An Essay on the Moral Argument
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15-07-2017, 07:37 PM
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
(15-07-2017 06:53 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  One thing I would do is question those who believe that their morality is subjective.

Do you believe morality is a matter of taste, as we might say about one's preferences in music, food, clothing, movies, etc...?
No, it is a matter of judgment, not of taste. Judgment concerning the likely outcomes of an action being harmful or not.
(15-07-2017 06:53 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  That when you say that something is morally wrong, what you really mean by such statements, is merely that I don't like x, or I like y, as we could say about pretty much anything else we refer to as subjective?
No, I would argue that it is harmful, and if enough people agree with me, then there will be laws and/or social conventions and pressure to discourage what is harmful and/or to encourage some beneficial alternative.

"Harmful" would be that which makes society uncivil, unsafe, and/or self-destructive.
"Beneficial is that which makes society civil, safe, and or sustainable.

It is not rocket science, and it is not unworkable. In fact it is exactly what we have already, whether or not some people want to acknowledge it.
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15-07-2017, 11:10 PM
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
If you're going to talk about a "moral fact", you need to define precisely what "moral" means. This requires removing any subjectivity and ambiguity from the terms involved. That "fact" then only pertains to your definition.

Whether this fact is of any practical use depends on how many people would also use your definition. You don't get to declare it to be a fact for any definition of morality, because it's not a well-defined term as commonly used. This is the No True Scotsman fallacy.

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16-07-2017, 12:23 AM (This post was last modified: 16-07-2017 01:09 AM by Cheerful Charlie.)
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
Moral facts are not just subjective. Nobody likes being robbed, physically attacked, raped, murdered or enslaved. We do not have to run to read an ancient book of fables to know if we are supposed to be angry and upset when these sorts of things happen to us.

So here are the beginnings of a fact based ethical and moral system. We band together to attempt to eliminate such things. Some societies do better than this. Some get mired in bad ideologies, cultures, or failed states that lack success to a degree in guaranteeing a good legal system that guarantees a good moral system enforced by law.

Why is this hard for religionists to understand? Here in America, religious believers support the GOP and Trump and repeal of ACA despite the fact that many experts tell us that if the GOP does this, 10 thousand people a year will die as a result. Why does this idea that God is the underlying objective absolute underlying morality not translate into a more moral sense, and moral policies?

Here is where the moral theories od Christianity are failing, and yet Christians as one are not rising up to condemn this bad idea and set of GOP policies?

This is a teaching moment for atheism.

When I shake my ignore file, I can hear them buzzing!

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16-07-2017, 06:46 AM
An Essay on the Moral Argument
(15-07-2017 07:37 PM)mordant Wrote:  
(15-07-2017 06:53 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  One thing I would do is question those who believe that their morality is subjective.

Do you believe morality is a matter of taste, as we might say about one's preferences in music, food, clothing, movies, etc...?
No, it is a matter of judgment, not of taste. Judgment concerning the likely outcomes of an action being harmful or not.
(15-07-2017 06:53 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  That when you say that something is morally wrong, what you really mean by such statements, is merely that I don't like x, or I like y, as we could say about pretty much anything else we refer to as subjective?
No, I would argue that it is harmful, and if enough people agree with me, then there will be laws and/or social conventions and pressure to discourage what is harmful and/or to encourage some beneficial alternative.

"Harmful" would be that which makes society uncivil, unsafe, and/or self-destructive.
"Beneficial is that which makes society civil, safe, and or sustainable.

It is not rocket science, and it is not unworkable. In fact it is exactly what we have already, whether or not some people want to acknowledge it.


Harmful, and beneficial can be measurable, like what’s harmful and beneficial to your health. If morality can be measured. If we can make objective statements like x actions is harmful, and as a result immoral.

Would you say morality is objective?

If you believe it’s subjective, given what you previously stated, what makes it subjective? If you point to an action you deem as harmful, and as a result immoral( Let’s use torturing innocent children purely for the fun of it). If I said it’s not morally wrong, would I be factually incorrect?



