Is there evidence for objective morality?

Should you think about your duty, or about the consequences of your actions? Or should you concentrate on becoming a good person?

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prof
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Re: Is there evidence for objective morality?

Post by prof » Thu Aug 23, 2012 8:45 pm

MGL wrote:
prof wrote:
MGL: I hope I am misunderstanding something, but if a good murderer is someone who sucessfully murders others then does this person have some kind of virtue?

prof: A good murderer, one who murders efficiently, is a bad person (ethically-speaking.) One may be good under one name, in this case the word "murderer" and bad, lousy or terrible under another name: "human being." I am willing to make the assumption that most every baby is born good, and it is its cultural influences that 'ruin' it. That includes the parenting it gets. Some are born with brain defects, but they are a tiny minority. ...probably less than 3 percent of the world's population. They include the psychopaths and sociopaths. Not all of them turn out to be violent.
Thanks for clarifying the distinction between axiological and moral values, but what may still confusing me is what the connection is between them. .... help us understand how to determine how good a person is ...What is the criterion of success of a good person? Examples of good behaviour are useless unless it is clear what property or rule makes them good.
Good question, MGL.


The following citation in my scribblings entitled A Unified Theory of Ethics responds to your query, but if you still have further questions, or constructive suggestions, feel free to ask, or to contribute your ideas. Here is a link to the booklet:
http://tinyurl.com/27pzhbf
See especially what Kay says on page 6, and what Mark says on pages 19-21.

It is directly responsive to what you ask about, and could be helpful. Let me know what you think about it. Did you see the Afterword and the End Notes?

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The Voice of Time
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Re: Is there evidence for objective morality?

Post by The Voice of Time » Fri Aug 24, 2012 12:21 am

you better take my arguments with you to the conference! It will save the world I tell you :P

Btw the link you gave me last isn't about science but seems rather targeted at spirituality/self-improvement... are you suggesting something? :shock: (and yes I've seen the movie "Yes Man" and yes I liked it...)

EDIT: musicology isn't a proper science, it's art studies, not natural science, which is the only science. Art can also conduct studies, it doesn't make it more science for that sake.
EDIT2: you aren't possibly German or residing in Germany are you?

MGL
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Re: Is there evidence for objective morality?

Post by MGL » Fri Aug 24, 2012 1:13 pm

prof wrote:
The following citation in my scribblings entitled A Unified Theory of Ethics responds to your query [what makes a person good?], but if you still have further questions, or constructive suggestions, feel free to ask, or to contribute your ideas. Here is a link to the booklet:
http://tinyurl.com/27pzhbf
See especially what Kay says on page 6, and what Mark says on pages 19-21.
Thanks for you response but your pamphlet left me none the wiser and has just left me with more questions

This is what I understood as being the main points:

Kay:

You are moral\a good person if:
a) you live up to\match your ideal self-image
AND
b) your ideal self image is compassionate



Mark:

you are moral\a good person if you pursue your TRUE self interest.

This seems to be somehow distinguishable from selfish self-interest but the only example seems to be quote from Pinker talking about reciprocity.

Questions:

1) Re Kay: is this claiming that simply being compassionate is not being good unless this compassion is motivated by a desire to live up to an ideal? If not then why the need for ideal selfs? If so then why is this important? If compassion is the key to being a good person, does this not simply reduce your ethical system to consequentialism?

2) Re Mark: What exactly is a person's TRUE self interest? Surely the claim cannot be that if you get what you want by helping yourself that is just selfish, wheras if you get what you want by exchanging favours with someone else that is pursuing your true self-interest -and thereby being moral?

3) Are these points intendended to be jointly sufficient criteria for measuring a person's goodness? Or can one be derived from the other?

prof
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Re: Is there evidence for objective morality?

Post by prof » Sat Aug 25, 2012 1:40 am

MGL wrote:
prof wrote: ... Here is a link to the booklet:
http://tinyurl.com/27pzhbf
See especially what Kay says on page 6, and what Mark says on pages 19-21.
Thanks for you response but ... left me none the wiser...
Kay: You are moral\a good person if:
a) you live up to\match your ideal self-image
AND b) your ideal self image is compassionate

Mark: you are moral\a good person if you pursue your TRUE self interest.

