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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henry quirk
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by henry quirk » Thu Dec 05, 2019 4:09 pm

Skepdick wrote:
Thu Dec 05, 2019 3:59 pm
henry quirk wrote:
Thu Dec 05, 2019 3:40 pm
No. We can, do, have subjective takes on what's there, what exists.
Precisely! And that's ALL we have.

A subjective take.
I expanded my post: take a gander.

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henry quirk
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Pete

Post by henry quirk » Thu Dec 05, 2019 4:14 pm

"features of reality; what we believe and know about them; and what we say about them"

Idiot version: World, Knowledge, Opinion.

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Re: Pete

Post by Peter Holmes » Fri Dec 06, 2019 10:17 am

henry quirk wrote:
Thu Dec 05, 2019 4:14 pm
"features of reality; what we believe and know about them; and what we say about them"

Idiot version: World, Knowledge, Opinion.
This idiot version doesn't even mention language - but the difference between what we say about things and the way things are is absolutely critical. Mistaking the one for the other is what has led and leads to metaphysical delusion - along with other mistakes, such as the JTB definition of knowledge, where the myth of propositions is at work - and Gettier's criticism, which ignores the misattribution in 'true belief'.

The point of my second element - what we believe and know about features of reality - is to clarify that this has nothing to do with language, and therefore nothing to do with truth-value. Reality is not linguistic, so believing or knowing a feature of reality is the case is not believing or knowing something that's true or false.

And the point of my third element - what we say about features of reality - is that there's no natural or necessary connection between what we say and what we talk about - which is why correspondence theories are mistaken. There's no foundation, for what we say, beneath our linguistic practices. They constitute the foundation for everything we say about everything, which includes what we say about our linguistic practices.

The 'turn to language' with Frege and the early Wittgenstein - which Russell never really understood, imo - was a wrong turn down the rabbit hole of conceptual analysis - until Wittgenstein recognised that the world is not the totality of facts - and set about painstakingly unravelling the tangled confusion.

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Re: Pete

Post by henry quirk » Fri Dec 06, 2019 3:48 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
Fri Dec 06, 2019 10:17 am
henry quirk wrote:
Thu Dec 05, 2019 4:14 pm
"features of reality; what we believe and know about them; and what we say about them"

Idiot version: World, Knowledge, Opinion.
This idiot version doesn't even mention language - but the difference between what we say about things and the way things are is absolutely critical. Mistaking the one for the other is what has led and leads to metaphysical delusion - along with other mistakes, such as the JTB definition of knowledge, where the myth of propositions is at work - and Gettier's criticism, which ignores the misattribution in 'true belief'.

The point of my second element - what we believe and know about features of reality - is to clarify that this has nothing to do with language, and therefore nothing to do with truth-value. Reality is not linguistic, so believing or knowing a feature of reality is the case is not believing or knowing something that's true or false.

And the point of my third element - what we say about features of reality - is that there's no natural or necessary connection between what we say and what we talk about - which is why correspondence theories are mistaken. There's no foundation, for what we say, beneath our linguistic practices. They constitute the foundation for everything we say about everything, which includes what we say about our linguistic practices.

The 'turn to language' with Frege and the early Wittgenstein - which Russell never really understood, imo - was a wrong turn down the rabbit hole of conceptual analysis - until Wittgenstein recognised that the world is not the totality of facts - and set about painstakingly unravelling the tangled confusion.
My idiot version was just a stab at sayin': there's the world, there's what we know about the world, and there's what we think we know about the world, but I concede the point (mostly cuz I'm far too lazy to educate myself on the three quarters of your post above that I don't understand).

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Pete

Post by Immanuel Can » Fri Dec 06, 2019 6:20 pm

henry quirk wrote:
Fri Dec 06, 2019 3:48 pm
My idiot version was just a stab at sayin': there's the world, there's what we know about the world, and there's what we think we know about the world,
That's essentially it, Henry. You've caught it nicely. The fancy way of saying it is that there's a difference between "ontology" (i.e. the arguments over what actually exists) and "epistemology" (i.e. arguments over how we know what exists). They're not the same thing.

For example, epistemologically, I come to believe that an apple on a table in front of me actually exists. And maybe it does, ontologically. But maybe, when I put my hand out, I find the apple is actually a hologram projected to fool me, so ontologically it did not exist, whereas I epistemologically believed it did.

The problem, though is that if my epistemology is CAPABLE OF being faulty, that does not mean that it IS faulty. And the fact that I perceive an apple does not require that the apple is unreal, nor give me reason to think it is. The fact that my perspective may inevitably be partial, proximate or incomplete does not go one stroke in the direction of showing that apples are not real. All it shows is that my epistemology is questionable, not that ontological reality is.

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Re: Pete

Post by Peter Holmes » Sat Dec 07, 2019 9:06 am

Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Dec 06, 2019 6:20 pm
henry quirk wrote:
Fri Dec 06, 2019 3:48 pm
My idiot version was just a stab at sayin': there's the world, there's what we know about the world, and there's what we think we know about the world,
That's essentially it, Henry. You've caught it nicely. The fancy way of saying it is that there's a difference between "ontology" (i.e. the arguments over what actually exists) and "epistemology" (i.e. arguments over how we know what exists). They're not the same thing.

For example, epistemologically, I come to believe that an apple on a table in front of me actually exists. And maybe it does, ontologically. But maybe, when I put my hand out, I find the apple is actually a hologram projected to fool me, so ontologically it did not exist, whereas I epistemologically believed it did.

The problem, though is that if my epistemology is CAPABLE OF being faulty, that does not mean that it IS faulty. And the fact that I perceive an apple does not require that the apple is unreal, nor give me reason to think it is. The fact that my perspective may inevitably be partial, proximate or incomplete does not go one stroke in the direction of showing that apples are not real. All it shows is that my epistemology is questionable, not that ontological reality is.
I think we agree that there are two completely separate and different things: what there is (what exists); and what we believe and know about what there is - and how we believe and know it.

But the third separate and different thing is what we say about what there is and how we believe and know it. Ontology and epistemology are in this 'category'. When we talk about what there is and what we know, we use words and other signs. We don't, as it were, 'grasp' being and knowing. But the delusion that we can and do grasp them by using words is immensely powerful. It's where philosophy comes from.

But ... back to my OP. The supposed real existence of moral rightness and wrongness is what moral realists and objectivists have yet to demonstrate.

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Pete

Post by Immanuel Can » Sat Dec 07, 2019 3:28 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 9:06 am
But the third separate and different thing is what we say about what there is and how we believe and know it. Ontology and epistemology are in this 'category'. When we talk about what there is and what we know, we use words and other signs. We don't, as it were, 'grasp' being and knowing. But the delusion that we can and do grasp them by using words is immensely powerful.
I wouldn't say the preposition "in" in your second sentence is quite right, Pete.

We can, in fact, experience intuitions about the real world that we cannot articulate: and while words, coming after that, may reshape our articulation of our experience, they do not come first and make our experience.

It seems to me it works in this order: the sentient being encounters the world, the stimuli from the world provoke the intuition, and the intuition gives rise to the speech about the intuition. Thus, words are products of experience, and experience is derived from the world. The ontological is thus primary, the epistemological secondary, and the linguistic tertiary...though the tertiary level, words, can create a feedback-loop with the secondary or epistemological level, and modify our experiences. Human articulations cannot, however, have any impact at all on the primary ontological level.

Speaking (and thinking) doesn't make things so. Words can be inapt, incorrect, confused and wrong -- we all know this. But to know this, we must be checking our linguistic acts against something non-linguistic...and we are: we are checking them against our epistemological ideas of reality, but our epistemological beliefs are themselves being tested against reality itself.

That fact may well be what makes some version of the correspondence theory of truth so durable. But the theory of human-linguistic relativism is certainly extravagant and wrong. That much we can safely say.
But ... back to my OP. The supposed real existence of moral rightness and wrongness is what moral realists and objectivists have yet to demonstrate.
Interesting. What would you accept as a demonstration of the objective truth of right and wrong, supposing such a thing were offered you?

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henry quirk
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Pete & Mannie

Post by henry quirk » Sat Dec 07, 2019 10:40 pm

The supposed real existence of moral rightness and wrongness is what moral realists and objectivists have yet to demonstrate.

What would you accept as a demonstration of the objective truth of right and wrong(?)

As I say up-thread...

Insofar as burdens of proof are assigned: I think the true burden lies with those who claim Reality is amoral, that man is just an evolved ape, and that free will (and the self free will is inextricably bound to) is an illusion, cuz so much of what man (any man) experiences sez otherwise.

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Re: Pete

Post by Peter Holmes » Sat Dec 07, 2019 11:03 pm

Immanuel Can wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 3:28 pm
Peter Holmes wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 9:06 am
But the third separate and different thing is what we say about what there is and how we believe and know it. Ontology and epistemology are in this 'category'. When we talk about what there is and what we know, we use words and other signs. We don't, as it were, 'grasp' being and knowing. But the delusion that we can and do grasp them by using words is immensely powerful.
I wouldn't say the preposition "in" in your second sentence is quite right, Pete.

