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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Greta
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Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by Greta » Mon Apr 11, 2016 1:14 pm

Immanuel Can wrote:This suggests that you're really just a moral pragmatist (not fussy with moral codes), and that the GR is merely an option you personally prefer for small scale ("detail") thinking. (Of course, that means it's anything but "robust" for you: it's actually very modestly applicable in your system, this would seem to suggest.)

Have I understood you accurately now?
I'm happy with that, Immanuel. I dislike all the wanking on that goes on about about morality, both in academia and online (not aimed at people here necessarily). We refine and refine and refine ... and then a natural disaster, war strikes or even a property bust and society starts going base and tribal. Under pressure, the "thin veneer of civilisation" falls away like wet tissue paper under the influence of the survival instinct.

Morality is basically a luxury afforded by social animals who have achieved stability through exploiting and killing other species. For humans, once we created our safe zones with agriculture, tools, weapons and strategies, we started refining our rules of engagement. Over time it's built up to the point of silliness. As with laws, we've ended up with many thousands of pages of ideas about morality when most of us are hard-pressed juggling a couple of simple concepts in real life situations with their distractions and time pressures. So this very refined morality ends up only being deeply understood by a relative handful of gatekeepers, most of whom in real life probably regularly ignore the abstracted moral tenets they espouse in their work. Again, like lawyers.

One philosopher who sincerely tries to "walk the walk" with a detailed morality is Peter Singer and, having heard of the efforts he makes to live up to his ideals, I'd say it's not for the faint-hearted; a difficult path.

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Immanuel Can
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Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by Immanuel Can » Mon Apr 11, 2016 3:28 pm

Greta wrote:
Immanuel Can wrote:Have I understood you accurately now?
I'm happy with that, Immanuel.
Excellent. Thank you for the clarification.
One philosopher who sincerely tries to "walk the walk" with a detailed morality is Peter Singer and, having heard of the efforts he makes to live up to his ideals, I'd say it's not for the faint-hearted; a difficult path.
I know Singer, of course. And I would agree he does indeed do a fair bit to live in accordance with his principles -- he reputedly gives a stable slice of his income to charity, for instance. If that's true, I think your comment is warranted.

At the same time, Singer has a problem: he's an ethical consequentialist -- and that means that he has to specify at least one moral principle, and say that it binds everyone. Because without having "the right consequence," no consequentialist system turns out to be informative of morality.

So I'm forced to wonder, how do you know that Singer's consequentialism (his is a form of utilitarianism, really) is oriented to "the right consequence"? For it is quite possible for a different person to be, say, a consequentialist hedonist, or a consequentialist 'speciesist' (to borrow one of Singer's own terms), or a consequentialist racial supremacist like Hitler.

How do we eliminate the "bad" consequentialisms and secure only the good ones? On what principle must all such consequences be judged?

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henry quirk
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Post by henry quirk » Mon Apr 11, 2016 4:03 pm

As an amoral monster, I think you're all makin' too much of what amounts to personal preference and after-the-fact rationalizing.

What is right? What is good?

Seems to me the true arbiter of this is how the world works.

Fire burns, yes?

if any of us pokes an unprotected hand into a fire, each of us gets burned, yes? And, this 'principle' applies (presumably) the same way on the other side of the universe as it does 'here', yes?

'Fire burns' is unambiguous, clean, universal, absolute.

Seems to me: what is moral, right, good, true is that which lines up squarely with the world. Any other definition just muddies the waters.

Another example: why not steal? The only sensible reason is that mebbe the one you plan to steal from may object and try and stop you (in a permanent kinda way). So, really, self-interest is why one shouldn't steal.

There: another unambiguous, clean, universal, absolute thing.

And, really, the fire example is just a subset of 'self-interest'.

So: again, what is moral, right, good, true is that which lines up squarely with the world, and, self-interest demands a clear sight of, and true assessment of, the world.

There...conundrum resolved...you can all thank me by sending oddles of cash to me...private me for p.o. box.

