A Critique on Objective Morality

Should you think about your duty, or about the consequences of your actions? Or should you concentrate on becoming a good person?

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The_OE
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A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by The_OE » Sat Mar 14, 2015 7:51 am

We all make assumptions, but there are assumptions that we are forced to make if we want to interact with any part of reality. The first is that the universe exists. The second is that the universe is intelligible. The third is that models with predictive capability are more useful than models without predictive capability. These three assumptions may seem odd to think of as assumptions, but currently there isn’t a way for us to determine the validity of them. We assume them because it is practical to do so. Now the scientific method is what we use to determine specific and general characteristics about the universe, but even before we can use that, we must make three more assumptions. The first assumption of science is that there are natural causes for things that happen in the universe. The second is that evidence from the universe can be used to learn about those causes. The third is that there is consistency in the causes that operate in the universe. After making these six assumptions, you can begin to figure out the going-ons of our universe.

Morality is especially not objective. Your current morals are probably based solely on empathy and the influences of the environment you grew up in. So naturally, morality will be different from person to person. With that being said, I’m going to propose a moral code. Given that the first six assumptions I mentioned are true, I can make this assumption about morality. If something possesses the ability to suffer and doesn’t cause suffering, that is not in the best interest of the sufferer, it possesses the right to live free of suffering unless that suffering is in the best interest of the sufferer. The reason why this assumptions requires the first six assumptions to be true is that suffering itself can and is determined by science. Scientists understand how we feel pain fairly well. It’s not until we look at animals, that we share a very distant relative with, do we start becoming unsure on whether they experience suffering of any kind. For example, we don’t know if insects can suffer, but we’re convinced that mammals can. As for the part about suffering that is in the best interest of the sufferer, there are many aspects of life where we are forced to do things we do not want to do. Going to school as a child and paying taxes as an adult would be examples of this. You’re being forced to do something that may cause you to suffer, but it is still in your best interest to do it. Last but not least, you can lose the seventh assumption right if you cause something to suffer, where that something doesn’t benefit from the suffering. This allows for self defence and the defence of others.

“If something possesses the ability to suffer and doesn’t cause suffering, that is not in the best interest of the sufferer, it possesses the right to live free of suffering unless that suffering is in the best interest of the sufferer.”

This assumption is an odd addition to the other pragmatic assumptions, but in order to establish any form of a morality we need to, at least, make one more assumption on top of the other assumptions. This is my attempt at establishing an objective morality.

This morality doesn’t define what is good, but what is bad. It defines bad as suffering that is not in the best interest of the sufferer or senseless suffering. The reasoning behind this is that senseless suffering can be either physical or psychological damage.These damages cause stress to the thing experiencing it. That stress leads to even more health issues. It is scientifically detrimental, to the well being of anything, to senselessly suffer, thus a universe that doesn't contain senseless suffering is better, in terms of well being, than a universe that does.

“If something possesses the ability to suffer” is the first portion of this morality. In the scientific community, suffering is mainly observed through changes in behavior and comparing the anatomy that controls human pain to other animals. Like intelligence, we can’t quite quantify varying levels of suffering, but we can establish that certain things can suffer. This morality only honors rights to those who can suffer.

“and doesn’t cause suffering, that is not in the best interest of the sufferer” is the second portion of this morality. This portion establishes a way to lose the right essentially through cause senseless suffering to something else. This allows the sufferer to defend itself even through means of more suffering. In a case where excessive force is reached with self defense, the roles would become reversed. So you have to not be currently trying to cause senseless suffering.

“it possess the right to live free of suffering” is the third portion of this morality. This is where the right is actually applied. If the something meets the first two criteria, it possess the right to live free of senseless suffering.

“unless that suffering is in the best interest of the sufferer” is the fourth and final portion of this morality. This allows suffering to be cause as long as it is in the best interest of the one suffering. Forcing a child to go to school is an example of this. As is being forced to pay taxes as an adult. Once again, science should be used as an indication of what something’s best interests are. We can observe that people who don’t finish or even attend school lead worse lives. Not only financially, but in terms of safety, independence and overall quality.

