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?

Moderators: AMod, iMod

Post Reply
uwot
Posts: 4374
Joined: Mon Jul 23, 2012 7:21 am

Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by uwot » Tue Apr 12, 2016 7:42 am

Immanuel Can wrote: One cannot merely "describe" morality and make any sense of it, because once you eliminate the prescriptive element one is left with nothing useful to say about it at all.
That's why we have the law.
Immanuel Can wrote:...we need a prescription, such as "forcible female circumcision is wrong."
Two out of three brands of monotheism say "forcible male circumcision is right."
Immanuel Can wrote:Yet description never gives us that much. So description will never tell us whether we owe it to Somali women to stop the practice, or to encourage it, or to tolerate it. It will leave us morally impotent -- unable to know how to act -- just when we need real direction.
Tell us, Immanuel; what does god have to say on the subject?

User avatar
Hobbes' Choice
Posts: 8363
Joined: Fri Oct 25, 2013 11:45 am

Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by Hobbes' Choice » Tue Apr 12, 2016 10:15 am

Obvious Leo wrote:
Dubious wrote: Even a primal kind of empathy for creatures outside their group have been documented.
In many of the higher order mammals and birds the word "empathy" would be the valid one in this context. .
Whilst it is a brain dead obvious observation that innate emotional intelligence is and the heart of and motivates all morality; it is quite another to pretend that animals have rules, "golden" or otherwise.

Empathy is not the "golden rule."
Empathy is not meted out evenly to a dog's fellows. Dog's like humans are choosey and form packs, which benefit from friendly consideration, whilst those outside the pack do not and attract aggression. Smaller rival packs are lucky to achieve disregard. But even within those packs, the empathy is not bestowed evenly either.

Your comments that "The observance of the Golden Rule is ubiquitous in nature." is more than just hyperbole. It is simply false.

User avatar
Immanuel Can
Posts: 6351
Joined: Wed Sep 25, 2013 4:42 pm

Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by Immanuel Can » Tue Apr 12, 2016 12:10 pm

Obvious Leo wrote:What exactly is it that you're advocating.
Morality. :D
Female genital mutilation is unlawful in my country because it offends the moral sensibilities of the Australian people and for no other reason.
Really? ONLY because it offends some non-objective "sensibility" Australians happen to feel at the moment? Not because Australians are decent, merciful, egalitarian, fair-minded people? Not because they're actually right to find it repulsive, dehumanizing and cruel? And if it stopped "offending" this non-objective "sensibility," or they stopped feeling that it did, then Australians too would hold down their pre-pubescent female children and cut away their genitals by force, and they'd be right to do it?

Now I'm wondering exactly what it is you are advocating. :shock:
Are you trying to suggest that the practice is immoral for some other reason?
You bet.
What about homosexuality in Uganda, foot-binding in China, child brides in Ethiopia, etc etc.
You bet...all wrong.
Because you and I are horrified at such injustice are we then to put ourselves on the moral pedestal and declare it so for all of humanity.
No, not because we are "horrified." "Horror" is, after all, just a "sensibility" like the one you attribute to the Australians. It has no compulsory value. The fact that we are "horrified" is a contingent fact. That we ought to be horrified, whether we are or not, is the moral perspective.

And on there is no "pedestal". There is only that same universal moral law that makes it wrong to harm other human beings, the same universal moral law that obligates us to the GR. We condemn the mutilation of women not because we think it wrong, but because it actually is wrong: and if we happen to recognize that it's wrong, then we're right. :)

What's the alternative? Are you actually going to carry your relativism so far as to say that genital mutilation, torture, rape, pedophilia, slavery and mass murder are only "wrong" for people who are willing to recognize that they are, and are "right" for everybody else?

That, may I say, would make us something worse than arrogant, would it not?

User avatar
Immanuel Can
Posts: 6351
Joined: Wed Sep 25, 2013 4:42 pm

Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by Immanuel Can » Tue Apr 12, 2016 12:28 pm

uwot wrote:
Immanuel Can wrote: One cannot merely "describe" morality and make any sense of it, because once you eliminate the prescriptive element one is left with nothing useful to say about it at all.
That's why we have the law.
Ah, but the law is not always moral, no?

