Objectivity in ethics

Get Email Updates Email this Topic Print this Page

richrf
 
Reply Thu 6 Aug, 2009 02:59 pm
@Zetetic11235,
Zetetic11235;81639 wrote:
In this way, I would agree that morality is objective; there is a set of correct actions and behaviors that elicit the best possible outcome in any circumstance and morality constitutes a large part of this set


Hmmm... best possible outcome for whom? How is this measured? Who judges? For how long? Which outcome?

Example:

I save someone from drowning but in the process I drown myself. Yikes!:bigsmile: Great outcome for the guy who I saved, pretty bad for me.

Rich
 
Zetetic11235
 
Reply Thu 6 Aug, 2009 03:15 pm
@richrf,
richrf;81643 wrote:
Hmmm... best possible outcome for whom? How is this measured? Who judges? For how long? Which outcome?

Example:

I save someone from drowning but in the process I drown myself. Yikes!:bigsmile: Great outcome for the guy who I saved, pretty bad for me.

Rich


Best outcome for you. Superficially it seems that this might entail great horrors, but I think that that is only due to the short sightedness of those committing such atrocities. It seems to be a fairly unverifiable claim, so it definitely needs tweaking. I hope that through debate I might gain deeper insight into this point of view.

As for your example; could you live with yourself if you let him drown? If you would kill yourself afterwords, then you might as well have saved him, at least you have a margin of probability for not dieing and the certainty that you won't live in misery (at least over that event). The problem that seems to exist is that we cannot see all ends so we cannot know with any certainty that our action is the best(or even ultimately the most in line with our morals). We can simply make our best attempt.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 6 Aug, 2009 03:25 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.


I don't think that many people do think that, since I don't think that many people know the etymology of "atom". But in any case, all you have to do is look at a decent dictionary. "Atom" is a scientific term, not a term in ordinary language, and, to the extent it is, we have to defer to physicists. Who cares what a bunch of scientifically ignorant people think, "atom" means, anyway? In any case, the Greek term, "atomos" meant "indivisible". The English term, "atom" does not mean that. Why don't you just ask the next person you meet what the word, "atom" means? He is sure to say, "indivisible", isn't he?
 
richrf
 
Reply Thu 6 Aug, 2009 04:10 pm
@Zetetic11235,
Zetetic11235;81644 wrote:
Best outcome for you.


This may be a problem. Definitely the mantra for business executives during the last 20 years. However, while a small handful of the top 1% of the population got fabulously wealth (they did what was best for themselves), the vast majority of people witnessed their standard of living decline quite a bit, many going into poverty and bankruptcy.

Zetetic11235;81644 wrote:
As for your example; could you live with yourself if you let him drown?


Don't know. But seeing as I am dead, it matters little to me at this point. So I guess the outcome for me was quite bad. I couldn't imagine a worse outcome, assuming that I have only one life of course. So, I guess the question is whether I did something immoral because of the very poor outcome for myself?

Zetetic11235;81644 wrote:
The problem that seems to exist is that we cannot see all ends so we cannot know with any certainty that our action is the best(or even ultimately the most in line with our morals). We can simply make our best attempt.


Yes, I agree. The Law of Unintended Consequences. So we do the best we can. Now, I guess, the question is, when we decide to do the best we can, is this an objective decision or purely subjective - i.e. the best we can?

Rich
 
Zetetic11235
 
Reply Thu 6 Aug, 2009 04:43 pm
@richrf,
richrf;81657 wrote:
This may be a problem. Definitely the mantra for business executives during the last 20 years. However, while a small handful of the top 1% of the population got fabulously wealth (they did what was best for themselves), the vast majority of people witnessed their standard of living decline quite a bit, many going into poverty and bankruptcy.


I wonder if they actually acted in their own best interest? I have my doubts.



richrf;81657 wrote:
Don't know. But seeing as I am dead, it matters little to me at this point. So I guess the outcome for me was quite bad. I couldn't imagine a worse outcome, assuming that I have only one life of course. So, I guess the question is whether I did something immoral because of the very poor outcome for myself?
How can you ask me this if you're dead(catch my drift here ?)?





richrf;81657 wrote:
Yes, I agree. The Law of Unintended Consequences. So we do the best we can. Now, I guess, the question is, when we decide to do the best we can, is this an objective decision or purely subjective - i.e. the best we can?

