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ruby sparks

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.... of course I hold it's a correct theory - else, I would not be defending it -, and so obviously those that deny it are false.

Not warranted. Dear me. You of all people should have spotted that. All that follows is that you hold that others are false. And here was me thinking you were keen on doing logic.
 

Angra Mainyu

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.... of course I hold it's a correct theory - else, I would not be defending it -, and so obviously those that deny it are false.

Not warranted. Dear me. You of all people should have spotted that. All that follows is that you hold that others are false. And here was me thinking you were keen on doing logic.

Obviously, I mean that I hold that. It's implicit. When I argue, I say


Such-and-such is true​
and of course I am implying that those views that deny such-and-such are false (If I were to say 'I believe that such-and-such is true', the matter would be different; what I would be implying about other theories would be a matter of conversational implicatures rather than logical entailment)

Do you actually think I meant to say that if I believe that a theory is false, it follows (rather than it obviously follows from that view) that those that deny it are false? You keep just making the worst possible interpretations, and you keep misunderstanding.

Oh, and by the way, your logic is faulty. From 'Angra Mainyu holds that theory X is true' it does not follow 'Angra Mainyu holds that theories that deny X are false'. You would be correct in assessing that I hold that, if you made a probabilistic assessment in this context, and even it would be okay to say something like, 'so, you hold that the other theories are false', because that 'so' wouldn't need to be one of logical implication. But it's not true that it follows that I believe that others are false. It's consistent to say that I do not have beliefs about others (for example).
 

ruby sparks

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.. I hold it's a correct theory...and so obviously those that deny it are false.

You should express yourself more carefully, I think. Your unwarranted certitude is going to keep on slipping out like that if you don't.

Morality is not a settled matter, Angra, and you have not settled it.
 

Bomb#20

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I am not sure if the is-ought problem is overrated, but it depends what you mean.
Well, what I had in mind was that the is-ought problem isn't a special insight into morality. We face the same issue in every area where humans divide the analog world into digital categories, and we don't let it stop us. How can we get from facts about how many legs something has and how tall it is and what color it is and so forth to a logical conclusion about whether it's a horse? It's not as though children are ever taught formal criteria for horseness and then run down a checklist and consequently conclude an animal with three legs can't be a horse because "quadruped" was in the definition. As children we just saw some horses and heard people call them "horses" and got the general idea. And now when we see a new animal we judge it a horse when the neural networks for horses that grew in our brains fire up. The foundation of thought isn't logic or science; it's pattern matching. And pattern matching is an eminently sensible way to draw conclusions. It's error-prone, true; but it's not as though we have a better alternative. Heck, the only justification we have for logic and science themselves is pattern matching. How do you know (NOT NOT A implies A), other than that it fits a pattern you've seen a thousand times that's never led you wrong?

So if I can't deductively prove you ought not torture people for fun without introducing some premise with "ought" in it that's more dubious than the desired conclusion, so what? I can't deductively prove Wizard was a horse either, without introducing some premise with "horse" in it that's more dubious than the desired conclusion. But that's not sufficient reason to conclude that I don't know whether he was a horse. I met Wizard a dozen times. He ate hay out of my hand. The same pattern recurs in every field of human inquiry. But it's only in morality where for some reason this routine puzzle of human psychology is commonly blown up into an argument for radical antirealism.

Hume made pretty much the same argument about two other philosophical conundrums: inductive reasoning (How do you get from a "was" to a "will") and causality (How do you get from a "happened after" to a "was caused by"). Some philosophers have certainly been known to take those objections seriously, but Hume's skepticism about induction and cause-and-effect never made its way into the public consciousness the way his moral skepticism did. Why is that? Does the you-can't-prove-it's-a-horse argument qualify as a better argument when you make it about morality than when you make it about other areas?

Anyway, that's why I think it's overrated. I hope it helps.

I might say that it can never be got past, although this does not prevent us from coming up with moral theories nonetheless. We pragmatically need to do that, I think, not least because (a) we are stuck with having to deal with our moral intuitions and (b) we must find ways to co-exist, if only in order to survive, which I feel is probably the main driver for what we humans call (rationalise as being) morality, even though the universe is amoral.
Right. But I think the way people normally come up with moral theories is completely wrong-headed. They try to invent some principle from which all moral questions can be answered; then they infer that our moral intuitions are invalid unless the principle agrees with them. It's sort of like if Kepler had dealt with his dissatisfaction with the prevailing Ptolemaic model of the solar system by setting out to invent an explanation accounting for every phenomenon in the universe. If he'd tried that the result wouldn't have been a grand unified theory of quantum gravity; he'd have invented some gobbledygook about nature maximizing the glory of God or something. That's not the way to make progress -- reaching out too far into the unknown is recipe for "If the observations disagree with the theory they must be discarded." We'd do better to have a little modesty about our abilities, and work toward our general moral theory incrementally, finding limited explanations that handle small pieces of the overall problem, testing those explanations at every step of the way, checking if what they say still makes sense in some changed situation.

Personally, I would say that morality is not either objective or relativist. I would say that that is a false dichotomy, and too simple to reflect the enormous complexities. Does that mean I would say that there are no objective moral facts? No, I don't think I would go as far as that.
Well, that gets us into definitions of objective and relativist. Some people equate "objective" with "universal", or "certain", or "without exceptions", or "human-independent"; but personally, I'd define "objective morality" as meaning at least one moral claim is truth-apt and its truth doesn't depend on any observer's subjective opinion. As for "relativist", relative to what? To my mind the phrase refers to moral claims' truth depending on an observer's subjective opinion or preference. But there are other things truth could be relative to. "You shouldn't kill him." might well be true or false depending on whether the guy wants to be killed; but it seems to me that would not be a case of what is normally meant by "moral relativism". YMMV; in any event it's merely a semantic point. We don't need to agree on what's the best terminology as long as we're able to explain what we mean and translate our arguments into the various alternative moral languages.

There may be, but my caveats would be that (a) there might only be a very few, in clear cut situations (which I think are the minority) and (b) they are only objective in the sense that they are common to all (let's say) normal, properly-functioning humans (temporarily assuming we can define that) and are not objectively independent of our species the way that, for example, the laws of physics are.
I don't see why anything would need to be independent of our species in order to be objective; after all, it's an objective fact what species we are. It's wrong for a man to kill his meat slowly in order to have more fun in the process; it isn't wrong for a cat to do it. Cats and humans are different kinds of animals; our brains are wired differently; a human who thinks like a cat is broken while a cat who thinks like a cat isn't broken.

For example, take Angra's favourite "it is morally wrong to torture people just for the fun of it.” All 'normal, properly-functioning' humans might agree with this, but (a) that does not make it independently true and (b) once we move away from such extreme examples, the ground starts to get situationally boggy, not least when we move on to responses (just deserts).
Situationally boggy doesn't bother me. To suppose situational bogginess conflicts with objectivity gets things precisely backwards. Situational morality is objective morality: objectivity is the whole reason it's possible in the first place to discredit a proposed moral rule by identifying a situation where it gives a nutty answer. "Self defense" is only able to situationally refute "Thou shalt not kill" because there's a right answer to whether it was morally permissible for Bruce Willis to use lethal force to stop Alan Rickman from shooting him. Without a right answer independent of opinion, a situation isn't what it takes to make an exception to a rule. All it takes is "Nuh-uh!".

(Of course, in a complicated world full of non-clear-cut situations, one might well worry that there's no end to exceptions, and you can never get a definitive answer to anything because for any possible moral judgment there always might be a situation you haven't thought of where it's wrong. The thing to keep in mind, though, is that this is only a problem for moral theories, not a problem for moral facts. You can always avoid the possibility of exceptions by specifying the situation completely: i.e., by considering a specific case instead of a generalization. "It's wrong to murder the President" might well be too situationally boggy to qualify as a moral fact, true; but "Booth ought not to have murdered Lincoln" can't be, because it isn't situationally boggy at all.)
 

ruby sparks

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Well, what I had in mind was that the is-ought problem isn't a special insight into morality. We face the same issue in every area where humans divide the analog world into digital categories, and we don't let it stop us. How can we get from facts about how many legs something has and how tall it is and what color it is and so forth to a logical conclusion about whether it's a horse? It's not as though children are ever taught formal criteria for horseness and then run down a checklist and consequently conclude an animal with three legs can't be a horse because "quadruped" was in the definition. As children we just saw some horses and heard people call them "horses" and got the general idea. And now when we see a new animal we judge it a horse when the neural networks for horses that grew in our brains fire up. The foundation of thought isn't logic or science; it's pattern matching. And pattern matching is an eminently sensible way to draw conclusions. It's error-prone, true; but it's not as though we have a better alternative. Heck, the only justification we have for logic and science themselves is pattern matching. How do you know (NOT NOT A implies A), other than that it fits a pattern you've seen a thousand times that's never led you wrong?

So if I can't deductively prove you ought not torture people for fun without introducing some premise with "ought" in it that's more dubious than the desired conclusion, so what? I can't deductively prove Wizard was a horse either, without introducing some premise with "horse" in it that's more dubious than the desired conclusion. But that's not sufficient reason to conclude that I don't know whether he was a horse. I met Wizard a dozen times. He ate hay out of my hand. The same pattern recurs in every field of human inquiry. But it's only in morality where for some reason this routine puzzle of human psychology is commonly blown up into an argument for radical antirealism.

Hume made pretty much the same argument about two other philosophical conundrums: inductive reasoning (How do you get from a "was" to a "will") and causality (How do you get from a "happened after" to a "was caused by"). Some philosophers have certainly been known to take those objections seriously, but Hume's skepticism about induction and cause-and-effect never made its way into the public consciousness the way his moral skepticism did. Why is that? Does the you-can't-prove-it's-a-horse argument qualify as a better argument when you make it about morality than when you make it about other areas?

Anyway, that's why I think it's overrated. I hope it helps.

I won’t quibble, because I think I mostly (a) agree that the is-ought problem may be over-rated in the way you describe and (b) agree with what you say about the way we think, and thank you for the interesting insights and parallels.

