If so, you have a funny little worldview.

Doctor Logic said...

Jesse,

“Might makes right” means that if you have the might to do as you please there is no “ought” stopping you.

You forgot the word "objective" in front of ought.

There is an "ought" guiding the dictator, and it is not that he ought to impose an arbitrary outcome on others. It is that he ought to impose what he thinks is best, what he thinks is most morally aesthetic. Sure, it's subjective.

As I said, "might makes right" means that the person being subjected to the will of the dictator ought to accept the dictator's actions are right, no matter what they might be. That's not a tenet of subjectivists/relativists, nor anyone I know.

Is it moral to your line-up of relativists who don’t have the might and don’t want to do what the boss wants? Without an objective standard the question is irrelevant!

Irrelevant to what? Serious question.

Let's translate your question into 'subjectivese'...

"Is it [subjectively tasteful] to your line-up of relativists who don’t have the might and don’t [have a taste] for doing what the boss wants?"

The answer becomes an obvious No. Objective standard is not needed.

You see, you’re saying, whatever I choose to say is moral is moral, which, universalized, becomes the principle, whatever someone wants to say is moral, is moral.

First of all, I don't have complete freedom of choice over what I think is moral in the same way I don't have freedom of choice over what I think tastes good.

Assuming relativism, an act or policy can only be moral relative to an agent. So, universalizing, you get "whatever a person concludes is moral to them is moral to them."

Also, let's not ignore that there is idealization, even in subjective morality. I can make errors in assessing what policy is moral because I failed to anticipate all the consequences of an action, or because I failed in the short term to act according to my medium- or long-term desires.

You, Dr. L., may not feel “the boss” should do whatever he wants, however, by your own logic you cannot say he’s really wrong to do so.

By now you know the drill. By "really" you mean objectively. But in relativism, there's no problem. Assuming the boss has reflected on his moral judgment, I cannot say that he's wrong relative to his own morality. But I can say he is wrong relative to mine. No contradiction, no problem.

Doctor Logic said...

Jesse... is that the Greatest American Hero logo? :)

Doctor Logic said...

Crude,

Honestly, this sounds more like an exercise in rhetoric than actual argument. Using the language of objective values while meaning something radically different in order to say 'See! Subjectivism isn't really that bad!'

The question at hand is not whether common language used in moral expressions "sounds" objective. I'm sure it does. Psychologically, it less forceful to say "I (and those who agree with me) think it's wrong for you to steal!" than it is to say "Stealing is wrong!"

However, if you assume that moral language (though it may sound objective) expresses only a subjective opinion, then there's no contradiction in the subjectivist worldview.

It is difficult to imagine how one might express moral outrage without it sounding blatantly subjective or blatantly objective. If I express it by saying "slavery has property X", that sounds objective. If I say "I (and others like me) feel that slavery has property X", that sounds subjective.

Now, if you want to suggest that subjectivists should never use objective-sounding language, then the same thing should be true of non-moral discourse. Never again can you say "that hamburger was delicious!", or "it's hot out there!" or "the Jonas Brothers are rubbish!"

That's not going to happen, of course, but let's suppose we got you to start saying "I personally feel that hamburger was delicious." Would the change in your language prove that gastronomic taste was subjective? No, it wouldn't. It might prove you believe it is subjective, but where does that belief come from?

In this case, you are saying that the subjectivist cannot use objective-sounding language without also believing moral values are objective. That's obviously false. If your proof amounts to nothing more than a figure of speech, then should I conclude you believe taste in music and food is objective too?

A side problem with Victor's argument is that it relies on the reader's belief that morality is objective, no matter where that belief comes from. Typically, this intuition comes from the faulty assumption that the world would look different if morality were only a subjective thing. But there's no evidence to support such a claim whatsoever. At most we might say that the world would look different if fewer people believed morality was absolute, but that isn't a test of the actual objectivity of moral values. I don't think there is such a test.

Crude said...

DL,

In this case, you are saying that the subjectivist cannot use objective-sounding language without also believing moral values are objective.Your post is a whole lot of huffing and puffing that amounts to demanding that people who regard morality as subjective across the board be able to use objective-sounding language. Frankly, I really don't care if they do - it's a pleasure to point out what a subjectivist 'really means' by their use of those words. It leads to a whole lot of entertaining examination, in fact, but it's beyond the scope of this thread.

But really, your criticisms are uninteresting as a result. I think it's clear that a person can hold inconsistent views - believe that on the one hand morality is subjective, yet believe rights to be objective truths on the other. Victor's argument allows such inconsistencies to be highlighted, and at the very least make a person think through what they mean when they regard something as wrong, and what certain meanings of wrong therefore lead to. That someone can "really mean" that they just subjectively dislike something when they use certain language is nothing new to me, or probably anyone here. I think all of us here have seen that quaint practice in action.

normajean said...

Well said, Crude. Good talk, all!

Doctor Logic said...

Victor,

So is Crude's take on the argument consistent with your intent?

You say First of all, I have an argument addressed to people who are moral relativists, but who nonetheless think there are real human rights. That is, on some moral questions, they give all the relativist responses (who's to say?), but when basic human rights are violated, they say that is wrong.

