Another attack on moral subjectivism
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21-07-2015, 07:23 AM (This post was last modified: 21-07-2015 02:52 PM by Tomasia.)
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(16-07-2015 05:29 PM)Stevil Wrote:  It's one of those never ending debates.
Where the topic or terms are loosley defined and there is no way to validate. Differing "intuitive" assumptions are made, semantic differences ensue and everyone talks past each other.

The position of moral nihilst is unique to the other positions because instead of saying we can know that "X is immoral" because "Morality is based on Y" as all the other moral positions say.
Nihilism instead asks
"What do you mean when you say X is immoral?"
"What is morality?"
"How can we verify this?"
"When you say that morality is based on Y, what do you mean by Y?, how can we verify that Y exists?"

I think you're conflating moral skepticism with moral nihilism.

In contrast to your moral nihilism, let's highlight the moral Nihilism of the atheist philosopher, Alex Rosenberg:

Quote:"“What is the difference between right and wrong, good and bad? There is no moral difference between them.
Why should I be moral? Because it makes you feel better than being immoral.
Is abortion, euthanasia, suicide, paying taxes, foreign aid, or anything else you don’t like forbidden, permissible, or sometimes obligatory? Anything goes.”

You'd likely agree with all this of course. But let's highlight Rosenberg defining some features of moral nihilism:

Quote:“Nihilism tells us not that we can’t know which moral judgments are right, but that they are all wrong. More exactly, it claims, they are all based on false, groundless presuppositions. Nihilism says that the whole idea of “morally permissible” is untenable nonsense. As such, it can hardly be accused of holding that “everything is morally permissible.” That, too, is untenable nonsense.

Moreover, nihilism denies that there is really any such thing as intrinsic moral value. People think that there are things that are instrinsically valuable, not just as a means to something else: human life or the ecology of the planet or the master race or elevated states of consciousness, for example. But nothing can have that sort of intrinsic value—the very kind of value morality requires.”
Yet Rosenberg goes on to concede a variety of points, that folks like you and Matt have a hard time swallowing, such as existence of a "core morality":

Quote:“Thus, there is long-standing evidence for the existence of core morality in the overlap of ethical agreement by the major religions and in the lip service paid by international agreements. But wait, there’s more. Neuroscience, in particular the techniques of fMRI (functioning magnetic resonance imaging of brain activity), increasingly shows that people’s brains react the same way to ethical problems across cultures. This is just what the existence of core morality leads us to expect. If you are really worried about whether there is a core morality, you can jump to the next chapter, in which its existence is established beyond scientistic (if not scientific) doubt, and then come back.”

"“At the base of the diverse moral codes out there in the world, there are fundamental principles endorsed in all cultures at all times. The difficulty lies in actually identifying the norms that compose this core morality. [....]

“The next step in understanding moral disagreement involves recognizing that such disagreements almost always result from the combination of core morality with different factual beliefs. When you combine the uncontroversial norms of the moral core with some of the wild and crazy beliefs people have about nature, human nature, and especially the supernatural, you get the ethical disagreements that are so familiar to cultural anthropology. For example, Europeans may deem female genital cutting and/or infibulation to be mutilation and a violation of the core moral principle that forbids torturing infants for no reason at all. West and East African Muslims and Animists will reject the condemnation, even while embracing the same core morality. They hold that doing these things is essential to young girls’ welfare. In their local environments, some genital cutting makes them attractive to potential future husbands; some sewing up protects them from rape. The disagreement here turns on a disagreement about factual beliefs, not core morality.”

Excerpt From: Rosenberg, Alex. “The Atheist's Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions.” iBooks.

As opposed to yours Matts, and Tears moral nihilism, someone like Rosenberg is a bit more informed on the subject and doesn't depend of the sort of denial or extreme skepticism of various facts, that makes your views less than credible.
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21-07-2015, 07:35 AM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
Here's some more observations of innate moral sense, to counter your belief in the dependency on social conditioning:

"In one experiment, Bloom and his fellow researchers presented 6-and-10-month-olds with a little morality play. The babies watched as a puppet would try to push a ball up a hill. Then, the babies saw one of two things happen. Either another puppet would come along and help the first puppet push the ball up the hill, or another puppet would show up and hinder the first puppet by pushing the ball down the hill.

After the babies watched these scenarios, the researchers presented each puppet to the babies. They wanted to see which puppet the babies would reach for. It turns out that nearly all of the babies, no matter how old they were, reached for the nice helping puppet. But are babies attracted to goodness or are they simply repelled by meanness? To find out, the researchers introduced a third character into the mix—a neutral one who neither helped nor hindered the main puppet. Then, they let the babies choose which puppet they wanted. The babies preferred the neutral character to the mean character, and the good character to the neutral character.

That babies can make moral judgments about scenarios they have never before seen with strangers they’ve never before encountered doing things that they’ve never before seen was surprising. As Bloom said, “They can say this is the good guy and this is the bad guy and I want to help the good guy and I want to hurt the bad guy. This blows me away.”

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archiv...ty/281567/

"Not long ago, a team of researchers watched a 1-year-old boy take justice into his own hands. The boy had just seen a puppet show in which one puppet played with a ball while interacting with two other puppets. The center puppet would slide the ball to the puppet on the right, who would pass it back. And the center puppet would slide the ball to the puppet on the left . . . who would run away with it. Then the two puppets on the ends were brought down from the stage and set before the toddler. Each was placed next to a pile of treats. At this point, the toddler was asked to take a treat away from one puppet. Like most children in this situation, the boy took it from the pile of the “naughty” one. But this punishment wasn’t enough — he then leaned over and smacked the puppet in the head. [....]

A growing body of evidence, though, suggests that humans do have a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life. With the help of well-designed experiments, you can see glimmers of moral thought, moral judgment and moral feeling even in the first year of life. Some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bone. "

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/09/magazi....html?_r=0
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21-07-2015, 07:57 AM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(16-07-2015 03:49 PM)Stevil Wrote:  Slavery is a matter of survival rather than morality,

Not to the abolitionist, were it was a matter of morality not survival. There may have been many slave owners, and politicians who may have recognized the potential for violence a steadily growing slave populations posed, and who may have opposed slavery for this very reason only, because it posed a long term threat to their survival, and societies survival. But to conflate such motivations as one and the same as abolitionist, would be a categorical mistake on your part.

It may very well have been possible that making slavery illegal would have been a threat to survival, many folks in the south believed this, that their economies and such were quite dependent on it, but this would haven't changed the abolitionist opposition to it, even it were true. Since their motivations were not ones driven or dependent on this question at all. Not making these distinction, and conflating the two, allows you to commit a great deal of equivocating.
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21-07-2015, 01:54 PM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(21-07-2015 07:35 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  A growing body of evidence, though, suggests that humans do have a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life.
I'm sorry, but to understand why these babies reached for a toy, you'd have to ask them.
If they said because this one is moral and that one is immoral then you might be onto something.
But if they said, well this one seems freindly. And friendly people are more likley to be nice to me, then here you have selfish interest, not morality at all.

You cannot know if morality is in play by watching behaviour, morality is an explaination built on a belief rather than a behaviour.
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21-07-2015, 02:06 PM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(21-07-2015 01:54 PM)Stevil Wrote:  
(21-07-2015 07:35 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  A growing body of evidence, though, suggests that humans do have a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life.
I'm sorry, but to understand why these babies reached for a toy, you'd have to ask them.
If they said because this one is moral and that one is immoral then you might be onto something.
But if they said, well this one seems freindly. And friendly people are more likley to be nice to me, then here you have selfish interest, not morality at all.

You cannot know if morality is in play by watching behaviour, morality is an explaination built on a belief rather than a behaviour.

Ah! That is the root of the problem.

Morality is only meaningful as expressed through behavior. What someone's beliefs are is not at all important to society except as behavior - and morality only exists in the actions between and among people, i.e. society.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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21-07-2015, 02:46 PM (This post was last modified: 21-07-2015 02:50 PM by Tomasia.)
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(21-07-2015 01:54 PM)Stevil Wrote:  I'm sorry, but to understand why these babies reached for a toy, you'd have to ask them.
If they said because this one is moral and that one is immoral then you might be onto something.

