Is morality objective or subjective?

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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Dalek Prime
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Dalek Prime » Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:22 pm

Belinda wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:17 pm
Dalek Prime wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:06 pm
Humans have to agree on a certain standard of morality, if only for practical reasons of self-preservation. If we were all murdering each other, we wouldnt get very far.
That is the correct explanation of morality as a necessary component of a society. However when we compare different societies' notions of morality we find that some societies' moralities are horrible to us, and others are more pleasing to us.

The problem is not that morality is necessary for a society to be a society, but whether or not all human individuals in all societies share the same basic ideas of good and bad.
Very true, Belinda. I'm a big fan of liberty, as long as it's not transgressing or overly imposing. Hence I could never be a social conservative.

Peter Holmes
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Peter Holmes » Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:48 pm

Immanuel Can

I've explained why, by definition, moral judgements aren't objective. That you refuse to acknowledge that is your problem. And I was merely showing why you want and need to defend moral objectivism - although you haven't actually done so here. And, by the way, an ad hominem fallacy is when you try to refute an argument by dissing the proponent. That's not what I was doing. And I've already repeatedly shown why you're wrong.

And do you have a response to the problem that moral objectivism invalidates moral authority, such as that of a god?

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Immanuel Can » Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:50 pm

Dalek Prime wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:06 pm
Humans have to agree on a certain standard of morality, if only for practical reasons of self-preservation. If we were all murdering each other, we wouldnt get very far.
That is quite true. But as we very clearly see from the last century, individual humans are sometimes totally unconcerned about the preservation of the "race" as a whole, and sometimes quite willing to risk their own "self-preservation" in order to promote their own advantage, or their particular vision of "the good life." That's why 148 million were slaughtered in the last century. It seems we have trouble remembering that what you say is true.

So we need some way to sponsor a rational, free agreement. We need some way to say definitively that the welfare of others counts, that killing people in order to achieve one's utopia is wrong, and that no vision of "the good life" justifies certain actions against others. But we have no such resource from subjective morality. Subjectively, the Third Reich, the Great Leap Forward and the Purges were all as justified as giving money to orphanages...and just as unjustifiable as well.

Dalek Prime
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Dalek Prime » Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:58 pm

Immanuel Can wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:50 pm
Dalek Prime wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:06 pm
Humans have to agree on a certain standard of morality, if only for practical reasons of self-preservation. If we were all murdering each other, we wouldnt get very far.
That is quite true. But as we very clearly see from the last century, individual humans are sometimes totally unconcerned about the preservation of the "race" as a whole, and sometimes quite willing to risk their own "self-preservation" in order to promote their own advantage, or their particular vision of "the good life." That's why 148 million were slaughtered in the last century. It seems we have trouble remembering that what you say is true.

So we need some way to sponsor a rational, free agreement. We need some way to say definitively that the welfare of others counts, that killing people in order to achieve one's utopia is wrong, and that no vision of "the good life" justifies certain actions against others. But we have no such resource from subjective morality. Subjectively, the Third Reich, the Great Leap Forward and the Purges were all as justified as giving money to orphanages...and just as unjustifiable as well.
Oh, I agree, IC. As I've stated before, either there is a universal standard for meaning, or there is just us, muddling through the best we can. I just haven't personally found the universal standard.

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Immanuel Can » Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:59 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:48 pm
Immanuel Can

I've explained why, by definition, moral judgements aren't objective.

No, not at all: you've only attempted to slide by us an arbitrary claim that they are subjective. Review your OP, and you'll see. You expected us to just take it for granted. You gave no proof there, Peter.

But if you just forgot, I'm all ears now.
That you refuse to acknowledge that is your problem. And I was merely showing why you want and need to defend moral objectivism - although you haven't actually done so here.
And yet, I've promised repeatedly to do so, as soon as you do your part, as claimed in your OP, and prove (not merely claim without proof) that morality is only subjective. Historically, most people have believed it's objective: so if you want to tell us all we're wrong, you need to show that.

I'm having no trouble showing subjective morality is incoherent: how is it you're having such a hard time explaining exactly why it's not?