You say this is addressed to moral relativists. Who qualifies as a moral relativist? When you say "people who are moral relativists", do you actually mean "people who are tolerant of other cultures inasmuch those other cultures don't violate objective human rights"? Does that make someone a philosophical relativist?

By moral relativists, do you mean "people who label themselves as moral relativists, but don't actually have any clue what moral relativism means"?

Are you directing your argument at students who are not subjectivists, and do not accept a subjectivist interpretation of the terms like "inalienable right" and "wrong"?

Because, if so, your argument is unclear. If moral objectivism is assumed implicitly by the reader, just put it in at step zero, and rest your argument at point number 1. There's no point in including defunct arguments for objectivism in steps 2-4. Or maybe just say in step 1, if any SUBSET of morality is objective (e.g., basic human rights), then, probably, God exists.

Steven Carr said...

VICTOR
That is, on some moral questions, they give all the relativist responses (who's to say?), but when basic human rights are violated, they say that is wrong.

CARR
I know people like that who are totally contradictory.

Ask them if Walter Payton was a better running back than Barry Sanders and they give all the relativist responses (who's to say?)

Tell them a High School team will beat the Chicago Bears 63-0 and they will say that is wrong.

I can tell you that there are plenty of people like that.

What they don't realise is that the position is logically inconsistent.

Objective football values exist as clearly as objective moral values exist, and this can be proved simply by using Victor's logic and finding people who will say 'That is plain wrong' to a statement about the relative (sic) strengths of football players.

Steven Carr said...

VICTOR
If the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are absolute....

CARR
SO there is no God who will remove my 'absolute' (sic) right to happiness by holding me accountable for my deeds, and consequently depriving me of any 2 out of life, liberty and my pursuit of happiness?

I simply wait until God has finished holding me accountable for my deeds, and then tell it that it is violating my absolute rights.

nobelists said...

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This e-book is an anthology of well-documented quotations. You can download the whole e-book in PDF format (885 KB) from my site.

If you would like to add a link to my site, it would be greatly appreciated.

Best wishes,
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Steven Carr said...

'The free e-book "50 NOBEL LAUREATES AND OTHER GREAT SCIENTISTS WHO BELIEVE IN GOD"'

CARR
I'm sure we could find 50 slave owners who believed in God.

So 'proving' that slavery and Christianity are totally compatible, as all we need to do is find somebody with both beliefs to prove compatibility.

Rob G said...

Carr: 'I'm sure we could find 50 slave owners who believed in God.'

Bad analogy: slave-ownership has a moral connotation, winning a Nobel does not.

Try again.

Jesse said...

Hey again Doctor Logic.

In my first post, I mentioned, in so many words, that subjectivism equates to the reduction of moral right and wrong to feelings and/or imaginings coupled with the exclusion of moral right and wrong from the realm of truth. On this, I detect no disagreement from you, am I correct?

I then went on to say that subjectivism forms the basis for might makes right, which is the point at which you had a beef. To your mind, “might makes right” is not acceptable to subjectivists because they don’t prefer to be subject to the “boss’” whim. You’re basically saying that you know of no subjectivist who wants to be ruled by a tyrant, and that therefore my point has been refuted. Apparently, when I say subjectivism forms the basis for might makes right you’ve taken my point to mean - correct me if I’m wrong – that subjectivists are willing to be tyrannized on account of the fact that they cannot appeal to an objective standard of right and wrong. Your reply, naturally, is that since subjectivism proceeds on the standard of “taste”, therefore my point is patently false -- no one prefers to be tyrannized. Indeed, I agree, but that is not my point.

When I say “forms the basis for might makes” I mean forms the basis in principle, by which I mean, serves as the logical grounds for. With that in mind, a glance back over my former posts may reveal a different shade of meaning. In case, however, you’ve assumed all along that I meant served as the logical grounds for, and still disagree… well, I don’t see how that’s possible. Clearly, since you cannot appeal to an objective moral right or wrong because you deny it, then neither is the tyrant bound by such a standard. There is no common point of reference, thus no way of saying in truth “you ARE wrong and ought not do so.” In keeping with your standard of taste, you may only say, logically speaking, that “I don’t prefer your imposition and wish you would not do so,” while your logic, at least, concludes, “but you are in no way wrong to lord over me according to your whim.”

Jesse said...

::Jesse... is that the Greatest American Hero logo? :)

You got it :-)

Doctor Logic said...

Jesse,

In my first post, I mentioned, in so many words, that subjectivism equates to the reduction of moral right and wrong to feelings and/or imaginings coupled with the exclusion of moral right and wrong from the realm of truth. On this, I detect no disagreement from you, am I correct?

It is my hope that I will live long enough to see an objectivist state the subjectivist position with enough precision to capture its meaning. :P There's always just enough ambiguity to make me wonder whether concepts are being missed or questions are being begged.

Here, by "realm of truth", do you mean "realm of objective truth"?

