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There are no objective moral truths.

 
 
agrote
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Sep, 2006 03:25 am
echi wrote:
agrote wrote:
You're making the assumption that it is wrong to cause other people to suffer. On what basis are you making this assumption?
It's not an assumption. It's a fact that people don't like to suffer.


Please read my post more carefully. I didn't say that you were making the assumption that people don't like to suffer. I agree that people don't like to suffer. I said that you are making the assumption that it is wrong to cause other people to suffer. On what basis are you making this assumption?
0 Replies
 
agrote
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Sep, 2006 03:40 am
Re: There are no objective moral truths.
Thomas wrote:
agrote wrote:
...I don't think that what you have just said is sufficient to conclude that "it is objectively true that it is wrong to rape babies for fun".

It also isn't sufficient to conclude that water is wet. My point is that fundamentally, nothing is objectively knowable, by any sufficiently rigid definition of "objective". So why are you singling out moral statements over factual ones?


Okay, I understand. Well I think I find it easier to believe other kinds of statements, such as "I am sitting on a chair". After all, I can see myself sittign on a chair - or it seems that I can see this. It seem that I can feel the chair, etc. When people say "it is wrong to ___", I can't see or feel the wrongness. I can't see any reason to believe that there are moral facts.

Of course, none of this is sufficient for me to say that I know that I am sitting on a chair. But can you see why I would find those kinds of statements very convincing, and be extremely skeptical about moral statements?
0 Replies
 
agrote
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Sep, 2006 06:00 am
Re: There are no objective moral truths.
joefromchicago wrote:
Depends on what you mean by "objectively true." If you mean that it is not empirically verifiable, like factual statements such as "the table is solid" or "the cat has three legs," then I'd agree. I would also add that, under that definition, the statement "two plus two equals four" would also not be objectively true, which might give us some reason to question that definition.


That is not what I mean by objectively true. I'm talking about facts that are true independently of whether we believe them or whether we are able to know them. I don't believe that there are any such moral facts.

I think that when most people make moral judgements, they think that they are stating facts. If somebody says "it is wrong to rape babies", I think that they most likely believe that it is a fact that it is wrong to rape babies, and not a matter of opinion. I think that they believe that it would still be wrong to rape babies even if nobody believed that it was wrong. In fact, they might still believe that it was wrong to rape babies even if there were no babies.

I disagree with this because I don't believe in wrongness. For it to really be wrong to rape babies, I think that there would have to be some sort of thing, or property, called wrongness - something that exists out there in the world, whether or not we are aware of it. Like air. Or redness. I don't see any reason to believe in such a thing as wrongness, and I can't imagine what it would be like if it did exist.

Quote:
agrote wrote:
But I object to the view that there is something objectively wrong about killing, or about any other action. If murder were socially acceptable in my society, and if for some reason I had no conscience, and felt no remorse for killing someone, then many people would say that it would still be wrong for me to kill my neighbour. I object to that view. I think that in such a scenario it would be okay for me to kill.

"Okay for you to kill" in what sense?


Well I think that the only sensible reasons for me to not do certain things, such as killing people, are sort of selfish ones. I don't kill people, because doing so would give me unpleasant feelings of guilt, and other unpleasant consequences such as a prison sentence. I don't believe that it is wrong to cause myself to suffer, but I am aware that I don't want to suffer - for what ever reason - and since I enjoy not suffering, and dislike suffering, I try to avoid it.

Because of the consequences of guilt and prison, I do not kill people. But if those consequences did not exist, then it would be okay for me to kill. If I never had guilt about anything, and if it was legal to kill people (and also if killing someone would not result in me being killed or beaten up by a relative of the deceased, etc.), then there would be no reason for me to not kill someone, because all that is left is the supposed moral fact that "it is wrong to kill." Since I don't believe in moral facts, in such a scenario there would be nothing to stop me killing somebody if I wanted to. That is the sense it which it would be okay.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Sep, 2006 07:45 am
Re: There are no objective moral truths.
agrote wrote:
Well I think I find it easier to believe other kinds of statements, such as "I am sitting on a chair".

Fair enough -- but "I find it easier to believe" is a far shot from "it is objectively true".

agrote wrote:
After all, I can see myself sittign on a chair - or it seems that I can see this. It seem that I can feel the chair, etc. When people say "it is wrong to ___", I can't see or feel the wrongness.

I think you are drawing a false analogy between statement 1, "I can see myself sitting in a chair" and statement 2, "when people say 'it is wrong to ___', I can't see or feel the wrongness."

