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 »

henry quirk wrote: Wed Feb 12, 2020 3:42 pm
Veritas Aequitas wrote: Wed Feb 12, 2020 6:18 am
henry quirk wrote: Tue Feb 11, 2020 3:32 pm On slavery: show me a man who sanely craves to be a slave. You can't. Sane people want to be free. I think this normal and natural desire to self-direct, to be free, stands as an evidence that slavery is objectively wrong.
QED.
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If everyone sanely craved to be a slave, would that mean that slavery is objectively morally right? If not, why isn't your claim special pleading?
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henry quirk
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by henry quirk »

Peter Holmes wrote: Wed Feb 12, 2020 6:38 pm
henry quirk wrote: Wed Feb 12, 2020 3:42 pm
Veritas Aequitas wrote: Wed Feb 12, 2020 6:18 am
QED.
👍🏻
If everyone sanely craved to be a slave, would that mean that slavery is objectively morally right? If not, why isn't your claim special pleading?
In a Reality I can't imagine, one were folks wanted to be slaves, then --yeah-- I'd have to say it would be an objective moral right to be a slave and to own slaves.

And, not bein' a philospher, I don't know what special pleading is, or why or when one should claim it.
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henry quirk
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by henry quirk »

Peter Holmes wrote: Wed Feb 12, 2020 6:38 pm
henry quirk wrote: Wed Feb 12, 2020 3:42 pm
Veritas Aequitas wrote: Wed Feb 12, 2020 6:18 am
QED.
👍🏻
If everyone sanely craved to be a slave, would that mean that slavery is objectively morally right? If not, why isn't your claim special pleading?
Now, in this Reality, I don't think it's possible for folks to sanely crave to be slaves. Sanity and slavery are oil and water.
Peter Holmes
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes »

henry quirk wrote: Wed Feb 12, 2020 6:58 pm
Peter Holmes wrote: Wed Feb 12, 2020 6:38 pm
henry quirk wrote: Wed Feb 12, 2020 3:42 pm

👍🏻
If everyone sanely craved to be a slave, would that mean that slavery is objectively morally right? If not, why isn't your claim special pleading?
Now, in this Reality, I don't think it's possible for folks to sanely crave to be slaves. Sanity and slavery are oil and water.
But you claim that slavery is objectively morally wrong because no one wants wants to be a slave.

So you must also believe that, if everyone wanted to be a slave, slavery would be morally right.

I assume you understand the function of a conditional premise, and the unsoundness of special pleading.
Last edited by Peter Holmes on Wed Feb 12, 2020 9:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Immanuel Can
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Immanuel Can »

125 pages in, and still no grounds for any secular objective moral judgment have been found. We can't even prove, on that basis, that something as bad as slavery is wrong.

That should really tell us something.
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Sculptor
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Re: What could make morality objective?

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Skepdick wrote: Tue Feb 11, 2020 11:37 pm
Sculptor wrote: Tue Feb 11, 2020 9:02 pm I rather feel that there are many people that would disagree entirely with this.
As individuals we all face our individual extinction.
If one individual dying is bad - all of us dying (all at once) is worse.
Can you answer why?
Sculptor wrote: Tue Feb 11, 2020 9:02 pm Personally I feel that the world would be better off without humans.
We are looking for volunteers on the first mission to Mars... You keen? No humans there.
irrelevant.
Sculptor wrote: Tue Feb 11, 2020 9:02 pm Extinction of humanity is probably going to happen at some point; sooner the better.
Does tomorrow work for you? We'll have the nukes ready - you can push the "GO!" button.
Duh.
The rest of the earth would also suffer. Dingbat
Peter Holmes
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes »

henry quirk wrote: Wed Feb 12, 2020 6:47 pm
Peter Holmes wrote: Wed Feb 12, 2020 6:38 pm
henry quirk wrote: Wed Feb 12, 2020 3:42 pm

👍🏻
If everyone sanely craved to be a slave, would that mean that slavery is objectively morally right? If not, why isn't your claim special pleading?
In a Reality I can't imagine, one were folks wanted to be slaves, then --yeah-- I'd have to say it would be an objective moral right to be a slave and to own slaves.

And, not bein' a philospher, I don't know what special pleading is, or why or when one should claim it.
Okay. You could google special pleading, I suppose. But you're not doing it, so maybe it doesn't matter.