This seems to be somehow distinguishable from selfish self-interest ...Questions:
1) Re Kay: is this claiming that simply being compassionate is ... good ... does this not simply reduce your ethical system to consequentialism?

2) Re Mark: What exactly is a person's TRUE self interest? Surely the claim cannot be that .... helping yourself that is just selfish...?

3) Are these points intendended to be jointly sufficient criteria for measuring a person's goodness? Or can one be derived from the other?
Hello.

Somehow, you didn't finish reading what Kay said nor what Mark said. I sense a bit of misunderstanding in the air. Let me copy some passages directly out of the document (emphasis added):

KAY: "if your beliefs are evolving in a more
compassionate, more empathic, more inclusive direction
, to that degree you are moral."

And even that alone is not enough. To be fully moral; you also have to be authentic. She alludes to that too in the next paragraph when she recommends 'being real':

KAY; If your actuality – your conduct - matches point-for-point your ideal Self, it is justifiable to say that you are moral (to that extent) If a full match, you are a “real person,” you are genuine. If a partial match, you are to that degree moral. If a very low match, or none at all, you are a phony, a con-artist, or a psychopath. You yourself make the judgment. That part of you which does make such judgments is known as the “conscience.”

The ideal Self amounts to the highest ideal imaginable for a human being to reach.

Here is what Mark actually said:

Now that we know what the word “good” means, we can ask the question about what makes a good person. ...
Who is a good person? Well, it would be someone who is ‘all there.’ A good person would have all the attributes that a person ought to have. That person, it is fair to say, would have moral value, would avoid selfishness. Let’s describe such a person and see if you would call such an individual ‘good.’

That person is one who educates himself, or herself, to
do what is truly in his self-interest and who is able to
see that “selfishness” is something distinctly different than “self-interest.”


And at the bottom of page 22 it clearly says:

A good person would be one who has everything you
would want a person to have: integrity, authenticity,
responsibility, honesty, empathy, compassion,
kindness, etc. Such an individual would be morally
good. He or she would possess morality. For "morality"
may be defined as: Moral value. Hence everything known about value would help us understand morality.

Your true self-interest is to be distinguished from your false self-interest, that is to say, one's illusions about what seem to be in one's interest but really isn't.

People vote against their self-interest all the time whenever they vote for a politician who isn't running because s/he cares about them but instead just wants the job for all its fringe benefits, good pay, good pension, prestige, etc. Many a candidate for office only wants the power to protect his own selfish concerns, such as to help him keep his money, or put his friends and relatives on the payroll.

Twit Raw-money was such a guy. He wanted everything to stay just the way it was - as long as he was comfortable. But, once elected, he made certain structural changes such as seeing that the executive branch got more power. And that the financial industry, the fossil fuel industry, and the war industry got even more subsidies from the taxpayers.

His beliefs, which came out only after the election, were that the poor have too much money and the rich don't have enough! And assault weapons are suitable for self-defense. And a corporation is a person, except that it can't be drafted into the military. He, as governor, appointed judges in line with his belief. And they had lifetime tenure.

...But I digress.....

No, the ethical system does not reduce to Consequentialism although that is one of the perspectives integrated into the synthesis along with many, many others.

And, no, the points mentioned are not sufficient for measuring a person, neither jointly nor separately. As new developments come along, and further relevant information is absorbed into the model it will improve in range, scope and adequacy. New and better tests will be devised, as well as creative experiments that will serve to give us even more insight into what heights people are capable of when it comes to acting ethically. New breakthroughs in heroism (by whistle-blowers and others) will emerge.

Please feel free to ask questions or suggest improvements.

Yours for Ethics,
Prof

MGL
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Re: Is there evidence for objective morality?

Post by MGL » Sun Aug 26, 2012 9:15 am

prof wrote: Somehow, you didn't finish reading what Kay said nor what Mark said. I sense a bit of misunderstanding in the air.
....