Rich


I think the best we can is probably objective, but what we think is the best is ultimately subjective.
 
deepthot
 
Reply Thu 6 Aug, 2009 08:08 pm
@prothero,
prothero;81459 wrote:
I am still after the proof that there is any objective morality. I understand that there may be an objective morality and I am personally committed to the notion....


Have you read ETHIC; A College Course, in which Katz shows that the formula which is (most aptly) named "morality," can be put on blackboards all over the planet, Earth - and is thus objective in that sense. Since it contains variables, many divers interpretations can be represented by them. He explains that subjectivity enters into the application of the formula, but that the formula, like any math or logic expression, can be universally-agreed-upon as to what it symbolizes - in this particular case, 'self corresponding to Self'. In the same way, dx/dy finds concurrence in the differential calculus. Of course morality can be objective! At the same time (from another persspective) it is subjective.

For further clarification on many of these concepts, see the treatise entitled ETHICS: A College Course, Here, safe to open, is a link to it: http://tinyurl.com/2mj5b3


Also, you may want to check out a version of it for the non-philosopher, for the layman. It is more readable. Its title is LIVING THE GOOD LIFE. You will find it Here:
http://tinyurl.com/24swmd



http://www.philosophyforum.com/forum/images/PHBlue/buttons/quote.gif
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Thu 6 Aug, 2009 08:20 pm
@deepthot,
I don't believe objectivity or subjectivity are ultimately definable. You can have a working definition or an idea of what they mean in a pragmatic sense, but they have no absolute reference.
 
prothero
 
Reply Thu 6 Aug, 2009 09:44 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;81691 wrote:
I don't believe objectivity or subjectivity are ultimately definable. You can have a working definition or an idea of what they mean in a pragmatic sense, but they have no absolute reference.


Although I agree with the sentiment, I feel uncomfortable to leave it at that. It seems like epistomologic relativism or even nihilism which is almost more bothersome than moral relativism.

Yes, all of experience has a subjective component and our knowledge of "the real world" is never complete. However some truth assertions can be repeatedly demonstrated and virtually universally agreed upon (gravity, physics, chemistry, etc) whereas other type of truth assertions seem less to be less confirmable and lack consensus.

Science seems more objective than religion say.
The truth of processes like history and evolution seem to be intermediate.
Just musing.Surprised
 
richrf
 
Reply Thu 6 Aug, 2009 11:26 pm
@prothero,
prothero;81698 wrote:
Although I agree with the sentiment, I feel uncomfortable to leave it at that. It seems like epistomologic relativism or even nihilism which is almost more bothersome than moral relativism.


I think I know how you feel, but for some reason it doesn't bother me at all. I guess it feels OK that we are each on our own journey and not confined to some outside constraints. It is the difference between starting with a blank canvas or coloring by numbers.

Quote:
However some truth assertions can be repeatedly demonstrated and virtually universally agreed upon (gravity, physics, chemistry, etc) whereas other type of truth assertions seem less to be less confirmable and lack consensus.


I have found on inspection that fundamentally it is all speculation, opinions, approximations. What is gravity? What is God? What is quantum? What is love? What is a neuron? What is mind and consciousness? Yes, math gives some very good approximations, but on the bigger questions of Life, spirituality may provide a much better approximation than science.

Quote:
Just musing.Surprised


Me too. Smile

Rich
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Thu 6 Aug, 2009 11:38 pm
@deepthot,
Well I acknowledge that and certainly don't want to leave it there. (I referred to a text in a few other threads called Beyond Objectivity and Subjectivity by Richard Bernstein which I am trying to get my hands on which appears to have a lot to say about this topic).