So your argument is: whatever people think is morally right or wrong is, in fact, objectively, independent from opinion, morally right or wrong.

Good to clear that up.
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henry quirk
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by henry quirk »

So your argument is: whatever people think is morally right or wrong is, in fact, objectively, independent from opinion, morally right or wrong.

Not exactly, no.

A sane man won't spend a lot of time wonderin' hmmm, me as a slave, is that a good fit?, he knows straight off the bat, without thinkin' about it, it's a lousy idea, a rotten deal, a bad thing and he'll reject it.

To be free is normal and natural to him; to be a slave is wrong and unnatural to him.

Sounds to me like an objective morality, a natural law.

Prove me wrong: show me a sane man who craves enslavement.

You won't find one in this Reality.

In Bizarro World, mebbe, but not in this world.

I'll go one further: give me an example, from any point in history, from any culture, where sane men actively sought to be enslaved cuz they believed they should be slaves.

One example will suffice to toss my idea in the shitter.
Skepdick
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Skepdick »

Sculptor wrote: Wed Feb 12, 2020 9:43 pm Can you answer why?
Yes. I can.

If 1 death is bad. 2 deaths are worse.
ALL deaths is worst.

Sculptor wrote: Wed Feb 12, 2020 9:43 pm The rest of the earth would also suffer. Dingbat
The Earth doesn't suffer, Dingbat. Humans do.

The Earth has killed 99.999% of its inhabitants.
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Sculptor
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Sculptor »

Skepdick wrote: Wed Feb 12, 2020 11:21 pm
Sculptor wrote: Wed Feb 12, 2020 9:43 pm Can you answer why?
Yes. I can.

If 1 death is bad. 2 deaths are worse.
ALL deaths is worst.
Depends

Sculptor wrote: Wed Feb 12, 2020 9:43 pm The rest of the earth would also suffer. Dingbat
The Earth doesn't suffer, Dingbat. Humans do.

The Earth has killed 99.999% of its inhabitants.
So what?
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RCSaunders
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by RCSaunders »

Immanuel Can wrote: Wed Feb 12, 2020 7:46 pm 125 pages in, and still no grounds for any secular objective moral judgment have been found. We can't even prove, on that basis, that something as bad as slavery is wrong.

That should really tell us something.
It certainly does. It proves that philosophers (especially those that follow Hume, Kant, and every philosopher since) and most religionists have no idea what ethical principles are or what they are for. There are exceptions, though imperfect ones. The following is from an article by a well-known Theist in defense of one philosopher's mostly correct objective view of ethics:
The Ethics of Ayn Rand: Restatement

The best one sentence summary of Ayn Rand’s thought came from the appendix to her greatest novel, Atlas Shrugged: “My philosophy in essence is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity and reason as his only absolute”. As an atheist and a thoroughgoing laissez-faire capitalist, she opposed all philosophies and ethical systems based on supernaturalism or collectivism. The one opposes and destroys man’s life on earth by calling for self-sacrifice in hope of a non-existent future life; the other opposes and destroys man’s life by demanding his self-immolation for the sake of an ethereal entity called society. For Ayn Rand, all the emotions of exaltation, worship, reverence, grandeur, and nobility which religion arrogated to God, and collectivism arrogated to society, belonged in fact to man as a rational individual. Thus she said in a commencement address in 1963, “This is the motive and purpose of my writing: the projection of an ideal man.” She wanted to portray her characters so that “the pleasure of contemplating these characters is an end in itself.” Accordingly, she designated “the sense of life dramatized in The Fountainhead as man-worship.”

Ayn Rand’s most fundamental premise was, in the words of John Galt, “The axiom that existence exists.” Then a corollary premise was that man is a conscious being who perceives this existing reality. These two, existence and consciousness, were fundamental, inescapable axioms in any action we undertake: “Whether you know the shape of a pebble or the structure of a solar system, the axioms remain the same: that it exists and that you know it.” Implied in these two axioms was the law of identity and the law of non-contradiction. A is A; a stone is a stone and not a flower; a thing is what it is and not something else; you cannot have your cake and eat it too. That is the law of identity. Existence is not wishy-washy but a firm base for epistemology. The law of non-contradiction then is the epistemological form of the law of identity: You cannot know A to be A and at the same time know A to be not-A. Two mutually exclusive assertions cannot both be known to be true at the same time. “A contradiction does not exist . . . . To arrive at a contradiction is to confess an error in one’s thinking; to maintain a contradiction is to abdicate one’s mind and to evict oneself from the realm of reality.”