Right. But I think the way people normally come up with moral theories is completely wrong-headed. They try to invent some principle from which all moral questions can be answered; then they infer that our moral intuitions are invalid unless the principle agrees with them. It's sort of like if Kepler had dealt with his dissatisfaction with the prevailing Ptolemaic model of the solar system by setting out to invent an explanation accounting for every phenomenon in the universe. If he'd tried that the result wouldn't have been a grand unified theory of quantum gravity; he'd have invented some gobbledygook about nature maximizing the glory of God or something. That's not the way to make progress -- reaching out too far into the unknown is recipe for "If the observations disagree with the theory they must be discarded." We'd do better to have a little modesty about our abilities, and work toward our general moral theory incrementally, finding limited explanations that handle small pieces of the overall problem, testing those explanations at every step of the way, checking if what they say still makes sense in some changed situation.

Ok, so, to me, this resort to human intuitions is what I think is a good feature (in the non-moral sense) about what I am going to call angra’s moral theory.

And while I agree with you that coming up with moral principles that conflict with typical human intuitions is a bit suspect, I'm as suspicious of claims that there are underlying moral truths (for example, entirely on the basis of human intuitions). I'm not a big fan of either, possibly for different reasons.

And I'm particularly wary of expressing certainty in such matters. I personally have not seen an unproblematic moral theory. I read of many, and some seem better than others, that's all. An ex-member of this forum used to say, 'the study of the human mind has not had its Isaac Newton yet' and I often think about that.

Well, that gets us into definitions of objective and relativist. Some people equate "objective" with "universal", or "certain", or "without exceptions", or "human-independent"; but personally, I'd define "objective morality" as meaning at least one moral claim is truth-apt and its truth doesn't depend on any observer's subjective opinion. As for "relativist", relative to what? To my mind the phrase refers to moral claims' truth depending on an observer's subjective opinion or preference. But there are other things truth could be relative to. "You shouldn't kill him." might well be true or false depending on whether the guy wants to be killed; but it seems to me that would not be a case of what is normally meant by "moral relativism". YMMV; in any event it's merely a semantic point. We don't need to agree on what's the best terminology as long as we're able to explain what we mean and translate our arguments into the various alternative moral languages.

To me defining "objective morality" as merely meaning “at least one moral claim is truth-apt and its truth doesn't depend on any observer's subjective opinion” is what I might call a low bar.

For example, and only referring to the 'at least one' component, if a relativist can claim, to a similar extent, that at least one moral claim is relative, where does that leave the argument over whether morality is objective or relative? On a bell curve of some sort? Personally, I suspect that's the sort of thing we're talking about here. Something like a bell curve (with the vertical axis being ascending disagreement and the horizontal axis being different types of moral claim) And even at the extremes representing 'objectivity' I think it's a watered-down (perhaps better to say weak) definition of objectivity that's being used.

I don't see why anything would need to be independent of our species in order to be objective; after all, it's an objective fact what species we are. It's wrong for a man to kill his meat slowly in order to have more fun in the process; it isn't wrong for a cat to do it. Cats and humans are different kinds of animals; our brains are wired differently; a human who thinks like a cat is broken while a cat who thinks like a cat isn't broken.

Literally the first dictionary definition google threw up for me for ‘objective’ was “not dependent on the mind for existence; actual". This is what I generally mean by ‘objective’ (and also ‘independent’). YMMV.


Situationally boggy doesn't bother me. To suppose situational bogginess conflicts with objectivity gets things precisely backwards. Situational morality is objective morality: objectivity is the whole reason it's possible in the first place to discredit a proposed moral rule by identifying a situation where it gives a nutty answer. "Self defense" is only able to situationally refute "Thou shalt not kill" because there's a right answer to whether it was morally permissible for Bruce Willis to use lethal force to stop Alan Rickman from shooting him. Without a right answer independent of opinion, a situation isn't what it takes to make an exception to a rule. All it takes is "Nuh-uh!".

(Of course, in a complicated world full of non-clear-cut situations, one might well worry that there's no end to exceptions, and you can never get a definitive answer to anything because for any possible moral judgment there always might be a situation you haven't thought of where it's wrong. The thing to keep in mind, though, is that this is only a problem for moral theories, not a problem for moral facts. You can always avoid the possibility of exceptions by specifying the situation completely: i.e., by considering a specific case instead of a generalization. "It's wrong to murder the President" might well be too situationally boggy to qualify as a moral fact, true; but "Booth ought not to have murdered Lincoln" can't be, because it isn't situationally boggy at all.)

I think somewhere in the middle of that (the bolded part) you seemed to assume that situational morality is objective morality?

I agree that situational variety does not necessary mean the absence of objectivity. However, what I would say is that I strongly doubt that the situational variegation we see in the real world is underlain with objective (even in the sense you mentioned above) moral facts, to the point that there would be recourse to these ‘if only the situation was specified completely’. Consider me very sceptical about that.

There may be at least one 'objective moral fact' (using what I am calling a weak definition of 'objective', and possibly 'fact' too) but if such a fact is not invoked by or involved in a particular situation (eg something not involving killing, let alone killing for fun) then why would I assume that a completely specified situation not involving such a fact is going to lead me back to an objective moral fact about that situation (or indeed about the response to it, such as the deserts, something we have been setting aside for a while now)?

Here's an afterthought. It seems to be the case that one very common type of situational difference is 'ingroup or outgroup' (friend or foe, like me or not like me) and that our intuitive sense of right and wrong varies accordingly. So, even if there were, by some definitions, an 'objective moral fact' about doing X to someone, it would often need to be amended, in many cases, to cater for that sort of situational difference. At the very least, I do not think this adds any weight to claims for objective moral facts, and I would say it weakens them. As, by the way, for me, does the specification about supposed 'normal, proper-functioning, rational' humans, which, apart from not even being species-wide, in some ways sounds a bit like 'as all right-thinking people would surely agree....". As does what I think is using a weak definition of objectivity. As does defining 'fact' as 'what is very widely agreed'. As does the bar being as low as 'at least one'. I suspect the chairs are merely, to some extent, being arranged on the deck of the ship by semantically-inclined passengers who really really want to know the ship's TrueTM course, and think rearranging the deck chairs is going to help with finding that out. To clarify what i mean there, I think there is a tendency to define things into existence.

As such, I think my bottom line opinion is that there are, in the end, no objective moral facts (I don't mean 'facts about morality'; that humans have moral intuitions is, of course, a fact. I mean that something is actually either morally right or wrong). It's just that we have evolved to think and feel that there are. I know that's quite a strong claim, but if I had to put my neck on the chopping block while being open to having my head chopped off if I'm wrong, that's what I'd say. Imo, the guiding principles are probably the same amoral ones that rule every living thing in the universe. We're not that special. See the cartoon posted by me previously.

Now, even if that's true, we can still (and always have) come up with moral standards, obviously, albeit ones that have shifted around at least somewhat throughout history. And taking human intuitions into account is probably a good idea, up to a point. But as someone might once have said, 'I like pigs, I'm just not sure I could eat a whole hog'. :)

In other words I wouldn't buy the 'moral facts from intuitions' claim wholesale.

And then there's the naturalistic fallacy to watch out for too, or the is-ought issue, or whatever. Even if it is somewhat over-rated.

It is sometimes said of moral relativism that it leads to absurd conclusions, such as that there are no morals or ways to make moral judgements, but I don't see that as absurd. Actually, it's not even the case, there are of course ways to make moral judgements, it's just that under relativism they're not made on the basis of actual moral facts, that's all.

I think I'm a moral relativist much more than I am a moral realist or objectivist. If this leaves me uncertain, I think that's currently the best, most warranted place to be, all things considered.
 
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Angra Mainyu

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ruby sparks said:
Ok, so, to me, this resort to human intuitions is what I think is a good feature (in the non-moral sense) about what I am going to call angra’s moral theory.
Sigh...call it a moral theory if you like, but I am not the author. It is not my merit to invent it, so not my moral theory. Maybe you could ask B20 about his moral theory. ;)
 

ruby sparks

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ruby sparks said:
Ok, so, to me, this resort to human intuitions is what I think is a good feature (in the non-moral sense) about what I am going to call angra’s moral theory.
Sigh...call it a moral theory if you like, but I am not the author. It is not my merit to invent it, so not my moral theory. Maybe you could ask B20 about his moral theory. ;)

I’m calling it yours for convenience. If you are making the claims it makes then it’s effectively ‘yours’ (your position) in the discussion, imo.

Who invented it by the way?

Would you like to hear mine? I haven’t really thought it through. I’d be winging it. It involves voles.
 

Bomb#20

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The role of social consensus here is limited to probabilistic outcomes:
The social consensus is impressed by Pascal's Wager. It judges that the risk of Gary going to Hell outweighs the infinitesimal probability that being taught Christianity will make him more dangerous than he is as a Jew.
which assumes things not in evidence. Prove hell. They both have EQUALLY proven beliefs, proven on equal amounts of evidence.
What of it? All probability assessments assume things not in evidence. See Bayes' Theorem -- even when you have evidence you can't derive a probability from it without starting from a "prior probability". If the role of social consensus here is limited to probabilistic outcomes, keeping people from going to Hell is within the authority of social consensus.

Pascal's Wager has already fallen to trivial logical argument<snip>
I agree, of course. But judging its merit won't be up to the you and me consensus. It will be up to the social consensus.

No system based on axioms can tolerate the existence of a contradiction within it. It has nothing to do with emotion and everything to do with the fact that I expect my ethical principles to be logical. I have a logic boner.
...you haven't even exhibited a logical contradiction in ethical systems that really are asymmetrical. Here, let's make it as easy for you as it could be. Consider the ethical system "King Charles I may do whatever he pleases; everyone else has an ethical duty to obey King Charles I in all things." Go ahead: derive a logical contradiction from that.

King Charles is a person, in the same fashion as all of "everyone else".

The contradiction exists quite plainly in that special pleading: the fact that King Charles' rights contradict with everyone else's rights; person X does not have equal moral value to person Y for all X and Y.
That's not "a contradiction within it". That's a contradiction within a larger system that includes both the axiom I exhibited and a second axiom added by you: that all persons have equal moral value. Logic boners do not require that no system based on axioms can tolerate contradicting you.

