• Welcome to the new Internet Infidels Discussion Board, formerly Talk Freethought.

FORGIVENESS

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
There is a difference between moral rules (which apply to all humans) and local rules (which do not).

It's highly dubious to arbitrarily and selectively use the term 'moral' only for certain rules that might better fit with your claims, and not use the word for those that don't, especially when one minute you're counting up and citing the attitudes of other people, expressed in your favourite terms (everyday language), about what are and aren't moral issues, and the next minute ignoring that and conveniently making up your own personal, limited definitions to suit instead.

ruby sparks said:
And things like "what consenting adults do behind closed doors is no one else's moral business but theirs."
Excellent example!
When people say things like that, even if they do not realize it, they are making a vanilla moral assessment, and they are implying that those who promote the belief that that it is immoral to, say, have same-sex sex, are both mistaken and behaving immorally!!!

No. They could (and speaking for myself, I would) only be saying the exact same thing about those people, that their views in turn, about the sorts of things I listed, including the one above, are relative to their personal judgements or prejudices or their culture or upbringing or whatever. They or I may be disagreeing, sure, but what neither they nor I are necessarily saying is that there is an independent morally-real fact of the matter, which is the point at hand.

Your claim that almost all humans, except for a minuscule number, are moral realists is (not for the first time) questionable, because many people are moral relativists, and possibly pluralists, about many moral issues.

Now, if you want to say most people are moral realists about certain, selected things then fine, that's uncontroversial and was agreed a long way back in the thread, but please then stop using the word 'morality' as if it covered, you know, morality generally.

And so morality is perhaps not really so different from gustatory taste, in that there as there are some things almost all people would agree are immoral, so there are some meals that almost all humans would agree are disgusting. Similarly, perhaps, with beauty, where severe disfigurement would be widely agreed not to be beautiful, possibly disgusting and certainly, in the end, 'a strong reason not to reproduce with this individual'. This is especially true in the rest of the animal kingdom, where unless you look the part (literally look 'fit') you won't get sex. It is also where human 'disgust' and its neural correlates, apparently applies across several domains.

And if it were merely the case (as it seems to be) that people more often had stronger views on morality one way or the other than on gustatory taste or beauty, that of course could say nothing at all about moral facts, let alone independent ones. There could be other reasons, to do with beliefs in free will for example (the human psychological need to have someone to blame), or simply because it may not, as often, matter so much in terms of consequences (potential or actual) whether something is tasty or beautiful. As with gustatory taste, certain (not all, as we have shown) moral issues could merely have more import vis-a-vis maximising chances of surviving and thriving, and we would have an evolutionary explanation for the manifestation of certain imperatives (including about what to eat and not eat, who to have sex with and not have sex with, etc). This is not in dispute.

But we went through all this stuff about moral 'facts' a long time ago, and I agreed there were some. Lately we've been talking specifically about independence. So getting back to that point, you have not yet shown independence from human attitudes in any of your scenarios. And the fundamental differences with something like illness and disease remain.

Although for the umpteenth time, a candidate rule ("my/our continued existence = good") that is at least arguably the basis for morality was suggested by someone quite a while back and has been discussed (I even started a thread on it) and you have for some reason not picked up on it, even though it's independent of attitudes and as such should be right up your street.
 
Last edited:

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
Moral objectivism across the lifespan
https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.e...9dd1f56e72850265d16c6afddd53e8fa024ed983e04ff

Screen Shot 2020-02-29 at 13.18.12.png

Screen Shot 2020-02-29 at 13.17.54.png

The above study (2500 participants, ages ranging from the very young to the very old, hence the title) showed that Statements of non-moral facts were more strongly deemed (correctly or mistakenly) to have objective answers (one way or the other) than moral statements, and that moral statements were more strongly deemed to have objective answers than statements on matters of taste.

However, there did not seem to be a strong consensus on whether there were objective answers for most of the statements. For example, none of the moral statements went above 80% and most were below 50%.

Note that this is only a measure of what is intuitively or otherwise deemed by the participants, only reflects their assessments of the objectivity of various types of statement, and does not say anything about whether there are or are not objective answers in each case.

There was also variation according to the specific statement. For example, the 'taste' statements, "Beethoven was a better musician than Britney Spears is" and "Barack Obama is a better public speaker than George W. Bush" were more strongly deemed to have an objective answer than the 'ethical' statements, "Anonymously donating a significant portion of one’s income to charity is morally good" and "Assisting in the death of a friend who has a disease for which there is no known cure and who is in terrible pain and wants to die is morally permissible."

There is also empirical evidence (in that study and in others referred to in it) which suggests that attributed degrees of objectivity/relativity vary according to other things such as age, gender and cultural distance from the issue.

This suggests that saying either that people generally tend to be (a) moral realists or objectivists, or (b) moral relativists or pluralists, is either inaccurate or too simplistic, and that it depends on the specific issue at hand, and other variables.
 
Last edited:

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
The fragmented folk: More evidence of stable individual differences in moral judgments and folk intuitions
https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/ae...447.575377287.1582970272-219494047.1580946145

From that paper:

"Moral Scenario: John and Fred are members of different cultures, and they are in an argument. John says, “It’s okay to hit people just because you feel like it,” and Fred says, “No, it is not okay to hit people just because you feel like it.” John then says, “Look you are wrong. Everyone I know agrees that it’s okay to do that.” Fred responds, “Oh no, you are the one who is mistaken. Everyone I know agrees that it’s not okay to do that.”

and later...

"Participants [in the study, 115 US students] could respond that either one of the participants [John and Fred] in the debate was right, or they could respond that neither one was right because there is no fact of the matter. Those who responded that one of the two people in the debate was right were coded as objectivists, and those who responded that neither party to the debate was right were coded as non- objectivists.

Replicating Nichols, we found that a substantial number of people (N = 79, 69%) gave a non-objectivist answer to the moral scenario, while a minority (N = 36, 31%) gave the objectivist answer."


and later....

"Our primary concern was if stable individual differences accounted, at least in part, for these responses. They did. Those who scored high in openness to experience were much more likely to respond as non-objectivists...."

and

"Thus, differences in personalities tended to be associated with different moral intuitions."


I am very surprised that such a high percentage of responders gave non-objectivist answers to such a scenario, one which I would have expected most people to be moral objectivists about. The figure for non-objectivists is so high that I personally am inclined to be a bit sceptical about it.

Nevertheless, I have been reading a number of studies and there appears to be one common theme, namely, whatever the percentages either way (and they vary) people seem to be (a) more inclined towards moral realism for certain moral issues and (b) more inclined towards moral relativism for other moral issues.

And in both cases (a & b) individual personality traits, age, gender, culture, etc seem to be among the variables.
 
Last edited:

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
After objectivity: an empirical study of moral judgment
http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.404.9797&rep=rep1&type=pdf

In a smaller prior study from 2004 (with only 40 participants, again US students) using the same John & Fred 'it's ok to hit' scenario, the results were 42% non-objectivist responses and 58% objectivist.

Again, for something as apparently uncomplicatedly 'bad' as 'hitting someone because you feel like it' I'd have expected an even lower non-objectivist percentage. I would not have thought of put 'hitting someone because you feel like it' on my previous list of 'scenarios with a moral aspect about which people do not necessarily agree there is an independent fact of the matter'.

It has been said that college students are a particular sort of subgroup, one in which the members might be above-averagely inclined towards moral non-objectivism because they are inclined towards non-objectivism in general, about a number of things (but not obvious conventional facts, such as the earth not being flat, all the participants in the above study agreed on that). Infants, by contrast, seem to be moral objectivists. If so, something would seem to have happened to the default settings at some point between infancy and college. Moral realist critics of such experiments on college students suggest that what has happened is confusion, that college students are merely confused. I am not sure about that. It seems equally possible that something has been developed and nuanced. Also, the first study (post 102 above) was both large and involved participants of all ages.
 
Last edited:

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
Revisiting Folk Moral Realism (2016)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5486533/

"According to the argument from moral experience, ordinary people experience morality as realist-seeming, and we have therefore prima facie reason to believe that realism is true. Some proponents of this argument have claimed that the hypothesis that ordinary people experience morality as realist-seeming is supported by psychological research on folk metaethics. While most recent research has been thought to contradict this claim, four prominent earlier studies indeed seem to suggest a tendency towards realism. In this paper I provided a detailed internal critique of these four studies. I argued that, once interpreted properly, all of them turn out in line with recent research. They suggest that most ordinary people experience morality as pluralist- rather than realist-seeming, i.e., that ordinary people have the intuition that realism is true with regard to some moral issues, but variants of anti-realism are true with regard to others."
 

Angra Mainyu

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2006
Messages
4,069
Location
Buenos Aires
Basic Beliefs
non-theist
ruby sparks said:
No. They could (and speaking for myself, I would) only be saying the exact same thing about those people, that their views in turn, about the sorts of things I listed, including the one above, are relative to their personal judgements or prejudices or their culture or upbringing or whatever. They or I may be disagreeing, sure, but what neither they nor I are necessarily saying is that there is an independent morally-real fact of the matter, which is the point at hand.
No, that is not what they are saying. Remember, they are saying that "what consenting adults do behind closed doors is no one else's moral business but theirs.". What does the expression "is no one else's moral business but theirs" means? It means it is morally wrong to condemn them for that behavior! What else could an expression like that mean?

How about you provide some real examples of that usage?

ruby sparks said:
Your claim that almost all humans, except for a minuscule number, are moral realists is (not for the first time) questionable, because many people are moral relativists, and possibly pluralists, about many moral issues.
No, I say a minuscule proportion, not number. "Many" in a population of billions could be less than 1/1000 of the population.

ruby sparks said:
Now, if you want to say most people are moral realists about certain, selected things then fine, that's uncontroversial and was agreed a long way back in the thread, but please then stop using the word 'morality' as if it covered, you know, morality generally.
No, because if I did that, I would be lying. I'm not going to stop saying what I think.



ruby sparks said:
And if it were merely the case (as it seems to be) that people more often had stronger views on morality one way or the other than on gustatory taste or beauty, that of course could say nothing at all about moral facts, let alone independent ones.
It is not just more often. Humans normally believe that there is a fact of the matter as to whether some behavior is immoral. This is an empirical question. You like science? Take a look at how people behave. Even those (very small percentage) who claim there is no fact of the matter, the next moment they are making moral judgments and of coruse they believe there is a fact of the matter (it's just that their ideology sometimes gets in the way).


ruby sparks said:
But we went through all this stuff about moral 'facts' a long time ago, and I agreed there were some. Lately we've been talking specifically about independence. So getting back to that point, you have not yet shown independence from human attitudes in any of your scenarios. And the fundamental differences with something like illness and disease remain.
No, I already showed your mistakes on the matter. I do not need to show independence. It is obvious. The burden would be entirely on you, But still, I did show it. And I also showed that the distinctions you want to make with disease fail.

ruby sparks said:
Although for the umpteenth time, a candidate rule ("my/our continued existence = good") that is at least arguably the basis for morality was suggested by someone quite a while back and has been discussed (I even started a thread on it) and you have for some reason not picked up on it, even though it's independent of attitudes and as such should be right up your street.
Because that is obviously not true, and not even relevant to the matter at hand. If Jack is a serial killer, his continued existence is bad. If he reckons that it is a morally good thing, he is mistaken.
 

Angra Mainyu

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2006
Messages
4,069
Location
Buenos Aires
Basic Beliefs
non-theist
ruby sparks said:
Note that this is only a measure of what is intuitively or otherwise deemed by the participants, only reflects their assessments of the objectivity of various types of statement, and does not say anything about whether there are or are not objective answers in each case.
If it were that, it would be bad enough, because it would be about the subjects' explicit theory, not about how they actually behave (i.e., there is a fact of the matter).
However, it is worse. The answers to the question that are not ethical ones should be an obvious clue: a very significant percentage of participants, very likely most, are not really answering the question that the researchers believe. Whose fault the misunderstanding is is a different matter. But let us take a look at the so-called 'factual' questions ('so-called' not because they are not, but because the very classification indicates an obvious bias against moral facts by the researchers).

Let us take a look at the statements:


3. Julius Caesar did not drink wine on his 21st birthday.​
Seriously, the study says that about 40% of participants said it was possible for both to be correct. Do you think the study is reliable, or something went wrong and they just did not understand the question? It seems pretty obvious to me they did not understand, or else something is very, very wrong with their heads (not so likely).

Now consider this one:


1. Frequent exercise usually helps people to lose weight.
Only about 25% says if someone says this is so, and someone says it is not so, then at least one of them is mistaken. So, what is happening? Either they also misunderstood massively, or else, they reckon that in different contexts, a person asserting that might be talking about different things, etc., about people in different situations. If it's another massive misunderstanding, well there is that, whereas if they believed people may be talking about different circumstances, okay, just the same can happen in the moral case. For example, compare that with:



9. Anonymously donating a significant portion of one's income to charity is morally good.​
Well, is it? That depends on the circumstances. If you have a family, probably it is morally wrong to make them poor by giving instead to strangers. Perhaps, the participants are also assessing whether the people asserting 9. might be talking about different circumstances (see above).