Thus for Ayn Rand, existence and consciousness were coordinate, so that existence or reality was always the standard by which the validity of the judgments of consciousness was measured. To put it another way, metaphysics (“that which pertains to reality, to the nature of things, to existence”) is the foundation and arbiter of epistemology.

In a similar way, metaphysics functioned as the basis of Rand’s axiology, her system of values. Just as being is the foundation of knowing, so it is the foundation of duty. What is prescribes what ought to be. As she said in “The Objectivist Ethics,” “The validation of value judgments is to be achieved by reference to the facts of reality. The fact that a living entity is determines what it ought to do.” This premise must be grasped to understand Rand’s ethical system.

Rand argued that “life is the only phenomenon that is an end in itself.” She did not mean mere existence, but rather the life appropriate to the nature of the organism. No more ultimate value than life can be conceived for any given organism when life is defined as the fullness of existence appropriate to one’s nature. But not only is life the highest value of any given organism; life is also that alone which makes the concept of values possible. For, since a “value is that which one acts to gain and/or keep . . . it presupposes an entity capable of acting to achieve a goal in the face of an alternative.” Therefore, without life values are not possible, and so life must be valuable since on it hangs the very validity of the concept of values. If one is to conceive of values at all, he must ascribe value to life or else contradict himself by devaluing that which makes his very devaluation possible.
It follows from this that “an organism’s life is its standard of value: that which furthers its life is the good, that which threatens it is the evil.” Or, to be more specific with regard to man, “The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics . . . is man’s life, or: that which is required for man’s survival qua man.” Again, it is not mere survival, but survival proper to man’s nature. What is this nature?

Man’s distinction from the lower forms of life is this: “his consciousness is volitional” and the knowledge upon which his survival as man depends and which he must achieve by the use of his volition is conceptual rather than merely perceptual. The uniquely human method of using consciousness Rand called “conceptualizing” and describes like this:

It is not a passive state of registering random impressions. It is an actively sustained process of identifying one’s impressions in conceptual terms, of integrating every event, and every observation into a conceptual context, of grasping relationships, differences, similarities in one’s perceptual material and of abstracting them into new concepts, of drawing inferences, of making deductions, of reaching conclusions, of asking new questions, and discovering new answers and expanding one’s knowledge into an ever-growing sum. The faculty that directs this process, the faculty that works by means of concepts, is: reason. The process is thinking.

If man is to be man he must will to think. His basic means of survival is reason. “No percepts and no instincts will tell him how to light a fire, how to weave a cloth, how to forge tools, how to make a wheel, how to make an airplane, how to perform an appendectomy, how to produce an electric light bulb or an electronic tube or a cyclotron or a box of matches. Yet his life depends on such knowledge—and only a volitional act of his consciousness, a process of thought, can provide it.”

The next step in Rand’s ethics was this: Since man’s uniqueness consists in, and his survival depends on, the volitional use of his reason, therefore “that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; and that which negates, opposes or destroys it is the evil.” The standard by which every man determines good and evil is the survival or fulfillment of his own life as a rational being. The basic ethical commitment of Ayn Rand was to be rational. That is, she sought a life that accorded with the fact that A is A, and no contradiction in one’s thinking or acting is to be tolerated. Thus in designating her standard of ethics as “rational self-interest,” the emphasis had to fall on the word “rational.”
All the virtues follow from this rationality. I will cite several examples.

Independence: This is your commitment to think for yourself and to accept the burden and responsibility of your own rational life.

Integrity: This is the conviction that man is an indivisible entity and that no breach can be permitted between body and mind, between action and thought, between his life and his convictions. To forsake integrity is to try to fake your own consciousness, to think yes and do no, to live a contradiction.

Honesty: “This is the recognition of the fact that the unreal is unreal and can have no value, that neither love nor fame nor cash is a value if obtained by fraud . . . honesty . . . is the most profoundly selfish virtue man can practice: his refusal to sacrifice the reality of his own existence to the deluded consciousness of others.”

Justice: This is the recognition of the fact that you cannot fake the character of men. A is A and you cannot identify a person as A and treat him as non-A. “Every man must be judged for what he is and treated accordingly . . . just as you do not pay a higher price for a rusty chunk of scrap than for a piece of shining metal, so you do not value a rotter above a hero . . . To withhold your contempt from men’s vices is an act of moral counterfeiting, and to withhold your admiration from their virtues is an act of moral embezzlement.”

