Another attack on moral subjectivism
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08-07-2015, 06:13 PM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(08-07-2015 06:46 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  https://humdev.uchicago.edu/sites/humdev...sChild.pdf
Thanks for this link. I'm reading through it, it gives me a better perspective of where you are coming from because it appears consistent with what you have been saying.

I'm not sure if you formed your own opinion based on reading articles such as this or whether you formed your opinion independently and subsequently found articles that you agree with. I am hoping for the later because I have issues with this article (as you would expect from me).

I will offer my feedback and show you why I have the problems (so you can address them if you choose to do so), it's just a matter of finding the time to read through it properly and formulating my response, double checking whether my critiques are valid or are merely my personal resistance (knee jerk) to the ideas offered.
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08-07-2015, 08:46 PM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(08-07-2015 06:46 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  https://humdev.uchicago.edu/sites/humdev...sChild.pdf
From the article, here is their definition of morality:
"A morality is a set of categorically obligatory requirements for action that are addressed at least in part to every actual or prospective agent and that are concerned with furthering the interests, especially the most important interests, of persons or recipients other than or in addition to the agent or the speaker"
In the above it talks about the concepts of moral obligation and altruism as being that which defines morality.
"The requirements are categorically obligatory in that compliance with them is mandatory for the conduct of every person to whom they are addressed regardless of whether he wants to accept them or their results, and regardless also of the requirements of any other institutions such as law or etiquitte whose obligatoriness may itself be doubtful or variable. Thus although one moral requirement may be overridden by another, it may not be overridden by any non-moral requirement, nor can its normative bindingness be be escaped by shifting one's inclinations, opinions or ideals"
In the above it claims that moral obligations are the same for every person (universal?) regardless of their personal desires. That moral obligations are not laws or etiquitte and do override any arbitrary rules. It again claims that morals are universal and are not at the whims of personal subjectivity (inclinations, opinions or ideals).

One odd thing that they have done is that in the begining of the article they said "The meaning of morality is something discovered, not stipulated" but then they launched into stipulated what morality is (see above) rather than to discover it.
Their stipulation defines morality as "objective or universal" so they have immediately ruled out, by their definition, the possibility of it being subjective. This trickery is unjustified and hence unduly taints the rest of their investigation.

But, moving on...
They then stipulate 6 criteria
"1) Obligatory
Duties are invoked that do not depend on what anyone happens to want to do.
2) Generalisable
What is right or wrong for one is is right or wrong for any similar person in similar circumstances
3) Important
the moral has precedence
4) impersonal or external
what is right or wrong is right or wrong regarless of whether people recognise it as such
5) unalterable
What is right or wrong cannot be changed by consensus or legislation
6) ahistorical
although its recognition may be historical there is no point in time at which the validity of what is right or wrong changes."


This again assumes objective morality and rules out subjective morality.
My issues with these are
1) Obligatory - who is it that decides what actions are obligatory? What is the consequence of not doing the obligatory?
2) Generalisable - if rights and wrongs apply to all people, who is it that decides what are the correct rights and what are the correct wrongs?
3) Important - How does a person judge if a "moral" is important or not? Perhaps they think about the consequences of not having the rule in place. Perhaps this is being conflated with survival. e.g. it's important that we don't murder, rape or steal.
4) impersonal or external - who decides what is right or wrong and then gets to tell the other people that they are wrong and that it doesn't matter what they think?
5) unalterable - Perhaps this is another way of wording 3) if a rule is important for some reason (perhaps survival e.g. murder) then there are tangible reasons why this rule cannot be flipped (e.g. murder is now allowed)
6) ahistorical - This is redundant because it is also catered for by item 5.

In all, I would say a few assumptions have been made:
a. Morality exists.
b. Morality is knowable via an "intuitive sense".
c. Morality is unchanging.
d. Although morality is knowable people might be confused via their personal (inclinations, opinions or ideals) and therefore people can get it incorrect.
All of these assumptions are unverifiable.

An alternative (more mundane) explanation would be that there are certain actions that endanger our lives and our freedoms. Certain actions that if allowed, would make our society an unstable and dangerous place to participate in.
For example murder is a threat to our own survival.
So lets put this through the 6 criteria.
1) Obligatory - for society to be safe we deem it obligatory for people to not go around murdering each other.
2) Generalisable - for society to be safe we need everyone in society to not go around murdering others
3) Important - Sure, it's not an arbitrary rule. It is important to our survival that people don't go around murdering each other.
4) impersonal or external - It doesn't matter if Drug Lord Mr X thinks that murder is a useful tool to keep his competition in check, as a functioning society we need murder to not be allowed.
5) unalterable - Yes, we have deemed that it is important to have a rule against murder becasue murder makes society unsafe. This also means that we won't alter this rule, if we allow murder then our society becomes unsafe, our lives are then at risk.
6) ahistorical - Same answer for 5)

So here we have an action which isn't a morality but is instead an essential for a safe and stable society. We could equally put Rape and Theft through the above 6 criteria as well. These also tie into survival rather than morality. They don't draw upon moral obligation and altruism which were deemed as important to the definition of a moral.

