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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:46 pm  Morality as brute fact Reply with quote

Many atheists reject objective morality as something that requires a god, however, I feel that the existence of these values and duties are obvious, self evident. I hate to argue from emotion, but I cannot see ANY case or reason in which torturing and cannibalizing children is morally permissible, and I KNOW it is a moral abomination in the same way I know that 5+9=14. Even if everyone on Earth decided such an atrocious and heinous act were acceptable, I would still know, beyond any doubt, that it is wrong. I am as certain of this as I am of my own existence.

I am NOT saying that everything that falls under "morality" is objective and unmistakable -- that would be absurd. Of course there is disagreement on things such as the morality of speeding, premarital sex, religious devotion, gambling, early-term abortion, or prostitution. What I am advancing is the position that minimal universal moral values are objective and properly basic. By "minimal universal moral values," I mean the three principles that:

1) It is wrong to cause gratuitous suffering to an innocent human being.

2) It is right to promote / improve the life of an innocent human being.

3) It is right to bring punishment upon those that violate (1) and/or (2).

From these three principles, all of our more specific moral values (rape is wrong, murder is wrong, slavery is wrong, child molestation is wrong, theft is wrong, saving lives is right, healing diseases is right, punishing mass murderers is right, etc.) logically follow.

I believe that these 'minimal moral values' are every bit as obvious and self-evident as cogito ergo sum. For example, what (sane) individual person could raise a rational doubt about the immorality of raping and murdering an innocent woman, or of torturing an innocent child to death? What rational, reasonable person could deny the moral imperative of attempting to save a child from death by cancer?

I also feel that god(s) cannot be a sound basis for morality due to the Euthyphro Dilemma:

1) Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is good

OR

2) Is what is morally good right because God commands it?

Either scenario is fatal to theism. If scenario (1) is true, then absolute moral good exists independently of God, making God superfluous.

If scenario (2) is true, then absolute moral good does not exist, and is simply contingent on God's subjective commands. On (2), if God commanded child rape (as he ostensibly did in Numbers 31, btw), child rape would be right. Obviously this view is deeply problematic, and provides no more explanatory power for objective morality than does atheism.

Instead of the logically incoherent positions of theistic morality or moral relativism, I believe that objective moral values and duties are "brute facts" and require no explanation or cause of their existence.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brute_fact

Debate question: Do objective moral values and duties require an explanation, or do they 'just exist' as brute facts? If they need to be explained, why?
Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 11: Sun Feb 19, 2012 7:43 pm
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Just a few comments here:

Haven wrote:
Rowena wrote:

There's a difference between 'no morality' and 'no objective morality'. I've no idea whether or not it's in use, but the term 'social morality' seems applicable: morality is, from my research, considered secularly to be the result of humanity's evolution into a social species: we live in a society, and morals are needed for the cooperation and teamwork which form the foundation of a society. Morality from society: hence, social morality. If the people you mention are in that society, or affect that society, then they are immoral, simply enough.
Morality is essentially in humanity: it is part of humanity, just as the social instinct is.


Using your view, the Holocaust was not immoral because killing Jews, Romani, and gays was socially acceptable within the society of Nazi Germany. Slavery was not morally wrong because buying and selling human beings of African descent was socially acceptable with the society of 19th century America. The Salem Witch Trials were not immoral because burning people at the stake for religious reasons was socially acceptable in 17th century Massachusetts.

Logically, your view commits you to these statements. Are you really prepared to accept such abhorrent actions as "not wrong" because they were "right" relative to their given societies?

This is the problem with moral relativism. It invariably reduces to "might makes right" and logically commits its adherents to deny the immorality of obviously evil actions.


The Holocaust was seen as justified by the orchestrators of it at the time because they believed that Jews were an inferior species. Much of this thought was based on bad science and supported by Christian hatred of the Jew because they supposedly "killed" Christ. There are many who were forced to carry out this brutality and had to reason it away by shooting the parents before shooting the kids as some sort of "mercy."It's not that the Nazis were themselves evil and wanted to do evil -- though that's precisely what they did.

