What could make morality objective?

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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Peter Holmes
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » Wed May 22, 2019 8:52 pm

Belinda wrote:
Wed May 22, 2019 4:27 pm
Peter Holmes wrote:
Talk of moral epistemology makes no sense until it can be demonstrated that there are moral things that can be known. In other words, morality isn't about knowledge, empirical or otherwise. Of course, if such things are shown to exist, I'll have to re-think it all. Perhaps my use of the word 'justification' misled you. I referred to the justification for moral rules and values, not of knowledge-claims.

As for what you call the problem of criterion, I think that's an example of a confected metaphysical delusion - one of the many that have befuddled philosophers for centuries. The conceptual confusion of the JTB definition of knowledge is a case in point.

I say Belinda's question is incoherent because culture isn't the same kind of thing as morality. The claim 'culture is / isn't objective' seems to have no obvious meaning (at least to me), in the way that the claim 'morality is / isn't objective' does.
Culture is the same kind of thing as morality. Here's an illustration:
" We of -------land keep laying hens for our main source of protein and we agree that we should and must use birds that don't lay eggs as boiling fowls. We regard it as immoral to waste this important source of food."
I disagree. Here are two definition of culture:

noun
1.
the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.
"20th century popular culture"
synonyms: the arts, the humanities; More
2.
the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.
"Afro-Caribbean culture"
synonyms: civilization, society, way of life, lifestyle;

We can describe a people's 'ideas, customs, and social behaviour' factually - by making true factual assertions. But to say their culture is or isn't 'objective' makes no obvious sense - just as it would make no obvious sense to say a culture is or isn't subjective. The expression 'objective culture' could only mean 'a culture that relies on or is a matter of facts', because that's what the word 'objective' means.

By contrast, the expression 'objective morality' means a morality that relies on or is a matter of (moral) facts - and that does make sense. A people's social behaviour may be guided by a morality (a moral code), but to say their social behaviour is the same kind of thing as a moral code is false. It's a category error.

Univalence
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Univalence » Wed May 22, 2019 9:19 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
Wed May 22, 2019 8:52 pm
'objective morality' means a morality that relies on or is a matter of (moral) facts.
That is one incoherent definition amongst many.

Belinda
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Belinda » Thu May 23, 2019 12:01 am

Peter Holmes wrote:
A people's social behaviour may be guided by a morality (a moral code), but to say their social behaviour is the same kind of thing as a moral code is false. It's a category error.
A people's social behaviour is a part of their culture. Cultures change and " moral codes" change .The morality of a people is relative to the other aspects of their culture .

It's misleading to say " A people's social behaviour may be guided by a morality " as that implies that morality existed before the culture existed. Morality is social coherence and when social coherence breaks down the morality becomes diverse. We have many examples of this in the world today.

Peter Holmes
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » Thu May 23, 2019 9:03 am

Belinda wrote:
Thu May 23, 2019 12:01 am
Peter Holmes wrote:
A people's social behaviour may be guided by a morality (a moral code), but to say their social behaviour is the same kind of thing as a moral code is false. It's a category error.
A people's social behaviour is a part of their culture. Cultures change and " moral codes" change .The morality of a people is relative to the other aspects of their culture .

It's misleading to say " A people's social behaviour may be guided by a morality " as that implies that morality existed before the culture existed. Morality is social coherence and when social coherence breaks down the morality becomes diverse. We have many examples of this in the world today.
I'm sorry, but the claim that 'morality is social coherence' doesn't hold up. A shared moral code may help to maintain social coherence, but to say the two things are identical is false. And it says nothing about the content of the moral code. A moral code that promotes selfishness, greed and fear (such as the 'code' of capitalism) could produce an adequately coherent society. 'Coherence' is morally neutral. There's 'coherence' (and often 'peace') inside a prison.

I think you're ignoring what morality (manifest in a moral code of some sort) actually is: rules guiding the way we behave towards others and the values or aims that inform those rules. That's my target in the argument against moral objectivism: what is the nature of those rules and values, and where do they come from?

I think you're conflating two different things: the fact that human societies have probably always had and developed morality; and the so-called objectivity ('factuality') of that morality.

Univalence
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Univalence » Thu May 23, 2019 11:07 am

Peter, why do you CHOOSE to address only the arguments which don't destroy your position? You wouldn't want to be called a dogmatist now, do you?
Peter Holmes wrote:
Sat Jul 14, 2018 10:29 am
But this assumes that there is indeed something to be known: an object of some kind that verifies the assertion slavery is wrong and falsifies the assertion slavery is right - or, perhaps, vice versa. But what is the object that makes moral judgements objective - matters of fact - and therefore true or false?
If your argument (above) is valid, then so is this:
But this assumes that there is indeed something to be determined: an object of some kind that verifies the assertion knowledge is possible, and falsifies the assertion knowledge is impossible - or, perhaps, vice versa. But what is the object that makes tractability judgments - matter of fact - and therefore true or false?
I beg you, address the question. Is this a true claim? "Knowledge is possible"

And IF you claim that there is a distinction to be drawn between "possibility" and "impossibility", or, for that matter - ANY distinction between any two things then explain to us HOW to go about drawing such distinctions.

