Challenge to proponents of objective morality
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08-08-2017, 06:18 PM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(08-08-2017 08:47 AM)true scotsman Wrote:  ...
Morality is a code of values to guide one's choices and actions, the choices and actions that will determine the course his life takes.

The standard of morality is man's life as a rational, individual being. Whatever supports that life is the good. Whatever harms it is the evil. Note the term "rational" in my definition. It's important because reason is man's basic tool of survival. Therefore whatever reason needs to function is a necessity for man's life. This rules out the irrational as any kind of value.

I don't accept the premise of your criteria for an example. I don't believe there are any conflicts of interest among rational men, men who do not seek the unearned.

There's a couple of claims there that you'd need to validate.

Even given your chosen definition of morality (with which I disagree):
1. "The standard of morality is man's life as a rational, individual being"
What if one disagrees with that unit of self-determination?
It's evolution, sure. It's the gene as the driver and an individual as the host.
This is the perspective that leads to Ayn-Rand-Paul-Ryan Laughat economics where healthcare becomes a product-driven marketplace. And the majority of the US populace seem to consider this immoral.

But what if one's "Morality ... code of values to guide one's choices and actions" utilises a different unit of self-determination?
E.g. "The standard of morality is man's life as [part of] a rational, individual [tribe]"
Here, the individual is the driver and the tribe is the host?
Or, "The standard of morality is man's life as [part of] a rational, individual [state]"
Here, the tribe is the driver and the state is the host?
And you'd end up with a healthcare system based on societal welfare rather than individual welfare.

2. "reason is man's basic tool of survival."
'Reason' is a very recent modification to our brain-Apps. We got to become 'man' without it. Your wording implies that it's the basic tool and not just a basic tool.
Or is it that you're suggesting that only man is a moral agent because of man's ability to reason?
Reason's roots must have been pre-'man' from an evolutionary perspective which means this bit: "whatever reason needs to function is a necessity for man's life" is invalid although ""a necessity for man's [moral] life" might make it valid.

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08-08-2017, 06:22 PM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(08-08-2017 08:01 AM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  While some situations are too complex to agree about, many if not most are not. And again, complexity is not itself an argument against objectivity per se, it is an argument of why we will never agree on what is objective. That we can't know in detail the objective world doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

It always surprises me that so many atheists think morality is merely subjective when they typically agree that there is an objective world and that people are material beings with material interests in that objective world.
Your system is consistent, given your initial definition:

"1) Morality is the name we give to considerations and actions that promote thriving and prevent suffering."

If, however, one disagrees with that definition, there are others in which morality is subjective, which also lead to self-consistent systems.

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08-08-2017, 06:26 PM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(08-08-2017 06:22 PM)Dr H Wrote:  Your system is consistent, given your initial definition:

"1) Morality is the name we give to considerations and actions that promote thriving and prevent suffering."

If, however, one disagrees with that definition, there are others in which morality is subjective, which also lead to self-consistent systems.

That is most certainly true. Theistic systems of morality jump to mind. You can call such systems subjective all day, and I wouldn't object.

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08-08-2017, 06:32 PM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(08-08-2017 11:31 AM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  Objective morality is always a work in progress.

If morality is truly objective, then it can't be a "work in progress".
It's already out there, fully formed, waiting for us to discover it.

Acceleration due to gravity is an objective quantity, 9.80665 m/s^2.
If my current state of technology only enables me to measure it as 9.8 m/s^2,
the objective quantity doesn't suddenly change when I develop better equipment
ten years from now and can measure it more accurately.
The quantity has always been the same; it just took me a while to discover exactly what it is.

What would be a work in progress would be our discovery of this objective morality.

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08-08-2017, 06:47 PM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(08-08-2017 06:26 PM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  That is most certainly true. Theistic systems of morality jump to mind. You can call such systems subjective all day, and I wouldn't object.

Hobo

Theistic systems are systems of ethics -- communal "morality". They are only "moral; systems to the extent that they are adopted by individuals within the community.

Morality is an individual's concept of the extent to which an action is "right" or "wrong". "Right" and "wrong" are wholly subjective concepts; they do not exist independently of human intellect, so far as we know.

Hence, morality is subjective, regardless of whether it is connected to theology or biology, as it exists -- and those connections exist -- only in the presence of a thinking human subject.

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08-08-2017, 10:02 PM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
I'll come back to other replies later, but I wanted to expand on my earlier point to try and explain myself better.

Let's say we've identified two criteria important to morality, as in the sandwich situation: reducing suffering, and reducing chances of dying. Let's make it really simple, and say that actions and situations can be reduced to a sliding scale of 0-100% for both.

So if one action leaves someone at 20% suffering and another at 30%, then all else being equal, we can objectively say (according to this criteria) that the first action is more moral. There's no further interpretation possible. Similarly something that causes 1% chance of death is objectively better than another thing that causes 10%, all else being equal.

But now, returning to Jill's Sandwich. You were almost a Jill Sandwich! Let's say the boy is at 5% suffering due to his hunger, and let's say his allergy will cause a 10% chance of death if we give him the sandwich and 1% if we don't (starvation). Now we're no longer comparing like with like. So what is better, 1% chance of death and 5% suffering, or 10% chance of death and 0% suffering? How do you objectively decide this, even within this pre-defined and simplistic framework?

If you slide the numbers about, at what point does one become more moral than the other? To make it objective, you'd need some sort of metric which could directly compare these factors. Otherwise, it's a matter of looking at the figures and having an opinion which is better. Now, most people may share the same opinion, but it's not objective unless they have a way of coming to that conclusion that doesn't rely on opinions.

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09-08-2017, 01:39 AM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(08-08-2017 08:47 AM)true scotsman Wrote:  
(08-08-2017 12:09 AM)Robvalue Wrote:  This is a challenge to anyone who thinks that morality is objective, whatever morality may mean to them.

1) Define what morality means. How do you determine how moral or immoral an action is?

2) Describe any situation you like, which contains some sort of conflict of interest between outcomes.

(So this could be a case of limited resources, interdependency between outcomes, the "lesser of two evils", and so on. In other words, it's not a very simply case like, "do this bad thing or don't do it".)

3) Explain how you can resolve this situation according to your definition of morality, to find the objectively most moral (or perhaps least immoral) action to take.

(This should, of course, not make use of any subjective value judgements or interpretations of concepts that aren't explicitly defined in part 1.)

Have fun!

Morality is a code of values to guide one's choices and actions, the choices and actions that will determine the course his life takes.

The standard of morality is man's life as a rational, individual being. Whatever supports that life is the good. Whatever harms it is the evil. Note the term "rational" in my definition. Its important because reason is man's basic tool of survival. Therefore whatever reason needs to function is a necessity for man's life. This rules out the irrational as any kind of value.

I don't accept the premise of your criteria for an example. I don't believe there are any conflicts of interest among rational men, men who do not seek the unearned.

I'm talking about conflict of interests between outcomes. It may be the case that there are two undesirable outcomes, and one must be chosen. We can't simply chose to not do them both, individually. In such a case, we need to have a way of determining which is worse.

The sandwich example is a conflict of interest between suffering and survival.

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09-08-2017, 01:42 AM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(08-08-2017 04:34 AM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  
(08-08-2017 12:09 AM)Robvalue Wrote:  This is a challenge to anyone who thinks that morality is objective, whatever morality may mean to them.

1) Morality is the name we give to considerations and actions that promote thriving and prevent suffering. Morality is relative and objective rather than subjective, since it depends on individual needs which are established by biology.

2) To illustrate this, think of two children. One has peanut allergies. Both are hungry. You only have peanut butter sandwiches to offer. What do you do?

3) It is moral to give one child a peanut butter sandwich and immoral to give one to the second who has peanut allergies. This shows how morality can be both relative and objective. It helps establish priorities.

Because of this relativity, the considerations of morality can be almost infinitely complex. The fact that moral considerations are complex and often obscure because of a lack of information does not mean they are merely subjective -- a matter of personal tastes or cultural indoctrination alone. We become more objective in our morality over time as we learn more.

One thing I notice about your definition is that it doesn't mention the method used to achieve the goal. This is another complexity of morality (when I consider it, anyway) in that the methods are also moral considerations.

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09-08-2017, 06:08 AM (This post was last modified: 09-08-2017 06:24 AM by Thoreauvian.)
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(08-08-2017 06:47 PM)Dr H Wrote:  Theistic systems are systems of ethics -- communal "morality". They are only "moral; systems to the extent that they are adopted by individuals within the community.

Morality is an individual's concept of the extent to which an action is "right" or "wrong". "Right" and "wrong" are wholly subjective concepts; they do not exist independently of human intellect, so far as we know.

Hence, morality is subjective, regardless of whether it is connected to theology or biology, as it exists -- and those connections exist -- only in the presence of a thinking human subject.

This is an answer to Robvalue as well.

What makes theistic systems of morality subjective, to me, is their dogmatism. In objective morality you would have to vary your prescriptions depending on circumstances. My contention is that right and wrong are essentially dictated by biology (if you define them in terms of causing various degrees of pleasure or pain), and not the mere opinions of the people assessing them. The facts of the circumstances make the moral assessment objective, not the process of their assessment, which as I already conceded is subject to distortions (see below). But what other definition of "objective" could there possible be except "an observable correspondence to factual realities"?

As I already mentioned above: "Of course all of such moral considerations are necessarily vague and subject to disagreements because of various factors. One, we rarely if ever know all the relevant facts. Two, we rarely if ever are purely motivated by rational considerations, so subjectivity creeps into all our moral decisions. Three, we are talking about potential future results of actions, which are always more complex than we can estimate. For these reasons, even the most moral person at best only achieves a good batting average of moral behavior."

What is objective is necessarily vague, variable, and subject to disagreements. That's why we continually have observations, thoughts, and discussions about it. But to give up and say "it's all subjective" is to avoid the hard fight and yield the ground to people who are not only obviously wrong but obviously liars as well. So it is a political mistake for atheists to say that morality is merely subjective. We offer better moral observations and therefore more objective morality than any theistic organization of which I am aware, even with all our disagreements.
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09-08-2017, 06:12 AM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(09-08-2017 06:08 AM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  What makes theistic systems of morality subjective, to me, is their dogmatism.

What does this even mean?

Quote: In objective morality you would have to vary your prescriptions depending on circumstances. My contention is that right and wrong are essentially dictated by biology (if you define them in terms of causing various degrees of pleasure or pain), and not the mere opinions of the people assessing them. The facts of the circumstances make the moral assessment objective, not the process of their assessment, which as I already conceded is subject to distortions. But what other definition of "objective" could there possible be?

Objective morality means morality that doesn't change from subject to subject. Most of those who follow objective morality are also moral realists.

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