The thing is, if we went back in time and managed to provide education regarding biology, and education regarding xenophobia -- this blight in human history would not have happened.

Science and education would have helped curb all of these things. It's not neccesarily a war of culture (today versus yesterday), but a matter of lack of knowledge.

Human sacrifice as practiced in South America was not done for perverse pleasure or whatever -- it was done to prevent the destruction of the world. The way they reasoned, it was justified. If they had our knowledge, and if they had used Kantian rather than their version of Ultilitarian ethics, human sacrifice would have been avoided entirely.


Haven wrote:
Rowena wrote:
I don't have the time to discuss this in depth right now, but your personal view of humanity, if this were the case, would not change things at all.
It's the problem with many arguments relating to morality: even if morals did not exist at all, and humans were just robots, feeling that it should be otherwise wouldn't change a thing.


My position is not "I don't like humans being robots, so it should be otherwise." You're right, that is not rational. My position is "it is obvious that human beings are more than robots, and that human beings seem to have knowledge of some transcendent moral code." It seems axiomatic -- knowable a priori -- that an objective moral code exists, and because of this, it seems rational to require evidence to reject this a priori, properly basic belief.


I don't believe that humans have souls. Human beings are complex machines but we are not simple machines that are slaves to programming. We adapt. We are aware. We have thousands of years of history and scientific development and philosophy and reason -- we have many things with which we can claim a superior ethic to that of past generations. We have authority to say that some things are horrible and indefensible because they are, given what we know. We do not need to appeal to a "transcendent moral code of good and evil" -- such an idea sounds dangerously religious.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 12: Sun Feb 19, 2012 7:45 pm
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Darias wrote:

As I said before, my morality isn't wholly based on cultural upbringing, religious indoctrination, and preference. My moral ethics borrow from Kantian ethics rather than from Utilitarian.


Kant was not only a moral realist, he was a moral absolutist. He believed in objective moral facts and duties that were both universal and unconditional. I strongly agree with Kant's views, and I fail to see how they would be compatible with any form of moral relativism or moral skepticism.

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Philosophy, logic and science largely inform my morality and give me a firm basis to declare that my values are better than genocide, human sacrifice, and female genital mutilation. There is a level of subjectivity involved when it comes to my favorite color, favorite food, and style of dress. But when it comes to the integrity and rights of a human being (as an end and not as a means), this is based upon philosophical logic and firmly rooted in morality based upon empathy.


Philosophy, logic, and science inform my morality as well. As a moral realist, I believe moral facts exist and are intrinsically part of the universe, in the same manner as physical laws and mathematical concepts. Additionally, I hold that moral values and duties are necessary beings, that is, they exist in all possible worlds.

The fact that moral facts can be detected through philosophy, logic, and science point to their objective and real existence, rather than to hard-wired human emotions and social construction.

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My morality isn't wholly based upon a majority, nor is it based upon a cosmic authority of any time, it's based on reason and empathy. That alone makes it better than "moral customs" devoid of both.


I agree.

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I don't believe in free will. I cannot will myself to go to Mars as it is beyond my ability. I have just as much free will as a loaf of bread.


I agree. I do not believe in free will. I do, however, believe that humans have the ability to choose from a limited number of outcomes, and this ability for choice gives us the capacity to act as moral agents.

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But it is within my power to make choices any given moment from a range of possible decisions.

At the same time, I have genetic and chemical factors that heavily inform and influence my behavior.


I agree with this fully. My argument is not that genetic and chemical factors have no influence on moral behavior, my argument is that moral values and duties are self-existent and exist independently of human behavior, experience, or belief. That is, moral facts are not human concepts, they exist independently of humanity.

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At the same time I have my cultural upbringing and philosophical ethics that remind me of the right thing to do....