All the laws in the pre-Civil War American south were in favour of slavery. Did that make it the right thing to do?

You'd have to say so, if you stay consistent with moral relativism. The answer to people who thought otherwise would simply be, "Well, it's the law."

Moreover, the law is a prescriptive code: it doesn't tell us what people tend to do, it tells us what they should and shouldn't do. Thus the very existence of law is a tribute to one of two things, just as Nietzsche pointed out -- either to the rightness/wrongness of a particular action as confirmed by a universal moral standard, or merely to the power of a larger group of people to tyrannize a smaller one by means of power.

Which one do you think the abolishing of slavery was?

Obvious Leo
Posts: 4007
Joined: Wed May 13, 2015 1:05 am
Location: Australia

Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by Obvious Leo » Tue Apr 12, 2016 12:35 pm

IC. Your self-righteousness makes me puke.

uwot
Posts: 4374
Joined: Mon Jul 23, 2012 7:21 am

Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by uwot » Tue Apr 12, 2016 1:57 pm

Immanuel Can wrote:
Immanuel Can wrote:One cannot merely "describe" morality and make any sense of it, because once you eliminate the prescriptive element one is left with nothing useful to say about it at all.
uwot wrote:That's why we have the law.
Ah, but the law is not always moral, no?

That's right, Immanuel; that's why we have the law.
Immanuel Can wrote:All the laws in the pre-Civil War American south were in favour of slavery. Did that make it the right thing to do?
No, Immanuel; the right thing to do was to change the law. Haven't you heard? That's what happened.
Immanuel Can wrote:You'd have to say so, if you stay consistent with moral relativism.
Here we go again. Mr Can, I defy you to quote anything I have said that implies that I am a moral relativist.

So, Immanuel Can, what exactly does your god say about female genital mutilation?

User avatar
Immanuel Can
Posts: 6351
Joined: Wed Sep 25, 2013 4:42 pm

Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by Immanuel Can » Tue Apr 12, 2016 1:59 pm

Obvious Leo wrote:IC. Your self-righteousness makes me puke.
Ah, the personal insult...The last refuge of the man who wishes to avoid the logic of his own relativism. :lol:

You're just off topic.

User avatar
Hobbes' Choice
Posts: 8363
Joined: Fri Oct 25, 2013 11:45 am

Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by Hobbes' Choice » Tue Apr 12, 2016 2:02 pm

Immanuel Can wrote:
Obvious Leo wrote:IC. Your self-righteousness makes me puke.
Ah, the personal insult...The last refuge of the man who wishes to avoid the logic of his own relativism. :lol:

You're just off topic.
No, you make me puke too.

User avatar
Immanuel Can
Posts: 6351
Joined: Wed Sep 25, 2013 4:42 pm

Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by Immanuel Can » Tue Apr 12, 2016 2:09 pm

uwot wrote:
Immanuel Can wrote: Ah, but the law is not always moral, no?

That's right, Immanuel; that's why we have the law.
So now, you're saying the law is also immoral? Or you're saying "Whatever the law says is always right?" What is the claim you wish to advance?
Immanuel Can wrote:All the laws in the pre-Civil War American south were in favour of slavery. Did that make it the right thing to do?
No, Immanuel; the right thing to do was to change the law. Haven't you heard? That's what happened.
Irrelevant to the question. After all, slavery still exists elsewhere, and now more brutally than at any time in history. That's what happened. But even if it hadn't, the question is whether or not THOSE laws were right. And you've ducked that one.
Immanuel Can wrote:You'd have to say so, if you stay consistent with moral relativism.
Here we go again. Mr Can, I defy you to quote anything I have said that implies that I am a moral relativist.
Oh, so you are a moral objectivist? Because by the law of the excluded middle, you have to be one or the other....If you believe any objective moral law exists, then you're an objectivist; if you believe none exists, you're not: so which is it?
So, Immanuel Can, what exactly does your god say about female genital mutilation?
Nothing direct, since the tradition did not even exist in Biblical times. But the whole human rights tradition, including the right of little girls not to be mutilated, derives from thence.