Actually New Mysterian has already made the point about the fact that many types of truth assertions can be universally agreed upon and I accept that. It is not as if there is no scientific truth however scientific facts are specific to particular instances or matters. Insofar as they are an expression of 'scientfic law', nobody can actually provide an explanation for why such laws exist. We just know they do. But I don't think the same logic can be extended to the ethical realm. You will note all through this discussion that as soon as the question of what exactly is objective about an ethical maxim, is seems it seems to fall back to the idea that a large number of people accept it. I fail to see how this makes it objective. Or that it corresponds to a brain structure, I seem to recall. Perhaps we are to infer that our neuro structure must correspond to an 'objective reality' but I think that is actually a presumption too. It presupposes that what the neural structure maps against must really exists, but we only have our neurons to inform us of that, so it is a circular argument.

I think there are truths,or a realm of truth, which are neither subjective nor objective. I am referring to a transcendent realm of truth. But I am trying to avoid making this a simple statement of faith (which is subjective!) Still working on it.

---------- Post added 08-07-2009 at 04:20 PM ----------

A Buddhist view: What is personal but not subjective lies in the discovery within yourself of what is beyond oneself. Insofar as you remain yourself alone, your opinions are fundamentally subjective and you remain separated from the whole. Only through the development of a selfless awareness can you discover a larger view of truth. To the extent that you overcome your own selfish tendencies, which are what isolate you from the world by dividing reality into the 'mine' vs. the 'not-mine', you begin to inhabit the realm of truth. Here you begin to discover a truth which is neither subjective nor objective - it is not a feature or structure of the world but is 'perceptible only by the wise'. In Buddhism, this is understood as 'dharma', 'that which holds everything together' and which operates on the ethical plane. It is a moral law and provides what I understand as the basis for a lasting truth. Where it is different from 'faith' in the Western sense is that it is verifiable as the fruit of your practise. It can be seen to work and it is not predicated upon the existence of a supernatural being.
 
salima
 
Reply Fri 7 Aug, 2009 12:44 am
@deepthot,
so if it were possible to share the 'subjective' perspective and point of view of every subject in the cosmos, and to be able to see all the ramifications of one's actions in all time, not only the present but past and future as well, and choose what would benefit a perfect balance of the individual and the whole unit of being, that would be ethical, wouldnt it? in an almost absolute way? the relativity comes in because each and every solution would only be correct when all the circumstances and participants remained the same, and of course they would always vary from nanosecond to nanosecond. surely it is theoretically possible?
 
deepthot
 
Reply Fri 7 Aug, 2009 01:21 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;81691 wrote:
I don't believe objectivity or subjectivity are ultimately definable. You can have a working definition or an idea of what they mean in a pragmatic sense, but they have no absolute reference.


What do you mean by "ultimately definable" as distinct from "definable."? Dictionaries define terms all the time!!

I defined "objectivity" as "inter-subjectivity", as meaning that: a wide consensus can agree on a topic or subject. That 7 is a number in the science of hypothetical sets invariant under transformation {math} is objective. That 'Ethic's is 'the science of individual persons Intrinsically valued' {applied Axiology} can be just as objective once it is more widely-publicized and the appropriateness of it is demonstrated to a critical mass of workers in that field; picked up then, say, by those who set the curriculum for Law Schools; by professional associations of Life Coaches; etc.


[Today, more and more business people are concurring on this notion, and that they are leading the way s understandable because "money makes the world go round" in a capitalist society. Two great attractions for a young person are a possible chance to make money and meeting a potential mate. If you ever directed a club or discussion group, you know those are the major motivators for attendance.]

So if I defined it, how can you say "it is indefinable"?
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Fri 7 Aug, 2009 01:54 am
@deepthot,
Ojectivity is not absolutely definable. The examples you are giving are still dependent upon a consensus view. (Maths is different, but maths are not objective either, they are true a priori. They follow from axioms but no-one can demonstrate why the axioms are true. This was shown by Godel's incompleteness theorem.)

Sure 'everyone might know' that such-and-such is true; but what if you were in a society with radically different values, or a completely different view of what is important? In the 1500's a wide consensus of people believed the Earth was at the center of the Universe. A socialist society might define ethics as 'the individual's willingness to sacrifice his or her own interests for the greater good'. Every circumstance, every situation is able to be re-intepreted or seen in a different manner. In practise, it doesn't matter that much because we all share a consensus view. But there is nothing ultimate about it. It has no absolute value. There is no ultimate object or ultimate objectivity. No 'ultimate particle' has been discovered or any true 'source of being' or 'origin of the universe' past a certain point.

