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ruby sparks

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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.

When I said 'mind independent' I meant 'independent of thoughts and feelings about it'. It's that simple, and it's not an unusual usage.
 

Angra Mainyu

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The AntiChris said:
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.")
Which is true. Again, see this post. Not convinced? Evidence is not hard to find. For example, there is the well-known "Darwinian Dilemma" presented by Sharon Street against moral realism, and the papers that followed it - by her and her opponents on the subject.

The following is an small excerpt from Sharon Street's "A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value".

Street said:
The defining claim of realism about value, as I will be understanding it, is that there are at least some evaluative facts or truths that hold independently of all our evaluative attitudes
Does that sound like what you're saying? But hold on:

Street said:
It is important to note that it is not enough to be a realist to claim that the truth of an evaluative judgment holds independently of one’s making that particular evaluative judgment. Antirealists can agree with that much. Consider, for example, a constructivist view according to which the truth of ‘X is a reason for agent A to Y’ is a function of whether that judgment would be among A’s evaluative judgments in reflective equilibrium. This view is antirealist because it understands truths about what reasons a person has as depending on her evaluative attitudes (in particular, on what those attitudes would be in reflective equilibrium).
It turns out that on her 'reflective equilibrium' view, whether a person A ought to Y does not depend on the person's actual attitudes or beliefs towards Y, but on the attitutes that she would have on reflective equilibrium. And of course - and crucially - it does not depend at all on the attitudes of the agent assessing whether or not A ought to Y. And this applies to what she calls "normative" judgments, which include moral judgments though are not limited to them.

There is plenty of philosophy literature dedicated to the criticism and defense of mind-independence in this particular sense, which is definitely not the one you have in mind. Others do use that one, of course. And then others other senses of 'mind-independent'.

So, I have already provided two pieces of evidence that the term 'mind-independent' is used in a widely variable manner.":

1. The SEP article says it does.
2. We can see that Sharon Street uses it in a way that is pretty different from the way you propose. You can easily find that there are plenty of replies to her arguments, to this usage is pretty common.


Of course, you can find plenty more evidence yourself. But if you are not convinced yet, sure I can provide more evidence. Again, there is plenty to be found.


The AntiChris said:
At this point it's not clear to me whether use of the "then mental illness wouldnt 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.
It has various functions, but it's not the latter. I wasn't going for riducule. Rather, I was trying to persuade ruby sparks that the definition that he had provided did not do the work he wanted it to do. In other words, I was showing that it led to conclusions that were counter to his usage of the word 'objective'. I knew that because I know people would agree that there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether someone has schizophrenia, but also because of my previous interactions with ruby sparks.

In the end, I wanted ruby sparks to change his definition, and provide one that would be more useful in this context, and which would not allow one to rule out the objectivity on morality on grounds that would also rule out the objectivity of things ruby sparks would clearly recognize as objective.


The AntiChris said:
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.
I do not know where you get that that sense is the most common one. In my experience, none is predominant (i.e., above 50% usage), and it's not clear to me which one is the first minority so to speak.
 

Angra Mainyu

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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.

When I said 'mind independent' I meant 'independent of thoughts and feelings about it'. It's that simple, and it's not an unusual usage, so I have no idea what you mean about trying to prove it wrong.

That is not the definition you provided earlier. B20 is saying we were trying to show to you that you were using a definition that did not match common usage, or even your usage. Now you go with a different definition, which is better but still problematic to some extent, as B20 explained. Now that has been further clarified by The AntiChris, and we'll see whether it needs further clarification.
 

ruby sparks

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It's very odd that we are wrangling over this. I distinctly remember hypothetical scenarios (one for example about there being no one left in the universe except one psychopath on another planet, who then dies if I recall correctly) being constructed in previous discussions on other threads which involved trying to show that moral judgements were independent of thoughts and feelings (judgements, whatever) about them, effectively by eliminating all entities who could think, feel or make judgements. It appears there was common understanding about the issue then.
 

ruby sparks

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Fun intermission:

What does anyone think of this?

Mary attends the funeral of her mother. At the funeral she meets a man she had not met before. She thinks he is amazing and believes him to be the love of her life. After the funeral, she realises that she did not get any contact details for him.

A few days later, Mary killed her own sister. Why did she do it?

Best not to think too much and just give a spontaneous answer.
 

ruby sparks

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It turns out that on her 'reflective equilibrium' view, whether a person A ought to Y does not depend on the person's actual attitudes or beliefs towards Y, but on the attitutes that she would have on reflective equilibrium. And of course - and crucially - it does not depend at all on the attitudes of the agent assessing whether or not A ought to Y. And this applies to what she calls "normative" judgments, which include moral judgments though are not limited to them.

Sorry, but how is Street's meaning not the one AntiChris has in mind, or indeed the one I am using (I am not assuming AntiChris and I mean exactly the same thing, but they seem to be quite similar)?
 

ruby sparks

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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.

Possibly it's because if that definition is used, then there are no objective moral truths. Now, if the bar for moral realism can be lowered sufficiently, including by adopting a weaker definition of objectivity (and also in other ways) then maybe it can be argued that there are such things. There's a term for that sort of endeavour, or if there isn't, there should be imo. The phrase, 'defining something into existence' may come close. 'Sophistry' may not be all that far away either. Possibly even 'denialism'. 'Much ado about nothing'? I suspect a search and rescue mission pipe dream.

