4
   

Open question to Objectivists (not necessarily in the randian sense)

 
 
amist
 
Reply Sat 11 Sep, 2010 01:45 pm
Most systems of ethics begin by constructing themselves from a foundational judgment of value. X is held to be intrinsically valuable. They then work from there to establish what action should be taken if X is held to be intrinsically valuable.

At this point, it seems apparent that ethical systems constructed in this way are not objective, since judgments of value are subjective and not objective. There appears to be nothing compelling one to make a judgment of value aside from personal preference. However, there are many who hold that ethical principles and duties are objective and apply to everybody. It's apparent that this conclusion could not have been arrived at from any of the ways a system of ethics appears to me to have been hitherto constructed, since they always begin with a judgment of value. If there were to be an objective system of ethics constructed, it would have to demonstrate that it is a matter of fact that certain values ought to be valued.

To any objectivists out there, am I right in saying that the argument constructing an objective ethics must be devoid of value judgments as premises, and if so, how can values be inferred from this starting point?
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 13 Sep, 2010 09:57 am
@amist,
Interesting question. This requires further thought.
0 Replies
 
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Mon 13 Sep, 2010 10:44 am
@amist,
I have five words of my opinion of Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand was a fool.

BBB
dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Mon 13 Sep, 2010 10:53 am
@BumbleBeeBoogie,
Quote:
my opinion of Ayn Rand. She was a fool
yes, we are all quite aware of your opinion of everyone with whom you disagree, you are indeed the arbiter of fools.
0 Replies
 
georgeob1
 
  2  
Reply Mon 13 Sep, 2010 10:55 am
@BumbleBeeBoogie,
BumbleBeeBoogie wrote:

I have five words of my opinion of Ayn Rand. She was a fool.

BBB


Looks like four words to me.
0 Replies
 
Ding an Sich
 
  1  
Reply Mon 13 Sep, 2010 11:19 am
@amist,
amist wrote:

Most systems of ethics begin by constructing themselves from a foundational judgment of value. X is held to be intrinsically valuable. They then work from there to establish what action should be taken if X is held to be intrinsically valuable.

At this point, it seems apparent that ethical systems constructed in this way are not objective, since judgments of value are subjective and not objective. There appears to be nothing compelling one to make a judgment of value aside from personal preference. However, there are many who hold that ethical principles and duties are objective and apply to everybody. It's apparent that this conclusion could not have been arrived at from any of the ways a system of ethics appears to me to have been hitherto constructed, since they always begin with a judgment of value. If there were to be an objective system of ethics constructed, it would have to demonstrate that it is a matter of fact that certain values ought to be valued.

To any objectivists out there, am I right in saying that the argument constructing an objective ethics must be devoid of value judgments as premises, and if so, how can values be inferred from this starting point?


I think, although I have not read Rand in a while, that what she is trying to do is make her code of ethics based upon living rational beings. A code of ethics is never good for the dead (hence her dislike of mysticism) and can only be applicable to the living. It is only living things, and in particular for Rand, rational beings (humans), that can give value to anything at all. Value, however, must be based upon the use of man's reason, as well as continuance of ones life, life being the ultimate standard of value among any organism. Value can be made objective for all of mankind.

I do not think though that Rand is using Objective much like a scientist would; instead she is basing it upon what man needs to do in order to survive. It is objective in that man needs to use his reason in order to live, but it is subjective insofar as man has a choice in applying his reason to what goals and plans he may have in order to maintained his life.

You do have a point though. Much like Joe I will have to think about this.
0 Replies
 
talk72000
 
  1  
Reply Mon 13 Sep, 2010 11:31 am
@amist,
Ayn Rand has many deficiencies a few of which is lack of knowledge and vision. Her club ended in disaster as she doen't know what selfishness leads to. Her novels are only good for teenagers who don't know any better. She has pretentions of being a philosopher but she lacks any such qualities.
Her novel Atlas Shrugged amply displayed it as she describes "egotsts" who join together in a "union" against group thinkers. Her hero design a perpetual motion machine. The "strike" by "egotists" brings the United States to the brink of ruin without any international intrigue nor is the highway system even mentioned. Top notch teenage material.
0 Replies
 
amist
 
  1  
Reply Mon 13 Sep, 2010 03:01 pm
Thanks for your responses, but I was using the word 'Objectivist' to talk about the position that morality is objective, and not merely Randians. Although Rand would fall under this category, Randians would not be the only people in this category. I anticipated this confusion (thus the parenthetical statement in the title) but I hope this clears things up.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 13 Sep, 2010 03:35 pm
@amist,
amist wrote:
At this point, it seems apparent that ethical systems constructed in this way are not objective, since judgments of value are subjective and not objective.