I am under no obligation to accept your axiom, at any rate.
Nobody said you were; you were challenged to back up your claim that your meta-goal theory is based on logic rather than emotional attachment. To back up that claim, you'll need to show the Charles-axiom is self-contradictory. You merely declining to accept the axiom doesn't do the job. Nobody in this day and age accepts it, but that doesn't make it self-contradictory.

I am under an obligation to accept axioms I cannot deny and the other I cannot deny if I wish to be non-contradictory with an axiom no other can deny: that I claim my authority to act on the basis of my own existence (that I, ultimately, have autonomy).
How do you figure no other can deny that axiom? Hobbes denied that axiom. According to Hobbes, you surrendered your autonomy to his employer, King Charles I, when you entered the Social Compact.

Second is that if I claim this autonomy it is equal in value to all others who claim this autonomy.
You don't appear to believe that due to logic. You appear to believe it due to having a symmetry boner.

So, if our autonomies have equal value (axiom 2) and your goal requires a greater value to your autonomy than mine, you have already invoked a contradiction.
A contradiction with your axiom, not a self-contradiction. The rest of us are under no obligation to accept your axiom.

This is the ethical disproof of justification, the point at which an ought becomes qualified as "not ethically justified".
...assuming your axiom is correct. The trouble with axiomatic approaches to ethics is justifying their axioms.

Instrumental and moral oughts are only differing in whether they are symmetrically non-contradictory,
Show your work. Instrumental and moral oughts appear prima facie to be differing in that "But I don't want to reach the other side of the wall" is generally perceived to be a good reason for not doing the thing one supposedly ought.

"When my goal is to get to the other side of the wall in the example but my goal isn't to get to the other side of the wall in the example..."
You are invoking a contradiction against the initial conditions of the example. The point is that the best strategy is contextual to the goal. You are moving the goalposts, quite literally, in asserting a different goal than the one our hypothetical actor had.
I didn't assert a different goal; I exhibited an additional difference between instrumental and moral oughts, thereby rebutting your claim. Even assuming I share your goal of using the least energy to get you to the other side of the wall, suppose the easiest way is for Alice to pick the lock. So I tell her she ought to pick the lock. If she says "But I don't want to make it easy for him; I like watching Jarhyn work at it.", I'd have to admit that's sufficient reason for her not to pick the lock. In contrast, if I tell her "Pick the lock or not as you please; either way you ought to leave without getting to see Jarhyn struggle. You promised daycare you'll pick up your kid by 6:00.", then when she says "But I don't want to pick up my kid yet; she's a pain in the neck.", that's not sufficient reason for her not to go pick up her kid.

(Be that as it may, even if I were wrong about this, don't try to reverse burden-of-proof. It's your claim. Which part of "Show your work." didn't you understand?)

You frequently assert that the metagoal is a specific goal. It is not.

The metagoal represents a SET of goals, namely ALL goals for which value of autonomy of X is accepted as equal to the value of autonomy of Y.
And? Any specific goal you could describe represents a set of goals, where some details are definite and some are left as open variables. You're special-pleading.

Besides, you don't accept all goals for which value of autonomy of X is accepted as equal to the value of autonomy of Y either -- not if X isn't a person. You picked an arbitrary set to be first-class agents and you declare logic dictates that they're the set whose autonomy has to be valued equally. Well, Hobbes did the same thing, only his set of first-class agents was King Charles I. Retributivists could do the same, only our set of first-class agents would be the set of all innocent people. The PETA-folks could do the same, only their set of first-class agents would include animals some arbitrary distance down the evolutionary scale. How do you figure logic would pick out one of those sets and imply it's less arbitrary than the others?

I am using a single example where a goal is assumed to derive a strategy, so that later, when I derive a strategy that describes the metagoal, I can demonstrate an instrumental ought that is universally morally justified without engaging in special pleading.
Where "is universally morally justified" is a phrase that here apparently means "is implied by MY axiom, not by YOUR axiom".

Now, let me get back to your Pascal's Wager <expletive deleted>: first, Gary not going to church does not in any way generate risk for others. It creates exactly the outcome he has consented to on the basis of his own goals: It does not assume his justification based on his existence is superior to the justification of actions others have based on their existences. He has consented to hell if he is wrong AS IS HIS RIGHT,
When we as a community punish a wrongdoer who deserves it, do you feel our case for getting to do that is improved if we say we're punishing him AS IS OUR RIGHT? Or does justifying alleged rights using proof-by-capitalization only work when you do it?

just as the christians consent to hell if Gary happens to be right.
How do you figure? Judaism is a university; Christianity is an insurance company. The Old Testament God is a comparatively well-behaved character. He may be a genocidal maniac, true, but He wouldn't sentence people to eternal damnation just for believing in the wrong religion. It's the leaner, meaner New Testament God who sunk to that level of monstrosity.

Because Gary does not risk THEIR souls even in going to hell, he has a right to do so on the basis of his personal goals ... There are some things the principles of ethics I have laid down do not allow a vote on, namely whether a person's rights are superior to another's. Only on what risk one is allowed to subject another to, and that this risk is purely measured in terms of the impacts on another person's goals, which can even include "going to hell, if I am wrong".
But the social consensus isn't claiming Bob's rights are superior to Gary's. Bob has no more right to skip church than Gary has. And their view of risk is more symmetrical than yours. Your position implies in effect that each person should be asymmetrically focused only on his own risk, as though benefit to himself is his only concern. The social consensus is more unselfish than that. The risk they care about minimizing is everyone's risk, because everyone's soul is equally valuable in God's eyes.

(Moreover, according to the social consensus's theology, you're wrong about whose souls are at risk. If Gary skips church and goes to Hell, the rest of the community could go to Hell too just for letting it happen. As Ezekiel 3 says, "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul." So even if they evaluated the risk your egoistic way instead of their selfless way, your rule authorizes them to shove their religion down Gary's throat.)

And of course in this situation even God himself is measured against ethics. And we could have a merry conversation in which you would probably agree with me that the very idea of hell is unethical, at least within the context of the neo-lamarckian social-technological strategic context.
Indeed so.
 

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And while I agree with you that coming up with moral principles that conflict with typical human intuitions is a bit suspect, I'm as suspicious of claims that there are underlying moral truths (for example, entirely on the basis of human intuitions). I'm not a big fan of either, possibly for different reasons.

And I'm particularly wary of expressing certainty in such matters.
Antirealists often equate realism with expression of certainty. That makes no sense. When there's a fact of the matter independent of my mind, it follows that I might be wrong. But how can I be wrong if there's no fact to be wrong about? It's subjectivism that provides certainty. A lot of people think I'm weird for liking Hawaiian pizza, but pineapple is certainly yummy.

I personally have not seen an unproblematic moral theory. I read of many, and some seem better than others, that's all. An ex-member of this forum used to say, 'the study of the human mind has not had its Isaac Newton yet' and I often think about that.
Well put.

... personally, I'd define "objective morality" as meaning at least one moral claim is truth-apt and its truth doesn't depend on any observer's subjective opinion. As for "relativist", relative to what? To my mind the phrase refers to moral claims' truth depending on an observer's subjective opinion or preference. ...

To me defining "objective morality" as merely meaning “at least one moral claim is truth-apt and its truth doesn't depend on any observer's subjective opinion” is what I might call a low bar.

For example, and only referring to the 'at least one' component, if a relativist can claim, to a similar extent, that at least one moral claim is relative, where does that leave the argument over whether morality is objective or relative? On a bell curve of some sort? Personally, I suspect that's the sort of thing we're talking about here.
You say you're suspicious of claims that there are underlying moral truths. Well, nobody's suspicious of claims that there are things that aren't moral truths. So if it really is a bell-curve, with a few objective moral truths at one end, a few purely observer-relative moral judgments at the other end, and a lot of semi-objective moral semi-facts in between, then that requires a far more radical world-view shift for the relativist than for the realist. Compared to getting from zero to one, isn't getting from one to a hundred just a quibble over numbers? It seems to me saying "at least one" draws the line at the point of basic philosophical disagreement.

And even at the extremes representing 'objectivity' I think it's a watered-down (perhaps better to say weak) definition of objectivity that's being used.

I don't see why anything would need to be independent of our species in order to be objective; after all, it's an objective fact what species we are.

Literally the first dictionary definition google threw up for me for ‘objective’ was “not dependent on the mind for existence; actual". This is what I generally mean by ‘objective’ (and also ‘independent’). YMMV.
Well, I don't want to get hung up on this, because it's just labeling and we can perfectly well discuss meta-ethics without using the word "objective"; but keep in mind that lexicographers are as susceptible to human error as the rest of us. They write definitions based on whatever examples come to mind at the moment, and they can't test all their definitions thoroughly when they have a hundred thousand words to define. (I saw a dictionary once that defined "god" as "a male deity", and defined "deity" as "a god or goddess".)

So let's test google's definition. Is whether a person has schizophrenia subjective or objective? Is whether a person knows how to algebraically solve a quadratic equation subjective or objective? Is whether we're having this discussion in English or in Irish subjective or objective? All sorts of matters depend on the mind for existence and yet are objective, going by the way most people typically use the word. So it seems to me google's first definition of "objective" is just a mistake. "Actual" is a better definition. Schizophrenia, closed-form solutions to quadratic equations, and English are all actual things, anybody's contrary opinion notwithstanding.

Situationally boggy doesn't bother me. To suppose situational bogginess conflicts with objectivity gets things precisely backwards. Situational morality is objective morality: objectivity is the whole reason it's possible in the first place to discredit a proposed moral rule by identifying a situation where it gives a nutty answer. "Self defense" is only able to situationally refute "Thou shalt not kill" because there's a right answer to whether it was morally permissible for Bruce Willis to use lethal force to stop Alan Rickman from shooting him. Without a right answer independent of opinion, a situation isn't what it takes to make an exception to a rule. All it takes is "Nuh-uh!".

