Another attack on moral subjectivism
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09-07-2015, 08:19 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.

Oh man I never finished that book. I used to have it around in my car and would read it at random whims, but that was back probably before 2013 I guess....

If it's merely from the "architecture of our minds/social architecture" it's entirely something still evolutionarily wrought. Which still makes it apply to everyone(save ya know sociopaths/severe autistics) It's not something that's a moral truth on an "absolute" sense still.

Now is it true in an objective sense? Only if you already place a value system down. Life is biased to thinking life is good, so it's working under that framework that beaten children are more detrimental to human life. The issue isn't just that we can't know the factors that someone like Kant thought from a great enough perspective, a human can know... it's a flawed problem because it's biased. It's definitively clearly biased because you really can break it down by asking, Why is life a good thing? Why is it? We proclaim it is but we are life programmed for survival that is biased to think it.

Beating a child can only be objective bad if protecting and flourishing life is objectively good. How is that definitively the case? Especially in this universe, where you Tomasia yourself don't think life has a good chance of existing elsewhere. It's a clear bias on our part to believe it is. Even in an objective metrics manner of looking at it, you have to of established a value base in order to judge it.

I don't have very much more to this thread because I don't think it will end.. I just think it will go like this:


"Allow there to be a spectrum in all that you see" - Neil Degrasse Tyson
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09-07-2015, 09:01 PM (This post was last modified: 09-07-2015 09:16 PM by Stevil.)
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(09-07-2015 07:22 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  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.
A competent moral nihilist would be more detailed and would distinguish between actions that are likely to be seen as dangerous rather than moral. Murder, rape, theft, physical abuse, etc
Kids hitting each other fits into the physical abuse basket. What kids want bigger kids to be allowed to hit them? They would highlight that wanting a rule against hitting is important for the safety of the kids and the stability of the school. They would highlight that a desire for rules against hitting isn't driven by a DNA based or god based moral sense but instead is deduced by the recognition that such actions can be a significant threat to the individual (selfish interest).

Kids saying that this rule is "general" and ought to be applied even to schools that they don't belong is merely a recognition that the rule isn't arbitrary, that without the rule the big kids are going to rule the roost, that kids are going to get hurt. For the smarter kids they might realise that gangs are going to form and that gang "warfare" will occur. They can see the real, tangible impact (the safety issue) and thus the need (rather than arbitrary) for the enforced rule. It is no different to insisting that we need a rule as to which side of the road cars are to travel on. Without the rule then the roads will be dangerous because people will crash into each other. We would insist that this rule is in place for the roads that we travel on, but extrapolating out we would claim that all roads (even the roads we don't personally use) ought to have this rule. Does this mean that it is immoral to not have a rule regarding which side of the road to travel on? Of course not!

This line of questioning isn't discovering anything about morality. It's just trying to assess what rules are necessary and what rules are arbitrary.
When we have rules and when we follow rules this isn't classified as being moral, it is instead classified as being law abiding.
What we need to focus on isn't these necessary laws but instead what we need to focus on is the unnecessary ones. The ones that people get to "freely" choose to follow or not. Then try to work out why we might consider going one way as moral and going the other way as immoral.

For example "Lying"
Most schools and countries can be safe and stable allowing people to lie (within reason, excl fraud etc).
Ask the kids, should we have a rule enforced in school regarding lying. I think some will say no. Ask those kids that say "no" is it bad to lie? Some will say "yes". Ask them why is it bad to lie?
The answers will be interesting.
Do they say, "I just have a feeling (moral sense) that lying is bad" - in that case, Wow, perhaps we are onto something morally significant here. Obviously more investigation would be required.
Or do they say, "If I lie then people won't trust me, if people don't trust me then they won't be my friends, if I want to have friends then I need to earn their trust, I do this by being honest with them, it will be beneficial to me if I am (for the most part) honest." - in that case we have selfish motives and this is discounted as morality.
Another question might be "If someone lies to you do you think they should be punished?". Some kids might say yes. For those kids they should be asked "Why should this person be punished?"
If they answer "because people should be punished for acting immorally" then that might be something morally significant although another follow up question might be "Is it your place to judge moral transgressions and dish out the punishment?"
or If the answer "because if the lying meant that I lost something e.g. money, then this person should reimburse me for my loss and should be punished as a deterrent from doing it again. This response would disqualify this as a morally significant event as they are talking in terms of selfish position and future safety rather than moral transgression or moral obligations.

