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#473619 - 04/25/12 08:00 PM A Request
Labyrinthine Offline

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Registered: 02/05/12
Posts: 541
Loc: America
Could someone who is good at framing questions and arguments, and using logic in philosophy, please take me through step-by-step as to why they feel there is or isn't objective morality?

It is very difficult to prove a negative, but I would believe it would be possible for someone to prove that morality only comes from human thoughts and feelings. (More specifically; humans form contracts and ethics systems based on varying foundations.)

I find Ayn Rand's arguments for objective morality lacking, but I've heard alternative explanations (other than "God says so") for objective morality; that morality is what is good for human beings, as we have evolved.

I find this lacking as well; good for what human being?

It seems very difficult to PROVE that it is always, independently wrong to kill the innocent or rob or rape, even though I feel that they are wrong, and would definitely want criminals punished, and would not want any of those things done to me or my loved ones.

Anyway, could anyone with say, a philosophy major for example (though that's not required of course) please explain why objective morality arguments are flawed, or in contrast how any real objective morality could exist?

(I now lean towards there being no objective morality for everyone, but that I set my own morals for myself, which are to a large extent based on my own rational self-interest. It's up to those with power over a jurisdiction to determine enforceable laws for all, based on varying foundational ideas; human rights, the word of God, equality, whatever.)

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#473623 - 04/25/12 09:00 PM Re: A Request [Re: Labyrinthine]
reprobate Offline

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Registered: 06/05/02
Posts: 7140
Loc: Canada
Is this really an issue you think can be solved by anonymous strangers on an internet board?
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#473624 - 04/25/12 09:01 PM Re: A Request [Re: Labyrinthine]
TheAbysmal Offline


Registered: 09/22/06
Posts: 1024
I think I am yet far from equipped to walk you through proving or disproving an objective morality. I suppose I could offer my own view on morality, but that is not what you are looking for. smile Fortunately, I think I can point you to a comprehensive resource that you might like.

You might light to review Eliezer Yudkowsky's writings on the subject of morality, however:

http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Metaethics_sequence

The Sequences Listing on Less Wrong shows that "Yudkowsky considers this one of his less successful attempts at explanation." He and others try to tackle many different aspects of human rationality. I have spent months lost in the resources there and referenced elsewhere from there, and still have not even skimmed it all.

Here is the full text of Might is Right, too, apparently available freely online, which you might also find useful in looking into morality:

http://archive.org/details/MightIsRight_966
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#473627 - 04/25/12 09:13 PM Re: A Request [Re: TheAbysmal]
Labyrinthine Offline

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Registered: 02/05/12
Posts: 541
Loc: America
Thank you, I will look into those sources now.

I've never read Might is Right, though I am about to right now.

I know The Satanic Bible's Book of Satan draws heavily from it, so I'm curious to read it.

And reprobate; I wouldn't take whatever someone said as absolute fact.

I'd just like to see what they say; what evidence and logic they offer. It's a topic for discussion.

Perhaps it was wrong for me to phrase it as a request.

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#473629 - 04/25/12 09:33 PM Re: A Request [Re: Labyrinthine]
TheAbysmal Offline


Registered: 09/22/06
Posts: 1024
You are very welcome, Labyrinthine.
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#473635 - 04/25/12 10:19 PM Re: A Request [Re: Labyrinthine]
reprobate Offline

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Registered: 06/05/02
Posts: 7140
Loc: Canada
Quote:
And reprobate; I wouldn't take whatever someone said as absolute fact.

I'd just like to see what they say; what evidence and logic they offer. It's a topic for discussion.

Perhaps it was wrong for me to phrase it as a request.

Fair enough.

I have thoughts on this subject, but I'm a little busy writing my dissertation in philosophy to answer them.

A discussion would have to come with a little more of an incentive before I could participate at this time. wink

Suffice it to say, I used to be a skeptic about objective moral imperatives, but I changed my mind. Kant's Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals is the book that changed my mind.
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#473637 - 04/25/12 10:30 PM Re: A Request [Re: Labyrinthine]
TrojZyr Offline
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Registered: 07/25/01
Posts: 12990
Loc: The Solid State
I'd recommend you look into studies on neuroscience and psychology, and/or studies on animal behavior, with regards to moral development.

I don't think you can necessarily prove that the universe has an underlying moral order, but you can certainly demonstrate that mammals are moral beings.

The Moral Life of Babies

Babies May Develop Moral Sense as Early as Six Months

Animals Can Tell Right From Wrong

Primatologist Franz De Waal on Animal Morality

Beginnings of Morality in Primate Behavior
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#473639 - 04/25/12 10:48 PM Re: A Request [Re: Labyrinthine]
Bill_M Offline
CoS Reverend

Registered: 07/28/01
Posts: 11560
Loc: New England, USA
Originally Posted By: Labyrinthine
Could someone who is good at framing questions and arguments, and using logic in philosophy, please take me through step-by-step as to why they feel there is or isn't objective morality?

To me, the notion of an objective morality is easily debunked by looking at examples of ideas that were moral in some particular culture and/or century, but immoral in another. The Amish for example would consider your use of an electronic computer to be immoral on some level. Similarly, 100 years ago in the U.S. is was considered unethical to discuss issues of sex with friends, but perfectly fine to go see a minstrel show.

I suppose though that some people will say that some of these somehow don't touch upon "morality", or insist that some groups simply got it wrong. Though this then begs the question of what the person means by "morality". Like most philosophical discussions on common topics, I find that the person making the argument (whether it's about morality, the existence of "God", human "soul", etc.) doesn't make a working definition of the key word in the first place, and often can't.

Quote:
It is very difficult to prove a negative, but I would believe it would be possible for someone to prove that morality only comes from human thoughts and feelings.

Or at the very least, find it pretty much impossible to give an example or method for distinguishing the two.

Quote:
I've heard alternative explanations (other than "God says so") for objective morality; that morality is what is good for human beings, as we have evolved.

I find this lacking as well; good for what human being?

There's also the inevitable problem of different people having sincere but conflicting ideas of what's in a person's best interest. To pick a blatant (albeit a bit cliche) example: let's never forget that the Muslims who flew the planes into the WTC felt that they were doing what they felt was in the world's best interest.

Quote:
It seems very difficult to PROVE that it is always, independently wrong to kill the innocent or rob or rape, even though I feel that they are wrong, and would definitely want criminals punished, and would not want any of those things done to me or my loved ones.

Rather than worrying about whether morality is subjective or objective, there is sort of a Satanic third side here: recognizing moral codes as simply being byproducts of our biology. As the Satanic Bible correctly points out, humans are animals, and with that comes the biological drives to get what we want and avoid things that are perceived to be self-defeating. Anybody with a bit of foresight knows that going around killing people will predictably lead to undesirable results. If not going to jail, then receiving a harsh counter-attack from the would-be victim, or retribution from the victim's friends and family. That's because these people are acting on their self-preservation. So it's not surprising that "Don't murder" has been an agreed-upon rule in every society.

Speaking of notions of objective morality, I think the idea of a deity being needed for it (a seemingly favorite subject among monotheists) was thoroughly debunked thousands of years ago by Plato with the Euthyphro Dilemma.
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#473643 - 04/25/12 11:32 PM Re: A Request [Re: Bill_M]
Labyrinthine Offline

CoS Member

Registered: 02/05/12
Posts: 541
Loc: America
Both TrojZyr and Reverend Bill, thank you very much for the thoughtful replies.

(And best wishes on your dissertation repbrobate)

Reverend Bill; that is very interesting how much something can seem so completely NATURALLY moral or immoral, but 100 years later, or half a world away, everyone thinks you're an idiot (and probably evil) for believing in some particular moral position.

For example, the institution of slavery.

Or as you point out, the use of technology.

Or women walking around not covered head-to-toe.

Ah yes, the rhetorical point Plato makes there, if it's the one I'm thinking of, is that:

"Are things Good because God says so, or does God approve of things because they are Good?"

And the existence of God's Commandments, and Heaven and Hell wouldn't equal an objective morality either.

If the only reason you don't do "evil" things is because you'll go to hell if you do them, you're not really moral, are you?

God is just a divine form of law enforcement then.

If the sole reason that I don't kill and rape is because I'm scared of going to prison for it, I'm not really moral.

I find that we can start to build ethics by thinking of ourselves first; what would we hate to have done to us.

Then we build rules saying that we can't do those things to others, with such-and-such rare exceptions.

Then things get more complicated with law, though law isn't morality itself of course; law attempts to approximate morality.

So a sort of "natural" morality, though not universally objective, does arise.

And that is what I essentially operate on already I suppose...

I'm still wrestling with this; even when I strongly lean towards an answer, I want to be able to clearly articulate myself in a debate.

Again, thank you.



Edited by Labyrinthine (04/25/12 11:36 PM)
Edit Reason: Careless typos; corrected

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#473645 - 04/26/12 12:03 AM Re: A Request [Re: Bill_M]
reprobate Offline

CoS Warlock

Registered: 06/05/02
Posts: 7140
Loc: Canada
Quote:
Like most philosophical discussions on common topics, I find that the person making the argument (whether it's about morality, the existence of "God", human "soul", etc.) doesn't make a working definition of the key word in the first place, and often can't.

This is why the internet is simply terrible for any kind of philosophical discussion. This is not how the pros do it, at least, not at the top of the game.


Edited by reprobate (04/26/12 12:03 AM)
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#473646 - 04/26/12 12:30 AM Re: A Request [Re: reprobate]
Janina Offline
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Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 1482
Loc: Center of my own Universe
I would separate two things moral and ethic.

