Objectivity in ethics

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richrf
 
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 11:28 am
@New Mysterianism,
New Mysterianism;81236 wrote:
So, to answer your question, an example of a possible objective moral standard, prior to its discovery, would be any normative claim you can think up.


That is fine. I can't think of one. I would appreciate it if someone could provide me with any normative claim that he/she can think up. It would help me understand what the discussion is all about. Or, is the discussion simply about the phrase "objective ethics", with no everyday application?

Rich
 
New Mysterianism
 
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 11:59 am
@richrf,
Richf:

A normative/moral claim has the following declarative structure: "person X must, should, or ought to do (or not do) Y," or "doing X, Y, or Z is wrong (or right)." For example: "Richf should not murder" or "murder is wrong."

Contrast this with a descriptive statement, like: "Richf murdered X." There's no normative/moral judgment at work in purely descriptive statements.

Some normative statements are nonmoral, like the law of non-contradiction in logic: something cannot be both P and not-P.

Descriptive statements tell us "how things are," whereas normative statements tell us "how things should or ought to be."

That's it. The discussion, in the last page or so, has focused on whether
there exist objective moral truths--morals that are true independent of human opinion--which can serve as standards for assessing the merits and shortcomings of conventional morality (conventional moral standards being those we invent, either individually or collectively).
 
richrf
 
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 12:18 pm
@New Mysterianism,
New Mysterianism;81264 wrote:
That's it. The discussion, in the last page or so, has focused on whether there exist objective moral truths--morals that are true independent of human opinion--which can serve as standards for assessing the merits and shortcomings of conventional morality (conventional moral standards being those we invent, either individually or collectively).


Yes, I understood this much. However, I am wondering whether those who believe that there are object moral truths, can provide me with an example. That is all. I too enjoy the abstract. I dream in the abstract. However, it is easier for me to understand the other person's point of view, if they can provide me with example.

Rich
 
New Mysterianism
 
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 12:22 pm
@richrf,
Quote:

Yes, I understood this much. However, I am wondering whether those who believe that there are object moral truths, can provide me with an example.


Oh, okay. Well let's see. I'm a moral objectivist and believe that the following moral standard is objectively true: "deliberately causing unnecessary harm to innocent, unconsenting, and uninformed people, regardless of their race or rank, is morally wrong." But understand that we don't need a fixed example of a particular moral standard in order to discuss the ontology of morality.
 
richrf
 
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 12:44 pm
@New Mysterianism,
New Mysterianism;81266 wrote:
Oh, okay. Well let's see. I'm a moral objectivist and believe that the following moral standard is objectively true: "deliberately causing unnecessary harm to innocent, unconsenting, and uninformed people, regardless of their race or rank, is morally wrong." But understand that we don't need a fixed example of a particular moral standard in order to discuss the ontology of morality.


Well, I think it helps. Not only for the discussion. Understanding the relevance of a discussion puts more meat into it.

As far as your example, it can be picked apart in all kinds of ways by someone who takes a more subjective view. The words themselves that are contained within the statement have all kinds of meanings. For example, it can be easily used by anti-abortionists as a frame of reference for their beliefs. It could also be used by pro-choice proponents as an exception when a mother's life is in danger.

And of course, there were (are) a whole mess of people who believe that the dropping of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justified in order to protect the lives of U.S. servicemen.

This is why, I am seeking an example from someone who actually believes in the objective form of ethics. I am guessing you do not fully stand behind your example. Correct me if I am wrong.

If there are no examples to discuss, then there really isn't much to discuss, is there? I can say that I believe that there is such thing as an objective ethic, but I can't think of any, but if I ever come across one, I'll put it out in the general public for discussion, and see if anyone wants to adopt it.

Rich
 
New Mysterianism
 
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 12:56 pm
@richrf,
richrf;81271 wrote:
As far as your example, it can be picked apart in all kinds of ways by someone who takes a more subjective view. The words themselves that are contained within the statement have all kinds of meanings. For example, it can be easily used by anti-abortionists as a frame of reference for their beliefs. It could also be used by pro-choice proponents as an exception when a mother's life is in danger.

From the fact that there is disagreement about the meanings behind the terms in the example I offered, it does not follow that there is no fixed, objective meaning that is applicable to everyone. Furthermore, we're bound to raise some doubts concerning the proper application of the standard if we choose to view it in isolation, but there's no reason to assume that it isn't supported by auxiliary principles which make sufficiently clear how it should be applied, or whether it is even applicable, in whatever situation. This is precisely why parsing a proposed moral standard in discussions dealing with moral ontology is inappropriate.


richrf;81271 wrote:

This is why, I am seeking an example from someone who actually believes in the objective form of ethics. I am guessing you do not fully stand behind your example. Correct me if I am wrong.



I've already stated on numerous occasions that I am a moral objectivist. I also stated that I believe the example I provided is objectively true. What other assurance do you need?


richrf;81271 wrote:

If there are no examples to discuss, then there really isn't much to discuss, is there? I can say that I believe that there is such thing as an objective ethic, but I can't think of any, but if I ever come across one, I'll put it out in the general public for discussion, and see if anyone wants to adopt it.


No. Picking apart and parsing a particular moral standard is an activity far removed from moral ontology, which is the subject of this thread. It is not a requirement that a moral objectivist present a moral standard when debating the onotological status of morality, period. Not to belabor the point, but demanding (as a requirement) an example of a possible objective moral standard in discussions about moral realism is the same as demanding an example of a possible objective number in discussions about mathematical realism. This requirement is arbitrary and entirely irrelevant for two reasons: we aren't suffering from a poverty of examples, and we are discussing moral ontology, not normative theory. Also, whether or not the general public endorses a moral standard that one claims is objective is also irrelevant in discussions of moral ontology. It's like having a discussion about the ontology (existence) of God, but then insisting that we poll the public to see whether they endorse the conclusion that God doesn't exist. That has no bearing on the validity of the argument.
 
richrf
 
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 01:28 pm
@New Mysterianism,
New Mysterianism;81274 wrote:
From the fact that there is disagreement about the meanings behind the terms in the example I offered, it does not follow that there is no fixed, objective meaning that is applicable to everyone.


I am afraid it does. If everyone is understanding something differently, there is no consensus, and it has no meaning to the group. However, you may believe that everyone is agreeing with you, and that is fine.

Quote:

New Mysterianism;81274 wrote:
This is precisely why parsing a proposed moral standard in discussions dealing with moral ontology is inappropriate.


It may be uncomfortable, but highly appropriate. What is the use of an objective ethical standard if no one agrees on what it is. A subjective one is fine. It is all up to the judge to decide and we agree on that judge to decide.

Quote:

New Mysterianism;81274 wrote:
I've already stated on numerous occasions that I am a moral objectivist. I also stated that I believe the example I provided is objectively true. What other assurance do you need?


I think it is full of holes and can be interpreted in numerous ways as it already has. No objectivity at all. Everyone does with it as they wish, within the bounds of laws, that are in themselves, all over the place.

Quote:

New Mysterianism;81274 wrote:
No. Picking apart and parsing a particular moral standard is an activity far removed from moral ontology, which is the subject of this thread.


I take a slightly different perspective. I like it when something has some applicability to life. Now, it is true, that discussion about abstracts are fun and fine also. But then we are talking about something just plain abstract, like life after death.

Quote:

New Mysterianism;81274 wrote:
It is not a requirement that a moral objectivist present a moral standard when debating the onotological status of morality, period.


No, but it helps. Then at least people know what you are talking about.


New Mysterianism;81274 wrote:
Not to belabor the point, but demanding (as a requirement) an example of a possible objective moral standard in discussions about moral realism is the same as demanding an example of a possible objective number in discussions about mathematical realism. This requirement is arbitrary and entirely irrelevant for two reasons: we aren't suffering from a poverty of examples, and we are discussing moral ontology, not normative theory.


Maybe it is very relevant. Maybe it demonstrates subjectivity in everything.


Rich
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 03:07 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;72035 wrote:
From the Wikipedia article on Habermas:



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



I would be obliged if you could provide a reference for this assertion.


"Man is the measure of all things: of things which are, that they are, and of things which are not, that they are not". Protagoras.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 03:14 pm
@deepthot,
Thanks. Excellent discussion and very informative. When I disputed the existence of atoms, I don't suggest for a moment that the science is wrong. I am just referring to the fact that the word 'atom' actually means 'indivisible' and I think I am correct in saying that this concept is no longer tenable.
 
prothero
 
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 03:27 pm
@deepthot,
Whether it be
Kierkagaard leap of faith
Kant categorical imperative
Humes moral sensibility.
No philosopher has been able to construct a solid theory of ethics based on reason alone.

In the West anyway.
The divine is both rational agent and moral agent.
 
Zetetic11235
 
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 03:45 pm
@New Mysterianism,
New Mysterianism;81266 wrote:
Oh, okay. Well let's see. I'm a moral objectivist and believe that the following moral standard is objectively true: "deliberately causing unnecessary harm to innocent, unconsenting, and uninformed people, regardless of their race or rank, is morally wrong." But understand that we don't need a fixed example of a particular moral standard in order to discuss the ontology of morality.