Here's from the study
http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~jbeebe2/Beebe Sackris MOAL.pdf (this is a link that actually works; I post it because the one you posted doesn't work for me, and I'm not sure whether it works for others):


study said:
More participants attributedobjectivity to some ethical claims than to some factual claims. For example, participants were on the whole more confident that someone had to be wrong in a disagreement about racial discrimination, robbing a bank, or hitting someone than in adisagreement about global warming (.39) or human evolution (.59).
In short, according to this, the percentage of people in the study who believe there is a fact of the matter as to whether it is immoral to treat someone poorly on the basis of the race is much higher than the percentage of people who believe there is a fact of the matter as to whether humans evolved from "more primitive primate species", or whether global warming is primarily due to human activity. What's going on here? Why these judgments? The problem is not only the percentage of people who apparently agree there is a fact of the matter in the moral case (that's problematic for being too low). The problem is the percentage of people who reckon there isn't in the other cases. The problem: far too high; it just makes not sense...unless of course, participants are merely saying that words like "more primitive" or "primarily" may be used to talk about different stuff in different contexts, so people who apparently disagree about those things might just be talking past each other. But if so, then the same might be happening in the moral case, and not because each moral term has more than one ordinary meaning - they do not -, but because the other, nonmoral terms in those sentences sometimes do.

In short, this study is not measuring what it is supposed to.


ruby sparks said:
This suggests that saying either that people generally tend to be (a) moral realists or objectivists, or (b) moral relativists or pluralists, is either inaccurate or too simplistic, and that it depends on the specific issue at hand, and other variables.
Would you say the same about whether Julius Caesar drank wine on his 21st birthday, or any of the other statements called 'factual' in the study?
It seems much more likely that the study just is not doing what it is supposed to be doing.
 
Last edited:

Angra Mainyu

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2006
Messages
4,069
Location
Buenos Aires
Basic Beliefs
non-theist
https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/ae...447.575377287.1582970272-219494047.1580946145

study said:
We gave 115 volunteers in lower level philosophy classes at Florida State University a brief Big Five personality measure (Gosling, Rentfrow, & Swann, 2003) along with the following scenarios from Nichols (2004):
Volunteers in lower level philosophy classes are not at all representative of the general population. They may well have read enough to fall into some flawed ideology and reject moral realism. The vast majority of people never read anything about metaethics. Sure, they got 69% of people who said there was no fact of the matter as to whether it was okay to hit people just because you feel like it. Some limitations in the design of the experiment weaken the result, but sure, this provides some significant evidence that volunteers in lower level philosophy classes at Florida State University (and the same would happen in most philosophy classes in most universities in the West, very probably) have a belief in some form of anti realism (they were limited in their options, so the form of antirealism cannot be inferred, other than it's not an error theory in the traditional sense). But that does not match how people (even those students) usually behave, in their actual lives when making moral judgments, not when participating in experiments that clearly involve their RIP. It's their religion-like belief.


ruby sparks said:
I am very surprised that such a high percentage of responders gave non-objectivist answers to such a scenario, one which I would have expected most people to be moral objectivists about. The figure for non-objectivists is so high that I personally am inclined to be a bit sceptical about it.
Well, there is the design limitation that they were only allowed to say "Participants could respond that either one of the participants in the debate was right, or they could respond that neither one was right because there is no fact of the matter", and were not allowed sophisticated forms of anti-realism. However, I don't find the results surprising. Universities in the West seem to be increasingly under the grip of a leftist ideology (or rather, a contradictory set of those), and a fuzzy sort of antirealism is part of some of them - only to be contradicted by other parts of the ideologies, but never mind.
 

Angra Mainyu

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2006
Messages
4,069
Location
Buenos Aires
Basic Beliefs
non-theist
http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.404.9797&rep=rep1&type=pdf
ruby sparks said:
In a smaller prior study from 2004 (with only 40 participants, again US students) using the same John & Fred 'it's ok to hit' scenario, the results were 42% non-objectivist responses and 58% objectivist.

Again, for something as apparently uncomplicatedly 'bad' as 'hitting someone because you feel like it' I'd have expected an even lower non-objectivist percentage. I would not have thought of put 'hitting someone because you feel like it' on my previous list of 'scenarios with a moral aspect about which people do not necessarily agree there is an independent fact of the matter'.
These are not just Western university students, but philosophy students. The result would be unsurprising, if that were the result. That said, there is a design flaw, so who knows the real percentage. The study gives the following option:

study said:
There is no fact of the matter about unqualified claims like "It's okay to hit people just because you feel like it". Different cultures believe different things, and it is not absolutely true or false that it’s okay to hitpeople just because you feel like it.
This has two problems (at least):

1. It plays the 'culture' card. Students are very likely under a religion/ideology that says 'no culture is superior to another', so they are very likely to back away whenever two different cultures are mentioned. It's not how they behaved in real life.
2. This leaves open hat they think there is a fact of the matter as to whether it is immoral for people of culture X to hit people just because the beater feels like it. This would not lead to a 'no fact of the matter' scenario, but there is no option for them to express their beliefs.



study said:
The import of the foregoing evidence for our purposes is simply that a nontrivialpopulation of undergraduates endorse a nonobjectivist claim about a moral violationwithout endorsing a full blown metaphysical nonobjectivism
Well, sure, but that's the prevalent religion/ideology, so that is unsurprising. What one would need to study is the behavior of those students 'in the wild', e.g., when they engage in actual moral debates, in order to get more information.


That said, here is what the researchers also say:

study said:
Moral objectivity, then, is plausibly a default setting on commonsense metaethics.As a result, the rejection of moral objectivity exacts a revision of commonsensemetaethics.
Then they go on to say there is a "thriving" tradition in philosophy that argues against moral objectivism (and the author of this study is among them), so despite the bias, he recognizes it's "plausibly" a default setting (I think "plausibly" is far too weak, but I'd like to point out that even this philosopher is saying that).



ruby sparks said:
It has been said that college students are a particular sort of subgroup, one in which the members might be above-averagely inclined towards moral non-objectivism because they are inclined towards non-objectivism in general, about a number of things (but not obvious conventional facts, such as the earth not being flat, all the participants in the above study agreed on that). Infants, by contrast, seem to be moral objectivists. If so, something would seem to have happened to the default settings at some point between infancy and college. Moral realist critics of such experiments on college students suggest that what has happened is confusion, that college students are merely confused. I am not sure about that. It seems equally possible that something has been developed and nuanced. Also, the first study (post 102 above) was both large and involved participants of all ages.
Recently, I was talking to two very intelligent math students close to their PhD. Not only are they moral anti-realists, but they believe other than mathematics, we have no knowledge of anything. Of course, their behavior indicates they also believe otherwise - and they have obviously contradictory beliefs - about that, and many other things. I debated one of them over lunch (his wanted to debate :)), pointing out their contradictions, and so on (while another student literally laughed out loud when I asked them questions they couldn't answer without talking what even to them was obvious nonsense). So, they said we didn't know whether there was a table between us, whether we were eating, or whether there were cars parked outside, things like that (paraphrasing, I don't remember all the details, but they denied knowledge of the most obvious things). So, I ask '? 'Do you know what you did a minute ago?', which of course they deny: memories could be fake. They say we only have mathematical knowledge. But how, I asked? You follow a difficult proof, and you know it's correct, right? But how do you know you actually followed the proof, rather than having fake memories? The reply of course does not address it, but it's an evasion, that 'math is certain', or whatever. They didn't like it, and we didn't talk about that ever again. I on the other hand, don't want to talk to them about that again. It's pointless, and it creates tension for nothing. Their beliefs remain unchanged. They are beyond persuasion. And they're very, very intelligent. Such is life. :( Ideologies/religions are like that.



ETA: Actually, another study you link to (or rather, a study of the studies), sees the second problem I identify above, and goes further to claim:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5486533/
another study said:
In sum, then, rather than the proportion of realist versus anti-realist responses, Nichols’ study seems to have mainly measured the proportion of realist versus cultural relativist responses.
 
Last edited:

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
No, that is not what they are saying. Remember, they are saying that "what consenting adults do behind closed doors is no one else's moral business but theirs.". What does the expression "is no one else's moral business but theirs" means? It means it is morally wrong to condemn them for that behavior! What else could an expression like that mean?

As I said before, sure, it's a judgement, a deeming, an opinion in the end, which could be held with varying degrees of conviction So what though? A moral realist is saying there's an independent moral fact of the matter and a moral relativist isn't. After all, saying 'there is no independent moral fact of the matter' is also a judgement, and a common one, and one that can be held with strong conviction.

In any case, strength of convictions is no guide to truth, not least because they could be heavily influenced by emotions, or any number of other factors (many of which have been listed) or even merely accepted to be part of the opinion-holder's moral framework. So even if people did generally talk of moral issues 'as if' there was a right or wrong answer, that would say nothing about whether there was or wasn't. That basis for claiming moral realism is therefore ropey from the get go.

Not only that, but it appears from empirical research not to even be the case. There is apparently more moral relativism in 'ordinary, commonsense, folk morality' than morally realist philosophers asserted there was.

What appears to be the case is that people are more inclined towards moral realism about some moral issues and more inclined towards moral relativism about others, and there are a range of factors and variables which correlate to both. Do you not agree with that statement?

The many people who say, about some moral issues, 'there is no independent moral fact of the matter either way' are not just going to go away, or their views become invalid, merely because they are inconvenient to your claims.

If you do actually agree that the human brain is the proper tool to assess these issues and that people's everyday language is the proper standard then using your own criteria you should not be discounting the judgements of such people.

And saying that certain biases or ideologies are the problem is only missing the point because everyone has biases. They are partly what make up personalities, and differences in personalities appears to be one factor that influences moral judgements, including the judgement as to how relative or objective a certain claim is, or whether there even is or isn't an independent fact of the matter about something.

I do not need to show independence. It is obvious.

You failed to show it.



I don't have time right now to reply to all our other points. I may later if I have time. In all honesty, apart from the issue of independence, I am not even sure what we are disagreeing about.
 
Last edited:

The AntiChris

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 22, 2002
Messages
734
Location
UK
Basic Beliefs
Positive Atheist
ETA: Actually, another study you link to (or rather, a study of the studies), sees the second problem I identify above, and goes further to claim:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5486533/
another study said:
In sum, then, rather than the proportion of realist versus anti-realist responses, Nichols’ study seems to have mainly measured the proportion of realist versus cultural relativist responses.

The same 'study of the studies' you cited, "Revisiting Folk Moral Realism", concludes:

Revisiting Folk Moral Realism said:
I argued that, once interpreted properly, all of them [the four studies critiqued by Polzler] turn out in line with recent research. They suggest that most ordinary people experience morality as pluralist- rather than realist-seeming, i.e., that ordinary people have the intuition that realism is true with regard to some moral issues, but variants of anti-realism are true with regard to others.
 

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
ruby sparks said:
Although for the umpteenth time, a candidate rule ("my/our continued existence = good") that is at least arguably the basis for morality was suggested by someone quite a while back and has been discussed (I even started a thread on it) and you have for some reason not picked up on it, even though it's independent of attitudes and as such should be right up your street.
Because that is obviously not true, and not even relevant to the matter at hand. If Jack is a serial killer, his continued existence is bad. If he reckons that it is a morally good thing, he is mistaken.
Sure, he may be mistaken, just as a person who thought it was ok to kill for fun would be mistaken. In the latter case, if I cited such a person as an exception to the rule that killing for fun is bad, you would disallow it but say the rule was intact, but here you are not only now citing such a person but also suggesting the rule is not intact because of that. If you're going to disallow or allow exceptions, do it consistently.

But in a way, it's irrelevant. The serial killer in this case is still applying the rule. Unlike in any of your scenarios, the rule is truly, fully attitude-independent, that is the point. That the rule is also at least the basis for morality (which is what I am claiming) is also not undermined by the serial killer's use of it. It could even be said to further demonstrate the extent of the rule's independence.

Would you say the same about whether Julius Caesar drank wine on his 21st birthday, or any of the other statements called 'factual' in the study?
It seems much more likely that the study just is not doing what it is supposed to be doing.

Yes, I would agree there's something odd going on there. The researchers suggest that 'unknowability' is dampening assessments of objectivity, when it shouldn't. It is therefore possible that the experiment as a whole may not be measuring what it claims to be measuring.

However, because I have read quite a number of studies, including the few I posted, and despite there being the possibility of flaws of different sorts in each of them, as there equally may be in studies which obtain different or opposite results, because the issue is clearly complicated and open to contention, I am overall still happy with the claims that (a) there is more than a minuscule proportion of actual moral non-objectivists out there and (b) that people are more inclined towards moral objectivism for certain things and more inclined towards moral non-objectivism for others.

Quite apart from anything else, I feel it describes my own views, and it would be my guess, based anecdotally on my own experiences, that I am far from unusual.

Earlier you suggested is that there is a difference between what you called 'moral rules' and 'local rules'. That confused me, but thinking about it later I thought you probably meant 'universal (species-wide) moral rules' and 'local, perhaps culturally-relative moral rules', not that one sort of rule was to do with morality and the other wasn't.

If so, that might, in principle, be a useful way to distinguish between rules that people are more objectivist about and rules that they are more non-objectivist about, and you and I may have some common ground about that. Although I expect the distinctions between the two types of rule may be somewhat fuzzy and the reasons complicated.
 