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"In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."
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16-07-2017, 02:21 PM
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
(16-07-2017 06:46 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  
(15-07-2017 07:37 PM)mordant Wrote:  No, it is a matter of judgment, not of taste. Judgment concerning the likely outcomes of an action being harmful or not.
No, I would argue that it is harmful, and if enough people agree with me, then there will be laws and/or social conventions and pressure to discourage what is harmful and/or to encourage some beneficial alternative.

"Harmful" would be that which makes society uncivil, unsafe, and/or self-destructive.
"Beneficial is that which makes society civil, safe, and or sustainable.

It is not rocket science, and it is not unworkable. In fact it is exactly what we have already, whether or not some people want to acknowledge it.
Harmful, and beneficial can be measurable, like what’s harmful and beneficial to your health.
Only in a given context. It may be, on balance, a benefit to society to sanction robbery, but it is not very beneficial from the perspective of a would-be robber.

As I suspect you well know, I am talking about societal consensus about the needs of society as a whole. These can and will change between societies and eras as understanding and needs change.
(16-07-2017 06:46 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  Would you say morality is objective?
No.
(16-07-2017 06:46 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  If you believe it’s subjective, given what you previously stated, what makes it subjective? If you point to an action you deem as harmful, and as a result immoral( Let’s use torturing innocent children purely for the fun of it). If I said it’s not morally wrong, would I be factually incorrect?
You are doing the same thing you always do, using an extreme example in an attempt to demonstrate objectivity. There is greater agreement and clarity about some moral questions, than there is about others. There is greater consistency between societies and eras about some questions vs others. To the point that some basic things are regarded the same way almost universally. But the inverse is of course also true. The "rightness" or "wrongness" of some things is less clear and more variable. Also, as a practical matter, some things are just less consequential than others. Morality is hammered out over time, in ways both implicit and explicit.
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16-07-2017, 02:36 PM
An Essay on the Moral Argument
(16-07-2017 02:21 PM)mordant Wrote:  As I suspect you well know, I am talking about societal consensus about the needs of society as a whole. These can and will change between societies and eras as understanding and needs change.

You said harmfulness not social consensus. The claim that torturing innocent children just for fun, is harmful. This is true regardless of societal consensus. It’s true that it’s harmful, just like the theory of evolution is true, regardless of contrary social consensus. If the Saudis as a whole believe the earth is flat, they’d be wrong regardless of their consensus.

Quote:You are doing the same thing you always do, using an extreme example in an attempt to demonstrate objectivity. There is greater agreement and clarity about some moral questions, than there is about others. There is greater consistency between societies and eras about some questions vs others.

I used an example akin to you using a flat earth example, as truth we’re unlikely to disagree on. Societies have differing views on what’s true, about the nature of reality itself, they have shared truths as well. None of this makes truth subjective. None of their disagreements about what’s moral or not, make torturing innocent children just for fun, not harmful. And by your definition immoral.



Quote:To the point that some basic things are regarded the same way almost universally. But the inverse is of course also true. The "rightness" or "wrongness" of some things is less clear and more variable. Also, as a practical matter, some things are just less consequential than others. Morality is hammered out over time, in ways both implicit and explicit.

Never mind those truths which are unclear, let’s keep it easy and stick to that which doesn’t suffer from as much ambiguity. Torturing innocent babies just for fun is objectively harmful. To disagree would make you not much different that someone who disagree that the holocaust happened.

Since it’s objectively harmful, it’s objectively immoral. If you believe this is subjective please tell us why.

Perhaps you believe some things are objectively immoral, some are subjectively immoral. All i care is to whether we can agree that something are objectively immoral.





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"Tell me, muse, of the storyteller who has been thrust to the edge of the world, both an infant and an ancient, and through him reveal everyman." ---Homer the aged poet.

"In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."
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16-07-2017, 06:32 PM
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
(16-07-2017 02:36 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  
(16-07-2017 02:21 PM)mordant Wrote:  As I suspect you well know, I am talking about societal consensus about the needs of society as a whole. These can and will change between societies and eras as understanding and needs change.
You said harmfulness not social consensus.
Societal consensus regarding harmfulness.
(16-07-2017 02:36 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  The claim that torturing innocent children just for fun, is harmful ... is true regardless of societal consensus.
No, all societies to my knowledge agree that it's harmful, because its harmfulness is clear, unambiguous, and, for the vast majority of people, instinctual (since its opposite, the nurturing and protection of the young, is so basic to the success of all societies).

