Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Are morals objective?

The question is whether, if you are asking whether something is right or wrong, whether claims about that can be correct or incorrect. It is true that everyone has their own views about what is moral and what is not. But people have their own views about things like whether there was really a moon landing, or about whether vaccines should be avoided because they cause autism, or whether Trump withheld aid to Ukraine because he was trying to obtain and advantage against Biden in  his re-election campaign. Nevertheless, i think we would all agree that some has to be right about these claims, and someone has to be mistaken. The same is true about the question of whether an omnipotent being actually exists. Some very reasonable and intelligent people take opposite positions on this question, but I think most of us would say that either there is one or there isn't. 
But what about questions of what is right or wrong. This can include vexed questions about whether abortion is justified, and under what circumstances, whether we ought to have the death penalty or not, whether animals have rights which give  us a reason to stop eating meat, whether premarital sex, or  homosexual sex, or extramarital sex is wrong, etc. But is also a moral question as to whether it is acceptable, was the case in America before the civil war, to bring people over to our country and keep them as slaves, or whether it is acceptable to allow discrimination in the area of restaurants or housing, or whether is acceptable to use sexual harassment as a way of maintaining male domination in the workplace, or indeed whether it is acceptable to invite someone over for dinner, shove them in the oven, and cook them as dinner. Unless moral objectivity is true, then all of these concerns are simply relative to individual preference of societal preference. 

22 comments:

StardustyPsyche said...

OP "Are morals objective?"
No.

Morals are personal opinion, personal sensibilities, and relative to whatever standard the individual decides to use.

No demonstrably absolute moral proposition is presently available in general publication. Disagree? Name even just one. You can't. If you think you can you are wrong and you are merely confusing a near universal with an actual universal, and in turn confusing a universally held opinion with an objective fact.

The reason we share so much in basic applied ethical standards is that our sense of ought is an evolved physiological trait within a social species that most of us tend to feel in much the same way, as we seem to share other basic emotional experiences in broadly similar ways.

Legion of Logic said...

You cannot logically be an atheist and also believe morals are objective. Not possible. At best an atheist can point to demonstrably negative consequences of a given behavior and explain why one or many might benefit by avoiding said behavior from a general health perspective, but there is no "wrong". If Trump was literal Hitler, no one would be wrong for supporting him. PZ Myers trashing people for sexism and racism is not conforming to his own beliefs. He's essentially pounding his own chest claiming that people should drink Coke over Pepsi because he prefers Coke.

Two Christians conforming to their beliefs will by necessity behave similarly, such as those good things that Paul writes of in his epistles. Christians conforming to their beliefs will exhibit the fruits of the Spirit, which do not make allowances for political differences. Even if I can't understand how anyone could vote Democratic or drink Coke, I'm to love him as much as I would a Pepsi-guzzling conservative.

To that end, an atheist can put on a mask and punch someone in a colored hat with a presidential slogan on it - say, a blue hat with "Yes We Can" - and feel like he is doing the right thing, but he is wrong since there is not actually a right thing. His sense of righteousness may be buttressed by the mob of like-minded thugs protecting him from justice, but the righteousness is illusory.

A Christian can do the same and feel he's doing the right thing, but he's wrong because that is objectively wrong. Hating someone for different beliefs is not a fruit of the Spirit.

One Brow said...

I see objective moral positions to be in a similar position to religious deities. They may well exist, but there seems to be no proof for for them, and everyone thinks the moral they believe in are the correct positions.

Meanwhile, those who try to build moral systems use formal methods, and therefore wind up systems that can't prove their own value.

One Brow said...

Legion of Logic said...
Two Christians conforming to their beliefs will by necessity behave similarly, such as those good things that Paul writes of in his epistles.

History says otherwise.

Legion of Logic said...

History says otherwise.

Not really. It's been my experience and observation that when two Christians are behaving in completely different manners, it's usually pretty obvious which is diverging from Christian teaching. Sometimes both.

StardustyPsyche said...

Legion,
"A Christian can do the same and feel he's doing the right thing, but he's wrong because that is objectively wrong"
No it isn't, you are just making that up out of thin air.

You have no basis for claiming objectivity. Prove it.

Idle baseless assertion of objectivity is not a demonstration or proof of objectivity. You have not named an objective moral proposition, just projected your own wishful thinking into an idle claim of objectivity.

Victor Reppert said...

It looks to me as if you could just as easily say that there are no true propositions about the physical world, since its existence is unprovable.

Legion of Logic said...

You have no basis for claiming objectivity. Prove it.

You seemed to have missed the context of why I said that. It would be irrational for a Christian, being convinced of the truth of God as described in the Bible, to then say that morality is relative. You cannot believe in both the god of Christianity and moral relativity, at least not in any presentation I've ever seen.

Obviously someone who rejects the existence of God and the authority of the Bible is not going to agree. I'm simply pointing out the logical stance on morality based upon the underlying foundation. An atheist cannot logically believe in both an atheistic worldview and objective morality. A Christian cannot logically believe in both God and no moral objectivity. The two sets are incompatible.

Starhopper said...

"Even if I can't understand how anyone could vote Democratic or drink Coke

Holy Cow! Not only do I vote Democratic, but I also prefer (diet) Coke to Pepsi (which is way too sweet for my taste).

bmiller said...

Don't worry. He loves you anyway.

Legion of Logic said...

Only because I have to upon pain of eternal Mellow Yellow. Seriously, Coke?

I'll grant you McDonald's Coke, because whatever they do with their storage propels it into the Pepsi plane of existence.

bmiller said...

Mellow Yellow Hello?

StardustyPsyche said...

Victor,
"It looks to me as if you could just as easily say that there are no true propositions about the physical world, since its existence is unprovable."
The fact of an existence as opposed to absolutely nothing at all is one of the few absolutely provable facts available to human beings.

If we are willing to agree by convention that the human senses are basically reliable (that the senses provide some fair indication of an external reality), and we are further willing to agree by convention that the fundamental principles of logic are true, then that forms an "objective standard". Having that objective standard established we can then in a closed and limited sense maneuver objectively within that closed logical space, contingent on the provisional postulates of the basic reliability of the human senses and the truth of the fundamental principles of logic.

That won't get you to objective morality. It is impossible to reason to an objective morality even with such postulates agreed upon by convention. Logic and and acceptance of a real physical world, at least provisionally, only gets one to atheistic materialism with its necessary stance that morals are subjective and relative.

Adopting a book of rules doesn't get you to objective morality because the adoption of that book of rules is itself relative and subjective.

Martin Cooke said...

Unless moral objectivity is true, then all of these concerns are simply relative to individual preference [or] societal preference.

Why would that be a problem? We probably agree on a lot of moral questions. When we disagree, we naturally think that the others are wrong. How does adding in moral objectivity change things? Suppose we disagree and we debate the issue and you change your mind. You thought that your original view was the objective truth, but then you think that you were wrong about that, and that the objective truth is what you then think. The existence or non-existence of objective truth seems to make little difference.

The existence of God might mean that there is an objective right and wrong, but it might also mean that everything that exists is objectively alright in that sense. Why would God allow anything that God really did not want?

As for the Biblical rules, why would God not make it much clearer what God wants, if those are objective moral rules? They seem to have been societal preferences, many of which just seem wrong to most of us now. Perhaps there are objective moral rules that are very different to our current preferences, which are objective because they are God's preferences, but if so then why does God not make them much clearer to us?

Starhopper said...

"How does adding in moral objectivity change things?"

Absent objective morality, the only arbiter of what is right or wrong is naked force.

Legion of Logic said...

Absent objective morality, the only arbiter of what is right or wrong is naked force.

I would add that anyone who rejects objective morality for whatever reason has absolutely no justification in condemning anyone else for their behavior. May as well put on a black mask and punch someone for liking Coke more than Pepsi, or for thinking that America's Got Talent is entertaining. It's all opinions.

StardustyPsyche said...

Legion,
"I would add that anyone who rejects objective morality for whatever reason has absolutely no justification in condemning anyone else for their behavior"
So, the delusion of asserting falsely an objective morality justifies condemnation, but accurately identifying the source of our sense of morality nullifies any justification for condemnation. You are a very confused individual.

Condemnation is part of the human condition as are all aspects of our intelligence. Condemnation is relative as is every other aspect of our moral sense.

Those who think they have identified objective morality and therefore feel justified in their condemnations are delusional.

So what is this objective morality? Can you name just 1 demonstrably objective moral proposition? Just 1?

Legion of Logic said...

So what is this objective morality? Can you name just 1 demonstrably objective moral proposition? Just 1?

You have yet to get my point.

Here are two basic facts:

1. A Christian believes in God. Right or wrong, he believes in God.

2. Christianity asserts an objective morality from God independent of human opinion and customs. Right or wrong, Christians believe this.

Explain how a Christian, believing 1 and 2, would not then logically accept as truth that there is objective right and wrong and that wrong behavior is worthy of (appropriate) condemnation. Note that this is not a question of if Christianity is true or if God exists - does belief in an objective morality follow logically from the two premises?

And then explain how, absent actual right or wrong, you are justified in condemning someone else as immoral for having a different opinion on morality than you.

StardustyPsyche said...

Legion,
"You have yet to get my point."
So you are incapable of naming even a single demonstrably absolutely true moral proposition.

Like every other theist I have ever encountered, you can only speak of an absolute morality in the abstract, as a hypothetical that is somehow out there in the aether contained within your imagined god.

No theist I have ever encountered has ever been able to actually name a moral absolute. So you, and a great many others, believe there is such a thing, yet you cannot say what it is, only assert that somehow this unnamed moral absolute is real, even though you cannot say what it is.

"Explain how a Christian, believing 1 and 2, would not then logically accept as truth that there is objective right and wrong"
The inability to name that moral absolute would logically lead to the Christian to realizing that he or she has made a very large error somewhere along the way and change his or her own views until that irrationality has been rectified. That would be the logical thing to do.

Instead, Christians are content to be incoherent on morality, thus abandoning logic.

"And then explain how, absent actual right or wrong, you are justified in condemning someone else as immoral for having a different opinion on morality than you. "
Please see:
edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2020/01/adventures-in-old-atheism-part-iv-marx.html?showComment=1580085296913#c9151100884465587657

edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2020/01/adventures-in-old-atheism-part-iv-marx.html?showComment=1580093574530#c645168396865144843

edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2020/01/adventures-in-old-atheism-part-iv-marx.html?showComment=1580571451580#c2052334438221703805

Legion of Logic said...

So you are incapable of naming even a single demonstrably absolutely true moral proposition.

Has nothing to do with anything I have said in this conversation, nor did I even make an attempt for you to make this claim, so why do you keep bringing this up as a non-response?

Like every other theist I have ever encountered, you can only speak of an absolute morality in the abstract, as a hypothetical that is somehow out there in the aether contained within your imagined god.

The fact you think God is imagined makes you an authority on precisely nothing.


The inability to name that moral absolute

Is not a part of the conversation I am having and does not address the question I asked. Are you afraid to simply answer the question? I wonder why?


Instead, Christians are content to be incoherent on morality, thus abandoning logic.

You think more highly of your powers of reasoning than you have thus far demonstrated.

Reading your first Feser link, I came across this:

I am perfectly justified in feeling outrage toward the moral and rational failings of the religious because that is also in my evolved mechanistic nature, and is part of the mechanism by which organisms influence each other.

Replace "feeling outrage toward the moral and rational failings of the religious" with anything else, and it still works. For example:

"I am perfectly justified in stealing from someone weaker than I because that is also in my evolved mechanistic nature, and is part of the mechanism by which organisms influence each other."

All "bad" behaviors are also part of evolved behavior. Replace stealing with rape and your statement still works perfectly fine. The fact that most people share some notion of not liking it simply means that they will usually agree on creating some authority to guard against it. It doesn't make the thief or rapist wrong, nor does it make your disapproval anything but spouting that you like Coke more than Pepsi.

Legion of Logic said...

I would also point out in my quote from you that you refer to "moral failings", which don't actually exist under atheism. Nor is there anything wrong with being irrational.

You feel outraged over illusions. That makes you quite irrational.

Starhopper said...

"So you are incapable of naming even a single demonstrably absolutely true moral proposition."

I can name ten of them.