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

 
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 18 Sep, 2010 06:20 pm
@mickalos,
mickalos wrote:
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.

I disagree with the premise in this statement, that engaging in economics excludes engaging in philosophy. Adam Smith, the founding father of modern economics, was a moral philosopher. Utilitarianism, for another example, being a school of thought within the philosophical field of ethics. It also boils down to applying economics to happiness and suffering. I reject your implied assertion that economics is inherently unphilosophical.

mikalos wrote:
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.

But I don't care about Platonic realism. Neither do I have any obligation to care about it: The topic of this thread is explicitly open to all kinds of ethical objectivism, not just Plato's kind.
amist
 
  1  
Reply Sat 18 Sep, 2010 06:25 pm
@Thomas,
Quote:
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".


The second statement relies on a value judgments. Since value judgments are subjective, they can only be binding (insofar as they actually are binding) on the subject who made them. Saying 'X is wrong' is an objective statement about X. Whether it is a fact or not is an entirely different question, which was supposed to be the point of this thread.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 18 Sep, 2010 06:34 pm
@amist,
amist wrote:
The second statement relies on a value judgments. Since value judgments are subjective, they can only be binding (insofar as they actually are binding) on the subject who made them.

The statement "killing is wrong because people value their lives" doesn't necessarily bind anyone who doesn't value their life, and who may therefore be fair game for being killed.

amist wrote:
Saying 'X is wrong' is an objective statement about X.

So is "X is wrong because people value not-X".
amist
 
  1  
Reply Sat 18 Sep, 2010 06:41 pm
@Thomas,
I'm not trying to address systems of ethics that derive decisions from value judgments and only claim to be binding on those individuals. Those make more than enough sense to me, and are generally classified as 'subjectivist' systems rather than 'objectivist' systems, even though you are correct in pointing out that one can make objective statements about their values.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 18 Sep, 2010 06:55 pm
@amist,
amist wrote:
Those make more than enough sense to me, and are generally classified as 'subjectivist' systems rather than 'objectivist' systems,

Are they? May I ask which authoritative philosophical-usage source you got this classification from?
0 Replies
 
mickalos
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Sep, 2010 01:50 am
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

mickalos wrote:
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.

I disagree with the premise in this statement, that engaging in economics excludes engaging in philosophy. Adam Smith, the founding father of modern economics, was a moral philosopher. Utilitarianism, for another example, being a school of thought within the philosophical field of ethics. It also boils down to applying economics to happiness and suffering. I reject your implied assertion that economics is inherently unphilosophical.

You have missed my point. The "premise" of my post was that ethics is inherently normative. The point of the economics aside was to contrast moral philosophy, a prescriptive discipline, with a descriptive social science, economics.

That X is valued certainly follows immediately from people value X, but not "X is valuable". Not if it is to have any normative force, anyway; i.e. that people ought to value it. If you want to go from people value X to X is valuable then you need some kind of account (not merely a bare assertion) that shows that rules arise out of, or a are constituted by, actual practice.


Quote:
mikalos wrote:
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.

But I don't care about Platonic realism. Neither do I have any obligation to care about it: The topic of this thread is explicitly open to all kinds of ethical objectivism, not just Plato's kind.

It is often assumed that platonic realism is the only kind of realism. Indeed, most of the people you are arguing with in the thread seem to be subscribe to some form of rampant platonism, so it certainly won't hurt you to take note.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Sep, 2010 07:41 am
@mickalos,
mickalos wrote:
You have missed my point. The "premise" of my post was that ethics is inherently normative. The point of the economics aside was to contrast moral philosophy, a prescriptive discipline, with a descriptive social science, economics.

And my point is that this is mistaken. Economics implies the norm that the right course of action is the one that gives as many people as possible as much of what they value as possible. Without this prescriptive norm, coming straight from the moral-philosophy roots of economics, the science's descriptive part would be pointless.

mickalos wrote:
That X is valued certainly follows immediately from people value X, but not "X is valuable".

Why not? Suppose you had said, "that X is seen certainly follows immediately from people seeing X, but not 'X is visible'". I suppose we agree that this would be nonsense. How is your statement about X being valuable not nonsense in the very same way?

mickalos wrote:
Not if it is to have any normative force, anyway; i.e. that people ought to value it.

Okay, perhaps ice cream was a bad example, because I didn't mean to imply any norm that people ought to value ice cream. Perhaps the don't-kill norm I talked about earlier is a better example. In my view, the norm that "it is wrong to kill for no reason" is an objective statement in the same sense as "stones, when let go of, drop downward, not upward". As a utilitarian, I would give a reason for this norm: "It is wrong to kill for no reason because people value their lives more than they value the joy of killing, absent an overriding reason." Even if you understand the word "value" to reflect a mere preference, without any normative undertones, I think my statement presents a perfectly valid argument for not killing. Don't you?
north
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Sep, 2010 08:06 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.


Quote:
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?


ethics started out in the actions of survival , theft

ethics , morals are value thinking , ideas , thoughts , perspectives
how could they be any other way really

in a sense I don't get the challenge to objectivists here , its a no win situation really

0 Replies
 
mickalos
 
  2  
Reply Mon 20 Sep, 2010 04:15 am
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

mickalos wrote:
You have missed my point. The "premise" of my post was that ethics is inherently normative. The point of the economics aside was to contrast moral philosophy, a prescriptive discipline, with a descriptive social science, economics.

And my point is that this is mistaken. Economics implies the norm that the right course of action is the one that gives as many people as possible as much of what they value as possible. Without this prescriptive norm, coming straight from the moral-philosophy roots of economics, the science's descriptive part would be pointless.

Contemporary economics isn't concerned with what is right. Consumer theory starts with the assumption that consumers will try to maximise a utility function subject to a budget constraint, while the theory of the firm starts with the assumption that firms will try to maximise profits subject to cost and demand constraints. Note, economic theory does not say that consumers should try to maximise utility, or that firms should try to maximise profits, merely that they do; economists then go on to construct predictive models based on these assumptions, and those models have worked rather well. Economics is an empirical science.

Quote:
mickalos wrote:
That X is valued certainly follows immediately from people value X, but not "X is valuable".

Why not? Suppose you had said, "that X is seen certainly follows immediately from people seeing X, but not 'X is visible'". I suppose we agree that this would be nonsense. How is your statement about X being valuable not nonsense in the very same way?

Because being able to see something has no moral, normative dimension. Being visible and being capable of being seen simply mean the same thing. To say "If x can be seen then x is visible" is simply to say if P then P, it is a tautology. Being valued and being valuable (in the moral sense), however, do not mean the same thing, any more so than thinking something is important means that something is actually important.

Now, in the importance example, you could take an anti-platonic-realist line and say: nothing is intrinsically important, what makes a matter important is that people consider it to be so. Clearly, we lose the platonic sense of objectivity here, but that doesn't mean that it isn't true that something is important (there is a fact of the matter), merely that it is contingently true based on actual practice. Note that this is not an argument about how we are to decide what matters are important, but an argument about what is constitutive of importance. It is even less an argument about the meaning of the sentence "People think this is important".

The same pragmatic anti-platonist line can be taken in ethics: no action is intrinsically right or wrong, what makes an act right is that people consider it to be right. However, there is no reason to think that people only consider actions that increase happiness to be right. Though, maybe they actually do, but even if in actual fact they do, there is no reason that they should.


Quote:
mickalos wrote:
Not if it is to have any normative force, anyway; i.e. that people ought to value it.

Okay, perhaps ice cream was a bad example, because I didn't mean to imply any norm that people ought to value ice cream. Perhaps the don't-kill norm I talked about earlier is a better example. In my view, the norm that "it is wrong to kill for no reason" is an objective statement in the same sense as "stones, when let go of, drop downward, not upward". As a utilitarian, I would give a reason for this norm: "It is wrong to kill for no reason because people value their lives more than they value the joy of killing, absent an overriding reason." Even if you understand the word "value" to reflect a mere preference, without any normative undertones, I think my statement presents a perfectly valid argument for not killing. Don't you?


(1) People value their lives more than they value the joy of killing, or they have an overriding reason
(c)if people have no overriding reason, then it is wrong to kill people

Clearly, the conclusion does not follow from the premises. The argument is invalid. This has nothing to do with utilitarianism, but with logic. A valid argument would be:
(1) People value their lives more than they value the joy of killing, or they have an overriding reason
(c)if people have no overriding reason, then people value their lives more than they value their lives more than they value the joy of killing.

This isn't a matter of opinion, it can be proved in formal logic, and it is fairly intuitively obvious. You need an extra premise akin to Mill's principle of utility:
(2) Any action, x, which is detrimental to something that people value is wrong

Now, it is hard to doubt that attaining value (utility if you prefer) is the ultimate goal of action; if Mill's infamous proof shows anything, it certainly shows that there is a good argument for that. However, that is not a proof that an action that results in a loss of value for a people or a person is morally wrong, i.e. that such an action ought not be performed. It certainly means that people won't want to do it, but if morality is to be a constraint on action at all, then it has to tell us that we can't do some things that we want to do.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Sep, 2010 05:42 am
@mickalos,
mickalos wrote:
Note, economic theory does not say that consumers should try to maximise utility, or that firms should try to maximise profits, merely that they do;

That's because economic theory is ultimately addressed at public policy makers. And it does say government ought to act in ways that let consumers and producers succeed at maximizing what they maximize---if necessary, by taxing them and providing public goods for them.

