Challenge to proponents of objective morality
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09-08-2017, 08:29 AM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(09-08-2017 07:29 AM)Necessitarian Wrote:  The objectivity of morality is a question about whether it is subject to human opinion, not whether it is created/determined by or grounded in God.

Actually, I would say the objectivity of morality is a question about whether it is based on observable facts. Isn't that what "objectivity" means in any really meaningful sense?
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09-08-2017, 09:07 AM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(09-08-2017 08:29 AM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  Actually, I would say the objectivity of morality is a question about whether it is based on observable facts. Isn't that what "objectivity" means in any really meaningful sense?

I mean that's just not what the term "objective morality" means. It refers to morality that doesn't change from subject to subject.

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10-08-2017, 02:59 PM
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. 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.
And my contention is that you cannot show an objective basis for that definition.
Where does biology unequivocally dictate "pleasure good, pain bad"?

From an evolutionary viewpoint you might say that "good" is whatever serves to advance species survival and propagation, and "bad" is anything that works against this. In that view, pleasure and pain are incidental, and of interest only insofar as they impact species survival. For example, it could be argued that pain is good, inasmuch as it serves the function of alerting us to something which may be harmful, and thus should be avoided.

But even that imparts an assumed objectivity to evolution that I don't think is supportable. Evolution isn't a thing; it doesn't have any preferences; it doesn't have a goal. It is just our subjective description of how we believe a bunch of observed processes happen to more or less consistently interact.


Quote: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"?
Nothing wrong with that as a definition of 'objective'. But where is the observable correspondence to a factual reality of "good"?

Quote: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."
No problem with that.

Quote:What is objective is necessarily vague, variable, and subject to disagreements.
Strongly disagree with that.

What is objective is necessarily certain, fixed, and independent.

Our perception or apprehension of that which is objective may necessarily be vague, variable, and subject to disagreements. But the perception is not the object. That we may disagree about how we grasp or understand the alleged object is irrelevant to whether or not the object exists. By the same token, just because we happen to have a particular focus of discussion or disagreement does not necessitate that focus having an objective existence. People argue over subjective things all the time: e.g., "is this a work of art, or a paint spill?"

Quote: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.['quote]
Acknowledging the subjectivity of human conceptions is not 'giving up'. It's recognizing and acknowledging the reality of the human condition, which make us better able to deal with it effectively.

[quote]So it is a political mistake for atheists to say that morality is merely subjective.
Who says it's "merely" subjective? I never use that qualifier.
It's not a matter of the subjective being more or less important than the objective.
The important thing is to be able to recognize those things which are subjective, so that they may be dealt with rationally.

Quote:We offer better moral observations and therefore more objective morality than any theistic organization of which I am aware, even with all our disagreements.
Assuming that to be true, I submit it has nothing to do with our arguments being more objective, but everything to do with our arguments being more rational.

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10-08-2017, 03:20 PM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(09-08-2017 06:24 AM)Necessitarian Wrote:  1.) "Morality" refers to the Law of the Christian God which (a) acts to express the beauteous character of God; which (b) constitutes obligations tied to our covenantal nature; which © condemns sinners, showing our need for the Messiah Jesus; which (d) overlaps with wisdom broadly; and which (e) is set down in detail throughout the Christian Scriptures, summarized by God Himself: "Love God with all your heart, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself." Though there are multiple ways to determine whether something is moral or immoral, point (e) covers the best way to discern good from evil: identifying it on the basis of God's inscripturated word.

2.) One conflict of interest is this topic itself. For if moral realism is not the case, then there is no fact of the matter whether one ought to be a moral antirealist or not. In other words, if morality is not objective then there is no fact of the matter about whether it's right or wrong to believe morality is not objective. In fact, there would be no fact of the matter whether we ought to believe anything at all!

If morality is defined as in relationship to the Christian God, then for morality to be objective you will need to demonstrate the existence of the Christian God via objective evidence.

Good luck with that.

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10-08-2017, 03:29 PM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(09-08-2017 07:29 AM)Necessitarian Wrote:  The objectivity of morality is a question about whether it is subject to human opinion, not whether it is created/determined by or grounded in God. (This is obviously the case for any orthodox Christian Theism, and almost always the case with general theism anyway.)
Technically the question isn't limited to human opinion; the more general case is whether it is an issue of the opinion of a rational, thinking being.

It so happens that the only rational, thinking beings for which we currently have objective evidence, are human beings.


Quote: without any metaphysical qualification or distinction between Creator and creation, as if reality were some abstract container to which both creature and Creator are subject.
In order for that to be an issue, one would first have to establish the necessity for, and then the existence of, a "Creator".

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11-08-2017, 12:16 AM (This post was last modified: 11-08-2017 12:21 AM by Robvalue.)
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
To try and qualify my question a little and cut through the quagmire of language:

"Morality" is such an extremely vague concept that it's wildly open to interpretation. There's no way you can simply state a definition that suits you, and declare everyone else to be "wrong" about it. Well, you can, but that's just the No True Scotsman. The best we can do is have some sort of agreed principles between those having a discussion, or a society. So "morality" is subjective in that way, in that it requires definition before you can even talk about it, and everything then depends on that definition.

But the challenge I'm putting forward here is stepping over that obvious problem, and allowing a person to define what morality means to them. Then, within that particular framework, to try and establish that this morality "is objective". My contention is that it requires extremely explicit definition to have any chance of this; if it includes concepts such as "wellbeing" or "suffering", these are not things any two people are ever going to agree on exactly. And if it includes two or more concepts (like suffering and survivial, for example) we have the problem that when one must be compared to the other, it can't be done objectively. It would require (a) wild oversimplification, and even then, (b) some sort of mathematical function which can interpret a situation to produce one (or more) "most moral" outcomes. What would it even mean for the function that is chosen to be the "best" one? It could only, ultimately, represent some sort of consensus between a group of humans.

And even then.... this hasn't taken into account the methods used to achieve the outcomes, the desires of the people in question, and any number of other factors. These factors could be excluded by definition, of course, but you're going to run into serious problems in certain situations, that you would likely have to back-track from. And even then.... we've only dealt with humans, really. How do we factor in animals? How much is the life of an animal worth compared to a human? Why?

I can give a moral system which is objective once defined: everything is equally moral. Everything scores 1, from a scale of -1 to 1. There's no interpretation required. Is it of any use? No. That's the second problem. Even if you establish your system is objective, you then have to explain how it's of any use.

Each of us has our own morality, obviously. I don't know how anyone could think otherwise. And perhaps our own moral systems become more objective over time, although they certainly change too, sometimes drastically.

I don't argue that outcomes are objective. Of course they are. It's the evaluation of those outcomes where subjectivity comes in. Everyone can evaluate them however they want. We can, of course, come to general agreements about what is "good" and "bad", and this goes a long way. Most balanced people could, I imagine, come to an agreement about most principles that underly their morality. So in my opinion, morality is always a matter for discussion. And that discussion is always worthwhile. Any attempts to codify it are dangerous, even if well-intentioned.

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11-08-2017, 12:40 AM (This post was last modified: 11-08-2017 12:43 AM by Robvalue.)
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(09-08-2017 06:24 AM)Necessitarian 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.

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.

Good questions; this is an important topic.

Thank you, and welcome!

Quote:1.) "Morality" refers to the Law of the Christian God which (a) acts to express the beauteous character of God; which (b) constitutes obligations tied to our covenantal nature; which © condemns sinners, showing our need for the Messiah Jesus; which (d) overlaps with wisdom broadly; and which (e) is set down in detail throughout the Christian Scriptures, summarized by God Himself: "Love God with all your heart, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself." Though there are multiple ways to determine whether something is moral or immoral, point (e) covers the best way to discern good from evil: identifying it on the basis of God's inscripturated word.

2.) One conflict of interest is this topic itself. For if moral realism is not the case, then there is no fact of the matter whether one ought to be a moral antirealist or not. In other words, if morality is not objective then there is no fact of the matter about whether it's right or wrong to believe morality is not objective. In fact, there would be no fact of the matter whether we ought to believe anything at all!

The moral antirealist must not only be willing to admit that theft, rape, mutilation, and murder are not factually evil, that they are mere social constructs or evolved behaviors or deceptive buzzwords used for self-preservation or whatever. Moral antirealists must also give up the idea that rationality itself is factually good or that irrationality is factually evil. To put it more starkly, on moral antirealism, there is no such thing as "rationality," since the term connotates a value judgment about certain intellectual states over others. If there is no fact of the matter about whether we ought to think one way over another, then "rationality," "knowledge," and so forth are vacuous terms.

I'm looking for real world examples where you can demonstrate your own system to be objective, which includes competing factors.

Morality, as a concept, is certainly not objective as it can be defined in lots of different ways. The best you can do is argue that one moral system is "better" than the others, and since morality is already concerned with what is "better", I don't see how you do this without being circular.

You seem to be confusing value judgements and logical thinking here. Value judgements are concerned with deciding how important something is, or how one ought to act. That's totally different from determining the most efficient way to achieve the goals you have decided on, or objectively analysing information or abstract systems. The latter is rationality. It's a tool. Value judgements can be subjective and still be useful, because we can have discussions and build common ground. This is something that happens, in reality. What also happens is that different cultures have different moralities, and one of those just declaring that theirs is "the best" doesn't achieve anything, especially since the other can turn around and do the same thing. You point at your authority (as discussed below) and they can point at theirs, or simply dismiss your authority as I would do.

Quote:3.) Christian DCT resolves the issue. On the above model I proposed, there is an extramental state of affairs which demands we humans be rational to the best of our ability. Namely, the Christian God has blessed human beings with their cognitive faculties and has given us the duty of using those faculties toward the worship of God, affectionate understanding and care for other human beings, and stewardship of God's creation.

Well, it defers the issue to an authority. So basically, what God thinks is most moral, is most moral. It could be said to be objective in that only God's opinion matters now, but God could change his mind. We also have the problem that since God hasn't been shown to exist, nor any communication from him been confirmed to be genuine, we have nothing to go on. Even if we assumed any particular thing was from God, it's still then wildly open to interpretation without him there to judge each particular situation. There's no way you can cover anything that can possibly happen with one book.

Quote:As an aside, I'd like to offer anyone voice-chat over the topic. Actually, I was invited here by Nihilis. This question of morality is so vast and complex that it's difficult to adequately cover the issue in a short forum post - besides, this is already getting long, I suspect. Feel free to PM me to talk to me and others (including unbelievers) about the issue of the "objectivity" of morality.

[Edited for one spelling error.]

I appreciate your input, and I hope you continue to chat with us. It's nice to have polite, respectful theists on the forum! Sadly this is rather rare.

I'm afraid my eyes cloud over at much of what you've written, as your points of reference are so far removed from mine. But I've done the best to address what you've written.

I'd be very interested to see if you could produce a real-world example which can't be trivially resolved, and then show how your system produces the "correct" action.

The slightly worrying thing is that your definition of morality doesn't seem to include very much about the well-being of humans. The nearest thing is, "Love thy neighbour". I don't know why loving God or doing what he says is desirable. Could you explain why, and what that even means in relation to morality? Is morality concerned with the wellbeing of humans, in your estimation? Is that the ultimate goal? If not, how much does it factor in?

Many thanks!

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11-08-2017, 01:17 AM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
Rape and murder were mentioned...

The Bible is not a good way to try and show that these are objectively immoral. We are clearly presented with cases of people murdering others, but it's okay because "God told them to". So murder is not objectively wrong. Rape is also often dealt with as a property crime, and even condoned in the case of "taking wives" from the remaining people after a slaughter. You can also have slaves which are your property. In fact, nothing would be objectively wrong as long as God told you to do it. So you're in fact surrendering your entire humanity and judgement, and just doing what God says... which is very dangerous, even if it existed, but even more so if we're to rely on second hand sources and people claiming to have revelations. Why would we do this? Is it just to seek better treatment in a supposed afterlife? To avoid the wrath of this dictator by appeasing it?

So you'll actually probably find secularists standing up against rape and murder more strongly than the God of the Bible. Even though this is subjective, we tend to agree on it, and form societies around it. We don't make exceptions because a voice in our head instructed us to ignore it. This agreement is not surprising since these are things people almost unanimously do not want done to them. This is a pretty good starting point in my opinion.

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11-08-2017, 01:47 AM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(10-08-2017 03:20 PM)Dr H Wrote:  If morality is defined as in relationship to the Christian God, then for morality to be objective you will need to demonstrate the existence of the Christian God via objective evidence.

Good luck with that.

Why not a priori proof?

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11-08-2017, 04:18 AM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(11-08-2017 01:47 AM)Naielis Wrote:  
(10-08-2017 03:20 PM)Dr H Wrote:  If morality is defined as in relationship to the Christian God, then for morality to be objective you will need to demonstrate the existence of the Christian God via objective evidence.

Good luck with that.

Why not a priori proof?

Because a priori arguments can be analytic but not synthetic (a philosophical idea which goes all the way back to Kant). This is why the ontological argument is said to fail.
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