We can, in fact, experience intuitions about the real world that we cannot articulate: and while words, coming after that, may reshape our articulation of our experience, they do not come first and make our experience.
I disagree with this account. What we directly experience are features of reality, not intuitions about them.
It seems to me it works in this order: the sentient being encounters the world, the stimuli from the world provoke the intuition, and the intuition gives rise to the speech about the intuition. Thus, words are products of experience, and experience is derived from the world. The ontological is thus primary, the epistemological secondary, and the linguistic tertiary...though the tertiary level, words, can create a feedback-loop with the secondary or epistemological level, and modify our experiences. Human articulations cannot, however, have any impact at all on the primary ontological level.
I think you may have missed my point - which is my whole point. You seem to think ontology is being and epistemology is knowledge. But the suffix 'ology' is the clue. The theory, explanation or description of being (ontology) or knowledge (epistemology) isn't being or knowledge. To think otherwise is to mistake the description for the described.
Speaking (and thinking) doesn't make things so. Words can be inapt, incorrect, confused and wrong -- we all know this. But to know this, we must be checking our linguistic acts against something non-linguistic...and we are: we are checking them against our epistemological ideas of reality, but our epistemological beliefs are themselves being tested against reality itself.
No disagreement here - but I'm not claiming that what we say about reality constitutes or alters reality.
That fact may well be what makes some version of the correspondence theory of truth so durable. But the theory of human-linguistic relativism is certainly extravagant and wrong. That much we can safely say.
Here I do disagree. Correspondence theories of truth are attractive but profoundly mistaken, because there's no correspondence (close similarity or likeness) between features of reality and the ways we name and describe them. And that fact does not entail linguistic relativism.
But ... back to my OP. The supposed real existence of moral rightness and wrongness is what moral realists and objectivists have yet to demonstrate.
Interesting. What would you accept as a demonstration of the objective truth of right and wrong, supposing such a thing were offered you?
This is confused. Truth is an attribute of factual assertions, not of things. If moral rightness and wrongness exist as things of some kind, their existence can, if only in theory, be demonstrated - and that has nothing to do with language, and therefore nothing to do with truth and falsehood.

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Pete

Post by henry quirk » Sat Dec 07, 2019 11:32 pm

If moral rightness and wrongness exist as things of some kind, their existence can, if only in theory, be demonstrated

Demonstrations can be (mis)interpreted and dismissed.

For example: how would I prove that I love my thirteen year old?

Seems to me any evidence I offer could be dismissed. I can't lay my love for the boy on the table for examination, I can only assert it and demonstrate it. The moral dimension of Reality is no different. I can't lay Natural Law on the table for inspection. Like love, Natural Law (objective morality) is a principle, it's a how things are, it's not a thing to be measured. I can only demonstrate Natural Law by way of the choices I make and my actions as they extend out of those choices, and you could dismiss the choices and the actions.
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Immanuel Can
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Re: Pete

Post by Immanuel Can » Sat Dec 07, 2019 11:38 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 11:03 pm
I disagree with this account. What we directly experience are features of reality, not intuitions about them.
I didn't say we "experience intuitions," Pete; I said that when we encounter features of reality, we have intuitions about them. That's quite a different claim.
You seem to think ontology is being and epistemology is knowledge.

Not at all. I think that ontology is the study of (or inquiry about) being, and epistemology is the study of knowledge. Those are quite different things, again.

Speaking (and thinking) doesn't make things so. Words can be inapt, incorrect, confused and wrong -- we all know this. But to know this, we must be checking our linguistic acts against something non-linguistic...and we are: we are checking them against our epistemological ideas of reality, but our epistemological beliefs are themselves being tested against reality itself.[/quote]
No disagreement here - but I'm not claiming that what we say about reality constitutes or alters reality.
Oh, I think that's pretty clearly not so. It can alter our interpretation of the reality we encounter, but it does not change the reality itself.
But ... back to my OP. The supposed real existence of moral rightness and wrongness is what moral realists and objectivists have yet to demonstrate.
Interesting. What would you accept as a demonstration of the objective truth of right and wrong, supposing such a thing were offered you?
This is confused.
Funny...I find it a very clear question. :shock: All it asks is what sort of evidence or demonstration you would personally accept, if such were to appear. That's pretty fair.

So let's rephrase: what sort of thing would you accept as a demonstration of the objectivity of right and wrong, supposing such a thing were offered you? You said the lack of such a "demonstration" to use your words, constituted a reasonable objection in believing in objective right and wrong; so what sort of "demonstration" were you referring to? You must know, if you think it has lacked being done...

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Re: Pete

Post by Peter Holmes » Sun Dec 08, 2019 8:20 am

Apologies, gentle reader.
Last edited by Peter Holmes on Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Pete

Post by Peter Holmes » Sun Dec 08, 2019 9:43 am

Oh dear. Things seem to be out of control.
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Re: Pete

Post by Peter Holmes » Sun Dec 08, 2019 9:55 am

henry quirk wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 11:32 pm
If moral rightness and wrongness exist as things of some kind, their existence can, if only in theory, be demonstrated

Demonstrations can be (mis)interpreted and dismissed.

For example: how would I prove that I love my thirteen year old?

Seems to me any evidence I offer could be dismissed. I can't lay my love for the boy on the table for examination, I can only assert it and demonstrate it.
And when you demonstrate your love, is that like demonstrating the existence of a real thing like a chemical element or the Higgs boson? Does love exist in a way analogous to the way such real things exist? This is the myth of abstract things at work - the old metaphysical delusion.
The moral dimension of Reality is no different. I can't lay Natural Law on the table for inspection. Like love, Natural Law (objective morality) is a principle, it's a how things are, it's not a thing to be measured. I can only demonstrate Natural Law by way of the choices I make and my actions as they extend out of those choices, and you could dismiss the choices and the actions.
You claim that 'the moral dimension of reality' or 'the Natural Law' or 'objective morality' exists. But you obviously don't think they exist in the way a chemical element or a fundamental particle exists - demonstrably. So you must be equivocating on the word 'exists' here. Perhaps you also think other abstract things 'exist', such as beauty, justice, truth and meaning. To paraphrase Socrates - after all, justice is a thing of some kind, isn't it?

Possibly the most casually catastrophic remark in the whole of western philosophy. (The cogito is up there as well.)

Annex: problems with the idea of Natural Law (objective morality)

1 Mere obedience has no moral significance - slaves and robots obey. To be moral is to be free to choose.

2 Who decides what the Natural Law says? If it's just 'how things are', how can there be disagreement?

3 Natural Law, the 'moral dimension of reality', is merely sublimated theology. Discuss.

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Re: Pete

Post by Peter Holmes » Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:39 am

Immanuel Can wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 11:38 pm
Peter Holmes wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 11:03 pm
I disagree with this account. What we directly experience are features of reality, not intuitions about them.
I didn't say we "experience intuitions," Pete; I said that when we encounter features of reality, we have intuitions about them. That's quite a different claim.
You said this: 'We can, in fact, experience intuitions about the real world that we cannot articulate: and while words, coming after that, may reshape our articulation of our experience, they do not come first and make our experience.'

An intuition is a guess or a feeling, so it's the wrong word to use here. And, btw, when we make a mistake, it's better to acknowledge and correct it, rather than deny or gloss over it.
You seem to think ontology is being and epistemology is knowledge.

Not at all. I think that ontology is the study of (or inquiry about) being, and epistemology is the study of knowledge. Those are quite different things, again.
You said this: 'The ontological is thus primary, the epistemological secondary, and the linguistic tertiary...though the tertiary level, words, can create a feedback-loop with the secondary or epistemological level, and modify our experiences. Human articulations cannot, however, have any impact at all on the primary ontological level.'

Here you are using the phrase 'the ontological' to mean 'being', and the phrase 'the epistemological' to mean 'knowledge'. So you are making precisely the mistake I pointed out. Again - better just to correct yourself and move on.

Speaking (and thinking) doesn't make things so. Words can be inapt, incorrect, confused and wrong -- we all know this. But to know this, we must be checking our linguistic acts against something non-linguistic...and we are: we are checking them against our epistemological ideas of reality, but our epistemological beliefs are themselves being tested against reality itself.
No disagreement here - but I'm not claiming that what we say about reality constitutes or alters reality.
Oh, I think that's pretty clearly not so. It can alter our interpretation of the reality we encounter, but it does not change the reality itself.

Interesting. What would you accept as a demonstration of the objective truth of right and wrong, supposing such a thing were offered you?
This is confused.
Funny...I find it a very clear question. :shock: All it asks is what sort of evidence or demonstration you would personally accept, if such were to appear. That's pretty fair.
That you think your question is clear shows that you don't understand what truth-value refers to, which is factual assertions - and I merely pointed out that mistake. And I think it's an important point. Things - features of reality - just are or were, neither true nor false. So if moral rightness and wrongness are indeed things - features of reality - then they have no truth-value - which means your expression, 'the objective truth of right and wrong' is simply a mistake - one which you rightly correct with what follows.

So let's rephrase: what sort of thing would you accept as a demonstration of the objectivity of right and wrong, supposing such a thing were offered you? You said the lack of such a "demonstration" to use your words, constituted a reasonable objection in believing in objective right and wrong; so what sort of "demonstration" were you referring to? You must know, if you think it has lacked being done...
That's trying to shift the burden of proof. If you claim that moral rightness and wrongness are features of reality, then the burden of proof is yours.

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