That would require that they are not just intuitive moralist, but have acquired a language at one years of age to articulate it.

Quote:But if they said, well this one seems freindly. And friendly people are more likley to be nice to me, then here you have selfish interest, not morality at all.

This involves a great deal of rationalization, one that would require the ability to draw the connection between the interaction of the puppets, and imagined interaction with the child himself, or drawing some logical connection with this, which is perhaps beyond the scope of a one year old. If anything we are dealing with emotional responses. That react favorably, are attracted to goodness, and repealed by meanness. When they introduced a neutral character, the neutral character was preferred over the mean character as well.

This aspect is abundantly clear when we deal with cartoon villains and heroes as well, the attraction to one form of character over the other, which in fact is traceable to toddlers, so your belief that such distinctions require social conditioning is false.

None of these things negate moral nihilism, Rosenberg makes all the concessions here, but denying these aspects only makes your case for moral nihilism rather weak.
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21-07-2015, 03:25 PM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(21-07-2015 02:46 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  
(21-07-2015 01:54 PM)Stevil Wrote:  I'm sorry, but to understand why these babies reached for a toy, you'd have to ask them.
If they said because this one is moral and that one is immoral then you might be onto something.

That would require that they are not just intuitive moralist, but have acquired a language at one years of age to articulate it.
Yes, its an almighty difficulty in using babies in a "moral" experiment. Perhaps the experiment is fundamentally flawed.
(21-07-2015 02:46 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  
Quote:But if they said, well this one seems freindly. And friendly people are more likley to be nice to me, then here you have selfish interest, not morality at all.

This involves a great deal of rationalization,
Yeah, I'd say a baby human could rationalise this.

I recon, if you had another experiment where the puppet that interferred with the ball (preventing it going up to the top of the hill) then came back and gave out lollies and ice cream then the baby humans would reach for that puppet dispite it's "moral transgressions", all would be forgotten and the lure of gifts of lollies and ice cream would be seen as more important.
The experiment would then be lauded for how it easily proved that selfishness is what intuitively motivates us and that morality is not a thing of importance.

(21-07-2015 02:46 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  That react favorably, are attracted to goodness, and repealed by meanness.
What you really need is to base an experiment off something that can't tie back to selfish interest or anything else that is obvious.
For example, let's hypothesis that blaspheme of the Christian god is the opposite of goodness i.e. bad. And that blaspheme of the Hindu god Vishnu is neither good nor bad.

We could then have two puppets, both up on stage, one blaspeming the Christian god, the other blaspheming Vishnu. The both use the same tones, a non aggressive happy tone.
Everything the same except for the name of the god that they blaspheme.
If there was a significant difference i.e. all the human babies avoided the puppet that blasphemeid the Christian god but did not seek to avoid the puppet that blasphemed Vishnu then that would be somewhat remarkable and would require further explaination.
Of course if the kids treated both puppets the same then we could say that either there is nothing morally significant about blaspheming either of these gods or we could say that blasphemy of these gods are equally bad or equally good.

If you believe that blaspheme of the Christian god is bad then you would expect the result of the experiment to be that kids favour the puppet that blasphemed Vishnu, if I lack a belief in morality then I would expect that the kids would show no favouritism for either puppet.

Since our expectations as to the result of the experiment would differ then this experiment would be worth doing.
(21-07-2015 02:46 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  None of these things negate moral nihilism, Rosenberg makes all the concessions here, but denying these aspects only makes your case for moral nihilism rather weak.
I have no interest in what Rosenberg thinks. I don't subscribe to him being an authority on the matter.
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21-07-2015, 04:17 PM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(21-07-2015 02:06 PM)Chas Wrote:  
(21-07-2015 01:54 PM)Stevil Wrote:  You cannot know if morality is in play by watching behaviour, morality is an explaination built on a belief rather than a behaviour.

Ah! That is the root of the problem.

Morality is only meaningful as expressed through behavior. What someone's beliefs are is not at all important to society except as behavior - and morality only exists in the actions between and among people, i.e. society.
Yes, but here is where the conflation thing comes into play.
As you say "What someone's beliefs are is not at all important " so you (in making a judgement) are not trying to work out whether the actor has made a knowing and free choice between right and wrong. You don't see it as important whether the actor knowingly did something wrong. All you care about are the actions. e.g. eating a person.
If a person eats another person, you (and most people in society) would see that as dangerous and hence you would see that we need to prevent this behaviour. We do this by implementing and enforcing a law. Taking this out of the realm of morality (because our enforcing is coercion which means we remove free will).
Now if it was a lion that eats another person, we still seek to protect ourselves and society. We make it illegal for lions to roam freely in town. We make sure lions are put in cages etc.
So we are preventing eating of people because it is harmful to our survival (not because it is immoral).
For some reason most people label it is "immoral" when a human does it but "dangerous" when a lion does it.
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21-07-2015, 04:22 PM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(21-07-2015 03:25 PM)Stevil Wrote:  Since our expectations as to the result of the experiment would differ then this experiment would be worth doing.
Oh, and Tomasia, if you don't like the experiment being based on blaspheme, you could base it on working on the Sabbath as opposed to not working on the Sabbath.
I understand that there is disagreement regarding Christianity and Jew as to when the Sabbath is. But as I understand it many of you think it is immoral to work on the sabbath.
Bring the babies into a play on Tuesday, have a puppet working. bring them into a play on Friday, have a puppet working, bring them into a play on Saturday have a puppet working, bring them in on Sunday, have a puppet working.
Then observe their reaction to the puppets, are they going to try to avoid the puppet that was working on the real sabbath? Was their spidey moral senses tingling, letting them have knowledge that something wrong was happening?
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21-07-2015, 04:23 PM (This post was last modified: 21-07-2015 04:27 PM by Tomasia.)
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(21-07-2015 03:25 PM)Stevil Wrote:  What you really need is to base an experiment off something that can't tie back to selfish interest or anything else that is obvious.
For example, let's hypothesis that blaspheme of the Christian god is the opposite of goodness i.e. bad. And that blaspheme of the Hindu god Vishnu is neither good nor bad.

We could then have two puppets, both up on stage, one blaspeming the Christian god, the other blaspheming Vishnu. The both use the same tones, a non aggressive happy tone.

Sure, once you figure out how to communicate that to a one year old, lol.

Quote:Yeah, I'd say a baby human could rationalise this.

Yea, you say that, but it’s false, and would just be a desperate attempt to defend your core contentions.

Most of us can perhaps reflect on our own childhood, watching cartoons and such, and recognize our aversion to villains, and attractions to heroes. And note that we weren’t particularly drawing the sort of connections that you imagined a supposed one year old was drawing. That our aversion to the villain was not a product of introspection, or logically concluding how the villain could attack us as well. It was in essence more primordial than that, that actions of the villain seemed repellent, while the actions of the hero seemed attractive. This attraction requires no real rational consideration, anymore so than my attraction to woman do. And existed as early as any of us can likely remember.

In your view this attraction/repellence is a product of social conditioning, when the evidence shows the exact opposite, that it’s innate. That we’re wired to be attracted to fair, kind behavior, than cruel selfish behavior in others. No rationalization required. Why this is problematic for you to accept is puzzling to me. You seem to prefer the absurd conclusion that the one year old is drawing a quite lengthy rational connection, that I doubt even your fellow nihilist here would accept.

Perhaps you don’t like the idea of your emotions dictating your beliefs and behavior in such a way? Matt at least makes such a concession, that he’s sort of a COG in a wheel in this regard. I think perhaps your problem is an overinflated devotion to rational decision making.

Quote:I have no interest in what Rosenberg thinks. I don't subscribe to him being an authority on the matter.

You don't have to subscribe to what he believes, I used him as a contrast to the sort of paltry version of nihilism often peddled here. His versions is meaty, and more difficult to deny, where as yours is easily dismissible, and outdated in a variety of ways.

Rosenberg is a moral nihilist, and draws the same conclusion, that "scientism can’t avoid nihilism. ” His version is just better informed, takes into consideration the various objections and data, without denying basic facts. You can ignore all of this of course, but hardly anyone would take your views seriously on the subject when you do.
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