Tomasia - Do you see where I am getting at with this?
There are no checks and balances, no alternatives offered by the referenced research. It makes unwarranted assumptions and does not look to challenge those assumptions.
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10-07-2015, 04:48 AM
Another attack on moral subjectivism
(09-07-2015 09:01 PM)Stevil Wrote:  
(09-07-2015 07:22 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  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.
A competent moral nihilist would be more detailed and would distinguish between actions that are likely to be seen as dangerous rather than moral.

Uhm, no one was making a distinction between moral and non-moral actions, but between moral and nonmoral statements. Do you not understand the difference between statements, and actions?

I'm not sure why this very simple point is something hard for you to understand?

Quote:When we have rules and when we follow rules this isn't classified as being moral, it is instead classified as being law abiding.

We have various kinds of rules, rules of laws, rules of thumb, house rules, rules of attraction, rules of grammar, etc. A person can distinguish the difference in the meaning of rules in each of these context, without agreeing with them, or even believing they're actual rules. You do understand that right? Your mistake is your inability to recognize this in regards to the article.

It's tedious having to keep trying to repeat this. But without you recognizing this your going to make mistakes all the way down.

I'm also on my iPhone, but will try to respond in full later.

"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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10-07-2015, 05:14 AM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(09-07-2015 09:01 PM)Stevil Wrote:  Tomasia - Do you see where I am getting at with this?
There are no checks and balances, no alternatives offered by the referenced research. It makes unwarranted assumptions and does not look to challenge those assumptions.

To return to the article, highlighting an example, which was typical:

"David (five years old): (This is a story about (hypothetical) Park School. In Park School the children are allowed to hit and push others if they want. It's okay to hit and push others. Do you think it's alright for Park Scholl to say children can hit and push others if they want to?) "No it's not okay (Why not?). because this is like making other people unhappy. You can hurt them that way. It hurts other people, hurting is not good."

Notice the welfare David is reflecting on here is the other children's. Their unhappiness , their hurt is the consideration for him. He's not in any sense seeing it as some contagion that needs to be prohibited because it might spread to his school, or contemplating the off chance that his school might adopt a similar policy and he'd get hurt too.

You want to deny something very obvious here is taking place. Though you'd likely recognize something similar taking place in regards to those you love, or have empathy for, like your children. You don't want your children being physically hurt by others, not because you worried those doing the hurting might branch out, and physical hurt you as well. But out of concern for your child's welfare, for the child. Which for you, is likely to be more important than your own welfare. Empathy is operative aspect here.

I'm not sure why you want to deny this in the case of David, when everybody else can recognize this quite easily.
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10-07-2015, 12:47 PM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
Tomasia,

The problem is "people ought to be empathetic," is a false claim. Some people are very empathetic, others not so much.....or maybe I'm totally missing your point.
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10-07-2015, 03:08 PM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(10-07-2015 05:14 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  
(09-07-2015 09:01 PM)Stevil Wrote:  Tomasia - Do you see where I am getting at with this?
There are no checks and balances, no alternatives offered by the referenced research. It makes unwarranted assumptions and does not look to challenge those assumptions.

To return to the article, highlighting an example, which was typical:

"David (five years old): (This is a story about (hypothetical) Park School. In Park School the children are allowed to hit and push others if they want. It's okay to hit and push others. Do you think it's alright for Park Scholl to say children can hit and push others if they want to?) "No it's not okay (Why not?). because this is like making other people unhappy. You can hurt them that way. It hurts other people, hurting is not good."

Notice the welfare David is reflecting on here is the other children's. Their unhappiness , their hurt is the consideration for him. He's not in any sense seeing it as some contagion that needs to be prohibited because it might spread to his school, or contemplating the off chance that his school might adopt a similar policy and he'd get hurt too.

You want to deny something very obvious here is taking place.
I'm taking a far less simplistic view of things than you are.
Instead of seeing something that conforms to my already held beliefs, I am asking further questions.
Where has this kid potentially been conditioned to think hurting others is bad?

It seems that you are happy to think the boy is so young he is a blank slate with no predispositions and hence whatever he says comes from some innate sense. This is called confirmation bias. You believe something, when some "evidence" appears consistent with your believes, you choose to believe that this supports your belief. What you are not doing is considering what alternative explanations there could be. This is endemic with believes. A belief by definition is closing your mind to the alternatives.

A much more realistic view is that the kid has had his parents drumming into him for years that it is not OK to hit others. Also probably supported by children's tv and probably supported by school teachers and also probably supported by situations where the kid has had others hit him or where he has hit kids and they have hit him back.

Rather than take the wimpy stance of "I don't hit others because I am afraid they will hit me back" he takes the stance "It is not OK to hit other kids" and doesn't entertain the idea anymore. It isn't magical to think that he wouldn't then generalise this position and say that it isn't OK for anyone to hit anyone.