Well, yes and no. We can, for instance, say "happiness is good" because we desire happiness, but we can also say that "happiness is good" because we know, from observation, that everyone seems to desire happiness. The former represents a subjective judgment ("happiness is good because it's good for me"), the latter, it seems to me, represents an objective judgment. Thus, if "good" is "what is desirable," and we know that happiness is desirable because it is widely desired, it follows that happiness is "good."

amist wrote:
To any objectivists out there, am I right in saying that the argument constructing an objective ethics must be devoid of value judgments as premises, and if so, how can values be inferred from this starting point?

Depends on how you define "value judgment."
amist
 
  1  
Reply Mon 13 Sep, 2010 04:20 pm
@joefromchicago,
Quote:
we can also say that "happiness is good" because we know, from observation, that everyone seems to desire happiness.


The burden of proof for an objective system of ethics is not that everyone has the same desires, you don't get universal obligations because most people agree that happiness is desirable in itself.

Quote:
Thus, if "good" is "what is desirable," and we know that happiness is desirable because it is widely desired, it follows that happiness is "good."


This is my point exactly, if you hold X to be intrinsically valuable, good for you. But that does not make it an objective fact that X is intrinsically valuable, it is merely valuable to you, and thus it is subjectively and not objectively valuable.

Quote:
Depends on how you define "value judgment."


In this case I'm talking about determinations that certain things are desirable in themselves, or valuable in themselves. Judgments of intrinsic value to which all hitherto systems of value seem to be dependent on.
joefromchicago
 
  2  
Reply Tue 14 Sep, 2010 08:25 am
@amist,
amist wrote:
The burden of proof for an objective system of ethics is not that everyone has the same desires, you don't get universal obligations because most people agree that happiness is desirable in itself.

Why not? For a utilitarian, that's the whole basis for ethics.

amist wrote:
This is my point exactly, if you hold X to be intrinsically valuable, good for you. But that does not make it an objective fact that X is intrinsically valuable, it is merely valuable to you, and thus it is subjectively and not objectively valuable.

There's quite a difference between saying "I find this valuable" and "most people find this valuable." The former is a subjective statement of value, the latter is an objective statement of fact. I agree that a universal ethical system cannot be based on the former, but I am not convinced that one can't be based on the latter.

amist wrote:
Quote:
Depends on how you define "value judgment."


In this case I'm talking about determinations that certain things are desirable in themselves, or valuable in themselves. Judgments of intrinsic value to which all hitherto systems of value seem to be dependent on.

Well, of course, if you define "value judgment" to encompass any statement relating to values, then I can see how you reach your conclusion. But then, as I pointed out above, I see a distinction between purely subjective statements of value and objective statements of fact. I don't regard "most people find this valuable" to be a value judgment at all.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  3  
Reply Tue 14 Sep, 2010 10:35 am
@amist,
amist wrote:
The burden of proof for an objective system of ethics is not that everyone has the same desires, you don't get universal obligations because most people agree that happiness is desirable in itself.

They don't have to: Universal or not, not all systems of ethics are about obligations in the first place. Only some are; they are classified as "deontological". Others, such as virtue ethics or consequentialist ethics, aren't really that into obligations.

Hedonism in general, and utilitarianism in particular, are consequentialist approaches to ethics that I would describe as "objective". You start with the tautological premise that whatever you observe individuals valuing is valuable to them. What they value, and how much they value it, is revealed through their decisions, which you observe objectively. Having observed what each individual values, your job as an ethicist is to find the course of action that gives each of them as much of what they value as possible.

Granted, there are intelligent arguments that this approach to ethics is misguided. But as far as I can see, every important part of determining the ethical course of action is objective rather than subjective.
amist
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Sep, 2010 10:33 pm
@Thomas,
That sounds a lot like a subjective system of ethics, and value judgments make sense as being foundational to those. That is not what I started this thread about. I'm not saying this is a problem with all systems of ethics, merely ones which claim to obligate everyone such as the deontological system.
north
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Sep, 2010 10:52 pm
@amist,
amist wrote:

Most systems of ethics begin by constructing themselves from a foundational judgment of value. X is held to be intrinsically valuable. They then work from there to establish what action should be taken if X is held to be intrinsically valuable.

At this point, it seems apparent that ethical systems constructed in this way are not objective, since judgments of value are subjective and not objective. There appears to be nothing compelling one to make a judgment of value aside from personal preference. However, there are many who hold that ethical principles and duties are objective and apply to everybody. It's apparent that this conclusion could not have been arrived at from any of the ways a system of ethics appears to me to have been hitherto constructed, since they always begin with a judgment of value. If there were to be an objective system of ethics constructed, it would have to demonstrate that it is a matter of fact that certain values ought to be valued.

To any objectivists out there, am I right in saying that the argument constructing an objective ethics must be devoid of value judgments as premises, and if so, how can values be inferred from this starting point?


ultimately ethics of any kind is wether it promotes the survival of Humanity in the end
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 18 Sep, 2010 06:51 am
@amist,
amist, commenting on my description of Utilitarianism, wrote:
That sounds a lot like a subjective system of ethics,

How so? As Joefromchicago pointed out, there's a difference between an ethicist saying "I value ice cream, therefore it's ethical for people to eat it", and his saying "people value ice cream, therefore it's ethical for them to eat it." The former statement is subjective; the latter is objective; Utiliarianism falls into the latter category.
mickalos
 
  1  
Reply Sat 18 Sep, 2010 08:28 am
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

amist, commenting on my description of Utilitarianism, wrote:
That sounds a lot like a subjective system of ethics,

How so? As Joefromchicago pointed out, there's a difference between an ethicist saying "I value ice cream, therefore it's ethical for people to eat it", and his saying "people value ice cream, therefore it's ethical for them to eat it." The former statement is subjective; the latter is objective; Utiliarianism falls into the latter category.

"I value ice cream" is an empirical statement about you, the truth of which is determined by whether or not you value ice cream, and could presumably be tested by asking you about your feelings towards ice cream and observing your behaviour around it. "Most people value ice cream" is likewise an empirical statement whose truth is determined by most people's feelings towards ice cream, and could be tested in similar ways.

"Ice cream is valuable" is another matter entirely. If you think this is true because of some intrinsic property of ice cream, then I don't see how you could argue for this without begging the question. If you think that "Ice cream is valuable" is true because most people value it, then you're moving away from the platonic conception of moral truth, as something that is somehow out there in the world before human beings come along, towards a more pragmatic view (i.e. Rorty, later Wittgenstein, etc.) of ethics based on actual moral practices rather than some peculiar notion of immutable moral truth: ice cream is valuable because people actually value it.

Clearly, actual moral practices might have been different. Most people might have hated ice cream, or even regarded it as not being subject to value judgements. This makes moral truth, on your view, dependant on how people actually judge in practice, rather than somehow being "out there" in the world on the platonic view. However, I don't think this makes moral statements false, or meaningless; that is only a consequence of outdated positivist views on language. There seems no reason to me why we should construe moral facts along the same lines as facts about cats on mats; after all, we are quite happy to say that mathematical statements are true (most people anyway), and we don't construe them along the same lines as talk about the world (only platonists do that). This does, however, mean that moral truths are contingent, in the sense that they are socio-historical accidents.

This implies something that is not far off relativism; though, it certainly does not imply any strong form of relativism. However, I don't that is a problem. The other options are passive scepticism, or a ridicule inflicting dogmatism. A touch of postmodern irony is a happy middle way between Scylla and Charybdis.
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Sat 18 Sep, 2010 09:20 am
@mickalos,
mickalos wrote:
"Ice cream is valuable" is another matter entirely.