We even went to the particular case of slavery. And there, you admitted that subjective morality has absolutely no power to tell us whether even that is right or wrong. Well, if it doesn't work even for such an obvious case, what DOES it work for? :shock:
And, by the way, an ad hominem fallacy is when you try to refute an argument by dissing the proponent.
You mean like by saying, "You're desperate"? I'm pretty sure that's exactly what you did, actually. And I think you wanted me to understand that that brought some important light to the argument, which would be classic ad hominem fallacy.
That's not what I was doing.
So you didn't mean it? Or you didn't mean it had any relevance to the argument? Okay.
And do you have a response to the problem that moral objectivism invalidates moral authority, such as that of a god?
That's not the OP. However, I'll happily respond, the very minute I get your defence of the rational grounds for proclaiming morality merely subjective. Fair enough?

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Immanuel Can » Wed Jul 11, 2018 7:00 pm

Dalek Prime wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:58 pm
Oh, I agree, IC. As I've stated before, either there is a universal standard for meaning, or there is just us, muddling through the best we can. I just haven't personally found the universal standard.
I can't argue with that. Fair enough.

Peter Holmes
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Peter Holmes » Wed Jul 11, 2018 8:23 pm

Immanuel Can

Okay, I look forward to your explanation as to why moral objectivism doesn't invalidate moral authority. I'm agog with anticipation.

You haven't shown why moral subjectivism can't account for moral judgement about slavery. You've just asserted that it can't, even though I've carefully explained how this morality business works. So let's turn it around and look at moral objectivism, which you claim can account for it.

We can check if the earth orbits the sun. That's how we know why we believe the earth orbits the sun - there's something out there to verify the claim. And that's what objectivity means.

But - if we do - why do we believe slavery is wrong? What exactly do we check to verify that slavery is wrong? We could say it harms people. But what exactly do we check to verify that harming people is wrong? Why (if we do) do we believe harming people is wrong? And so on, of course.

We could say slavery is wrong because someone, maybe a god, says it's wrong - it's an offence under its moral law. But that's a moral abrogation - a denial of responsibility. And anyway, why do they believe it's wrong? How did they check that it's wrong? Can they or we check that slavery is wrong in the way we can check that the earth orbits the sun?

If moral judgements are objective, there must be something that verifies them - because that's what objectivity means: there's something beyond or outside the claim that can verify the claim.

In the end, we could just say slavery is wrong because it's just wrong. But that gets us nowhere.

So the challenge to moral objectivists is to produce what it is that factually verifies a moral judgement. I look forward to knowing what it is.

Peter Holmes
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Peter Holmes » Wed Jul 11, 2018 8:48 pm

Immanuel Can

Oh, and while you're chewing on that, there's something else.

I'm claiming that moral judgements are necessarily subjective and not objective, going by the definitions of 'objective' and 'subjective'. Do you challenge or disagree with those definitions? Do you use those words in a different way? And if so, how do you use them?

Impenitent
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Impenitent » Wed Jul 11, 2018 10:39 pm

morality is subjective when you want to act however you do, and justify your actions

morality is objective when you want others to act a certain way towards you, and they are only justified when they act accordingly...

-Imp

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Immanuel Can » Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:33 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 8:23 pm

You haven't shown why moral subjectivism can't account for moral judgement about slavery.
Alright. Let's see if you're right. Is it right to enslave people, or wrong?

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Immanuel Can » Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:36 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 8:48 pm
how do you use them?
The terms “objectivity” and “subjectivity,” in their modern usage, generally relate to a perceiving subject (normally a person) and a perceived or unperceived object. The object is something that presumably exists independent of the subject’s perception of it. In other words, the object would be there, as it is, even if no subject perceived it. Hence, objectivity is typically associated with ideas such as reality, truth and reliability. (IEP)

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Immanuel Can » Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:37 pm

Impenitent wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 10:39 pm
morality is subjective when you want to act however you do, and justify your actions

morality is objective when you want others to act a certain way towards you, and they are only justified when they act accordingly...

-Imp
Hilarious...and quite true. Well done. :D

Belinda
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Belinda » Thu Jul 12, 2018 7:31 am

Slavery.

'Enslaving' usually means not only depriving a human subject of liberty but also exploiting a human subject not for that subject's own good or to protect others, but for the enslaver's personal interests alone. Expedience requires that sometimes human subjects are deprived of liberty by human justice, or justified paternalism including that by actual parents.

