Is there anything objective about morality?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Copper Bezel » Tue Jun 09, 2015 11:04 am UTC

ucim wrote:That is a moral stance. It is not evidence that that particular moral stance is part of the One True Moral System.

You have to say something about morality for it to exist. Humans did, after all, just make it up. Trying to find a metaethical framework and define morality apart from any particular set of moral stances, and then redefining "moral" in a limited form to suit, just seems unnecessary to me.

What do you mean by "it's semantic"? In common parlance the phrase is used as a synonym for "a difference that makes no difference", but it's actual meaning is "of or pertaining to meaning", which is the opposite of the dismissive way it's often used.

I mean it's a consequential argument about how the words ought to be used, but not really an argument about the matter of the subject. It's very, very common that evaluative statements leave the prescriptive implication to an enthymeme and don't spell it out. This mushroom is poisonous [, therefore you should not eat it]. So I think the prescriptive / descriptive distinction is fuzzier than some folks would like to make it. The act of comparing something against an evaluative framework can subtly or unsubtly ride along with all sorts of positive-rather-than-normative statements. And that's truer the more abstract and the more arbitrary the subject matter involved, and morality is pretty damned abstract and pretty damned arbitrary.

I feel like if I asked whether there is "anything objective about," say, "best practices in software engineering," everyone would agree that there would be, and you'd say that the reason that's different from morality is that those best practices have to do with means toward a desired end. But ... I don't think that morality is particularly covert or sneaky about its desired ends. Applications and societies need to run smoothly and play nicely with one another and be flexible to updated methods when their environments or the requirements put upon them change. And whether you're an adherent of the Unix philosophy of "an application should do one thing and do it well" or a developer for Adobe, you're still talking about best practices, and no one has to talk about metabestpractices ... we can just accept that there are different philosophies for defining best practices. I can claim that [thing] is moral, and you can claim that [~thing] is moral, and we can argue about that. But "moral" still has a consistent definition across both perspectives.

And, again, I imagine we'd both have an awful lot of difficulty finding a convincing argument for the morality of Genghis Khan's activities, or quite a lot of other things that have been done in history that most people really would rather not seek to emulate. There are a lot of systems, historical and contemporary, that I don't consider to be "in the running" for actually sensible moral systems, because they're not really interested as ends in anything that resembles, to my mind, morality.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby PeteP » Tue Jun 09, 2015 11:39 am UTC

"This mushroom is poisonous [, therefore you should not eat it]." the added part itself has an implied part "This mushroom is poisonous [, therefore you should not eat it [if you don't want to die or be ill]]."
It's not prescriptive it's a recommendation for what to do when you have a certain goal. (Though if the speaker doesn't want the person to die it could be a command or plea I guess.) The goal is usually assumed because most share it but the distinction is important.
For me to consider morality objective it either needs "shoulds" that do not depend on your goals or values (and are objective). Or alternatively the goals and values need to be objective.

PS: Arguing for Genghis Khans action is easy. Just have a moral system where people outside your group count far far less than those inside and if you think it helps your group you can do pretty anything with them and you can justify pretty much anything. Except if there is some objective reason why you have to value every human life the same.
Last edited by PeteP on Tue Jun 09, 2015 12:47 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Tue Jun 09, 2015 12:24 pm UTC

PeteP wrote:Many people consider suicide morally acceptable. Or sacrificing your life to safe others, for something with less baggage. Similarly not everybody would do everything to prevent humanity from disappearing. For instance take this scenario: After something killed every human except two, I was left in a still intact clone factory (let's say it run on it's own solar farm or something) with which an expert can produce healthy human from just a bit of genetic material (and the world is still full of genetic material). I lack the expertise to use it and there isn't enough documentation to realistically learn it either. But there is someone beside me who is an expert, but for some reason refuses to do it. (And all other circumstances are positive enough that project mass cloning could be successful.) I might try to persuade them but I would feel no need to force them (say with violence or by trying to get control of food and drink resources and refusing to give them any if they don't do it.)

In short I don't value survival over all else neither mine nor the one of humanity. Why should I?
Saying suicide is moral is an individual statement and virtually useless unless given context. But given the totality of humanity, the individuals who do so are meaningless, there simply aren't sufficient numbers of them to be meaningful in the context of all humans. In terms of the given scenario, in a macro sense it is immoral, but being immoral doesn't make it an imperative, in terms of doing anything about it. On the other hand giving your life to save others(plural) is exactly on point. But as in your scenario, there isn't an imperative that says you must save them, only that it is moral to do so. In other words, should, doesn't imply, will. My thought seems to be very close to something like utilitarianism. It breaks down when you look at individuals. I suppose the difference to be economic in nature. What is true in aggregate is murkier in detail. Not because it doesn't hold true, but because individuals require resources. In aggregate those resources are available globally, in detail they aren't. So in detail you have what should be and what can be.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby PeteP » Tue Jun 09, 2015 12:38 pm UTC

To be clear, do you believe your system to be objective morality? As in not a moral system where you make a subjective choice of goals/values as axioms and work from there? But that your choice of goal of survival is objectively something that where good for it= moral, bad for it= immoral?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Jun 09, 2015 12:46 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:
PeteP wrote:First whether you consider killing animals for food wrong is a pretty major difference,

No, it's really not. Literally no one values the life of a non-human animal at zero or at equivalence with their own conspecifics. Anyone who says otherwise is making an abstract argument they'd almost certainly not enact in practice.
Citation needed for literally every part of that claim.

And I see no reason to ignore past moralities in regard to slavery. Or the old stance that you can't rape someone you are married to. Or is your argument that they didn't function in some way?

The fact that they failed to function wrt the people being so exploited is too obvious to state and requires no defense, and is in fact the reason you bring them up.

No moral system functions with respect to those it deems less important than others. You're begging the question when you define "functional" *after* taking the moral position that all human beings are equally relevant to morality.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Tue Jun 09, 2015 3:00 pm UTC

PeteP wrote:To be clear, do you believe your system to be objective morality? As in not a moral system where you make a subjective choice of goals/values as axioms and work from there? But that your choice of goal of survival is objectively something that where good for it= moral, bad for it= immoral?
Yes.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby PeteP » Tue Jun 09, 2015 3:45 pm UTC

Looking back through your post you main argument for that seems to be that some rules are necessary for any society to work, correct? Two things:

First as I said earlier in response to Tyndmyr Natural selection is just a thing that happens, species going extinct or living on is just a thing that happens. They have importance to us, but one isn't inherently better than the other outside of our preferences. Being predisposed to certain behaviours like not killing group members and negative reactions to group members exhibiting those behaviours might be a trait making survival of the species more likely. But that doesn't make them objective morality it just makes them a good choice if you want your species or your descendants to survive. And those who value their life and that of their offspring are probably more likely to live and have living offspring than those who do not. But that still doesn't make it an objective goal you have to have.