Last edited:

Angra Mainyu

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2006
Messages
4,069
Location
Buenos Aires
Basic Beliefs
non-theist
The same 'study of the studies' you cited, "Revisiting Folk Moral Realism", concludes:

Revisiting Folk Moral Realism said:
I argued that, once interpreted properly, all of them [the four studies critiqued by Polzler] turn out in line with recent research. They suggest that most ordinary people experience morality as pluralist- rather than realist-seeming, i.e., that ordinary people have the intuition that realism is true with regard to some moral issues, but variants of anti-realism are true with regard to others.

That is correct, but I'm not sure what your point is. The 'study of studies' (actually, a philosophical study) that ruby sparks brought up makes a number of claims, some with which I agree, others (most of the important ones) not.
 

Angra Mainyu

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2006
Messages
4,069
Location
Buenos Aires
Basic Beliefs
non-theist
ruby sparks said:
As I said before, sure, it's a judgement, a deeming, an opinion in the end, which could be held with varying degrees of conviction So what though? A moral realist is saying there's an independent moral fact of the matter and a moral relativist isn't. After all, saying 'there is no independent moral fact of the matter' is also a judgement, and a common one, and one that can be held with strong conviction.
You seem to have lost track of this part of the exchange.

In this post you claimed:

ruby sparks said:
Because once we move away from what are generally considered (deemed) and widely agreed (by humans) to be very clear moral wrongs, there are a lot of deemed-to-be-lesser behaviours that are considered to have a moral aspect, but it is often agreed that there is no independent moral fact of the matter about them either way.
One of the alleged examples you provided (i.e., when allegedly it is "agreed that there is no independent moral fact of the matter about them either way."), is the following:

ruby sparks said:
And things like "what consenting adults do behind closed doors is no one else's moral business but theirs."
My point is that you got that wrong. That is not an example in which people agree that there is no independent moral fact of the matter (whatever 'independent' means in your terminology); rather, it is a case in which people are making an ordinary moral judgment. They are saying that "what consenting adults do behind closed doors is no one else's moral business but theirs.". What does the expression "is no one else's moral business but theirs" means? It means it is morally wrong to condemn them for that behavior!


ruby sparks said:
Not only that, but it appears from empirical research not to even be the case. There is apparently more moral relativism in 'ordinary, commonsense, folk morality' than morally realist philosophers asserted there was.
I think the studies are poorly designed for the reasons I've been explaining, but even then show far more culture-relativism (which would not result in 'no fact of the matter'), than speaker-relativism.

ruby sparks said:
What appears to be the case is that people are more inclined towards moral realism about some moral issues and more inclined towards moral relativism about others, and there are a range of factors and variables which correlate to both. Do you not agree with that statement?
No, I think the studies are poorly designed for the reasons I've been explaining. It is true that among anti-realists, slipping into realism happens more often in some matters than others, depending on other factors of their ideology.

ruby sparks said:
If you do actually agree that the human brain is the proper tool to assess these issues and that people's everyday language is the proper standard then using your own criteria you should not be discounting the judgements of such people.
As in any case of moral disagreement, I look at behavior, other things they say along side them, etc., to figure what's going on. In the studies, this is very difficult to do, because they ask questions and there is no follow-up, no conversation to look at, etc. However, from the replies to other things as well, it should be apparent that some the studies are poorly designed because the people in question - a very large percentage of them - do not understand them to mean what the researchers ask.
In other cases, they are just asking philosophy students about metaethics. It's like asking Christians about ethics that involve Biblical claims. You're bound to get skewed responses, but that's because they're using a wrong tool: religion/ideology.
 

Angra Mainyu

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2006
Messages
4,069
Location
Buenos Aires
Basic Beliefs
non-theist
ruby sparks said:
Sure, he may be mistaken, just as a person who thought it was ok to kill for fun would be mistaken. In the latter case, if I cited such a person as an exception to the rule that killing for fun is bad, you would disallow it but say the rule was intact, but here you are not only now citing such a person but also suggesting the rule is not intact because of that. If you're going to disallow or allow exceptions, do it consistently.
Recap?
I know that I have been consistent, but I cannot defend a specific part of the exchange from the charge of inconsistency unless you let me know what part you are talking about.

ruby sparks said:
But in a way, it's irrelevant. The serial killer in this case is still applying the rule. Unlike in any of your scenarios, the rule is truly, fully attitude-independent, that is the point. That the rule is also at least the basis for morality (which is what I am claiming) is also not undermined by the serial killer's use of it. It could even be said to further demonstrate the extent of the rule's independence.
What rule? That people reckon that their continued existence is good?
No, that is not a rule on which morality is based. Psychologically, morality is (or is the result of) rules of social behavior evolved among primates. People do not generally see themselves as having a moral obligation to continue to exist, except perhaps as long as it relates to others )(e.g., they reckon it would be wrong to commit suicide and abandon their children, in many circumstances). People who decide to commit suicide are not applying your rule, either. But even the rest of us do not generally intuitively perceive self-preservation as a moral obligation, again except in relation to potential effects on others.



ruby sparks said:
Earlier you suggested is that there is a difference between what you called 'moral rules' and 'local rules'. That confused me, but thinking about it later I thought you probably meant 'universal (species-wide) moral rules' and 'local, perhaps culturally-relative moral rules', not that one sort of rule was to do with morality and the other wasn't.
I didn't mean that. In some places, there is a rule 'take your shoes off if you enter a home as a guest', whereas in others, the rule is exactly the opposite - unless requested by the home owners. Usually (but not always, and the matter is properly assessed on a case-by-case basis), it is morally wrong to break local rules. For example, if I go to a coworker's home as a guest and take my shoes off without prompt, I definitely would be breaking a rule. And if I do it just because I feel like it, my behavior is immoral. But in other societies, that is different. The moral rule would be something like 'do not break local rules, in normal circumstances', and then a list of exceptions.
 

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
That is not an example in which people agree that there is no independent moral fact of the matter (whatever 'independent' means in your terminology); rather, it is a case in which people are making an ordinary moral judgment. They are saying that "what consenting adults do behind closed doors is no one else's moral business but theirs.". What does the expression "is no one else's moral business but theirs" means? It means it is morally wrong to condemn them for that behavior!

We have covered this already. Yes, it's a disagreement and a moral judgement, but moral relativists can and do make ordinary moral judgements. It's just that they are, in the end, in some particular cases, deemed by the relativist to be nothing more than strongly held opinions that may be held by individuals or cultures for a number of reasons, that there are different moral frameworks for certain things, in other words.

Now, that people have strongly held opinions on certain things, including, say, morality in general, and even where nearly all people have the same opinions about something, may say nothing about whether there are independent facts about it. There are, it seems, many actual moral relativists about some things.

But let's suppose, hypothetically, that humans generally are moral realists about at least some things, that there are at least some moral 'facts'. I don't have a problem with this. I agree with it. There are certain things which humans regard as having a factual, right or wrong answer in moral terms. The problem is, what does this tell us? It tells us what human beliefs are like. It does not necessarily extend to showing they are correct that there are objective, independent moral facts. Moral realism, if it relies on commonsense human intuitions, has built its house on sand, because human intuitions have often been shown to be wrong. All normal human brains are prone to and predisposed to false beliefs about the world. Science in particular shows this over and over. It's the achilles heel for the idea that human intuitions and commonsense and everyday language are the proper or best basis for realism about anything at all. The beliefs, including the ones deemed to be to do with what we call morality, may be pragmatically useful for successfully navigating the world, but that could be all it is.

More to the point, they are human intuitions. They are not independent of humans.


As in any case of moral disagreement, I look at behavior, other things they say along side them, etc., to figure what's going on. In the studies, this is very difficult to do, because they ask questions and there is no follow-up, no conversation to look at, etc. However, from the replies to other things as well, it should be apparent that some the studies are poorly designed because the people in question - a very large percentage of them - do not understand them to mean what the researchers ask.
In other cases, they are just asking philosophy students about metaethics. It's like asking Christians about ethics that involve Biblical claims. You're bound to get skewed responses, but that's because they're using a wrong tool: religion/ideology.

There are some flaws in the studies yes, but overall there are too many studies showing certain general results for it to be warranted to dismiss them out of hand.

Regarding asking students, not all the studies asked students.

I don't understand the point about religion/ideology. It does not seem to apply here, really. We don't know what the ideologies of the participants were. More to the point, everyone has biases. Most people have an ideology of some sort also. You have one. Moral realism. You may, like almost everyone, be at least somewhat dogmatic about it. We all are, about our beliefs and ideologies.

More to the point, why are you even disagreeing, when it seems we agree about the main, general takeaway result of the studies, that people are inclined to be moral objectivists about certain things and moral non-objectivists about others?
 
Last edited:

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
What rule? That people reckon that their continued existence is good?
No, that is not a rule on which morality is based.

It is odd that you can't see what is obvious.

Suppose someone or something was going to kill or harm you. You would instinctively and innately believe that was wrong and bad. So much so that you would, even before the danger had been consciously recognised, before you even formed a belief or a value judgement about it, take evasive action. That is why it's the basis.

And all living things (with a small number of exceptions) are functionally, behaviourally and effectively operating the same rule all the time, even if they are non-social species, and even if not all are capable of having experiences or value judgements associated with it.

In humans, a particular social species that has evolved the the sense capacity to (a) have experiences in the first place and (b) experience value judgements in particular, the rule becomes sensed/experienced, and later expressed, in terms of what humans call morality, and it is deemed immoral, by you and possibly others, for someone to try to kill or harm you.

It may not be the only basis or the only rule, of course. Here is a list offered by one moral philosopher:

(1) The fact that something would promote one’s survival is a reason in favor of it.
(2) The fact that something would promote the interests of a family member is a reason to do it.
(3) We have greater obligations to help our own children than we do to help complete strangers.
(4) The fact that someone has treated one well is a reason to treat that person well in return.
(5) The fact that someone is altruistic is a reason to admire, praise, and reward him or her.
(6) The fact that someone has done one deliberate harm is a reason to shun that person or seek his or her punishment.


https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/b740/5d3515695de20fb8f817434a739c9ba447fd.pdf

Treedbear's suggested example is top of the list.

They are all explainable by recourse to blind, non-teleological or 'truth-tracking' evolution and do not require the existence of independent, realist moral facts.

ruby sparks said:
Earlier you suggested is that there is a difference between what you called 'moral rules' and 'local rules'. That confused me, but thinking about it later I thought you probably meant 'universal (species-wide) moral rules' and 'local, perhaps culturally-relative moral rules', not that one sort of rule was to do with morality and the other wasn't.
I didn't mean that. In some places, there is a rule 'take your shoes off if you enter a home as a guest', whereas in others, the rule is exactly the opposite - unless requested by the home owners. Usually (but not always, and the matter is properly assessed on a case-by-case basis), it is morally wrong to break local rules. For example, if I go to a coworker's home as a guest and take my shoes off without prompt, I definitely would be breaking a rule. And if I do it just because I feel like it, my behavior is immoral. But in other societies, that is different. The moral rule would be something like 'do not break local rules, in normal circumstances', and then a list of exceptions.

I'm not sure why you chose to do shoe-wearing customs instead of one of the things on my list, such as polygamy for instance, but no matter, it seems we agree that at least some moral rules are or are deemed relative and non-objective, which is what I had said and what the evidence generally suggests.

Perhaps now we can return to the sticking point. Independence from human attitudes. None of your scenarios showed this. However, one independent (of human attitudes) rule was suggested, and now a few more have been added. It seems to me that you should be welcoming this and exploring it, not trying to counter it.

I can even suggest another. Pain = bad. Although this could arguably be subsumed into (1) as a negative, "the absence of pain is something that would promote one’s survival and so is a reason in favor of it". Pain is often seen as a good phenomenon to study because it is seen as a 'baseline' brain sensation that is universal to all normal humans (and probably other species in fact). As such, it may in principle usefully be compared to and contrasted with other brain sensations, such as those involved in our sense of morality.

In this discussion therefore, it may be interesting to ask if there is an independent realist fact about pain. Does it exist independently of organisms capable of experiencing it? Intuitively I would say no, that unlike, say, the physical or mathematical rules apparently governing the universe, there is/was no independent 'pain' in the universe, waiting to be 'discovered' by evolution or by the species which have evolved to experience it.

The existence of pain and that it is 'bad/undesirable', and therefore forms at least the basis for moral judgements about it, is explainable by recourse to blind, non-teleological or 'truth-tracking' evolution and does not require the existence of independent, realist, moral facts.
 
Last edited:

Angra Mainyu

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2006
Messages
4,069
Location
Buenos Aires
Basic Beliefs
non-theist
ruby sparks said:
But let's suppose, hypothetically, that humans generally are moral realists about at least some things, that there are at least some moral 'facts'. I don't have a problem with this. I agree with it. There are certain things which humans regard as having a factual, right or wrong answer in moral terms. The problem is, what does this tell us? It tells us what human beliefs are like. It does not necessarily extend to showing they are correct that there are objective, independent moral facts. Moral realism, if it relies on commonsense human intuitions, has built its house on sand, because human intuitions have often been shown to be wrong.
It's more than at least some things. It's what people generally believe. One should take a look at behaviors, not at studies that show people being non-realists about whether a person drinks wine or things like that.

