Another attack on moral subjectivism
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27-07-2015, 05:25 AM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(27-07-2015 04:06 AM)tear151 Wrote:  I found this on the internet and I think it's useful in this discussion

What is moral nihilism?

Moral nihilism is the meta-ethical view that nothing is moral or immoral; nothing is inherently right or wrong. It is the stance that there is nothing indicating that we ought to do any particular thing over another in any non-instrumental/non-conditional sense of the word ought.





What is moral nihilism not?

(1)Moral nihilism isn’t an ought claim. It is not the stance that we ought to act against or differently from what is claimed to be moral behavior.

(2)Moral nihilism isn’t contrary to (disinclined toward) wellbeing, happiness, social cohesion or anything else deemed to be moral (it is not a belief in behaving in line with what are deemed immoral behaviors.) It denies obligation, but not incentive, empathy or compassion.

(3)Moral nihilism isn’t a denial of descriptive moral truths. Moral nihilists recognize that moral beliefs exist and exert influence on human behavior just as other fictitious beliefs do.

(4)Moral nihilism isn’t a denial of instrumental value. Rather, moral nihilism takes instrumental claims to be nothing but scientific claims e.g. If you want to live, then you ought to drink water, amounts to no more than you will die if you don’t drink water. No moral nihilist denies such claims. There is no support --despite the oft attempted deference ad infinitum onto other instrumental claims-- that one ought to do what is claimed in the antecedent of the conditional statement (in this case that one ought to want to live.)

(5)Moral nihilism isn’t the stance that people aren’t inclined toward or against, biased toward or against or otherwise (un)attracted to certain behaviors. In fact, emotivism and expressivism, which are moral nihilist stances, reduce the meaning of moral statements to expressions of liking or disliking.





Common refutations to moral nihilism (and responses):

While it’s obviously true that there is no objective morality, we still each have our own subject morality.

This can mean one of 3 things:

a) People have their own moral beliefs.

If this is the case, then it is a descriptive statement and moral nihilists would agree, but this wouldn’t describe a subjective morality, just a subjective moral belief (of what is objectively right.) *See (3)

b) People are inclined or disinclined toward certain behaviors.

But this isn’t an example of morality, just preference. *See (5)

c) What is right is subjective.

This is just as epistemologically unfounded as the objective morality claim.



Morality doesn’t exist in a physical sense. You’re refuting a strawman.

Moral nihilism doesn’t refute a physical ought or assume that it must be such, it refutes the existence of any type of ought or obligation to act in any particular manner. There is no reason to believe that one ought to behave one way over another in any non-instrumental sense of the word ought.



Moral truths exist in the form of institutional facts. Murder is wrong is true the same way that a touchdown yields six points is true, or a king can only move one space in chess is true.

When someone says that murder is wrong they are not claiming that society X deems it so, or that society X is disinclined toward it. They are claiming that it is wrong. Being deemed wrong or against the rules or taste of a society is just descriptive, and therefore not contrary to moral nihilism. For it to be a moral claim one must declare that because it is deemed wrong or against the rules or taste of society X, one ought not do it. It is not implicit by the fact that a group of people have beliefs or conventions against the behavior that one ought not do it. It is not a prescriptive claim that a group of people have beliefs or conventions against the behavior, which moral claims necessarily are (prescriptive) by definition.

To compare back to the game analogy, there is no reason why one ought to play the game in the first place, or stay in the game by continuing to obey the rules of the game. If the ought is only as strong as the agreement to play by the rules of the game, then, following from the analogy, one only ought to act morally if they wish to obey the conventions of society (not really an ought if you ask me.) But there’s no reason why they ought to wish to do so (other than an instrumental value deference ad infinitum claim, *see (4).) So this argument is un-compelling if intended to imply an unconditional ought claim, and confused and irrelevant/inapplicable if not.



Moral realism is incoherent, therefore so is its denial.

Moral nihilists deny that anything is moral or immoral. Each camp of moral nihilism disagrees with aspects of moral realism (which entails more than one claim), but moral nihilism in toto doesn’t claim that moral realism in toto is false (cognitivist nihilists couldn’t.) Besides, to deny is to claim something is not true, which entails incoherent, false etc. Many camps of moral nihilism don’t claim that moral claims are false. Non-cognitivist moral nihilists, as an example, say that ethical sentences cannot be true or false because they are not even truth-apt. If we are to take ethical sentences at face value, however, I would say that moral claims are false. Take this (non-moral) statement as an example:

My candy loves me.

The previous statement is confused, but not incoherent. It applies an emotion to something which is incapable of having any. Seeing as we have a clear conception of candy and love, though, we can safely deny (and declare false) the claim that my candy loves me. That is a perfectly coherent/intelligible stance, as anyone with the capacity to observe can safely say that the emotion of love does not apply to the object candy. Being absurd or having all evidence to the contrary is different from being incoherent. The more something is absurd or has evidence to the contrary, the stronger its denial, not the other way around. A statement’s credibility does not determine its meaningfulness.