But that's a red herring. The question here is not about FGM in Somalia, which only comes in as an example, but whether or not we can say that ANYTHING, including FGM and slavery, is ever really "wrong."

Without objective morality, we can surely "say" it, but it won't be justifiable by any means.

User avatar
Hobbes' Choice
Posts: 8363
Joined: Fri Oct 25, 2013 11:45 am

Re: A Critique on Objective Morality

Post by Hobbes' Choice » Tue Apr 12, 2016 2:21 pm

Immanuel Can wrote:
uwot wrote:
Immanuel Can wrote: Ah, but the law is not always moral, no?

That's right, Immanuel; that's why we have the law.
So now, you're saying the law is also immoral? Or you're saying "Whatever the law says is always right?" What is the claim you wish to advance?
.
And with that IC disappears up his own arse.

User avatar
henry quirk
Posts: 4965
Joined: Fri May 09, 2008 8:07 pm

Post by henry quirk » Tue Apr 12, 2016 2:58 pm

"The question here is...whether or not we can say that ANYTHING... is ever really "wrong."

This, I think, is the root of of my disagreement with you, Mannie.

As I understand your view, without a divine arbiter to ground the assessment 'wrong', the assessment has no meaning, no force.

In the wider sense, you're right, but narrowly, on the human scale, if I assess child rape as 'wrong' then 'I' am the force, the grounding, the child rapist has to reckon with. Certainly, my assessment of the pedo as scum is subjective, but that won't save him.

I break his arms, his legs, and as I move to finish things, he whines 'you have no right!'.

Entirely possible, I suppose, God is watching, and frowning at me taking matters into my own hands. If so: He's free to stop me. If He doesn't, this sez sumthin' about God.

Perhaps He refrains from involvement so each can rise or fall on his or her own. If so: then, my victories being mine, I don't owe him diddly. And my failures? Mine too. So, lock me out of Heaven, but spare me chastising, Hoary Thunderer, speech.

Now, mebbe I'm right and there is no divine arbiter. My victories and failures still belong to me. I still live and die with the consequences. I just don't have the BIGGEST STICK in the universe to dicker with me about property rights.

Either way, the pedo is finshed, so my primitive brain just ain't gettin' why all the hub-bub about morality or its nature, when it's 'my' quantifiable, real, nature (and yours) that is the actual matter of concern.

There was a Mel Gibson flick a few years back...he was a bad guy who'd been ripped off to the tune of fifty thousand bucks, by other bad guys. Pretty much the movie was about Gibson's character raining bloody hell down the fellows who wronged him.

Simply: an amoral force contends with amoral forces for reasons grounded only in the agents.

I think the world works ths way, or -- if there is a divine arbiter -- it does a damn fine job of imitating such a world

User avatar
Immanuel Can
Posts: 6351
Joined: Wed Sep 25, 2013 4:42 pm

Re:

Post by Immanuel Can » Tue Apr 12, 2016 3:22 pm

henry quirk wrote: Simply: an amoral force contends with amoral forces for reasons grounded only in the agents.

I think the world works ths way, or -- if there is a divine arbiter -- it does a damn fine job of imitating such a world
That's a really good comment, Henry...and I think it deserves thoughtful treatment in its own right: "if there is any objectivity to morality, why does the world empirically seem uninterested in that so often?" Let's hold that thought for a minute.

Another thing occurs to me, based on the recent spate of abuse I seem to have incurred by the mere suggestion that female genital mutilation is objectively wrong.

Abuse is an admission of the objectivity of morality.

Why do I say so? Well, because rationally speaking, the person heaping the abuse on another -- say, that he's "self-righteous," or "a hypocrite," or " a fool," or whatever -- that same person heaping the abuse fully expects that the recipient will agree with him on the judgment that to be a "hypocrite," or "self-righteous,' or whatever IS OBJECTIVELY WRONG!