That aside, you're repeating the same points as before, so we are going in circles. While our faculties are fallible, they get it right in the vast majority of cases, and it would be irrational to reject them without specific counter evidence. Take illness realism. People are realists about illness as well. Someone might mirror your argument and say:



But let's suppose, hypothetically, that humans generally are illness realists about at least some things, that there are at least some illness 'facts'. I don't have a problem with this. I agree with it. There are certain things which humans regard as having a factual, right or wrong answer in terms of illness/health. The problem is, what does this tell us? It tells us what human beliefs are like. It does not necessarily extend to showing they are correct that there are objective, independent illness facts. Illness realism, if it relies on commonsense human intuitions, has built its house on sand, because human intuitions have often been shown to be wrong.​

Now you can tell me that illness is different from morality, etc., and you still fail to see that the analogy is apt because the same argument that you are using against morality, if it worked, it would work against illness/health as well.

Here's another problem: You say:
ruby sparks said:
Moral realism, if it relies on commonsense human intuitions, has built its house on sand, because human intuitions have often been shown to be wrong.
If that were true, not only illness realism fails, but everything. Science and everything else relies on common sense human intuitions, like the intuition that we can generally (i.e., in nearly all cases) trust our senses, our memories, generally our faculties, and of course our epistemic intuition that allows us to make epistemic probabilistic assessments, and so on. There is no way around it. When people reject some common sense intuition on the basis of new evidence, they are actually rejecting it on the basis of new evidence and a stronger commonsense intuition (of course, in many cases, they just reject common sense moral intuitions because they are confused by RIP).



ruby sparks said:
More to the point, they are human intuitions. They are not independent of humans.
But that is a mistake again. Our illness/health intuitions are not independent of humans, either. Unless you say that other animals have them too. Sure, and then so for moral intuitions, just fewer animals. And human color vision is not independent of humans, either. But that does not mean that redness, illness, or moral wrongness are not independent in the relevant sense.

Let me try again. There are different definitions of moral realism. I would go with a simple one - which would be accepted by some but not all philosophers:


1. There is a fact of the matter as to whether a moral assessment (e.g., whether Ted Bundy was a bad person) is true (this should be understood with some tolerance for vagueness, e.g., there is a fact of the matter as to whether an animal is a lion - but there might be some vagueness, as mentioned earlier).

2. There are moral properties, e.g., some humans sometimes behave immorally, some humans sometimes behave in a morally praiseworthy manner.
Now, how would the fact that we ascertain morality by means of a human intuition make a dent on realism so defined? What does the fact that we use a human intuition - just as in the illness case, or the redness case, etc. - have any relevance at all?
 

Angra Mainyu

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2006
Messages
4,069
Location
Buenos Aires
Basic Beliefs
non-theist
ruby sparks said:
It is odd that you can't see what is obvious.

Suppose someone or something was going to kill or harm you. You would instinctively and innately believe that was wrong and bad. So much so that you would, even before the danger had been consciously recognised, before you even formed a belief or a value judgement about it, take evasive action. That is why it's the basis.
No, if a person were going to kill me, and they had no justification, I would believe that that is morally wrong. If a dog were going to kill me, I would not believe the dog is doing anything morally wrong. I would just fight back. Now, if I am a boxer, and the other boxer is going to hurt me in accordance to the rules, I would not think his actions are immoral. I would think it's bad for me, for sure. I would take evasive action when I can, but that's not even related to morality. A shark makes no moral judgments whatsoever (that is a monkey thing, not a fishy thing), but takes evasive action when attacked.

Don't you see the difference? Some animals (prominently humans) make moral judgments. That's a specific sort of judgment. The sort of thing you make and is linked to feelings of guilt, or punitive sentiments for immoral behavior, things like that. The vast majority of animals act out of self-preservation. But they make no moral judgments. And a superintelligent AI or an alien from another planet might not make them, either (or they might, depending on the sort of mind they have).


ruby sparks said:
And all living things (with a small number of exceptions) are functionally, behaviourally and effectively operating the same rule all the time, even if they are non-social species, and even if not all are capable of having experiences or value judgements associated with it.
But that's not a moral rule!


ruby sparks said:
In humans, a particular social species that has evolved the the sense capacity to (a) have experiences in the first place and (b) experience value judgements in particular, the rule becomes sensed/experienced, and later expressed, in terms of what humans call morality, and it is deemed immoral, by you and possibly others, for someone to try to kill or harm you.
No, that's not it. Human morality and generally monkey morality is a far more complex set of rules and valuations, not self-regarding only or mainly but mostly other-regarding. It evolved because in some (the minority of) social species in some particular environment.


ruby sparks said:
They are all explainable by recourse to blind, non-teleological or 'truth-tracking' evolution and do not require the existence of independent, realist moral facts.
That's not it. There are things that are being tracked. If that were not the case, then moral judgments would just go in any direction. A system of rules would not be a stable strategy if individuals cannot track the rules.

ruby sparks said:
I'm not sure why you chose to do shoe-wearing customs instead of one of the things on my list, such as polygamy for instance, but no matter, it seems we agree that at least some moral rules are or are deemed relative and non-objective, which is what I had said and what the evidence generally suggests.
No, I do not agree with that at all. But thank you, because you give an example of why the studies can go wrong. People simply do not understand what is being asked (and I did not choose polygamy because I wanted a more clear-cut case of a local rule that is immoral not to follow in ordinary cases; the matter is more debatable for polygamy). I do believe there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether such-and-such specific person in such-and-such specific situation has a moral obligation to take her shoes off. What happens is that the moral rules are very complex, so they contain a lot of details and it's difficult to find general ones. We intuitively apply them, but that's different from being able to reverse engineer them and say what they are (just as we can tell the colors of stuff, but it's very difficult to figure what reflective properties, etc., actually we are tracking).


ruby sparks said:
Perhaps now we can return to the sticking point. Independence from human attitudes. None of your scenarios showed this. However, one independent (of human attitudes) rule was suggested, and now a few more have been added. It seems to me that you should be welcoming this and exploring it, not trying to counter it.
No, I should not, because it is false and I know it is false, and does not support my position beyond the idea that they are independent of human attitudes. For that matter, someone may posit Divine Command Theory and that too makes moral properties independent from human attitudes. I would not endorse it a bit. It's false, and I know it is false.

ruby sparks said:
I can even suggest another. Pain = bad.
No, that is not it. If you are saying that in the moral sense, then actually, that depends on whose pain it is. The pain of the person being punished as they deserve is not a bad thing. It's good.


ruby sparks said:
Although this could arguably be subsumed into (1) as a negative, "the absence of pain is something that would promote one’s survival and so is a reason in favor of it".
That's not a moral reason - and no, the absense of pain may or may not be good for survival. Indeed, when something is not properly functioning, pain let us know. In general, pain has an important survival function, and it is dangerous not to be able to feel it.


ruby sparks said:
In this discussion therefore, it may be interesting to ask if there is an independent realist fact about pain. Does it exist independently of organisms capable of experiencing it?
Intuitively I would say no, that unlike, say, the physical or mathematical rules apparently governing the universe, there is/was no independent 'pain' in the universe, waiting to be 'discovered' by evolution or by the species which have evolved to experience it.
No, of course not. But then again, there is a fact of the matter as to whether an individual organism is feeling pain. If two people disagree, one is mistaken, and so on. That's what matters, in terms of independence.

Similarly, there is no Tourette's Syndrome independently of organisms capable of experiencing it. And there is/was no independent 'Tourette's Syndrome' in the universe, waiting to be 'discovered' by evolution or by the species which have evolved to experience it. But that is not remotely the relevant sense of independence. And now if you reply as before, you will mock me, tell me that Tourette is different, and fail to realize that my analogy cuts through the heart of the argument.
 

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
Now you can tell me that illness is different from morality, etc., and you still fail to see that the analogy is apt because the same argument that you are using against morality, if it worked, it would work against illness/health as well.

No. In the case of illness there are facts (and properties) that are independent of attitudes. In the case of morality, that is an unresolved issue. So whatever way you are using illness as a comparison, it could be inapt and the same arguments in favour or against could not necessarily be used validly for both. Gustatory taste or beauty would be better because they seem to be on a par with morality in that they are things which are 'merely' sensed or mentally held to be the case (with caveats for the things that have been suggested as bases for morality).

I am not even sure what you mean when you say 'the argument I am using against morality' in the first place.

If that were true, not only illness realism fails, but everything. Science and everything else relies on common sense human intuitions, like the intuition that we can generally (i.e., in nearly all cases) trust our senses, our memories, generally our faculties, and of course our epistemic intuition that allows us to make epistemic probabilistic assessments, and so on. There is no way around it. When people reject some common sense intuition on the basis of new evidence, they are actually rejecting it on the basis of new evidence and a stronger commonsense intuition (of course, in many cases, they just reject common sense moral intuitions because they are confused by RIP).

What we are investigating here is not clearly something about the outside world (eg illness). It is about psychological/internal/brain beliefs. In that domain especially, what we think things are is an unreliable guide to what is objectively the case and has been shown to be, over and over. Here is a suggested 'Top 20' of some of the inherent flaws involved in both human intuitions and reasoning:

1. Illusions of agency and free will (including attributing these to entities which don't have them).
2. Illusions of self.
3. False beliefs and superstitious thinking generally (eg conspiracy theories, gambler's fallacy, curses, luck, etc)
4. Teleology (the pervasive idea that things happen for a purpose).
5. Pattern-finding (when there is no pattern).
6. Anthropomorphism (the projecting of human attributes incorrectly).
7. Causality (we over-read this).
8. Various illusions of perception (vision, hearing etc).
9. Time (our brains muck about with this).
10. Over-estimating the role of consciousness (underestimating the role of what are the bulk of our mental processes, the non-conscious ones).
11. Over-confidence bias.
12. Self-serving bias.
13. Herd mentality.
14. Loss aversion.
15. Framing bias.
16. Narrative fallacy.
17. Anchoring bias.
18. Confirmation bias.
19. Hindsight bias.
20. Correlation bias.

And in at least some cases, no amount of reasoning can dislodge the false beliefs. Others are merely 'sticky' (tend to persist).

I might even suggest that if we are wrong about 1 and 2 above, then we are likely fundamentally wrong about morality from the very start.

There are also false beliefs about the way the physical world operates which for most humans are intuitively wrong. Most people not trained in Newtonian physics will think that a ball dropped by a man walking along will fall vertically down. And as for quantum physics, most people, even some trained physicists, have significant trouble getting their heads intuitively around the idea that things can be everywhere at once and that the appearance that they are in one particular location is merely probabilistic.

It is one thing to say that our unreliable brain allows us to navigate the world successfully most of the time, in an ad hoc way, and another thing to say that it gets things factually right, and this is especially true of 'mental' (internal) things such as beliefs. These have often been shown to be incorrect. The takeaway lesson is 'be sceptical about the true nature of your mental beliefs' (even if they have not yet been demonstrated to be wrong).

I did not even include religion, or 'spirituality' in general (the sense that there is some 'higher or other reality' or a supernatural realm or that there are souls, or for that matter auras or healing crystals) though I easily could have beefed up my list with things like that. They are very common false beliefs and quite 'sticky'.

Just on the topic of religion specifically though. I don't agree that just because it's an ideology it necessarily disqualifies moral judgements, especially if we realise that the moral rules of religion do not actually come from the god believed to be the source of them. In an important way, the moral content of religion consists of the morality of the writers and as such is a factual record of what they held to be moral and immoral. Men merely invented god to serve as an arbiter (a 'wise ruler') for the beliefs they already had about morality, whatever those were at the time of writing.

As such the false belief that there is a god deciding moral issues is only a skew in a limited way. And in any case, people, either individually or within the vast multitude of different religious subsets, generally pick and choose which bits to accept or reject and always have done.


1. There is a fact of the matter as to whether a moral assessment (e.g., whether Ted Bundy was a bad person) is true (this should be understood with some tolerance for vagueness, e.g., there is a fact of the matter as to whether an animal is a lion - but there might be some vagueness, as mentioned earlier).

2. There are moral properties, e.g., some humans sometimes behave immorally, some humans sometimes behave in a morally praiseworthy manner.

I am not sure what you mean by 'properties' but in any case, the more interesting first question here is whether all moral judgements are moral facts. I understand that some moral realists only claim that there are some. Are you one of them?

And I think you should move away from 'easy' examples, such as killing for fun, or at the other extreme, shoe-wearing customs. Get your hands dirty with the trickier ones in between. Although if you are only claiming that some moral judgements (eg killing for fun) are moral facts, then you don't need to.


Now, how would the fact that we ascertain morality by means of a human intuition make a dent on realism so defined? What does the fact that we use a human intuition - just as in the illness case, or the redness case, etc. - have any relevance at all?

There is more to illness than our intuitions about it. For that reason I have no idea why you carry on using the comparison with illness.

Regarding colour, I can't get past the claim that if we are not talking about colour in the everyday sense then we are not talking about colour, which is obviously questionable.
 
Last edited:

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
No, if a person were going to kill me, and they had no justification, I would believe that that is morally wrong. If a dog were going to kill me, I would not believe the dog is doing anything morally wrong. I would just fight back. Now, if I am a boxer, and the other boxer is going to hurt me in accordance to the rules, I would not think his actions are immoral. I would think it's bad for me, for sure. I would take evasive action when I can, but that's not even related to morality. A shark makes no moral judgments whatsoever (that is a monkey thing, not a fishy thing), but takes evasive action when attacked.