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Immanuel Can
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Re:

Post by Immanuel Can » Mon Apr 11, 2016 4:47 pm

Hello, Henry! Good to hear you chime in. Welcome, Old Sock. :D
henry quirk wrote:Seems to me: what is moral, right, good, true is that which lines up squarely with the world. Any other definition just muddies the waters.
Ah, but which "world"? For we don't all agree on what "world" we're in. Some people think we are in a world in which social cooperation ought to be the rule...others, one in which competition and even tooth-and-claw violence ought to be the rule. Some think there's a higher moral order in this world, and others say there's none, and we make up our own. Others say, That's ridiculous: we don't even need a moral order.

And things then "line up" differently. If I'm one of the social cooperation types, I think I've been "lined up with world" when I save your life; if I'm one of the rampant competition once, I think I've been "lined up with the world" when I've stomped you into cringing submission to my greater will...

Which one is most realistic? Which one is best aligned with the way the world really is? We (all people) just don't agree.
Another example: why not steal? The only sensible reason is that mebbe the one you plan to steal from may object and try and stop you (in a permanent kinda way). So, really, self-interest is why one shouldn't steal.
You're pointing out -- as I think Kant would have done -- that stealing is a kind of contradictory action: I steal from you in order to possess, and in order to possess I thereby deny the universal right to possess anything. But the problem is this; that I can think of many good reasons to steal, especially if I'm quite sure I can secure your property afterwards...say by the expedient of keeping you, or greedy other people, from knowing I have it, or if I happen to have a gang of thugs and brownshirts who can keep others from taking away from me what I steal from you.

So it's not at all clear where my real "self-interest" lies: and intuitively, it looks very much to me like I'm going to get more out of putting my paws on your stuff than I am from respecting your space.
There...conundrum resolved...you can all thank me by sending oddles of cash to me...private me for p.o. box.
Do you take wire transfers? :lol:

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Hobbes' Choice
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Re:

Post by Hobbes' Choice » Mon Apr 11, 2016 6:13 pm

henry quirk wrote:As an amoral monster, I think you're all makin' too much of what amounts to personal preference and after-the-fact rationalizing.

What is right? What is good?

Seems to me the true arbiter of this is how the world works.

Fire burns, yes?

if any of us pokes an unprotected hand into a fire, each of us gets burned, yes? And, this 'principle' applies (presumably) the same way on the other side of the universe as it does 'here', yes?

'Fire burns' is unambiguous, clean, universal, absolute.
You said on another page that self interest rules.
That being the case, you can burn who and what the fuck you like if you are cold: where the fuck is universal morality now?

Morality is not about the laws of physics. It's about who is in the group and who is out of the group. Who does the burning and who gets burnt.

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henry quirk
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Post by henry quirk » Mon Apr 11, 2016 6:43 pm

"where the fuck is universal morality now?"

There is none.

What there is: the way the world works (not the human world, that is not human perspective on the world).

Align yourself with it.

#

"you can burn who and what the fuck you like"

Yep. and you may get away with it...but mebbe not.

##

"we don't all agree on what "world" we're in"

And the world, as it ticks along, don't give a crap.

If I recognize that *fire burns, and act accordingly, I keep my digits; if Joe, on the other hand, insists fire is cold, then Joe is gonna be fingerless or dead.

#

"And things then "line up" differently"

Not really, no. there may be a wide variety of perspectives on fire, but fire is fire is fire and that trumps perspective. Yeah, Joe may insist fire is cold but that changes nuthin' about fire.

#

"I can think of many good reasons to steal"

So can I. I weigh the potential cost to me against the potential value of what I wanna steal and find the risk not worth the trouble. Yeah, I can mebbe walk away with a million bucks, but -- if I'm wrong -- I could end up in jail or dead, so -- since I value 'me' way more than a million bucks -- I don't steal.

#

"Do you take wire transfers?"

Gave it some thought...decided money is a paltry thing...immortal souls are much better as compensation...everyone: sign them over to me...now.






*a discerning soul recognizes 'fire burns' is a metaphor

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Hobbes' Choice
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Re:

Post by Hobbes' Choice » Mon Apr 11, 2016 6:54 pm

henry quirk wrote:"where the fuck is universal morality now?"

There is none.