And most of us have the power of reason and rationality. At the end of the day we are responsible for our actions and are very well capable of doing things that go against our emotional impulses.


I agree, and I feel these principles point toward moral realism, not moral relativism or subjectivism.

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That said, we are organic machines, very complex ones... and we do have self-awareness. This shouldn't be a horrible thought or idea. This is just the reality.


I personally find it horrible, however, that does not make it any less true. However, I do feel that human beings are, at the least, rational organic machines capable of understanding and living in accordance with metaphysical principles, for instance, moral values and duties. We have the ability to move beyond our biology and grasp logical and philosophical concepts, and that makes us unique among life on earth.


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Well of course too much of a good thing can be bad. Just because too much can be bad, it doesn't mean that oxytocin has no influence upon our empathic behavior.


Once again, I'm not arguing that oxytocin has no impact upon our empathic behavior, I am arguing that oxytocin-induced empathic behavior is not the basis for human morality. I feel morality has its roots in necessarily existing abstract objects, that exist based upon brute fact, and these abstract objects are independent of humanity. My argument is therefore concerned with moral ontology, not moral epistemology or moral praxis.



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If I didn't know you better, I'd think you were talking about God.


I actually have a lot in common with theists when it comes to morality. I believe in a transcendent absolute moral standard, I just don't bow down before it or believe it created the universe Smile.

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I don't think that all human morality is based upon chemicals and genetics alone. I'm just saying that the bare minimal thoughts of reason "The Golden Rule" might, in part, come from feelings of empathy that are created in our brains which we inherited from mammalian ancestors. Of course with complex moral ideas comes philosophy and reason and culture, but you can't deny the role emotion plays in morality. Heck you even admitted to this in the OP. Maybe it's those feelings that are found in most human beings which you are appealing to as a "universal law."


Is it beyond the realm of possibility that human feeling evolved in accordance with a transcendent moral standard? I think not -- after all, we evolved in accordance with mathematical truths, physical laws, and biological pressures, so why wouldn't we evolve in response to moral facts?

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But the way you frame it in the end -- as morality something more than social construction and hard biology -- it's almost as if you are appealing to some spiritual or physical law woven into the fabric of time. I know you aren't referring to god, so just what are you referring to?

Where else does human morality come from apart from genetics (epigenetics), social upbringing, culture, religion, philosophy, reason, and personal choice?

You certainly wouldn't say "God," so just what are you talking about here?


I hold to Wielenbergian moral realism. That is, I hold that absolute, objective moral values are abstract objects (see link below) that exist as "brute facts." By brute facts, I mean facts that possess the most fundamental ontological state: they do not depend on any, more fundamental, facts to explain their existence. As such, brute facts are self-existent, and they require no outside justification or basis. Additionally, I hold that brute moral facts are knowable a priori as properly basic knowledge, that is, individuals are capable of knowing them without prior study or inquiry.

Wielenbergian moral realism: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=7445
Abstract objects: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abstract_object
Brute facts: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brute_fact

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 13: Sun Feb 19, 2012 8:11 pm
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I just want to reply to this but I don't have time to reply to the rest right now.

Haven wrote:
Darias wrote:

As I said before, my morality isn't wholly based on cultural upbringing, religious indoctrination, and preference. My moral ethics borrow from Kantian ethics rather than from Utilitarian.


Kant was not only a moral realist, he was a moral absolutist. He believed in objective moral facts and duties that were both universal and unconditional. I strongly agree with Kant's views, and I fail to see how they would be compatible with any form of moral relativism or moral skepticism.


When I say Kantian ethics I am referring to the right of human individuals, as opposed sacrificing the rights of the few for the "greater good" of society. When human beings are seen as ends in and of themselves, rather than means to another end (as things to be used), I believe that this is a superior model for society as far as human right's theory go.

Ironically, I think that individual rights is actually in the best interest of the "common good." This is simply the case because all people know that their rights will be respected and that they won't be used for the benefit of others.

I understand that I have a different take, but just because I agree with him doesn't mean I agree with all of what he argues. Just because I admire Thomas Jefferson doesn't mean that I think owning slaves is okay.

Here are some more videos for your enjoyment Smile




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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 14: Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:09 pm
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Haven wrote:
Thanks for responding Smile.

Using your view, the Holocaust was not immoral because killing Jews, Romani, and gays was socially acceptable within the society of Nazi Germany. Slavery was not morally wrong because buying and selling human beings of African descent was socially acceptable with the society of 19th century America. The Salem Witch Trials were not immoral because burning people at the stake for religious reasons was socially acceptable in 17th century Massachusetts.

Logically, your view commits you to these statements. Are you really prepared to accept such abhorrent actions as "not wrong" because they were "right" relative to their given societies?

It doesn't, not at all; don't forget the point of view of the victims in each and every case. If they consented, then it would be right: did they ever willingly consent, though?
There's no question that, to many of the perpetrators, what they did was seen as right: to us, and to the victims, it's anything but. That much is undeniable, and I doubt anyone would say otherwise.

The key question ends up being: which moral system is 'better'? That much is easy to determine when looking at humanity as a whole; as we all evolved together, more or less. The social instinct is, for the most part, shared, and viewing humanity as a whole, it's easy to see the most beneficial and so most 'good' for social morality. It's a question of scale.

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This is the problem with moral relativism. It invariably reduces to "might makes right" and logically commits its adherents to deny the immorality of obviously evil actions.

That's just the perception of moral relativism, there's no objective morality, but that cannot be turned into 'no morality' in the sense that immoral becomes moral. It's a simple fact that, to at least one person, at at least one time, every single conceivable act is most likely going to be seen as somehow moral.
Name one crime too extreme for any human to even consider. For that theoretical person, it was 'moral': but that doesn't make it universally so, or make it at all moral by social morality.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 15: Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:52 pm
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Rowena wrote:

It doesn't, not at all; don't forget the point of view of the victims in each and every case. If they consented, then it would be right: did they ever willingly consent, though?
There's no question that, to many of the perpetrators, what they did was seen as right: to us, and to the victims, it's anything but. That much is undeniable, and I doubt anyone would say otherwise.


Assuming moral relativism is true, why should we favor the victims over the perpetrators? If there is no objective, transcendent standard of right and wrong, who are we to call the actions of the perpetrators "immoral?" After all, any moral judgment we (or society as a whole) could put forth would only be our subjective opinion, not a statement of objective fact. This is absurd, therefore moral relativism is false.


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The key question ends up being: which moral system is 'better'? That much is easy to determine when looking at humanity as a whole; as we all evolved together, more or less. The social instinct is, for the most part, shared, and viewing humanity as a whole, it's easy to see the most beneficial and so most 'good' for social morality. It's a question of scale.


So, your version of subjective morality reduces to utilitarianism. Utilitarian ethics is fraught with problems, but the most obvious is illustrated by this hypothetical scenario:

Suppose you are a doctor who has five dying patients: a man in need of a heart transplant, a woman in need of a liver transplant, a child in need of a spleen transplant, an elderly man in need of a hip transplant, and a baby in need of a marrow transplant. Because of various factors, your patients are at the bottom of the transplant recipient list and will die shortly without quick transplant intervention. Suddenly, a healthy man walks into your office. Using utilitarian ethics, the most moral thing to do would be to kill the healthy man and use his organs as transplants for your five dying patients, thereby saving five lives.

However, doing so would be absolutely evil and morally abhorrent, and everyone knows it. You cannot take the life of an innocent person in order to save other lives -- that is wrong. However, under utilitarianism, it would be right. This entails a contradiction, and this makes utilitarian ethics false.


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That's just the perception of moral relativism, there's no objective morality, but that cannot be turned into 'no morality' in the sense that immoral becomes moral.


If there is no objective morality, then there are no moral facts. If there are no moral facts, then nothing can truly be called "moral" or "immoral." Any moral statements become simply statements of personal taste. Moral relativism / skepticism / nihilism is not immoral but amoral -- without morality.

However, it is properly basic to us that morals exist, therefore, it seems more rational to accept that objective moral facts exist than plunge ourselves into the absurdities of moral relativism.

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It's a simple fact that, to at least one person, at at least one time, every single conceivable act is most likely going to be seen as somehow moral.


As a moral realist, I hold that it is possible for individuals to be mistaken in regards to the morality of certain actions. In other words, it is possible for someone to do wrong while genuinely believing they are doing right. This makes sense if objective moral facts exist. However, if relativism is true, whatever seems right to a person becomes right for that person, because morality is simply a term used to describe subjective personal taste.

The conclusions of moral relativism, moral skepticism, and moral nihilism seem both incongruent with reality and logically absurd; I find the most rational course of action is to reject those theories and embrace objective moral realism.

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MPG Recipient Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 16: Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:17 pm
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Haven wrote:


As a moral realist, I hold that it is possible for individuals to be mistaken in regards to the morality of certain actions. In other words, it is possible for someone to do wrong while genuinely believing they are doing right. This makes sense if objective moral facts exist. However, if relativism is true, whatever seems right to a person becomes right for that person, because morality is simply a term used to describe subjective personal taste.

The conclusions of moral relativism, moral skepticism, and moral nihilism seem both incongruent with reality and logically absurd; I find the most rational course of action is to reject those theories and embrace objective moral realism.


Not quite. If you look at morality as "Socially conditioned response".. and those societies that adhere to certain behaviors survive better, and are more stable than societies that do not adhere to those behaviors, then it is not 'absurd' at all.

Objective moral realism can not be shown to be anything more than 'This is my moral opinion, and therefor my moral opinion is how it is for everyone'.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 17: Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:23 pm
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Haven wrote:


Assuming moral relativism is true, why should we favor the victims over the perpetrators? If there is no objective, transcendent standard of right and wrong, who are we to call the actions of the perpetrators "immoral?" After all, any moral judgment we (or society as a whole) could put forth would only be our subjective opinion, not a statement of objective fact. This is absurd, therefore moral relativism is false.

Not at all what I said, and was covered in the sentence below.


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So, your version of subjective morality reduces to utilitarianism. Utilitarian ethics is fraught with problems, but the most obvious is illustrated by this hypothetical scenario:

Suppose you are a doctor who has five dying patients: a man in need of a heart transplant, a woman in need of a liver transplant, a child in need of a spleen transplant, an elderly man in need of a hip transplant, and a baby in need of a marrow transplant. Because of various factors, your patients are at the bottom of the transplant recipient list and will die shortly without quick transplant intervention. Suddenly, a healthy man walks into your office. Using utilitarian ethics, the most moral thing to do would be to kill the healthy man and use his organs as transplants for your five dying patients, thereby saving five lives.

However, doing so would be absolutely evil and morally abhorrent, and everyone knows it. You cannot take the life of an innocent person in order to save other lives -- that is wrong. However, under utilitarianism, it would be right. This entails a contradiction, and this makes utilitarian ethics false.

Not at all. I suggest you read what I wrote rather than using set arguments; in the case you give, there is a victim whose view will be ignored (unless they give consent: then it would be right, can you deny that?), and as you said, as this situation would be morally wrong if carried out, then that person's morality will also come into play. The example you give is just another example of 'might makes right' (five vs one), which you've used several times, and yet I don't think anyone's agreed with.


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[color=blue]

If there is no objective morality, then there are no moral facts. If there are no moral facts, then nothing can truly be called "moral" or "immoral." Any moral statements become simply statements of personal taste. Moral relativism / skepticism / nihilism is not immoral but amoral -- without morality.

Give me one event which would never, ever, ever be right: no matter the situation (and how unlikely it is to occur).
Also, how has 'personal taste' entered into this?
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However, it is properly basic to us that morals exist, therefore, it seems more rational to accept that objective moral facts exist than plunge ourselves into the absurdities of moral relativism.

Morality exists for humans; you've shown that much, and I've never denied that much. I've explained that much. Morality probably exists also for animals, it's just somewhat different, from what we've seen. How does this contradict what I've said? At no point have I said morality doesn't exist: I've said I don't believe in objective morality, given reasons for it, and shown how morality still exists for us. The above quote seems utterly pointless.
As I've said, there's a difference between not believe in objective morality, and not believing in morality full stop.

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As a moral realist, I hold that it is possible for individuals to be mistaken in regards to the morality of certain actions. In other words, it is possible for someone to do wrong while genuinely believing they are doing right. This makes sense if objective moral facts exist. However, if relativism is true, whatever seems right to a person becomes right for that person, because morality is simply a term used to describe subjective personal taste.

Not particularly objective morality if someone's subjective viewpoint defies it, but I digress. How have you taken 'subjective personal taste' away from what I've said? I've described social morality, and how morality is essentially true for a whole society and, importantly, arguably all humanity by the simple fact that it's the foundation of how we are who we are today.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 18: Mon Feb 27, 2012 8:15 am
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Haven wrote:
Darias and Soms, thanks for sharing your thoughts Smile. I must say that I disagree with your analyses for three main reasons, which I will list below.

(1) Your views offer no basis for morality beyond subjective opinion. If morality is subjective, then who is anyone to say the child rapist acts immorally by sexually violating his victims, or the thief acts immorally by swindling people out of their life savings? Without some sort of objective grounding for morality, it simply becomes a game of personal preference and "might makes right," which is absurd.
Whose view does offer a basis for morality beyond subjective opinion?
I dare to say there is none.
There may be an illusion of such, but once exposed for what it is, it is easily seen to be nothing more.
This is exactly why we see an evolution of morals. A changing with new information, new knowledge. And even so, some of the evolution, the change is later seen as not so good and change once again is required. At best we can set moral values to guide ourselves, and then as a society, set up laws, that we can agree upon for social living. Which is in reality...what we have done.

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(2) Your views reduce human beings to little more than mindless machines, behaving according to the chemical programming written into us by evolution. Under your views, we are not "rational animals" capable of making informed choices, but simply advanced robots carrying out actions caused by chemical reactions in our brains. Personally, I find this a very low view of humanity; I give us more credit than that.
on the contrary. With realizing that chemicals affect our make up, we allow our minds more freedom to adjust behaviors that are harmful or beneficial.
It is true that the line of "free will" is undefined. We must allow room for that.
Otherwise we are willing to become bigots, judges of others who do not meet our standards, without being willing to look at why they do what they do. We have come a long way in the mental health field. In understanding various behaviors. We cannot pretend that we have not. Consider PTSD. A man who has seen more than the human mind can handle on the battle field. Left without help coming home. Imagine what difference this same man can have when given resources, help and even medication when dealing with the horrors he had to witness, and partake in. You will get two different results...not because of "free will", but because of the ability to understand the why behind the actions.

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Also, I feel that Paul Zak somewhat overstated the effects of oxytocin on morality and empathy. This article gives a basic, brief overview on the purported effects of oxytocin on human behavior -- it is not necessarily the "silver bullet" of morality that Professor Zak construed it to be. In fact, oxytocin appears to have numerous deleterious effects on human morality, which essentially disqualifies it as a key component of moral behavior.
It may not be THE silver bullet, Very Happy but it certainly was interesting. Stretching the box of our current understanding of why we do what we do even more.
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(3) The fact that morality cannot be reduced to a series of chemical causes seems to suggest that it has its roots in something beyond humanity, rather than simply social construction and hard biology.


Certainly not JUST chemical, but a combination to include the chemical.
Something that doesn't fit in with any given "absolute moral system".

Regards,
soms

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 19: Mon Feb 27, 2012 1:09 pm
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On an intellectual level, I know you guys are right. Without a god / gods, there is no basis for objective morality and no reason to call any action moral or immoral. All moral claims are simply statements of subjective opinion.

However, on a deeper, more fundamental level, I cannot accept moral relativism or moral nihilism. I cannot accept that the mass murders of people during the Holocaust, the rape of children, and the theft of people's life savings are not immoral. I cannot accept, as some utilitarian philosophers such as Peter Singer have said, that unborn babies and infants have no right to live, and that it is permissible to euthanize disabled people and those suffering from illnesses. Such things are moral abominations, and I know it to the depths of my being. Maybe it's just the oxytocin talking, or whatever, but I know such things are wrong. Likewise, I know certain acts, such as saving innocent human lives, volunteering with children, healing the suffering and the broken-hearted, and helping others recover from their pain is absolutely right. Yes, this is an appeal to emotion, but I don't care. I just know these things, and no amount of argument in the world could convince me otherwise.

I'm willing to concede this debate -- you guys are correct on a rational, intellectual level -- but I'm not willing to relinquish my belief in objective morality. I realize I have to on pain of irrationality, but, well, I'd rather be irrational than immoral. Smile

I'll leave this discuss with a quote from famous atheist intellectual Robert Ingersoll:

Robert Ingersoll wrote:
"Intellect, without heart, is infinitely cruel. . . ."


~Haven

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 20: Mon Feb 27, 2012 1:47 pm
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Haven't ranted on moral relativism/subjectivism for a while now, thanks for the opportunity.

Haven wrote:
Assuming moral relativism is true, why should we favor the victims over the perpetrators?

Under moral relativism, whether one should do something is a matter of opinion, of preference, and there are any number of reason why we favor victims, but if all boils down to simple preference.

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If there is no objective, transcendent standard of right and wrong, who are we to call the actions of the perpetrators "immoral?"

It is exactly because there are no transcendent standard of right and wrong that let each and every one us moral agent call the actions of the perpetrators "immoral," (or "moral" for that matter.)

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After all, any moral judgment we (or society as a whole) could put forth would only be our subjective opinion, not a statement of objective fact. This is absurd, therefore moral relativism is false.

Well an relativist such as myself would say since any judgement we put forth is clearly our subjective opinion, not a statement of objective fact, indicating moral relativism is true.

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So, your version of subjective morality reduces to utilitarianism. Utilitarian ethics is fraught with problems, but the most obvious is illustrated by this hypothetical scenario: [Re harming one to save five.]

However, doing so would be absolutely evil and morally abhorrent, and everyone knows it. You cannot take the life of an innocent person in order to save other lives -- that is wrong. However, under utilitarianism, it would be right. This entails a contradiction, and this makes utilitarian ethics false.

Would it be right under utilitarianism? Well that depends on how one value the life of one innocent compared to five in need. Even under pure utilitarianism, one could place more utility in not harming a random individual over saving five lives.

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If there is no objective morality, then there are no moral facts. If there are no moral facts, then nothing can truly be called "moral" or "immoral." Any moral statements become simply statements of personal taste. Moral relativism / skepticism / nihilism is not immoral but amoral -- without morality.

What is so fake about personal taste that means it can't truly be called "moral?" You are judging the merits of relativism without letting go of the assumption of moral realism.

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However, it is properly basic to us that morals exist, therefore, it seems more rational to accept that objective moral facts exist than plunge ourselves into the absurdities of moral relativism.

Sure moral exist, as abstract concept in the form of person opinion.

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As a moral realist, I hold that it is possible for individuals to be mistaken in regards to the morality of certain actions. In other words, it is possible for someone to do wrong while genuinely believing they are doing right. This makes sense if objective moral facts exist.

Therefore, as a realist you have to accept that it is possible for the Holocaust to be moral, and the allies were wrong to stop the Nazis. This seems more absurd, than the objections you brough up against relativism.

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