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The Tanager
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2020 5:57 pm  Subjective Morality Reply with quote

I started this post out of another discussion with Divine Insight. DI has made some arguments for morality being subjective. I'm still trying to get the terminology straight.

Divine Insight wrote:
If morality is not absolute, then it can only be subjective. A matter of opinion.


We need to get our terms straight when talking about our human morality. I agree with you concerning 'subjective' being a matter of opinion. Objective, then, would mean not being a matter of opinion. Just like the shape of the earth is not a matter of opinion. X is good or bad for everyone.

Absolute vs. situational is a sub-issue concerning objectivism. The absolutist would say X is good or bad for everyone (and thus objectivism) no matter the situation. The situationalist would say X is good or bad for everyone but qualified by the situation.

In this phrasing, morality can be objectivist without being absolute. Now, I don't care if these are the terms we agree upon or not, but there must be some term for each concept I've presented. If you want to use "absolute" for "objective" above, that's fine. But you've got to tell me what two terms you want to use for what I termed the "absolute vs. situational" sub-issue.
Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 331: Mon Mar 23, 2020 11:40 am
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The Tanager wrote:

I still don't see how your view isn't what I've called simple subjectivism. We've tried different ways. Neither of us has changed their mind.

Simple subjectivism just says we have opinions. Subjectivism proper says opinion is all there is to it. I am acting as if opinion is all there is to it with ethical subjects. You were supposed to be picking out how I am acting inconsistently. Challenging me on deeper explanations to my likes and dislikes isn't going to help on that front.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 332: Mon Mar 23, 2020 3:08 pm
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Bust Nak wrote:
Simple subjectivism just says we have opinions. Subjectivism proper says opinion is all there is to it. I am acting as if opinion is all there is to it with ethical subjects. You were supposed to be picking out how I am acting inconsistently. Challenging me on deeper explanations to my likes and dislikes isn't going to help on that front.


I understand subjectivism proper to say that there is no standard that makes one opinion better than another's standard...including my own subjective tastes. My tastes are better to me, sure, but that seems equivalent to simple subjectivism.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 333: Tue Mar 24, 2020 4:52 am
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[Replying to post 332 by The Tanager]

That much is simple subjectivism, but what about the part where opinion is all there is to it. When it comes to the shape of the Earth, there are opinion but we all recognise that opinion is not all there is to it. Is there any reason why you think we subjectivist treat morality the same way we do the shape of the Earth because that would be inconsistent, if not then what have you been arguing against?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 334: Tue Mar 24, 2020 10:38 am
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Bust Nak wrote:
That much is simple subjectivism, but what about the part where opinion is all there is to it. When it comes to the shape of the Earth, there are opinion but we all recognise that opinion is not all there is to it. Is there any reason why you think we subjectivist treat morality the same way we do the shape of the Earth because that would be inconsistent, if not then what have you been arguing against?


I think if you are speaking at the level of simple subjectivism, then you are not being inconsistent. I think that those claiming to go further into 'subjectivism proper' and saying the things you have said, there is an inconsistency.

To me "opinion is all there is to it" is equivalent to saying that no one individual taste is the standard, not even one's own. Your approach seems to me to say that the standard of 'good' or 'bad' is your taste. Personal expression in aesthetics is 'good' because it matches your opinion that it is good.

I understand subjectivism proper to say that whether something is 'good' or 'bad' depends on whether it matches that person's opinion/tastes or not. So, the 'proper subjectivist' would say that child abuse goes against my taste but is neither good nor bad in itself, it's only 'good' or 'bad' relative to the one who is performing the child abuse. You seem to only be talking about the first part (going against your taste).

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 335: Wed Mar 25, 2020 6:14 am
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The Tanager wrote:

To me "opinion is all there is to it" is equivalent to saying that no one individual taste is the standard, not even one's own.

No one individual taste is the standard. Every individual taste is a standard. My standard of 'good' or 'bad' is your taste. Personal expression in aesthetics is 'good' because it matches my opinion that it is good.

Quote:
I understand subjectivism proper to say that whether something is 'good' or 'bad' depends on whether it matches that person's opinion/tastes or not. So, the 'proper subjectivist' would say that child abuse goes against my taste but is neither good nor bad in itself, it's only 'good' or 'bad' relative to the one who is performing the child abuse.

That's not it, you have one major misconception in your understanding. Subjectivism proper say that whether something is good or bad depends on whether it matches a person's opinion/tastes or not. So, the proper subjectivist would say that child abuse goes against my taste but is neither good nor bad in itself, it's only good or bad relative to me. The 'that person' mentioned above is the moral agent evaluating the child abuse, which is not necessarily the one who is performing the child abuse (although it can be.)