If it's not, the abuse has no meaning. It's as if the abuser were saying, "you're a human," "you're a person," "you exist," or "you have different opinions." That is, it's all neutral stuff, stuff that has no necessary negativity, and certainly no reference to universal axioms such as "Thou shalt not be a hypocrite," or "Thou shalt not be self-righteous."

In other words, every abuser is showing that he/she is actually a moral objectivist! He may imagine he's not, but we can see he's self-deceived. He's relying on our common belief in the objective moral wrongness of "self-righteousness" (for example) to make his very case!

Now, do you think that when Obvious or uwot says those pejoratives to me -- like "you make me sick" -- that they are merely making a statement about how they, personally happen to feel at the moment? Or are they expecting me to understand "you should be ashamed of yourself," "you should be wounded," "you are a bad person," or something like that? It's pretty clearly the latter, isn't it? But absent any objectivity to their moral judgment on me, why should I, or anyone at all, pay them any attention?

They're all objectivists. We all are. And anyone who objects to me saying so can only form the objection as an objective moral criticism.

Moral relativism isn't even relatively tenable, then. It's self-defeating. For then it's only "relatively" wrong to refuse to be a moral relativist. :wink:

User avatar
henry quirk
Posts: 4965
Joined: Fri May 09, 2008 8:07 pm

Post by henry quirk » Tue Apr 12, 2016 3:39 pm

"rationally speaking, the person heaping the abuse on another -- say, that he's "self-righteous," or "a hypocrite," or " a fool," or whatever -- that same person heaping the abuse fully expects that the recipient will agree with him on the judgment that to be a "hypocrite," or "self-righteous,' or whatever IS OBJECTIVELY WRONG!"

I think you're making too much of it.

Dicks are gonna be dicks. Rationality got nuthin' to do with it. The dick, obviously, don't give a shit what his or her opponent thinks. If the oppenent doesn't agree with the dick, and has the nerve to stand his or her ground, the dick does what he or she does: be a dick.

In short: don't overanalyze the dick, or apply reason to the dick...the dick is a dick and that's the totality of it (him or her.

So: "why should I, or anyone at all, pay them any attention?"

No damn reason at all 'cept you choose to.

User avatar
henry quirk
Posts: 4965
Joined: Fri May 09, 2008 8:07 pm

Post by henry quirk » Tue Apr 12, 2016 3:51 pm

"if there is any objectivity to morality, why does the world empirically seem uninterested in that so often?"

Well, as I say, mebbe cuz there's no divine arbiter so the world is without moral dimension.

Or, as I say, mebbe we're left to our own devices by God so as to rise or fall on our own, to figure it out for ourselves.

Or mebbe God is simply so alien in its thinking that we just can't understand it, even though its screeching at the top of its lungs at each of us, 24/7.

Or...*shrug*...your guess is as good as mine.

Me: you know what I think.

User avatar
Immanuel Can
Posts: 6351
Joined: Wed Sep 25, 2013 4:42 pm

Re:

Post by Immanuel Can » Tue Apr 12, 2016 4:07 pm

henry quirk wrote:"if there is any objectivity to morality, why does the world empirically seem uninterested in that so often?"

Well, as I say, mebbe cuz there's no divine arbiter so the world is without moral dimension.

Or, as I say, mebbe we're left to our own devices by God so as to rise or fall on our own, to figure it out for ourselves.

Or mebbe God is simply so alien in its thinking that we just can't understand it, even though its screeching at the top of its lungs at each of us, 24/7.

Or...*shrug*...your guess is as good as mine.

Me: you know what I think.
Yep. And that is one possible conclusion, of course. The reason there seems to be no regularity to moral order could be a product of there being Nobody to back one.

Or it could be that there is a greater good in the state of irregularity we perceive between virtue and reward, such that the ultimate Arbiter of morality has good reason to prefer things to operate in the unpredictable way they do.

Of course, that couldn't go on forever: but at least temporarily, it could, so long as the moral ambiguities were eventually resolved with justice.

But we are wandering afield. To pursue this perhaps we should chat it out elsewhere. Here we are in danger of derailing the original poster's train. :wink:

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests