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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 81: Mon Jan 13, 2020 1:32 pm
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Bust Nak wrote:
Artie wrote:
What if your personal taste included going around killing people for no good reason?
Depends, does your scenario presuppose that an opposing taste against such things is not included? If not then it would be depend on which is higher priority.

Now suppose that this taste of going around killing people is not overridden by some other personal taste, then I see a number of alternatives: I would be out killing people for no good reason and getting into trouble for it; or I could be campaigning to have the law changed to allow random killings; or I could be acting like a normal person out of fear of potential consequences.
The only reason a normal person doesn't go around killing people for no good reason is that he fears potential consequences?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 82: Mon Jan 13, 2020 1:56 pm
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Artie wrote:

The only reason a normal person doesn't go around killing people for no good reason is that he fears potential consequences?

No, I meant because of my fear of potential consequences, I would be acting like a normal person.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 83: Mon Jan 13, 2020 2:44 pm
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Artie wrote:
I've never claimed there's an objective reason why we should help society survive and flourish so I have no idea why you keep pestering me to provide one.


Let me ask two clarifying questions, then.

Person A says that it is best to do what is good for society.
Person B says that it is best to do what is good for one's self, even if it is bad for society.

One, if "moral" means "good for society," then what term would you use for "best to do" in the phrasing above?

Two, do you think that one of these persons is objectively right about what is "best to do" (or whatever term you would use for that phrase)?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 84: Mon Jan 13, 2020 2:44 pm
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Divine Insight wrote:
What? This is utter nonsense. The fact that humans have constructed their own personal moral values is extremely well-established and has been throughout all of history. How in the world can you deny this?


Clearly, humans have subjective opinions concerning moral issues. If this is all you mean, then you've argued for it in a very confusing way. I never argued against this. That has never been what people mean by "objective morality". If this is what you have thought all along, then I would love to hear why you brought that to counter something I said in that other thread.

I thought we had been talking about whether these "subjective opinions" is a distinct concept from "morality" or not. I thought you were claiming (the equivalent of) that they are distinct. I think they are distinct, just like "humans having subjective opinions concerning the shape of the earth is distinct" from "the shape of the earth."

That humans have their own subjective opinions is a part of both of the solutions I thought we were providing, so it doesn't naturally point to one being true over the other. I'm saying that your apparent claim (which I would say is equivalent to "human subjective opinions concerning moral issues" is not distinct from "morality") has no positive support for it. If you have been making the further claim, then you need to respond afresh to my post 58 within that context.

If you do, then I'll share a further clarification you need to take into account when re-responding.

Divine Insight wrote:
Pointing to common consensus concerning extreme scenarios hardly constitutes evidence for common human moral intuitions.


I didn't offer it as evidence for X. I'm talking about how people think and act as though the other person should agree with us. We appeal to a principle, a truth, that we think they should know, or accept as true. If we acted as though morality really were nothing more than a human social construct, it would look differently.

When I tell you that chocolate ice cream is the best tasting ice cream, I don't think you should agree with me because you have different taste buds. I don't think the British have a breakdown of logic or heart or whatever simply because they drive on the opposite side of the road from my country. It's not about what the consensus is on any particular moral issues. It's not about specific scenarios adding up to a conclusion.

It's about the principle behind how we treat moral disagreements versus different tastes. That doesn't refer to the fact that we will war over moral disagreements, but not differences of taste. If we truly thought morality was a human social construct we wouldn't try to reason with the other side or try to justify our own actions, whether we go to war over the differences or not.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 85: Mon Jan 13, 2020 3:27 pm
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The Tanager wrote:

Artie wrote:
I've never claimed there's an objective reason why we should help society survive and flourish so I have no idea why you keep pestering me to provide one.


Let me ask two clarifying questions, then.

Person A says that it is best to do what is good for society.
Person B says that it is best to do what is good for one's self, even if it is bad for society.

One, if "moral" means "good for society," then what term would you use for "best to do" in the phrasing above?

Two, do you think that one of these persons is objectively right about what is "best to do" (or whatever term you would use for that phrase)?


Every time you raise this argument, I want to point out that you can't deal with it better than anyone else.

Person A says that it is best to do what is good for society.
Person B says that it is best to do what is good for one's self, even if it is bad for society.
Person C says it is best to obey orders from gods, regardless of whether it is good for yourself or society.

Can you justify the claim that person C is objectively correct better than other people can justify similar claims about persons A and B?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 86: Mon Jan 13, 2020 6:19 pm
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wiploc wrote:
Every time you raise this argument, I want to point out that you can't deal with it better than anyone else.

Person A says that it is best to do what is good for society.
Person B says that it is best to do what is good for one's self, even if it is bad for society.
Person C says it is best to obey orders from gods, regardless of whether it is good for yourself or society.

Can you justify the claim that person C is objectively correct better than other people can justify similar claims about persons A and B?


You could mean at least two different things here:

(1)Can I justify why my theistic explanation is correct over an atheistic explanation?

This will really come down to the theism debate, or if one is an agnostic there, perhaps the introspective evidence I spoke of to DI. This wasn't really part of our discussion together. Our discussion, as I understand it, concerned the second:

(2)Can I justify why my theistic explanation fits under the category of "non-subjective/objective/whatever" and your atheistic explanation fits under the category of "subjective"?

For us, our normative theories came down to the views of Utilitarianism vs. Divine Command Theory. In one sense, these are both human opinions. But we are asking the deeper question of whether either (or something else) is more than human opinion. Atheistic Utilitarianism could be grounded by Moral Platonism or a Physical Reductionist view of morality, but you rejected both of those. And, as far as I could tell, you offered nothing in that place. Therefore, you were left with just one human desire vs. another.

I argued that my Divine Command Theory was grounded in God, which if true, would be an objective source of human morality. Rather than arguing against theism, you questioned the "authority" of this connection and I tried to explain my view there. If my explanation goes through...I know you don't think it does...but if it does, then the source is an objective source. If your explanation goes through, then (admittedly by you, as far as I could tell) you have no source, which leaves us with just the utilitarian vs. divine command vs. ethical egoism desires OR some deeper source that is completely unknown and mysterious, taken on blind faith alone.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 87: Mon Jan 13, 2020 6:35 pm
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Artie wrote:

All moral people use the objective morality system. We look at the situation from an objective point of view and try to do what is objectively right.


I understand that this is what they have convinced themselves that they are doing, but that hardly amounts to evidence that any objective morality exists.

In fact, it actually shows just the opposite. Because "moral people" (as you call them) all have different subjective views on what constituents an objective point of view.

Who's to say then which "moral person" is right? Think

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 88: Mon Jan 13, 2020 7:35 pm
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The Tanager wrote:

Clearly, humans have subjective opinions concerning moral issues. If this is all you mean, then you've argued for it in a very confusing way. I never argued against this. That has never been what people mean by "objective morality". If this is what you have thought all along, then I would love to hear why you brought that to counter something I said in that other thread. .


Where did I ever suggest that subjective opinions = objective morality?

I don't believe I ever did that.

The Tanager wrote:

I thought we had been talking about whether these "subjective opinions" is a distinct concept from "morality" or not. I thought you were claiming (the equivalent of) that they are distinct. I think they are distinct, just like "humans having subjective opinions concerning the shape of the earth is distinct" from "the shape of the earth."


Perhaps you misunderstand. I'm not trying to argue for a meaningful model of "subjective morality". All I'm saying is that this is all we see.

The only evidence for any concept of morality that we can see is our own human subjective opinions of what we individually judge to be right or wrong.

I'm not arguing that this constitutes any meaningful system of morality. I'm simply pointing out that human subjective opinions about morality are all that exist. There is no evidence for the existence of any consistent moral system beyond that.

The Tanager wrote:

That humans have their own subjective opinions is a part of both of the solutions I thought we were providing, so it doesn't naturally point to one being true over the other. I'm saying that your apparent claim (which I would say is equivalent to "human subjective opinions concerning moral issues" is not distinct from "morality") has no positive support for it. If you have been making the further claim, then you need to respond afresh to my post 58 within that context.


I don't even see where the claim you have associated with me makes any sense, much less that I have ever made this claim.

Why would I claim that there is no distinction between morality being nothing more than human subjective opinions or being some imagined consistent objective moral code written in stone in an imagine Platonic World?

Of course there would be a distinction. Morality as subjective human opinions is basically meaningless, other than reflecting the moral views of individuals. Although, in this sense it's only "meaningless" if you want to claim that human opinions are meaningless. In a social democracy we value individual human opinions. Therefore we can vote on moral issues and let the majority opinion rule.

I don't personally favor such a system of morality. But as far as I can see, if we want to construct a system of morality, then that's all we have to work with.

I would argue that we shouldn't even be thinking in terms of morality (i.e. in a religious sense of the term). In other words, there's no need to even judge the guilt or innocence of the individual person in terms of being a good or bad person.

Instead we should be focused on simply making laws based on how we expect people to behave on our society. No question of morality required.

So it's my position that morality is a useless concept in any case.

I'm not trying to argue that subjective morality has any merit. I'm simply arguing that it's all we see existing in our world.

That's all.

The Tanager wrote:

I didn't offer it as evidence for X. I'm talking about how people think and act as though the other person should agree with us. We appeal to a principle, a truth, that we think they should know, or accept as true. If we acted as though morality really were nothing more than a human social construct, it would look differently.


I would suggest that this is because historically humans have been indoctrinated by religions to believe in an absolute morality. So why are they going to suddenly accept that everyone's opinions on morality should have equal merit?

I also disagree with you observations here. I think that many humans do indeed accept that our moral codes are created by our individual opinions on morality.

After all, have you forgotten that secularists argue over moral questions too?

Of course they are also convinced that they can make logical arguments to support their moral views. This would then be an appeal to an objective morality based on logical reasoning.

The problem with this is that often times logic can be used to support both sides of a moral argument. Both sides simply offer up different premises to support their logic. And then they simply end up disagreeing about the premises.

Logic itself is highly ineffective in determining moral issues because even when using logic we need to begin with unproven premises at some level. And that introduces subjective opinions right there.

Is two people can't even agree on which premises to based their logical reasoning on, then logic itself is dead in the water.

In fact, as a direct point I've focused on one point you made in the above quote:

The Tanager wrote:

We appeal to a principle, a truth, that we think they should know, or accept as true.


Exactly. And you should also be aware that they can seldom even agree on what that starting truth should be.

Say you are in an moral argument with someone over whether or not gays should be permitted to live their lives as they so choose. What fundamental principles or truth are you going to point to that you think will support your conclusions?

And don't you think the other person is going to come up with fundamental principles and truth that they too can point to for support for their argument?

Logic alone cannot be the basis for objective morality because ultimately even logic ends up being dependent on subjective opinions when it comes to choosing fundamental premises upon which to build the logical arguments.

Logic can never be a basis for an objective system of morality because ultimately logic itself is based on subjectively chosen premises. Especially in the case of moral questions. Who's to say which premises we should build from?

The Tanager wrote:

If we truly thought morality was a human social construct we wouldn't try to reason with the other side or try to justify our own actions, whether we go to war over the differences or not.


This is the fundamental problem with the very concept of morality. The mere fact that we have been convinced that there should only be one absolute objective moral answer to every moral question is often what actually causes us to go to war in the first place. This is certainly true in the case of religious wars.

Take the question of gays as an example.

I would personally argue that the behavior shouldn't even be judged as being "right or wrong". As far as I'm concerned it's already an extremely misguided notion to even think that we need to judge the behavior as being moral or immoral.

Why can't it be amoral just like which flavor of ice cream we like best?

We don't pass moral judgements on people's choice of ice cream. Why should we pass moral judgements on people's choice of a partner in life?

~~~~~~~~~~~~

I'll leave you with this thought:

IMHO, to try to hold up the idea that there exist some absolute objective moral code causes us to also believe that every possible question and choice must then have an absolutely correct moral answer.

That's already absurd.

Why should it make any difference who a person chooses to become intimate with or life out their life with? Why should that even be a moral question?

Once you you have accepted a notion of absolute objective morality that's carved in stone (even if allowing for situational independence), it still causes you to then believe that there must be a moral answer or judgement on every possible action or situation.

But why? Why should ever possible action or situation need to be judged as being right or wrong. Why can't many actions be amoral. Just like choosing what flavor of ice cream to eat. No one is going to pass a moral judgement on that.

Why do we need to pass moral judgement on gay people?

Why do we need to pass moral judgements on a couple who married and later discovered that they can't stand living with each other?

Why brand them as "immoral people". What has been gained by doing this?

Why brand people who had sex before marriage as having committed an immoral act?

Why bother passing moral judgements on anyone?

What good does it do to brand a school shooter as being an immoral person? That isn't going to change what happened. Branding any criminals as being immoral people is useless. It has no meaningful value.

The only people it can have any meaning for at all are people who believe that there is a God who will punish immoral people after they die.

And look at how silly Christianity is (not to pick on this religion but it just so happens to be true). Even in Christianity Jesus is offering to let immoral people off the hook anyway if they simply ask him for forgiveness.

So morality is not only a meaningless concept in reality, but it's even a meaningless concept in religion.

In Christianity Jesus is offering to toss morality right out the window. All we need to do is ask him to go ahead and do ti. And he'll do it for us.

So much for the rock of objective morality. Jesus is prepared to toss that rock aside anyway so we are told.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 89: Tue Jan 14, 2020 10:28 am
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The Tanager wrote:

Artie wrote:
I've never claimed there's an objective reason why we should help society survive and flourish so I have no idea why you keep pestering me to provide one.


Let me ask two clarifying questions, then.

Person A says that it is best to do what is good for society.
Person B says that it is best to do what is good for one's self, even if it is bad for society.

One, if "moral" means "good for society," then what term would you use for "best to do" in the phrasing above?

Two, do you think that one of these persons is objectively right about what is "best to do" (or whatever term you would use for that phrase)?
I don't care what person A and person B says. I am not concerned with the subjective opinions of individuals. My only point is that some things are objectively good and some are objectively bad for societies regardless the subjective opinion of individuals.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 90: Tue Jan 14, 2020 10:39 am
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Divine Insight wrote:
In fact, it actually shows just the opposite. Because "moral people" (as you call them) all have different subjective views on what constituents an objective point of view.
No poor DI, moral people try to do what's objectively moral, they just have different subjective opinions about what the objectively moral thing to do is.

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