Things would likely be much different if the boy was in a position of power and was brought up so that he expected special treatment. For example Kim Jong-un. For whom you would probably explain his behaviour as a result of his having bad virtues and where I would explain his behaviour as being a result of his upbringing and his privileged (almost untouchable) position.
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10-07-2015, 03:27 PM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(10-07-2015 04:48 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  Uhm, no one was making a distinction between moral and non-moral actions, but between moral and nonmoral statements. Do you not understand the difference between statements, and actions?

I'm not sure why this very simple point is something hard for you to understand?
Morality is a belief that a moral actor makes a choice between actions which are right and actions which are wrong.

This is what morality is.
Without choice there is no moral implications
Without knowledge of right and wrong there is no moral implications.


In the article they claimed to try to discover what morality is rather than to define it, but then they immediately went on to define it.
"The formal criteria or principles that define morality are relatively few in number. ...
A morality is ....

According to the definition..."


They then defined moral prescriptions
"Prescriptions will be classified as moral if"...

But their prescriptions are faulty because they don't distinguish moral prescriptions from non moral prescriptions. Their prescriptions are merely describing if a rule is arbitrary or not. They do not link these rules to selflessness or altruism.
This makes their prescription not moral prescriptions (as they have asserted) but instead prescriptions to filter out arbitrary rules.
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10-07-2015, 05:35 PM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(16-06-2015 04:57 PM)tear151 Wrote:  I made a vague thread a year ago on here on moral nihilism, it was interesting, so I'm making a similar thread again with a bit more focus, I like talking about this topic a lot.

"Stealing is wrong"

"Rape is bad"

but these statements are inherently objective claims, you cant say rape is bad in a subjective way anymore than you can claim the statement God exists is subjective to you. God cannot exist only for you, God's existence cannot become subjective fpr in the same sense the statement "Stealing is wrong" is applying an objective moral value to stealing. Stealing cannot have the property of badness just for you and you alone, it would have to be universal. Indeed in moral subjectivism

"I don't like stealing"

"I don't like Rape"

This is all you can say, I subjectively disapprove of stealing and rape, and why do you disapprove of these things? Well that's up to you, but remember, "because it's wrong" is an objective claim, so I put it to you, why don't you approve of so called immoral actions if there is nothing intrinsically wrong about them, and further more, if morality is subjective, why must others listen to you outside of threats of violence (or the law). before you respond please do carefully consider if the statement you've made implies an objective moral standard. I.E we should help others so I don't like stealing is implying that helping others is an objective imperative.

Because both stealing and rape would undermine the maintenance of order in the tribe.

Objective enough for you?

Archi

"I love the term magic realism. It's about expanding how you see the world. I think we live in an age where we're just hammered to think this is what the world is. Everything's saying 'That's the world.' And it's not the world. The world is a million possible things." - TG

Salman Rushdie talks to Terry Gilliam
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10-07-2015, 07:05 PM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(09-07-2015 02:19 PM)DLJ Wrote:  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".

In this video, Sam Harris is arguing that humans ought to be concerned with the wellbeing of all humans, i.e. humanism. Humanism is false for the same reason that all other moralities are false. All of Sam's argument presupposes that humans ought to be concerned with the wellbeing of all humans. While I like the idea of humans being concerned with the wellbeing of all humans, I know this is not practical, and I can honestly say that I place more value on the wellbeing of my dog than I do complete strangers. If a person doesn't place the wellbeing of other humans at the top of their list, then do all of Sam's points become moot?





In this video, Sam and Lawrence argue for scientifically discoverable moral truths. I take the position of Simon Blackburn.



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10-07-2015, 07:39 PM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(10-07-2015 07:05 PM)Matt Finney Wrote:  ... arguing that humans ought to be concerned with the wellbeing of all humans, i.e. humanism. Humanism is false for the same reason that all other moralities are false. All of Sam's argument presupposes that humans ought to be concerned with the wellbeing of all humans.
...

If you are saying 'intrinsically' false, then, yes, I agree.

If you are going as far as claiming that it's 'contextually' false, then, I disagree.

I took Matt Dillahunty to task on this one last time I was in Melbourne. He, Sam (and more recently, Michael Shermer too) are using the term 'objective' with respect to morality. And I get why ... it's to counter the theistic line of questioning of "where do your morals come from?".

If one has a political agenda of 'normalising' atheism, then it pays to say "yes, we have objective morals too".

We agreed that it was a semantically dodgy thing to do. But I still think they should always qualify these statements by providing the 'well-being' context.

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