The least useful thing a philosopher could engage in is to draw distinctions without a difference.

Belinda
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Belinda » Thu May 23, 2019 11:34 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
I think you're ignoring what morality (manifest in a moral code of some sort) actually is: rules guiding the way we behave towards others and the values or aims that inform those rules.
That's what I think morality is.


That's my target in the argument against moral objectivism: what is the nature of those rules and values, and where do they come from?
They come from people who aim to live in a society. A society may be a family, a tribe, a nation, and so forth. The nature of those rules and values is basically practical and has developed into rituals and myths that express the rules and values.
I think you're conflating two different things: the fact that human societies have probably always had and developed morality; and the so-called objectivity ('factuality') of that morality.
Morality is human behaviour: if humans ceased to exist there would be no morality.

Peter Holmes
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » Fri May 24, 2019 9:27 pm

Belinda wrote:
Thu May 23, 2019 11:34 pm
Peter Holmes wrote:
I think you're ignoring what morality (manifest in a moral code of some sort) actually is: rules guiding the way we behave towards others and the values or aims that inform those rules.
That's what I think morality is.
Okay. But rules have no truth-value (true or false). And that's why moral rules and assertions aren't factual.

Belinda
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Belinda » Fri May 24, 2019 10:35 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
But rules have no truth-value (true or false). And that's why moral rules and assertions aren't factual.


It depends on the language and social context of the moral rule or assertion. For instance "We believe that marriage is a lifelong commitment" : "Marriage is a lifelong commitment" : "Marriage ought to be a lifelong commitment".

Obviously the first two are factual and the third is a subjective or intersubjective evaluation. All three are moral assertions. Depending on the context of the conversation the first one "We believe that marriage is a lifelong commitment" and "Marriage is a lifelong commitment" may be either factual , or subjective evaluations. The tone of voice might be enough to turn a claim from a factual one to a subjective or intersubjective evaluation.

Here's another example of how the context alters the intended meaning. "We believe in God the Father God the Son and God the Holy Ghost." Depending on the context that might be a truth claim or it might be a ritual devotion or both.

I can picture a scenario where a moral rule may be intended as a threat or bullying tactic.

The discussion of moral rules should be framed in ontology . If you want to make a case for some moral rules being both objective and evaluative you need to assert how rules can exist without any subjects of the rules. The only possible basis for objective and evaluative moral rules is God.

Peter Holmes
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » Sat May 25, 2019 5:42 am

Belinda wrote:
Fri May 24, 2019 10:35 pm
Peter Holmes wrote:
But rules have no truth-value (true or false). And that's why moral rules and assertions aren't factual.


It depends on the language and social context of the moral rule or assertion. For instance "We believe that marriage is a lifelong commitment" : "Marriage is a lifelong commitment" : "Marriage ought to be a lifelong commitment".

Obviously the first two are factual and the third is a subjective or intersubjective evaluation. All three are moral assertions. Depending on the context of the conversation the first one "We believe that marriage is a lifelong commitment" and "Marriage is a lifelong commitment" may be either factual , or subjective evaluations. The tone of voice might be enough to turn a claim from a factual one to a subjective or intersubjective evaluation.

Here's another example of how the context alters the intended meaning. "We believe in God the Father God the Son and God the Holy Ghost." Depending on the context that might be a truth claim or it might be a ritual devotion or both.

I can picture a scenario where a moral rule may be intended as a threat or bullying tactic.

The discussion of moral rules should be framed in ontology . If you want to make a case for some moral rules being both objective and evaluative you need to assert how rules can exist without any subjects of the rules. The only possible basis for objective and evaluative moral rules is God.
Thanks, again, Belinda. I appreciate the subtlety of your analysis.

But I think the distinction between factual and moral assertions works at the level of intended meaning or purpose - which is what you quite rightly point out. And at that level - which is what counts - the distinction is clear-cut.

So if 'marriage is a lifelong commitment' is intended to be factual, it is falsifiable - and in this case clearly false, because marriages often don't last. But if the assertion is intended to be moral - marriage ought to be a lifelong commitment - no such implications follow, because then it doesn't have a factual truth-value. We may disagree with a moral assertion, but we can't falsify it, just as we can't verify it.