Don't you see the difference? Some animals (prominently humans) make moral judgments. That's a specific sort of judgment. The sort of thing you make and is linked to feelings of guilt, or punitive sentiments for immoral behavior, things like that. The vast majority of animals act out of self-preservation. But they make no moral judgments. And a superintelligent AI or an alien from another planet might not make them, either (or they might, depending on the sort of mind they have).



But that's not a moral rule!

You misunderstand. The 'rules' offered are not necessarily moral rules of themselves (there may be a way to argue this but imo it would be more of a stretch). They are offered as being the underlying basis for morality. As such, one answer to the question 'what is something that is deemed to be right?' is 'my/our continued existence'.


ruby sparks said:
They are all explainable by recourse to blind, non-teleological or 'truth-tracking' evolution and do not require the existence of independent, realist moral facts.
That's not it. There are things that are being tracked. If that were not the case, then moral judgments would just go in any direction. A system of rules would not be a stable strategy if individuals cannot track the rules.

Well in a way yes, the things that are being tracked are practical, pragmatic consequences. What I meant was there are no independent moral truths or properties (of themselves) being tracked. Well there may be, but it's not established.

No, I do not agree with that at all. But thank you, because you give an example of why the studies can go wrong. People simply do not understand what is being asked (and I did not choose polygamy because I wanted a more clear-cut case of a local rule that is immoral not to follow in ordinary cases; the matter is more debatable for polygamy
So you chose an easy one. I offered a list and I think it would have been better if you had chosen something from that, such as polygamy, or one of the other 'rules' that appear to be non-objective and often deemed as such.

Here is an extremely common statement of moral non-objectivity:

"One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter".

I think the nub of this is whether you are only claiming that there are facts about some moral issues, or all moral issues. If the former, then we have no disagreement about the existence of moral 'facts'. And if you accept the statements offered as to the basis for morality, then we have no issue about independence (from human attitudes) either.


No, I should not, because it is false and I know it is false, and does not support my position beyond the idea that they are independent of human attitudes. For that matter, someone may posit Divine Command Theory and that too makes moral properties independent from human attitudes. I would not endorse it a bit. It's false, and I know it is false.

Good for you. At some stage then, maybe you will come up with just one scenario to show it. Though oddly, you don't need to. You could do monkeys.

ruby sparks said:
I can even suggest another. Pain = bad.
No, that is not it. If you are saying that in the moral sense, then actually, that depends on whose pain it is. The pain of the person being punished as they deserve is not a bad thing. It's good.

You either misunderstand or you are not casting the net wide enough. It is non-controversial to say that the items offered are the basis for morality.


ruby sparks said:
Although this could arguably be subsumed into (1) as a negative, "the absence of pain is something that would promote one’s survival and so is a reason in favor of it".
That's not a moral reason - and no, the absense of pain may or may not be good for survival. Indeed, when something is not properly functioning, pain let us know. In general, pain has an important survival function, and it is dangerous not to be able to feel it.

Again the claim is that such things at least form the basis for morality. As in, for example, "what is deemed moral is my survival". The moral philosopher who drafted the list I cited seems to think this is uncontroversially the case and I and others I have discussed this with would seem to agree with her. Why do you disagree?


But that is not remotely the relevant sense of independence.

What exactly do you mean by the 'relevant' sense of independence?
 
Last edited:

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
ruby sparks said:
I can even suggest another. Pain = bad.
No, that is not it. If you are saying that in the moral sense, then actually, that depends on whose pain it is.

Yes, it does. I explained that I meant it as per the 'existence = good' rule, in that it is my existence, my pain (or in other cases, 'ours' if say, it's my daughter's existence or pain, or to a lesser extent 'those like me' or my tribe or whatever).

The pain of the person being punished as they deserve is not a bad thing. It's good.

This is also going right back to the OP topic.

That's your moral judgement as a retributivist (which is arguably your ideology under some definitions*). I would not say it was objectively true in all cases (eg not in cases of deemed-to-be non-objective moral judgements, and possibly some deemed-to-be objective ones, I have not thought through enough possible scenarios). And when I say that, I obviously mean that you may disagree. Each of us may have an opinion on it that is the result of many factors and influences. Our moral frameworks may differ in some ways as a result.



*"Definition of ideology

1a: a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture
1b: the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program
1c: a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture
2: visionary theorizing"


https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ideology
 
Last edited:

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
....There is a fact of the matter as to whether a moral assessment (e.g., whether Ted Bundy was a bad person) is true.....
This seems to imply that you claim there is an objective fact of the matter about the truth or untruth of all moral assessments, not just Assessments about Ted Bundy.

Can you clarify?
 
Last edited:

Angra Mainyu

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2006
Messages
4,069
Location
Buenos Aires
Basic Beliefs
non-theist
ruby sparks said:
No. In the case of illness there are facts (and properties) that are independent of attitudes. In the case of morality, that is an unresolved issue.
No, you misunderstand the argument again. I realize that you will keep replying in the same manner - because you have for many, many pages already -, so I will try something else. Before I address the rest of your arguments, I will focus just on this one. If I can get you to understand the argument, then I will address the next. Else, I will think about whether to continue this exchange. Of course, you claim that in the case of illness there are facts and properties that are independent of attitudes, but in the case of morality, that is an unresolved issue. Let us step back a little. Do you agree that the following is a fact independent of attitude?


F1: Ted Bundy killed several people for fun.
If the answer is 'yes' (else, let me know, and a very different argument will ensue), let us consider the following fact:



F2: Marie Curie got cataracts as a result of many years of exposure to high levels of radiation.

Now consider the following two facts (if you think one of those is not a fact or are not sure whether it is a fact but believe the other is, what's the difference?):


F3: Ted Bundy behaved immorally when he killed people for fun.



F4: Marie Curie's became ill as a result of many years of exposure to high levels of radiation.



Which of those facts F1-F4 are attitude-independent in your assessment, and why or why not?
 

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
ruby sparks said:
No. In the case of illness there are facts (and properties) that are independent of attitudes. In the case of morality, that is an unresolved issue.
No, you misunderstand the argument again. I realize that you will keep replying in the same manner - because you have for many, many pages already -, so I will try something else. Before I address the rest of your arguments, I will focus just on this one. If I can get you to understand the argument, then I will address the next. Else, I will think about whether to continue this exchange. Of course, you claim that in the case of illness there are facts and properties that are independent of attitudes, but in the case of morality, that is an unresolved issue. Let us step back a little. Do you agree that the following is a fact independent of attitude?


F1: Ted Bundy killed several people for fun.
If the answer is 'yes' (else, let me know, and a very different argument will ensue), let us consider the following fact:



F2: Marie Curie got cataracts as a result of many years of exposure to high levels of radiation.

Now consider the following two facts (if you think one of those is not a fact or are not sure whether it is a fact but believe the other is, what's the difference?):


F3: Ted Bundy behaved immorally when he killed people for fun.



F4: Marie Curie's became ill as a result of many years of exposure to high levels of radiation.



Which of those facts F1-F4 are attitude-independent in your assessment, and why or why not?

F1, F2 & F4 (assuming they are accurate) are attitude-independent. F3 depends on the having of a moral attitude.
(Brief answer omitting possible caveats and elaborations for simplicity).

After you have digested that, and before replying, consider these two sets of four statements also:

F1': Sam Smith was a polygamist.
F2': Marie Curie got cataracts as a result of many years of exposure to high levels of radiation.
F3': Sam Smith behaved immorally when he practiced polygamy.
F4': Marie Curie became ill as a result of many years of exposure to high levels of radiation.

and

F1": Jim Armstrong thinks capital punishment for the unprovoked murder of an innocent stranger is good.
F2": Marie Curie got cataracts as a result of many years of exposure to high levels of radiation.
F3": Jim Armstrong is morally right in thinking capital punishment for the unprovoked murder of an innocent stranger is good.
F4": Marie Curie became ill as a result of many years of exposure to high levels of radiation.

If you could also answer briefly in the first instance as to which if any are in your view attitude independent and which aren't, that would be good. There is no need to explain your reasons at his point. Attitude-independent or not is fine.
 
Last edited:

Angra Mainyu

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2006
Messages
4,069
Location
Buenos Aires
Basic Beliefs
non-theist
ruby sparks said:
F1, F2 & F4 (assuming they are accurate) are attitude-independent. F3 depends on the having of a moral attitude.
(Brief answer omitting possible caveats and elaborations for simplicity).
Okay, so why? What is the difference in that regard between F3 and F4?
In other words, why is it that whether Ted Bundy behaved immorally depend on having a certain attitude, but whether Marie Curie became ill not? I'm not talking about her getting cataracts, of course, but about whether her condition - i.e., cataracts - is an illness? In other words, why would the property of being immoral of Bundy's killing people for fun be attitude-dependent, but the property of being an illness of Curie's cataracts is not?

ruby sparks said:
After you have digested that, and before replying, consider these two sets of four statements also:

F1': Sam Smith was a polygamist.
F2': Marie Curie got cataracts as a result of many years of exposure to high levels of radiation.
F3': Sam Smith behaved immorally when he practiced polygamy.
F4': Marie Curie became ill as a result of many years of exposure to high levels of radiation.

and

F1": Jim Armstrong thinks capital punishment for the unprovoked murder of an innocent stranger is good.
F2": Marie Curie got cataracts as a result of many years of exposure to high levels of radiation.
F3": Jim Armstrong is morally right in thinking capital punishment for the unprovoked murder of an innocent stranger is good.
F4": Marie Curie became ill as a result of many years of exposure to high levels of radiation.


If you could also answer briefly in the first instance as to which if any are in your view attitude independent and which aren't, that would be good. There is no need to explain your reasons at his point. Attitude-independent or not is fine.
I would like to, but I do not know what 'attitude independent' means. I tried to understand what you meant by it, but by your reply, it does not appear to be a coherent notion. I can, however, tell you whether there is a fact of the matter, which is the relevant sort of independence in the sense I am talking about (as I explained here, though that can be expanded upon).

So, let us see:


F1'-> Did you mean Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism? If you do, then there is a fact of the matter. If you do not, then there is a fact of the matter as long as you are talking about an actual person Sam Smith (if not, then we can assume for the sake of the argument that you are, so there is a fact of the matter).
F2', F4'=F4" -> There is a fact of the matter.
F3' -> Same answer as F1'.

F1"-> There is a fac of the matter (assuming of course that you are talking about a real Jim Armstrong, but as always with hypothetical questions, we can just pretend you are if you aren't, so the answer is that there is a fact of the matter).
F3" -> Seems ambiguous. Does it mean 'Jim Armstrong is correct in thinking capital punishment for the unprovoked murder of an innocent stranger is good.', or 'Jim Armstrong is not behaving immorally for thinking capital punishment for the unprovoked murder of an innocent stranger is good?', or something else? At any rate, those options or any other one I can think of are also cases in which there is a fact of the matter, assuming that Jim Armstrong is an actual person you are talking about.


So, in short, fact of the matter for all. If that is not what you mean by 'attitude-independent' (it's how I would be inclined to understand that expression if I'm not given further clarification), I would need more information, but at any rate, it would be irrelevant to realism as I define it (which is a definition that - with some further details perhaps - would probably be endorsed by some but not all philosophers, I'm not sure what percentage).
 
Last edited:

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
...why would the property of being immoral of Bundy's killing people for fun be attitude-dependent, but the property of being an illness of Curie's cataracts is not?

Because, as I already said, and have said many times before, and I don't think I can say it more plainly, the former does seem to require someone to have an attitude about it whereas the latter doesn't. That is why.

I would like to, but I do not know what 'attitude independent' means. I tried to understand what you meant by it, but by your reply, it does not appear to be a coherent notion.

Attitude-independence is surely not that hard to understand. It simply means independent of attitudes.

Independent of: not determined by, required by or relying on.
Attitudes: feelings towards or mental states about something.

I can, however, tell you whether there is a fact of the matter, which is the relevant sort of independence in the sense I am talking about ...

Succinctly and in a nutshell (please, if you can) what do you mean by 'relevant sense' of (presumably attitude-)independence? I asked you this at least once before. Most recently just before you asked me if I thought something was attitude-independent or not instead of answering me. If I was previously clear on what you meant before asking you again recently, I wouldn't have asked. Start with, "relevant attitude-independence, as I see it, is when.....[insert basic answer]."

Did you mean Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism?

Odd question. No, I did not mean Joseph Smith. That is why I typed the words 'Sam Smith'. :)

... there is a fact of the matter as long as you are talking about an actual person Sam Smith ...

Odd question. Was there an actual Jack person who went into outer space in your scenarios? ;)

F3" -> Seems ambiguous. Does it mean 'Jim Armstrong is correct in thinking capital punishment for the unprovoked murder of an innocent stranger is good.', or 'Jim Armstrong is not behaving immorally for thinking capital punishment for the unprovoked murder of an innocent stranger is good?', or something else?

"Jim Armstrong is morally right in thinking capital punishment for the unprovoked murder of an innocent stranger is good" surely means what it clearly says. How you think it's ambiguous is mysterious.

At any rate, those options or any other one I can think of are also cases in which there is a fact of the matter, assuming that Jim Armstrong is an actual person you are talking about.