No, the ethical system does not reduce to Consequentialism although that is one of the perspectives integrated into the synthesis along with many, many others.
And, no, the points mentioned are not sufficient for measuring a person, neither jointly nor separately. As new developments come along, and further relevant information is absorbed into the model it will improve in range, scope and adequacy. New and better tests will be devised, as well as creative experiments that will serve to give us even more insight into what heights people are capable of when it comes to acting ethically. New breakthroughs in heroism (by whistle-blowers and others) will emerge.
This is what I take you to be saying:

1) The fundamental moral nature of a human being is a disposition to be good.
2) This property essentially defines the "functional" nature of a human being, such that a perfectly functioning individual is a compassionate empathetic one.
3) Thus a good person is one that tends to match this ideal.
4) Because we are intrinsically good, being good is in our true self interest.
5) By pursuing our true self interest, we are living up to our ideal self-image and thereby living an authentic life.
6) There are many different ways a person can be good.

If this is not what you are saying, could I ask you to simply express your points directly rather than refer to a pamphlet as there is a danger of us continually misunderstanding each other.

Most points seem to flow from points 1 and 2, so these seem to be your fundamental assumptions. However, there is an ambiguity in point 6 which could mean there are many ways to be good within the constraints of points 1 and 2 or many other ways a person can be good beyond these constraints. If you mean the latter, then your unified ethical system seems to be no more than a chain of disjunctions of alternative moral systems.

What still seems to be missing is what determines goodness.The only relevant point I can find is talk of compassion etc. My understanding of this is that we are compassionate etc when we take the welfare of others into account when considering the consequence of our actions. If there is some other non-consequentialist way of appreciating this, please elaborate.

Now, if you take the compassion out of your system, I can't see anything left that would make it a remotely moral one and goodness is then only defined in a wholly circular way. But even if we leave it in, it is still unclear what use your system is to guide real moral behaviour as you do not explain how to resolve the competing interests of people for whom you are expectd to have compassion.

You use Mitt Romney as an example of a bad, or at least inauthentic person, but it is not clear what principles are being used to judge him other than relying on some uncharitable assumptions about his ulterior motives. Perhaps it is probably because he is a libertarian that motivates him to support the rich at the expense of the poor. Perhaps he simply believes that it is wrong to force people to redistribute resources to others, no matter what dire straits the recipients are in. Even if he is as self-serving as you suggest, your ethical system, if it is to be respected, surely has to address an argument and show why it is wrong in itself, before it can presume to judge the motivations or ignorance of its advocates.

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Re: Is there evidence for objective morality?

Post by LukeS » Sun Aug 26, 2012 2:38 pm

I agree that it is an objective fact that we value things, and also that some things are more valuable to us than others. I do not mean "mind independent" but "whether we like it or not". Being axiologically situated is part of our existential condition. I don't think existential phenomenology is a science in the experimental sense, but it is a science in the sense that it can relate knowledge of that condition. As Husserl said we would be in a sorry state is all sciences were empirical.

prof
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Re: Is there evidence for objective morality?

Post by prof » Mon Aug 27, 2012 9:08 am

MGL wrote: This is what I take you to be saying:

1) The fundamental moral nature of a human being is a disposition to be good.
2) This property essentially defines the "functional" nature of a human being, such that a perfectly functioning individual is a compassionate empathetic one.
3) Thus a good person is one that tends to match this ideal.
4) Because we are intrinsically good, being good is in our true self interest.
5) By pursuing our true self interest, we are living up to our ideal self-image and thereby living an authentic life.
6) There are many different ways a person can be good.

...What still seems to be missing is what determines goodness....

Now, if you take the compassion out of your system, I can't see anything left that would make it a remotely moral one ... if we leave it in, it is still unclear what use your system is to guide real moral behaviour as you do not explain how to resolve the competing interests of people for whom you are expectd to have compassion.