The very foundation of this morality is an assumption. A blind assumption that is made only if the first six assumptions are true. We can’t test or verify any of them, but living your life becomes extremely difficult and impractical if they are not assumed. I argue, in terms of morality, that the same is true of the seventh assumption.

prof
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Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by prof » Sun Mar 15, 2015 9:45 am

The_OE wrote:We all make assumptions... the scientific method is what we use to determine specific and general characteristics about the universe....

Morality is especially not objective. Your current morals are probably based solely on empathy and the influences of the environment you grew up in. So naturally, morality will be different from person to person.

This morality ...defines bad as suffering that is not in the best interest of the sufferer or senseless suffering. The reasoning behind this is that senseless suffering can be either physical or psychological damage.These damages cause stress to the thing experiencing it. That stress leads to even more health issues. It is scientifically detrimental, to the well being of anything, to senselessly suffer.....

... In the scientific community, suffering is mainly observed through changes in behavior and comparing the anatomy that controls human pain to other animals....This morality only honors rights to those who can suffer.

“unless that suffering is in the best interest of the sufferer” is the fourth and final portion of this morality. This allows suffering to be cause as long as it is in the best interest of the one suffering. Forcing a child to go to school is an example of this. As is being forced to pay taxes as an adult. Once again, science should be used as an indication of what something’s best interests are. We can observe that people who don’t finish or even attend school lead worse lives. Not only financially, but in terms of safety, independence and overall quality. .


You have obviously put in a great deal of thought into this theory, OE, and we all should appreciate that you have done a lot of work on it. You care about ethics, and you show a keen intelligence; and you actually do philosophy ...which is rare and beautiful when it occurs. By that I mean that you analyze and clarify concepts, which I, for one, hold to be the main business of good philosophy.

I am glad your approach is constructive rather than critical for critical sake or destructive. You build rather than tear down, and I commend you for that.

You write that "morality is ...not objective" and then say, "I will propose an objective morality." This can result in confusion, for it sounds like you contradict yourself.

If by "objective" you mean independent of human beings, then of course "morality" being about humans and how they relate to themselves and to one another cannot be (in that sense) objective. But if you mean by "objective": inter-subjective agreement, or consensus views - as does the philosopher Habermas - see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%BCrgen_Habermas - then morality definitely CAN be objective. We agree that it can be.

Many, if not most, of the points you make that I quoted above, I agree with. Science ought to be the source we go to in order to measure 'quality-of-life' or well-being. You point out it has something relevant to say with regard to suffering.

Suffering is not the opposite of well-being, as we all suffer when a loved one or a friend is lost. Grief and mourning are normal and part of a life well-lived. Some suffering is unavoidable. However, I would not build an Ethical Theory around this concept, for it has negative connotations and I believe Ethics should be a positive concept; it ought suggest good relationships and sweet cooperation and human solidarity.

As you can tell by perusing my threads and posts I have offered for your consideration an alternative ethical theory I've named "A Unified Theory of Ethics." I call it that because its intent is to take the best ideas from the history of ethical concepts, as well as from any contemporary theories of which I become aware, and integrate these concepts into itself. The theory will be toti-resultant, i.e., new findings will emerge if the original structure was coherent and fertile; it is to possess both theoretical and empirical import. I refer to it as a paradigm - at once new yet quite old. See, among other threads I scribbled "What is Morality?" "The Beautiful Simplicity of Ethical Concepts" "The case for Ethics" "Ethics in a Nutshell" "Steps to Value Creation" and "Announcing a new educational opportunity." Let me know your impressions if you will be so kind. I am sure I can learn from you how to make a better ethical theory. Also note Endnote 4, pp.55-58, of the paper A Unified Theory of Ethics, where a provocative chart is located. It shows {under the column labeled Intrinsic Value} what correlates with Ethics and ethical values. Does it unify? Did you enjoy reading it? Was it edifying?

If you see any merit in the alternative approach offered, I'd love to have you on the team which upgrades and improves it, for you have a good mind, a reflective attitude, and you know how to reason. Let's discuss it. Let's continue the dialog......