For a better analogy with statement 1, try stealing twenty bucks from your girlfriend. The next day, look her in the eyes and tell her about the theft. Before you start stealing, do you feel scruples about going through with it? Are those scruples strong enough to call it off and refrain from taking your girlfriend's property? If not, do you feel bad about your offense afterwards? Do you find it hard to look your girlfirend in the eyes and confess? If your answer is "yes" to any of those questions, it's evidence that you do "see or feel the wrongness" after all.

Turning to statement 2, you might try the following for a better analogy, which I'll call statement 2b: "when people say 'water is wet', I can't see or feel the wetness". Is this as true as statement 2? Of course it is. From people's say-so alone, you can never see or feel what they're talking about, whether that be a factual or a moral proposition.

agrote wrote:
But can you see why I would find those kinds of statements very convincing, and be extremely skeptical about moral statements?

So far, not really.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Sep, 2006 09:52 am
Re: There are no objective moral truths.
agrote wrote:
That is not what I mean by objectively true. I'm talking about facts that are true independently of whether we believe them or whether we are able to know them. I don't believe that there are any such moral facts.

That's going to make for a very short dissertation.

The simple truth is that you're holding morality to a standard it has never attempted to meet. Moral philosophers aren't going around looking for "moral facts," as they are well aware such a quest is a fool's errand. Your rejection of "moral facts," then, is an object lesson in strawman bashing.

agrote wrote:
I think that when most people make moral judgements, they think that they are stating facts.

And when you make that kind of statement, you are creating a strawman argument.

agrote wrote:
If somebody says "it is wrong to rape babies", I think that they most likely believe that it is a fact that it is wrong to rape babies, and not a matter of opinion. I think that they believe that it would still be wrong to rape babies even if nobody believed that it was wrong. In fact, they might still believe that it was wrong to rape babies even if there were no babies.

I disagree with this because I don't believe in wrongness. For it to really be wrong to rape babies, I think that there would have to be some sort of thing, or property, called wrongness - something that exists out there in the world, whether or not we are aware of it. Like air. Or redness. I don't see any reason to believe in such a thing as wrongness, and I can't imagine what it would be like if it did exist.

What? Are you seriously espousing something like Platonic forms?

agrote wrote:
Well I think that the only sensible reasons for me to not do certain things, such as killing people, are sort of selfish ones. I don't kill people, because doing so would give me unpleasant feelings of guilt, and other unpleasant consequences such as a prison sentence. I don't believe that it is wrong to cause myself to suffer, but I am aware that I don't want to suffer - for what ever reason - and since I enjoy not suffering, and dislike suffering, I try to avoid it.

Because of the consequences of guilt and prison, I do not kill people. But if those consequences did not exist, then it would be okay for me to kill. If I never had guilt about anything, and if it was legal to kill people (and also if killing someone would not result in me being killed or beaten up by a relative of the deceased, etc.), then there would be no reason for me to not kill someone, because all that is left is the supposed moral fact that "it is wrong to kill." Since I don't believe in moral facts, in such a scenario there would be nothing to stop me killing somebody if I wanted to. That is the sense it which it would be okay.

Since you are setting up a purely pragmatic standard for judging your actions, it really doesn't make any sense to claim that killing someone would be "ok" for you, since being "ok" implies some sort of moral or ethical standard. We wouldn't, after all, say that it was "ok" for you to buy gasoline at the cheapest price.
0 Replies
 
echi
 
  1  
Reply Fri 29 Sep, 2006 09:16 am
stuh505 wrote:
How does a person wanting/not wanting something have anything to do with what is right or wrong?

Please explain your understanding of the words "right" and "wrong".
0 Replies
 
agrote
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 Sep, 2006 09:24 am
Re: There are no objective moral truths.
Thomas wrote:
agrote wrote:
Well I think I find it easier to believe other kinds of statements, such as "I am sitting on a chair".

Fair enough -- but "I find it easier to believe" is a far shot from "it is objectively true".


Yes, I agree.

Quote:
...try stealing twenty bucks from your girlfriend. The next day, look her in the eyes and tell her about the theft. Before you start stealing, do you feel scruples about going through with it? Are those scruples strong enough to call it off and refrain from taking your girlfriend's property? If not, do you feel bad about your offense afterwards? Do you find it hard to look your girlfirend in the eyes and confess? If your answer is "yes" to any of those questions, it's evidence that you do "see or feel the wrongness" after all.


Guilt is not the same as wrongness. Somebody with a very strict religious upbringing might feel guilty whenever they have sex, but that does not mean that sex is wrong.
0 Replies
 
agrote
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 Sep, 2006 10:03 am
Re: There are no objective moral truths.
joefromchicago wrote:
That's going to make for a very short dissertation.


I wish people would stop saying that. Rolling Eyes

Entire books have been written on this topic before; for example, The Myth of Morality by Richard Joyce.

My dissertation will be between 7,500 and 10,000 words (if the topic is approved by the department).

Quote:
The simple truth is that you're holding morality to a standard it has never attempted to meet. Moral philosophers aren't going around looking for "moral facts," as they are well aware such a quest is a fool's errand. Your rejection of "moral facts," then, is an object lesson in strawman bashing.


The average non-philosopher frequently uses sentences such as "killing is wrong." These sentences are of the same kind as "this desk is brown." They are both propositions which assert facts, are they not?

I don't know enough about philosophy of ethics yet to know whether or not moral philosophers are going around looking for "moral facts." But it is clear to me that common sense morality does imply that there are moral facts.

Lots of people believe in moral facts, or they at least use language which implies that there are moral facts. So my argument that there are no moral facts is not a case of strawman bashing.

Quote:
What? Are you seriously espousing something like Platonic forms?


I don't know very much about Platonic forms. Please explain what you are saying.

Quote:
...being "ok" implies some sort of moral or ethical standard.


How so?

If a behaviour is neither right nor wrong, what is it? Can't I use the word "okay"? I don't think that "it is okay to do x" is the same as "it is right to do x".
0 Replies
 
echi
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Oct, 2006 12:39 pm
echi wrote:
stuh505 wrote:
How does a person wanting/not wanting something have anything to do with what is right or wrong?

Please explain your understanding of the words "right" and "wrong".


Never mind.


"Right" and "wrong" are determined by a person's "wanting/not wanting". No person wants to be killed, so according to every person, it is wrong. There is no subjectivity if there is only one, possible response.
0 Replies
 
echi
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Oct, 2006 12:59 pm
agrote wrote:
echi wrote:
agrote wrote:
You're making the assumption that it is wrong to cause other people to suffer. On what basis are you making this assumption?
It's not an assumption. It's a fact that people don't like to suffer.


Please read my post more carefully. I didn't say that you were making the assumption that people don't like to suffer. I agree that people don't like to suffer. I said that you are making the assumption that it is wrong to cause other people to suffer. On what basis are you making this assumption?


There is universal consensus that it is wrong to cause other human beings to suffer because we are able to recognize our likeness to other human beings.
0 Replies
 
Doktor S
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Oct, 2006 01:18 pm
I find the fact that there are still people that believe right and wrong in terms of 'morality' are objectively grounded to 'the universe' somehow mind boggling.

I get the same feeling when I think of flat earthers. Get real.
0 Replies
 
snood
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Oct, 2006 01:48 pm
Yeah, its so demonstrably much more reasonable to declare oneself the God of one's own religion.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Oct, 2006 01:52 pm
echi wrote:
It's not an assumption. It's a fact that people don't like to suffer.


Well, that's not entirely true. One needs to refer to degrees of suffering. Some people not only like to suffer, they pay others to inflict pain on them. These people are referred to as masochists. I understand the point you are attempting to make, but it runs into the same problem as the assertion that there is any absolute standard of morality. That is that the statement cannot necessarily be universally applied.
0 Replies
 
echi
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Oct, 2006 02:42 pm
Setanta wrote:

Some people not only like to suffer, they pay others to inflict pain on them.



Is it correct to call it "suffering" or "pain" if it meets the person's preference?
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Oct, 2006 02:49 pm
Unless an until you can demonstrate that the neural activity is different, and that the perception of the victim is different, yes, it is. After all, with a masochist, the definition is that the person is seeking pain, is seeking to suffer. What problem do you have with the definition?
0 Replies
 
echi
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Oct, 2006 03:28 pm
A person driven to masochism must be driven for a reason. If their self-injury relieves a severe pain, it would be a satisfying experience and one they would want to go back to.
0 Replies
 
Eorl
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Oct, 2006 05:49 pm
snood wrote:
Yeah, its so demonstrably much more reasonable to declare oneself the God of one's own religion.


It's certainly more reasonable than following the reported word of an imaginary one !!!
0 Replies
 
Doktor S
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Oct, 2006 06:13 pm
snood wrote:
Yeah, its so demonstrably much more reasonable to declare oneself the God of one's own religion.

Look, since you seem so intent on dropping slanderous one liners in regards to my beliefs (regardless of the topic) in response to every single post I make, (stalker, anyone?) at least do some basic research on the subject first so you cease to come off as a complete moron. Just some friendly advice, 'bro'.