All harms must be demonstrable. This harm, and some others, are easily demonstrated with very little ambiguity. Some are more debatable.
(16-07-2017 02:36 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  Never mind those truths which are unclear, let’s keep it easy and stick to that which doesn’t suffer from as much ambiguity. Torturing innocent babies just for fun is objectively harmful. To disagree would make you not much different that someone who disagree that the holocaust happened.

Since it’s objectively harmful, it’s objectively immoral. If you believe this is subjective please tell us why.

Perhaps you believe some things are objectively immoral, some are subjectively immoral. All i care is to whether we can agree that something are objectively immoral.
You and I can agree that torturing babies is immoral, along with almost everyone else who is, or has ever been, alive. But that doesn't mean I confuse moral clarity with objectivity. It is still something that someone, somewhere, can and will disagree with. It does not expose a principle that some morals are objective, only that they are so agreed about so widely that they seem that way. It's a little bit like how atheists are almost all agnostic but behave about the same as if they were gnostic, just not because they are making knowledge claims about gods. It's easy to confuse one with the other because a person who believes there are no gods, and a person who claims to know there are no gods, will think, decide, (re)act and behave basically the same. But since most gods as posited are unfalsifiable, no one can make supportable knowledge claims for or against them. One can only determine if belief is reasonable.

It's the same here. One who believes torturing babies is objectively wrong, will behave the same as someone who believes its an exceptionally widely agreed and highly supportable principle. It is supportable to say it's a harm, but there is no thing-in-itself out there in reality that makes its harmfulness axiomatic, because harm is a human judgment made by fallible humans.

Someone, on some planet, somewhere, may have a sustainable society based on suffering of innocents. I have no idea how it could work, only that it could never work for humans.

To me, "objective morality" is an oxymoron because it ignores context entirely. Just because some acts don't have other conceivable contexts, doesn't change that fact.
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17-07-2017, 12:51 AM
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
Morality must also be able to handle situations more complex than "torture the baby or not". It has to handle compromises between conflicting outcomes, lesser evils and balances. At this point, all objectivity is lost. Each person will draw their own conclusion as to where the best "compromise" is. And that's just among the people who subscribe to the "wellbeing" model of morality, which many theists don't.

You can try to say there is a "best compromise", but "best" doesn't mean anything unless it refers to well-define metrics. And who makes the metrics? It will be subjectively based on that decision.

We agree on ways of measuring length, for example, because it's practical to do so. It's not practical to create a metric based on what one random person thinks is moral, because there just isn't enough agreement. Only vague principles, at best, can be agreed.

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17-07-2017, 05:22 AM
An Essay on the Moral Argument
(16-07-2017 06:32 PM)mordant Wrote:  
(16-07-2017 02:36 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  You said harmfulness not social consensus.
Societal consensus regarding harmfulness.
(16-07-2017 02:36 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  The claim that torturing innocent children just for fun, is harmful ... is true regardless of societal consensus.
No, all societies to my knowledge agree that it's harmful, because its harmfulness is clear, unambiguous, and, for the vast majority of people, instinctual (since its opposite, the nurturing and protection of the young, is so basic to the success of all societies).

All harms must be demonstrable. This harm, and some others, are easily demonstrated with very little ambiguity. Some are more debatable.
(16-07-2017 02:36 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  Never mind those truths which are unclear, let’s keep it easy and stick to that which doesn’t suffer from as much ambiguity. Torturing innocent babies just for fun is objectively harmful. To disagree would make you not much different that someone who disagree that the holocaust happened.

Since it’s objectively harmful, it’s objectively immoral. If you believe this is subjective please tell us why.