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GreatandWiseTrixie
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Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by GreatandWiseTrixie » Sun Mar 15, 2015 1:19 pm

The_OE wrote: “it possess the right to live free of suffering” is the third portion of this morality. This is where the right is actually applied. If the something meets the first two criteria, it possess the right to live free of senseless suffering.

“unless that suffering is in the best interest of the sufferer” is the fourth and final portion of this morality. This allows suffering to be cause as long as it is in the best interest of the one suffering. Forcing a child to go to school is an example of this. As is being forced to pay taxes as an adult. Once again, science should be used as an indication of what something’s best interests are. We can observe that people who don’t finish or even attend school lead worse lives. Not only financially, but in terms of safety, independence and overall quality.
Since you are human, your theory of ethics, like "the prof" has serious flaws. Unlike the prof who seems more human- centric, you seem to mention animals briefly, but you fail in other areas.

For example, the first problem you have is you do not know where value lies. You talk about loss and suffering, but those are parts of life. The very finite rarity of life is what causes love ones to be valued in the first place. Consider this, if loved ones were immortal, would you value them at all? Or would you try your best to avoid them at all times, similar to how humans try to avoid those who look down upon them? And if you could not avoid them, you would ridicule and try to get rid of them, of course?

Second thing is you're "science" sounds like an Orwellian nightmare waiting to happen. For instance, you mention fake statistics about people who don't attend school being worse off, so you suggest sending a child to school is their best interest, and therefore moral. Yet many homeschoolers started successful things. If a homeschooler suffers, it is usually due to three reasons, they are sheltered, and or they are spoiled brats. If they are not one of the two, then they suffer because they are not accustomed to the bullying of the world. Kids naturally fear school because deep down they know how miserable it is, forcing a child to school is the equivalent of sending them to Hades so when they grow up they can feel numb to the hell around them. What an idiotic joke, this joke was brought to you by the humanapes. They still haven't improved since my current self was age 4.

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Immanuel Can
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Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by Immanuel Can » Tue Apr 05, 2016 3:58 am

Morality is especially not objective.
Is this not merely question-begging? On what rational basis do you hope to establish this claim?

Is it that a lot of people think it's true? Well, historically, lots of people have thought otherwise.

Or is one of these intended to stand as proof?
Your current morals are probably based solely on empathy and the influences of the environment you grew up in.
Ad hominem and fallacy of presumption: but in any case, you only assert it as a probability, not a certitude. But more importantly, even if it were true it would not prove morality was not objective -- just that, perhaps, objective morality could be taught by environment or empathy.
So naturally, morality will be different from person to person.
And this is a non-sequitur, in additional to being empirically untrue. It's empirically evident that cultures collect around shared moral values, so that sort of sympathy has to be regarded as at least as impressive as any difference; moreover, different cultures debate whether their morals are the "right" ones, while another culture asserts that its are the "right" ones: the common believe between both cultures being that there are such things as the "right" (i.e. objectively better) moral values. Otherwise, their arguments with each other would simply be impossible: there would be no objective truth about the matter to be debated at all. So they're assuming there is some kind of objective morality: how do you show them they're wrong?

But more importantly, even if every person disagreed about what morality was, it would not show that morality was not objective -- for it could equally be evidence that perhaps fewer people than we might expect could be right about what it was, or that only one person had the real goods, or even that none did...but that objective morality still existed, just as when we did not know the planet Pluto existed, but it still did.

So the idea that morality is not objective needs some proof, if you've got it. The mere observation that people disagree isn't it.

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A_Seagull
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Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by A_Seagull » Thu Apr 07, 2016 10:12 pm

Immanuel Can wrote:[So the idea that morality is not objective needs some proof, if you've got it. .
Or perhaps, ... the idea that morality is objective needs some proof, ......if you've got it.

If it is to be claimed that morality is objective then this would mean that some alien visiting our planet would be able to identify the same morality as those who claim that morality is objective. But I am not even sure that there is even any agreement between philosophers as to what morality is that goes beyond "the golden rule".