Because there are still truths relating to subjective claims. After all, we can make a subjective claim objective by making the subject-object interaction explicit in the claim. So "bananas taste great" is subjective, but "bananas taste great to me" is objective. "Peanuts are deadly in small doses" is subjective, whereas "peanuts are deadly to people with peanut allergies, even in small doses" is objective.

Assuming you agree, I agree. :)

In keeping with your standard of taste, you may only say, logically speaking, that “I don’t prefer your imposition and wish you would not do so,” while your logic, at least, concludes, “but you are in no way wrong to lord over me according to your whim.”

I object to this on two grounds. The first is linguistic. You are saying that subjectivists cannot use the word "wrong" because you have somehow determined that there is only a "wrong" if that "wrong" is objective. Well, you don't own the English language, and so you're not at liberty to redefine the term "wrong" to mean "objectively wrong."

IOW, the first philosophical question of moral philosophy is "What is the nature of moral discourse?" If moral discourse is subjective, that doesn't mean that moral discourse is illusory, inconsequential or irrational. The belief that moral values are objective may be illusory, but objective-subjective distinction is generally irrelevant to the function and practice of moral discourse.

My second objection is practical. Your framing of the consequences of subjectivism suggests that the world would be radically different if people believed morality was subjective. For example, it suggests that dictators have been held in check by objective morality. However, I can't think of any relativist dictators, and objectivism seems to be no barrier to tyranny. I'm not saying subjectivism will tame dictators any more than objectivism. Indeed, I suspect bad behavior (relative to the liberal democratic view) is part and parcel with dictatorship.

I won't get into the impossibility of establishing which objective morality would be the correct one, but that conclusion means objectivist dictators are pretty free to see morality as they want to see it.

What I will grant is that, though I might tell the dictator he was wrong (that's what making a moral claim consists of, subjective or objective), I might have to admit that the dictator was acting rationally according to his own values. And I assume this is what you mean. But subjectivism no more enables the dictator than does objectivism.

Though a subjectivist dictator might feel unmoved by my protestations of wrongness, an objectivist dictator might well be enraged by what he sees as your objectively incorrect claims to moral superiority.

normajean said...

DL, these arguments go no place because no one agrees about terms. What is the "good" on your landscape?

Doctor Logic said...

Normajean,

DL, these arguments go no place because no one agrees about terms.

Is that a descriptive statement or a normative one? :)

If it's descriptive, it's hard to dispute. I think that objectivist arguments are going to continue to whither under examination until sufficient care is paid to precision in language.

What is the "good" on your landscape?

There is no single "good" on my landscape any more than there is a single "delicious" on yours. But that doesn't mean that "good" and "delicious" aren't intersubjective concepts.

It's perfectly meaningful for me to talk about the concept of deliciousness in the functional abstract. For example, I know what it means for you to find something delicious, even if I don't know what specific foods you find delicious. The set of delicious foods is defined by what those foods do for you.
I can say things like "many people are willing to gain weight in exchange for delicious foods" without there being any single food that I demand be considered absolutely delicious to all observers.

Good is defined in analogy to this. Good is an abstraction for things that are aesthetically pleasing, reduce long-term suffering, and increase long-term pleasure. And because of its long term outlook, it is possible for a person to fail to live up to his or her own conception of the good. It's also easy for a person to be factually confused about what policies will actually lead to more joy and less suffering in the long term.

On my landscape, there is no single, specific list of stuff or policies that fits everyone's conception of the good.

Is that what you were looking for?

Blue Devil Knight said...

Do objectively binding morals also bind God? Is God bound to the morals because he is Good, or are they morals because God says they are Good? If the former, then morals are definable independently of God (as many atheist moral realists believe). If the latter, then we are left with the possibility that God could will baby raping Good (of course I know you would say, well no God is Good, that is in his nature so he could never do that, which would then bring us back to the same question--is he good based on some template we have that we can use to independently judge him, or based on criteria that he himself set up).

Hence, I would disagree with the claim that under theism "the existence of these values can be easily understood."

Unfortunately, there is no view that is without well-known problems.

I agree though, as a naturalist I think moral qualities are like secondary qualities. E.g., like colors. Our visual system paints the world as having shades and hues of color, but we also paint the social world with hues of right and wrong. We can't help it, as social animals with brains of the type we have, but the moral paint is no more part of the world independently of human judgment than the color red is in an apple independently of human perception.

Too bad we don't all agree on the hue of abortion.

Gordon Knight said...

DL:

There is a view that Goodness is a part of God's nature, so its not really "independent" of God, nor is it a matter of arbitrary whim

If God is not good in this sense, there is really no point to worship
though we might like good ancient pagans propitiate the deity just to get on his safe side.

A lot depends on what is meant by "independent." Do you mean simply that they do not depend on God's will-- What is the problem (for theism) with that? The same is true for all necessary truths! also not depend on God's will?

Edward T. Babinski said...

I think the human brain-mind has enough foresight and mature emotional control (more than is granted by the emotional control centers of our cousin primate species, accepting some individuals of course), and amassed enough practical moral wisdom, and set up enough basic legal systems, to get along with one another more or less.

That's less than having absolute answers of course. But if you don't like having things stolen from you and you enjoy sharing things with others, then you begin to picture the benefits of acting relatively civil, making laws, etc.