Calling a moral claim false is no different when taking it at face value. We have a clear understanding of what it means for something to be an obligation, as expressed in instrumental claims (e.g. if you want to live, then you ought to drink water.) We can then see if it applies to the actions referred to in any moral claim. All evidence is that this is not the case, so it is safe to say that it is false that there is such a thing as a moral or immoral behavior. So claims like one ought to study music and one ought not study music are both false, as all evidence shows that obligation applies to neither studying music nor not studying music.

It is once one responds to this by saying that they are using ought in a way that in no way resembles its traditional use that I go from viewing their claims as false to viewing them as incoherent, if cognitive. And I’m no less a moral nihilist for doing so.





So nothing is moral or immoral, how does this inform behavioral decisions and does it in any way help us effectively reach our desired goals of happiness and wellbeing? Why is moral nihilism relevant?

Human beings have the capacity to live in harmony with each other -to have mutually beneficial relationships. So why is it sometimes not the case that we live in the most enjoyable, adaptive manner?

Firstly, why is it sometimes the case that we have the sensation of obligation/duty (compulsion toward or against certain behaviors) in cases where there is clearly no obligation? Originally, our animal ancestors developed via natural selection these sensations because negative sensations in reaction to life threatening situations more often guided one toward life preserving decisions (from the fear of heights to the loneliness of isolation) and positive sensations in reaction to life preserving decisions more often motivated one toward life preserving decisions (from the pleasure of sex to the perception of cuteness in and high value of children.) Moral claims appeal to these sensations of obligation by making one fear doing contrary to their claim. This fear is of either social unacceptance or the punishment implied in the moral claim, such as religious punishment, or simply the implicit memory of parental punishment when acting against their desires. Likewise, sometimes one is motivated toward behaviors by being convinced of its reward (piety, heaven, etc.) And which behaviors the claims claim to apply to are unsurprisingly often in line with evolutionarily advantageous behaviors or evolutionarily advantageous impulses. Unfortunately, natural selection only requires that one live, not that one necessarily live happily, and the very emotions that kept our ancestors alive and eventually led to our lives today, also happen to be a great hindrance to our wellbeing at times.

While most people today won’t argue the merits of evolutionary psychology, most will perceive their morality as more civilized than the aggressive conditioning animals use on each other. After all, human moral theories are sophisticated and thoughtful. But however complex or thoughtful one’s method of deriving which actions or thoughts morality applies to, they are claiming one ought to behave that way, which is to say that they are appealing to the emotional center of the brain that relates to the sensation of obligation. It’s this appeal that I’ll be examining here in order make my case against the efficacy of moral doctrine toward even its own intended goal.

I don’t think I need to refer anyone to psychological research done on the desire for liberty, as everyone knows what it is like to not want to have to live according to another’s will (for the sake of it being their will.) Even if it is done with the best of intentions, clearly people don’t react positively to the notion of conforming to another’s will and so any obligation-based attempt to modify people’s behavior often fails, or worse, motivates the person to act in accordance with what is being forbidden just for the sake of declaring one’s independence (i.e. rebellion.)

On top of that, everything relating to intrinsic superiority and inferiority, including every cognitive bias (the desire to be right), desire for acceptance, or ego driven decision (note that these account for the vast majority of maladaptive behaviors) is necessarily morally informed. Why do I say this? I say this because these claims necessarily go above and beyond efficacy claims, as efficacy claims don’t tell us that because John is more intelligent than Nancy he is a superior person, they only tell us that he can more effectively solve problems. To declare anything more would require the belief that certain qualities are intrinsically (morally) superior.

And while moral claims often have good intentions, such as to work against other morally informed claims like those I mentioned above, solving the problem in moral terms only treats the symptom of the overarching problem which is the moral presupposition which such remedies share. Why validate morality in the process of condemning morally informed behaviors when you could work against the behaviors in non-moral ways and be less likely to have such morally informed claims to arise and be given credence in the future?

Wisdom and insight sell themselves. They don’t need to be enforced upon others; this is counter productive, as I’ve shown above. The best way of inspiring positive behavior is by giving reason for optimism (loving, expressing beauty e.g. art.) That is teaching. Showing the benefits of acting or perceiving a certain way, rather than enforcing it. Declaring things moral or immoral doesn’t solve problems, it just points fingers.

I enjoyed this as well.

I actually posted it back on #518. (page 52)
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27-07-2015, 07:01 AM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(23-07-2015 03:35 PM)Stevil Wrote:  Well then what is it that these senses are sensing?
If they are sensing something other than morals then wouldn't it be inappropriate to call them moral senses?

