Moral absolutes
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25-03-2016, 01:50 PM
RE: Moral absolutes
Mixing whiskey with ANY kind of soda, cola, juice etc. is ALWAYS wrong. Every single time, under any and all circumstances. If you can't take whiskey neat, or even on the rocks or with a small amount of water to open it up some, don't drink whiskey.
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25-03-2016, 01:57 PM
RE: Moral absolutes
(25-03-2016 12:35 PM)SYZ Wrote:  I'd like you to tell me Scott, what current laws of the land are based on commandments #1, #2, and #3.

I'll be surprised if he comes back. I suspect he thinks that he confirmed that we are all just angry at god and nasty people because we don't just accept wishful thinking as a path to knowledge.

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25-03-2016, 02:03 PM
RE: Moral absolutes
(25-03-2016 04:31 AM)Matt Finney Wrote:  ...
I will also make the claim that morals are like food tastes, but you have to look at food tastes in a broader sense. One of the characteristics of our evolved sense of taste is that it can recognize the difference between things that harm us, and things that are beneficial to us. For example, our taste might repel us from things like certain poisonous berries or rotten meat, and attract us to ripe fruits and fresh meat. Similarly, we will probably be attracted to certain moral behaviors, like altruism, and repelled by others, for example stealing and murder, and it's easy to see how this could be beneficial. Another example we could look at is that some people don't like bananas, some don't like tomatoes, etc. These smaller differences in taste could be similar to smaller differences of morality, for example which drugs we want be legal, and how much we want them to be taxed. There are no right or wrong answers to moral questions, just like there are no right and wrong foods to eat.

Ah! Now we are almost aligned. If I missed this "broader sense" in previous threads, then ... my bad.

Where I'm still not quite comfortable is regarding the use of "just a preference".

On a thread a while back I mildly objected to your use of "just a personal preference" but I don't think I said why I didn't like it.

To me, "just a personal preference" smacks of the "If we are just molecules in motion, then why do we have morality?" theistic argument.

Dan Dennett's work on the "physical stance" vs. the "intentional stance" highlights the naivety of that. And it can be viewed (perhaps simplistically and perhaps only by me?) as the difference between the interaction of internal (self/self) processes vs. interaction of external (self/other) processes.

So the personal preference of food tastes is internal whereas the preference for a moral position invariably impacts (if actioned) other people too... so "just a personal preference" seems inadequate for describing the latter.

Similarly, it's what I was alluding to in an earlier post regarding individual ethics vs. societal ethics.

I have no real problem describing individual ethics as 'subjective' but for societal / organisational ethics, the word 'subjective' seems inadequate.

Intrinsic vs. Contextual ... seems closer to the mark.

I know this is just semantics but then, definitions are about semantics, right?


(25-03-2016 08:30 AM)Chas Wrote:  ...
Since morality and ethics are not objectively determined or measurable, i.e. not objective, then no. There is nothing that is objectively right or wrong.
...

And this is where we slightly differ.

Again, it's probably semantics but ...
... not objectively determined -- I agree.
... not objectively measurable -- I disagree.

However, once you add the next bit regarding an axiology, we're back in sync again i.e. objective (quantitative) metrics against a value scale:

(25-03-2016 08:30 AM)Chas Wrote:  All morals and ethics are determined by groups of people, but 'subjective' is an inadequate or incomplete characterization. Morality is based on assumptions/premises/axioms held, consciously or unconsciously, by people due to culture and emotion. Our emotions are biological and therefore evolutionarily based. There are many things considered good or bad, right or wrong, better or worse nearly universally but that does not make them objectively so.

No behaviors are without context, making all behaviors relative to context.

Thumbsup

(25-03-2016 10:06 AM)Matt Finney Wrote:  Also, earlier I made the claim that most atheists believe in objective morality, and you correctly called BS. You're right, we would need a poll to either prove or disprove that claim. It's actually a hypothesis of mine, but I hope that after witnessing the responses that some members made to me after I said that nothing is objectively wrong, that perhaps you can see that there is at least a significant number of them, and I would be surprised if the majority of atheists think that genocide and slavery are not objectively wrong. I say that nothing is objectively wrong, and some atheists figure I must be a member of ISIS.....Facepalm

I remember calling you out (it seems like such a long time ago Undecided) on your repeated use of "most" and "many" and also "some".

Good to see that contextualised.

The hypothesis bit also explains your in-with-both-feet entrance on the TTA stage.

Thanks again for explaining.

Yes

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25-03-2016, 02:12 PM
RE: Moral absolutes
(25-03-2016 02:03 PM)DLJ Wrote:  
(25-03-2016 08:30 AM)Chas Wrote:  ...
Since morality and ethics are not objectively determined or measurable, i.e. not objective, then no. There is nothing that is objectively right or wrong.
...

And this is where we slightly differ.

Again, it's probably semantics but ...
... not objectively determined -- I agree.
... not objectively measurable -- I disagree.