We are a social species, so for us joys shared are doubled and sorrows shared are halved. The same goes for the enjoyment of society and civilization as a whole.

Aside from that, our species still might not survive the vagaries of natural disasters, cosmic disasters, or our own increasingly more competent ability to consume the planet and turn it into more and more human beings.

Jesse said...

Dr. Logic:

::Here, by "realm of truth", do you mean "realm of objective truth"?

As I stated in my first post, “I accept the classic definition of truth: 'the conformity of the mind to reality.'” I also, in that same post, made the contrast, “exist only in your head” vs. “a reflection of reality”; objective truth is when the mind reflects reality. Feelings and imaginings, we should note, are only “in the head”.

::Here, by "realm of truth", do you mean "realm of objective truth"?
Because there are still truths relating to subjective claims. After all, we can make a subjective claim objective by making the subject-object interaction explicit in the claim. So "bananas taste great" is subjective, but "bananas taste great to me" is objective. "Peanuts are deadly in small doses" is subjective, whereas "peanuts are deadly to people with peanut allergies, even in small doses" is objective.

“Realm of objective truth” as opposed to what? A purely subjective claim is made objective only by becoming descriptive. “Moral right and wrong” concerns prescriptive oughts, which, if purely subjective, can only become objective by becoming descriptive. Therefore, even given the conversion of a purely subjective claim to the realm of objective truth in the manner you’ve expressed, you’ve still excluded the prescriptive nature of the ought from the realm of objectivity.

Since in my statement of the subjectivist position I said you’ve reduced moral right and wrong to feelings and/or imaginings, that is, you’ve reduced prescriptive oughts to taste and an imagined course of action based on preference, therefore it follows as a matter of logic that you’ve excluded moral right and wrong, that is, prescriptive oughts, (which are reduced to feelings and imaginings that can only exist objectively in a descriptive form, devoid of their prescriptive nature) from objective truth.

But again I ask, “realm of objective truth” as opposed to what? Subjective truth? So what is a subjective truth? Let’s say Bobby believes in Santa. Well, as we’ve already concluded, we can say that the fact that Bobby believes in Santa is objectively true, but that’s not a subjective truth. Given a “subjective truth”, you’d have to say that Santa is true for Bobby. But now who’s redefining words, for if Santa doesn’t exist then Bobby’s belief is both false and true at the same time, which, by the dictatorial power invested in the law of contradiction, is decreed nonsense, and would makes gibberish out of any definition.

Likewise with moral right and wrong. If nothing is objectively morally true, then nothing is subjectively morally true. In the same way that we would say, “Bobby imagines Santa exists, but he really doesn’t, you may say “I feel or imagine beating minorities is wrong,” but you’re saying, at the same time by virtue of your subjectivist position, “but I know it’s really not wrong.” You, however, seemingly want to avoid the objective logic of your position, which you won’t do with Bobby (or is Bobby not wrong?), and which you didn’t do with me in your claim that I am not at liberty to define terms for other people (an objective claim!).

::::In keeping with your standard of taste, you may only say, logically speaking, that “I don’t prefer your imposition and wish you would not do so,” while your logic, at least, concludes, “but you are in no way wrong to lord over me according to your whim.”

::I object to this on two grounds. The first is linguistic. You are saying that subjectivists cannot use the word "wrong" because you have somehow determined that there is only a "wrong" if that "wrong" is objective. Well, you don't own the English language, and so you're not at liberty to redefine the term "wrong" to mean "objectively wrong."

Again I’d ask you to consult my first post. For there I stated, “when you say that such and such is wrong you are really saying you feel or imagine such and such is wrong *even though it's really not*. The 'really not' logically accompanies every expression of your subjective moral view *if value and morality are purely subjective.*” I then went on to say, “if you take the line subjectivist x takes, you will be saying, ‘I feel the holocaust was wrong, but it really wasn't.’ Or, ‘I think dragging homosexuals behind my car is wrong, but it's really not.’"

To put it frankly, your subjectivist take on morality has an objective face, like it or not. I’m merely exposing the ugly beast, whose existence, btw, you’re reacting to in your second objection. Indeed, for you “might tell the dictator he was wrong”, but, if you were being logically accurate according to your subjectivist position, you would tell the dictator you feel he is wrong, but he really isn’t.

That you might detect ill consequences for society from such logic (because I didn’t explicitly say that) and have an emotional reaction to that fact says nothing about the validity of the logic itself (your initial intuition, for the record, is, IMHO, a good one, for men like Thomas Jefferson agree: "(Can) the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever").

Naturally, I agree. Can you imagine teaching a generation of kids “nothing is really right or wrong despite the fact you feel certain things are”? To say there will be no substantial difference in the outcome would be, well, na├»ve at best.

Finally, if you’re going to argue (as you surely imply) that different people believe that different moral prescriptions are objectively true therefore no objective morality exists, then you’d have to extend that argument and say that since different people differ about what is objectively true, therefore nothing is objectively true – that, of course, would include your own belief that subjectivism is objectively true.

:: However, I can't think of any relativist dictators, and objectivism seems to be no barrier to tyranny.