Tomasia - What is something that you know that is immoral but doesn't tie back into "survival" or stability of the society that we participate within?
Perhaps you think it is immoral not to believe in the Christian god?
Perhaps you think it is immoral to blaspheme the Christian god?
Perhaps you think it is immoral to have an affair?
How to these stack up when put through the 6 criteria above?
Are they obligatory? Are they generalisable? Are they important? Are they unalterable?
Anyway, I think these three perhaps's that I came up with fail to that criteria but I came up woth those, so it's probably strawman. What would you choose and can you show how it stacks up?

Ultimately I think it all comes down to conflation of morality with survival.
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09-07-2015, 07:05 AM (This post was last modified: 09-07-2015 07:09 AM by Tomasia.)
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(08-07-2015 08:46 PM)Stevil Wrote:  In the above it claims that moral obligations are the same for every person (universal?) regardless of their personal desires. That moral obligations are not laws or etiquitte and do override any arbitrary rules. It again claims that morals are universal and are not at the whims of personal subjectivity (inclinations, opinions or ideals).

One odd thing that they have done is that in the begining of the article they said "The meaning of morality is something discovered, not stipulated" but then they launched into stipulated what morality is (see above) rather than to discover it.
Their stipulation defines morality as "objective or universal" so they have immediately ruled out, by their definition, the possibility of it being subjective. This trickery is unjustified and hence unduly taints the rest of their investigation.


I think you misunderstood the article. It wasn't defining what moral and immoral means, or defining morality per se, but moral prescriptions, and the features that distinguish them from non-moral prescriptions. The definition why primarily to not the difference between two types of statements, one's that even children can recognize at an intuitive level. It was Matt who mentioned that what's implied by moral statements are oughts, the writers of the article were merely flushing this out.

There's no real suggestion that the researchers here subscribe to moral universalism, in fact at the close of the article they go over various moral views, universalist and relativistic, and attempt to reconcile their observations in each of these moral frames.

I also think you ignored completely what the article was about, the moral intuitions of children. Which I quoted and highlighted here to suggest why your views regarding children's moral awareness are not faithful to the observed psychology.
Quote:Tomasia - What is something that you know that is immoral but doesn't tie back into "survival" or stability of the society that we participate within?

What do you mean by "tie back into"? A dog protecting his owner can be tied back into survival and stability of the society, by merely highlighting the positive consequences of the dog saving his owners life. But the dog himself is not thinking of his own survival or stability of society. A man being a father to his children, by being supportive, and loving them, providing for their needs, and wellbeing, can be positive for the survival and stability of society. But his actions are not brought along by any real consideration on his part of the survival or stability of a society, which likely only exists in a very abstract way for him.

Quote:I'm not sure if you formed your own opinion based on reading articles such as this or whether you formed your opinion independently and subsequently found articles that you agree with. I am hoping for the later because I have issues with this article (as you would expect from me).

I only read the article the other day. Since we spoke about children, I was wondering what the scientific literature had to say about children's moral intuitions, and that was the first article I opened. I was somewhat surprised by some of the observations myself, and how much of the views tended to reenforce my own observations.
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09-07-2015, 01:57 PM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(09-07-2015 07:05 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  I only read the article the other day. Since we spoke about children, I was wondering what the scientific literature had to say about children's moral intuitions, and that was the first article I opened. I was somewhat surprised by some of the observations myself, and how much of the views tended to reenforce my own observations.
Yes, you and them both think morals are objective and you and them both assume morality exists. You guys both conflate survival with morality and you both ignore the fact that children can think through the consequences of not having certain rules. i.e. not having a rule against hitting means that the bigger kids will go around hitting and bullying the younger or smaller kids.
You assume this is some mystical moral sense when really it is a human's ability to forsee consequences.
You also ignore the fact that children even 4-5 years old have had much social conditioning upon them. Mum and dad tell them not to do something because it is "bad" they then explain to them the consequences of their actions, well if someone hit you then how would you feel?
The kids learn to reason this way.
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09-07-2015, 02:19 PM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(08-07-2015 05:25 AM)Matt Finney Wrote:  ...
That certainly was not my intention. I'm arguing against the notion that there are moral truths. Many atheists (such as Sam Harris and Lawrence Krauss) believe that moral truths exist, and that they can be discovered using scientific method, and I think this is an absolutely ridiculous idea.

I don't know about Prof. Krauss's position (I have not read any of his opinions regarding morality) but this does not seem to me to be an accurate representation of Mr. Harris's position.