I disagree that a rule can be either objective or evaluative. How can 'do this' function as either a factual assertion or an evaluation? The linguistic function of an imperative is completely different from that of a declarative.

And I think your last claim is demonstrably false: 'The only possible basis for objective and evaluative moral rules is God.' First, because a moral rule can't be objective or evaluative. Second, because moral assertions aren't and can't be objective. And third, because, if there were moral facts, their source would be irrelevant, as it is for all factual assertions, with regard to their truth-value. A factual assertion isn't true simply because someone - even a god - says it is. Yoking morality to theism is a puzzling shot in the foot. Moral subjectivism is perfectly compatible with theism.

Belinda
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Belinda » Sat May 25, 2019 8:40 am

Peter Holmes wrote:
A factual assertion isn't true simply because someone - even a god - says it is. Yoking morality to theism is a puzzling shot in the foot. Moral subjectivism is perfectly compatible with theism.
But I didn't say "a god" I said God. By "God " I mean , not a god or force of nature among other forces of nature. By "God" I mean the universal and absolute arbiter of right and wrong.

I am not a theist; I refer to God hypothetically.

I accept the intention of the speaker makes the utterance a moral one or a factual one. As an illustration there was time when a pig may be found guilty of murder but we have moved on from that undeveloped stage of morality. However the intention of the speaker is not self generated but is caused by the way of life of his social group. Societies are culturally various. Religions carry the cultural moral code(morality) and religions are cultural.

Peter Holmes
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » Sat May 25, 2019 11:08 am

Belinda wrote:
Sat May 25, 2019 8:40 am
Peter Holmes wrote:
A factual assertion isn't true simply because someone - even a god - says it is. Yoking morality to theism is a puzzling shot in the foot. Moral subjectivism is perfectly compatible with theism.
But I didn't say "a god" I said God. By "God " I mean , not a god or force of nature among other forces of nature. By "God" I mean the universal and absolute arbiter of right and wrong.

I am not a theist; I refer to God hypothetically.

I accept the intention of the speaker makes the utterance a moral one or a factual one. As an illustration there was time when a pig may be found guilty of murder but we have moved on from that undeveloped stage of morality. However the intention of the speaker is not self generated but is caused by the way of life of his social group. Societies are culturally various. Religions carry the cultural moral code(morality) and religions are cultural.
I said 'a god'', because the god that some people call God is just a god - one of the many our ancestors invented and worshipped. And your definition of 'God' as 'the universal and absolute arbiter of right and wrong' is itself problematic, as I've pointed out. That god's moral opinions are nothing more than opinions. Its supposed condemnation of homosexuality (for example) cannot mean that such condemnation is morally 'right'. That way tyranny and human depravity lies.

Liberation from the imagined moral authority of invented bronze-age gods is one of the great benefits of atheism.

Belinda
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Belinda » Sat May 25, 2019 10:31 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
I said 'a god'', because the god that some people call God is just a god - one of the many our ancestors invented and worshipped. And your definition of 'God' as 'the universal and absolute arbiter of right and wrong' is itself problematic, as I've pointed out. That god's moral opinions are nothing more than opinions. Its supposed condemnation of homosexuality (for example) cannot mean that such condemnation is morally 'right'. That way tyranny and human depravity lies.
Yes, I understand what you are saying. However what you describe is the various revelations of God and the even more various interpretations of those revelations. What I said was "the universal and absolute arbiter of right and wrong" which does not imply that rules and moral codes have been revealed by this hypothetical Arbiter. If there are objectively real moral rules about right and wrong we cannot know what they are.

Peter Holmes
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » Sun May 26, 2019 8:02 am

Belinda wrote:
Sat May 25, 2019 10:31 pm
Peter Holmes wrote:
I said 'a god'', because the god that some people call God is just a god - one of the many our ancestors invented and worshipped. And your definition of 'God' as 'the universal and absolute arbiter of right and wrong' is itself problematic, as I've pointed out. That god's moral opinions are nothing more than opinions. Its supposed condemnation of homosexuality (for example) cannot mean that such condemnation is morally 'right'. That way tyranny and human depravity lies.
Yes, I understand what you are saying. However what you describe is the various revelations of God and the even more various interpretations of those revelations. What I said was "the universal and absolute arbiter of right and wrong" which does not imply that rules and moral codes have been revealed by this hypothetical Arbiter. If there are objectively real moral rules about right and wrong we cannot know what they are.
Okay. Sorry for picking away at this, but I'm puzzled by the way you put it.

The expression 'the various revelations of God' seems to assume there is a referent for the word 'God', and that there have been 'revelations' of that entity. As an atheist, I reject both of those claims. (Which is not to claim there is no god and have been no revelations, of course. The burden of proof is always with the claimant.) Perhaps you reject them too, but I'm not sure.