Earlier you implied that it’s obvious to children who the hero and the villain are in their cartoons. That Cinderella is the good one, and her step mother is the evil one. You believe this occurs only after social conditioning has shaped us to be drawn to one over the other, when in fact the the evidence seem to suggest that we’re predisposed to an affinity for one over the other.

So in this regards a moral sense, would be that thing that predisposes us to acts of kindness over cruelty, fairness over unfairness, the attractiveness of one, and the repulsion over the other.

Quote:Perhaps again this is an unfortunate and misleading label for something that has nothing to do with morals.

You’re not a very good arbiter at what does and does not have to do with morals. You claim that if it has any lingering attachment to survival, or harm that it cannot be moral, is hogwash.

Quote:I have pointed out that the experiment/report you referenced was faulty because it didn't distinguish harmfull things from moral indescressions….

Anything I believe is immoral can be tied to harm one way or the other, you’re belief that this somehow negates it from being a moral prescription is what’s dishonest. And I’ve gone over this with you several times already, such as in regards to slavery, and two different positions on it.

Quote:Well, I would still like to know why this innate intutive moral perception (this moral sense) doesn't trigger at a gay wedding or when someone is working on the sabbath.

If our innate moral perceptions are basic, like an attraction to kindness, and fairness, a repulsion to cruelty, and unfairness, what would gay wedding and sabbath have to do with it? There nothing immediately wrong about any of these things, and even beyond this, it would require children to have an innate sense of what concepts like a “wedding”, “days”, “gay”, “sabbath” etc.. are, which they don’t.

Quote:Evolution has not given it to us and neither has any god.

Of course “evolution” has, if we had to rely exclusively on rational self-interest we’d have a great deal of inefficiency in cooperative goals. Evolution has a bequeathed us with attraction for a variety of different things, made it so that certain things are more appealing to us than not. A mother’s emotional bond with her offspring, a desire to insure that they are taken care of , and protected, has all been selected for, negating a dependency on rational-self interest to guide the course.

Quote:I saw no point in your slavery example.
Slavery is another dangerous and harming thing. Let's focus on things that you believe to be immoral that don't relate to harm.

And by your willfully ignoring these examples, you repeat the same mistakes over and over again. If you took the time to address those points, it would make communication with you a lot easier, and far more straight forward. Just because you can’t see what connections i’m trying to paint, doesn’t mean there isn’t one to be made.

Quote:Exactly, so there is no point to the experiment with the infants where the puppet interfers with a ball because we can't know if the infant see the danger of a puppet that steals toys or sees the immorality of it. So we need to adjust the experiment and use something that offers no danger to anyone, blaspheme for example. It claims that the results prove an intutive moral sense but ignores that the kids think a rule is necessary to avoid the dangers when other kids are allowed to hit each other or when a puppet is predisposed to stealing toys.

lol, do you not see the silliness of your claim here? You think that we can detect if a child is fearful, scared, distressed, not based on the child reactions, by changing the examples. Even if we provided examples of blasphemy, gay marriage, etc.. and the child acted neutral towards each of these scenarios, this wouldn’t lead us to believe that it was fear acting in the other examples.

Any parent can tell you, it’s fairly easy to notice when your children feels scare. Put a t-rex toy in front of my one year old nephew, and he starts to cry, panics, etc…You seem to believe weirdly that we wouldn’t be able to recognize whether they child is fearful of a puppet just by his reactions to it.
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27-07-2015, 07:05 AM (This post was last modified: 27-07-2015 09:02 AM by Tomasia.)
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(24-07-2015 07:25 PM)Stevil Wrote:  If you admit that you want to force your dislikes onto others. i.e. let's say you dislike caged chickens so you make it against the law for farmers to have caged chickens. You are forcing this onto people, making some farmers go out of business, making the price of chicken go up so now poor people can't afford to eat chickens or eggs.

And? So what if he's forcing this onto other people, we do such things all the time. There probably a great deal of money to made from dog fighting, from cock fights, yet we threaten legal ramifications, prison time, fines etc... for any of these things, just because we find this displeasing.
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27-07-2015, 07:48 AM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(27-07-2015 04:06 AM)tear151 Wrote:  I found this on the internet and I think it's useful in this discussion

What is moral nihilism?

Moral nihilism is the meta-ethical view that nothing is moral or immoral; nothing is inherently right or wrong. It is the stance that there is nothing indicating that we ought to do any particular thing over another in any non-instrumental/non-conditional sense of the word ought.





What is moral nihilism not?

(1)Moral nihilism isn’t an ought claim. It is not the stance that we ought to act against or differently from what is claimed to be moral behavior.

(2)Moral nihilism isn’t contrary to (disinclined toward) wellbeing, happiness, social cohesion or anything else deemed to be moral (it is not a belief in behaving in line with what are deemed immoral behaviors.) It denies obligation, but not incentive, empathy or compassion.

(3)Moral nihilism isn’t a denial of descriptive moral truths. Moral nihilists recognize that moral beliefs exist and exert influence on human behavior just as other fictitious beliefs do.

(4)Moral nihilism isn’t a denial of instrumental value. Rather, moral nihilism takes instrumental claims to be nothing but scientific claims e.g. If you want to live, then you ought to drink water, amounts to no more than you will die if you don’t drink water. No moral nihilist denies such claims. There is no support --despite the oft attempted deference ad infinitum onto other instrumental claims-- that one ought to do what is claimed in the antecedent of the conditional statement (in this case that one ought to want to live.)

(5)Moral nihilism isn’t the stance that people aren’t inclined toward or against, biased toward or against or otherwise (un)attracted to certain behaviors. In fact, emotivism and expressivism, which are moral nihilist stances, reduce the meaning of moral statements to expressions of liking or disliking.





Common refutations to moral nihilism (and responses):

While it’s obviously true that there is no objective morality, we still each have our own subject morality.

This can mean one of 3 things:

a) People have their own moral beliefs.

If this is the case, then it is a descriptive statement and moral nihilists would agree, but this wouldn’t describe a subjective morality, just a subjective moral belief (of what is objectively right.) *See (3)

b) People are inclined or disinclined toward certain behaviors.

But this isn’t an example of morality, just preference. *See (5)

c) What is right is subjective.

This is just as epistemologically unfounded as the objective morality claim.



Morality doesn’t exist in a physical sense. You’re refuting a strawman.

Moral nihilism doesn’t refute a physical ought or assume that it must be such, it refutes the existence of any type of ought or obligation to act in any particular manner. There is no reason to believe that one ought to behave one way over another in any non-instrumental sense of the word ought.



Moral truths exist in the form of institutional facts. Murder is wrong is true the same way that a touchdown yields six points is true, or a king can only move one space in chess is true.

When someone says that murder is wrong they are not claiming that society X deems it so, or that society X is disinclined toward it. They are claiming that it is wrong. Being deemed wrong or against the rules or taste of a society is just descriptive, and therefore not contrary to moral nihilism. For it to be a moral claim one must declare that because it is deemed wrong or against the rules or taste of society X, one ought not do it. It is not implicit by the fact that a group of people have beliefs or conventions against the behavior that one ought not do it. It is not a prescriptive claim that a group of people have beliefs or conventions against the behavior, which moral claims necessarily are (prescriptive) by definition.

To compare back to the game analogy, there is no reason why one ought to play the game in the first place, or stay in the game by continuing to obey the rules of the game. If the ought is only as strong as the agreement to play by the rules of the game, then, following from the analogy, one only ought to act morally if they wish to obey the conventions of society (not really an ought if you ask me.) But there’s no reason why they ought to wish to do so (other than an instrumental value deference ad infinitum claim, *see (4).) So this argument is un-compelling if intended to imply an unconditional ought claim, and confused and irrelevant/inapplicable if not.



Moral realism is incoherent, therefore so is its denial.

Moral nihilists deny that anything is moral or immoral. Each camp of moral nihilism disagrees with aspects of moral realism (which entails more than one claim), but moral nihilism in toto doesn’t claim that moral realism in toto is false (cognitivist nihilists couldn’t.) Besides, to deny is to claim something is not true, which entails incoherent, false etc. Many camps of moral nihilism don’t claim that moral claims are false. Non-cognitivist moral nihilists, as an example, say that ethical sentences cannot be true or false because they are not even truth-apt. If we are to take ethical sentences at face value, however, I would say that moral claims are false. Take this (non-moral) statement as an example:

My candy loves me.

The previous statement is confused, but not incoherent. It applies an emotion to something which is incapable of having any. Seeing as we have a clear conception of candy and love, though, we can safely deny (and declare false) the claim that my candy loves me. That is a perfectly coherent/intelligible stance, as anyone with the capacity to observe can safely say that the emotion of love does not apply to the object candy. Being absurd or having all evidence to the contrary is different from being incoherent. The more something is absurd or has evidence to the contrary, the stronger its denial, not the other way around. A statement’s credibility does not determine its meaningfulness.

Calling a moral claim false is no different when taking it at face value. We have a clear understanding of what it means for something to be an obligation, as expressed in instrumental claims (e.g. if you want to live, then you ought to drink water.) We can then see if it applies to the actions referred to in any moral claim. All evidence is that this is not the case, so it is safe to say that it is false that there is such a thing as a moral or immoral behavior. So claims like one ought to study music and one ought not study music are both false, as all evidence shows that obligation applies to neither studying music nor not studying music.

It is once one responds to this by saying that they are using ought in a way that in no way resembles its traditional use that I go from viewing their claims as false to viewing them as incoherent, if cognitive. And I’m no less a moral nihilist for doing so.





So nothing is moral or immoral, how does this inform behavioral decisions and does it in any way help us effectively reach our desired goals of happiness and wellbeing? Why is moral nihilism relevant?

Human beings have the capacity to live in harmony with each other -to have mutually beneficial relationships. So why is it sometimes not the case that we live in the most enjoyable, adaptive manner?

Firstly, why is it sometimes the case that we have the sensation of obligation/duty (compulsion toward or against certain behaviors) in cases where there is clearly no obligation? Originally, our animal ancestors developed via natural selection these sensations because negative sensations in reaction to life threatening situations more often guided one toward life preserving decisions (from the fear of heights to the loneliness of isolation) and positive sensations in reaction to life preserving decisions more often motivated one toward life preserving decisions (from the pleasure of sex to the perception of cuteness in and high value of children.) Moral claims appeal to these sensations of obligation by making one fear doing contrary to their claim. This fear is of either social unacceptance or the punishment implied in the moral claim, such as religious punishment, or simply the implicit memory of parental punishment when acting against their desires. Likewise, sometimes one is motivated toward behaviors by being convinced of its reward (piety, heaven, etc.) And which behaviors the claims claim to apply to are unsurprisingly often in line with evolutionarily advantageous behaviors or evolutionarily advantageous impulses. Unfortunately, natural selection only requires that one live, not that one necessarily live happily, and the very emotions that kept our ancestors alive and eventually led to our lives today, also happen to be a great hindrance to our wellbeing at times.

While most people today won’t argue the merits of evolutionary psychology, most will perceive their morality as more civilized than the aggressive conditioning animals use on each other. After all, human moral theories are sophisticated and thoughtful. But however complex or thoughtful one’s method of deriving which actions or thoughts morality applies to, they are claiming one ought to behave that way, which is to say that they are appealing to the emotional center of the brain that relates to the sensation of obligation. It’s this appeal that I’ll be examining here in order make my case against the efficacy of moral doctrine toward even its own intended goal.

I don’t think I need to refer anyone to psychological research done on the desire for liberty, as everyone knows what it is like to not want to have to live according to another’s will (for the sake of it being their will.) Even if it is done with the best of intentions, clearly people don’t react positively to the notion of conforming to another’s will and so any obligation-based attempt to modify people’s behavior often fails, or worse, motivates the person to act in accordance with what is being forbidden just for the sake of declaring one’s independence (i.e. rebellion.)

On top of that, everything relating to intrinsic superiority and inferiority, including every cognitive bias (the desire to be right), desire for acceptance, or ego driven decision (note that these account for the vast majority of maladaptive behaviors) is necessarily morally informed. Why do I say this? I say this because these claims necessarily go above and beyond efficacy claims, as efficacy claims don’t tell us that because John is more intelligent than Nancy he is a superior person, they only tell us that he can more effectively solve problems. To declare anything more would require the belief that certain qualities are intrinsically (morally) superior.

And while moral claims often have good intentions, such as to work against other morally informed claims like those I mentioned above, solving the problem in moral terms only treats the symptom of the overarching problem which is the moral presupposition which such remedies share. Why validate morality in the process of condemning morally informed behaviors when you could work against the behaviors in non-moral ways and be less likely to have such morally informed claims to arise and be given credence in the future?

Wisdom and insight sell themselves. They don’t need to be enforced upon others; this is counter productive, as I’ve shown above. The best way of inspiring positive behavior is by giving reason for optimism (loving, expressing beauty e.g. art.) That is teaching. Showing the benefits of acting or perceiving a certain way, rather than enforcing it. Declaring things moral or immoral doesn’t solve problems, it just points fingers.

That I think much further explains it better and more exactly than the outside brought up articles from before... idk why somewhere in the middle of the thread there was others.

My issue with the other links and the language used in the thread before by others was the implications that moral nihilism in all contexts insist Moral realism is untrue. Depending on the range you use both concepts it doesn't full out that way. There isn't any inherent truth in any moral realist position but any arbitrarily defined value can be judged as that biased value system.

"Allow there to be a spectrum in all that you see" - Neil Degrasse Tyson
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27-07-2015, 09:27 AM (This post was last modified: 27-07-2015 09:38 AM by Matt Finney.)
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
Hey Stevil,

Just want to make sure I understand your position, so please make any needed corrections. It seems to me that you believe that if a human interferes with another human for a reason other than survival, then the interferer is a hypocrite, but a human can interfere with non-human animals for reasons other than survival and also avoid hypocrisy. Is this a fair assessment of your stance?

In other words, it kind of sounds like "if you don't apply golden rule to other humans, then that makes you a hypocrite, but if you don't apply the golden rule to non-human animals, then you're not necessarily a hypocrite."
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27-07-2015, 09:32 AM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(27-07-2015 07:48 AM)ClydeLee Wrote:  
(27-07-2015 04:06 AM)tear151 Wrote:  I found this on the internet and I think it's useful in this discussion

What is moral nihilism?

Moral nihilism is the meta-ethical view that nothing is moral or immoral; nothing is inherently right or wrong. It is the stance that there is nothing indicating that we ought to do any particular thing over another in any non-instrumental/non-conditional sense of the word ought.





What is moral nihilism not?

(1)Moral nihilism isn’t an ought claim. It is not the stance that we ought to act against or differently from what is claimed to be moral behavior.

(2)Moral nihilism isn’t contrary to (disinclined toward) wellbeing, happiness, social cohesion or anything else deemed to be moral (it is not a belief in behaving in line with what are deemed immoral behaviors.) It denies obligation, but not incentive, empathy or compassion.

(3)Moral nihilism isn’t a denial of descriptive moral truths. Moral nihilists recognize that moral beliefs exist and exert influence on human behavior just as other fictitious beliefs do.

(4)Moral nihilism isn’t a denial of instrumental value. Rather, moral nihilism takes instrumental claims to be nothing but scientific claims e.g. If you want to live, then you ought to drink water, amounts to no more than you will die if you don’t drink water. No moral nihilist denies such claims. There is no support --despite the oft attempted deference ad infinitum onto other instrumental claims-- that one ought to do what is claimed in the antecedent of the conditional statement (in this case that one ought to want to live.)

(5)Moral nihilism isn’t the stance that people aren’t inclined toward or against, biased toward or against or otherwise (un)attracted to certain behaviors. In fact, emotivism and expressivism, which are moral nihilist stances, reduce the meaning of moral statements to expressions of liking or disliking.





Common refutations to moral nihilism (and responses):

While it’s obviously true that there is no objective morality, we still each have our own subject morality.

This can mean one of 3 things:

a) People have their own moral beliefs.

If this is the case, then it is a descriptive statement and moral nihilists would agree, but this wouldn’t describe a subjective morality, just a subjective moral belief (of what is objectively right.) *See (3)

b) People are inclined or disinclined toward certain behaviors.

But this isn’t an example of morality, just preference. *See (5)

c) What is right is subjective.

This is just as epistemologically unfounded as the objective morality claim.



Morality doesn’t exist in a physical sense. You’re refuting a strawman.

Moral nihilism doesn’t refute a physical ought or assume that it must be such, it refutes the existence of any type of ought or obligation to act in any particular manner. There is no reason to believe that one ought to behave one way over another in any non-instrumental sense of the word ought.



Moral truths exist in the form of institutional facts. Murder is wrong is true the same way that a touchdown yields six points is true, or a king can only move one space in chess is true.

When someone says that murder is wrong they are not claiming that society X deems it so, or that society X is disinclined toward it. They are claiming that it is wrong. Being deemed wrong or against the rules or taste of a society is just descriptive, and therefore not contrary to moral nihilism. For it to be a moral claim one must declare that because it is deemed wrong or against the rules or taste of society X, one ought not do it. It is not implicit by the fact that a group of people have beliefs or conventions against the behavior that one ought not do it. It is not a prescriptive claim that a group of people have beliefs or conventions against the behavior, which moral claims necessarily are (prescriptive) by definition.

To compare back to the game analogy, there is no reason why one ought to play the game in the first place, or stay in the game by continuing to obey the rules of the game. If the ought is only as strong as the agreement to play by the rules of the game, then, following from the analogy, one only ought to act morally if they wish to obey the conventions of society (not really an ought if you ask me.) But there’s no reason why they ought to wish to do so (other than an instrumental value deference ad infinitum claim, *see (4).) So this argument is un-compelling if intended to imply an unconditional ought claim, and confused and irrelevant/inapplicable if not.



Moral realism is incoherent, therefore so is its denial.

Moral nihilists deny that anything is moral or immoral. Each camp of moral nihilism disagrees with aspects of moral realism (which entails more than one claim), but moral nihilism in toto doesn’t claim that moral realism in toto is false (cognitivist nihilists couldn’t.) Besides, to deny is to claim something is not true, which entails incoherent, false etc. Many camps of moral nihilism don’t claim that moral claims are false. Non-cognitivist moral nihilists, as an example, say that ethical sentences cannot be true or false because they are not even truth-apt. If we are to take ethical sentences at face value, however, I would say that moral claims are false. Take this (non-moral) statement as an example:

My candy loves me.

The previous statement is confused, but not incoherent. It applies an emotion to something which is incapable of having any. Seeing as we have a clear conception of candy and love, though, we can safely deny (and declare false) the claim that my candy loves me. That is a perfectly coherent/intelligible stance, as anyone with the capacity to observe can safely say that the emotion of love does not apply to the object candy. Being absurd or having all evidence to the contrary is different from being incoherent. The more something is absurd or has evidence to the contrary, the stronger its denial, not the other way around. A statement’s credibility does not determine its meaningfulness.