The other thing is that social wide arguments fail at the individual level. That it works better when society in general follows a rule doesn't mean an individual has reason to follow it. Because them not following the rules won't lead to the collapse of society by itself. So if they can avoid negative consequences for breaking the rules (usually by hiding what they are doing) it might might have better results for them. Earlier you mentioned murder as one of your objective rules. Sure it would be bad for society if everybody could just murder people. But I'm sure you can come up with scenarios where an individual might increase their chance of surviving and having many living off spring by murdering someone. For an individual most of the advantage comes from others following the rules.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Tue Jun 09, 2015 5:09 pm UTC

PeteP wrote:species going extinct or living on is just a thing that happens.
Yes.
PeteP wrote:They have importance to us, but one isn't inherently better than the other outside of our preferences.
And no. Individual parts die, but life doesn't stop. That natural selection is random is exactly the point. It doesn't have the capacity to care. However hit the planet with a big enough rock to kill most things off and what happens? I have no idea why and I won't speculate about what it could mean. But what is clear is that for some reason life will in some fashion continue to try to prosper. Since by definition we are alive then just as obviously we want to live. That makes living good.
PeteP wrote:But that still doesn't make it an objective goal you have to have.
What makes you think that morals are something we have to have, other than to further the purpose of life. As I have already stated the system I'm talking about is universal, part and parcel of being alive. Everything we say and do and feel is derivative of that.
PeteP wrote:The other thing is that social wide arguments fail at the individual level.
As I have already noted. And I took a guess as to why.
PeteP wrote:That it works better when society in general follows a rule doesn't mean an individual has reason to follow it.
Again I have already noted this. That this happens doesn't have anything to do with the possibility that morals are an objective part of the universe.

PeteP wrote:For an individual most of the advantage comes from others following the rules.
Most people choose to follow most rules. If they didn't you couldn't walk down a sidewalk or drive a car. I'm not sure of the point. I gave you a rule that forms the basis of a system. A definition of good. Everything else is relative to that. Using that rule alone gives me the latitude to deal with individuals without having to sacrifice what I consider good. At least that's the theory or speculation or whatever.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Bad Hair Man » Tue Jun 09, 2015 5:34 pm UTC

To answer whether morality is objective or not, we really need a meaning for the word "morality" that we can understand and evaluate. A couple of definitions given in this thread that I noticed are:

Thesh wrote:I define "immoral" to be things that, whether individually or in aggregate, harm others. I believe this is an objective basis for morality.

I agree with this, to an extent. Given that immoral be defined as harming others (and lets assume we've also given a concrete definition what entities we do and do not consider to be an "other") it is then possible to objectively evaluate whether any given action or desire is moral or not.

ucim wrote:Morality isn't a thing.

It's the label we put on the hammer we use to get people to behave the way we want them to.

Morality is an artificial support structure we give to the desires we happen to be in agreement on.

Agreeing on morals is in essence agreeing on what we desire. So long as we all value the same things (family, freedom, property, security, whatever), there will be way of behaving that best preserves these values.

Though it's not quite as clear or succinct, I believe this also gives a coherent definition for morality, namely that morality is the set of behaviors that support the values that people in a group have in common. This is necessarily a subjective morality, since it is dependent on there existing subjects with values to compare. In the absence of subjects, only a null morality (which is functionally equivalent to no morality) can come from this definition.

morriswalters wrote:I propose that there is one moral statement you can make about humans in general. That continuing to live is desirable and dying is not. So anything that extends the life of the human population overall would be called good.

I disagree with that first sentence, but I'll get back to that in a bit. The rest of that quote provides a pretty straightforward definition for the moral sense of the word "good". Though as morriswalters goes on to explain, "the life of the human population overall" is a rather fuzzy concept, but that doesn't mean it's an insensible one. Thus we can objectively evaluate whether or not an action or intention is good using this definition, even if the inherent fuzziness causes the answers to some moral questions to be unclear or indeterminate. The claim that human life is good (that that is in fact what we are defining the word "good" to mean) independent of whether or not anyone feels or believes that human life is good, is what makes this morality objective rather than subjective.

Sam Harris, with respect to his ideas in his book, The Moral Landscape, basically claims that morality has to do with the well-being of conscious creatures. He says, "I believe morality is also inconceivable without a concern for well-being and that wherever people talk about “good” and “evil” in ways that clearly have nothing to do with well-being they are misusing these terms." And also that, "Some intuitions are truly basic to our thinking. I claim that the conviction that the worst possible misery for everyone is bad and should be avoided is among them." (By 'basic to our thinking' I think he means practically universally believed.) This is his way of attempting to show that the set of objective moral truths contains at least one element without trying to determine everything that set must contain. The well-being of conscious creatures is another rather fuzzy concept, but again not an incoherent one. And the extent to which I agree with Sam Harris is also why I disagreed with the first sentence of the quote of morriswalters above, I think that being concerned for the well-being of conscious creatures is another moral statement you can make about humans in general.

Scott Clifton, on the other hand (Youtube handle: Theoretical Bullshit) says at 5:15 in his video God, Morality and Gratuitous Football Metaphors. "If what we mean by 'wrong' is something that unnecessarily causes harm or suffering, then it is objectively wrong to keep slaves because keeping slaves objectively causes unnecessary harm and suffering." And he says elsewhere that that actually is what he means by 'wrong'. An objective morality then, given that definition? Not quite. Very interestingly, immediately before this (at 4:50 in the same video) he says, "Now, in the absence of subjects, a world in which 'objective values' exists is indistinguishable from a world in which they don't exist. This is why the idea of objective morality is trivial and meaningless. And incoherent." So what I think he's saying is, there are some definitions of right and wrong that can be applied objectively to objectively determine what things are right and what things are wrong, under those definitions. But valuing one definition of right or wrong over some other definition can't be done objectively, because value itself is inherently subjective.

For this reason it always makes my eyes roll when I hear William Lane Craig (or anybody else) speak about "objective moral values" as if that wasn't an obviously self-contradictory phrase. A value (moral or otherwise) can't be objective, by definition. To approximately quote Scott Clifton again, things that we say have value do so because some subject values them, just as things that we say are interesting are so because some subject is interested in them. To put it the other way around is backwards thinking.