Also, you seem to think 'the universal and absolute arbiter of right and wrong' is a coherent description, if only of a hypothetical entity. My point is, the very idea of an arbiter of right and wrong is morally incoherent. The claim 'this is good (or bad) simply because X says it is' has no place in a rational moral discussion. It's the abnegation of moral responsibility - just obeying orders. Which is why believers have sometimes committed moral atrocities.

It's not that we can never know 'if there are objectively real [perhaps this means 'factual' or 'absolute'] moral rules about right and wrong'. (After all, a god fitting the description could turn up and lay down the rules.) It's that such things can't exist. A rule has no truth-value, so it can never be a fact. (Of course, we have and follow rules about right and wrong, which are obviously real.)

Belinda
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Belinda » Sun May 26, 2019 9:01 am

Peter Holmes wrote:
The expression 'the various revelations of God' seems to assume there is a referent for the word 'God', and that there have been 'revelations' of that entity. As an atheist, I reject both of those claims. (Which is not to claim there is no god and have been no revelations, of course. The burden of proof is always with the claimant.) Perhaps you reject them too, but I'm not sure.
I too reject the claim that God revealed religion. There are better contenders for the referent for the word 'God' , than the authoritative Boss so often adopted by rich white men. We often get momentary and blurred glimpses of some of those better contenders in action.

Also, you seem to think 'the universal and absolute arbiter of right and wrong' is a coherent description, if only of a hypothetical entity. My point is, the very idea of an arbiter of right and wrong is morally incoherent. The claim 'this is good (or bad) simply because X says it is' has no place in a rational moral discussion. It's the abnegation of moral responsibility - just obeying orders. Which is why believers have sometimes committed moral atrocities.
I agree. Men's freedom consists in defying the frequently- vaunted authority of God and men, and acting from motives of mercy, pity, peace, and love.
It's not that we can never know 'if there are objectively real [perhaps this means 'factual' or 'absolute'] moral rules about right and wrong'. (After all, a god fitting the description could turn up and lay down the rules.) It's that such things can't exist. A rule has no truth-value, so it can never be a fact. (Of course, we have and follow rules about right and wrong, which are obviously real.)
No 'God' fitting the description of mercy.pity, peace, and love could turn up and lay down rules. Such a God might turn up in the form of the action of a good man or some other beauty but it's up to us to recognise it when it happens.

I disagree that a rule has no truth value. Rules are man- made and do happen and as such they have truth value in the same way that instructions for how to kill an auroch has truth value.

Peter Holmes
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes » Sun May 26, 2019 9:26 am

Belinda wrote:
Sun May 26, 2019 9:01 am
Peter Holmes wrote:
The expression 'the various revelations of God' seems to assume there is a referent for the word 'God', and that there have been 'revelations' of that entity. As an atheist, I reject both of those claims. (Which is not to claim there is no god and have been no revelations, of course. The burden of proof is always with the claimant.) Perhaps you reject them too, but I'm not sure.
I too reject the claim that God revealed religion. There are better contenders for the referent for the word 'God' , than the authoritative Boss so often adopted by rich white men. We often get momentary and blurred glimpses of some of those better contenders in action.

Also, you seem to think 'the universal and absolute arbiter of right and wrong' is a coherent description, if only of a hypothetical entity. My point is, the very idea of an arbiter of right and wrong is morally incoherent. The claim 'this is good (or bad) simply because X says it is' has no place in a rational moral discussion. It's the abnegation of moral responsibility - just obeying orders. Which is why believers have sometimes committed moral atrocities.
I agree. Men's freedom consists in defying the frequently- vaunted authority of God and men, and acting from motives of mercy, pity, peace, and love.
It's not that we can never know 'if there are objectively real [perhaps this means 'factual' or 'absolute'] moral rules about right and wrong'. (After all, a god fitting the description could turn up and lay down the rules.) It's that such things can't exist. A rule has no truth-value, so it can never be a fact. (Of course, we have and follow rules about right and wrong, which are obviously real.)
No 'God' fitting the description of mercy.pity, peace, and love could turn up and lay down rules. Such a God might turn up in the form of the action of a good man or some other beauty but it's up to us to recognise it when it happens.

I disagree that a rule has no truth value. Rules are man- made and do happen and as such they have truth value in the same way that instructions for how to kill an auroch has truth value.
All understood. I think we're on the same page.

Apart from the last point. A rule such as 'be kind' is an imperative, not a declarative, so it can't have a truth-value. It makes no sense to say a command is true or false. That's not its function. Can you suggest an instruction for killing an auroch that has a truth-value? Cut off its head, for example?

That we have moral rules such as 'be kind' is true (a fact). But the rule itself isn't and can't be.

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