Calling a moral claim false is no different when taking it at face value. We have a clear understanding of what it means for something to be an obligation, as expressed in instrumental claims (e.g. if you want to live, then you ought to drink water.) We can then see if it applies to the actions referred to in any moral claim. All evidence is that this is not the case, so it is safe to say that it is false that there is such a thing as a moral or immoral behavior. So claims like one ought to study music and one ought not study music are both false, as all evidence shows that obligation applies to neither studying music nor not studying music.

It is once one responds to this by saying that they are using ought in a way that in no way resembles its traditional use that I go from viewing their claims as false to viewing them as incoherent, if cognitive. And I’m no less a moral nihilist for doing so.





So nothing is moral or immoral, how does this inform behavioral decisions and does it in any way help us effectively reach our desired goals of happiness and wellbeing? Why is moral nihilism relevant?

Human beings have the capacity to live in harmony with each other -to have mutually beneficial relationships. So why is it sometimes not the case that we live in the most enjoyable, adaptive manner?

Firstly, why is it sometimes the case that we have the sensation of obligation/duty (compulsion toward or against certain behaviors) in cases where there is clearly no obligation? Originally, our animal ancestors developed via natural selection these sensations because negative sensations in reaction to life threatening situations more often guided one toward life preserving decisions (from the fear of heights to the loneliness of isolation) and positive sensations in reaction to life preserving decisions more often motivated one toward life preserving decisions (from the pleasure of sex to the perception of cuteness in and high value of children.) Moral claims appeal to these sensations of obligation by making one fear doing contrary to their claim. This fear is of either social unacceptance or the punishment implied in the moral claim, such as religious punishment, or simply the implicit memory of parental punishment when acting against their desires. Likewise, sometimes one is motivated toward behaviors by being convinced of its reward (piety, heaven, etc.) And which behaviors the claims claim to apply to are unsurprisingly often in line with evolutionarily advantageous behaviors or evolutionarily advantageous impulses. Unfortunately, natural selection only requires that one live, not that one necessarily live happily, and the very emotions that kept our ancestors alive and eventually led to our lives today, also happen to be a great hindrance to our wellbeing at times.

While most people today won’t argue the merits of evolutionary psychology, most will perceive their morality as more civilized than the aggressive conditioning animals use on each other. After all, human moral theories are sophisticated and thoughtful. But however complex or thoughtful one’s method of deriving which actions or thoughts morality applies to, they are claiming one ought to behave that way, which is to say that they are appealing to the emotional center of the brain that relates to the sensation of obligation. It’s this appeal that I’ll be examining here in order make my case against the efficacy of moral doctrine toward even its own intended goal.

I don’t think I need to refer anyone to psychological research done on the desire for liberty, as everyone knows what it is like to not want to have to live according to another’s will (for the sake of it being their will.) Even if it is done with the best of intentions, clearly people don’t react positively to the notion of conforming to another’s will and so any obligation-based attempt to modify people’s behavior often fails, or worse, motivates the person to act in accordance with what is being forbidden just for the sake of declaring one’s independence (i.e. rebellion.)

On top of that, everything relating to intrinsic superiority and inferiority, including every cognitive bias (the desire to be right), desire for acceptance, or ego driven decision (note that these account for the vast majority of maladaptive behaviors) is necessarily morally informed. Why do I say this? I say this because these claims necessarily go above and beyond efficacy claims, as efficacy claims don’t tell us that because John is more intelligent than Nancy he is a superior person, they only tell us that he can more effectively solve problems. To declare anything more would require the belief that certain qualities are intrinsically (morally) superior.

And while moral claims often have good intentions, such as to work against other morally informed claims like those I mentioned above, solving the problem in moral terms only treats the symptom of the overarching problem which is the moral presupposition which such remedies share. Why validate morality in the process of condemning morally informed behaviors when you could work against the behaviors in non-moral ways and be less likely to have such morally informed claims to arise and be given credence in the future?

Wisdom and insight sell themselves. They don’t need to be enforced upon others; this is counter productive, as I’ve shown above. The best way of inspiring positive behavior is by giving reason for optimism (loving, expressing beauty e.g. art.) That is teaching. Showing the benefits of acting or perceiving a certain way, rather than enforcing it. Declaring things moral or immoral doesn’t solve problems, it just points fingers.

That I think much further explains it better and more exactly than the outside brought up articles from before... idk why somewhere in the middle of the thread there was others.

My issue with the other links and the language used in the thread before by others was the implications that moral nihilism in all contexts insist Moral realism is untrue. Depending on the range you use both concepts it doesn't full out that way. There isn't any inherent truth in any moral realist position but any arbitrarily defined value can be judged as that biased value system.

If moral nihilism is true, then moral realism is untrue. That's kind of the whole claim with nihilism...that there are no moral truths. Moral realism claims the opposite.

Or maybe I misread what you were trying to say....
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27-07-2015, 09:54 AM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(27-07-2015 09:32 AM)Matt Finney Wrote:  
(27-07-2015 07:48 AM)ClydeLee Wrote:  That I think much further explains it better and more exactly than the outside brought up articles from before... idk why somewhere in the middle of the thread there was others.

My issue with the other links and the language used in the thread before by others was the implications that moral nihilism in all contexts insist Moral realism is untrue. Depending on the range you use both concepts it doesn't full out that way. There isn't any inherent truth in any moral realist position but any arbitrarily defined value can be judged as that biased value system.

If moral nihilism is true, then moral realism is untrue. That's kind of the whole claim with nihilism...that there are no moral truths. Moral realism claims the opposite.

Or maybe I misread what you were trying to say....

That whole diatribe states otherwise.

Moral Nihilism is merely saying there is no intrinsic morality... moral realism doesn't proclaim there is a intrinsic morality. That may be what "nihilism" proclaims but moral nihilism isn't nihilism.

It's still the case because Moral realism can be based on mutually shared values. There is nothing true to them other than that by a general large degree they are shared and agreed upon.

"Allow there to be a spectrum in all that you see" - Neil Degrasse Tyson
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27-07-2015, 10:58 AM
Another attack on moral subjectivism
(27-07-2015 09:54 AM)ClydeLee Wrote:  
(27-07-2015 09:32 AM)Matt Finney Wrote:  If moral nihilism is true, then moral realism is untrue. That's kind of the whole claim with nihilism...that there are no moral truths. Moral realism claims the opposite.

Or maybe I misread what you were trying to say....

That whole diatribe states otherwise.

Moral Nihilism is merely saying there is no intrinsic morality... moral realism doesn't proclaim there is a intrinsic morality. That may be what "nihilism" proclaims but moral nihilism isn't nihilism.

It's still the case because Moral realism can be based on mutually shared values. There is nothing true to them other than that by a general large degree they are shared and agreed upon.

No, they both can't be true, because one is a negation of the other. If you think that you could be a moral nihilist and a realist than you're likely operating on a fundamental misunderstanding of both, or at least one of them.

And just because some folks share the same values, doesn't particularly make moral realism true, nor moral nihilism false.

"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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27-07-2015, 11:08 AM (This post was last modified: 27-07-2015 11:13 AM by ClydeLee.)
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(27-07-2015 10:58 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  
(27-07-2015 09:54 AM)ClydeLee Wrote:  That whole diatribe states otherwise.

Moral Nihilism is merely saying there is no intrinsic morality... moral realism doesn't proclaim there is a intrinsic morality. That may be what "nihilism" proclaims but moral nihilism isn't nihilism.

It's still the case because Moral realism can be based on mutually shared values. There is nothing true to them other than that by a general large degree they are shared and agreed upon.

No, they both can't be true, because one is a negation of the other. If you think that you could be a moral nihilist and a realist than you're likely operating on a fundamental misunderstanding of both, or at least one of them.

And just because some folks share the same values, doesn't particularly make moral realism true, nor moral nihilism false.

This is what I was saying in my thread, others posting topics contrasting the assessments of terms verbatim.

Moral Nihilism by term does not negate anything but intrinsic morality. That's all it negates. They are distinct different positions but to say it is a negation is an ignoring of the principals and concepts directly in support.

They may not blend in a coherent way of some contexts of the positions but the quasi-realism stance is more fluid in the topic.

"Allow there to be a spectrum in all that you see" - Neil Degrasse Tyson
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27-07-2015, 11:18 AM
RE: Another attack on moral subjectivism
(27-07-2015 11:08 AM)ClydeLee Wrote:  Moral Nihilism by term does not negate anything but intrinsic morality. That's all it negates. They are distinct different positions but to say it is a negation is an ignoring of the principals and concepts directly in support.

They may not blend in a coherent way of some contexts of the positions but the quasi-realism stance is more fluid in the topic.

Moral nihilism doesn't allow for moral facts, doesn't allow for there to objective moral truths, or rights and wrong.

"Moral nihilists consider morality to be constructed, a complex set of rules and recommendations that may give a psychological, social, or economical advantage to its adherents, but is otherwise without universal or even relative truth in any sense."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_nihilism

I think you might have attached yourself to the intrinsic part, without recognizing all that is implied by that.

And I'm curious to hear what position you hold? Do you consider yourself a moral nihilist, with a "quasi-realism" stance? If so it seems like you want to have your cake and eat it too.
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