(By the way, anyone who finds this thread an interesting read would probably also find Clifton's videos an interesting listen, especially the one I already linked and its predecessor, Treatise on Morality. He is very thoughtful and cogent and smart, and even though one of the main topics of these two videos is to dismantle the idea of Christian divine command theory, an easy target perhaps, he does it so well that I think there's a lot of value in hearing his specific arguments.)
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Tue Jun 09, 2015 5:55 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:I think there's room for other things besides values that can push against your values. For example, if you notice you're the only person you know who thinks it's OK to kill people for fun, you might be less confident in that belief.
Of course. (Though I would use "principle" instead of "belief", as belief carries an implication of a correspondence between your model and the One True Reality, and I contend that there is no "One True Reality" as it applies to morals and ethics to compare one's principles against.) If one found they were the only one to hold that slavery, gay sex, or meat eating were immoral, one might also revise their values and/or moral scale to be more in line with one's cohorts'. But there's no objective, independent method to choose which set of values is superior.

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Not only do I have to choose values by reference to the values that I already have, but I have to choose all my beliefs by reference to what I already believe. There is no way to get outside my own perspective, gaze into the noumenal, and adjust my beliefs to The Facts.
Bingo. Further, these aren't the droids you're kinds of "Facts" that would even reside in the noumenal.
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TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:You say it seems that you're not a brain in a box. It seems that way to me, too. But it's hardly a subjective matter whether this is the case...
True, and never in dispute. I accept as one of my Five Axioms that there exists an objective reality, mainly because a chain of "why do you believe this" backs into it, and here, if there were no objective reality, I would have no handle on things at all. Now, QM does toss a monkey wrench into that, and I'm not sure how to handle it. But neither do the physicists. :)

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:...In any case, these intuitions are the same sort of thing as the intuitions behind objectivism, and I think it's perfectly fair to ask why they should win out. As it seems that I'm not a brain in a vat, it also seems that whether it's wrong to kill people for fun has nothing to do with what I think about the matter...
What about "kill animals for food"? or "kill flies for aesthetics"? Of course you are going to hold the moral stances that you hold. The question of objectivism is more easily seen when examining moral stances you do not hold.

There is a difference between "It's wrong" and "I think it's wrong".

"It's wrong." is a moral stance itself. "It's wrong to eat meat." Saying that implies that the wrongness of eating meat does not depend on what you think about eating meat. It's just wrong. But that's what a moral stance is. Moral stances exist (in a platonic sense) whether people hold them or not. But their existence does not make them "correct". Saying "It's wrong" implies that one holds that moral stance.

"I think it's wrong" is the statement "I hold this moral stance." It is not, in itself, a moral stance, but rather, the statement that whatever conclusions can be drawn from this stance are conclusions that I would agree with.

Used this way, the two statements above are compatible with objective and relative morality.

Now, the idea "This moral stance is correct" is often communicated using the first statement. In that case, the statement is incompatible with objective morality as I understand it. To me, the statement is nonsensical. Moral stances do not have truth values.

morriswalters wrote:I propose that there is one moral statement you can make about humans in general. That continuing to live is desirable and dying is not. So anything that extends the life of the human population overall would be called good.
Morals are about one's behavior towards another. You have made a value statement, from which you have derived a general rule for evaluating other moral rules, such as whether it is moral to slaugher cows for food, and whether or not you should lower your slaughterhouse efficiency to make it less agonizing for the cows to die.

morriswalters wrote:So my thesis is, that while day to day ethics and morals for individuals are subjective and relative, the foundation for those morals isn't. That the difference lies in the desirable outcomes happening on different levels.
If by "foundation" you mean the natural will to live that living things posess, well, ok, I can go along with that. But it's not much of a foundation, IMHO. And the result, as you say, is that ethics for individuals are subjective and relative. And it is those ethics whose relativity, subjectivity or objectivity we're discussing.

Copper Bezel wrote:You have to say something about morality for it to exist. Humans did, after all, just make it up. Trying to find a metaethical framework and define morality apart from any particular set of moral stances, and then redefining "moral" in a limited form to suit, just seems unnecessary to me.
You are correct; if your goal is to come up with a moral system for yourself, you don't need the metaethical stuff. However, here the goal is to justify (or refute) the statement that morals have a truth value - that there is a One True Moral System in the same sense that there is a One True Laws Of Orbital Mechanics (and other physics). For that, the metaethical framework helps distinguish any individual's morals from the presumed One True Morals.

Copper Bezel wrote:[By "semantic"] I mean it's a consequential argument about how the words ought to be used, but not really an argument about the matter of the subject.
No, there is a real conceptual difference I am trying to elucidate through the words "descriptive" and "proscriptive". Statements can sometimes be worded either way, making a descriptive statement look like a proscriptive one, but the underlying idea being communicated is what I'm getting at. If after a "you should" (which sounds proscriptive), you can ask "why?" and the response can be put in the form "If you don't, this will happen", then the statement is really descriptive. "You shouldn't steal.... because if you do you will probably go to jail" is descriptive. It is a delcarative - a statement of fact. It has a truth value. "You shouldn't steal.... because it's wrong" is proscriptive however. It has no truth value. It is a command.

Copper Bezel wrote:But ... I don't think that morality is particularly covert or sneaky about its desired ends. Applications and societies need to run smoothly and play nicely with one another and be flexible to updated methods when their environments or the requirements put upon them change.
No, I think that misses the point. Society can function just fine with slavery, meat-eating, and gay bashing. Too bad about the slaves, cows, and gays, but that's life. Morality is more about how you treat outsiders, underdogs, the vanquished, etc. It's about how you treat them, and about which "them" you're talking about.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Jun 09, 2015 6:59 pm UTC

PeteP wrote:PS: Arguing for Genghis Khans action is easy. Just have a moral system where people outside your group count far far less than those inside and if you think it helps your group you can do pretty anything with them and you can justify pretty much anything. Except if there is some objective reason why you have to value every human life the same.


Conflict is costly. Deaths happen on both sides. Even if you only value lives on your side, it is rational to consider the cost of conflict, both directly in lives, and indirectly due to resource expenditure.

Note that even if you don't particularly value the people on the other side, they are a resource as well. Even in the modern day world, many things work due to economies of scale. Even if you really hate everyone you haven't met, it's rational to realize that their loss would mean a change for your personal life for the worse.

Copper Bezel wrote:
PeteP wrote:First whether you consider killing animals for food wrong is a pretty major difference,

No, it's really not. Literally no one values the life of a non-human animal at zero or at equivalence with their own conspecifics. Anyone who says otherwise is making an abstract argument they'd almost certainly not enact in practice. There's a pretty big range left between 0 and "1", but I'd wager that most people fall into a much narrower range that we could identify with some behavioral testing.


I value my pet pretty highly. Seeing to his well being frequently takes priorities over other desires. This is not particularly unusual. People value that which they associate closely with. Even seeing non-animal things with which you are familiar, like a location being destroyed could be distressing.

Individual circumstances being different, we have different associations. My pet is not your pet. We are all running on pretty similar rules regardless of our individual circumstances, though. We just have different data.

ucim wrote:
morriswalters wrote:Answer the question according to the metric I supplied.
Sorry, I'm getting lost. The fundamental question (of this thread) is whether or not there exists an objective ONE TRUE MORALITY, which perhaps we struggle to find.


Of course there is. It's just complex. If you want very simple rules, like "thou shalt not kill", you will have to deal with them being inaccurate some percentage of the time. If you want a rule that covers every single situation where killing is or is not desirable, you will need a very complex rule indeed.

That's it.

ucim wrote:I will even stipulate that given a set of goals, there is a One True Method of achieving those goals. My issue with the question is that the selection of goals is arbitrary, and therefore the One True Method Of Achieving These Goals does not constitute a One True Moral System. This holds true even if the (arbitrarily selected) goal happens to coincide with things that happen anyway (like natural selection).


Goals are just more data to process. Goals set by natural processes(like artificial selection) are precisely as arbitrary as say, gravity existing in it's form. It would be as ludicrous to talk about gravity being subjective as it is to talk of natural selection being subjective. In both cases, disbelief or misunderstanding will not change the way things work in any way.

Now, yes, genetic variance being what it is, we do not have *precisely* the same goals and weights for each of them. However, they are very non-randomly distributed. And some people do indeed have less correct goals than others, in the sense that those goals will not help them survive/etc. Humans tend to have a strong desire to live, for instance. This is obviously connected to seeing suicide, etc as a problem. There is an objective reason for why this view exists, and why you should pursue this goal. Not in the sense of the universe or another entity caring about if you follow the rules or not, any more than gravity is connected to any particular entity. It just is.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Tue Jun 09, 2015 7:36 pm UTC

ucim wrote:If by "foundation" you mean the natural will to live that living things posess, well, ok, I can go along with that. But it's not much of a foundation, IMHO. And the result, as you say, is that ethics for individuals are subjective and relative. And it is those ethics whose relativity, subjectivity or objectivity we're discussing.
That is a knowledge problem, not a problem with the foundation. Any ethics system must give guidance about events where the possible outcomes can't be known in detail. However sometimes the outcomes can be known in aggregate.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Cres » Wed Jun 10, 2015 12:24 am UTC

ucim wrote:Moral stances do not have truth values.

Right, but this position runs into serious difficulties. The Frege-Geach problem is the classic objection:

Consider the following argument:

1) If torturing the dog is wrong, then getting your little brother to torture the dog is also wrong.
2) Torturing the dog is wrong.
3) Therefore, getting your little brother to torture the dog is wrong.

It is obvious that (3) can be deduced from (1) and (2), by modus ponens. But for someone who asserts that moral statements have no truth values, it is impossible to make sense of this argument. If really moral judgements are only expressions, or attitudes, how is it that they can be combined into logical structures such as (1)?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Wed Jun 10, 2015 1:39 am UTC

Cres wrote:It is obvious that (3) can be deduced from (1) and (2), by modus ponens. But for someone who asserts that moral statements have no truth values, it is impossible to make sense of this argument.
Not at all. If moral stances do not have truth values, then (2) is false (or more precisely, has no truth value). In such a circumstance, (3) is unjustified.

(Other responses later - follow the First Commandment)

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Cres » Wed Jun 10, 2015 2:27 am UTC

ucim wrote:
Cres wrote:It is obvious that (3) can be deduced from (1) and (2), by modus ponens. But for someone who asserts that moral statements have no truth values, it is impossible to make sense of this argument.
Not at all. If moral stances do not have truth values, then (2) is false (or more precisely, has no truth value). In such a circumstance, (3) is unjustified.


You're begging the question. Of course, if moral statements do not have truth values, you cannot make sense of the argument. But the point is that we obviously can make sense of this argument, so therefore moral statements must have truth values! That's the whole idea! Maybe you still want to deny that it makes sense, but since it obviously does, it's devastating to the plausibility of your position. (The correct response is to come up with an explanation of how a non-cognitivist can make sense of this argument, which is still very hard to do in a satisfactory way).

(NB: the question isn't whether or not (2) is false. 'Has no truth value' does not just mean 'It's false, only more so!' - if it has no truth value, it is neither true nor false. You can change the argument around so that the statements are indeed contradictory, eg

1) If torturing the dog is wrong, then getting your little brother to torture the dog is also wrong.
2) Torturing the dog is wrong.
3) Getting your little brother to torture the dog is not wrong.

The point is that, in this case, the non-cognitivist can't make sense of the contradiction. It's the same challenge.)

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Wed Jun 10, 2015 3:27 am UTC

Cres wrote:You're begging the question.
No, rather, you are using TRUE to mean two different things at the same time - one in the sense of "corresponds to Real Reality", and the other in the sense of "provable from axioms".

When I say "logical stances have no truth value" I am expressing the concept that they do not correspond with reality. There isn't a reality for them to correspond with. It's akin to (but different from) the reality of Hogwarts. It only "exists" in the mind.

Syllogistic logic does not deal with that kind of reality. Truth values in that sense are abstract terms which deal with self-consistency of a series of derived statements. Nothing more.

Your (2) does not mean "corresponds with real reality". It means "is accepted as valid". The conclusion (3) can also be accepted as valid, given the logic involved. But still, this does not imply that "syllogistic TRUE" is the same as "corresponds with Real Reality TRUE". They are different concepts that share the same words.

This is why the logic, while correct, fails to refute the idea that morals do not have "corresponds with Real Reality truth values".

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Cres » Wed Jun 10, 2015 4:00 am UTC

ucim wrote:
Cres wrote:You're begging the question.
No, rather, you are using TRUE to mean two different things at the same time - one in the sense of "corresponds to Real Reality", and the other in the sense of "provable from axioms".

When I say "logical stances have no truth value" I am expressing the concept that they do not correspond with reality. There isn't a reality for them to correspond with. It's akin to (but different from) the reality of Hogwarts. It only "exists" in the mind.

Syllogistic logic does not deal with that kind of reality. Truth values in that sense are abstract terms which deal with self-consistency of a series of derived statements. Nothing more.

Your (2) does not mean "corresponds with real reality". It means "is accepted as valid". The conclusion (3) can also be accepted as valid, given the logic involved. But still, this does not imply that "syllogistic TRUE" is the same as "corresponds with Real Reality TRUE". They are different concepts that share the same words.

This is why the logic, while correct, fails to refute the idea that morals do not have "corresponds with Real Reality truth values".


So, just to clarify to help me understand your distinction between types of truth (is it the same as the analytic-synthetic distinction?), your view is that moral statements do have truth values, but in the same sense that mathematical statements have truth values?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Wed Jun 10, 2015 4:21 am UTC

ucim wrote:Syllogistic logic does not deal with that kind of reality. Truth values in that sense are abstract terms which deal with self-consistency of a series of derived statements. Nothing more.

But this is just obviously false.

The canonical example of a syllogism is:

  1. Socrates is a man.
  2. All men are mortal.
  3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

Socrates, men, and mortality are all ordinary parts of reality; if "Socrates is a man" isn't something that "corresponds to Real Reality," then I have no idea what is.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Wed Jun 10, 2015 4:51 am UTC

Cres wrote:So, just to clarify to help me understand your distinction between types of truth (is it the same as the analytic-synthetic distinction?), your view is that moral statements do have truth values, but in the same sense that mathematical statements have truth values?
I assume there's a typo, and you mean to say "...but not in the same sense..."

If so, then that's one way of putting it. But the word "truth" should not be applied to moral statements (though it can certainly be applied to some kinds of statements about moral statements.

When I say "moral statements don't have truth values" I am simply restating, in different words, the idea that there is no such thing as Objective Moral Truth. A moral statement such as "killing rosebushes is wrong" is not a statement about the real world. Rewording it to say "killing rosebushes is incorrect" would be nonsensical. Similarly, to say "killing rosebushes is wrong" is a TRUE statement would be nonsensical. However, after a string of (valid) logic, I could sensibly say "killing rosebushes is wrong" is a CORRECT CONCLUSION (to the logic problem being posed)

OTOH, descriptive statements can have truth values - by which I mean that there is an Objective Reality in which the thing being described could exist. (This is an act of faith, but it's an axiom I can't meaningfully get around.) "Paris is in Germany" is either TRUE or FALSE. "Phlogiston exists" is either TRUE or FALSE. "Ptolemaic orbital mechanics is WRONG" can be sensibly rewritten "Ptolemaic orbital mechanics is INCORRECT", which means that it does not correspond with Objective Reality.

So, "right" and "wrong" means two different things depending on what kind of statement it's being used in.

You can mix them, but don't mix them up. :)

@TheGrammarBolshevik: "Socrates is a man" is a descriptive statement. It can be true or false (meaning it can correspond with or fail to correspond with reality). The same is true of "Socraties is mortal". But the conclusion is not one of real reality (though it describes it), it is one of consistency. (3) being true can be derived because syllogistic logic handles descriptive statements. The logic does not care whether Socrates really is a man, just that that statement can be said to be TRUE (or FALSE).

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Cres » Wed Jun 10, 2015 5:14 am UTC

ucim wrote:
Cres wrote:So, just to clarify to help me understand your distinction between types of truth (is it the same as the analytic-synthetic distinction?), your view is that moral statements do have truth values, but in the same sense that mathematical statements have truth values?
I assume there's a typo, and you mean to say "...but not in the same sense..."


No typo: in your previous post you contrasted statements which "correspond to Real Reality" (by the way, what's the difference between "Real Reality" and plain reality?) with those that are "provable from axioms" - mathematical statements would be the canonical example of the latter, no? Otherwise I don't really understand the distinction you are trying to draw (and I don't think "killing rosebushes is incorrect" and "killing rosebushes is wrong" are just re-wordings of the same statement - there is a sense in which 'wrong' means 'incorrect', but it is not the same sense as when 'wrong' is used to mean 'morally wrong').

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Jun 10, 2015 5:25 am UTC

ucim wrote:No, there is a real conceptual difference I am trying to elucidate through the words "descriptive" and "proscriptive". Statements can sometimes be worded either way, making a descriptive statement look like a proscriptive one, but the underlying idea being communicated is what I'm getting at. If after a "you should" (which sounds proscriptive), you can ask "why?" and the response can be put in the form "If you don't, this will happen", then the statement is really descriptive. "You shouldn't steal.... because if you do you will probably go to jail" is descriptive. It is a delcarative - a statement of fact. It has a truth value. "You shouldn't steal.... because it's wrong" is proscriptive however. It has no truth value. It is a command.

One is based on the warrant "things that make you go to jail should be avoided." The other is based on the warrant "things that are wrong should be avoided." You can still only get from description of reality to prescription of action by assuming that the listener is a conscious agent who gives a shit. There is no philosophical difference between these two cases.

Edit: And they're each an imperative followed by a declarative, no matter which part you prefer to emphasize.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby PeteP » Wed Jun 10, 2015 9:55 am UTC

A question (caused but not part of the truth debate):
Spoiler:
1. To qualawababel is eralotatel
2. what is eralotatel is also mamapel
3. Therefore, to qualawababel is mamapel

or
1. The stone is a harmonic simultaneous 4-day time cube
2. The stone is bored
3. Bored harmonic simultaneous 4-day time cubes are great dancers
4. Therefore the stone is a great dancer

Talking about syllogism you can of course put anything in that form even if it is meaningless nonsense like above. If I describe an action as being mamapel that means nothing though. So my question is what does it mean to say an action is morally wrong?

For me who doesn't think of morality as anything objective it is just a shorthand for expressing my dislike for the action or rather for it's probable consequences. But for me to consider it something objective which results in "you should not" I would expect it to mean something by itself. Mapping wrong to specific moral stances like this : "Wrong= something that harms humans/ lowers the survival chances of the species" . Would obviously be pointless too. "It's wrong to harm people" - of course it is because you defined wrong as harming people. And it's obviously just saying "harming people is harming people". Defining it as "wrong = something you should not do" also just gives you pointless circularity.
I would say wrong doesn't describe anything physical either. So what is wrong?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Wed Jun 10, 2015 10:50 am UTC

If it makes you feel better, define good as increasing complexity and bad as reducing it. I believe that is measurable and concrete. The assumption normal logic imposes is that the conditions can be stated in language. And since only a small component of the universe uses language that would seem to anthropocentric. If you wanted to be poetic you could say that the universe is at war with entropy. It constantly creates entities that increase local complexity while entropy works to decrease it.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby PeteP » Wed Jun 10, 2015 11:00 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:If it makes you feel better, define good as increasing complexity and bad as reducing it. I believe that is measurable and concrete. The assumption normal logic imposes is that the conditions can be stated in language. And since only a small component of the universe uses language that would seem to anthropocentric. If you wanted to be poetic you could say that the universe is at war with entropy. It constantly creates entities that increase local complexity while entropy works to decrease it.