Me, I may slam religion, but not without solid reasons stemming from knowing what the hell I am talking about in the first place. You should take notes.
0 Replies
 
RexRed
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Oct, 2006 10:57 pm
If you think that murder is "right" than will you be the first volunteer to let some blood thirsty low life murderer to take your own life?

Your proposition sounds like pure anarchy to me. Mutual consent and maturity side on caution and principle and not just emotion.

There are the consequences and "the cost" to take into consideration when deciding what is right and wrong.

These are not just social constructs they are rules for survival and civilization not something to be just taken lightly.

As people mature they (for the most part) move from the purely emotional adolescents toward highly intellectual adults.

That takes stopping and thinking about things before one blindly follows into foolhardy and reckless behavior.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Oct, 2006 11:03 pm
Re: There are no objective moral truths.
agrote wrote:
joefromchicago wrote:
That's going to make for a very short dissertation.


I wish people would stop saying that. Rolling Eyes

If people are saying that, then maybe you should start listening to them.

agrote wrote:
Entire books have been written on this topic before; for example, The Myth of Morality by Richard Joyce.

My dissertation will be between 7,500 and 10,000 words (if the topic is approved by the department).

No doubt books have been written around the argument that there is no such thing as morality, but I doubt that they've been written from your perspective.

And what sort of dissertation is 7,500 words? Sounds more like a senior thesis than any kind of post-graduate dissertation.

agrote wrote:
The average non-philosopher frequently uses sentences such as "killing is wrong." These sentences are of the same kind as "this desk is brown." They are both propositions which assert facts, are they not?

They may both assert facts, but they don't assert the same kind of facts. "The desk is brown" is based upon sense perception: one asserts that the desk is brown because one sees the desk and ascertains its color. On the other hand, when one says "killing is wrong" there is no sense perception involved. In other words, one cannot hear, see, smell, touch, or taste the "wrongness" of killing. If one asserts that "killing is wrong" is a fact, it is a kind of fact very different from the kind asserted in the statement "the desk is brown."

Now, from what I can gather here (and correct me if I am mistaken), you seem to think that the two statements do assert the same kind of fact, i.e. that there are "moral facts" that are ascertainable in the same way that the color of a desk is ascertainable. I think that's impossible, and that you're setting up a strawman argument if you think that other people make take that position. But I'm willing to be convinced otherwise.

agrote wrote:
I don't know enough about philosophy of ethics yet to know whether or not moral philosophers are going around looking for "moral facts." But it is clear to me that common sense morality does imply that there are moral facts.

If by "moral facts" you mean a statement based on a deductive argument, like "killing is wrong, then I think you're right -- there are such "moral facts." But if that's the case, then you're going to have to make a much more convincing argument than simply saying "there are no such facts," since, as I pointed out above, such an argument would also suggest that there are no deductive facts at all. And I'm not sure if you're willing to sacrifice the truth of "2 plus 2 equals 4" so that you can eliminate the truth of "killing is wrong."

agrote wrote:
Lots of people believe in moral facts, or they at least use language which implies that there are moral facts. So my argument that there are no moral facts is not a case of strawman bashing.

People believe a lot of silly things. Why people believe those things, however, is a matter for psychologists, not philosophers.

agrote wrote:
Quote:
What? Are you seriously espousing something like Platonic forms?


I don't know very much about Platonic forms. Please explain what you are saying.

You plan on writing a "dissertation" on a philosophic topic and you don't know what Platonic forms are? Excuse my mild astonishment here, but what exactly are they teaching you at your school?

Allow me to fill this gap in your education. In short, Plato believed that attributes such as "beauty" or "justice" existed in a pure form, so that, when we talk about something being "beautiful" or "just," the thing is "beautiful" or "just" insofar as it partakes in the form of "beauty" or "justice." Thus, something is "beautiful" to the extent that it nearly approximates the ideal form of "beauty." How we know how close the beautiful thing approximates the ideal form is open to some question (Plato wasn't entirely clear on this point), but one possibility is that we are either born with the sense of ideal forms or that we have some sense perception of them. If, then, you think that "moral facts" are perceptible in the same way that the color of a desk is perceptible, then one is entitled to ask whether you espousing something like Platonic forms.

For more information, see this link.

agrote wrote:
Quote:
...being "ok" implies some sort of moral or ethical standard.


How so?

If a behaviour is neither right nor wrong, what is it? Can't I use the word "okay"? I don't think that "it is okay to do x" is the same as "it is right to do x".

If a behavior is neither right nor wrong, then it is morally indifferent. A morally indifferent act would be just as ok to do as not to do, so saying that it is ok to do something that is morally indifferent is telling us nothing that we did not already know. You can still say it, but I don't understand why you'd bother.
0 Replies
 
 

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