Objectivity in ethics

  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » Ethics
  3. » Objectivity in ethics

Get Email Updates Email this Topic Print this Page

Reply Mon 22 Jun, 2009 05:05 pm
At another philosophy forum, a discussant wrote:
Quote:

"When we talk about an objective moral principle or an objective truth we are talking about things that are mind- independent, that is to say, there are facts in the world that are not dependent upon what I happen to think about them. For example, it is a fact that George Washington was the first president of the U.S., and it is a fact that the moon is a certain distance from the earth. or an objective truth we are talking about things that are mind- independent, that is to say, there are facts in the world that are not dependent upon what I happen to think about them. For example, it is a fact that George Washington was the first president of the

We say that lying and stealing are generally wrong, because generally these things do harm to individuals, communities, and societies."
 
jgweed
 
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 07:49 am
@deepthot,
If ethical facts were like matters of fact such as the location of Paris or the serial number on my computer, which allow objective status, then one could have ethical objectivity.
But it seems fairly clear that ethical "facts" do not have that kind of epistemological status (e.g. of verifiability, for example), and that while one can determine whether Paris is the capital of France (because we understand and agree to certain rules and procedures), one cannot determine, for example, if hurting animals is a right action.

From another point of view, even if people learn about "good, sound, ethical theory" what they are either learning is actually various theories with differing ethical injunctions, or are indoctrinated into only ONE "good, sound" set of norms. If they are learning various perspectives, then it seems they will not arrive at an objective ethical system; if they are learning only ONE, then they preclude the possibility that another theory is either more objective than theirs or closer to the "truth."
 
hue-man
 
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 08:13 am
@deepthot,
No, I disagree. I believe in moral universalism, or that morality is a universal, or relatively impartial concept that can be applied to all relevantly similar things, but I don't believe that morality is objective or mind-independent. The first problem with moral objectivism is that you're assuming that because X causes harm, X is therefore wrong, in spite of what a mind thinks about X. The problem with that is that notions of goodness and badness are strictly a result of subjective, mind-independent perspectives. Saying that moral sentences represent facts about the natural world is like saying that aesthetic sentences represent facts about the natural world. These notions of right or wrong, and good or bad, are dependent on the minds that infer them. They are abstract concepts that don't actually represent reality.

This in no way diminishes morality in my eyes. Morality is a human value, and from the staindpoint of evolutionary psychology, morality evolved for the survival of a highly social species. I value morality because regardless of moral realism, I have perspectives of goodness and badness. I value morality for its utility and practicality, not because it represents a fact about the natural world. Nature is not an agent, and nature is most certainly not moral. There are many animal behaviors that would be considered natural but many of us would consider them immoral. In some ways, morality is a rebellion against the dog eat dog (egoistic) 'laws' of nature. We don't need an ontological justification for morality, and there is no ontological justification for it.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 09:26 am
@hue-man,
hue-man;71379 wrote:
I believe in moral universalism, or that morality is a universal, or relatively impartial concept that can be applied to all relevantly similar things.
If each human is a separate, independent moral judge (insofar as they make judgements), and each human has their internal inconsistencies, then how can we ascertain any universalism?
 
Dearhtead
 
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 09:27 am
@hue-man,
hue-man;71379 wrote:
No, I disagree. I believe in moral universalism, or that morality is a universal, or relatively impartial concept that can be applied to all relevantly similar things, but I don't believe that morality is objective or mind-independent. The first problem with moral objectivism is that you're assuming that because X causes harm, X is therefore wrong, in spite of what a mind thinks about X. The problem with that is that notions of goodness and badness are strictly a result of subjective, mind-independent perspectives. Saying that moral sentences represent facts about the natural world is like saying that aesthetic sentences represent facts about the natural world. These notions of right or wrong, and good or bad, are dependent on the minds that infer them. They are abstract concepts that don't actually represent reality.

This in no way diminishes morality in my eyes. Morality is a human value, and from the staindpoint of evolutionary psychology, morality evolved for the survival of a highly social species. I value morality because regardless of moral realism, I have perspectives of goodness and badness. I value morality for its utility and practicality, not because it represents a fact about the natural world. Nature is not an agent, and nature is most certainly not moral. There are many animal behaviors that would be considered natural but many of us would consider them immoral. In some ways, morality is a rebellion against the dog eat dog (egoistic) 'laws' of nature. We don't need an ontological justification for morality, and there is no ontological justification for it.


I disagree with the proposition that the morale is not objective. An act is objectively good or bad. God is an objective reality. If you don't take it as a reality you will say that morale differs from one person to an other and so there is no morale at all (no more idea of what is morale or immorale).