Nor can you think of any wrong dictators, as I can freely and consistently say, they’re all wrong. Yes, you can say you feel they’re wrong, or you imagine they’re wrong; but you cannot say they are wrong, which is an objective claim.

Doctor Logic said...

Jesse,

Feelings and imaginings, we should note, are only “in the head”.

According to your criteria, Bobby cannot say "I feel hungry" or "I love Brenda" and speak truth.

I disagree. He can speak truthfully about his feelings and conclude truths relative to his own subjective state.

For example, suppose I argue as follows:

1) I don't like pickles.
2) I don't need to eat pickles for my health.
3) I ought to live as comfortable a life as I can.
4) Therefore, I ought not eat pickles.

(1) is a feeling. (2) is objectively testable. (3) is a moral axiom. (4) follows from the premises.

But where does (3) come from?

You give as an example of an objective truth, "Santa does not exist." What makes this objective? It is objective because it is a testable claim. The claim that Santa exists cleaves the world into potential experiences that support the claim, and potential experiences that reduce our confidence in the claim. (Knowing that the objective case is against Bobby, we cannot say that Bobby's belief is true.)

However, with moral axioms, there is no objective truth. At best, morality predicts how a person will feel. There are no testable claims about morality except with respect to the fulfillment of an individual's goals or feelings. There is no way to truly objectively ground a moral claim. How you feel is irrelevant. Material state is irrelevant. God's opinion is irrelevant.

On the other hand, given the assumption of a moral claim, there is truth. (4) is true contingent upon acceptance of (3). You'll note that (3) is just subjective. Well, so is (1), and that seems not to render the conclusion faulty.

Since in my statement of the subjectivist position I said you’ve reduced moral right and wrong to feelings and/or imaginings, that is, you’ve reduced prescriptive oughts to taste and an imagined course of action based on preference, therefore it follows as a matter of logic that you’ve excluded moral right and wrong, that is, prescriptive oughts... from objective truth.

Quite correct! There is no objective truth to prescriptive oughts except inasmuch as we assume certain moral axioms.

you may say “I feel or imagine beating minorities is wrong,” but you’re saying, at the same time by virtue of your subjectivist position, “but I know it’s really not wrong.”

Unfortunately, here you take what you said previously, and run it off the rails again. You are conflating the word "really" with the word "objectively". If you mean objectively, please use that word, and not a word that makes my claim sound contradictory.

And you make the same mistake over and over, e.g., ‘I feel the holocaust was wrong, but it really wasn't.’ as if to make it sound like morality is an illusion. Is gastronomic taste an illusion? Is a peanut allergy an illusion? It seems you're playing rhetorical games here.

Indeed, for you “might tell the dictator he was wrong”, but, if you were being logically accurate according to your subjectivist position, you would tell the dictator you feel he is wrong, but he really isn’t.

More of the same. But you say that as if things would be different when speaking to an objectivist dictator. Tell one of the Medieval popes that he was wrong to (fill in the blank), and your claims will sound like "blah blah blah" to him. They'll be no more convincing than mine.

On the other hand, if I walk up to you on the street and tell you that it is wrong to buy bootleg CD's from this guy on the street corner, you're not going to establish my philosophical grounding for my moral claims before evaluating my claim. Indeed, it wouldn't even matter if I stated my position subjectively. Suppose that, without thinking, you had decided to buy a bootleg CD, but just before purchasing I tell you "I feel it is wrong to buy bootleg CD's and deprive the artists of their royalties." Is that any less persuasive to you than "It is objectively wrong to buy bootleg CD's!"?

I think either statement will be persuasive to you assuming you share my moral axioms about justice, suffering, etc. and the same basic material facts. That's because a moral appeal isn't an appeal to an objective standard. It's an appeal to the persuadee's subjective values.

Finally, if you’re going to argue (as you surely imply) that different people believe that different moral prescriptions are objectively true therefore no objective morality exists, then you’d have to extend that argument and say that since different people differ about what is objectively true, therefore nothing is objectively true – that, of course, would include your own belief that subjectivism is objectively true.

Again, this misses the point. The argument isn't that different people can't agree on objective morality, therefore no objective morality exists. The argument is that, since people cannot agree on objective morality, it isn't any more practical than subjectivism.

Rather, it is the fact that morality cannot be tested that renders it non-objective. Actually, morality might have been objective. If stolen good functioned worse than fairly gained ones, for example, then you would have an objective basis for believing in morality. Morality would predict more than an agent's feelings. But we all know that's not the case.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Gordon:
I tried to get at divine nature theory by my parenthetical (literally) remark. Of course I gave a bumper sticker and I'm sure there are very clever ways to get around Euthyphro. I was just pointing out that no position is without problems, and "easy to understand."

That said, overall I agree with Victor's arguments about moral realism and naturalism. Many atheistic antinaturalists I know are antinaturalists because they want to be moral realists.

Blue Devil Knight said...

For an alternative view, a moral realism that is naturalistic, see the very interesting work by David Brink 'Moral Realism and the Foundation of Ethics.'