And the golden rule can hardly be claimed to be objective morality.

It seems to me that morality has the same claim to objectivity and existence as do jokes. They both exist solely in the minds of people, they both require a speaker/writer and an audience.

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Immanuel Can
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Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by Immanuel Can » Fri Apr 08, 2016 12:11 am

Or perhaps, ... the idea that morality is objective needs some proof, ......if you've got it.
The original assertion was her/his denial of objective morality, not anyone's the assertion that it existed. The burden of proof is on the asserter: (s)he made the claim.

It seems to be a claim with which you agree. Can you supply the reasons (s)he has not yet supplied?

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Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by Obvious Leo » Fri Apr 08, 2016 12:51 am

Immanuel Can wrote: The original assertion was her/his denial of objective morality,
Immanuel Can wrote:The burden of proof is on the asserter:
Not on this occasion where Occam economy can be brought to bear on the question and we note that the Platonist myth of an "objective" reality with respect to ANYTHING has never been satisfactorily demonstrated. Objective morality can thus be simply refuted on the grounds of non-necessity, thereby making the claimant he who would say otherwise.

If you disagree with this, IC, then rather than mislead people you should change your username.

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Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by A_Seagull » Fri Apr 08, 2016 1:36 am

Immanuel Can wrote:
Or perhaps, ... the idea that morality is objective needs some proof, ......if you've got it.
The original assertion was her/his denial of objective morality, not anyone's the assertion that it existed. The burden of proof is on the asserter: (s)he made the claim.

It seems to be a claim with which you agree. Can you supply the reasons (s)he has not yet supplied?
Jokes do not require reasons. Either you gets the joke or you don't.

Morality is much the same, either you agree with it or you don't.

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Immanuel Can
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Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by Immanuel Can » Fri Apr 08, 2016 3:43 am

A_Seagull wrote:Jokes do not require reasons. Either you gets the joke or you don't.

Morality is much the same, either you agree with it or you don't.
Well, logically speaking, that's no answer to how one can ever claim it doesn't exist. So again, the earlier claim is mere assumption.

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Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by Obvious Leo » Fri Apr 08, 2016 3:47 am

Immanuel Can wrote:
A_Seagull wrote:Jokes do not require reasons. Either you gets the joke or you don't.

Morality is much the same, either you agree with it or you don't.
Well, logically speaking, that's no answer to how one can ever claim it doesn't exist. So again, the earlier claim is mere assumption.
Nobody ever needs to justify a claim that a particular something does not exist. The burden of proof ALWAYS lies with the one who claims that something does in fact exist. Don't forget Russell's teapot.

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Immanuel Can
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Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by Immanuel Can » Fri Apr 08, 2016 12:15 pm

Obvious Leo wrote:Nobody ever needs to justify a claim that a particular something does not exist. The burden of proof ALWAYS lies with the one who claims that something does in fact exist. Don't forget Russell's teapot.
Russell's teapot doesn't apply to cases in which nothing is being asserted on the one side, but the assertion comes entirely from the other. I did not make the initial claim, nor, to this point, have I asserted its contrary. If I ever do decide to assert the contrary, it will be only after I see the evidence for the statement as offered by the original poster. And (s)he owes us that -- (s)he made the original claim. (S)he expected us to believe, without question, that morality cannot be regarded as objective.

Now, to claim to know something doesn't exist is to make a knowledge claim. Knowledge claims can only be assessed on the basis of the quality of their evidence. Yet absolutely no evidence has been offered by anyone to back the claim that morality is not objective, despite repeated invitations to do so. Therefore, so far as the original asserter and his/her supporters are concerned, it is not a knowledge claim, but perhaps an expression of wish or aspiration sans reason. That seems the only possible conclusion.

Unless perhaps you have that evidence we've been talking about...In which case, I'm all ears. Trot it out.