Without ontological justification, it is a particular individu who creates his own morale, id est nothing can be judged, because a judgment had to be objective.

The morality doesn't evolve.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 09:30 am
@Dearhtead,
Dearhtead;71394 wrote:
God is an objective reality.
If that is true, then he can be corroborated by objective measures. For those who lack your confidence in this, which objective measure would you suggest to prove this quoted statement?
 
Dearhtead
 
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 09:44 am
@Aedes,
Aedes;71396 wrote:
If that is true, then he can be corroborated by objective measures. For those who lack your confidence in this, which objective measure would you suggest to prove this quoted statement?


God is not measurable by an instrument. I don't think that a measure is a criterion of reality. A number proves nothing. The measures differ from one instrument to an other one more perfect.
For me God is the Kantian noumena. The measures can only measure the phenomenon, not the noumena.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 11:57 am
@deepthot,
Ok then.

You say God is an objective reality. I say he's not.


You say your left foot is an objective reality. I say it's not. You show me your left foot. I discover that I was mistaken.


Funny that this "objective reality" of yours, this god, is less visible to objective ascertainment than your left foot. Have you ever considered that you might be wrong about God?
 
Dearhtead
 
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 12:54 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes;71417 wrote:
Have you ever considered that you might be wrong about God?


Oh no! God is cool :bigsmile:, I don't want to change my mind about him.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 08:48 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes;71393 wrote:
If each human is a separate, independent moral judge (insofar as they make judgements), and each human has their internal inconsistencies, then how can we ascertain any universalism?


By universalism, I'm really talking about how people should treat other people. Call it the balance between egoism and altruism. In the context of how people should conduct themselves, I guess that's relative unless it causes harm to other people, or causes harm to the individual themselves.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 08:52 pm
@deepthot,
I've been quite influenced by people who have suggest that our moral makeup is partly innate to us. It is to some degree demonstrably biological, and this phenomenon is cross-cultural. The "oughts" that we come up with are often rationalizations of things we already feel or know viscerally. This is what makes them universal -- that they're part of our human makeup.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 08:57 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes;71596 wrote:
I've been quite influenced by people who have suggest that our moral makeup is partly innate to us. It is to some degree demonstrably biological, and this phenomenon is cross-cultural. The "oughts" that we come up with are often rationalizations of things we already feel or know viscerally. This is what makes them universal -- that they're part of our human makeup.


That I agree with. The social phenomenon of morality can be explained by evolutionary psychology, and the universality of the idea does, at least in some part, stem from it's cross-cultural applicability. Modern ideals of human rights are examples of moral universalism's validity.
 
deepthot
 
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2009 11:47 pm
@jgweed,
jgweed;71372 wrote:
If ethical facts were like matters of fact such as the location of Paris or the serial number on my computer, which allow objective status, then one could have ethical objectivity.
But it seems fairly clear that ethical "facts" do not have that kind of epistemological status (e.g. of verifiability, for example), and that while one can determine whether Paris is the capital of France (because we understand and agree to certain rules and procedures), one cannot determine, for example, if hurting animals is a right action.

From another point of view, even if people learn about "good, sound, ethical theory" what they are either learning is actually various theories with differing ethical injunctions, or are indoctrinated into only ONE "good, sound" set of norms. If they are learning various perspectives, then it seems they will not arrive at an objective ethical system; if they are learning only ONE, then they preclude the possibility that another theory is either more objective than theirs or closer to the "truth."



Greetings jgweed,

You write:"it seems fairly clear that ethical "facts" do not have ... verifiability, ..."
The gist of my thesis in the o.p. was precisely that such facts DO have verifiability - though they might not yet have been verified - but that they haven't is just an accident of history: in the future they well could be. It might be done by a consensus of polling agencies, with global outreach, arriving at pretty much the same conclusions after each takes its own distinctive poll, and the mass media broadcasting those results in an assertive, "breaking news" manner which will have a ring of plausibility and legitimacy to it. How would the consensus reached on this be any different from any other inter-subjectively agreed-upon fact?

Ethical facts will then be 'matters of fact such as the location of Paris.' That fact too is a matter of public consensual agreement.

You further write: "while one can determine whether Paris is the capital of France (because we understand and agree to certain rules and procedures), one cannot determine, for example, if hurting animals is a right action."

No, not yet. You should date your claim here. In ten years what you said could be obsolete, out-dated, antique, couldn't it?

Many engineers alive today relied on a sliderule not that long ago; today that seems outmoded. The same with the typewriter versus the word processor. New technologies come along, new social inventions, even new social institutions. To operate with these new inventions we had to agree to certain rules and procedures. Why would moral techniques be any different? They wouldn't.