Perhaps you believe some things are objectively immoral, some are subjectively immoral. All i care is to whether we can agree that something are objectively immoral.
You and I can agree that torturing babies is immoral, along with almost everyone else who is, or has ever been, alive. But that doesn't mean I confuse moral clarity with objectivity. It is still something that someone, somewhere, can and will disagree with. It does not expose a principle that some morals are objective, only that they are so agreed about so widely that they seem that way. It's a little bit like how atheists are almost all agnostic but behave about the same as if they were gnostic, just not because they are making knowledge claims about gods. It's easy to confuse one with the other because a person who believes there are no gods, and a person who claims to know there are no gods, will think, decide, (re)act and behave basically the same. But since most gods as posited are unfalsifiable, no one can make supportable knowledge claims for or against them. One can only determine if belief is reasonable.

It's the same here. One who believes torturing babies is objectively wrong, will behave the same as someone who believes its an exceptionally widely agreed and highly supportable principle. It is supportable to say it's a harm, but there is no thing-in-itself out there in reality that makes its harmfulness axiomatic, because harm is a human judgment made by fallible humans.

Someone, on some planet, somewhere, may have a sustainable society based on suffering of innocents. I have no idea how it could work, only that it could never work for humans.

To me, "objective morality" is an oxymoron because it ignores context entirely. Just because some acts don't have other conceivable contexts, doesn't change that fact.


You don’t seem to make much sense, and it seems you’re confusing things like absolute, objective, relative etc. Morality being relative to context, negates it from being absolute, not objective. Nor does ambiguity make something subjective.

The harmfulness of torturing innocent babies for fun, is not dependent on our societal consensus. It’s no more dependent on our consensus, than the shape of the earth is.

If an entire society believed it wasn’t harmful, they’d be factually incorrect. They’d be just as factually incorrect as a society that believes the earth is flat.

It’s objectively true that torturing babies just for fun is harmful.

My example involved a specific context, “purely for fun”, not for any other purpose like sustains a planet, or etc. Just because it might not be harmful in another context, doesn’t make it subjective, just relative to context.

"Tell me, muse, of the storyteller who has been thrust to the edge of the world, both an infant and an ancient, and through him reveal everyman." ---Homer the aged poet.

"In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."
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17-07-2017, 09:16 AM
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
(17-07-2017 05:22 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  You don’t seem to make much sense, and it seems you’re confusing things like absolute, objective, relative etc. Morality being relative to context, negates it from being absolute, not objective. Nor does ambiguity make something subjective.
I am simply saying there's not an objective thing-in-itself to say an abstract concept like morality is objectively true. Imagine a sign in the distance that says WARNING 2000 FT CLIFF HERE but it's shrouded in mist and glare and you can't make it out. As you draw close enough, you'll see what the sign says. And it says what it says whether or not you can see it. That's ambiguity concerning something that is objectively true (the sign warns of a cliff, it doesn't tell you to stop or obey a speed limit or to buy some product). The sign says what it says whether you can make it out at present or not.

I don't see the metaphorical equivalent of a sign stating "DO NOT TORTURE BABIES FOR ANY REASON". The most I can see is a principle that all societies end up arriving at, not to do that, but this is evidence of the alignment of societal needs with a great harm, not of some objective Truth.
(17-07-2017 05:22 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  The harmfulness of torturing innocent babies for fun, is not dependent on our societal consensus. It’s no more dependent on our consensus, than the shape of the earth is.
It is dependent on observable outcomes, namely, societies that do not protect and nurture their young as a high priority, do not endure. Rather similar to "people who don't breath or eat often enough die". Societal consensus is, in the aggregate, based on self preservation and avoiding outcomes that don't lead to self preservation of the society.

I'm curious why you feel the need to flog this point. It reminds me of people who feel this inexplicable need for there to be externally bestowed and determined meaning and purpose inherent to existence, who are claustrophobic at the notion that individuals and societies have to manufacture their own meaning. I maintain that individuals and societies must manufacture their own morality, but that morality is no less useful or important because of that.

Those who peddle absolute morality usually have the endgame of saying that morality is irrelevant or meaningless or at least ineffective without the endorsement of a backing authority. That authority, not coincidentally, is usually an invisible authoritarian character who imposes the moral code and rewards / punishes persons (and societies) for (non)compliance. I just don't see what this actually adds. Societal morality is entirely effective and has a sufficient backing authority (society) without inventing invisible idealized authorities.

My guess is that it has to do with the notion of utter depravity, and that humans cannot self-regulate without outside help.
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