You use Mitt Romney as an example of a ... inauthentic person, but it is not clear what principles are being used to judge him ... Even if he is as self-serving as you suggest, your ethical system, if it is to be respected, surely has to address an argument and show why it is wrong in itself, before it can presume to judge the motivations or ignorance of its advocates.
Greetings, MGL

I go along with points 1 through 3 that you list above. In point 4, I notice you are using the term "Intrinsic" at variance with the system ...and that is understandable since you only a read a snippet of the system instead of the system-as-a-whole. The opportunity was right there in front of you but somehow you skipped over it.
It sounds too like you haven't read my other posts here at the Ethical Theory Forum, as they speak to the question you write: "what use your system is to guide real moral behaviour?".

If one adheres to the Ethical principles which the system implies and generates, one will intuitively (or deliberately at first) know what to do in the face of 'a competing interest', namely find common ground - such as a concern for freedom, or for safety - and build upon that, using nonviolent communication (nvc) [which you can research on the web if you are unfamiliar with it], and showing personal respect for the one holding the uneducated-in-Ethics view, being very diplomatic, asking questions, making friends with him or her, and hoping that some day he or she may ask you what you believe once the bond of friendship has been formed.

I would rephrase Point 5 as Having an awareness that being authentic and empathic, and promoting the happiness and well-being of others, IS in one's own self-interest.

As to Point 6, there are many ways to be 'bad'; only one way to be good, some features of that way which you list and which were mentioned in paragraphs 3 and 4 on p. 20 as well as at the bottom of page 22 in A Unified Theory of Ethics [url]hytp://tinyurl.com/27pzhbf[/url]
The system recommends that you maintain your autonomy and individuality, appreciate and treasure diversity (both of culture and of viewpoint), embrace those Intrinsic Values defined in End Note 4, and in general go in the direction of I-Value. Are you familiar with the HOV? Or with the three considerations if a moral dilemma arises? I mentioned them in a recent post. Choose the one defined by I (over E and S) and you can't go wrong. Creating value is what it's all about - as an entire chapter in the UTE informed you.

And how you can write that "seems to be missing is what determines goodness" really baffles me !!!
I have devoted so much space to that !

The very definition of "morality" in the system is derived from the Axiom of Value which constitutes the definition of "x is a good C." In the case of an individual, say Bertrand Russell, the X is a proper name - in this case "Bertie." The Formula becomes: x is a good X. That means the individual, x, lives up to his true Self, thereby being honest, transparent (in motives), genuine, sincere, empathic, kindly, etc. x is a member of a unit-class, he is singular, and if you value him correctly, you will see him as "unique."

You write "it is not clear what principles are being used to judge him ." First of all, I don't judge him - nor anyone else. My theory of Ethics teaches me not to (morally) judge a person. I stand in judgment of no one :!: I spent many years as a psychotherapist; judgmentalism is out of the question for me. Satirizing public figures is okay, especially if they are extreme panderers. How would you size up one who takes every position on every issue? Authentic? Hardly.

With your grasp of the Means-Ends relationship, what do you make of those who advocated 'limited government', want to get rid of it altogether, but who strive to become a part of it? They want to join it but have no use for it.

Willard (Mitt for Banes) Romney requested federal money to implement his health-care plan in the state he governed, yet he swears he is opposed to government spending. Hypocrisy?? He intends to repeal the national copy of his own plan, and would let each state decide on its own health-care policies .... 50 different policies. Does that seem like a practical solution to you?

If you live in the U.S.A. you may be a Republican if you believe:
* Climate change is a liberal hoax.
* "Moderate" is a dirty word.
* Corporations are people too.
* Warren Buffet's secretary should pay taxes at a higher rate than he does.
* Creationism is a valid alternative to evolution.
* Extremely profitable oil companies should continue to receive government subsidies.
* Fox News is fair and balanced.
* Grover Norquist is a true statesman.
* Assault weapons are appropriate for self-defense.
* Barack Obama is a Muslim and/or a foreigner.
* The poor have too much money and the rich don't have enough.