Yes, of course, my proposed Ethical discipline, my new paradigm for the field of study and research, does not take a stand on the eating of animals, comes to no conclusions one way or the other on the issue -- it has not yet been applied to that topic. But so what? Does it preclude that some bright young scientist will come along and extend it so that it covers experimentation in that field in order to arrive at (tentative - like all the rest) conclusions consistent with the system? No. Not for that topic, nor for any other moral dilemma or topic.

---------- Post added at 02:10 AM ---------- Previous post was at 12:47 AM ----------

hue-man;71379 wrote:
I believe ...that morality is a universal, or relatively impartial concept that can be applied to all relevantly similar things, but I don't believe that morality is ... mind-independent.


Who ever said that is was? I know you can read ! Tell me exactly just what is "mind-independent" -- and how you know this.

Didn't several minds have to get together and agree on the distance from the Earch to the moon, and on the rules and procedures to determine it?



hue-man;71379 wrote:
The first problem with moral objectivism is that you're assuming that because X causes harm, X is therefore wrong, in spite of what a mind thinks about X.


I assume no such thing. It would follow as a deduction from my definition - in my system - of "wrong" and of "harm." Then, when the system finds application by some creative ethical "engineers" (viz., artists at application), as it likely one day will, a public consensus will agree that the theoretical model made sense. Hopefully, "good sense."


You write: "The ... notions of goodness and badness are strictly a result of subjective, mind-independent perspectives."

Of course they are. So what? You could say the same for the notion of "acceleration" or "valence" or "charmed quark." Or "hyperspace", "complex number, "vector," "radian." Does that mean they are not useful to us? Good Heavens! I don't see this as the problem that you do. I use the word "good" in common speech every day, and manage to communicate - with no problem.
You say much the same thing when you write: "I value morality because ... I have perspectives of goodness and badness. I value morality for its utility and practicality..."

These constructs are not facts of the 'Natural sciences,' but are facts of nature to the extent that human Earthlings are a part of nature.


You write: "...notions of right or wrong, and good or bad... don't actually represent reality."

They represent my reality. ...My wife's too. But then maybe we are eccentric.

We - the human family - have human natures. And while my model is a Non-naturalist one, in G. E. Moore's sense, the data of ethics are facts of human nature - which the discipline studies and seeks to explain and thus to understand.

The facts may be gathered by cleverly well-designed technologies, such as projective/objective value surveys to learn what human groups (and individuals) value. Psychologists and psychotherapists avail themselves of such tools every day. They consult manuals, such as Buros, to find out the best ones to use. But these are serious scientists going about their business. If you would claim they are not real scientists they would give you a good argument.

Your friend,
Deepthot

p.s. How did you do on those exams you wanted to pass?


It may be good for all readers here to review what I wrote in Ichthus91 's thread on "Purpose of Ethics", on p. 2, in Post #17, at the end of this page::
http://www.philosophyforum.com/forum/philosophy-forums/branches-philosophy/ethics/4083-purpose-ethics-2.html

The ideas there may have been overlooked yet perhaps they are relevant to this current discussion. They present a bit more of my orientation. Still more back-up is to be found in my two free internet books, citations to which you will find in my previous threads and posts.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Wed 24 Jun, 2009 01:26 pm
@deepthot,
deepthot;71628 wrote:
Who ever said that is was? I know you can read ! Tell me exactly just what is "mind-independent" -- and how you know this.

Didn't several minds have to get together and agree on the distance from the Earch to the moon, and on the rules and procedures to determine it?


You said that morality is objective, which means that it's mind independent, and that's where we disagree.

The distance from the moon to the Earth is an actual fact, represented by the axioms of mathematics. The fact of the Earth's distance from the moon does not depend on our perspectives or perceptions. No offense, but comparing morality to physics and mathematics is silly. The idea of morality is dependent on the minds that conceive of it.

deepthot;71628 wrote:
I assume no such thing. It would follow as a deduction from my definition - in my system - of "wrong" and of "harm." Then, when the system finds application by some creative ethical "engineers" (viz., artists at application), as it likely one day will, a public consensus will agree that the theoretical model made sense. Hopefully, "good sense."

You write: "The ... notions of goodness and badness are strictly a result of subjective, mind-independent perspectives."

Of course they are. So what? You could say the same for the notion of "acceleration" or "valence" or "charmed quark." Or "hyperspace", "complex number, "vector," "radian." Does that mean they are not useful to us? Good Heavens! I don't see this as the problem that you do. I use the word "good" in common speech every day, and manage to communicate - with no problem.
You say much the same thing when you write: "I value morality because ... I have perspectives of goodness and badness. I value morality for its utility and practicality..."

These constructs are not facts of the 'Natural sciences,' but are facts of nature to the extent that human Earthlings are a part of nature.


"So what?" That's the point of our debate. If you're agreeing that morality is dependent on the mind, then you are agreeing that morality is ontologically subjective. The only objective fact about morality is that human beings value it, but it's also a fact that some don't. It is also a fact of nature that a cow would rather live than be slaughtered by us for food and clothing. It is also a fact that the gazelle hates when the lion tackles it. This does not, however, mean that it's wrong when we kill cows, or that it's wrong when a gazelle is eaten by a lion.

deepthot;71628 wrote:
You write: "...notions of right or wrong, and good or bad... don't actually represent reality."

They represent my reality. ...My wife's too. But then maybe we are eccentric.

We - the human family - have human natures. And while my model is a Non-naturalist one, in G. E. Moore's sense, the data of ethics are facts of human nature - which the discipline studies and seeks to explain and thus to understand.

The facts may be gathered by cleverly well-designed technologies, such as projective/objective value surveys to learn what human groups (and individuals) value. Psychologists and psychotherapists avail themselves of such tools every day. They consult manuals, such as Buros, to find out the best ones to use. But these are serious scientists going about their business. If you would claim they are not real scientists they would give you a good argument.


What is you're reality? Reality is not subjective (mind-dependent). The very definition of reality is that it is what it is regardless of what you want it to be. Your individual experiences and perspectives are subjective.

I think that our disagreement is mostly due to semantic confusion. I agree that psychology can give us definitive answers to what is or isn't good for the human mind, but morality is not objective because reality is not dependent on the human mind.
Quote:

p.s. How did you do on those exams you wanted to pass?
I just took the tests, so I haven't gotten the results back yet. I'm applying for college, so I had to take a assessment tests, nothing major.
 
deepthot
 
Reply Wed 24 Jun, 2009 04:11 pm
@hue-man,
hue-man;71802 wrote:
... The fact of the Earth's distance from the moon does not depend on our perspectives or perceptions. ...


This is just plain false. Sorry to disillusion you, Hue-man.


I agree that morality is dependent on the mind, but then so are Natural Science facts. I don't care what fancy label you want to put on it. As I said in the earlier posts: Everything human beings do (such as to make measurements) is subjective and mind-dependent. We have no argument there.

You write: " This does not, however, mean that it's wrong when we kill cows."
It won't be a publicly-agreed consensus (objective) that killing cosw is "wrong" until the human race reaches a point of sensitivity wherein they are able to identify with mammalia as their relatives and are able to intrinsically-value them. That day may yet come.

My system of Ethics leaves that open but does not call for it. Peter Singer is teaching us to avoid 'specie-ism.' His is a more advanced system than mine in that regard.


hue-man;71802 wrote:
...What is you're reality? Reality is not subjective (mind-dependent)........


Did you see what I proposed in the thread Existence and Reality in the Metaphysics Forum? I guess not. Also see and What is Truth and What Does it Mean to Exist? in the Epistemology Forum.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Wed 24 Jun, 2009 05:57 pm
@deepthot,
deepthot;71846 wrote:
This is just plain false. Sorry to disillusion you, Hue-man.


I agree that morality is dependent on the mind, but then so are Natural Science facts. I don't care what fancy label you want to put on it. As I said in the earlier posts: Everything human beings do (such as to make measurements) is subjective and mind-dependent. We have no argument there.

You write: " This does not, however, mean that it's wrong when we kill cows."
It won't be a publicly-agreed consensus (objective) that killing cosw is "wrong" until the human race reaches a point of sensitivity wherein they are able to identify with mammalia as their relatives and are able to intrinsically-value them. That day may yet come.

My system of Ethics leaves that open but does not call for it. Peter Singer is teaching us to avoid 'specie-ism.' His is a more advanced system than mine in that regard.




Did you see what I proposed in the thread Existence and Reality in the Metaphysics Forum? I guess not. Also see and What is Truth and What Does it Mean to Exist? in the Epistemology Forum.


The field of natural science, as a practice, is dependent on the mind for its practice, but it is the objects that science refers to that are mind-independent.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Wed 24 Jun, 2009 06:11 pm
@deepthot,
Quote:
God is an objective reality


Is not!

There are obviously objective arguments for moral behaviour, like those of the utilitarians, 'the greatest good for the greatest number'. There are commonsense guidelines about how we should behave and what is civil behaviour. There are traditional, non-religious models such as the Analects of Confucius and the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius which are essentially secular in nature, though with due regard to the institutionalised religion of the day.

And yet, there is something deeply flawed with justifying morality in terms of objective facts. It is an attempt to substitute science for the role of religion. I think it is because in the modern age, we take the world of sensory observation as the only reality. If that is true, then obviously objectivity is the only criteria and science the only way to truth, and democratic liberalism the only source of social morality. That is where we are isn't it?

Quote:
If people care about being a good, moral human being


Why should they? Why, if you only live once, not devote yourself to the pursuit of pleasure, comfort, luxury, excitement, adventure and romance? Is there a purpose to our existence other than to live well and pursue pleasure? I think you are going to have to come up with something stronger than 'eat your vegetables'.
 
deepthot
 
Reply Wed 24 Jun, 2009 07:36 pm
@hue-man,
hue-man;71802 wrote:
You said that morality is objective, which means that it's mind independent, and that's where we disagree.



The first example I gave of an "objective truth" was: it is a fact that George Washington was the first president of the U.S.

I went on to argue that objective truths in the field of, or area of, Ethics can be equally objective. I disagree with the notion that there is no objectivity without mind-independence -- whatever that is. What makes anything or any proposition "objective" is public consensus. Read the philosophies of
of Karl-Otto Apel,and, and their program of universal pragmatics.
Habermas.has written on communicative rationality - which is a mode of dealing with validity claims, which is in general not a property of these claims themselves.


Once a discipline becomes "established" it has gained public consensus, widespread agreement. This is what I aim for in the case of Ethics, as a body of legitimate knowledge.
Once one gains perspective, he comes to see that ethical truths can be subjective AND objective at the same time.
Do not commit murder! is an imperative which once it is derived by logic from an earlier 'neutral assumption' such as Hartman/Katz has managed to do, may be an example of a moral truth which can gain wide agreement.
(Note that it does not preclude killing of human beings.)
Murder is premeditated killing with malice aforethought.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Thu 25 Jun, 2009 02:38 am
@deepthot,
From the Wikipedia article on Habermas:

Quote:
"For the normative self-understanding of modernity, Christianity has functioned as more than just a precursor or catalyst. Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of a continual critical reappropriation and reinterpretation. Up to this very day there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a post-national constellation, we must draw sustenance now, as in the past, from this substance. Everything else is idle postmodern talk."


---------- Post added at 06:39 PM ---------- Previous post was at 06:38 PM ----------

Quote:
Everything human beings do (such as to make measurements) is subjective and mind-dependent


I would be obliged if you could provide a reference for this assertion.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Thu 25 Jun, 2009 04:56 am
@deepthot,
Here's a quote from the Amazon description of Habermas' dialog with Cardinal Ratzinger (whom since has had a change of name, and title):

Quote:
Jurgen Habermas has surprised many observers with his call for "the secular society to acquire a new understanding of religious convictions", as Florian Schuller, director of the Catholic Academy of Bavaria, describes it his foreword. Habermas discusses whether secular reason provides sufficient grounds for a democratic constitutional state. Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI argues for the necessity of certain moral principles for maintaining a free state, and for the importance of genuine reason and authentic religion, rather than what he calls "pathologies of reason and religion", in order to uphold the states moral foundations. Both men insist that proponents of secular reason and religious conviction should learn from each other, even as they differ over the particular ways that mutual learning should occur.


---------- Post added at 09:10 PM ---------- Previous post was at 08:56 PM ----------

Deepthot - I propose that your understanding of the terms 'fact', 'subjectivity' and 'measure' are deeply confused.

Quote:
[Hue-man] The fact of the Earth's distance from the moon does not depend on our perspectives or perceptions. ...

[Deepthot]This is just plain false. Sorry to disillusion you, Hue-man.


OK let's propose an experiment, hypothetical of course, to test this out. We both acquire funds to launch a moon shot. Hue-man carefully hires half a dozen retrenched NASA scientists and engineers, and finds rocket parts on Ebay, as do you. All is ready for launch. The only difference is that Hue-man carefully consults the latest calculations of the actual distance from here to the moon (along with all the other mathematical variables involved in traversing the space between two objects moving in orbits, perfectly described, as you will no doubt acknowledge, by Newton's equations.) You, meanwhile, declare that the distance to the moon is X, without consulting said table, on the basis that the distance is a 'factor of your perception'.

Whose moonshot am I going to put money on?
 
 

 
  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » Ethics
  3. » Objectivity in ethics
Copyright © 2022 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.03 seconds on 10/07/2022 at 04:27:56