Why should that make me feel better? For one that is a pointless arbitrary mapping. And my position is that to say something is is objectively morally wrong is meaningless, I consider it to be an empty words. I'm questioning how people who believe in objective morality define it. Of course you can slap it as a label on some random physical property

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby doogly » Wed Jun 10, 2015 11:09 am UTC

No, I think the point that moral truth values are like mathematical ones is apt, because you *can* be true or false, but only *relative to a framework.* Some things are true in most frameworks, some things start to look more fishy. But you always need a framework.

You also always need a framework for natural science, I suppose. You need one for everything or you're just stabbing around in a cave. I can tell someone who believes in a Biblical creationist account that physics is superior because look at all this predictive value we have, but my decision to value predictiveness over, say, "holiness," or whatever, is a question of framework. I can try to exhibit some of the appeal of Bayesian model testing but really it's quite hard to talk someone out of holiness. Likewise, my moral framework values "happiness" instead of "holiness," and I can point at the delightfulness of my life and my harmonies within my community, but there's not much to say when they've got a strong holiness component to their evaluation. Like I can tell someone hey, your religious community got these kosher and anti-fucking around rules due to a social need to reduce disease and un-cared-for children, but look, I've solved this problem in a better way! Everything is awesome forever, bbq and fucking! And they can say but look at your dirty horrible soul you've ruined everything.

So I still think there is some ranking to the ontology. Putting natural science at a "perfectly objective" pillar top is probably a bit too aspirational. I simply cannot perform an experiment that would convince someone they should care about the results of experiments!

Big example is miracles. *A lot* of people believe in miracles. The framework for miracles explicitly excludes them from the sort of truth-divining methodology I like. If they were reproducible and statistically significant, they wouldn't be miracles, now would they?
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby PeteP » Wed Jun 10, 2015 11:22 am UTC

In regards to a framework wrong can have the meaning "is in conflict with the underlying values of the framework". When talking about the underlying values however saying "underlying value X is right since it corresponds to underlying value X" is just a silly way of saying it is part of the values you choose for your framework. Defining wrong this way gives you no way to declare the underlying values true without connection to the framework. It's all fine and dandy for subjective systems but imo it doesn't really work for something objective.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby doogly » Wed Jun 10, 2015 11:25 am UTC

Yes yes. You are the other correct person participating in this thread and I thank you.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Jun 10, 2015 11:52 am UTC

PeteP wrote:In regards to a framework wrong can have the meaning "is in conflict with the underlying values of the framework". When talking about the underlying values however saying "underlying value X is right since it corresponds to underlying value X" is just a silly way of saying it is part of the values you choose for your framework. Defining wrong this way gives you no way to declare the underlying values true without connection to the framework. It's all fine and dandy for subjective systems but imo it doesn't really work for something objective.

Ultimately, this is the root of the problem for me. I'm very resistant to any idea that attempts to define an underlying logic or source for morality. They're almost always reductionist, they're always massaged to justify the kinds of things the philosopher wants to justify, and quite a lot of the Western philosophical tradition has been deeply interested in wasting as much time with them as possible. And we don't need special stories to justify how moral conventions come about - we can look at history and anthropology and cognition and neuroscience and figure out where all the little rules came from, and even assess how applicable or inapplicable a particular notion might be in contemporary society.

But if you're making a moral statement, a generalization about how a thing works in the world with the attached imperative / prescription / whatnot, the only thing that moral relativism adds is a caveat of "according to me." Well ... yeah. Duh. It's your assessment and assertion.

And yeah, there's a similar thing going on in aesthetics, in the case of something like "this rug is too dark for a small room like this one, because it makes it feel cramped," but I don't think it's meaningful to call either of those things a "preference." It's an assessment of how something is going to function in interaction with a human environment full of agents with their own, predictable, preferences.

I'm really stuck on the mushrooms. I don't understand why it's okay to assume that "not dying" is universally desirable but "being a decent human being" isn't. A not-dead human being is an arbitrary assemblage of parts in precisely the same way that decency is an arbitrary condition that a human being might inhabit. And human standards of morality have been evolving for precisely as long as human bodies have. I also don't think human morality as we know it is going to suddenly become wholly irrelevant unless humans, or at least human bodies, do first.

A decent human being might be harder to define than a not-dead one or a not-cramped-feeling room, but I think not really meaningfully? Standards for all three could change with context....
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby PeteP » Wed Jun 10, 2015 12:14 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:I'm really stuck on the mushrooms. I don't understand why it's okay to assume that "not dying" is universally desirable but "being a decent human being" isn't.

To whom are you directing that? Is that part of the post still directed at me? If so the answer is I never made that first statements. (I will write to some other things in your post later, but I wanted to clarify that part first and then do something else for a while.)
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Wed Jun 10, 2015 1:01 pm UTC

PeteP wrote:
morriswalters wrote:If it makes you feel better, define good as increasing complexity and bad as reducing it. I believe that is measurable and concrete. The assumption normal logic imposes is that the conditions can be stated in language. And since only a small component of the universe uses language that would seem to anthropocentric. If you wanted to be poetic you could say that the universe is at war with entropy. It constantly creates entities that increase local complexity while entropy works to decrease it.