Miklos wrote:
This isn't a matter of opinion, it can be proved in formal logic, and it is fairly intuitively obvious. You need an extra premise akin to Mill's principle of utility:
(2) Any action, x, which is detrimental to something that people value is wrong

Okay, that's a fair objection. Getting back to subjective v. objective ethics: If we add this premise to our ethical system, how is your premise #2 subjective rather than objective?
mickalos
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Sep, 2010 06:19 am
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:


Miklos wrote:
This isn't a matter of opinion, it can be proved in formal logic, and it is fairly intuitively obvious. You need an extra premise akin to Mill's principle of utility:
(2) Any action, x, which is detrimental to something that people value is wrong

Okay, that's a fair objection. Getting back to subjective v. objective ethics: If we add this premise to our ethical system, how is your premise #2 subjective rather than objective?

You said earlier that you thought moral statements are objective "in the same sense as "stones, when let go of, drop downward, not upward"". However, "stones, when let go of, drop downward, not upward" is true regardless of any human mental state, while according to premise (2), "killing is wrong" is dependent on how people value killing. Therefore, the truth of the statement depends on human mental states or sentiments, and thus entails a form of idealism. Objective truths are normally about the objective world (hence the name), and true irrespective of what anybody thinks.

That's just the question of first order moral truths such as "It's wrong to kill people for no reason". What about higher order moral principles such as premise two itself: Any action, x, which is detrimental to something that people value is wrong

To what extent can we say premise two is true? We rely on premise two to determine the truth of first order moral truths, but we cannot rely on premise two to determine its own truth; that would be circular. This is like asking "Is utilitarianism true". It's an important question, but clearly it can't be answered by utilitarian standards.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Sep, 2010 09:50 pm
@mickalos,
mickalos wrote:
To what extent can we say premise two is true? We rely on premise two to determine the truth of first order moral truths, but we cannot rely on premise two to determine its own truth; that would be circular. This is like asking "Is utilitarianism true". It's an important question, but clearly it can't be answered by utilitarian standards.

Sure, but that no different from Newton's laws, which nobody but a philosophical heckler would call "subjective". Newton's laws can't prove the truth of Newton's laws, either.
amist
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Sep, 2010 12:06 am
@Thomas,
Get to the proving utilitarianism part without relying on a subjective value judgment.
0 Replies
 
mickalos
 
  3  
Reply Wed 22 Sep, 2010 04:02 am
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

mickalos wrote:
To what extent can we say premise two is true? We rely on premise two to determine the truth of first order moral truths, but we cannot rely on premise two to determine its own truth; that would be circular. This is like asking "Is utilitarianism true". It's an important question, but clearly it can't be answered by utilitarian standards.

Sure, but that no different from Newton's laws, which nobody but a philosophical heckler would call "subjective". Newton's laws can't prove the truth of Newton's laws, either.


Newton's laws are not themselves criteria for correctness; that is to say, they are not rules that determine what is true and what is false. We can decide whether or not Newtons Laws are true in the same way that we decide whether or not other general statements are true. We can give inductive evidence of it holding, or somebody who was better at physics could give a mathematical proof, and talk about things that the rest of us don't understand. Newton's laws are predictive, descriptive, and not normative, which is, again, the fundamental point.

"Any action, x, which is detrimental to something that people value is wrong", however, is a criterion of correctness; it doesn't just say that things are true, it is the principle that actually determines what it means for moral statements to be true. "Killing without a reason is wrong" is true or false to the extent that it accords with the principle, and we can give evidence that it accords with the principle.

Now, we want to know if the principle is the correct principle. In the case of Newtons laws, we observe f=ma and all the rest of it (ignoring SR and QM) to hold, and conclude Newton's laws to be true. However, for "Any action, x, which is detrimental to something that people value is wrong", there are no criteria by which we can decide whether or not it is true, it is the criteria! So why this criteria, and not another one? We accept Newton's Laws and not others because they accord with the facts. Clearly this option isn't open to us in the present case. If the moral facts in question, such as "killing for no reason is wrong", are true because of the utilitarian principle, then saying that the utilitarian principle is true because it accords with the facts is circular.

You might want to say that "killing for no reason is wrong" is true, and while it is true that the general level of happiness is greater when people don't kill for no reason, it is not true because the general level of happiness would be higher. However, in that case, the greater level of happiness would not be a reason for not killing people, it would not be normative, it would simply be a merely coincidental consequence. Moreover, the question, "Why is it wrong to kill people for no reason?" would clearly still be in need of an answer, and this answer must take the form of a reason not to kill people. If you somebody doesn't give a reason in response (as opposed to just a fact), then they haven't answered the question; this is why we say that moral philosophy is normative.
0 Replies
 
 

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