Author Topic: Do you believe in objective morality?  (Read 24463 times)

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Offline daniel1948

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Re: Do you believe in objective morality?
« Reply #30 on: June 10, 2018, 01:28:50 PM »
That sounds like subjective. Objective would say X is a good end goal, and then you would use moral or ehical calculus and science to try to find the rest of the equation to (abusing the metaohor) solve the equation. A subjective view would say that we can debate and reexamine what we believe good to be, and should endeavor to do so in addition to trying to solve the equation.

And yet the assertion that X is a good end goal is a subjective judgement, so the "morality" is subjective. Another person or group will assert that X is not a good end goal at all, but rather Y is the good goal, and thus derive an entirely different morality.
Daniel
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Online John Albert

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Re: Do you believe in objective morality?
« Reply #31 on: June 10, 2018, 04:00:43 PM »
All your examples above are built upon foundations of whatever a particular culture values. There are no absolutes there, just the subjective values of a particular culture.

"Subjective" means dependent upon the view of an individual. As such, I'm not sure it's appropriate to scale the concept of "subjectivity" to the level of an entire society. Do entire cultures have a shared "subjective" view?

Is it not objectively true that Confucianism emphasizes veneration for one's elders? When an individual who practices Confucianism follows the tenet of respecting her elders, is that really a subjective view? Or is it compliance with an objective, shared code of conduct?


And yet the assertion that X is a good end goal is a subjective judgement, so the "morality" is subjective. Another person or group will assert that X is not a good end goal at all, but rather Y is the good goal, and thus derive an entirely different morality.

Presumably we can both agree that experiencing pain is generally undesirable. Yes? 

If you disagree, then presumably you won't object to me hitting you with a stick.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2018, 04:03:08 PM by John Albert »

Offline brilligtove

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Re: Do you believe in objective morality?
« Reply #32 on: June 10, 2018, 05:39:58 PM »
<snip>

Really, that's all "morality" comes down to: A set of rules toward achieving an arbitrary set of goals that a ruling elite regards as beneficial to itself.

I think that's overly constrained. If I break it down there are a few factors to consider.

A: Actors (an individual or group with at least one shared G, B, R, or C)
G: One or more Goals
B: One or more Behaviours
R: Restrictions and Requirements (applied to A, G, R, B, or C)
C: Choice (the degree of agency an Actor has to define G, R, or B)

There may be other factors to consider, but this seems like a reasonably complete starting position. I feel like writing an exhaustive exploration of this concept as a think piece on value-based stakeholder analysis and management.
_____

"Subjective" means dependent upon the view of an individual. As such, I'm not sure it's appropriate to scale the concept of "subjectivity" to the level of an entire society. Do entire cultures have a shared "subjective" view?

I think you are narrowing the definition to support your position. For example,

influenced by or based on personal beliefs or feelings, rather than based on facts

does not require that subjectivity be wholly constrained to the inside of a single human skull. Aggregate intelligences (corporations, families, cultures) can certainly fit this category. Even ignoring emergent behaviours inherent to complex systems (e.g., intelligence from networks of neurons), simply adding up the types of individual subjective goals or behaviours could provide an aggregate view of the subjective nature of a group. We call this 'demographics' and 'market research' and 'polling' - among other things.
_____

Is it not objectively true that Confucianism emphasizes veneration for one's elders? When an individual who practices Confucianism follows the tenet of respecting her elders, is that really a subjective view? Or is it compliance with an objective, shared code of conduct?

I don't know the name of this error in logic, but it is incorrect.

1. It is objectively true that G is a goal defined by the actor A. (Is it not objectively true that Confucianism emphasizes veneration for one's elders?)
2. Some people (A') make a choice (C) to pursue behaviours (B) to achieve G. (When an individual who practices Confucianism follows the tenet of respecting her elders...)

Question I: Is the choice (C) in (2) an example of objective or subjective morality? (Is it compliance with an objective, shared code of conduct?)

Answer I: The choice (C) is a subjective decision made by A', to pursue the goal (G).