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Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by Obvious Leo » Fri Apr 08, 2016 1:35 pm

Immanuel Can wrote:
Obvious Leo wrote:Nobody ever needs to justify a claim that a particular something does not exist. The burden of proof ALWAYS lies with the one who claims that something does in fact exist. Don't forget Russell's teapot.
Russell's teapot doesn't apply to cases in which nothing is being asserted on the one side, but the assertion comes entirely from the other. I did not make the initial claim, nor, to this point, have I asserted its contrary. If I ever do decide to assert the contrary, it will be only after I see the evidence for the statement as offered by the original poster. And (s)he owes us that -- (s)he made the original claim. (S)he expected us to believe, without question, that morality cannot be regarded as objective.

Now, to claim to know something doesn't exist is to make a knowledge claim. Knowledge claims can only be assessed on the basis of the quality of their evidence. Yet absolutely no evidence has been offered by anyone to back the claim that morality is not objective, despite repeated invitations to do so. Therefore, so far as the original asserter and his/her supporters are concerned, it is not a knowledge claim, but perhaps an expression of wish or aspiration sans reason. That seems the only possible conclusion.

Unless perhaps you have that evidence we've been talking about...In which case, I'm all ears. Trot it out.
This is bollocks, IC, and you ought to know better. The statement was carelessly contrived but it was NOT a knowledge statement because to assert the non-existence of ANYTHING can never be proven, even in principle. I have some serious reservations about the existence of leprechauns but I know perfectly well that this is a stance of position which I can never prove. However if somebody were to claim that leprechauns exist I have every right to insist that one be produced for my inspection.

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Immanuel Can
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Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by Immanuel Can » Fri Apr 08, 2016 5:01 pm

... to assert the non-existence of ANYTHING can never be proven, even in principle.
This is correct, and conclusively shows that when (s)he asserted that no such thing as objective morality exists, (s)he was making an irrational claim. It would seem we finally agree.
However if somebody were to claim that leprechauns exist I have every right to insist that one be produced for my inspection.
Check back. Nobody has asserted that leprechauns or anything else exists. That objective morality does not exist was the only postulate offered by the author. And, as you have clearly said, it is an irrational postulate that (s)he was not equipped with any evidence to assert.

Footnote: Regarding your opening remark, may I point out that a civil tone is a mark of intellectual conversation. Absent that, we shall have only puerility, posturing and empty blandishments. Now, you will note that I have remained civil to you. And I have no interest in combatting you on such diminished terms as those remarks offer -- nor even in pointing out the lack of maturity they evince. However, sometimes it's impossible to move forward otherwise.

Choose the quality of your diction, and I shall choose how much time I invest in responding to you accordingly.

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Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by uwot » Fri Apr 08, 2016 5:34 pm

Immanuel Can wrote:
... to assert the non-existence of ANYTHING can never be proven, even in principle.
This is correct, and conclusively shows that when (s)he asserted that no such thing as objective morality exists, (s)he was making an irrational claim. It would seem we finally agree.
You omitted the bit where Leo conceded that the "statement was carelessly contrived". That is selective reading. It's your same old nonsense, Immanuel Can; just as it doesn't follow from the fact that god's non existence cannot be proven that therefore god exists, nor does it follow that because morality cannot be proven not to be objective, that it is.

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Immanuel Can
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Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by Immanuel Can » Fri Apr 08, 2016 6:06 pm

uwot wrote:You omitted the bit where Leo conceded that the "statement was carelessly contrived". That is selective reading.
No, it was selective repeating. That claim didn't merit repeating, because it was mere rhetoric, a personal insult without reference to truth. To respond to such blandishments would simply be to lower the bar of discourse....like bandying curses and obscenities instead of making logical points.
It's your same old nonsense, Immanuel Can;
And this is more of the same: a personal insult offered as if it added content. It doesn't.
just as it doesn't follow from the fact that god's non existence cannot be proven that therefore god exists, nor does it follow that because morality cannot be proven not to be objective, that it is.
You've missed the point. We're not arguing the statement, "Objective morality exists." Nobody asserted that one (yet). We're arguing "Morality is especially not objective." This is the exact knowledge claim that was advanced by the author, in his/her own words...go and have a look, if you doubt it.

We owe it to the author to take the statement seriously, and thus to see if his/her claim has any evidence behind it. If you share his/her view, feel free to offer your own evidence.

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