I think somewhere in the middle of that (the bolded part) you seemed to assume that situational morality is objective morality?
I didn't assume it; I argued for it. If you think I didn't make a good case for it, fine. So what's wrong with my argument? Do you have a better theory for why people keep challenging somebody else's moral claim by offering a situation where it gives the wrong answer, if there's no such thing as a wrong answer?

I agree that situational variety does not necessary mean the absence of objectivity. However, what I would say is that I strongly doubt that the situational variegation we see in the real world is underlain with objective (even in the sense you mentioned above) moral facts, to the point that there would be recourse to these ‘if only the situation was specified completely’. Consider me very sceptical about that.
No worries. I haven't been presenting a positive case for moral facts here; I've just been pointing out errors in Jarhyn's arguments, and then answering your questions about what I meant. If we're going beyond those narrow bounds, this subthread really belongs in M&P.

There may be at least one 'objective moral fact' (using what I am calling a weak definition of 'objective', and possibly 'fact' too) but if such a fact is not invoked by or involved in a particular situation (eg something not involving killing, let alone killing for fun) then why would I assume that a completely specified situation not involving such a fact is going to lead me back to an objective moral fact about that situation...
Do you mean when there's no fact involved that all sane people agree with, one like "killing people for fun is wrong", then why should you extrapolate from a small set of facts that all sane people agree with and infer that it's part of a larger set of facts even though lots of sane people disagree with those?

If that's what you mean, in the first place, I don't think the set that all sane people agree with is a small set. It only seems that way because nobody's talking about the cases where we all agree; disagreement is what causes moral problems to get talked about. Things don't have to be extreme and involve killing in order for morality to be obvious to practically everyone. You go to the quickie-mart to buy a snack. The clerk says it's 1 pound 50. You hand him a 10 pound note. Should the clerk (a) hand you 8 pounds 50 in change, or (b) say "Score! 4 pounds 25 windfall for me and 4 pounds 25 extra profit for the owners!"? Good luck finding a sane person who thinks "b" is the right thing to do. Living in a normal human society means living in a constant background of other people practically always doing the right thing without a second thought. They say fish don't have a word for water.

And in the second place, extrapolating is reasonable on the basis of pattern matching. Life is full of easy problems that anyone can figure out and harder problems that take some effort and skill to solve. Everybody agrees that you don't look quite the same as your parents but your parents nonetheless reproduced and thereby made you. But all we need to do to make that agreement go away is multiply that exact situation by a million. Now the world is packed with people who figure that, because an ape doesn't look the same as a human, they don't agree that some apes reproduced and their kids reproduced and after a million generations that made you. It's entirely normal to have people agree about the simple questions and disagree about the tricky questions -- and we don't normally infer that whether there's a right answer or not depends on whether people agree or not. Does anyone think whether your great-to-the-millionth grandfather was a human is a matter of opinion? Was that guy simultaneously an ape for evolutionists and a human for creationists? Of course not. When people agree about the easy stuff and disagree about the hard stuff, all it normally means is that a lot of people get hard stuff wrong, because it's hard. So why should morality be any different? If there's at least one "objective moral fact", i.e., if there's an easy case that's not a matter of opinion, then why would we expect the whole topic to suddenly stop being factual and turn into a matter of opinion as soon as the cases get too hard for everyone to figure out the same answer?

Here's an afterthought. It seems to be the case that one very common type of situational difference is 'ingroup or outgroup' (friend or foe, like me or not like me) and that our intuitive sense of right and wrong varies accordingly. So, even if there were, by some definitions, an 'objective moral fact' about doing X to someone, it would often need to be amended, in many cases, to cater for that sort of situational difference.
Sure, same as any other situational difference. If a Japanese pilot blows up our battleship on purpose and we capture him, we stick him in a POW camp and let him go when the war's over. If an American pilot blows up our battleship on purpose and we capture him, we lock him up for life or shoot him. When a moral rule turns out to have exceptions because of the situation it just means the rule was an oversimplification from the get-go.

At the very least, I do not think this adds any weight to claims for objective moral facts, and I would say it weakens them.
Why? Is there some meta-rule that says in order to be objectively true, a fact has to be explainable in ten words or less?

As, by the way, for me, does the specification about supposed 'normal, proper-functioning, rational' humans, which, apart from not even being species-wide, in some ways sounds a bit like 'as all right-thinking people would surely agree....".
Do you also equate those in the case of the non-moral components of physiology? Does "a normal, proper-functioning heart" mean a heart that does whatever all right-thinking people would surely agree it should? The conventional arguments against morality being objective are paralleled by identical arguments against disease being objective. Do you think there's no fact of the matter as to whether an animal is sick?

As does what I think is using a weak definition of objectivity.
Well, as far as I can tell, morality isn't math, and morality isn't physics. Morality is biology. So if like so many others you have prejudged the matter to be either reducible to simple axioms that take no account of how monkeys think, or else subjective, then you're going to decide it's subjective. But that's a false dilemma. Reality doesn't have to match our philosophical preconceptions. Morality is allowed to be irreducibly complicated. The human moral sense evolved from the monkey moral sense and it carries the marks of its history. That isn't a weak definition of objectivity; that's just clarity as to what is and isn't being claimed to be a fact. Likewise, humans can develop schizophrenia, but maybe somebody will show that shrimp aren't subject to schizophrenia. If that happens, it won't call the objectivity of a schizophrenia diagnosis into question; it will just be yet more proof that biology is more complicated than physics.

(And in any event, subjectivist meta-ethical theories blatantly fail to satisfy logic or observation; the only alternative to moral realism that isn't intellectual crackpottery is straight-up error theory.)

As does defining 'fact' as 'what is very widely agreed'.
Nobody did that.

As does the bar being as low as 'at least one'.
...
As such, I think my bottom line opinion is that there are, in the end, no objective moral facts
Well, that's why the bar is "at least one". The terms for the opposing positions are attempts to describe the opposing positions.

(I don't mean 'facts about morality'; that humans have moral intuitions is, of course, a fact. I mean that something is actually either morally right or wrong). It's just that we have evolved to think and feel that there are.
Likewise, we have evolved to think and feel that there's yellow stuff. The reason we have evolved this way is because thinking and feeling that there's yellow stuff confers a survival advantage. The simplest explanation for why animals who think and feel that there's yellow stuff have a survival advantage over animals who don't, is that there's yellow stuff. Being right can keep you from getting killed.

Imo, the guiding principles are probably the same amoral ones that rule every living thing in the universe. We're not that special.
Correct, we aren't. So what makes you think every living thing is the universe is ruled by amoral guiding principles? Monkeys have morals. Read Frans de Waal.

It is sometimes said of moral relativism that it leads to absurd conclusions, such as that there are no morals or ways to make moral judgements, but I don't see that as absurd. Actually, it's not even the case, there are of course ways to make moral judgements, it's just that under relativism they're not made on the basis of actual moral facts, that's all.
They're made, typically, on the basis of unsound arguments. E.g. "Judgment X is justified relative to principle P. Well, is principle P true? No, morality is always relative to some principle; principles themselves aren't true or false." So the justification for the moral conclusion is that it follows from a premise that isn't true. Reasoning from a premise that isn't true is an unsound argument. Moral relativism (at least the naive version) is faith in the justificatory capability of unsound arguments.

I think I'm a moral relativist much more than I am a moral realist or objectivist. If this leaves me uncertain, I think that's currently the best, most warranted place to be, all things considered.
In your version of moral relativism, what is morality relative to?
 

ruby sparks

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In your version of moral relativism, what is morality relative to?

It's evening and I'm heading to London by air very early tomorrow morning, so I apologise if I don't respond to everything. Point me back to something in particular if you think it needs addressed.

In fact, what I'll do is just answer that last question, but before doing that I'll briefly touch on some of the previous points.

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

I'm good with morality being biological, and that other species display similar traits on the same basis, and as I said before I agree that disagreement and complexity of themselves don't mean there aren't facts. I'm not sure about the 'fish don't have a word for water' thing. I take the point that we tend to notice disagreement more than agreement (or mutual understanding about who if anyone is at fault) but I would not feel sure about which is more prevalent, especially not after having witnessed my parents' marriage for over 40 years and having been married myself for 27, and also, just as disagreement doesn't necessarily indicate the absence of objective moral facts, agreement surely doesn't necessarily indicate the presence of them. Point taken about dictionaries, obviously.

If I've left something out there, it's either because I agree, or because I need to think about it a bit more. I admit I'm struggling with the issues around 'objectivity', and you've made some very good, interesting and challenging points, but at this time I'm still a bit inclined to stick with 'mind-independent' for now. Saying something like "moral judgement about X qualifies as an objective moral fact because all normal, adult members of a species think it so" still feels like too big a hurdle, especially if the thing itself, X, is, in the end, non-moral by what I might call fully objective standards. And we can't say those sort of things about schizophrenia. We surely can't say either "the existence of schizophrenia qualifies as an objective physical fact because all normal, adult members of a species think it so" or "schizophrenia is, in the end, non-physical, by fully objective standards".

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To get back to your question (above)....what is morality relative to, as I see it?

My initial reaction is to say, possibly a great multitude of things, each developing in different ways, situational and varying by proportion, and all of them interacting dynamically with each other.

I'll start with the one I mentioned, the bias towards 'like me' and against 'not like me', for, let's say, a human doing Y to another human (Y being non-benign). Sure, you can try to amend the 'facts' accordingly by taking this additional specification into account, but how can it be morally right to do Y on the basis of 'not like me' and morally wrong on the basis of 'like me'?

Counsel for the defence: 'Your honour, the victim is black-skinned and the defendant is white-skinned, I therefore call for the case against my client to be dismissed'.