Even prisoners who have committed recognisable crimes should not be exploited as if they were objects not human subjects of conscious experience.
This is because it is a fact that humans , and other animals as a matter of fact, can see when another is suffering.

The experience of seeing another suffering may be shared by several people at the same time , place, and circumstances.The public nature of suffering brings the awareness of suffering into objective experience, not hallucination , flight of fancy, or inability to know what others are feeling.

There have been a lot of historical examples of masses of people not empathising with a sufferer. For instance at public hangings, KluKluxKlan lynchings, wartime atrocities, psychopathic individuals. All of those are examples of people who have been deprived of emotional wholeness sometimes by ideology sometimes by disease. The good is closely related to the true and the beautiful.

Peter Holmes
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Peter Holmes » Thu Jul 12, 2018 9:16 am

Hello again, Immanuel Can.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:36 pm
The terms “objectivity” and “subjectivity,” in their modern usage, generally relate to a perceiving subject (normally a person) and a perceived or unperceived object. The object is something that presumably exists independent of the subject’s perception of it. In other words, the object would be there, as it is, even if no subject perceived it. Hence, objectivity is typically associated with ideas such as reality, truth and reliability. (IEP)
Thanks. (By the way, I want to apologise for my previous impatience and intemperance. No excuses.)

Here are two definitions I've just found online:

objective (adjective): (of a person or their judgement) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.

subjective (adjective): based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.

There may be some overlap between the ways you and I use these words. But the focus of each of our definitions is different. Yours focus on the nouns 'object' and 'subject' - names for the things you describe - from which you derive the abstract nouns 'objectivity' and 'subjectivity'. So I assume your adjectival derivations are: 'objective' - pertaining to a perceived or unperceived object; and 'subjective' - pertaining to a perceiving subject.

I'm working with the above dictionary definitions, which don't mention objects or subjects, and are solely adjectival. And I used something like these definitions in my OP. So this may mean we've been talking past each other - and that we need to be more careful. But, given that caution, I want to pursue what the assertions 'morality is objective' and 'morality is subjective' really mean to you.

But before I go further, do you have any thoughts about what I've said so far here?

Peter Holmes
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Peter Holmes » Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:20 pm

Immanuel Can

While you're contemplating your answer, perhaps you'll forgive me for pressing on - while my mind is on the issue.

If we define 'objective' as 'pertaining to an observed or unobserved object', the question is: what does it mean to say 'morality is objective'? In what way does morality pertain to an observed or unobserved object? And what is that object?

To be specific, in what way does the moral assertion slavery is wrong pertain to an object? Or, more simply, in what way is it about an object? And what is that object? The critical question is: is slavery right or wrong? If slavery is objectively right or wrong, there must be something that verifies or falsifies the assertions slavery is right and slavery is wrong.

The object can't be slavery itself - that feature of reality about which we can make falsifiable factual assertions. Because if the object of the assertion slavery is wrong were slavery, then the object of the assertion slavery is right would also be slavery. So two morally contradictory assertions would have the same object. And one and the same object - slavery - can't verify contradictory moral assertions. Slavery can't be objectively both right and wrong - morally good and bad.

So it seems that the object of the moral assertion slavery is wrong is the wrongness (the immorality) of slavery. It must be the wrongness of slavery that objectively justifies the moral assertion slavery is wrong. But what and where is the wrongness of slavery? After all, if morality is objective, the wrongness of slavery seems to be the object - the evidence - that verifies the truth of the moral assertion slavery is wrong.

It seems reasonable to conclude that if the wrongness of slavery is the object that verifies the moral assertion slavery is wrong, the wrongness of slavery must be one of those putative unobserved objects. But what and where is the wrongness of slavery? If it's an unobserved object, how do we know it exists? And we must know it exists, because otherwise we can't know that the moral assertion slavery is wrong is a fact - a true factual assertion. And how do we know that the unobserved object, the rightness of slavery, doesn't exist?

And there's another problem. If the justification for claiming that slavery is objectively wrong is the wrongness of slavery (whatever that is), the dog is chasing its tail. (Perhaps it needs to re-think the premise.)

But if you think my deduction from the premise morality is objective is incorrect, please correct me and develop your version of the objectivity of moral assertions. How do you account for the objectivity of morality? What does it mean?

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