The virtue of justice has vast implications for inter-human relations. It affirms that “the principle of trade is the only rational ethical principle for all human relationships, personal and social, private and public, spiritual and material.” Justice means that “one must never seek or grant the unearned and undeserved, neither in matter nor in spirit.” Hence, the heroes of Atlas Shrugged take this oath: “I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

All self-sacrifice is evil because “sacrifice is the surrender of a greater value for the sake of a lesser one or of non-value. Thus altruism gauges a man’s virtue by the degree to which he surrenders, renounces or betrays his values (since help to a stranger or an enemy is regarded as more virtuous, less ‘selfish’ than help to those one loves). The rational principle of conduct is the exact opposite: always act in accordance with the hierarchy of your values and never sacrifice a greater value to a lesser one.” To forsake this ambition is to forsake the only standard by which rational choices can be made. The man who loses his ambition to achieve his own values loses his ambition to live. He thus forsakes the ground and standard of any rational ethics and must opt for some mystic (God), social (society), or subjectivist (desire) theory of ethics.

In this way Ayn Rand provides the philosophical underpinnings of her ethics. To sum it up again in her words: “My philosophy in essence is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity and reason as his only absolute.”

The Ethics of Ayn Rand: Appreciation

I agree with Ayn Rand that if man is to survive and live as man, he must live by his reason. That is he must think clearly about reality and make judgments on the basis of what he perceives to be real. “Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?” Jesus asked (Luke 12:57; see 1 Corinthians 10:15; 11:13). It is true that whatever negates, opposes, or destroys rationality or logic is evil. Blind faith is not a virtue. John Galt, the hero of Atlas Shrugged, is right when he says:

"Do not say that you’re afraid to trust your mind because you know so little. Are you safer in surrendering to mystics and discarding the little you do know? Live and act within the limit of your knowledge and keep expanding it to the limit of your life. Redeem your mind from the hock-shops of authority. Accept the fact that you are not omniscient, but playing a zombie will not give you omniscience—that your mind is fallible but becoming mindless will not make you infallible—that an error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error."

No concept man forms is valid unless he integrates it without contradiction into the total sum of his knowledge. To arrive at a contradiction is to confess an error in one’s thinking; to maintain a contradiction is to abdicate one’s mind and to evict oneself from the realm of reality.

The necessity and rightness of rationality is, so far as I can see, unimpeachable.

Accordingly, I am willing to follow her defense of the virtues of independence (making one’s own judgments), integrity (practicing what you preach), honesty (maintaining a freedom from contradiction between your words and your convictions), and productivity (the ambitious struggle to achieve your values). I agree without reserve that one should “always act in accordance with the hierarchy of one’s values and never sacrifice a greater value to a lesser one.” And so long as Rand defines self-sacrifice as “the surrender of a greater value for the sake of a lesser one,” I will agree that all self-sacrifice is evil. She was right that the rational man should be dedicated to “the goal of reshaping the earth in the image of his values.”

Since your values are determined by the reality of who you are as a rational man, the struggle to achieve your values is the struggle to live. But the ambition and effort to experience life as a man is merely the existential form of the ambition (in psychological form) to be happy. Rand makes it very clear that by happiness she does not mean just any kind of pleasure. Self-interest must be qualified by “rational:” only that which is proper to a rational being is good and the ground of true happiness. This is why she opposes traditional hedonism which declares that “the proper value is whatever gives you pleasure.”

Happiness, for Ayn Rand, “is a state of non-contradictory joy—a joy without penalty or guilt, a joy that does not clash with any of your values and does not work for your own destruction.” On the basis of this definition, I am willing to say yes to the following sentence: “The achievement of his own happiness is man’s highest moral purpose.” The meaning of this sentence is not that a feeling is exalted above the nature of reality in guiding our choices. The sentence rests on the conviction that reality is such that true happiness—“non-contradictory joy”—is the inevitable outcome of a life devoted to the principle that A is A, and that there is no true joy to be found in faking reality in any way. For the rational man, the aim to be happy is the aim to realize his values, and the aim to realize his values is the aim to live as a man, and the aim to live as a man is an effort to take reality seriously, to respond properly to the axiom A is A, Man is Man. I cannot fault the basic validity of this approach to ethics. It is my own, as far as it goes.
I do not subscribe to, "Objectivism," nor do I regard Ayn Rand an authority, and I'm certainly not a theist, nevertheless I very much agree with this theist's view of objective ethics as described in this article.