How so? There phrase "ice cream is valuable" either is shorthand for "ice cream is valuable to people", or it is unintelligible. The analogy to the phrase "the moon is visible" is exact: It is either shorthand for "the moon is visible to people", or it degenerates into nonsense. The adjective "visible" is meaningless without reference to someone who sees. Likewise, the adjective "valuable" is meaningless without reference to someone who value. Pursuing the analogy further, the phrase "the moon is visible" is no doubt an objective statement about the moon. So why wouldn't the statement "ice cream is valuable" be just as objective?

mickalos wrote:
If you think that "Ice cream is valuable" is true because most people value it, then you're moving away from the platonic conception of moral truth, as something that is somehow out there in the world before human beings come along, towards a more pragmatic view (i.e. Rorty, later Wittgenstein, etc.)

So what? Plato didn't have a monopoly on objective theories about ethics.

mickalos wrote:
Most people might have hated ice cream, or even regarded it as not being subject to value judgements. This makes moral truth, on your view, dependant on how people actually judge in practice, rather than somehow being "out there" in the world on the platonic view.

Correct.

mickalos wrote:
However, I don't think this makes moral statements false, or meaningless;

Okay; that sounds as if we agree after all.
amist
 
  1  
Reply Sat 18 Sep, 2010 10:52 am
@Thomas,
Quote:
there's a difference between an ethicist saying "I value ice cream, therefore it's ethical for people to eat it", and his saying "people value ice cream, therefore it's ethical for them to eat it." The former statement is subjective; the latter is objective; Utiliarianism falls into the latter category.


It would be an objective fact, but when we are talking about objectivist systems of ethics it seems to me that we are talking about systems of ethics that are binding on everyone, not dependent on subjective value judgments.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 18 Sep, 2010 04:21 pm
@amist,
amist wrote:
It would be an objective fact, but when we are talking about objectivist systems of ethics it seems to me that we are talking about systems of ethics that are binding on everyone, not dependent on subjective value judgments.

Can you cite an authority on philosophical usage to support that? On the face of it, I don't see why we should consider it objective to say "it is wrong for anyone to kill people for no reason", but subjective to say "it is wrong for anyone to kill people for no reason, because people value their lives".
mickalos
 
  2  
Reply Sat 18 Sep, 2010 05:55 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

mickalos wrote:
"Ice cream is valuable" is another matter entirely.

How so? There phrase "ice cream is valuable" either is shorthand for "ice cream is valuable to people", or it is unintelligible. The analogy to the phrase "the moon is visible" is exact: It is either shorthand for "the moon is visible to people", or it degenerates into nonsense. The adjective "visible" is meaningless without reference to someone who sees. Likewise, the adjective "valuable" is meaningless without reference to someone who value. Pursuing the analogy further, the phrase "the moon is visible" is no doubt an objective statement about the moon. So why wouldn't the statement "ice cream is valuable" be just as objective?


Ethics is inherently normative, there is no getting around that. If you are simply taking "ice cream is valuable" to mean "people actually value ice cream", then it has no normative force and one is engaged in economics rather than philosophy. Moral philosophers are interested in the normative dimension of the sentence, "Ice cream is valuable", i.e. that if ice cream is valuable, then people ought to value it. Clearly, as a simple matter of logic, it doesn't follow from people do value X that people ought to value X (I'm sick of ice cream).

Quote:

mickalos wrote:
If you think that "Ice cream is valuable" is true because most people value it, then you're moving away from the platonic conception of moral truth, as something that is somehow out there in the world before human beings come along, towards a more pragmatic view (i.e. Rorty, later Wittgenstein, etc.)

So what? Plato didn't have a monopoly on objective theories about ethics.

Platonic realism (and Plato isn't the only platonic realist) is committed to the notion that the truth of a proposition is independent of beliefs, linguistic practices, conceptual schemes, and so on. Thus, he has a monopoly on a certain notion of objectivity. However, there are pragmatic notions of objectivity put forward by people like Davidson, Rorty, Wittgenstein, Brandom, etc., based on social agreement rather than mystical metaphysical relations.
 

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