If you can supply chapter and verse (presumably from The Moral Landscape), I'd be grateful.

My understanding of his position is that once an axiology has been established (namely "human well-being"), then comparatives can be established just like 'health' i.e. more or less healthy.

The term "moral truths" carries so much weight (i.e. universals or absolutes) that I'd be surprised if either of them have used it. Please correct me if I am incorrect.

If you are saying that Harris is saying that brain-states can be measured objectively, then OK, that makes sense. But that does not seem to be the same as "moral truths".

(08-07-2015 05:40 AM)Matt Finney Wrote:  ... many atheists believe
... some nihilists might claim
... when atheists are asked to elaborate on what they mean, many ...

Who? Citations, please.

(08-07-2015 05:40 AM)Matt Finney Wrote:  ...
Sam Harris for example, claims that the amount of skin that a woman should cover with clothing, could be objectively known. IMO he should be laughed out of the room for even hinting at that.

Citation, please.

I saw a TED-talk he presented that touched on this subject. I heard no such claim.

Huh

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09-07-2015, 02:24 PM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(09-07-2015 01:57 PM)Stevil Wrote:  Yes, you and them both think morals are objective and you and them both assume morality exists.

Again you've read the article wrong. While i may believe that morality is objective, there's nothing to suggest that the researchers behind the article I cited did. You're likely going to have to go back and read it again. Defining what is being implied by moral prescriptions, moral statements is no different than Matt Finney recognizing that moral statements imply oughts, though he doesn't believe in oughts.

The researchers may just as well be moral nihilists, making the same exact observations, noting the same distinctions between moral and non-moral prescriptions. The article doesn't refute moral nihilism, moral relativism, or even endorse objective morality. The fact that you see it in conflict with moral nihilist view, and your views, is more suggestive of the weakness of your argument than anything else.

Quote: You guys both conflate survival with morality and you both ignore the fact that children can think through the consequences of not having certain rules. i.e. not having a rule against hitting means that the bigger kids will go around hitting and bullying the younger or smaller kids.


My survival in a school, is not dependent on the survival of other children in another school. If children are claiming it's wrong for kids to go around hitting others kids in a school removed from their own, it's not because they are thinking of how it would affect their survival.
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09-07-2015, 02:37 PM (This post was last modified: 09-07-2015 02:42 PM by Tomasia.)
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(09-07-2015 02:19 PM)DLJ Wrote:  If you can supply chapter and verse (presumably from The Moral Landscape), I'd be grateful.

I thought I'd help him out with this one:

"But we don’t have to wait for science to do this. We already have very good reasons to believe that mistreating children is bad for everyone. I think it is important for us to admit that this is not a claim about our personal preferences, or merely something our culture has conditioned us to believe. It is a claim about the architecture of our minds and the social architecture of our world. Moral truths of this kind must find their place in any scientific understanding of human experience."

http://www.amazon.com/The-Moral-Landscap...143917122X

"And yet many scientists will say that moral truths do not exist, simply because certain facts about human experience cannot be readily known, or may never be known. As I hope to show, this misunderstanding has created tremendous confusion about the relationship between human knowledge and human values.

Harris, Sam (2010-10-05). The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (Kindle Locations 551-553). Free Press. Kindle Edition. "

"Very few of us seem willing to admit that such simple, moral truths increasingly fall within the scope of our scientific worldview. Greene articulates the prevailing skepticism quite well:

Harris, Sam (2010-10-05). The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (Kindle Locations 1116-1118). Free Press. Kindle Edition. "

--that's just a lazy cut and paste from the book, there seems to be numerous references to moral truths being mentioned by Harris.
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09-07-2015, 03:44 PM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(09-07-2015 02:24 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  Again you've read the article wrong. While i may believe that morality is objective, there's nothing to suggest that the researchers behind the article I cited did. You're likely going to have to go back and read it again. Defining what is being implied by moral prescriptions, moral statements is no different than Matt Finney recognizing that moral statements imply oughts, though he doesn't believe in oughts.

The researchers may just as well be moral nihilists
No the researchers won't have been moral nihilists nor even moral relativists.
If they were they won't assume morality exists and won't assume any morals can be general and external.

Why conflate morality with survival?

A decent researcher would consider alternatives rather than reach for a conclusion. These guys start with a premise and never consider the alternatives. Their 6 conditions are rubbish as I have clearly shown.
Just because we see a clear need for a rule against hitting in school it doesn't mean that hitting is immoral. It doesn't mean that we have a moral obligation not to hit others, it doesn't mean that we have a moral obligation to selflessly put ourselves in harms way to stop others from hitting people.

They start with assumptions, they don't highlight these as assumptions, they don't challenge the assumptions, they don't offer alternatives.