Why should that make me feel better? For one that is a pointless arbitrary mapping. And my position is that to say something is is objectively morally wrong is meaningless, I consider it to be an empty words. I'm questioning how people who believe in objective morality define it. Of course you can slap it as a label on some random physical property
My pardon, I speak colloquially. Your framework is the universe, and it isn't arbitrary, it is the only framework that exists that you can reach, assuming others exist at all. And the only thing arbitrary about it is the direction I chose to call good and the direction I chose to call bad. Everything that arose in that framework can be measured against those two properties. And it is impossible to stand still, you have to move in one direction or another.
Of course you can slap it as a label on some random physical property
It's interesting that you consider entropy a random physical property. Without that property the idea of good or evil couldn't exist. Think about the things we call good and bad. We, generally speaking, call order good and disorder bad. Heaven is high and hell is below. Anyway, thanks for giving me something more to consider.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Wed Jun 10, 2015 1:07 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:I'm really stuck on the mushrooms. I don't understand why it's okay to assume that "not dying" is universally desirable but "being a decent human being" isn't.
You might consider how the phrase "not dying" and "decent human being" are functionally related as universally desirable.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby doogly » Wed Jun 10, 2015 1:11 pm UTC

Here is a list of problems:
- The assignment of good to entropy is what's arbitrary. If entropy can be quite explicit, just log W, there's still a huge leap from assigning that to goodness.
- You are associating the very vague notion of good to some more specific value, "orderliness." This is a common thing for people to like, so that is OK. But! I think "happiness" and "holiness" are two other candidates for the arch-value in a moral framework that you really ought to acknowledge. Happiness in particular is my favorite, and there's a great deal of disorder that I think goes along with happiness. We have so many good examples of Lawful Neutral dystopias, authors seem to hate this orderliness most of all.
- You are talking about local entropy. This is an astute move, because global entropy is always going to go up regardless of what actions we take, and thus moral commandments would be completely meaningless. There is very little we can do about global entropy. But, you introduced this as a way to avoid arbitrariness, and local entropy depends entirely on your distinction between system and environment. So now you have the seemingly arbitrary choice to associate goodness with the physical parameter of local entropy, and the arbitrary choice of how to define local entropy. Instead of reducing the arbitrariness of a moral framework, you've doubled it! (or squared or whatnot.)
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Jun 10, 2015 2:55 pm UTC

I honestly don't know how to feel about a story of morality that's actually more reductionist than Kant's categorical imperative. I think it's my new least favorite one. If you want to ascribe morality to an arbitrary physical property, you might as well at least make it blue. Lots of people like blue.
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby doogly » Wed Jun 10, 2015 3:06 pm UTC

Seriously it is even worse the holiness business.

But hey, it's on the table! Some things might even be true or false relative to this ridiculous framework, eh? Eh?
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Wed Jun 10, 2015 3:40 pm UTC

doogly wrote:The assignment of good to entropy is what's arbitrary
I believe that I actually assigned good to a higher state of order. As a direction.
doogly wrote:You are associating the very vague notion of good to some more specific value
Yes. Because at the upper levels there isn't anything else. It isn't vague, it just isn't very complex.
doogly wrote:You are talking about local entropy. This is an astute move, because global entropy is always going to go up regardless of what actions we take, and thus moral commandments would be completely meaningless. There is very little we can do about global entropy. But, you introduced this as a way to avoid arbitrariness, and local entropy depends entirely on your distinction between system and environment. So now you have the seemingly arbitrary choice to associate goodness with the physical parameter of local entropy, and the arbitrary choice of how to define local entropy. Instead of reducing the arbitrariness of a moral framework, you've doubled it! (or squared or whatnot.)
Actually I didn't originate the concept, I'm not that intelligent. But consider what arises from the concept, arbitrary or not. Intelligence did. The ability to have the discussion in the first place. Despite the fact that the universe overall is heading in the other direction, we arose out of the tendency to go the other way. What I think about that on any given days depends of the type of day I have had. But whatever I might think about it is doesn't really matter. Because inevitably the trend of life is to do precisely that.

Take Copper Bezels statement about decent person. What do we consider a decent person? One who helps others. What does he/she help them with? Things needed to stay alive. We call people who go to work every day good people. What do they do? They earn a living to keep themselves alive and to provide things needed to keep others alive. And the only other thing they do, other than those things, is to procreate, to continue life.

doogly wrote:Seriously it is even worse the holiness business.

But hey, it's on the table! Some things might even be true or false relative to this ridiculous framework, eh? Eh?
There is no God. You seem to have missed a word in the first sentence. And certainly it's ridiculous. But morally I favor originality over reruns. Kant appears to be an idiot. And quite possibly I am one as well. That's the breaks.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby doogly » Wed Jun 10, 2015 3:45 pm UTC

Right, good to not-entropy. Though you could just as easily go the other way!

I am definitely not a fan of Kant either.

Are you trying to claim that this moral framework is objectively correct?
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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby ucim » Wed Jun 10, 2015 4:12 pm UTC

Cres wrote:No typo: in your previous post you contrasted statements which "correspond to Real Reality" (by the way, what's the difference between "Real Reality" and plain reality?) with those that are "provable from axioms" - mathematical statements would be the canonical example of the latter, no?
Ok, I see what you're getting at.

I use "real reality" to emphasize that I am talking about the (presumed) underlying objective reality we live in, but can only access through our senses and model in our minds, as opposed to talking about the mind-model we build up in order to make sense of it all. The word "reality" is otherwise overloaded.

What I'm trying to say is that moral statements do not map a connection between our mind model and objective reality, whereas descriptive statements do. Therefore, a desciptive statement can be TRUE or FALSE, but a moral statement cannot.

Syllogistic logic deals with statements that can be TRUE or FALSE, in a similar sense that arithmetic deals with integers. The fact that people can make sense of your
1) If torturing the dog is wrong, then getting your little brother to torture the dog is also wrong.
construct suggests that the system could be usefully expanded to also deal with moral statements, but one must be careful in doing so. Expanding arithmetic to include fractions and division leads to nonsesne such as 3/0, but that does not make arithmetic nonsense. It means that the expansion of the system cannot be done blindly. Ditto moral logic.

The point being that while

1) If torturing the dog is wrong, then getting your little brother to torture the dog is also wrong.
2) Torturing the dog is wrong.
3) Getting your little brother to torture the dog is wrong.


works, that fact does not imply that "Torturing the dog is wrong" IS TRUE. It just means that statements that cannot be said to be TRUE or FALSE are also amenable to these kinds of syllogistic constructs.

Expanding arithmetic to the rationals does not make 4/5 into an integer.

So, back to your question:
Cres wrote:So, just to clarify to help me understand your distinction between types of truth (is it the same as the analytic-synthetic distinction?), your view is that moral statements do have truth values, but in the same sense that mathematical statements have truth values?


They do not have truth values in the sense of descriptive statements (where "TRUE" means "Corresponds to objective reality"). That would be nonsensical, as there is no "objective reality space" for moral statements. We can consider them to have something analagous to a truth value within a syllogism, (where "TRUE" means "accepted as a premise" or "justified as a conclusion"). However, the end of a syllogism which yields "TRUE" (meaning "justified as a conclusion") does not imply that it also "corresponds to objective reality". That still is a nonsensical statement as applied to moral statements.