And if - at the end of your post - you are asking "why it is wrong in itself?" and the "it" refers to being 'self-serving' (which in this context suggests to me "selfishness"), I respond: That is the antithesis of being ethical. After all, I devoted a whole chapter to that topic of self-interest vs. selfishness in ETHICS: A College Course. http://tinyurl.com/24cs9y7 - Chapter 9, pp. 47-53. Do you really want me to reproduce the entire argument here? Wouldn't it be simpler if you would just read the citation :?: :!: Is requiring some background knowledge an unreasonable request? Then we can discuss the argument after we both have a familiarity with it. I don't think that's asking too much. I give you credit for you - unlike some "students of moral philosophy" - at least perused a few pages.

prof
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Re: Is there evidence for objective morality?

Post by prof » Sat Sep 15, 2012 6:39 am

MGL wrote:
prof wrote:
MGL: I hope I am misunderstanding something, but if a good murderer is someone who sucessfully murders others then does this person have some kind of virtue?

prof: A good murderer, one who murders efficiently, is a bad person (ethically-speaking.) One may be good under one name, in this case the word "murderer" and bad, lousy or terrible under another name: "human being."
Thanks for clarifying the distinction between axiological and moral values, but what may still confusing me is what the connection is between them. ...
What is the criterion of success of a good person? Examples of good behaviour are useless unless it is clear what property or rule makes them good.
This was answered in A UNIFIED THEORY OF ETHICS by the remarks of Kay, on page 6; as well as by the words attributed to Mark, on pages 20-22. They described the highly moral person.
As to the question: Who is the ethical individual? that would be one who complies with the definition of Ethics, as given in the thread here entitled "What Is Ethics?" Also see "The Beautiful Simplicity of Ethical Concepts." In addition, the good person avoids corruption which means: he or she avoids putting E above I in life; also avoids putting S above E; also does not think and act as if S were > I.

As explained in those links I offered (free of all charge), the ethical individual does not commit the Moral Fallacies. Avoiding these mistakes, these errors, contributes to making one 'a good human being.'

Think about it......

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stsoc
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Re: Is there evidence for objective morality?

Post by stsoc » Sat Oct 06, 2012 10:39 am

OT: Short answer- yes. Longer one:

As Reid espoused, and Habermas after him, there is a thing called communicative reality. I exist, worlds exists, other people exists, language exists, and similar. Hoppe calles them the a priori norms of arugmentation. To deny them is to commit a performative contradiction, i.e. to contradict one's view by the very act of espusing that view. If some would start to talk to you and say to you there is no such think as talking or saying something, it's obvious to everyone sane that he's either trolling you, and has some condition that is grounds for institutionalization.

Among those a priori norms of communication are not just epistemological and logical norm, but also ethical ones. The most obvious one is the principle of respect of people's exclusive use of their bodies.

How is that an a priori ethical principle?

First fact- in order to justify something (actually anything), to prove that it is moral, you have to do that by communication.

Second fact- in every communication, all participants de facto (performatively) accept the a priori norms of communication, among them the norm of respect of other people's individual autonomy. Libertarians would call that the principle of non-aggression, liberals the harm principle (I think a more precise name would be no offensive harm principle).

Third fact- everyone who tries to argue against the mentioned principle is commiting a perfomative contradiction, because when one argues anything he performatively accepts it.

Being that this ethical principle cannot be denied without commiting a contradiction, it means it is an a priori axiom of ethics, meaning- objective and true like e.g. the axioms of geometry.

So, yes, there is evidence for objective morality.

prof
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Re: Is there evidence for objective morality?

Post by prof » Mon Oct 08, 2012 3:12 am

stsoc wrote:OT: Short answer- yes. Longer one:

...everyone who tries to argue against the mentioned principle is commiting a perfomative contradiction, because when one argues anything he performatively accepts it.

Being that this ethical principle cannot be denied without commiting a contradiction, it means it is an a priori axiom of ethics, meaning- objective and true like e.g. the axioms of geometry.

So, yes, there is evidence for objective morality.
Thank you, stsoc.

This is an example of what I mean when I request 'constructive contributions.'

You have risen to the occasion.

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