Ultimately I tend to think his naturalistic realist consequentialism doesn't work, but it was a valiant effort.

Jesse said...

Hello again Dr. L.

::::Feelings and imaginings, we should note, are only “in the head”.

::According to your criteria, Bobby cannot say "I feel hungry" or "I love Brenda" and speak truth.

I don’t see how that follows. Heck, Bobby can even say, “I really feel hungry”, and I am willing to accept that as objectively true, though with what I would qualify as having a second hand objectivity. Still, that’s a descriptive truth, so I don’t see your point.

::I disagree. He can speak truthfully about his feelings and conclude truths relative to his own subjective state.

Indeed!

::::you may say “I feel or imagine beating minorities is wrong,” but you’re saying, at the same time by virtue of your subjectivist position, “but I know it’s really not wrong.”

::Unfortunately, here you take what you said previously, and run it off the rails again. You are conflating the word "really" with the word "objectively". If you mean objectively, please use that word, and not a word that makes my claim sound contradictory.

Is it any better if I put your position this way? “Subjectively, I feel beating minorities is wrong; objectively, I know it’s not.” Or let’s use “really” in a symmetrical manner, and in the sense I stated from the outset that I would use it, as meaning “in truth”: “I really feel beating minorities is wrong, but I really know it’s not.” Or, “In reality I feel beating minorities is wrong, but in reality I know it’s not.” How about, “in truth I feel beating minorities is wrong; in truth I know it’s not.” You see, the distinction lies in feelings and imaginings vs. knowledge, or truth. Your subjective view HAS an objective side to it!

::And you make the same mistake over and over, e.g., ‘I feel the holocaust was wrong, but it really wasn't.’ as if to make it sound like morality is an illusion. Is gastronomic taste an illusion? Is a peanut allergy an illusion? It seems you're playing rhetorical games here.

Given your examples of what you think I must call “illusion”, it only follows that I’m making subjective morality sound illusory if you’re assuming that my use of wrong in that sentence refers to the existence of the feeling itself, and not the holocaust. It seems as if you’re reading my sentence to say, I feel the holocaust was wrong, but the feeling doesn’t really exist. I grant the feeling, but I also grant that you know, given a subjectivist view, that the feeling has a purely arbitrary, irrational connection to the holocaust, so that you know the holocaust wasn’t wrong. Subjectively, you feel the holocaust was wrong; objectively, you know the holocaust wasn’t wrong. Do you see why I think subjectivism is abhorrent?

I have a challenge for you subjectivists. I challenge you to own up to your own logic, and restate the sentence by filling in the blank with your name.

I, (state your name), feel, subjectively, that child molestation is wrong, but I, (state your name), also know, objectively, that child molestation is not wrong.

How could I not think subjectivism abhorrent?

Doctor Logic said...

Jesse,

Or, “In reality I feel beating minorities is wrong, but in reality I know it’s not.” How about, “in truth I feel beating minorities is wrong; in truth I know it’s not.” You see, the distinction lies in feelings and imaginings vs. knowledge, or truth.

Nope. You're begging the question.

The issue at stake is, what does it mean to say "X is wrong!"? You are saying that the conclusion of the analysis is that "X is not wrong!" That's nonsensical. There are sensible responses that could have emerged from the question. The objectivist response is that "X is wrong!" expresses some objective fact about X that is predictive of stuff other than feelings. The subjectivist response is that "X is wrong!" equates to "Action X or choice to X makes me feel bad."

The other illustration of why your semantics are wrong still stands. A food subjectivist would not agree with you that when he says that "Apples are delicious" he really means "I feel that Apples are delicious, but I know they are not really delicious." If you ask someone who likes apples, and knows his like for apples is subjective, to sign-off on the statement that "Apples are not really delicious", he won't. It contradicts his mundane claim that "Apples are delicious."

Subjectively, you feel the holocaust was wrong; objectively, you know the holocaust wasn’t wrong. Do you see why I think subjectivism is abhorrent?

"Subjectively, I feel that apples are delicious; objectively, I know that apples are not delicious."

Really?

That just doesn't make sense because, if gastronomic taste is subjective, to "know that a thing is delicious" is to implicitly say that knowledge as applied to food is a form of self-knowledge. You may find this fact of language idiomatically quirky, but that's your problem.

Instead, it would be reasonable to say:

"I know the Holocaust was subjectively wrong, but I know the Holocaust wasn’t objectively wrong."

or just

"I feel the Holocaust was wrong, but I know the Holocaust wasn’t objectively wrong."

The same goes for apples...

"I feel that apples are delicious, but I know that they are not objectively delicious."

In other words "Apples are delicous" does not mean "Apples are objectively delicious," and it never did. It has always meant "I feel Apples are delicious." That is, it has always signified self-knowledge.

Likewise, "The Holocaust was wrong" does not mean "The Holocaust was objectively wrong," and it never did. It has always meant "I feel the Holocaust was wrong."

So, I would answer your challenge as follows...

I, Doctor Logic, feel, subjectively, that child molestation is wrong, but I, Doctor Logic, also know, that child molestation is not objectively wrong.

How could I not think subjectivism abhorrent?