The Theist who wrote the article ["The Ethics of Ayn Rand—Appreciation and Critique"] from which the quote is taken, is John Piper. Piper continues this article with a critique of Rand's ethics based on his view that it fails to take account of God. Essentially, he regards Rand's view of ethics as correct, but incomplete.

You might too, since you believe about all men, "the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them,” [Romans 2:15] If ethical principles are truly objective, it means any human being can discover them by using their mind [that would be the mind God gave them for you], which means they have no excuse.
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RCSaunders
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by RCSaunders »

Sculptor wrote: Wed Feb 12, 2020 9:43 pm Extinction of humanity is probably going to happen at some point; sooner the better.
Does tomorrow work for you? We'll have the nukes ready - you can push the "GO!" button.
Duh.
The rest of the earth would also suffer. Dingbat
Not for long, and afterward nothing would care.
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Immanuel Can
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Immanuel Can »

RCSaunders wrote: Thu Feb 13, 2020 2:17 amThe following is from an article by a well-known Theist in defense of one philosopher's mostly correct objective view of ethics:
The Ethics of Ayn Rand: Restatement
Actually, RC, we've got to differentiate between "objective" and "Objectivist." The former is a kind of synonym for "real," and the second is a school of thought represented by Ayn Rand. And they're not nearly the same thing.
John Piper
He's a Calvinist. I wouldn't be. He would argue for a kind of Determinism I would never argue for.
You might too, since you believe about all men, "the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them,” [Romans 2:15] If ethical principles are truly objective, it means any human being can discover them by using their mind [that would be the mind God gave them for you], which means they have no excuse.
Something like that. But Romans even says, in reference to the existence of God, that "God has made it plain to them..." So it's not just a process of ethical deduction, but includes thing like the evidence of creation and the actual revelation of God.

And it's in consequence of all that, that men are "without excuse."
Dubious
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Dubious »

Ain't no such thing.
Peter Holmes
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Re: What could make morality objective?

Post by Peter Holmes »

henry quirk wrote: Wed Feb 12, 2020 11:18 pm So your argument is: whatever people think is morally right or wrong is, in fact, objectively, independent from opinion, morally right or wrong.

Not exactly, no.

A sane man won't spend a lot of time wonderin' hmmm, me as a slave, is that a good fit?, he knows straight off the bat, without thinkin' about it, it's a lousy idea, a rotten deal, a bad thing and he'll reject it.

To be free is normal and natural to him; to be a slave is wrong and unnatural to him.

Sounds to me like an objective morality, a natural law.

Prove me wrong: show me a sane man who craves enslavement.

You won't find one in this Reality.

In Bizarro World, mebbe, but not in this world.

I'll go one further: give me an example, from any point in history, from any culture, where sane men actively sought to be enslaved cuz they believed they should be slaves.

One example will suffice to toss my idea in the shitter.
I'm sorry, but you aren't using the word 'objective' in the standard way, to mean 'independent from opinion'.

Your claim is: everyone is of the opinion that slavery is morally wrong, so slavery is morally wrong. To put it another way: if everyone is of the opinion that x is morally wrong, then x is morally wrong. And it follows that if everyone is of the opinion that x is not morally wrong, then x is not morally wrong. And earlier you agreed to that. The fact that you can't imagine such a situation is irrelevant. Your criterion for morality is 'what everyone thinks'.

And this has nothing to do with objectivity. Try this: if everyone is of the opinion that the earth is flat, then the earth is flat. But if everyone thinks the earth is an oblate spheroid, then the earth is an oblate spheroid.

Your claim about slavery is as ridiculous as these claims about the shape of the earth. With the earth, there's something in reality that verifies or falsifies a claim as to its shape, so anyone's opinion on the matter is irrelevant. It isn't a matter of opinion - it's objective.

So if morality were objective, then everyone's opinion about slavery would also be irrelevant. But you're saying everyone's opinion is the criterion for moral rightness and wrongness. This argument is a mess.

It may be a fact that everyone thinks slavery is morally wrong. But that doesn't mean it's a fact that slavery is morally wrong. That's an elementary logical error.
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