---------- Post added 08-07-2009 at 05:55 PM ----------

Salima - I think that is getting close to the 'utilitarian' view - 'the greatest good for the greatest number' - isn't it? Nevertheless what you are saying is close to the truth, in that through compassion, we overcome our limited view and see life from the viewpoint of the other. This is why compassion is the main source of ethics. Prothero mentioned that in one of the previous posts in this thread.Through compassion or in being compassionate we transcend or outgrow our subjectivity, in that I am no longer just seeing from my viewpoint.
 
New Mysterianism
 
Reply Fri 7 Aug, 2009 08:03 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;81709 wrote:
Actually New Mysterian has already made the point about the fact that many types of truth assertions can be universally agreed upon and I accept that.


Okay, but I don't recall suggesting that the universal acceptance of some claim entails its objective truth, if that's what you're implying here.

Quote:
It is not as if there is no scientific truth however scientific facts are specific to particular instances or matters. Insofar as they are an expression of 'scientfic law', nobody can actually provide an explanation for why such laws exist. We just know they do.


We can provide explanations for why such physical laws exist, but whether you find those explanations plausible is, of course, another matter. Here's one possible explanation. Note that we have familiar examples of physical laws--those regulating the workings of DNA, photosynthesis, and sedimentary compression, for instance. Prior to the existence of chromosomes, plants, or rocks, there were no laws of these kinds. The relevant laws came into being just at the point when these things assumed a nature capable of accurate description. No human being authored these laws; indeed, humans didn't even exist at the time when such things first came into existence. They are objectively true.

This is one possible explanation for why such physical laws exist. We can date the origin of physical laws to the origin of the things that such laws cover. Since DNA has not existed eternally, neither do the the physical laws that correctly described its nature and behavior. Indeed, moral laws could be relevantly like those that govern DNA--they came into being only when the things they describe (moral agents) took on a determinate nature. In other words, when moral agents (i.e., human beings) hit the scene, so did the relevant moral laws, in ways analogous to DNA and the manifestation of its physical laws.

At any rate, the confusion about "how physical laws could exist" arises because we assume that such things existed eternally. However, we have here a plausible explanation for how physical laws could have originated, and originated objectively, i.e., independent of human opinion. Thus, we also have a possible explanation for how moral laws might have originated, and originated objectively, i.e., independent of human opinion.

Quote:
But I don't think the same logic can be extended to the ethical realm. You will note all through this discussion that as soon as the question of what exactly is objective about an ethical maxim, is seems it seems to fall back to the idea that a large number of people accept it. I fail to see how this makes it objective.


I can say for my own part that I never once suggested that consensus about some moral law is what makes it objective. Stated succinctly, a moral law is objective if and only if it is true independent of human opinion. Pure and simple. This holds for any kind of law with objective status. Personal opinion and collective endorsement determine what an individual or society believes or accepts as true, but neither ultimately decides what is true objectively. Just because we believe something to be true doesn't mean that it is.

Some people reject this and insist that we each create our own reality (including what is true objectively). And what could be more appealing than the notion that if we just believe something, it will become true? However, this view is mistaken (i.e., extremely implausible) for several reasons. For one thing, it involves a logical contradiction. If it's true that our beliefs can alter reality, or even fashion reality itself, then what happens when different people have opposing beliefs? Let's say that person A believes p (a statement about reality), and p therefore becomes true. Person B, however, believes not-p, and it becomes true. We would then have the same state of affairs both existing and not existing simultaneously--a logical impossibility. What if A believes that all known terrorists are dead, and B believes they're not dead. What if A believes that the Earth is round, and B believes it's flat? Since the supposition that our beliefs create reality and determine what is objectively true leads us to a logical contradiction, we must conclude that reality is independent of our beliefs.