What there is: the way the world works (not the human world, that is not human perspective on the world).

Align yourself with it.

#

"you can burn who and what the fuck you like"

Yep. and you may get away with it...but mebbe not.

##

"we don't all agree on what "world" we're in"

And the world, as it ticks along, don't give a crap.

If I recognize that *fire burns, and act accordingly, I keep my digits; if Joe, on the other hand, insists fire is cold, then Joe is gonna be fingerless or dead.r
Not relevant.
Physical truth is not morality.

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henry quirk
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Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by henry quirk » Mon Apr 11, 2016 6:57 pm

"Physical truth is not morality."

No shit.

Heads up: there is no morality beyond personal preference and after-the-fact rationalizing.

All you got is 'you', navigating a world that does not care if you live or die.

So: act accordingly.

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Immanuel Can
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Re:

Post by Immanuel Can » Mon Apr 11, 2016 7:55 pm

"we don't all agree on what "world" we're in"
henry quirk wrote: And the world, as it ticks along, don't give a crap.

If I recognize that *fire burns, and act accordingly, I keep my digits; if Joe, on the other hand, insists fire is cold, then Joe is gonna be fingerless or dead.
Yeah, but false analogy, Henry. It's not like physical phenomena.

People who deny the principles of thermodynamics or the law of gravity die, sure. But people who deny the law of Britain don't. And they're even less likely to die if they deny the Golden Rule.

Meanwhile, we're faced with a dilemma: for who says that your I'm-okay-you're-okay world is the "real" one, since nobody burns by disbelieving in it? And who's to say mine's the "real" one, since people who do good in it don't automatically get ice cream?

The truth is that there's no regular or predictable causal effect between a person's moral disposition, choices or preferences, on the one hand, and any success, failure or "burning" in the real world, on the other: so we can't use the indicators you suggest to guide our decisions vis a vis morals. We don't know what will ever "work" in that sense.

The axiom
"Act accordingly"
therefore has no information in it. "According" to what? Reality ain't providing the information we need to know what we should do.

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Post by henry quirk » Mon Apr 11, 2016 8:00 pm

C'mon, Mannie...don't be a doofus like Hobbe's.

"It's not like physical phenomena"

No, but physical phenomena is all any of us have, that and our perceptions of it.

All the rest is eye shine.

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Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by Dubious » Mon Apr 11, 2016 8:59 pm

Dubious wrote:Not really! or only if it consisted of the ONE directive being the least abstract and the most fundamental, applicable to all that denotes itself as human or acknowledges the ubiquity of human nature.
Immanuel Can wrote:Analytically, that's sufficient for "moral objectivist." One such precept is logically enough. You don't need two or three...let alone 10, 613, or whatever anyone else opts for. You believe in a primary, objective moral principle, which you identify as the GR.
If a morality held to be objective could diminish to a single precept why would it require any critique at all? What's left to judge or talk about?
Immanuel Can wrote:You call it "ubiquitous," "fundamental," and "applicable to all"...so please explain, how can these adjectives be true, and yet the principle you cite not be "objective" as well?
If the Golden Rule is a principal then it's one based on instinct which even animals possess impervious to critique...a natural phenomenon and not one WE in principal have created. It's not based on any human authority filed under the rubric of any objective morality but foremost on human instinct which is still centered in nature as are the instincts of all animals.

I regard it more as a natural law than any overt moral principal, whether designated objective or not, which can be philosophically dismembered and subsequently reordered.

BTW you once more conveniently forgot to include the second paragraph being an addendum and revision of the one quoted:
But having said that, the Golden Rule doesn't really adjust to the various norms of morality which are more likely to be inscribed by cultural attitudes. Instead, it commences in a mutual bond of empathy based on one's common humanity without interference from anyone's indigenous habits of behavior where any mention of objectivity immediately creates a series of contradictions.

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Immanuel Can
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Re:

Post by Immanuel Can » Mon Apr 11, 2016 9:14 pm

henry quirk wrote:C'mon, Mannie...don't be a doofus like Hobbe's.

"It's not like physical phenomena"

No, but physical phenomena is all any of us have, that and our perceptions of it.