Bearing in mind that when human babies first display this sort of bias, it's only statistically most of them that do it. Others don't. Ditto for preferences for fairness generally. It seems it's merely varied innate tendencies or dispositions we're looking at, at least initially (before nurture sticks its oar into the development mix). And don't even start me on the distributions of things like the big 5 personality traits (or big 7, or big 10, depending on your model, or big 1000 if I were to make one up) and how they interact with each other and vary with age, sex, culture, number of siblings, parenting experiences, other traumas, and so on and so forth. Obviously, yes, you could make up a more specific list of 'moral facts' to suit each particular configuration, but at some point it seems to me it gets silly. More accurate, I think, to say it's relative to a great many things. Possibly even better, imo, to say that it's relative to a great many ultimately non-moral things. The more I think about it, the more correct it feels to say that. I think I'm becoming even more of a moral relativist than I was. Other similar words spring to mind, such as contingent, conditional, dependent, provisional, etc. Isn't that what relative is?

Now I'm also wondering what definition of 'moral' we're using.


ETA: See also my later post #284.
 
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Angra Mainyu

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ruby sparks said:
If I've left something out there, it's either because I agree, or because I need to think about it a bit more. I admit I'm struggling with the issues around 'objectivity', and you've made some very good, interesting and challenging points, but at this time I'm still a bit inclined to stick with 'mind-independent' for now. Saying something like "moral judgement about X qualifies as an objective moral fact because all normal, adult members of a species think it so" still feels like too big a hurdle, especially if the thing itself, X, is, in the end, non-moral by what I might call fully objective standards. And we can't say those sort of things about schizophrenia. We surely can't say either "the existence of schizophrenia qualifies as an objective physical fact because all normal, adult members of a species think it so" or "schizophrenia is, in the end, non-physical, by fully objective standards".
But who would say that "moral judgement about X qualifies as an objective moral fact because all normal, adult members of a species think it so"?
Rather, the idea would be that that provides evidence, not that it is objective because of that.

But aside from that, since you sticl with 'mind-independent' for now, your paragraph translates as follows:


If I've left something out there, it's either because I agree, or because I need to think about it a bit more. I admit I'm struggling with the issues around 'objectivity', and you've made some very good, interesting and challenging points, but at this time I'm still a bit inclined to stick with 'mind-independent' for now. Saying something like "moral judgement about X qualifies as a mind-independent moral fact because all normal, adult members of a species think it so" still feels like too big a hurdle, especially if the thing itself, X, is, in the end, non-moral by what I might call fully mind-independent standards. And we can't say those sort of things about schizophrenia. We surely can't say either "the existence of schizophrenia qualifies as a mind-independent physical fact because all normal, adult members of a species think it so" or "schizophrenia is, in the end, non-physical, by fully mind-independent standards".
That seems difficult to understand, but in any event, we surely can say that 'schizophrenia is mind-dependent' or - equivalently if 'objective'='mind-independent', then 'schizophrenia is not objective', because surely there is no schizophrenia without minds. For that matter, we can say that anger is mind-dependent, so it's not objective. But of course, in the usual sense of the words, there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether a person has schizophrenia or is angry, so the 'objective'='mind-independent' does not match the usual meaning of the words.

Even if you don't care about the usual meaning of the words for some reason, there is still a fact of the matter as to whether a person has schizophrenia, or is angry. Then why would there not be a fact of the matter as to whether a person is a bad person? After all, being non-objective in this particular sense of 'objective' is not relevant to the question of whether there is a fact of the matter.
 

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.....there is still a fact of the matter as to whether a person has schizophrenia, or is angry. Then why would there not be a fact of the matter as to whether a person is a bad person? After all, being non-objective in this particular sense of 'objective' is not relevant to the question of whether there is a fact of the matter.

Schizophrenia requires a mind (is mind-dependent in that sense) for its objective existence, yes. The corresponding fact about morality is that moral judgements objectively exist (this is also true, it seems, of all value judgements). Or to put it another way, let's say it is an objective fact that there is morality in the same way that it is an objective fact that there is schizophrenia.

But that does not seem to get us to being warranted to say that a particular moral value judgement is objectively right or wrong. Nor does it get us to whether retribution is the objectively right or wrong response. In other words, the objective existence of something in the mind does not necessarily mean that the subsequent claims made on its behalf are also objective facts.
 
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we surely can say that 'schizophrenia is mind-dependent' or - equivalently if 'objective'='mind-independent', then 'schizophrenia is not objective', because surely there is no schizophrenia without minds.

I find it difficult to believe that you really don't understand the sense in which 'mind independent' is used in the context of discussions about moral realism (i.e. independent of how we as individuals happen to think or feel).
 

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.....there is still a fact of the matter as to whether a person has schizophrenia, or is angry. Then why would there not be a fact of the matter as to whether a person is a bad person? After all, being non-objective in this particular sense of 'objective' is not relevant to the question of whether there is a fact of the matter.

Schizophrenia requires a mind (is mind-dependent in that sense) for its objective existence, yes. The corresponding fact about morality is that moral judgements objectively exist (this is also true, it seems, of all value judgements). Or to put it another way, let's say it is an objective fact that there is morality in the same way that it is an objective fact that there is schizophrenia.

But that does not seem to get us to being warranted to say that a particular moral value judgement is objectively right or wrong. Nor does it get us to whether retribution is the objectively right or wrong response. In other words, the objective existence of something in the mind does not necessarily mean that the subsequent claims made on its behalf are also objective facts.
But the objection was with the definition of 'objective' as 'mind-independent'. For example, you say

ruby sparks said:
Schizophrenia requires a mind (is mind-dependent in that sense) for its objective existence, yes.
, going by the definition of 'objective=mind-independent', that sentence means

Schizophrenia requires a mind (is mind-dependent in that sense) for its mind-independent existence, yes.

but that does not work (because if it requires a mind, how would it be mind-independent? ).

And this one:
ruby sparks said:
But that does not seem to get us to being warranted to say that a particular moral value judgement is objectively right or wrong.
would be

But that does not seem to get us to being warranted to say that a particular moral value judgement is mind-independently right or wrong​

That has the problem as above, and also the problem of what it would mean to be "mind-independently" right or wrong. And here again:

ruby sparks said:
In other words, the objective existence of something in the mind does not necessarily mean that the subsequent claims made on its behalf are also objective facts.
That translates as


In other words, the mind-independent existence of something in the mind does not necessarily mean that the subsequent claims made on its behalf are also mind-indenpendent facts.

But "the mind-independent existence of something in the mind" is not understandable. I would suggest ditching the definition of 'objective' as 'mind-independent', or else explain what you mean by "mind-independent".
 

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we surely can say that 'schizophrenia is mind-dependent' or - equivalently if 'objective'='mind-independent', then 'schizophrenia is not objective', because surely there is no schizophrenia without minds.

I find it difficult to believe that you really don't understand the sense in which 'mind independent' is used in the context of discussions about moral realism (i.e. independent of how we as individuals happen to think or feel).
Well, in my experience, the use of 'mind-independent' in the context of discussions about moral realism is not at all settled; different authors seem to mean different things, miscommunication is frequent, and so on.

However, in this thread, ruby sparks offered the following definition, which one could use to understand his posts:

ruby sparks said:
Literally the first dictionary definition google threw up for me for ‘objective’ was “not dependent on the mind for existence; actual". This is what I generally mean by ‘objective’ (and also ‘independent’). YMMV.

Since 'actual' and 'not dependent on the mind for existence' are very different things, I asked for clarification in another thread.

https://talkfreethought.org/showthr...purely-for-fun&p=828177&viewfull=1#post828177

ruby sparks said:
With those caveats in place, the first thing we can say is that it is not, as far as we know, objectively or independently morally wrong, using the definition of either as meaning 'not dependent on the mind for existence; actual'.
Those are two very different things, so which definition is it?
I mean, you say 'not dependent on the mind for existence; actual', but 'not dependent on the mind for existence' and 'actual' are very different concepts. For example, psychosis, psychopathy, love, hatred, anger, are all very much actual, but all of them depend on a mind for their existence - as all mental states, properties, etc.

Ok I would run with 'not dependent on the mind for existence'.

So, the sense in which 'mind independent' is used in the context of this particular discussion is that of something that does not depend on the mind for its existence. And then schizophrenia is not objective. Maybe ruby sparks meant to say something else, so he could change the definition. No problem, but I'm going with the definitions as they are right now, in this context.
 

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we surely can say that 'schizophrenia is mind-dependent' or - equivalently if 'objective'='mind-independent', then 'schizophrenia is not objective', because surely there is no schizophrenia without minds.

I find it difficult to believe that you really don't understand the sense in which 'mind independent' is used in the context of discussions about moral realism (i.e. independent of how we as individuals happen to think or feel).

Well, in my experience, the use of 'mind-independent' in the context of discussions about moral realism is not at all settled; different authors seem to mean different things, miscommunication is frequent, and so on.

But why assume that your interlocutor may be using a sense of 'mind independence' that leads you to suggest that ruby sparks doesn't care about the usual meaning of words ("Even if you don't care about the usual meaning of the words for some reason, there is still a fact of the matter as to whether a person has schizophrenia,". This seems uncharitable and just a petty attempt to belittle your opponent's argument.
 

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Well, in my experience, the use of 'mind-independent' in the context of discussions about moral realism is not at all settled; different authors seem to mean different things, miscommunication is frequent, and so on.

But why assume that your interlocutor may be using a sense of 'mind independence' that leads you to suggest that ruby sparks doesn't care about the usual meaning of words ("Even if you don't care about the usual meaning of the words for some reason, there is still a fact of the matter as to whether a person has schizophrenia,". This seems uncharitable and just a petty attempt to belittle your opponent's argument.

Oh, no, my assessment that he doesn't care about the usual meaning of the words is not based on the definition of 'objective' at all. Rather, in our exchanges in several threads, he has many times strongly criticized (to be mild) my arguments and myself on the basis that I try to stick to the usual meaning of the words. When I say "Even if you don't care about the usual meaning of the words for some reason", I'm simply taking his position into account.
 

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But "the mind-independent existence of something in the mind" is not understandable.

Bear in, er, mind, that we are not just doing mere physical existence here (such as for a human brain cortex, which either exists or not as a functioning, dependent part of the human mind, independently of the judgement of any human mind or minds as to whether or not it exists). We are not questioning whether moral judgements actually exist. The question here is whether or not they are objectively true. In other words, the relevant existence claims we are concerned about are those for objective truths, in this case regarding moral rightness or wrongness.
 