What do you think is the relationship between truth and what you find abhorrent? Just because you don't like subjectivism, therefore it is incorrect?

Jesse said...

Hey again Dr. L.

You write:

::"I feel the Holocaust was wrong, but I know the Holocaust wasn’t objectively wrong."
::The same goes for apples...
"Subjectively, I feel that apples are delicious; objectively, I know that apples are not delicious."
::Really?

Comparing "delicious" to "wrong" is, forgive me, comparing apples to oranges.

"Delicious" doesn't claim to go beyond the subject; "wrong", tacitly including an "ought", does. In other words, "ought" involves universality, so that inherently it is a claim beyond the subject.

The subject may feel people ought (universality) not do such and such, but he knows there's no binding ought (universality).

Doctor Logic said...

Jesse,

"Delicious" doesn't claim to go beyond the subject; "wrong", tacitly including an "ought", does. In other words, "ought" involves universality, so that inherently it is a claim beyond the subject.

I understand that this is your belief, but I don't see your supporting argument.

When I say "X is wrong!" regarding the acts of a wrongdoer, I'm not appealing to the universe. Rather, when I say "X is wrong!" to a wrongdoer, I am appealing to people who have moral preferences like my own. It's a political and psychological move. It's intended to shame the wrongdoer and/or inflame the passions of my fellow citizens/tribesmen.

I see no implication in the above that my views on morality be objective. Shame will often work on a wrongdoer, and not necessarily because the wrongdoer feels he is violating objective laws. It works because the shamed party is losing social status and/or self-esteem.

The subject may feel people ought (universality) not do such and such, but he knows there's no binding ought (universality).

I am curious... what is a "binding ought"?

Jesse said...

Dr. L,

A binding ought would be a moral, categorical imperative; it would be an ought which is necessary, not conditional; it would be an ought resulting not from a hypothetical (if/then) premise, but a matter of fact premise (since/therefore). In other words, it would allow me to prescribe what another person ought to do categorically, since they would be bound to it in some way.

I'll try to get to the rest of your post tomorrow...

Jesse said...

Dr. L.,

::::"Delicious" doesn't claim to go beyond the subject; "wrong", tacitly including an "ought", does. In other words, "ought" involves universality, so that inherently it is a claim beyond the subject.

::I understand that this is your belief, but I don't see your supporting argument.

What do I need to support? That “ought” is implied by the use of “wrong”? That “ought” is prescriptive? That prescribing something means prescribing something for someone? That you, as a subjectivist, admit you can only feel you should be able to prescribe something for someone though you know you have no grounds categorically to do so?

Beyond that I don’t know what else to say. I mean, since an ought is prescriptive in nature (prescribing an action), therefore when you say, “I feel people ought not commit genocide,” you’re saying you feel you should be able to prescribe an action for another person. However, you also admit, as a subjectivist, that despite your feeling you know that you have no logical basis actually to prescribe an action for another person.

::When I say "X is wrong!" regarding the acts of a wrongdoer, I'm not appealing to the universe. Rather, when I say "X is wrong!" to a wrongdoer, I am appealing to people who have moral preferences like my own. It's a political and psychological move. It's intended to shame the wrongdoer and/or inflame the passions of my fellow citizens/tribesmen.

When you say “X is wrong!” regarding the acts of what you feel is a wrongdoer, you’re misleading the people to whom you appeal who most likely think that morality is objective, that people are bound to a moral law, and hoping that any shame you seek to induce in what you feel is the wrongdoer will be taken by that person to mean something in relation to a real standard of right and wrong to which he is bound. For if you really believe your subjectivist view makes no difference then you should unhesitatingly state it properly by saying, “I feel I am being wronged, that person Y ought not perform action X against me; however, I know that I cannot say that person Y ought not perform action X against me, because I cannot say, categorically (that is, with universality) that another person’s actions ought or ought not be performed.” Or, in short, “I feel action X is really wrong, but I know it’s really not.”

::I see no implication in the above that my views on morality be objective. Shame will often work on a wrongdoer, and not necessarily because the wrongdoer feels he is violating objective laws. It works because the shamed party is losing social status and/or self-esteem.

Again, if you weren’t relying on objectivist assumptions in order to seek your own ends then you would have no objection to working for those ends using language that reflected what you actually, tacitly or explicitly, believe.

My primary point, however, does not concern whether or not you can shame someone into doing what you want them to do, or how effective it is to appeal to those who have similar preferences; it concerns the very means by which you are bound, by the logic of your view, to attempt to do so in the first place -- that you won’t employ the logic of your position in attempting to affect your desired outcomes is testament enough for me, so I’d rather stick to the primary argument :-)

Doctor Logic said...

Jesse,

We just seem to be going in circles at this point.

To summarize our positions, you think that moral language looks kinda objective, therefore, morality is objective. For example, you think that "you are wrong!" sounds like "you are on fire!"

In contrast, I think that, while moral language sometimes looks kinda objective, that's not good enough evidence that it is. For example, "Jonas Brothers suck!" sounds like "Jonas Brothers are on fire!" but that doesn't mean that taste in music is objective, imaginary, illusory, etc.