You have a leaking faucet. You position a bucket to catch the drops. You leave the room. When you return, the bucket is full of water, the sink is overflowing, and the carpet is soaked. Simple events like this--and billions of other experiences--lead us to believe that causal sequences continue whether we're experiencing them or not, as though they were independent of our minds. It's as though such events were causally connected to something outside our minds. The point is that the existence of an independent world explains our experiences far better than any known alternative. We have good reason to believe that the world and its physical laws--which seem independent of our minds--really is. We have little if any reason to believe that the world and its laws is our mind's own creation. Besides, if believing something made it so, the world would contain a lot fewer unfulfilled desires, unrealized ambitions, and unsuccessful projects than it does. There are objective truths, and there might be objective moral truths as well.
 
richrf
 
Reply Fri 7 Aug, 2009 08:11 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;81709 wrote:
Insofar as they are an expression of 'scientfic law', nobody can actually provide an explanation for why such laws exist.


As one looks through history, one should note that all scientific laws have been overturned in very meaningful ways. For example, Relativity overturned the constancy of time in all frames of references. Quantum overturned Newton's notion that matter was made of particles. These are totally different ways of looking at things, not just small tweaks.

Rupert Sheldrake views laws as habits. So, he conjectures that the universe enters into habits that are no immutable and can change over time. This view, I believe, is more in line with what seems to be actually happening.

jeeprs;81709 wrote:
it seems to fall back to the idea that a large number of people accept it. I fail to see how this makes it objective. Or that it corresponds to a brain structure, I seem to recall.


Yes, I agree. This is what I call forming a consensus. Sheldrake calls this a morphic field that participants share in.

jeeprs;81709 wrote:
Only through the development of a selfless awareness can you discover a larger view of truth.


In my experiences it does not work out this way. I think that there is much to learn from relationships that one cannot learn by self-awareness. So, selfless awareness, I find to be incomplete. It is an interesting idea, but I have interacted with many long-time practicing Buddhists, and I have not observed any special sense of the Truth. It is, however, I believe, a very nice practice to do together as a group.

Rich

---------- Post added 08-07-2009 at 09:17 AM ----------

salima;81714 wrote:
surely it is theoretically possible?


Hi salima,

I guess ultimately would depend upon whether there is at least one choice that does not harm or does not benefit someone else. Personally, I don't believe so. I think the universe is full of equal opposites, and if you take it for yourself for your own benefit, you are taking it from someone else. And the opposite also holds true. The old Yin/Yang thing or pendulum motion.

Rich

---------- Post added 08-07-2009 at 09:20 AM ----------

deepthot;81716 wrote:
So if I defined it, how can you say "it is indefinable"?


Well, I guess you defined it to your satisfaction, but how are you going to reach consensus? And when you do, everyone is just compromising on their own subjective definition of the word. If you look at most (maybe every) words in the dictionary, there are multiple meanings, and each dictionary will have its own definition. As humans, we have just learned to live with inconsistency and uncertainty. Bravo for us!

Rich

---------- Post added 08-07-2009 at 09:23 AM ----------

New Mysterianism;81742 wrote:
Stated succinctly, a moral law is objective if and only if it is true independent of human opinion.


Now, this would be a neat trick wouldn't it? Try as I might, I can't figure out how to do this unless I let my dog Fido do it for me.

Rich
 
salima
 
Reply Fri 7 Aug, 2009 08:40 am
@jeeprs,
[QUOTE=jeeprs;81717]

---------- Post added 08-07-2009 at 05:55 PM ----------

Salima - I think that is getting close to the 'utilitarian' view - 'the greatest good for the greatest number' - isn't it? Nevertheless what you are saying is close to the truth, in that through compassion, we overcome our limited view and see life from the viewpoint of the other. This is why compassion is the main source of ethics. Prothero mentioned that in one of the previous posts in this thread.Through compassion or in being compassionate we transcend or outgrow our subjectivity, in that I am no longer just seeing from my viewpoint.[/QUOTE]


it wouldnt be utilitarian because it isnt always the better choice to go by the quantity-the number of people who are benefited. it is the quality of the benefit. so something may be to the greater good in the case of preserving the life of a martin luther king jr while accepting the loss of a number of other people like me for instance.