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But why assume that your interlocutor may be using a sense of 'mind independence' that leads you to suggest that ruby sparks doesn't care about the usual meaning of words ("Even if you don't care about the usual meaning of the words for some reason, there is still a fact of the matter as to whether a person has schizophrenia,". This seems uncharitable and just a petty attempt to belittle your opponent's argument.

Oh, no, my assessment that he doesn't care about the usual meaning of the words is not based on the definition of 'objective' at all. Rather, in our exchanges in several threads, he has many times strongly criticized (to be mild) my arguments and myself on the basis that I try to stick to the usual meaning of the words. When I say "Even if you don't care about the usual meaning of the words for some reason", I'm simply taking his position into account.

Well, it is not actually correct that I do not care about the usual meanings of words (or everyday language). I'm sure I often use words that way myself, and indeed find it useful to take such things into account, and I don't criticise you just for referring to them or using them. I criticise you because you seem to me to rely too heavily on them at times, as being a reliable basis for obtaining objective facts.
 

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But "the mind-independent existence of something in the mind" is not understandable.

Bear in, er, mind, that we are not just doing mere physical existence here (such as for a human brain cortex, which either exists or not as a functioning, dependent part of the human mind, independently of the judgement of any human mind or minds as to whether or not it exists). We are not questioning whether moral judgements actually exist. The question here is whether or not they are objectively true. In other words, the relevant existence claim we are concerned about is that of objective truths, in this case regarding moral rightness or wrongness.

Yes, I keep that in mind. See my objections.
 

Angra Mainyu

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But why assume that your interlocutor may be using a sense of 'mind independence' that leads you to suggest that ruby sparks doesn't care about the usual meaning of words ("Even if you don't care about the usual meaning of the words for some reason, there is still a fact of the matter as to whether a person has schizophrenia,". This seems uncharitable and just a petty attempt to belittle your opponent's argument.

Oh, no, my assessment that he doesn't care about the usual meaning of the words is not based on the definition of 'objective' at all. Rather, in our exchanges in several threads, he has many times strongly criticized (to be mild) my arguments and myself on the basis that I try to stick to the usual meaning of the words. When I say "Even if you don't care about the usual meaning of the words for some reason", I'm simply taking his position into account.

Well, it is not actually correct that I do not care about the usual meanings of words (or everyday language). I'm sure I often use words that way myself, and indeed find it useful to take such things into account, and I don't criticise you just for referring to them or using them. I criticise you because you seem to me to rely too heavily on them at times, as being a reliable basis for obtaining objective facts.

What I mean is that you do not care in this context - i.e., you do not think it's proper to stick to the ordinary meaning of words when assessing whether something is objective, or morally wrong, etc.
 

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Well, in my experience, the use of 'mind-independent' in the context of discussions about moral realism is not at all settled; different authors seem to mean different things, miscommunication is frequent, and so on.

But why assume that your interlocutor may be using a sense of 'mind independence' that leads you to suggest that ruby sparks doesn't care about the usual meaning of words ("Even if you don't care about the usual meaning of the words for some reason, there is still a fact of the matter as to whether a person has schizophrenia,". This seems uncharitable and just a petty attempt to belittle your opponent's argument.

Oh, no, my assessment that he doesn't care about the usual meaning of the words is not based on the definition of 'objective' at all. Rather, in our exchanges in several threads, he has many times strongly criticized (to be mild) my arguments and myself on the basis that I try to stick to the usual meaning of the words. When I say "Even if you don't care about the usual meaning of the words for some reason", I'm simply taking his position into account.

That doesn't seem to reflect what was implied by what you said in post #61.

Your "assessment that he doesn't care about the usual meaning of the words" directly followed your uncharitable suggestion that his definition of objective would mean that mental illness did not objectively exist.

In any event this is a standard attempted 'gotcha' employed by moral realists in response to the antirealist 'mind independent' claim for objectivity (when what is clearly and commonly intended is that objective moral moral facts should be independent of how we as individuals happen to think or feel).
 

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The AntiChris said:
Your "assessment that he doesn't care about the usual meaning of the words" directly followed your uncharitable suggestion that his definition of objective would mean that mental illness did not objectively exist.
That was not an uncharitable suggestion. That was an implication. It does imply that. And the "Even if you don't care about the usual meaning of the words for some reason.." was indeed meant to prevent an objection like the many ones I got before, that using the ordinary meaning of the words was improper in one way or another.


The AntiChris said:
In any event this is a standard attempted 'gotcha' employed by moral realists in response to the antirealist 'mind independent' claim for objectivity (when what is clearly and commonly intended is that objective moral moral facts should be independent of how we as individuals happen to think or feel).
No, it is not a standard 'gotcha'. Rather, it is an attempt to focus on a meaning of 'objective' that is sensible in this context, by pointing to the consequences of some of the definitions that are offered.
 

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In any event this is a standard attempted 'gotcha' employed by moral realists in response to the antirealist 'mind independent' claim for objectivity (when what is clearly and commonly intended is that objective moral moral facts should be independent of how we as individuals happen to think or feel).

No, it is not a standard 'gotcha'. Rather, it is an attempt to focus on a meaning of 'objective' that is sensible in this context, by pointing to the consequences of some of the definitions that are offered.

The charitable and reasonable approach would be to assume your interlocutor was using a sensible interpretation of 'mind independence' at the outset.

As you'll be aware 'mind independent' in discussions of moral philosophy is most commonly used to mean independent of how we as individuals happen to think or feel which does not lead to the absurd conclusion that mental illness is not real/objective.
 

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But "the mind-independent existence of something in the mind" is not understandable.

Bear in, er, mind, that we are not just doing mere physical existence here (such as for a human brain cortex, which either exists or not as a functioning, dependent part of the human mind, independently of the judgement of any human mind or minds as to whether or not it exists). We are not questioning whether moral judgements actually exist. The question here is whether or not they are objectively true. In other words, the relevant existence claim we are concerned about is that of objective truths, in this case regarding moral rightness or wrongness.

Yes, I keep that in mind. See my objections.

I am not sure what you are referring to. I believe I already responded to your objections. The resolution seems to involve clarifying what is meant by 'mind-independent'*.

*ETA: or amending it perhaps. See below.
 
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.... 'mind independent' in discussions of moral philosophy is most commonly used to mean independent of how we as individuals happen to think or feel which does not lead to the absurd conclusion that mental illness is not real/objective.

I agree.

I wonder if, generally speaking in all of this, some lack of clarity arises from the word 'mind', possibly because of a persistent (intuitive) legacy of some form of dualism involving the brain and the mind as being separate (often involving supposed separate realms in fact, the physical and the non-physical)*.

Would it therefore be better to say, 'objective = thought-independent?' Would that usefully narrow down the sense in which the word is commonly used in moral philosophy? I am not sure it would, it is just a suggestion.

Perhaps 'objective = human judgement/attitude-independent'?

In any case, I think 'mind (or thought or human judgement/attitude)-independent existence = existence independent of how humans think or feel about it' (which is a shorter version of how you put it) seems pretty good.


* On which note, such beliefs (perhaps along with what I might call supernatural beliefs generally) seeming to be very common and intuitive, across human culture and history, I might cite them as yet another reason to be wary of relying on human intuitions as a basis for obtaining objective truths in general. As I see it, the idea that moral truths objectively exist merely because it might be a very common intuitive belief that they do, could be subject to similar potential problems.
 

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Would it therefore be better to say, 'objective = thought-independent?' Would that usefully narrow down the sense in which the word is commonly used in moral philosophy? I am not sure it would, it is just a suggestion.

I really don't think this is necessary. The terms 'mind independent' and 'mind independence' really are very common in the moral philosophy literature.
 

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The AntiChris said:
The charitable and reasonable approach would be to assume your interlocutor was using a sensible interpretation of 'mind independence' at the outset.
The rational approach is to use the definition that one's interlocutor explicitly gives as evidence of how one's interlocutor defines the word. It is also rational to use the way they use the word, given the claims they make.
 

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Would it therefore be better to say, 'objective = thought-independent?' Would that usefully narrow down the sense in which the word is commonly used in moral philosophy? I am not sure it would, it is just a suggestion.

I really don't think this is necessary. The terms 'mind independent' and 'mind independence' really are very common in the moral philosophy literature.

Take a look at the SEP entry on Moral Antirealism:

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-anti-realism/

Of course, the notion of “mind-independence” is problematically indeterminate: Something may be mind-independent in one sense and mind-dependent in another. Cars, for example, are designed and constructed by creatures with minds, and yet in another sense cars are clearly concrete, non-subjective entities. Much careful disambiguation is needed before we know how to circumscribe non-objectivism, and different philosophers disambiguate differently. Many philosophers question whether the “non-objectivism clause” is a useful component of moral anti-realism at all. Many advocate views according to which moral properties are significantly mind-dependent but which they are loath to characterize as versions of moral anti-realism. There is a concern that including the non-objectivism clause threatens to make moral anti-realism trivially true, since there is little room for doubting that the moral status of actions usually (if not always) depends in some manner on mental phenomena such as the intentions with which the action was performed or the episodes or pleasure and pain that ensue from it. The issue will be discussed below, with no pretense made of settling the matter one way or the other.
It's a pretty contentious matter in philosophy.
 

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It's a pretty contentious matter in philosophy.

It really isn't (and even if it were, you'd still have no reason to assume the least charitable interpretation). Outside the rarefied heights of academic debate, the term 'mind independent' is commonly used to describe objective moral facts and is typically understood to mean independent of how we as individuals happen to think or feel.
 

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It's a pretty contentious matter in philosophy.

It really isn't (and even if it were, you'd still have no reason to assume the least charitable interpretation). Outside the rarefied heights of academic debate, the term 'mind independent' is commonly used to describe objective moral facts and is typically understood to mean independent of how we as individuals happen to think or feel.