All the rest is eye shine.

But this is you and me, not Hobbes.

Physical phenomena don't give us enough information. That's what I'm saying. They unpredictably reward and punish moral and immoral behaviour, so not even a prudential judgment is possible based on them.

For example, physical phenomena do not give us the axiom, "Stealing is wrong." If you can get away with it, then there is no more to be said, from a pragmatic perspective.

It's not like you to bridle at the implications, Henry. Usually you're happy to accept the rational consequences of your view -- which is one of your most charming features. In this case, all you can argue for based on phenomena is amorality...and you would have to say the categories morality and immorality have no referents.

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Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by Obvious Leo » Mon Apr 11, 2016 9:15 pm

Dubious wrote:If the Golden Rule is a principal then it's one based on instinct which even animals possess impervious to critique...a natural phenomenon and not one WE in principal have created. It's not based on any human authority filed under the rubric of any objective morality but foremost on human instinct which is still centered in nature as are the instincts of all animals.

I regard it more as a natural law than any overt moral principal,
Agreed. The observance of the Golden Rule is ubiquitous in nature and perfectly compatible with evolutionary theory. Henry's extreme Darwinist model of the dog-eat-dog world is a vast over-simplification of the way the natural world actually operates.

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Immanuel Can
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Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by Immanuel Can » Mon Apr 11, 2016 9:23 pm

Dubious wrote:If a morality held to be objective could diminish to a single precept why would it require any critique at all? What's left to judge or talk about?
I didn't say it can. In fact, i would say it cannot. But that was not the point. The real point was that your subscription to one single imperative -- the GR or the SR or whichever -- is sufficient to make you a dyed-in-the-wool, bona fide moral objectivist.

And that's true, by definition of "moral objectivist." There's no limitation on it as to whether it refers to one principle or many.
Immanuel Can wrote:You call it "ubiquitous," "fundamental," and "applicable to all"...so please explain, how can these adjectives be true, and yet the principle you cite not be "objective" as well?
If the Golden Rule is a principal then it's one based on instinct which even animals possess impervious to critique...a natural phenomenon and not one WE in principal have created. It's not based on any human authority filed under the rubric of any objective morality but foremost on human instinct which is still centered in nature as are the instincts of all animals.

I regard it more as a natural law than any overt moral principal, whether designated objective or not, which can be philosophically dismembered and subsequently reordered.
That doesn't answer the question. I was asking how a principle could be said to be ubiquitous, fundamental and applicable to all, but not thereby objective. If it's everywhere, basic and obligatory for everyone, then it's got to be objective. That's definitional.
BTW you once more conveniently forgot to include the second paragraph being an addendum and revision of the one quoted:
But having said that, the Golden Rule doesn't really adjust to the various norms of morality which are more likely to be inscribed by cultural attitudes. Instead, it commences in a mutual bond of empathy based on one's common humanity without interference from anyone's indigenous habits of behavior where any mention of objectivity immediately creates a series of contradictions.
No, I didn't forget. I'm sorry, but the diction was not sufficiently precise in it that I felt comfortable attributing to you any clear idea from it. I felt it was too easy to misread you and create ire. I've looked at it again, and I still don't see an answer to my question in there.

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henry quirk
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Post by henry quirk » Mon Apr 11, 2016 9:47 pm

"The observance of the Golden Rule is ubiquitous in nature."

Examples, please.

##

"Stealing is wrong"

It's not wrong, just (usually) not wise (as I exampled up-thread).

#

"It's not like you to bridle at the implications"

I'm not...perhaps you should reread all my posts in-thread.

#

"you would have to say the categories morality and immorality have no referents"

Beyond personal preference, after-the-fact rationalizing, and how cleanly the conteints of those categories align with the way the world works, im/morality is groundless, yes.

##

"Henry's extreme Darwinist model of the dog-eat-dog world is a vast over-simplification of the way the natural world actually operates."

Nope. I just strip away the fancy language to get to the meat, is all. It is a predator/prey world...certainly, there is cooperation (to compete better), but that's strategy, not context. Dog eat dog is the rock scrabble context...always has been, always will be.

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