I think moral, more or less, is man made believe system which holds the ideas of prize and punishment depending our actions. This moral is part of dogmatic religion and can't really answer the questions like 'if killing is morally wrong, why does serial killers exist' or 'if giving what you got to the others is right, why half of the globe is dying to hunger and other half to it's own fat' this morally aspect actually does not exist as entity. It is allways more or less learned way to think right or wrong.

Still we, as intelligent animal, have some inner vision about what we think is right or wrong. This is more personal view of our values as human being. That I would dexcribe with the term personal ethic.

So I would say that universal moral does not exist, only persons own ethic and some moral codes we have learned from others.


Edited by Janina (04/26/12 12:38 AM)
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#473649 - 04/26/12 12:51 AM Re: A Request [Re: Janina]
reprobate Offline

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Registered: 06/05/02
Posts: 7140
Loc: Canada
Sure, you can stipulate these sorts of distinctions, if you like. I've heard similar distinctions drawn before. I used to be more sympathetic, but when you get right down to it, the fact is, the way these terms are used by most philosophers, there's no significant difference of meaning between "morality" and "ethics". I mean, you can arbitrarily make a distinction, but I think you'd be better off just coining a technical term rather than trying to repurpose traditional terminology.

If we're looking for a definition of "objective morality", I would suggest Kant's: he investigates what he calls "categorical imperatives" that are "universal", ie. subject invariant.

An "imperative" is when there's something you should do. There are two types. Hypothetical imperatives have "if" conditions. For example, if you want to make a cake, you should get the ingredients and combine them in a certain way. The imperative only holds if the condition holds.

Kant says there are also categorical imperatives. These are "shoulds" that don't have an "if". They're just things you should do, irrespective of what you prefer, or how you feel.

Kant defines objectivity in terms of universal validity. The importance of this, for Kant, is that it doesn't presuppose that "objective" moral imperatives come from outside. In fact, it's very important for Kant's story that they don't come from the world, or from God, but from ourselves. The point is not where they come from, but whether or not they vary from person to person. If they don't vary, then they're "objective" in the relevant sense.

In Kant's story, there are universally binding categorical imperatives. They come from the nature of reason itself, rather than being imposed from the outside. They require, for example, that we be free, that we be responsible, and that we not be hypocrites.

I'm very sympathetic to that.

In fact, I think you're going to have a very hard time accounting for the concept of responsibility, or justice, if you say that we get to define our own personal ethic according to our own interests. Sometimes we have responsibilities we'd rather not have, but they're still our responsibilities. Sometimes justice is extraordinarily inconvenient, but it's still justice. And so on.
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#473652 - 04/26/12 02:32 AM Re: A Request [Re: reprobate]
Janina Offline
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Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 1482
Loc: Center of my own Universe
Hi Warlock Reprobate, I think I have to explain little what I meant by separating the two words, I spoke about the moral as man made system, I meant with that a moral as the 'higher' universal law. I see moral very much as spiritual aspect, it is way to explain the good or the bad. I myself don't see that anything good or bad exists as separate entities. Good is good when compared to something which is un-good aka bad. And bad or evil is something which we only can compare to goodness aka un-badness. In that light I see morality much as the dualistic way to prize human activities to good or bad. Morally right is always something higher. I don't say 'nothing exists' cause I believe in responsibilty, law of the human society and things like that. I just don't see them as universal law. It would be same as saying that the economic does not exist cause it is man made system.

Then I mentioned ethic, I use this word to describe personal values like for example some one can be vegetarian for ethical reasons during the time his friend eats meatball sandwich. This kind of value I would describe as personal and for that reason it is ethic in my thinking.

I see that reality is more than just dualism between good-bad, up-down, man-woman etc. World is not black and white, it also includes the different shapes of gray.. wink

Human responsibilty I would not describe as much with the term moral, I would rather talk about causes and conditions. All our actions have natural conditions which teaches us to be responsible (killing somebody causes you 20 years prison etc.) so if you put your finger to bonfire, you burn your own skin!

Though I don't see the moral as universal law I still believe in law of human society because certain rules teach us to respect other persons and their freedom, their property and their right to be un-touched of others. These rules are simply the most rational way to organize human society and holding these values called law does not require any moral for being working and successful.

Instead of thinking which is morally right I like prefer think that actions can be productive or destructive as our personal thoughts as well. Learning to regognize what kind of thoughts, actions and choices are productive we learn to avoid destructive actions and that I would personally describe with the term responsibility.


Edited by Janina (04/26/12 03:46 AM)
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#473674 - 04/26/12 11:06 AM Re: A Request [Re: Janina]
reprobate Offline

CoS Warlock

Registered: 06/05/02
Posts: 7140
Loc: Canada
I understood the point you were making. I just disagree with it.
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#473676 - 04/26/12 11:19 AM Re: A Request [Re: reprobate]
Janina Offline
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Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 1482
Loc: Center of my own Universe
Originally Posted By: reprobate
I understood the point you were making. I just disagree with it.



Fair enough!

After all, we are just playing with the words here.. wink
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