I'm not sure why he has to be an actual person for you to consider it. See above about spaceman Jack.

If that is not what you mean by 'attitude-independent' (it's how I would be inclined to understand that expression if I'm not given further clarification), I would need more information...

Would you really. Well, I hope I clarified above. If not, just ask again.

So, in short, fact of the matter for all.

Ok, so the upshot is that you seem to claim that there is an attitude-independent, objective moral fact of the matter as to whether polygamy is immoral and whether capital punishment is good.

I honestly can't see how you got to that, perhaps especially in the latter case. I guess we just think about morality differently you and I.
 
Last edited:

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
In other words, why is it that whether Ted Bundy behaved immorally depend on having a certain attitude, but whether Marie Curie became ill not?

Alternative answer: I am not sure I fully know why some things are apparently attitude-dependent and others apparently aren't. You might as well ask why there even are such things as opinions, emotions or attitudes at all. For our purposes here, we don't necessarily need to fully know why such things exist. We can stop at the claims 'there are or aren't such things'. The question of whether Ted Bundy behaved immorally does seem to be dependent on attitudes, as does whether polygamy is immoral and/or capital punishment is good.

With the caveat that some general, human-independent rules (that are at least feasibly the root of morality, and a significant part of an explanation for it, to the extent that they are one candidate plausible answer, where they apply, to the general question, "what things are deemed morally right" and by extension, "what is it that morality is"*) have already been suggested.

Ted Bundy is, as I have said before, an especially easy one for you because there is at least what we might call a species-wide, agreed moral 'fact' about his behaviour. For that reason, I would prefer if you dealt with more difficult examples, such as polygamy and capital punishment, for example.




*
Namely: "It is the application of these rules (with associated attitudes about them in species with the capacity to experience attitudes)."
 
Last edited:

Angra Mainyu

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2006
Messages
4,069
Location
Buenos Aires
Basic Beliefs
non-theist
ruby spark said:
Because, as I already said, and have said many times before, and I don't think I can say it more plainly, the former does seem to require someone to have an attitude about it whereas the latter doesn't. That is why.
It seems like that to you, but it's not what it seems to me, or to most other people. Is your assessment based on intuition only, or can you provide any reason? If you already did, could you provide the link to the relevant post and/or a recap?

ruby sparks said:
Alternative answer: I am not sure I fully know why some things are apparently attitude-dependent and others apparently aren't.
Okay, so how about this one?
Why does it appear to you that whether Ted Bundy behaved immorally depends on having a certain attitude, but whether Marie Curie became ill does not?
Are you relying exclusively on intuition to make that assessment, or do you have, in addition to intuition, some reasoning you can offer?

ruby sparks said:
The question of whether Ted Bundy behaved immorally does seem to be dependent on attitudes, as does whether polygamy is immoral and/or capital punishment is good.
Why does it seem like that to you? It surely does not seem like that to me. As for poligamy and/or capital punishment, it depends on the situation, but it does not depend on the attitude of the person making the assessment of course. That seems intuitively clear to me, and I would say, generally to humans when they are not confused about what the question is. But leaving aside whether that is a general human assessment, I would like to ask why it seems like that to you?

ruby sparks said:
Succinctly and in a nutshell (please, if you can) what do you mean by 'relevant sense' of (presumably attitude-)independence?
I'm just trying to match whatever you are saying. In a previous reply, I explained 3 different senses in which something could be said to be 'attitude-dependent', but let me be clear, the discussion of attitude-independence did not begin with me (i.e., I did not bring this up). And in any event, what I think is the relevant sort of independence is the independence from the attitudes, beliefs, etc., of the person making the moral assessment, so that realism is true, where realism is defined as I already defined it:

There are different definitions of moral realism. I would go with a simple one - which would be accepted by some but not all philosophers:


1. There is a fact of the matter as to whether a moral assessment (e.g., whether Ted Bundy was a bad person) is true (this should be understood with some tolerance for vagueness, e.g., there is a fact of the matter as to whether an animal is a lion - but there might be some vagueness, as mentioned earlier).

2. There are moral properties, e.g., some humans sometimes behave immorally, some humans sometimes behave in a morally praiseworthy manner.

ruby sparks said:
"Jim Armstrong is morally right in thinking capital punishment for the unprovoked murder of an innocent stranger is good" surely means what it clearly says. How you think it's ambiguous is mysterious.
I have never encountered the expression "is morally right in thinking" before. I googled it, and found no matches. It sounds odd to me. I have explained at least two potential interpretations, namely: 'Jim Armstrong is correct in thinking capital punishment for the unprovoked murder of an innocent stranger is good.', and 'Jim Armstrong is not behaving immorally for thinking capital punishment for the unprovoked murder of an innocent stranger is good?'

Could you please formulate it in an alternative manner?


ruby sparks said:
Odd question. Was there an actual Jack person who went into outer space in your scenarios?
No, of course, an it's not an odd question. I did say "(assuming of course that you are talking about a real Jim Armstrong, but as always with hypothetical questions, we can just pretend you are if you aren't, so the answer is that there is a fact of the matter)", but it's a question to avoid a number of potential objections to my reply. In particular, in my scenarios, I do say 'imagine this scenario', or things like that, but you did not, and this might lead to an objection like 'But what if there is no Sam Smith?', etc.


ruby sparks said:
I'm not sure why he has to be an actual person for you to consider it. See above about spaceman Jack.
He does not have to be, as I explained in the post you are replying to. But if he is not, we need to assume he is, and avoid tricky replies like 'Well, what if he does not exist? Is there a fact of the matter as to whether the present king of France is a morally bad person?', and so on, which I'm trying to preclude.

ruby sparks said:
Ok, so the upshot is that you seem to claim that there is an attitude-independent, objective moral fact of the matter as to whether polygamy is immoral and whether capital punishment is good.
No, not at all!

Imagine that you had ask me to consider the following statement:

F5: Ted Bundy behaved immorally when he killed Karen Sparks.

I would have replied that there is a fact of the matter. Suppose you had them told me that I seem to claim there is an attitude-independent, objective moral fact of the matter as to whether killing is immoral. Well, not at all. There is an objective fact of the matter as to whether Ted Bundy behaved immorally when he killed Karen Sparks. He did. But that does not entail that all actions in which a person kill another are immoral. It depends on the case. Of course, there is also a fact of the matter as to whether the following statement is true:

F6: Every human who kills another behaves immorally in doing so.

The fact of the matter is that F6 is false. But sometimes, it is immoral.


So, let me put it this way. Imagine that in some, specific scenario, a person (say, Alice) is a lawmaker and votes in favor of imposing the death penalty. Then, there is a fact of the matter as to whether that particular action of Alice was morally wrong, or not morally wrong. And if it was not morally wrong, there is a fact of the matter as to whether her action was morally obligatory, or morally permissible but not morally obligatory. And if it was morally permissible but not morally obligatory, there is a fact of the matter as to whether it was morally praiseworthy.
That aside, the fact of the matter is that voting in favor of the death penalty is not necessarily (i.e., as of metaphysical necessity, in all metaphysically possible scenarios) morally wrong, and not necessarily morally permissible. Sometimes it is morally wrong, and sometimes it is not.

Let me further clarify: what I am saying is that the morality of an specific action X performed by a specific agent A depends only on properties of the mind of A (such as A's intent, some but not all of A's beliefs and/or probabilistic assessments, and a few others), but it does not depend at all on properties of the mind of the agent assessing whether A's performing X was morally wrong, morally permissible, etc. (in the case A makes an assessment of A's own doing X, then whether it was morally wrong depends on some A's mental properties in A's capacity of being the agent performing X, not in A's capacity of being the agent assessing whether it is immoral of A to X).


ruby sparks said:
I honestly can't see how you got to that, perhaps especially in the latter case. I guess we just think about morality differently you and I.
I do it intuitively, and crucially case by case, as is how our moral sense works.
 

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
Why does it appear to you that whether Ted Bundy behaved immorally depends on having a certain attitude, but whether Marie Curie became ill does not?
Are you relying exclusively on intuition to make that assessment, or do you have, in addition to intuition, some reasoning you can offer?

Here's a reason, and we can stop doing Ted Bundy, because you, who are strenuously claiming there is such a thing as an attitude-independent moral judgement, simply haven't yet been able to show it by coming up with even a single example, hypothetical or otherwise, throughout the entire discussion, involving a moral judgement about anything at all, Ted Bundy killings or whatever, that does not involve an attitude. As such, you have not yet even come close to successfully challenging the claim that moral judgements depend on attitudes.

If I, on the other hand, were to claim that moral judgements depend on attitudes, I would have no trouble finding support for that from virtually countless examples. You, so far, have nothing but your own bald assertion.

Especially since you are for some odd reason rejecting the examples of independent rules offered about what are plausibly the roots of morality and thus answer the question 'what is morality?' (Answer = 'the application of these rules'). One might wonder if you're really interested in exploring what morality is at all.

ruby sparks said:
Succinctly and in a nutshell (please, if you can) what do you mean by 'relevant sense' of (presumably attitude-)independence?
I'm just trying to match whatever you are saying.

And I asked you a straight question. I have now asked you several times to succinctly confirm what you mean when you talk about the 'relevant' sense of attitude-independence and you have obfuscated every time so far. Please stop referring me to lengthy posts which do not seem to make it succinct and clear what you mean. So far, even after re-reading all the posts you refer back to, I can see nothing to distinguish what you mean by saying something does not depend on attitudes and what I mean, which you say is incoherent.

Please can you just tell me, directly and succinctly, what you mean by what you have called the relevant sense of attitude-independence.

Eg. 'The relevant, as opposed to the non-relevant sense, is when...[insert straight answer or illustrative example].'

So, let me put it this way. Imagine that in some, specific scenario, a person (say, Alice) is a lawmaker and votes in favor of imposing the death penalty. Then, there is a fact of the matter as to whether that particular action of Alice was morally wrong, or not morally wrong.

Ok, so please show me how that would involve an attitude-independent, objective moral fact and not, say, merely an opinion, even if very strongly or widely held. I don't think you can, even if you choose your conveniently easy example of Ted Bundy.

Although as I have said, your repeated reliance on Ted Bundy-type situations is arguably somewhat questionable, not only for being rare and unusual (and therefore of limited value) but also because in that case it could merely involve nothing more than general, species-wide attitudinal agreement (and you have not yet shown even a single counter-example to that). Although to be fair, I am not sure if there is species-wide agreement that the death penalty is good, even for killers such as Ted Bundy. There are definitely some who disagree, and there may even be those who are ambivalent about it, including me. But in any case it would certainly be more useful if you moved away from the relative 'safety' of Ted Bundy or killing for fun, and onto other cases which have been suggested, including by me.

I do it intuitively....

Which of course does not show that it's a fact. Many people intuitively disagree with you about the death penalty and about polygamy and on many other things. That does not mean that you are incorrect, but it does mean that you can't show that you are correct, or even that there is an independent, objective moral fact involved in either of those, and many other issues. So far, you have gotten nowhere at all with showing that claim to be correct, or with challenging the counter-claim.
 
Last edited:

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
Let me be clear. In my considered assessment (and that of moral relativists in general, I am inclined to think) there is no independent, objective moral fact of the matter either way as to either whether the death penalty is ever good, or right or deserved, or not, even in the case of Ted Bundy.

(With the caveat about the general, species-independent rules that are offered as plausible candidates for being the roots of morality).

And that's an unusually extreme example with a very high degree of instinctive, emotional weight attached, especially in the even more extreme case where, say, Ted Bundy had raped and murdered my beloved daughter. In which case I myself might easily and intuitively want him to die as retribution, but I, or anyone in my situation, even if everyone in that situation felt the same, may not be being particularly objective about it. And if everyone in that situation agreed it would only show species-wide agreement, which we could call a type of moral 'fact' (for humans), but not one that is independent of human attitudes, because it seems to rely on humans having attitudes about it.

Perhaps Angra means to say that some moral judgements are human-species-wide and in that sense are arguably independent of individual (human) attitudes. I wouldn't have a problem with that. I agreed way back in the discussions that there may be some species-wide moral 'facts'. In some cases the independent rules they operate under have been suggested.

More to the point, we should not just be doing Ted Bundy or killing for fun or only things for which there is human-species-wide agreement. It would be easier to say that there are not necessarily any independent, objective moral facts about many other 'lesser' cases, whether they are about the death penalty for other wrongdoings or not about the death penalty at all, or even whether they are legally proscribed or not.

------------------------------------------------------------------

The obvious overarching answer here is that moral realism in some form may be true, for at least some things, and there are arguments in favour of it and against it, and the same could be said about alternatives. It is an unresolved issue. It seems to me that it is probably not one or the other and that depending on what moral issue and what individual case we are dealing with, there will be degrees of realism and degrees of non-realism. A bit of a fudge answer, I know, but sometimes the truth about certain things is very complicated and variegated, perhaps especially the psychology and behaviour of humans.

That a sense of morality has evolved and that evolution has shaped our sense of morality to at least a significant degree is surely uncontroversial. Even then, we can't say that disproves moral realism, because evolution could have been tracking (at least some) moral facts. Personally, I am inclined not to think this is the case, but it has to be admitted that it is possible. Nevertheless, an appreciation of the ways in which evolution may have shaped our sense of morality would still be an informative and useful contribution to the topic.