Of course, I would have no reason to assume the least charitable interpretation. I did not assume an interpretation. I used the definition as provided (namely, 'not dependent on the mind for existence'). But note that the idea was to try to persuade him to change that definition. If ruby sparks agrees to go with the definition you provide above, then that's better, though it still needs some examples for the purposes of clarification.

And in my experience, outside the rarefied heights of academic debate, philosophical debate happen in the mostly confused fields of people dabbling in philosophy, where in particular, the term 'mind-independent' is used in a widely variable manner.
 

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I have almost lost count of the number of times Angra has obfuscated in this way. Recently, he tried to say that one can get around the is/ought problem, by then constructing an 'is' premise that already had a moral component. Worse, when he agreed that is/ought might be a fallacy, he ditched his prior fondness for logic and said it wouldn't matter if it was. Earlier in this thread, he tried to say his theory was not a theory, and then later it was 'just not the sort of theory I was talking about when I said all moral theories are false'. And indeed quibbling over whether it was his theory or not, when it turned out it effectively is at least his own concoction. Now here we are having gone round and round the rosebushes for no good reason about 'mind independent'.
 
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I did not assume an interpretation.

Of course you did!

And in my experience..... the term 'mind-independent' is used in a widely variable manner.

So, from all those 'variable' interpretations, you chose an interpretation which led to the absurd conclusion that the existence of mental illness is not objective rather than the common meaning of 'mind independent' in these kinds of discussions - i.e independent of how we as individuals happen to think or feel.

This flies in the face of the  principle of charity.
 

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In your version of moral relativism, what is morality relative to?

I just had a brain fart. Try this (I'm only putting it out there for discussion):

Is morality relative to the degree of emotional involvement?

I'll stick in a definition of emotions plucked from the internet (I'm aware there may be no consensus and yes I know it's wiki):

"Emotions are biological states associated with the nervous system brought on by neurophysiological changes variously associated with thoughts, feelings, behavioural responses, and a degree of pleasure or displeasure".
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotion

Note that this has been said (again I'm plucking a definition from wiki) to include disgust:

"Disgust is an emotional response of rejection or revulsion to something potentially contagious or something considered offensive, distasteful, or unpleasant".
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disgust

Whether love is an emotion I'm not sure, but I reckon it's not far off. At least John Bowlby's related 'attachment' is here described as an emotion:

"Attachment is a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space"
https://www.simplypsychology.org/attachment.html

And as for empathy:

Definitions of empathy encompass a broad range of emotional states.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathy

I might be stretching a point to say that (personal) trust is an emotion. Maybe it's an attitude (that's what the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy page on trust says it is). I'm not sure of the exact difference between an emotion and an attitude. My guess is they're often related.

The term I'm looking for may not be emotion, but it's my first stab.

ETA: Note that some other animals may also have the capacity for emotions, or their precursors. This is where I get to mention voles. A vole will apparently comfort (by licking) a partner in distress (voles form monogamous attachments) but not a non-partner in distress. Patricia Churchland cites this as part of her theory that a capacity for empathy is a cornerstone of morality.

I can think of a number of situations where the sorts of effects described above might come into play. My jumping-off point was wrestling with the implications of the 'like me versus not like me' bias. Kin selection might also be relevant. But this sort of thing has also been cited as a possible reason why some people can hypothetically say they would remotely push a button to divert a runaway trolley away from 5 people towards one, but not say they could push a man off a bridge to achieve the same outcome (saving 5 people by sacrificing one), the latter being more immediate and emotionally affective. And, some humans who don't seem to have a sense of morality sometimes lack certain capacities for emotions (such as empathy). Sociopaths and psychopaths are the obvious examples but I wouldn't be surprised if it varied on a spectrum (as many psychological traits and conditions seem to).
 
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Angra Mainyu

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The AntiChris said:
Of course you did!
No. I assessed that his definition was as he explicitly said it, because he explicitly said it.

The AntiChris said:
So, from all those 'variable' interpretations, you chose an interpretation which led to the absurd conclusion that the existence of mental illness is not objective rather than the common meaning of 'mind independent' in these kinds of discussions - i.e independent of how we as individuals happen to think or feel.
I did not make an assumption. I asked, and ruby sparks answered. I already explained this to you here. The definition is "not dependent on the mind for existence". Again, if he misspoke (which I don't know yet), he can always clarify and say that he means what you interpret that he means.
 

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ruby sparks said:
I have almost lost count of the number of times Angra has obfuscated in this way.
I have never counted the many ways you falsely accuse me of obfuscating, or the many ways you grossly misrepresent what I did.

ruby sparks said:
Recently, he tried to say that one can get around the is/ought problem, by then constructing an 'is' premise that already had a moral component.
No, I never did that. You repeatedly accused me of doing that, and I repeatedly explained, in detail, why I never did that (any interested readers can take a look at the exchange in this thread, or at this thread).

The point about deriving a moral 'ought' from 'is immoral', was only a side issue in which I wanted to highlight that the problem, if there was one, was not about deriving a moral 'ought' from an 'is', but about deriving moral conclusions from nonmoral premises. I considered also other nuances, before getting to the actual argument, which I made repeatedly, and in great detail. But I already explained all of this in the other thread, repeatedly.

ruby sparks said:
Worse, when he agreed that is/ought might be a fallacy, he ditched his prior fondness for logic and said it wouldn't matter if it was.
That is not true. I am fond of logic, and I am not convinced that it is a fallacy. However, as I explained, if it is a fallacy, then it would not be bad (see this post and others).


ruby sparks said:
Earlier in this thread, he tried to say his theory was not a theory, and then later it was 'just not the sort of theory I was talking about when I said all moral theories are false'.
I did not say "my" theory was not a theory, but rather, that it was not a moral theory in the sense of "moral theory" I had in mind when I said that, and which I explained also in detail in previous posts. If my words originally were unclear, my bad, but by now I clarified them repeatedly.
ruby sparks said:
And indeed quibbling over whether it was his theory or not, when it turned out it effectively is at least his own concoction.
Actually, most of the key points are not mine.

ruby sparks said:
Now here we are having gone round and round the rosebushes for no good reason about 'mind independent'.
For good reasons, actually, as explained.
 

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I think it should be pretty clear though. Have a guess.

The most probable guess, based on your argumentation, would be that you mean different things in different arguments and equivocate without realizing it (as the arguments seem confused; see also my replies to you in past threads). But maybe you can clarify the matter.
 

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I think it should be pretty clear though. Have a guess.

The most probable guess, based on your argumentation, would be that you mean different things in different arguments and equivocate without realizing it (as the arguments seem confused; see also my replies to you in past threads). But maybe you can clarify the matter.

I see what you tried to do there. ;)

The correct, succinct answer is of course yes, I do basically agree with The AntiChris on this.
 

Angra Mainyu

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I think it should be pretty clear though. Have a guess.

The most probable guess, based on your argumentation, would be that you mean different things in different arguments and equivocate without realizing it (as the arguments seem confused; see also my replies to you in past threads). But maybe you can clarify the matter.

I see what you tried to do there. ;)

The correct, succinct answer is of course yes, I do basically agree with The AntiChris on this.

Thanks, so I will go with that definition from now on.
 

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It's evening and I'm heading to London by air very early tomorrow morning, so I apologise if I don't respond to everything. Point me back to something in particular if you think it needs addressed.
Well, your call as to whether you need to address it -- after all, it was you who wrote to me. I'm not sure why you wrote to me, but if you were hoping either to understand my viewpoint or to persuade me to agree with yours, the way you're going about it isn't going to work.

As does defining 'fact' as 'what is very widely agreed'.
Nobody did that.
You didn't address that. Instead you wrote:

Saying something like "moral judgement about X qualifies as an objective moral fact because all normal, adult members of a species think it so" still feels like too big a hurdle,
This is beyond exasperating. You appear to have firmly settled in your own mind what proposition it is that you think I'm arguing for and you're resistant to being disabused of your misimpression. If you decline to accept correction when you try to paraphrase me and make a hash of it then you won't ever understand my viewpoint or my arguments for it. I don't see either of us getting anything out of that sort of discussion, so perhaps it's time for us to agree to disagree.
 

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Well, your call as to whether you need to address it -- after all, it was you who wrote to me. I'm not sure why you wrote to me, but if you were hoping either to understand my viewpoint or to persuade me to agree with yours, the way you're going about it isn't going to work.

Nobody did that.
You didn't address that. Instead you wrote:

Saying something like "moral judgement about X qualifies as an objective moral fact because all normal, adult members of a species think it so" still feels like too big a hurdle,
This is beyond exasperating. You appear to have firmly settled in your own mind what proposition it is that you think I'm arguing for and you're resistant to being disabused of your misimpression. If you decline to accept correction when you try to paraphrase me and make a hash of it then you won't ever understand my viewpoint or my arguments for it. I don't see either of us getting anything out of that sort of discussion, so perhaps it's time for us to agree to disagree.

Maybe I misunderstood your views.
 

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Oh, no, my assessment that he doesn't care about the usual meaning of the words is not based on the definition of 'objective' at all. Rather, in our exchanges in several threads, he has many times strongly criticized (to be mild) my arguments and myself on the basis that I try to stick to the usual meaning of the words. When I say "Even if you don't care about the usual meaning of the words for some reason", I'm simply taking his position into account.

That doesn't seem to reflect what was implied by what you said in post #61.

Your "assessment that he doesn't care about the usual meaning of the words" directly followed your uncharitable suggestion that his definition of objective would mean that mental illness did not objectively exist.

In any event this is a standard attempted 'gotcha' employed by moral realists in response to the antirealist 'mind independent' claim for objectivity (when what is clearly and commonly intended is that objective moral moral facts should be independent of how we as individuals happen to think or feel).
Dude! You need to take into account that in post #254, I already proposed "at least one moral claim is truth-apt and its truth doesn't depend on any observer's subjective opinion" as a definition of "objective morality", and in post #255, ruby sparks explicitly rejected it. He called that definition "a low bar", and "a watered-down (perhaps better to say weak) definition of objectivity". He came back with "Literally the first dictionary definition google threw up for me for ‘objective’ was “not dependent on the mind for existence; actual". This is what I generally mean by ‘objective’ (and also ‘independent’)."

"Independent of how we as individuals happen to think or feel" is a heck of a lot closer to "doesn't depend on any observer's subjective opinion" than it is to "not dependent on the mind for existence". So for you to whale on AM on the grounds of your presumption that rs must have meant "independent of how we as individuals happen to think or feel" is not reasonable. You assumed that's what he meant based on it being what you mean by "mind-independent", not based on what rs had posted. You're projecting.

(Incidentally, if, as you say, in the context of discussions about moral realism, "mind independent" actually is typically used to mean "independent of how we as individuals happen to think or feel", then that's just a subtle mistake on the part of typical moral philosophers. I contend that whether it is or isn't morally permissible to mercy-kill you if you are a terminal cancer patient depends critically on how you as an individual happen to think and feel about being mercy-killed. And, whether you agree with me about that or not, my contention is plainly compatible with moral realism. In my definition I distinguished between what an observer happens to think versus what we as individuals in general happen to think, and that's a necessary distinction if we intend for so-called "mind independence" to have any bearing on the existence of moral facts.)
 

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Oh! The outrage! :D

So for you to whale on AM on the grounds of your presumption that rs must have meant "independent of how we as individuals happen to think or feel" is not reasonable.

I think it is.

What I think is unreasonable is to assume that using 'mind independent' to describe objectivity, when used in this context, indicates that the speaker believes mental illness is not real (doesn't objectively exist).

You assumed that's what he meant based on it being what you mean by "mind-independent", not based on what rs had posted.

No I didn't.

'mind independent' is a term commonly used in discussions and literature related moral philosophy. In my experience it is overwhelmingly used to characterise the objectivity of beliefs/claims that are not dependent on the speaker's attitude or opinion.

Now I accept that the term 'mind independent' may be used (in the moral philosophy context) to describe objectivity by people who believe mental illness does not objectively exist. I don't think I've ever come across this view. In any event I'm pretty sure it's not common.


(Incidentally, if, as you say, in the context of discussions about moral realism, "mind independent" actually is typically used to mean "independent of how we as individuals happen to think or feel", then that's just a subtle mistake on the part of typical moral philosophers.
I contend that whether it is or isn't morally permissible to mercy-kill you if you are a terminal cancer patient depends critically on how you as an individual happen to think and feel about being mercy-killed. And, whether you agree with me about that or not, my contention is plainly compatible with moral realism. In my definition I distinguished between what an observer happens to think versus what we as individuals in general happen to think, and that's a necessary distinction if we intend for so-called "mind independence" to have any bearing on the existence of moral facts.)

I understand the distinction you're drawing.

The claim that the mercy killing is morally acceptable retains its objectivity, even though it depends on the cancer patient's attitude, so long as the claim itself is not dependent on any concern for the suffering of the patient.

Have I got that right?
 

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He called that definition "a low bar", and "a watered-down (perhaps better to say weak) definition of objectivity".

Both of which I would stand by.

To clarify: Imo,"at least one moral claim is truth-apt and its truth doesn't depend on any observer's subjective opinion" as a definition of "objective morality" involves both a low bar for moral realism and a weak definition of objectivity.

Also, out of interest, how can any moral judgement not depend on any observer's subjective opinion? Why is the word 'observer' even in there? Why not just 'doesn't depend on anyone's opinion (or judgement if you prefer)'?


ETA: If you reply, please don't repeat that something depending on human judgement about it does not necessarily mean it is not an objective fact. We already agree on that.
 
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I contend that whether it is or isn't morally permissible to mercy-kill you if you are a terminal cancer patient depends critically on how you as an individual happen to think and feel about being mercy-killed. And, whether you agree with me about that or not, my contention is plainly compatible with moral realism. In my definition I distinguished between what an observer happens to think versus what we as individuals in general happen to think, and that's a necessary distinction if we intend for so-called "mind independence" to have any bearing on the existence of moral facts.)

I understand the distinction you're drawing.

I don't. Well, I do (see the distinction), I think, but I don't see what is being suggested by it.

Regarding objectivity, I prefer 'doesn't depend on anyone's opinion (or thoughts, judgements or feelings if you prefer)' to 'doesn't depend on what we as individuals think or feel'. But I had assumed that by saying the latter, you effectively meant the former?

'Is not subjective', in other words. 'Is objective', in other words. To me it involves a basic subject/object distinction. And I think it's being watered down here to try to achieve a sort of 'realism' for moral judgements. And I'm really not sure about it. Sure, moral judgements are real (they exist) but they do not seem to me to be capable of being objectively true. And they certainly don't seem to be universal.

'It is morally wrong to do X' should surely be replaced with 'humans normally consider it morally wrong to do X' (in cases where they do). The latter may be a fact but it's only a fact about what humans normally think and feel. It's not like, say, cancer, or colour (in terms of wavelengths, reflectances, energies, or other physical properties of objects or light) for which what humans normally (or even abnormally) think or feel is, as far as we can reasonably tell, irrelevant to the reality.
 
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Bomb#20

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What I think is unreasonable is to assume that using 'mind independent' to describe objectivity, when used in this context, indicates that the speaker believes mental illness is not real (doesn't objectively exist).
Nobody assumed that.

You assumed that's what he meant based on it being what you mean by "mind-independent", not based on what rs had posted.

No I didn't.

'mind independent' is a term commonly used in discussions and literature related moral philosophy. In my experience it is overwhelmingly used to characterise the objectivity of beliefs/claims that are not dependent on the speaker's attitude or opinion.
Same diff -- your usage conforms to your experience with common usage in discussions and literature. That's still using yourself as the reference, not using rs. rs' posts up to that point didn't support the hypothesis that he conformed to common usage, so AM's attempt to get some clarification on that point was appropriate.

Now I accept that the term 'mind independent' may be used (in the moral philosophy context) to describe objectivity by people who believe mental illness does not objectively exist. I don't think I've ever come across this view. In any event I'm pretty sure it's not common.
That's not what was going on! Nobody was implying rs didn't believe mental illness objectively exists! We were trying to prove to rs that the definition rs was using is wrong.

A definition -- term T means M -- is a scientific theory to the effect that when people say T, the best explanation for the observation that they say T is the hypothesis that the sense they are trying to express is M. Looking for counterexamples is the way you test such a theory. If you find a counterexample, you've falsified the theory. When somebody says T means M, but there exists an X such that he says T(X) even though M(X) is false, that's empirical evidence against his theory of the meaning of T. Pointing out that contradiction is not an accusation that he believes M(X).

If "objective" really meant "not dependent on the mind for existence" then mental illness would not objectively exist. But when we point this out, far from assuming that using "mind independent" to describe objectivity indicates that the speaker believes mental illness doesn't objectively exist, we are assuming the exact opposite. We are assuming the speaker believes mental illness does objectively exist; more than that, we are counting on it. We are drawing his attention to the contradiction between simultaneously believing mental illness objectively exists, believing mental illness depends on the mind for existence, and believing "objective" really means "not dependent on the mind for existence", in the hope that the speaker will take note of the contradiction and discard the most dubious of those conflicting propositions: his theory about what the word means.

Understanding a word is like riding a bike. There are probably a hundred people who can ride a bike for every one who can explain why he doesn't fall off. If you ask the average person how he keeps his balance and he tells you how he thinks he does it, then you can take what he says, apply the laws of physics, and show that he'll fall off the bike. But if you do that, it doesn't mean you're accusing him of not being able to ride a bike. You're just disproving his theory about how he pulls off the remarkable feat.

(Incidentally, if, as you say, in the context of discussions about moral realism, "mind independent" actually is typically used to mean "independent of how we as individuals happen to think or feel", then that's just a subtle mistake on the part of typical moral philosophers.
I contend that whether it is or isn't morally permissible to mercy-kill you if you are a terminal cancer patient depends critically on how you as an individual happen to think and feel about being mercy-killed. And, whether you agree with me about that or not, my contention is plainly compatible with moral realism. In my definition I distinguished between what an observer happens to think versus what we as individuals in general happen to think, and that's a necessary distinction if we intend for so-called "mind independence" to have any bearing on the existence of moral facts.)

I understand the distinction you're drawing.

The claim that the mercy killing is morally acceptable retains its objectivity, even though it depends on the cancer patient's attitude, so long as the claim itself is not dependent on any concern for the suffering of the patient.

Have I got that right?
Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but that doesn't sound the same as the distinction I was drawing. Suppose you mercy-killed Andy. I'm saying it may well be that your act was moral if Andy wanted to be killed but immoral if Andy didn't want to be killed. So the truth of the claim "It was okay for you to kill Andy" depends on the thoughts and feelings of Andy. But it doesn't depend on the thoughts and feelings of me. My objection to the definition "independent of how we as individuals happen to think or feel" is that it's too broad-brushed -- it doesn't specify which individuals are the individuals whose thoughts and feelings the morality of the act is independent of.

Now that's a separate question from the question of why "It was okay for you to kill Andy" is true, if it is. The reason mercy-killing is okay is some situations is precisely because of the suffering of the patient. We're kinder to our dogs than we are to our fellow humans. Morality is of course concerned with suffering. But I'm not sure that's what you were getting at. If what you meant was that the claim is not dependent on whether I or other observers have any concern for the suffering of the patient, then yes, that's correct.
 

The AntiChris

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If "objective" really meant "not dependent on the mind for existence" then mental illness would not objectively exist.
You know it isn't as simple as that. It depends on context (Angra in post #281: "the term 'mind-independent' is used in a widely variable manner.")

At this point it's not clear to me whether use of the "then mental illness wouldn't be objective" comment is a genuine attempt to to understand how the term 'mind independent' is being used or if it's an attempt to discredit the term (as a description of objectivity) by ridicule simply because you dislike its use.

If the former, then surely the more charitable approach would be first to ask if the person is using the term in its most commonly used sense - independent of how we as individuals happen to think or feel. If it's the latter, then I think you're a little to late to change things now.


If what you meant was that the claim is not dependent on whether I or other observers have any concern for the suffering of the patient, then yes, that's correct.
That's what I meant.
 
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