(09-07-2015 02:24 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  
Quote: You guys both conflate survival with morality and you both ignore the fact that children can think through the consequences of not having certain rules. i.e. not having a rule against hitting means that the bigger kids will go around hitting and bullying the younger or smaller kids.


My survival in a school, is not dependent on the survival of other children in another school. If children are claiming it's wrong for kids to go around hitting others kids in a school removed from their own, it's not because they are thinking of how it would affect their survival.
Quite clearly a kid understands that they could have randomly gone to any school. Quite clearly they have thought through the implications of kids being allowed to hit each other. Quite clearly they understand what that would mean if kids were allowed to hit each other in their own school. It would mean that they would get beat up, hurt, possibly killed. It would mean the big kids (very few) get all the good playground stuff and little kids miss out.
There is nothing morally mystical about it. We don't need an evolved moral sense or a magical heart imprint to work this stuff out. These researches write as if kids can't work things out but instead need this inbuilt moral sense.
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09-07-2015, 04:04 PM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(09-07-2015 02:37 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  
(09-07-2015 02:19 PM)DLJ Wrote:  If you can supply chapter and verse (presumably from The Moral Landscape), I'd be grateful.

I thought I'd help him out with this one:

"But we don’t have to wait for science to do this. We already have very good reasons to believe that mistreating children is bad for everyone. I think it is important for us to admit that this is not a claim about our personal preferences, or merely something our culture has conditioned us to believe. It is a claim about the architecture of our minds and the social architecture of our world. Moral truths of this kind must find their place in any scientific understanding of human experience."

http://www.amazon.com/The-Moral-Landscap...143917122X

"And yet many scientists will say that moral truths do not exist, simply because certain facts about human experience cannot be readily known, or may never be known. As I hope to show, this misunderstanding has created tremendous confusion about the relationship between human knowledge and human values.

Harris, Sam (2010-10-05). The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (Kindle Locations 551-553). Free Press. Kindle Edition. "

"Very few of us seem willing to admit that such simple, moral truths increasingly fall within the scope of our scientific worldview. Greene articulates the prevailing skepticism quite well:

Harris, Sam (2010-10-05). The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (Kindle Locations 1116-1118). Free Press. Kindle Edition. "

--that's just a lazy cut and paste from the book, there seems to be numerous references to moral truths being mentioned by Harris.

Much obliged, sir.

I'd be interested in his definition of 'truths' in this context. If it's close enough to 'objective metrics' I'd be in agreement ... it reads that way.

Think I'm gonna hafta find me a book shop.

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09-07-2015, 07:22 PM
Another attack on moral subjectivism
(09-07-2015 03:44 PM)Stevil Wrote:  
(09-07-2015 02:24 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  Again you've read the article wrong. While i may believe that morality is objective, there's nothing to suggest that the researchers behind the article I cited did. You're likely going to have to go back and read it again. Defining what is being implied by moral prescriptions, moral statements is no different than Matt Finney recognizing that moral statements imply oughts, though he doesn't believe in oughts.

The researchers may just as well be moral nihilists
No the researchers won't have been moral nihilists nor even moral relativists.
If they were they won't assume morality exists and won't assume any morals can be general and external.

Why conflate morality with survival?

A decent researcher would consider alternatives rather than reach for a conclusion. These guys start with a premise and never consider the alternatives. Their 6 conditions are rubbish as I have clearly shown.
Just because we see a clear need for a rule against hitting in school it doesn't mean that hitting is immoral. It doesn't mean that we have a moral obligation not to hit others, it doesn't mean that we have a moral obligation to selflessly put ourselves in harms way to stop others from hitting people.

They start with assumptions, they don't highlight these as assumptions, they don't challenge the assumptions, they don't offer alternatives.


(09-07-2015 02:24 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  My survival in a school, is not dependent on the survival of other children in another school. If children are claiming it's wrong for kids to go around hitting others kids in a school removed from their own, it's not because they are thinking of how it would affect their survival.
Quite clearly a kid understands that they could have randomly gone to any school. Quite clearly they have thought through the implications of kids being allowed to hit each other. Quite clearly they understand what that would mean if kids were allowed to hit each other in their own school. It would mean that they would get beat up, hurt, possibly killed. It would mean the big kids (very few) get all the good playground stuff and little kids miss out.
There is nothing morally mystical about it. We don't need an evolved moral sense or a magical heart imprint to work this stuff out. These researches write as if kids can't work things out but instead need this inbuilt moral sense.

I'm not sure how many times I'm going have to make the same point about your misunderstanding of the article.

Please explain to me how a moral nihilist can't distinguish differences between moral and non- moral statements. Clearly Matt who considers himself a nihilist was able to do that by recognizing certain aspects of such statements such as they imply oughts.

"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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