"Thus, we also have a possible explanation for how moral laws might have originated, and originated objectively, i.e., independent of human opinion." ...New Mysterianism

i like this-because it is not saying that moral laws are not necessarily independent of human beings, but originated independently of them. ......perhaps prior to them? something to ponder at length i would say...

i am thinking that if a human being were able to reach where those laws are, he would be able to make ethical decisions.

---------- Post added 08-07-2009 at 08:22 PM ----------

ok, the martin luther king jr example was not a good one because it is still benefiting the larger number of people by preserving his life because of the amount of good he would do for a great number of people. but there must be a relevant example. .....hmm, maybe not? even if i chose to die for a principle i would be sacrificing my life in the hopes of benefiting a number of people....

but rather than there being a set of laws for us to use, my theory rests on the idea that the person making the choice has access to all the facts there are and knows the consequences of his action and exactly how every being in the cosmos would be affected etc etc...in other words, he would have to have access to all knowledge-that would be the only way possible to make a choice that would be less than subjective. how could there be laws written for each and every scenario and participants?

maybe the words objective/subjective arent necessary at all. they seem to be confusing the issue. even in my cosmos, since there is only one being all would be subjective to the one and only mind (field of Consciousness) and nothing at all would be objective-in fact there wouldnt be any objects.

instead of objective can we say something like impartial? unbiased? selfless? is it necessary that there has to be an objective morality for it to be universally applicable?
 
richrf
 
Reply Fri 7 Aug, 2009 09:01 am
@salima,
salima;81755 wrote:
ok, the martin luther king jr example was not a good one because it is still benefiting the larger number of people by preserving his life because of the amount of good he would do for a great number of people.


The whole civil rights movement was about attempting to equalize. But in so doing, it took from some (jobs, power, access) and gave it to others. Same with the Equal Rights movements. It might be laudable to try to equalize but there are many who differ, especially if they feel they lose job opportunities because of it.

I understand all points of view. When one taketh it must come from somewhere.

Rich
 
Grimlock
 
Reply Fri 7 Aug, 2009 09:03 am
@New Mysterianism,
New Mysterianism;81742 wrote:
There are objective truths, and there might be objective moral truths as well.


Could it be that you are conflating the ideas (and the terms) "reality" and "truth"? Could it not, perhaps, be possible to believe in a real world of energy and matter outside of our minds without believing that scientific (and moralistic) formulas amount to anything more than a willful falsification and approximation of that world?

Perhaps it is possible for something to be real without it being true?
 
New Mysterianism
 
Reply Fri 7 Aug, 2009 12:51 pm
@Grimlock,
Grimlock;81762 wrote:
...Could it not, perhaps, be possible to believe in a real world of energy and matter outside of our minds without believing that scientific (and moralistic) formulas amount to anything more than a willful falsification and approximation of that world?


Yes. The gradual approximation and refinement of our scientific theories indicates our incomplete understanding of the universe and its physical laws. This is completely consistent with the existence of an objective, mind-independent reality.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Fri 7 Aug, 2009 04:10 pm
@deepthot,
Can't disagree in the slightest. The only remaining question I have is, given there is a moral law, how does it translate into an ethical code? What are its practical consequences?

---------- Post added 08-08-2009 at 08:49 AM ----------

Quote:
the person making the choice has access to all the facts there are and knows the consequences of his action and exactly how every being in the cosmos would be affected etc etc..


I have to question the degree to which action is taken as a result of choice and consciously weighing up all of these factors. In practise, nobody acts like this, do they? I think the basis of 'skilled action' is acting with attention. I had a teacher once who used to say 'to know what you are doing is wisdom'. His idea was that we are usually acting out inner conflicts or hidden memories without the least awareness that we are doing it. Then we get surprised that things 'don't work out'. Krishnamurti would always say 'choiceless awareness is the ground of freedom' - seeing things as they are without choosing, without justification or condemnation. Freedom of choice might be highly over-rated as a basis for freedom. Choice is generally driven by desire and desire itself is the source of frustration. We are sold this idea by modernity because it suits the economy to equate freedom with choosing what you like.
 
 

 
Copyright © 2022 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.02 seconds on 12/04/2022 at 03:47:18