Question II: Is the goal (G) in (1) an example of objective or subjective morality? (Is it compliance with an objective, shared code of conduct?)

Answer II: The goal (G) is subjectively defined by A.

Question III: Does the goal (G) exist? (...is that really a subjective view?

Answer III: (G) exists to the extent that it has been defined by (A) and adopted by (A'). This does not mean that (G) is necessarily correct, good, useful, proper, improper, useless, bad, or wrong. It exists, full stop.
_____

And yet the assertion that X is a good end goal is a subjective judgement, so the "morality" is subjective. Another person or group will assert that X is not a good end goal at all, but rather Y is the good goal, and thus derive an entirely different morality.

Presumably we can both agree that experiencing pain is generally undesirable. Yes? 

If you disagree, then presumably you won't object to me hitting you with a stick.

Yes. That is why 'the golden rule' is a very limited heuristic for considering what any other Actor considers a proper Goal, Behaviour, Restriction or Requirement, or even a Choice.
evidence trumps experience | performance over perfection | responsibility – authority = scapegoat | emotions motivate; data doesn't

Offline daniel1948

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Re: Do you believe in objective morality?
« Reply #33 on: June 10, 2018, 05:48:04 PM »
All your examples above are built upon foundations of whatever a particular culture values. There are no absolutes there, just the subjective values of a particular culture.

"Subjective" means dependent upon the view of an individual. As such, I'm not sure it's appropriate to scale the concept of "subjectivity" to the level of an entire society. Do entire cultures have a shared "subjective" view?

I do not think that an otherwise subjective view becomes objective merely because a group of people, or even a whole tribe or nation embraces it.

Is it not objectively true that Confucianism emphasizes veneration for one's elders? When an individual who practices Confucianism follows the tenet of respecting her elders, is that really a subjective view? Or is it compliance with an objective, shared code of conduct?

It is objectively true that the religion of Confucianism holds the subjective view that elders and ancestors should be venerated.

And yet the assertion that X is a good end goal is a subjective judgement, so the "morality" is subjective. Another person or group will assert that X is not a good end goal at all, but rather Y is the good goal, and thus derive an entirely different morality.

Presumably we can both agree that experiencing pain is generally undesirable. Yes? 

If you disagree, then presumably you won't object to me hitting you with a stick.

In my subjective value system anything that causes pain to me or someone I care about is bad. Something that causes pain to someone I'm sufficiently angry at is good. In the subjective value system of that other person, the judgements are likely reversed.

Most Americans would say that it is undesirable for them to be eaten by a lion, but those same people do not feel that it is undesirable for them to eat a cow. And most systems of morality allow the person to do things to others they would not like done to themselves. We hold the "Golden Rule" up as an ideal, but nobody really incorporates that into their own morality. I do things to bugs that I would not want done to me. And I do not give all my money to the poor, which is what I'd want someone else to do if I were poor. The last time somebody tried to convince people to live by the Golden Rule they nailed him to a cross for it, and none of his later followers made any effort to resurrect the idea except as lip service.

I do not like pain. But there are times when pain has taught me an important lesson, and other times when pain has caused me to desist from an activity that otherwise would have done me serious harm.

I generally oppose corporal punishment, but most people would assert that there are situations when corporal punishment is beneficial to the recipient. I once happened to witness a farmer spank a toddler who was running toward an airplane that was running and about to take off. The toddler was too young to reason with. I'm sure the farmer believed, and many would agree with him, that the spanking (causing pain but not injury) was the best way to assure the toddler stayed away from the airplane in future. (The plane was for crop dusting, and in addition to the spinning propeller was probably dripping pesticide.)
Daniel
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Online John Albert

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Re: Do you believe in objective morality?
« Reply #34 on: June 10, 2018, 06:07:29 PM »
"Subjective" means dependent upon the view of an individual. As such, I'm not sure it's appropriate to scale the concept of "subjectivity" to the level of an entire society. Do entire cultures have a shared "subjective" view?

I think you are narrowing the definition to support your position. For example,

influenced by or based on personal beliefs or feelings, rather than based on facts

does not require that subjectivity be wholly constrained to the inside of a single human skull. Aggregate intelligences (corporations, families, cultures) can certainly fit this category. Even ignoring emergent behaviours inherent to complex systems (e.g., intelligence from networks of neurons), simply adding up the types of individual subjective goals or behaviours could provide an aggregate view of the subjective nature of a group. We call this 'demographics' and 'market research' and 'polling' - among other things.

As I said before, I'm using the common philosophical definition. I figure that's the most appropriate usage, considering we're discussing matters of philosophy.


Is it not objectively true that Confucianism emphasizes veneration for one's elders? When an individual who practices Confucianism follows the tenet of respecting her elders, is that really a subjective view? Or is it compliance with an objective, shared code of conduct?

I don't know the name of this error in logic, but it is incorrect.

1. It is objectively true that G is a goal defined by the actor A. (Is it not objectively true that Confucianism emphasizes veneration for one's elders?)
2. Some people (A') make a choice (C) to pursue behaviours (B) to achieve G. (When an individual who practices Confucianism follows the tenet of respecting her elders...)

Question I: Is the choice (C) in (2) an example of objective or subjective morality? (Is it compliance with an objective, shared code of conduct?)

Answer I: The choice (C) is a subjective decision made by A', to pursue the goal (G).

Question II: Is the goal (G) in (1) an example of objective or subjective morality? (Is it compliance with an objective, shared code of conduct?)

Answer II: The goal (G) is subjectively defined by A.

Question III: Does the goal (G) exist? (...is that really a subjective view?

Answer III: (G) exists to the extent that it has been defined by (A) and adopted by (A'). This does not mean that (G) is necessarily correct, good, useful, proper, improper, useless, bad, or wrong. It exists, full stop.

It's objectively consistent with a socially-agreed value system, therefore it's objectively "moral" within the context of that value system.


And yet the assertion that X is a good end goal is a subjective judgement, so the "morality" is subjective. Another person or group will assert that X is not a good end goal at all, but rather Y is the good goal, and thus derive an entirely different morality.

Presumably we can both agree that experiencing pain is generally undesirable. Yes? 

If you disagree, then presumably you won't object to me hitting you with a stick.

Yes. That is why 'the golden rule' is a very limited heuristic for considering what any other Actor considers a proper Goal, Behaviour, Restriction or Requirement, or even a Choice.

Right, but saying that "experiencing pain is generally undesirable" is not the end of the line of reasoning that I was pursuing.

As you pointed out, some people associate some kinds of pain with pleasure. But even in that case, mutual consent enters into the equation.

Online John Albert

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Re: Do you believe in objective morality?
« Reply #35 on: June 10, 2018, 06:22:52 PM »
All your examples above are built upon foundations of whatever a particular culture values. There are no absolutes there, just the subjective values of a particular culture.

"Subjective" means dependent upon the view of an individual. As such, I'm not sure it's appropriate to scale the concept of "subjectivity" to the level of an entire society. Do entire cultures have a shared "subjective" view?

I do not think that an otherwise subjective view becomes objective merely because a group of people, or even a whole tribe or nation embraces it.

Then how would you describe it?

Keep in mind that things can be objective without being universally objective.


Most Americans would say that it is undesirable for them to be eaten by a lion, but those same people do not feel that it is undesirable for them to eat a cow. And most systems of morality allow the person to do things to others they would not like done to themselves.

Right, and social mores like that are objective because they hold true for the majority of society, even if one individual disagrees with them.


We hold the "Golden Rule" up as an ideal, but nobody really incorporates that into their own morality.

Most people might, but I certainly don't. I feel that the Golden Rule unduly places all authority over what's best for everyone else onto the self, according to one's own wants and needs. In reality, everyone has different wants and needs, and the Golden Rule doesn't allow for that.

For example, I might feel pleasantly flattered by hearing women compliment my physical attributes, but some women take great offense when men treat them that way. Hence, the Golden Rule does not necessarily apply in that situation.


I do not like pain. But there are times when pain has taught me an important lesson, and other times when pain has caused me to desist from an activity that otherwise would have done me serious harm.

Sure, and then there are kinds of pain that serve to indicate that the body is undergoing some beneficial changes, such as the "burn" we feel on the day after a vigorous workout.

By invoking the question of pain, I wasn't trying to set it up as a moral absolute; I intended to illustrate a method by which a mutually agreeable code of morality might be established among two or more individuals. 

Offline brilligtove

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Re: Do you believe in objective morality?
« Reply #36 on: June 10, 2018, 06:31:33 PM »
Keep in mind that things can be objective without being universally objective.

Not if physics is location independent. Care to expand on this?
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Offline brilligtove

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Re: Do you believe in objective morality?
« Reply #37 on: June 10, 2018, 06:33:47 PM »
Most Americans would say that it is undesirable for them to be eaten by a lion, but those same people do not feel that it is undesirable for them to eat a cow. And most systems of morality allow the person to do things to others they would not like done to themselves.

Right, and social mores like that are objective because they hold true for the majority of society, even if one individual disagrees with them.

Wait wait wait. How is 'majority rule' even vaguely consistent with 'doesn't matter who says it'?
evidence trumps experience | performance over perfection | responsibility – authority = scapegoat | emotions motivate; data doesn't

Online John Albert

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Re: Do you believe in objective morality?
« Reply #38 on: June 10, 2018, 06:38:28 PM »
I'm not talking about "majority rule." I'm talking about social mores.

Online John Albert

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Re: Do you believe in objective morality?
« Reply #39 on: June 10, 2018, 06:39:23 PM »
Keep in mind that things can be objective without being universally objective.

Not if physics is location independent. Care to expand on this?

We're not discussing physics.

Offline brilligtove

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Re: Do you believe in objective morality?
« Reply #40 on: June 10, 2018, 06:40:40 PM »
Right, and social mores like that are objective because they hold true for the majority of society, even if one individual disagrees with them.
evidence trumps experience | performance over perfection | responsibility – authority = scapegoat | emotions motivate; data doesn't

Online John Albert

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Re: Do you believe in objective morality?
« Reply #41 on: June 10, 2018, 06:42:55 PM »
Yeah, social mores. What's with the bloody letters?

Offline daniel1948

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Re: Do you believe in objective morality?
« Reply #42 on: June 11, 2018, 07:46:23 AM »
John: I think you have altered the intent of the OP by introducing a technical definition of "objective" which is different from the common definition, and in so doing have left us arguing past each other. You have defined "objective morality" as the traditional or generally-accepted mores of a society. Being neither a philosopher nor an etymologist I cannot offer a formal definition, but for me the question originally raised was whether or not we believe in an absolute, universal, invariant morality independent of the opinions or cultures of any individual or society.

By your definition, the original question becomes trivial: Of course there are cultures that have generally-accepted sets of mores at any given time. I readily concede that by your definition, objective morality exists in some cultures, though it is widely different in different cultures and even changes through time in any given culture. (Making it subjective in my mind.)

But at the risk of being contradicted by Quetzalcoatl, I do not believe that was his question. I believe the question was, "Do you believe in an absolute and invariant set of rules that constitute morality irrespective of time and culture or individual preferences?" My answer to the question is, No, I do not.
Daniel
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Offline Zec

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Re: Do you believe in objective morality?
« Reply #43 on: June 11, 2018, 04:15:17 PM »

Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: Do you believe in objective morality?
« Reply #44 on: June 11, 2018, 04:27:36 PM »
But at the risk of being contradicted by Quetzalcoatl, I do not believe that was his question. I believe the question was, "Do you believe in an absolute and invariant set of rules that constitute morality irrespective of time and culture or individual preferences?" My answer to the question is, No, I do not.

At least when I think about this question, I think of it like Sean Carroll when he compares morality with science, and with cosmology. The Big Bang theory and the steady statate theory can't both be correct, and those who believe in the steady state theory are simply wrong. At least that's what the current status of the evidence indicates.

From what I understand, those who believe in objective morality think something similar is true about moral judgements, whereas those of who don't believe in objective morality don't think so.
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