What you are talking about here, judge by the standard of the doer, is "agent relativism." Which is extremely uncommon.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 336: Wed Mar 25, 2020 8:42 am
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Bust Nak wrote:
That's not it, you have one major misconception in your understanding. Subjectivism proper say that whether something is good or bad depends on whether it matches a person's opinion/tastes or not. So, the proper subjectivist would say that child abuse goes against my taste but is neither good nor bad in itself, it's only good or bad relative to me. The 'that person' mentioned above is the moral agent evaluating the child abuse, which is not necessarily the one who is performing the child abuse (although it can be.)


Again, 'proper subjectivism' seems trivial. Of course we think what is good/bad to us matches our opinion of what good/bad is. It could be no other way. That does not address the issue objectivism talks about.

I still see an inconsistency. While you state nothing is good or bad in itself, you are still acting as though something is good or bad in itself in regards to ethical concerns but not aesthetic ones.

Rap music is bad to you. Even though it is bad to you, you will allow other people to do this bad to you thing because it is good in their opinion and will bring them joy, etc. That is acting as though rap music is not good or bad in itself.

Child abuse is bad to you. Even though it is bad to you, you will not allow (if in your power) other people to do this bad to you thing even though it is good in their opinion and will bring them joy, etc. That is acting as though child abuse is bad in itself because it doesn't matter what the other person's opinion is on the thing, whereas the other person's opinion is a part of personal expression in aesthetics.

You will rephrase this, however, to say something like:

"Rap music is bad to me. Even though it is bad to me, I will allow other people to do this bad to me thing because allowing other people to do bad to me things when it's not an ethical issue is a good to me thing. Therefore, rap music is bad to me and allowing others to listen and make rap music is good to me. See, I'm consistent here.

Child abuse is bad to me. Even though it is bad to me, I will not allow (if in my power) other people to do this bad to me thing because allowing other people to do bad to me things in ethical situations is a bad to me thing. Therefore, child abuse is bad to me and allowing others to commit child abuse is bad to me. See, I'm consistent here."

But this rephrasing is trivial. Of course what is good/bad to you matches your opinion of what good/bad is. It could be no other way. That does not address the issue objectivism talks about.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 337: Wed Mar 25, 2020 10:31 am
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The Tanager wrote:

Again, 'proper subjectivism' seems trivial. Of course we think what is good/bad to us matches our opinion of what good/bad is. It could be no other way.

What about the bit where opinion is all there is to it? Of course we think that the shape of the Earth matches our opinion on what shape it is, but we both acknowledge that there is something beyond our opinion. Not so with morality, we disagree on whether opinion is all there is to it, that bit is not trivial, and that is the bit that address the issue objectivism talks about.

Or maybe you do think that bit is trivial too and we don't actually disagree?

Quote:
While you state nothing is good or bad in itself, you are still acting as though something is good or bad in itself in regards to ethical concerns but not aesthetic ones...

I asked you this before, you seriously do not see "is rap good music" and "is making rap music good behavior" as different questions? Why are you linking them? You say "even though..." as if one has any bearing on the other.

Quote:
You will rephrase this...

Close enough... So why on Earth would you still say there is any inconsistency in how I act when I act in the way as described in the rephrased version? I don't understand how you still say there is any inconsistency when you know how easily it can be rephrased.

The rephrased version is acting as if there is nothing good or bad in itself, isn't it? It's not just simple subjectivism, it's proper subjectivism we are talking about here, where opinion is all there is to it.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 338: Wed Mar 25, 2020 3:24 pm
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The Tanager wrote:

Dimmesdale wrote:
An account would be, perhaps, that we are image bearers of God, if one looks at it through the Christian lens. We mirror something ontologically greater, and that's how we justify our dignity, etc. Although, I suppose Christianity would subscribe to objective morality or moral realism, which as I've pointed out, I'm iffy about. But that could tie into what you believe, perhaps.


Could you explain in more detail the difference you see between 'objective' and your view of intersubjectivity? Earlier you compared 'objective' to a chicken sandwich. Obviously, lions don't make chicken sandwiches, but their lack of knowledge of what a chicken sandwich is does not mean that thing sitting in front of them (I don't know, a tourist dropped it at one point, whatever) is still a chicken sandwich. Is that the kind of thing you are getting at? That morality is not like that? So that, when a lion steals something from another lion, it's not an immoral act, but when a human performs the exact same act, it is stealing and immoral?

Or something else?


By objective I mean something like a Platonic essence or form. Something completely severed from the human perspective, independent of it. The more I have looked into objective morality or "moral realism" though, I realize now that you don't necessarily have to do that - that it doesn't have to be completely independent of the human. But I still have to understand this view more, I know it exists but I don't know much about it.

By "intersubjective" I mean that human beings, by virtue of their nature, share subjective intuitions of morality and that we can also hold each other accountable to it through this fact. This is because of reflection: that another person, for example, is like me, and we want to be treated like others - that there is such a thing as justice or even CONSISTENCY. Lions don't have a human nature so they can't reflect. We reflect on this shared nature and the sentiments which spring from it. I would say they dictate our "oughts."

I am becoming somewhat more sympathetic to the notion of objective moral realism because I realize that moral statements seem to have truth values. "Murder is wrong" is true. So if it's only a sentiment, how can a sentiment be true? For something to be true there must be a state-of-affairs that IS true, that EXISTS. So a physical object like a chicken sandwich exists. But of course other things may exist that are not so physical but still have a degree of reality, like numbers or a shadow. Are sentiments like a shadow cast by something ontologically higher, like a chair? The sentiments being cast by human nature.

That's my thinking right now moreso. I am right now absorbed in spirituality so I may not respond that fast.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 339: Wed Mar 25, 2020 3:39 pm
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Bust Nak wrote:
What about the bit where opinion is all there is to it? Of course we think that the shape of the Earth matches our opinion on what shape it is, but we both acknowledge that there is something beyond our opinion. Not so with morality, we disagree on whether opinion is all there is to it, that bit is not trivial, and that is the bit that address the issue objectivism talks about.

Or maybe you do think that bit is trivial too and we don't actually disagree?


No, I don't think that is trivial. It just seems to me that you are acting as though your moral opinion is true rather than that your moral opinion is equal to all other moral opinions in truth. If I were to think that 2+2=4 was my opinion, that 2+2=5 was another opinion, and that opinion is all there is to math, then while I would continue to use 4 in my own calculations, I would be fine with other people using 5 in their calculations and teaching that to others as one opinion among many.

You've said that it's different when harm is being done. Child abuse harms the child. But stopping the child abuser is harming the child abuser as well. Either way you act people's personal tastes are being harmed. So, is "harm being experienced" really the distinction that accounts for allowing freedom of personal expression in one field but not another?

Bust Nak wrote:
I asked you this before, you seriously do not see "is rap good music" and "is making rap music good behavior" as different questions? Why are you linking them? You say "even though..." as if one has any bearing on the other.


I have said they are different but linked; you seem to treat them as though they have nothing to do with each other. Part of the consideration that goes into whether making rap music is good behavior is tied into what kind of thing "rap music" is. Just like considering whether child abuse is good behavior to allow others to pursue is tied into what kind of thing "child abuse" is.

Bust Nak wrote:
Close enough... So why on Earth would you still say there is any inconsistency in how I act when I act in the way as described in the rephrased version? I don't understand how you still say there is any inconsistency when you know how easily it can be rephrased.

The rephrased version is acting as if there is nothing good or bad in itself, isn't it? It's not just simple subjectivism, it's proper subjectivism we are talking about here, where opinion is all there is to it.


But I think the rephrasing is an (unintended) semantic trick that does not properly note the 'different but linked' nature.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 340: Wed Mar 25, 2020 4:14 pm
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Dimmesdale wrote:
By objective I mean something like a Platonic essence or form. Something completely severed from the human perspective, independent of it. The more I have looked into objective morality or "moral realism" though, I realize now that you don't necessarily have to do that - that it doesn't have to be completely independent of the human. But I still have to understand this view more, I know it exists but I don't know much about it.


No problems on how long it takes you to respond back or if you do at all.

I've been thinking about this more lately, too. Ultimately, I think that God's nature grounds goodness. But God can create moral beings and amoral beings, where humans can commit immoral acts but sharks can't. So what is moral for humans isn't independent of human nature in one sense (we aren't immoral for not flying, say) but is independent of human nature in another sense (God made us in a particular way with a particular purpose). Obviously, an atheist would have to ground human nature in something else.

I also think it may be a category mistake to call God 'moral' or 'immoral', although I don't think that precludes us from calling God good or bad. But this last bit I'm still trying to parse out more.

Dimmesdale wrote:
By "intersubjective" I mean that human beings, by virtue of their nature, share subjective intuitions of morality and that we can also hold each other accountable to it through this fact. This is because of reflection: that another person, for example, is like me, and we want to be treated like others - that there is such a thing as justice or even CONSISTENCY. Lions don't have a human nature so they can't reflect. We reflect on this shared nature and the sentiments which spring from it. I would say they dictate our "oughts."


I think I largely agree. But we do come to disagreements on what justice means in some situations. Most (if not everyone) have the intuition that killing an innocent person is wrong. But we disagree on what counts as an innocent person. We seem to have the same moral principles, but disagree on the facts to apply the principles to.

I wonder, though, what grounds the common nature if God is out of the picture. I think Moral Platonism fails for many reasons. I think a kind of physical reductionism has no evidence for it. I think evolution would probably result in multiple common 'natures' or, if one, that there is no good reason to connect our perceived nature with it being true, undermining our reason to listen to those shared intuitions. But I've got more thinking to do there, too.

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