Copper Bezel wrote:One is based on the warrant "things that make you go to jail should be avoided." The other is based on the warrant "things that are wrong should be avoided."
... but in the latter case, you are merely restating the definition of "wrong". The answer "because it's wrong" (or the like) adds nothing to a prescriptive moral statement; it is implicit in it. But "because you will go to jail" adds the unstated (but unimplicit) information. This is the difference.

morriswalters wrote:If it makes you feel better, define good as increasing complexity and bad as reducing it. I believe that is measurable and concrete.
Nothing leads me to not instead define good as decreasing complexity. It's just a different frame, and just as measurable and concrete. The point is, the universe does not define it that way, or at all. This is what makes moral statements non-objective.

morriswalters wrote: What do we consider a decent person? One who helps others. What does...
... and there's the artificial frame, in the word "we". It is "us" that's doing the considering. Thus, it's us that's setting up the frame. It's arbitrary, because not everyone has those same values, despite the fact that the result is that life develops, local entropy decreases, etc.

I very much take issue with "good" being defined in a way that is a simple reflection of procreational proclivities. Tripling human fertility across the board would certainly NOT be what I consider a Good Thing, even if it leads to three times as much human life. Even if we could feed them all. It might not be "Evil", but it would certainly be pathological. Although it is our natural instinct to reproduce, I don't think it's our "duty" to do so, and morals are in some sense about duty.

The universe does not define "good". That's for each of us to do.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby PeteP » Wed Jun 10, 2015 4:50 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:
PeteP wrote:In regards to a framework wrong can have the meaning "is in conflict with the underlying values of the framework". When talking about the underlying values however saying "underlying value X is right since it corresponds to underlying value X" is just a silly way of saying it is part of the values you choose for your framework. Defining wrong this way gives you no way to declare the underlying values true without connection to the framework. It's all fine and dandy for subjective systems but imo it doesn't really work for something objective.

Ultimately, this is the root of the problem for me. I'm very resistant to any idea that attempts to define an underlying logic or source for morality. They're almost always reductionist, they're always massaged to justify the kinds of things the philosopher wants to justify, and quite a lot of the Western philosophical tradition has been deeply interested in wasting as much time with them as possible. And we don't need special stories to justify how moral conventions come about - we can look at history and anthropology and cognition and neuroscience and figure out where all the little rules came from, and even assess how applicable or inapplicable a particular notion might be in contemporary society.

Which is one reason why I am not a moral objectivist. So when you say things like this and some other things I wonder why morals being objective is the stance you are arguing for? (Which it was, right?) "An underlying logic or source for morality" is one of the ways to argue for objective morality. And moral coming about being explainable because of the things you mention is usually an argument against morals being objective.

But if you're making a moral statement, a generalization about how a thing works in the world with the attached imperative / prescription / whatnot, the only thing that moral relativism adds is a caveat of "according to me." Well ... yeah. Duh. It's your assessment and assertion.
First in your "what does it add analysis" why do you take objective morality as the default where you have to add something? What does declaring your morals to be objective add?

Also about the duh part, quite a few people who consider morals to be objective, also think their morals are this objective ones. Not everyone of course.

But what it adds? Never really thought about it in those terms. For one I consider morals being objective wrong and I think that wrong viewpoints have the potential to lead to other mistakes. And of course I just strongly prefer having viewpoints that I consider to be right. (Which is why your questions of "what does it add" puzzle me slightly does that mean that you wouldn't consider being correct necessary or enough? )

Also the awareness that moral arguments usually need to have basis in underlying values of the other person if you hope to persuade them. And that when you don't share the right underlying values or just weight them differently arguments might be pointless because they aren't wrong according to their framework. Except if you can somehow change their framework of course. Not that you can't view discussions about morality the same way when believing in objective morals.

Anyway questions so that I am actually sure what your stance is:
Is morality for you based on underlying values?
If so is your argument that everyone shares the important underlying values and gives them the same weight in relation to each other and you can just as well treat them as objective. Or is your stance that if someone doesn't share them they should because the value/goal choice is objective?

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby morriswalters » Wed Jun 10, 2015 5:16 pm UTC

doogly wrote:Are you trying to claim that this moral framework is objectively correct?
No. If you mean something like this quote from Wikipedia article on Ethical Objectivism.
According to the ethical objectivist, the truth or falsity of typical moral judgments does not depend upon the beliefs or feelings of any person or group of persons.
It isn't that it couldn't be, but I don't see any way of finding out. This whole discussion is a lot like religion in that respect, how do you know? Tell me where it derives from.

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Re: Is there anything objective about morality?

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jun 10, 2015 6:15 pm UTC

doogly wrote:Here is a list of problems:
- The assignment of good to entropy is what's arbitrary. If entropy can be quite explicit, just log W, there's still a huge leap from assigning that to goodness.
- You are associating the very vague notion of good to some more specific value, "orderliness." This is a common thing for people to like, so that is OK. But! I think "happiness" and "holiness" are two other candidates for the arch-value in a moral framework that you really ought to acknowledge. Happiness in particular is my favorite, and there's a great deal of disorder that I think goes along with happiness. We have so many good examples of Lawful Neutral dystopias, authors seem to hate this orderliness most of all.
- You are talking about local entropy. This is an astute move, because global entropy is always going to go up regardless of what actions we take, and thus moral commandments would be completely meaningless. There is very little we can do about global entropy. But, you introduced this as a way to avoid arbitrariness, and local entropy depends entirely on your distinction between system and environment. So now you have the seemingly arbitrary choice to associate goodness with the physical parameter of local entropy, and the arbitrary choice of how to define local entropy. Instead of reducing the arbitrariness of a moral framework, you've doubled it! (or squared or whatnot.)
As patently ridiculous as it is to tie morality to entropy (in either direction), the system vs. environment distinction does have an interesting parallel.

In any kind of utilitarianism (or really any ethical framework that's tied to some quality that might exist beyond modern humans here on Earth), we have to address the fact that eventually we'll all be dead and everything we have done or will ever do will have zero effect on the vast majority of the universe. There's some "importance function" that can't be everywhere constant and ccan't be too diffuse before it loses any normative usefulness. Between that useless extreme and the absolutely egoist opposite (where I am the only thing that matters at all, according to my own ethical system), there's a wide range of ethical views that may differ only in how quickly importance decreases away from oneself, even when all other premises are agreed upon.
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