However, once you add the next bit regarding an axiology, we're back in sync again i.e. objective (quantitative) metrics against a value scale:

I meant that to be read as "if not objectively determined, then not objectively measurable" since the scale against which to measure is not objective.

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25-03-2016, 02:31 PM
RE: Moral absolutes
(25-03-2016 02:03 PM)DLJ Wrote:  I have no real problem describing individual ethics as 'subjective' but for societal / organisational ethics, the word 'subjective' seems inadequate.

Let's say that a particular society believes that homosexuals should be stoned to death. Is it not accurate to call that a subjective preference? What word(s) would you use?
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26-03-2016, 06:06 AM
RE: Moral absolutes
(25-03-2016 02:31 PM)Matt Finney Wrote:  
(25-03-2016 02:03 PM)DLJ Wrote:  I have no real problem describing individual ethics as 'subjective' but for societal / organisational ethics, the word 'subjective' seems inadequate.

Let's say that a particular society believes that homosexuals should be stoned to death. Is it not accurate to call that a subjective preference? What word(s) would you use?

As Hitchens oft said. "I don’t quite share the grammar of your question."

In discussions with locals (students, colleagues etc.) I frequently hear "Muslims believe" or "Malaysians believe"... my reaction to that is to correct the statement (usually in the form of a question) to "You mean "Muslims are taught to think that..."?" or "Do all Malaysians believe that..."

So, is it valid to say that "a society believes" or merely that individuals within a society believe? Even if 100% of individuals within that society believe a given proposition, can we also say that the superstructure holds that believe or, indeed, can hold any belief?

So there is a distinction between Organisational Ethics (derived from principles and values; resulting in an official policy) and Individual Ethics (derived from a wider selection of influences / environmental forces).

The latter are obviously subjective in the sense that they belong to the individual. They are also contextual and goals-driven.

The former (Organisational Ethics) are also contextual and goals-driven but at the level of the productive forces / the superstructure (at a given point in history).

If we used 'subjective' in the grammatical sense i.e. relating to the topic/thing we're talking about, I suppose it might be applicable at the superstructure level but then it would also have to apply at the substructure level, e.g. the molecules and the trillions of mindless tiny robots inside each of us that keep us going.

But 'subjective' as in 'of the person' is what is usually meant and therefore not applicable to super or sub structures.

Back to your question then ... what word can be used to qualify the morality of a superstructure?

Objective? No, because it's contextual.
Bijective, surjective, injective? Nah.
How about abjective? Implying wretched or degrading ... that's tempting.
Why not ... adjective? Consider That has some merit in that it restricts analysis to the descriptive and excludes the normative.

That was fun.

Nope. Instead, I'll plump for the position that ascribing moral beliefs to a superstructure or a substructure is just unnecessary and pointless.

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26-03-2016, 09:00 AM (This post was last modified: 26-03-2016 04:44 PM by Matt Finney.)
RE: Moral absolutes
(26-03-2016 06:06 AM)DLJ Wrote:  
(25-03-2016 02:31 PM)Matt Finney Wrote:  Let's say that a particular society believes that homosexuals should be stoned to death. Is it not accurate to call that a subjective preference? What word(s) would you use?

As Hitchens oft said. "I don’t quite share the grammar of your question."

In discussions with locals (students, colleagues etc.) I frequently hear "Muslims believe" or "Malaysians believe"... my reaction to that is to correct the statement (usually in the form of a question) to "You mean "Muslims are taught to think that..."?" or "Do all Malaysians believe that..."

So, is it valid to say that "a society believes" or merely that individuals within a society believe? Even if 100% of individuals within that society believe a given proposition, can we also say that the superstructure holds that believe or, indeed, can hold any belief?

So there is a distinction between Organisational Ethics (derived from principles and values; resulting in an official policy) and Individual Ethics (derived from a wider selection of influences / environmental forces).

The latter are obviously subjective in the sense that they belong to the individual. They are also contextual and goals-driven.

The former (Organisational Ethics) are also contextual and goals-driven but at the level of the productive forces / the superstructure (at a given point in history).

If we used 'subjective' in the grammatical sense i.e. relating to the topic/thing we're talking about, I suppose it might be applicable at the superstructure level but then it would also have to apply at the substructure level, e.g. the molecules and the trillions of mindless tiny robots inside each of us that keep us going.

But 'subjective' as in 'of the person' is what is usually meant and therefore not applicable to super or sub structures.

Back to your question then ... what word can be used to qualify the morality of a superstructure?

Objective? No, because it's contextual.
Bijective, surjective, injective? Nah.
How about abjective? Implying wretched or degrading ... that's tempting.
Why not ... adjective? Consider That has some merit in that it restricts analysis to the descriptive and excludes the normative.

That was fun.

Nope. Instead, I'll plump for the position that ascribing moral beliefs to a superstructure or a substructure is just unnecessary and pointless.

I guess I don't really care so much about the morality of a society (superstructure) because, as you pointed out, a society is made of individuals, but if you're willing to call the morals of an individual subjective, then we're in agreement.