Taking into account that this may have been (and probably was) an offhanded example, it provides for me an interesting jumping off point; wouldn't this simply fall under acting efficiently? If it is unnecessary then it can be broken down to simply being a matter of priority.

If an action is unnecessary, then there is no rational reason to commit it. The impetus would be directly and entirely compulsive. Would you draw a distinction between a priority of action and a moral standard, or would you not?

From a different perspective: How would you approach the position that morality is totally derived from human neurological structure? That is, the basis for human social interaction is entirely based in the physical, and thus so are morals ( a subset of the tendencies of human interactions) a fortiori. Would you simply attempt to show that perspective to be isomorphic to your own or might you try to entirely uproot it I wonder?

My perspective, laid bare, is this: Moral standards are indeed based in the structure of the human brain, and arise naturally from patterns in human social behavior. So then morality cannot be called objectively true nor objectively false, it is entirely emotive and psychological. I would in fact claim that morality has as its primary function the guidance of human action in the most efficient way. It seems to me that deep analysis of a situation can lead one to make the most efficient decision in view of human social propriety and that emotive morality as a psychological function allows one to make a decision that can be generally accepted, so as to facilitate efficient human social interaction. In short, morality is entirely neurological; its primary purpose of morality is efficiency, and the secondary is social (which in turn serves the primary purpose).

Given your more lax definition of moral objectivity, I am sure that my view can be segued into appearing to be (and it may be so) totally isomorphic to yours.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 04:49 pm
@deepthot,
I agree with prothero.

The 'absence of certainty' is a little evasive in some respects. It says more about the shortcomings of discursive reasoning than our felt situation as human subjects. So while it may not be possible to establish 'certainty' in purely rational or demonstrative manner, nevertheless there are certain truths (or incontrovertible facts) about our existence. (For example, your mortality.) But you really need to feel this and wrestle with it inside your soul, as it were, rather than just via rational argument.

Nevetheless I ackowledge New Mysterian's contributions as an exemplary piece of philosophical analysis (and writing) and will continue to reflect on this.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 04:52 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;81295 wrote:
Thanks. Excellent discussion and very informative. When I disputed the existence of atoms, I don't suggest for a moment that the science is wrong. I am just referring to the fact that the word 'atom' actually means 'indivisible' and I think I am correct in saying that this concept is no longer tenable.


But the etymology of a word is usually not what a word means now. Otherwise, we could call "lunatics" only those we believed were influenced by the Moon, and that is false. So in fact, "atom" does not actually mean "indivisible", anymore than, "lunatic" actually means, "influenced by the moon". To argue that the original meaning of the term is actually what the term means is called, "the etymological fallacy".
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 05:58 pm
@deepthot,
well in this case, I maintain that many people still assume that atoms are indivisible, and are the main constituent of the universe, even though physics no longer supports this naive viewpoint on the matter. Ask most people what is the basic constituent of reality, and I reckon they will say 'atoms'.

Of course if anyone has empirical data - like for example a survey result - which shows otherwise, then I will accept that I am wrong about it.
 
richrf
 
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 06:07 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;81329 wrote:
well in this case, I maintain that many people still assume that atoms are indivisible, and are the main constituent of the universe, even though physics no longer supports this naive viewpoint on the matter. Ask most people what is the basic constituent of reality, and I reckon they will say 'atoms'.

Of course if anyone has empirical data - like for example a survey result - which shows otherwise, then I will accept that I am wrong about it.


My guess is that most people will answer based upon what they learned in school. Some may say atom. Others may say electrons and protons. Very, very few will say quanta, and most will probably say, "I don't know".

Rich
 
Zetetic11235
 
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 06:39 pm
@richrf,
richrf;81332 wrote:
"I don't know".

Rich


They are probably the most correct.Smile
 
ValueRanger
 
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 06:50 pm
@deepthot,
Physicists say conservation of angular momentum.

Obviously we discover more and more of the sequitur from Origin to present tense, consistently...
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 06:53 pm
@deepthot,
I do wonder, Value Ranger, if you mix up your word processor with your food processor at times. :bigsmile:
 
salima
 
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 07:07 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;81344 wrote:
I do wonder, Value Ranger, if you mix up your word processor with your food processor at times. :bigsmile:
LaughingLaughingLaughing thanks, jeep! you made my day!
 
richrf
 
Reply Tue 4 Aug, 2009 09:22 pm
@Zetetic11235,
Zetetic11235;81339 wrote:
They are probably the most correct.Smile


Yep, probably so. :detective:

Rich
 
 

 
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