Moreover, you seem to think that moral persuasion operates on the assumption of moral objectivity. I see no evidence for this at all.

I just don't see a case for your side of the argument.

Since that line of discussion isn't going anywhere, I put to you a couple of thought experiments.

Experiment 1: Suppose I provide you with a convincing proof that shows that morality is subjective. How does that change your behavior in moral discourse/persuasion? Obviously, you won't spend time looking for ultimate theoretical frameworks for morality, but in your day-to-day life, will anything change?

I'll answer
Experiment 1B: You show me a convincing proof that morality is objective. What changes? Well, let's suppose that the objective morality you establish is the same as my existing morality. In that case, nothing much changes. On the other hand, if my personal morality differs from the objective one, why should I confirm to the objective one? Why should I be objectively good instead of subjectively good (and objectively evil)? I suppose I could be shamed into doing what is objectively good, i.e., society could penalize me for being objectively evil.

Experiment 2: Suppose another objectivist comes to you and says that you are wrong to X, or wrong not to Y. The other objectivist believes in a different objective standard than you. On what basis do you claim your morality is better than his? Note that you cannot refer back to your own moral feelings or to the outcomes of any thought experiments decided on the basis of subjective moral horror. Just because you feel a theory is morally horrifying doesn't mean that the theory is incorrect. Your moral outrage might just be subjective. For example, if you claim that the other guy's morality might make a holocaust justifiable, that's not adequate evidence (or even evidence) that his morality is not objective.

Jesse said...

Hey again Dr. L.,

::To summarize our positions, you think that moral language looks kinda objective, therefore, morality is objective.

No, I actually have advanced no arguments for the existence of objective morality. I'm only arguing what subjectivist logic entails.

Bear with me for a moment, I’d like to take a look at some statements…

First, some third person, descriptive statements:

1) Bobby thinks Santa is real
2) Dr. L. feels rape is wrong
3) Jesse thinks rape is wrong
4) Johnny thinks apples are delicious

And next, those statements in the first person:

1) I think Santa is real
2) I feel rape is wrong
3) I think rape is wrong
4) I think apples are delicious

Now, (1) is a claim concerning objectivity which we can judge, objectively, to have a purely subjective existence. Bobby really does think that Santa is real, a fact which we can describe as an objective reality, but one we can also objectively judge as wrong.

(4), on the other hand, makes no claim about objective reality. Though it is like (1) in that it’s true that we can objectively describe the fact that Johnny likes apples, still, it makes no claim to objectivity, it is not universalized.

(3) is of the nature of (1) in the sense that it’s a claim to objectivity, as I (Jesse) think(s) rape is wrong for everyone (whether that claim is true or not we would dispute, but at this point that’s incidental).

But what about (2)? All of your points assume that it should fall into the same category with (4); that it becomes objective by becoming descriptive without any objective claims (explicit or implicit), and thus I am not right to treat it in the grammatical manner that I have. You illustrate what would be absurdity on my part by saying my logic translates, "I feel that Apples are delicious, but I know they are not really delicious." As applied to (4), that is absurd. My point, however, is that (2) is not of the nature of (4), but of (1) and (3)! That it is precisely analogous to saying, rather, “I feel Santa is real, but I know he’s not.”

Accordingly, and speaking of make believe, if Alice were in Subjectivist Land she'd be sure to see the grin of an ought without the ought... ;-)

Doctor Logic said...

Jesse,

You are saying that, from the moral realist perspective, (2) is like (1).

However, I am not a realist. I think (2) is like (4).

I don't see how your comment advances the debate.

You seemed to be claiming that in order for me to say that "X is wrong!" I must implicitly believe that morality is objective. But I don't believe morality is objective. And I think that "X is wrong!" is merely an idiomatic expression meaning "I feel X is wrong!" I've also explained that persuasion doesn't function on the basis of an appeal to objective fact.

(1) is objective because Bobby's belief predicts something other than how Bobby feels. Santa, if he exists, has effects other than making Bobby believe in him. We can do experiments that will tell us whether Santa really is delivering gifts on Christmas Eve. IOW, Santa's existence would have an effect on objects that have no subjectivity. For example, Santa's sleigh will displace the snow, and not because the snow subjectively believes in Santa.

In contrast, (2) (3) and (4) don't predict anything except how the respective subject feels. Evil has no effect on objects which lack subjectivity. If I drink a beer at the bar, inanimate matter cares not whether that beer was paid for or stolen. There's no double-blind test for evil. I cannot build a evil-o-meter without replicating my own sophisticated subjectivities.

Similarly, without replicating my own subjective wiring, I cannot build a delicious-o-meter.

We have no way to detect evil or deliciousness without first exposing our machines to the other objective facts.

Moral realists will admit that there is no scientific experiment you can do to show that morality is objective. In other words, morality is only visible when you allow bias an subjectivity into the equation.

Beyond this, we have lots of reasons to believe that our moral views are indeed subjective (e.g., by looking at moral behaviors in non-humans).

So we have zero evidence of objectivity, and stacks of evidence for subjectivity. Against all this, saying that my language smacks of objectivist style is pretty weak.