Perhaps my biggest problem is when atheists (I'm also an atheist so I'm not saying "those" people) like Sam Harris and Matt Dillahunty define morality as having to do with well-being. And it's well-being of not just human animals, but also non-human animals, and perhaps even all living things. If we believe that we ought to behave in a way that maximizes well-being and minimizes suffering, then this leads to all sorts of absurd conclusions. For example, we would conclude that no person should have the luxury of taking a vacation until all people at least have their basic needs met, such as food, shelter, clean water, and healthcare. We would decide that everyone should be a vegan, because as far as we can tell, plants don't suffer as much as animals. We would also come to the conclusion that we should sterilize all predator animals (lions and tigers etc.) so that the prey animals (zebras, antelope, etc.) would no longer have to be killed for food. This way the predators will eventually all die off, and after that happens we will have to systematically sterilize the herbivores so they don't become overpopulated which will lead to starvation (more suffering).

So a person might respond that morality is not really about the well-being of all living things, but rather what is beneficial to the self, and this would help explain why people are attracted to certain "moral" behaviors. It's easy to see why it would benefit me to surround myself with altruistic people rather than thieves and murderers for example, but this doesn't hold up when making decisions about our own behavior. Let's look at European invasion into North America for example. I don't know of anyone who would describe the genocide that took place there as a moral act, but I think it most definitely was a benefit to the Europeans who gained control of all of the land and resources. So morality can't be about what is beneficial.

Morality is most simply defined as what a person should do. People who believe in morality believe that there are certain behaviors that ought to be sought out, and that there are certain behaviors that ought to be avoided. And that is the reason for my nihilism. I don't think there are any behaviors that ought to be avoided or sought after. We all carve our own path and whether we're talking about Gandhi or Charles Manson, neither of them have ever done anything that is objectively right or wrong. It's not until you put a goal into the equation that anything can be measured objectively, and whatever you think the goal is, is always going to be subjective.
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26-03-2016, 09:22 PM
RE: Moral absolutes
@Matt Finney

Actually, I would agree with your analysis on pretty much all point if not for one, the goal isn't subjective (or down personnal preferences). In fact the goal is always the same for everyone. We want to be happy, to prosper, to learn and to grow. We all want the same thing, the only difference is our opinion on how to reach this goal. Morality is then defined by the behaviors and beliefs that allows everybody to be happy, prosper, learn and grow. Said like that its very simplistic, but in reality its a real pain to determine what exactly this is supposed to mean.

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27-03-2016, 03:37 AM
RE: Moral absolutes
(26-03-2016 09:00 AM)Matt Finney Wrote:  Morality is most simply defined as what a person should do. People who believe in morality believe that there are certain behaviors that ought to be sought out, and that there are certain behaviors that ought to be avoided. And that is the reason for my nihilism. I don't think there are any behaviors that ought to be avoided or sought after. We all carve our own path and whether we're talking about Gandhi or Charles Manson, neither of them have ever done anything that is objectively right or wrong. It's not until you put a goal into the equation that anything can be measured objectively, and whatever you think the goal is, is always going to be subjective.

Firstoff, i emphasized the relevant parts to my reply.
Am i correct in reading that ("nihilist" and emphasized passage) you reject any morals as being either subjective or incoherent?

If that is the case i am wondering how you live and behave in a social environment like the society you are actually living in.
If Ghandi or Manson havent done any *wrong* in your view, how do you determine how you behave towards other humans and how not? Whats your basis to decide "yes, i am gonna do that" and what not?

Are you following the rules your society has set up?
If "yes" why?

These questions may sound silly, but seem inevitable looking at your statements about morals and nihilism.
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27-03-2016, 04:09 AM
RE: Moral absolutes
(26-03-2016 09:00 AM)Matt Finney Wrote:  Morality is most simply defined as what a person should do. People who believe in morality believe that there are certain behaviors that ought to be sought out, and that there are certain behaviors that ought to be avoided. And that is the reason for my nihilism. I don't think there are any behaviors that ought to be avoided or sought after. We all carve our own path and whether we're talking about Gandhi or Charles Manson, neither of them have ever done anything that is objectively right or wrong. It's not until you put a goal into the equation that anything can be measured objectively, and whatever you think the goal is, is always going to be subjective.


We all have goals and desires, things we want; we're evolved to do this, because apathetic apes make for easy lunch out on the African savanna. We have very base desires like survival, and from there other wants and needs get layered upon. If you lack even the basest desire for survival, or value something else more than personal survival (like the ending of personal suffering through euthanasia, or dying for a cause you value more than your own life), then very often your own life is forfeit. Granted we don't all have the same goals or value them the same (the subjectivity of morality), but humans without goals and desires generally aren't around long enough to be a factor.

The best you can do is build up a subjective consensus about what desires and goals we should share, and try our best to go about achieving them as objectively as possible. Getting hung up on moral absolutes or the lack thereof seems like a waste of time. Who cares if the universe doesn't give a shit about Gandhi versus Manson? We care, and considering that our opinions affect our behaviors and subsequently our lives and the lives of those around us, that's what matters.

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