One more general thought. The suggestion (sometimes made) that moral non-realism would mean that society would cease to function well and that it would be 'open season' on all sorts of horrible behaviours is imo probably bunkum. It was said about losing a belief in the realism of god, it is said about losing a belief in the realism of free will and it could be said about losing a belief in the realism of the self. It might even be said about many other realisms or absolutes, about purpose or meaning or order, and such things. Sometimes we just worry about the losing of our familiar and everyday beliefs, including the ones that are our comfort blankets, that's all.



Once again:


 
Last edited:

Angra Mainyu

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2006
Messages
4,069
Location
Buenos Aires
Basic Beliefs
non-theist
ruby sparks said:
Here's a reason, and we can stop doing Ted Bundy, because you, who are strenuously claiming there is such a thing as an attitude-independent moral judgement, simply haven't yet been able to show it by coming up with even a single example, hypothetical or otherwise, throughout the entire discussion, involving a moral judgement about anything at all, Ted Bundy killings or whatever, that does not involve an attitude.
I have come up with moral judgments like 'Ted Bundy was a morally bad person', or several others, in which whether the judgment is not true does not depend on any attitude of the person making the assessment. You do not realize that but that does not change the facts. However, here I was just asking why you think that moral judgments are dependent on attitudes, but judgments about health and illness are not. Now, you claim I have not been able to come up with a single judgment, etc., but that does not explain why you think I haven't been able to come up with a single such judgment. Of course, in reality I have, but that is again not the point here. My question is whether your assessment that the judgments I came up with are all attitude-dependent is entirely based on your intuitions, or you have a different reason?

ruby sparks said:
If I, on the other hand, were to claim that moral judgements depend on attitudes, I would have no trouble finding support for that from virtually countless examples. You, so far, have nothing but your own bald assertion.
Do you mean health/illness judgments?
Well, of course you would have no trouble, just as I had no trouble coming up with similar examples for moral judgments. But that is not the point, either. If you were challenged by a health/illness antirealist of the variety that thinks such judgments are attitude-depending, he would just flatly deny that the examples you come up with work at all, just as you engage in the same flat denial for my examples of moral judgments. That is not at all the question. I'm asking whether in those examples (i.e., health/illness) you see something that makes them attitude-independent and that is not present in moral judgments, or else you only rely on your intuitions for the assessment?


ruby sparks said:
And I asked you a straight question. I have now asked you several times to succinctly confirm what you mean when you talk about the 'relevant' sense of attitude-independence and you have obfuscated every time so far. Please stop referring me to lengthy posts which do not seem to make it succinct and clear what you mean. So far, even after re-reading all the posts you refer back to, I can see nothing to distinguish what you mean by saying something does not depend on attitudes and what I mean, which you say is incoherent.
I asked you many of those. Now I am focusing on just one. But you fail to give a straight answer, whereas my lengthy posts are precise answers.

Here is my question: when you assess that judgments of health/illness are independent of attitude, do you make that assessment on the basis of intuitions alone, or do you have another argument?
Please do not tell me that a reason is that I failed to come up with a single example, because you assess that the examples I came up with are not examples of attitude-independent judgments, so I want you to tell me whether that assessment of yours is entirely based on intuitions, or you have some other reason.


ruby sparks said:
Please can you just tell me, directly and succinctly, what you mean by what you have called the relevant sense of attitude-independence.
I have been using the expression to try to match what you mean. As for the relevant sense, I already explained to you in the post you are replying to. I talked about the relevant sense of independence, not just attitude-independence. That would be an unncessary limitation, because it has to be independent of other stuff, like beliefs, etc.

Still, if you want me to again make clear what I think the relevant sense of independence is, it is as follows:

Let me further clarify: what I am saying is that the morality of an specific action X performed by a specific agent A depends only on properties of the mind of A (such as A's intent, some but not all of A's beliefs and/or probabilistic assessments, and a few others), but it does not depend at all on properties of the mind of the agent assessing whether A's performing X was morally wrong, morally permissible, etc. (in the case A makes an assessment of A's own doing X, then whether it was morally wrong depends on some A's mental properties in A's capacity of being the agent performing X, not in A's capacity of being the agent assessing whether it is immoral of A to X).

If you for some reason want to only talk about attitudes, then here it goes:

The relevant sense of attitude-independence is that the morality of an specific action X performed by a specific agent A depends only on properties of the mind of A (such as A's intent, some but not all of A's beliefs and/or probabilistic assessments, and a few others), but it does not depend at all on the attitude of the agent assessing whether A's performing X was morally wrong, morally permissible, etc. (if the two agents coincide, it does not depend at least in the agents' capacity as evaluator, not actor).

ruby sparks said:
Ok, so please show me how that would involve an attitude-independent, objective moral fact and not, say, merely an opinion, even if very strongly or widely held. I don't think you can, even if you choose your conveniently easy example of Ted Bundy.
Again, that is intuitively clear. It's based on the way people use the words (and of course I disagree with the studies you brought up for the given reasons). I have defended intuiton-based assessments, and you reject them. I grant you I cannot persuade you. But I have explained my position in excruciating detail, and continue to do so. Could you please tell me know how do you make the assessment that

F4: Marie Curie's became ill as a result of many years of exposure to high levels of radiation.​

is an attitude-independent, objective illness fact? Given your claims about intuition, perhaps you have something other than intuitions to offer?
 

Angra Mainyu

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2006
Messages
4,069
Location
Buenos Aires
Basic Beliefs
non-theist
ruby sparks said:
The suggestion (sometimes made) that moral non-realism would mean that society would cease to function well and that it would be 'open season' on all sorts of horrible behaviours is imo probably bunkum.
I have not made that suggestion. I would say it's never happened, and would never happen realistically in a human society, because humans are humans, so even if their RIP says moral non-realism, nearly all (but not all) would slip unconsciously into realism. Regardless, if an odd society of philosophers were to exist and all were, say, moral error theorists and consistent about that, I do not think that the above would happen, so again not my claim.
 

The AntiChris

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 22, 2002
Messages
734
Location
UK
Basic Beliefs
Positive Atheist
I have come up with moral judgments like 'Ted Bundy was a morally bad person', or several others, in which whether the judgment is not true does not depend on any attitude of the person making the assessment.
All you're doing is stating what you intuitively believe and attempting to present it as undeniable fact.

It's an article of faith.
 

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
I'm asking whether in those examples (i.e., health/illness) you see something that makes them attitude-independent and that is not present in moral judgments....

Yes.

1. Living things (including Marie Curie) get diseases, and did so long before there were any brains to have mental states, either about diseases or about anything.
2. Living things (including Marie Curie) in some cases die of diseases.
3. Living things (including Marie Curie) die, either from disease, or decay, or damage or malfunction or whatever.
4. Illnesses, diseases, damage, malfunctions, decay etc, and indeed in the end, death, for living things in general (including Marie Curie) are therefore, by any reasonable standard, fully mental-state-independent phenomena with attitude-independent properties.

Does anyone have reasonable grounds to doubt or disagree with any of those statements? No, they don't. Are they relying on their intuitions? No, they aren't. That said I would love to hear you suggest that the fact of death, including that of Marie Curie, is merely based on intuitions. That would be amusing.

The above sharply contrasts with human moral judgements, which always involve and are expressions of mental states about them, for example intuitions and attitudes.

(With the previous caveat about species-independent rules).

The relevant sense of attitude-independence is that the morality of an specific action X performed by a specific agent A depends only on properties of the mind of A (such as A's intent, some but not all of A's beliefs and/or probabilistic assessments, and a few others), but it does not depend at all on the attitude of the agent assessing whether A's performing X was morally wrong, morally permissible, etc. (if the two agents coincide, it does not depend at least in the agents' capacity as evaluator, not actor).

Thank you for clarifying your own particular usage.

However, it seems to be nothing more than a bald claim based on personal conviction and your dogmatic belief in moral realism and possibly related to your retributivist ideology.

Again, that is intuitively clear. It's based on the way people use the words (and of course I disagree with the studies you brought up for the given reasons). I have defended intuiton-based assessments, and you reject them. I grant you I cannot persuade you. But I have explained my position in excruciating detail, and continue to do so.

Just to give two brief examples and not go through a longer list again, most people intuitively feel they have a self which is centred between their ears and just behind their eyes, and many people intuitively think there are ghosts, spirits or suchlike. So much for the reliability of intuitions. You have built your arguments on soft sand.

I suggested that with the sorts of clearly questionable standards you are using, you might get more acceptance of them (the standards themselves at least) at a different forum. There are forums for those who have strong convictions about the healing power of crystals, for example. You could go to such a forum and swop claims that rely on human intuitions with the posters there. You could do it using everyday language.

is an attitude-independent, objective illness fact?

Yes, it is, by any reasonable standard. We have a very large body of scientific evidence for illness, damage, disease and death in all living things, including plants, and in some cases including fossil evidence from a time before there were humans to have mental states or attitudes about any of those or about anything at all.

Illnesses, diseases, damage, malfunctions, decay etc, and indeed in the end, death, for living things in general, are therefore, by any reasonable standard, fully mental-state-independent phenomena with attitude-independent properties, regardless of human brain states, intuitions or attitudes.
 
Last edited:

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
I have come up with moral judgments like 'Ted Bundy was a morally bad person', or several others, in which whether the judgment is not true does not depend on any attitude of the person making the assessment.
All you're doing is stating what you intuitively believe and attempting to present it as undeniable fact.

It's an article of faith.

Very much so, it seems.
 

Angra Mainyu

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2006
Messages
4,069
Location
Buenos Aires
Basic Beliefs
non-theist
I have come up with moral judgments like 'Ted Bundy was a morally bad person', or several others, in which whether the judgment is not true does not depend on any attitude of the person making the assessment.
All you're doing is stating what you intuitively believe and attempting to present it as undeniable fact.

It's an article of faith.

It is not remotely an article of faith, as it is not an article of faith that judgments like health/illness judgments or color judgments do not depend on any attitude of the person making the assessment. Relying on intuition is not an article of faith. But I already debated this with you earlier in the thread and won (yes, of course, you disagree. I invite interested readers to take a look).
 

Angra Mainyu

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2006
Messages
4,069
Location
Buenos Aires
Basic Beliefs
non-theist
ruby sparks said:
1. Living things (including Marie Curie) get diseases, and did so long before there were any brains to have mental states, either about diseases or about anything.
2. Living things (including Marie Curie) in some cases die of diseases.
3. Living things (including Marie Curie) die, either from disease, or decay, or damage or malfunction or whatever.
4. Illnesses, diseases, damage, malfunctions, decay etc, and indeed in the end, death, for living things in general (including Marie Curie) are therefore, by any reasonable standard, fully mental-state-independent phenomena with attitude-independent properties.
Living things interact with viruses or radiation (for example). That results in some changes in those living things, resulting in conditions that look to us as illnesses. But why do you think that the fact that those conditions are illnesses is independent of attitudes? Intuition?


For example, for billions of years, there was light of different wavelenghts, and objects that reflected light in different manners, etc. Some of those objects would have looked red to us under ordinary light conditions, others would have looked blue, others green, and so on. Yet, you claim that dinosaurs had no color, and in the time of the dinosaurs there was no color, etc.
Now, for hundreds of millions of years, there were animals whose cells were modified by viruses, or which had cancer, or a number of other condition which, to us, would look like illnesses. But you do say that those were in fact illnesses. You say that illnesses existed for a long time before humans, etc., but color did not. Why? Why are facts about whether some condition is or is not an illness, attitude-independent, but facts about whether some object is red, attitude-dependent?


ruby sparks said:
Does anyone have reasonable grounds to doubt or disagree with any of those statements? No, they don't.
Well, the same applies to color, or morality. But of course, some philosophers have sophisticated arguments and doubts, or even deny that. If that counts as reasonable in the color case and/or the moral case, why not the illness case?
ruby sparks said:
Are they relying on their intuitions? No, they aren't.
Certainly, they are relying on their intuition that conditions such as cancer, or some modifications caused by interactions with viruses, etc., are illnesses, or that some objects are red, or green, or blue, etc., and that some behaviors are immoral, and so on. Obviously, they rely on intuitions.

ruby sparks said:
That said I would love to hear you suggest that the fact of death, including that of Marie Curie, is merely based on intuitions. That would be amusing.
I am of course pointing out that the assessment that some conditions (a minority of which tend to result in death) are illnesses, is based on intuition.


ruby sparks said:
However, it seems to be nothing more than a bald claim based on personal conviction and your dogmatic belief in moral realism and possibly related to your retributivist ideology.
It is regrettable that you haven't realized this is not remotely so, despite the amount of argumentation. Maybe in the future you can take a look at the exchange more carefully and you'll realize you were mistaken, though in my experience, that almost never happen (i.e., people do not go back to read all threads, and they are in any case never persuaded that their RIP is false by means of argumentation).
 

The AntiChris

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 22, 2002
Messages
734
Location
UK
Basic Beliefs
Positive Atheist
But I already debated this with you earlier in the thread and won (yes, of course, you disagree. I invite interested readers to take a look).
No disagreement here. :)

It hadn't occurred to me to think of our exchanges in terms of 'winning' and 'losing'.
 

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
I am of course pointing out that the assessment that some conditions (a minority of which tend to result in death) are illnesses, is based on intuition.

But are you or are you not (simple yes or no please, for clarity) saying that whether something actually has a disease (eg cancer) depends on intuitions, but whether something is actually dead doesn't depend on intuitions?

No. You surely can't be. So what are you saying? Are you merely saying that an assessment of whether either disease and/or death have occurred ultimately depends on what you are calling intuitions (some would say faculties or perception might be better)? If so, fine, it's trivially true for all human knowledge that assessments of everything and anything depend on such things, but, for disease and death we surely agree, I hope, that there is also an objective, intuition-independent and attitude-independent fact of the matter.

Now, that this is also true about moral assessments is what you strongly believe to be the case. And you also seem to strongly believe that you have shown it to be the case by argument. And you hope that some day someone will come along who realises that you have conclusively shown it, and that your personal convictions are in fact both correct and true and have been shown to be correct and true. In the meantime, until you are convinced otherwise, you will continue to hold the beliefs you do.

The problem with this of course is that it is pretty similar to the sorts of things that people say who strongly believe in, have convictions about, and assert by argument, the actual objective existence of gods. As I said way back, it's that type of claim, even if in this case it does not include beliefs about the supernatural.
 
Last edited:

Angra Mainyu

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2006
Messages
4,069
Location
Buenos Aires
Basic Beliefs
non-theist
ruby sparks said:
But are you or are you not (simple yes or no please, for clarity) saying that whether something actually has a disease (eg cancer) depends on intuitions, but whether something is actually dead doesn't depend on intuitions?
No, I am not saying that whether something actually has a disease depends on intuitions. I am saying that in order to ascertain that something has a disease, we need to rely on intuitions. More precisely, in order to ascertain whether a certain condition that some organism has is a disease, we need to rely on a very specific intuition, namely one by which we make judgments of health/illness.

That said, that particular intuition actually informs the referent of the terms 'illness', 'health', etc., so in a very indirect way, it would depend on it, but only in the way of informing how we humans coin and use words.

ruby sparks said:
If so, fine, it's trivially true for all human knowledge that assessments of everything and anything depend on such things, but, for disease and death we surely agree, I hope, that there is also an objective, intuition-independent and attitude-independent fact of the matter.
Well, you and I, and the vast majority of humans, agree that there is a fact of the matter. I have explained what I mean by 'attitude-independent'. I am uncertain as to what you mean, but if it is the same, then you and I agree that the fact of the matter is attitude-independent. The word 'objective' does not seem to add anything to the usual expression 'there is a fact of the matter', but sure.

So, you and I, and the vast majority of people, agree that there is a fact of the matter. And we agree with that because we intuitively perceive it as such. However, this has the following problems:

1. A first problem is that you earlier said (for example):

ruby sparks said:
But let's suppose, hypothetically, that humans generally are moral realists about at least some things, that there are at least some moral 'facts'. I don't have a problem with this. I agree with it. There are certain things which humans regard as having a factual, right or wrong answer in moral terms. The problem is, what does this tell us? It tells us what human beliefs are like. It does not necessarily extend to showing they are correct that there are objective, independent moral facts. Moral realism, if it relies on commonsense human intuitions, has built its house on sand, because human intuitions have often been shown to be wrong. All normal human brains are prone to and predisposed to false beliefs about the world. Science in particular shows this over and over. It's the achilles heel for the idea that human intuitions and commonsense and everyday language are the proper or best basis for realism about anything at all. The beliefs, including the ones deemed to be to do with what we call morality, may be pragmatically useful for successfully navigating the world, but that could be all it is.

More to the point, they are human intuitions. They are not independent of humans.

Surely, a person who is in the minority who rejects the existence of objective facts of the matter about illness can make the following parallel:


But let's suppose, hypothetically, that humans generally are health/illness realists about at least some things, that there are at least some health/illness 'facts'. I don't have a problem with this. I agree with it. There are certain things which humans regard as having a factual, right or wrong answer in health/illness terms. The problem is, what does this tell us? It tells us what human beliefs are like. It does not necessarily extend to showing they are correct that there are objective, independent health/illness facts. Health/illness realism, if it relies on commonsense human intuitions, has built its house on sand, because human intuitions have often been shown to be wrong. All normal human brains are prone to and predisposed to false beliefs about the world. Science in particular shows this over and over. It's the achilles heel for the idea that human intuitions and commonsense and everyday language are the proper or best basis for realism about anything at all. The beliefs, including the ones deemed to be to do with what we call health or illness, may be pragmatically useful for successfully navigating the world, but that could be all it is.

More to the point, they are human intuitions. They are not independent of humans.
Do you see the point?
You could insist that illnesses existed before humans, or whatever. But the point is that whether those conditions that existed before humans were illnesses (as a matter of fact, independent of attitudes, etc.), is something that you and I (and nearly all humans) ascertain intuitively. It's not because of empirical science. One could do empirical science and study how to stop a virus or modify the eyes so that they see better without saying anything as to whether cataracts or the flu are illnesses.

The structure of your anti-intuition argument would give the health/illness anti-realist a tool for challenging health/illness common sense realism that seems to be no worse than it is as a tool for the moral anti-realist to challenge common-sense realism. Note that this argument does not depend on whether the conditions that look like illnesses to humans existed also before there were humans.

2. A second problem is color. When it comes to color, the vast majority of people - not you - agree that there is a fact of the matter, with all of the objective, independent bells and whistles of illness/health. Yet, you do not. Why? Are you relying entirely on intuitions? Surely, for billions of years, there were things with reflective properties that would make them look red, or green, or blue to us if a human had been there to look at them. Or look at this picture of Martian rocks of different colors. Many Martian rocks had been there for millions of years, eroding very, very slowly, and some probably have the same reflective properties as they did before there were any humans. Why would the facts that they have such-and-such colors be not attitude-independent, objective, etc., as nearly every human believes?

3. A third problem is morality, but I will leave it for later.
 

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
You could insist that illnesses existed before humans, or whatever. But the point is that whether those conditions that existed before humans were illnesses (as a matter of fact, independent of attitudes, etc.), is something that you and I (and nearly all humans) ascertain intuitively.

As I said before, it is agreed to be the case that everything we know is based on what you are calling 'intuitions'. I'm not sure if that's necessarily the best word or whether 'faculties of perception' or 'mind states' or 'beliefs' is better or whatever, but I'll use your word.

What you seem to be trying to say is that because of this, every claim about the world could be said to be based on what you are calling intuitions. Fair enough. But you can't necessarily put the existence of or facts about everything in the world trivially on a par like that merely because everything humans know about them comes through what you are calling intuitions. Well, you can, but only if you deny there are facts about the world which don't depend on intuitions. I'm sure you don't do this.

someone said:
You could insist that death existed before humans, or whatever. But the point is that whether those conditions that existed before humans were death (as a matter of fact, independent of attitudes, etc.), is something that you and I (and nearly all humans) ascertain intuitively.

Is that another possible version of your point about intuitions? Because, you know, we don't have to play semantic games with the term 'illness' (or 'disease' or 'damage to health') and what they mean in everyday language. To illustrate the important limitations of that sort of word game, we can go straight to certain types of illness; we can do fatal ones.

Consider:

Factual claim 1A: Damage to the human body caused by fatal illnesses causes death.
Factual claim 1B: Fatal damage was caused to Ted Bundy's body by electric shock.
Factual claim 1C: Ted Bundy died.

Factual claim 2: The execution of Ted Bundy was good and right.
(Please note that I am choosing a relatively easy moral example here and that there are more difficult ones).

The facts about those claims are not necessarily on a par, even if knowledge of all three is agreed to be based on what you are calling intuitions, and so the idea that something is factually true just because of (what you are calling) intuitions is potentially flawed, so, no, I don't see the point of what you are saying, other than that it's yet another way to restate your own beliefs, opinions and attitudes about claims such as 2 above.
 
Last edited:

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
The facts about those claims are not necessarily on a par, even if knowledge of all four are agreed to be based on what you are calling intuitions.....

Correction (above in bold).

So knowledge of all four are based on (what we are for convenience calling) intuitions. If this is all you have been saying then it was already obvious long before we started this discussion.

Some things we have intuitions about are related to attitude-independent facts about humans. Eg Death.

If you think that human death is not an attitude-independent fact, now is the time to make that claim.

Intuitions about human morality may or may not be like that. It hasn't been shown yet.

(With caveats about the suggested species-independent rules previously offered).
 
Last edited:

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
I'm asking whether in those examples (i.e., health/illness) you see something that makes them attitude-independent and that is not present in moral judgments.......

For judgements about human bodily health, I would cite freshly severed limbs or heads, or a crushed skull, or massive haemorrhaging of blood for any reason, or ECGs which reliably detect the presence of a very severe type of (eg STEMI) heart attack, or a series of x-rays showing the rapid advance of a very aggressive and lethal cancer to the point that death is imminent.

And/or in the end, cold, dead, stiff or decaying human bodies. Zero exceptions.

Compare that degree and type of apparently conclusive evidence for the realism behind judgements about human bodily health to the evidence for the realism of human moral judgements, and you have a reasonable basis to make an epistemic distinction between the two types of phenomenon, to the point that the former is arguably not even up for rational debate and the latter is endlessly discussed and as yet unresolved.
 
Last edited:

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
2. A second problem is color. When it comes to color, the vast majority of people - not you - agree that there is a fact of the matter, with all of the objective, independent bells and whistles of illness/health. Yet, you do not. Why? Are you relying entirely on intuitions? Surely, for billions of years, there were things with reflective properties that would make them look red, or green, or blue to us if a human had been there to look at them. Or look at this picture of Martian rocks of different colors. Many Martian rocks had been there for millions of years, eroding very, very slowly, and some probably have the same reflective properties as they did before there were any humans. Why would the facts that they have such-and-such colors be not attitude-independent, objective, etc., as nearly every human believes?

It's far from being just my idea. Many (in fact I read most) colour psychologists and some philosophers do not hold that colours really exist, of themselves, as properties of the world outside our heads, inside which they are colour experiences. It's not an unusual idea at all. The issue is up for debate and is unresolved. The vast majority of lay people may simply rely on limited, potentially fallible, 'ordinary/everyday' human intuitions, colloquial understandings and folk-psychological beliefs about it and haven't thought about it deeply enough or read about it widely enough, as with many things.

It's one thing to have a strong preference for realism about stuff. It's another to dogmatically deny the validity of alternatives, particularly when a particular realism/non-realism issue is unresolved and apparently inconclusive, as with colour realism and moral realism, but not so much realism about diseases, especially but not exclusively those that cause bodily death, the actual, conclusively-evidenced reality of which is surely not up for debate or in any plausible doubt by any reasonable or rational standards, despite our knowledge of it being based on what we are for convenience calling intuitions about it.
 
Last edited:

ruby sparks

Contributor
Joined
Nov 24, 2017
Messages
9,167
Location
Northern Ireland
Basic Beliefs
Atheist
I am one retired sensory psychophysiologist who holds that evolution of color vision as well as the existence of spectra in light, reflection, and illumination demonstrates colors do exist as properties of photic energy in the natural world.

I'm sure we could discuss it.

For instance, we apparently don't need light input to experience colour. Coloured phosphenes can be experienced in the dark and can be induced by Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or by inserting electrodes into the brain. I read that in some such experiments, blind people have been astounded by the experience.

I'm not saying that's conclusive either way (it isn't) but it does seem to suggest that light is at least not even necessary for the experience.

I wouldn't dispute that light factually and independently exists as radiated energy of various wavelengths or particles, or even possibly as information, or whatever. I would only say that for example 'redness and greenness' (like 'pain and pleasure', or 'the taste of chocolate') might not exist outside brains, even if our experiences of them do accurately map onto independent phenomena which are out there (or at least map fairly well most of the time, bearing in mind that for example our visual cognitive systems are not photometers and that our intuitive colour assessments are sometimes wrong*). Or it might exist outside our brains.

-------------------------------------------------------------

*There are potentially interesting comparisons here between intuitive colour judgements and intuitive moral and related judgements.

If a colour image is 'framed' by the inclusion in it of an object that appears to cast a shadow over some parts of the image, the brain will identify the colours in that part of the image differently to the rest of the image and no amount of mental effort can banish that experienced difference. There are other examples of framing effects in relation to visual judgements.

Somewhat similarly (though not identically) some experiments suggest that moral judgements can also be induced to differ by another type of framing. I am talking about how moral judgements about various moral dilemmas can apparently vary according to (a) the order of the versions of the dilemma presented, (b) the difference between taking indirect action or direct action and (c) whether the agent is presented in the second or third person (eg as 'you' or as 'John').

Similarly in some other ways, 'cooperate' or 'defect' strategies in the prisoner's dilemma can be affected by prior framing that causes the participants behaviour to vary one way or the other [eg if, while sitting in the waiting room prior to playing the game, a person overhears a (fake but believed to be true) radio news item about an act of sacrifice, such as the donation of a kidney, then the person will be much more likely to adopt a cooperative strategy in the subsequent game].

The suggestion that is made is that if our mental intuitions and instinctive judgements were reliable they might not be prone to variations and inconsistencies of this type. Again, whether that is correct is inconclusive, but in my view it at least potentially undermines the reliability of intuitions to some extent, and it's already non-controversial to suggest that intuitions can be unreliable (see my previous 'Top 20', which didn't even include obvious examples from religion).
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom