Challenge to proponents of objective morality
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12-06-2018, 12:19 PM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(06-06-2018 07:47 AM)EvieTheTurtle Wrote:  
(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.

All objectivity starts with definitions. When someone defines what health is and and then demonstrates that constantly bleeding out of both eyes very much goes against the definition of "healthy"... no one objects by saying "Oh but I disagree with that definition of health."

Science starts with axioms too. Literally everything starts with definitions.

For something to be objective it only has to be objective after you choose your definition.

The definition of morality is something along the lines of "A normative system of oughts". So when people like Harris attempt to define it as "the process of working toward human well-being", it just seems like one is attempting to redefine one's way out of moral relativism. But such a feat isn't possible. The question being asked by philosophers is how any of these ought statements are normative to begin with. So redefining morality doesn't dissolve the issue.
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07-08-2018, 09:47 AM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(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.

I’m not promoting a moral system that I think is objective, but I have an idea how there could be one. I’m not sure how useful it could be. First I’ll explain what I mean by “objective,” with an analogy: subjective versus objective measurement of how hot it is somewhere. People saying how hot it feels to them is a subjective measurement. A thermometer reading is an objective measurement. Note that there are beneficial uses for both kinds of measurements, but I won’t go there for now.

What makes the thermometer measurement “objective” to me is that it doesn’t depend on who does the measuring, as long as they know how to read the thermometer and they do it honestly. Another feature of the thermometer measurement that might make it useful for some purposes is that the farther it goes in one direction or another, the more agreement there is between the subjective measurements, about whether it’s hot or cold.

A way I see that there could be an objective measurement of morality would be with an expert system that’s designed to rate the morality of actions and activities along a scale, calibrated in such a way that the higher it rates the morality, the more agreement there is that the action is moral, and the lower it rates the action, the more agreement there is that the action is immoral. The calibration might also involve which of two actions most people would choose for moral reasons, if they had to make a choice. Then the morality rating of the expert system would be objective according to my definition, because it wouldn’t depend on who enters the action into the system and reads the result. Again, I’m not sure how useful that could be.

- Jim
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13-08-2018, 12:51 PM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(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!

I think that "objective morality" exists, but like any argument, it has to have an agreed-upon subjective basis. It is objectively true that 2 + 2 = 4, but only if everybody evaluating the argument has a shared idea of what "2" and "4" mean, as well as what addition and "equals" means. If we come from the same subjective axioms (presupposed arguments) about all of those things, then it becomes "objectively true" that 2 + 2 = 4 -- it is true of all people in all times and in all places that 2 + 2 = 4 for everyone who agrees on all of the terms in that argument.

So you could have a system of morality based on the laws of your country -- if it's legal, then it's moral. Or you could have a system of morality based on the actions of single individual (if Starcrash does it, then it's immoral, but if anyone else does it, it's moral). These may feel "subjective", since they are based on a changing code of laws or a single person's actions, but all axioms are: if we all agree upon who Starcrash is, for example, then we all agree objectively on what actions are immoral (very easily, since all you have to do to "be moral" in that system is not be me).

This could even easily incorporate moral systems based on holy books as "objective", with a slight catch -- holy books have a tendency to contradict themselves. If you can be both following a moral law and breaking it based on the system of morals in both cases, then it can't be agreed upon to be objectively moral or immoral for all people using the same moral system. So holy books -- at least all of those that I'm familiar with -- can't be the basis for objective morality.

Besides, holy books don't actually form the basis of anyone's morality. I'd love to hear an argument from a Christian on the immorality of having sex with one's dead spouse, since necrophilia isn't a sin anywhere in the bible. Nor is cannibalism or swearing (except through equivocating the meaning of "curse"), and the fact that your typical Christian sees these as evil means that they don't get all of their morals from the bible.

My girlfriend is mad at me. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried cooking a stick in her non-stick pan.
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13-08-2018, 01:08 PM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(07-08-2018 09:47 AM)jimhabegger Wrote:  I’m not promoting a moral system that I think is objective, but I have an idea how there could be one. I’m not sure how useful it could be. First I’ll explain what I mean by “objective,” with an analogy: subjective versus objective measurement of how hot it is somewhere. People saying how hot it feels to them is a subjective measurement. A thermometer reading is an objective measurement. Note that there are beneficial uses for both kinds of measurements, but I won’t go there for now.

What makes the thermometer measurement “objective” to me is that it doesn’t depend on who does the measuring, as long as they know how to read the thermometer and they do it honestly. Another feature of the thermometer measurement that might make it useful for some purposes is that the farther it goes in one direction or another, the more agreement there is between the subjective measurements, about whether it’s hot or cold.

A way I see that there could be an objective measurement of morality would be with an expert system that’s designed to rate the morality of actions and activities along a scale, calibrated in such a way that the higher it rates the morality, the more agreement there is that the action is moral, and the lower it rates the action, the more agreement there is that the action is immoral. The calibration might also involve which of two actions most people would choose for moral reasons, if they had to make a choice. Then the morality rating of the expert system would be objective according to my definition, because it wouldn’t depend on who enters the action into the system and reads the result. Again, I’m not sure how useful that could be.

You're so close, but not quite there. "Hot" is certainly a subjective term, as your "hot" isn't necessarily my "hot" and it definitely disagrees with what a tardigrade considers "hot". And a thermometer reading is certainly objective if everyone agrees on the interpretation of that reading. So you know what "subject" and "objective" mean; good so far.

But what about an "expert system" of rating morality makes it "objective" if that's not where it ends? As I posted above, practically anything can be objective as long as we all agree on the basis for morals (and so long as it isn't self-contradictory). Rather than having experts craft a moral system, you could flip coins to arbitrarily assign an action as "moral" or "immoral" and it would still be objective as long as everyone agreed that the list was true for everyone and in all times. But what you're suggesting is that each person bring their own interpretation to it, and that's what makes it "subjective"... what's "moral" for you isn't "moral" for me if our calibrations don't align. It won't even necessarily make each action "more moral" or "less moral" if our own interpretations don't agree with the orientation of this imagined scale.

My girlfriend is mad at me. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried cooking a stick in her non-stick pan.
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