And yet again I think goalposts are being moved. Hypothetical scenarios where 'no entity capable of making a moral judgement exists' were the order of the day for supposedly demonstrating objectivity in previous discussions. Now objectivity is apparently not about that. The hypothetical scenarios failed in any case (because the person thinking them up existed and was making a moral judgement).
 

Angra Mainyu

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It's very odd that we are wrangling over this. I distinctly remember hypothetical scenarios (one for example about there being no one left in the universe except one psychopath on another planet, who then dies if I recall correctly) being constructed in previous discussions on other threads which involved trying to show that moral judgements were independent of thoughts and feelings (judgements, whatever) about them, effectively by eliminating all entities who could think, feel or make judgements. It appears there was common understanding about the issue then.

That did not seem to be the case. I presented several scenarios and arguments, but you kept misrepresenting the exchange and particularly my views (as B20 said, that's "beyond exasperating", and I've taken a lot more of that from you then he did), and still failing to see the point in the analogies and several of the scenarios, speaking about something you called 'independence' or 'independent', even after I challenged your usage of the term - but you did not seem to understand the challenge, and instead kept accusing me a number of bad things.
 

Angra Mainyu

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Now you go with a different definition.....

It's not different. It just has what is (not unusually) meant by 'mind independent' clarified.

It's pretty different if you consider the meaning of the words in English. If you meant to say something else, it's a good thing I asked for clarification. But now I see the problem continues - more in my next reply or replies.
 

Angra Mainyu

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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.

Possibly it's because if that definition is used, then there are no objective moral truths. Now, if the bar for moral realism can be lowered sufficiently, including by adopting a weaker definition of objectivity (and also in other ways) then maybe it can be argued that there are such things. There's a term for that sort of endeavour, or if there isn't, there should be imo. The phrase, 'defining something into existence' may come close. 'Sophistry' may not be all that far away either. Possibly even 'denialism'. 'Much ado about nothing'? I suspect a search and rescue mission pipe dream.

And yet again I think goalposts are being moved. Hypothetical scenarios where 'no entity capable of making a moral judgement exists' were the order of the day for supposedly demonstrating objectivity in previous discussions. Now objectivity is apparently not about that. The hypothetical scenarios failed in any case (because the person thinking them up existed and was making a moral judgement).

As I explained to you many times, you are grossly misrepresenting my position - and now B20's too.

No, the sense of 'objective' that we have in mind has not changed in any of these threads. In fact, I already told you it's about whether there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether, say, the killings of Ted Bundy were immoral behavior, or any actual (or sufficiently specified) behavior, all of that in the usual sense of the expression 'objective fact of the matter' in English, and the usual sense of the moral terms (e.g., 'immoral', 'morally permissible', etc. )

You are the one changing definitions.
 

Angra Mainyu

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Fun intermission:

What does anyone think of this?

Mary attends the funeral of her mother. At the funeral she meets a man she had not met before. She thinks he is amazing and believes him to be the love of her life. After the funeral, she realises that she did not get any contact details for him.

A few days later, Mary killed her own sister. Why did she do it?

Best not to think too much and just give a spontaneous answer.
Nothing spontaneously comes to mind, and there is insufficient information to even make a probable guess. So, I have no clue.
 

Angra Mainyu

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It's pretty different if you consider the meaning of the words in English.

Maybe you should have reverted to the understood meaning you previously had. ;)

What meaning are you talking about? The usual meaning of there being an objective fact of the matter? But you were providing a different definition; that is my understanding of 'objective', not my understanding of what you mean by it. What you mean by it remains a mystery. Even now, because you do not seem to mean the same as The AntiChris (more below).

It turns out that on her 'reflective equilibrium' view, whether a person A ought to Y does not depend on the person's actual attitudes or beliefs towards Y, but on the attitutes that she would have on reflective equilibrium. And of course - and crucially - it does not depend at all on the attitudes of the agent assessing whether or not A ought to Y. And this applies to what she calls "normative" judgments, which include moral judgments though are not limited to them.

Sorry, but how is Street's meaning not the one AntiChris has in mind, or indeed the one I am using (I am not assuming AntiChris and I mean exactly the same thing, but they seem to be quite similar)?

I already explained in my reply to The AntiChris why the meaning is not the same. If that is the one you were using, then the meaning you have in mind and the meaning that The AntiChris have in mind are different - unless of course I misunderstood the meaning The AntiChris is using, in which case he can of course clarify.

Let me explain again: in the constructivist 'reflective equilibrium' view that she gives as an example of an anti-realist theory in which there is not mind-independent normativity (for some reason, she focuses on normativity not morality, but while that is important in general it is not so here for the purposes of this discussion; see her papers for more details), if I make the statement 'Ted Bundy ought not to have killed his victims', then the truth of my statement depends on Ted Bundy's evaluative attitudes ("in particular, on what those attitudes would be in reflective equilibrium", so not his actual attitudes but the ideal ones, on reflective equilibrium). It does not depend at all on my evaluative attitudes, or on the attitudes of any other observer in her capacity as observer.

On this constructivist view (there are more than one possible constructivist views), there is such thing as what the attitudes of a person would be in reflective equilibrium, and that is what determines what a person has reason to do, or equivalently - "equivalently" according to constructivism - what a person ought to do.
 

ruby sparks

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It does not depend at all on my evaluative attitudes, or on the attitudes of any other observer in her capacity as observer.

Of course it doesn't depend on your evaluative attitudes or those of an observer. I never said it did!

All that it means is that it depends on someone's judgement (thoughts, feelings, attitudes, etc) about it.

I actually am finding it hard to believe you now don't understand this not unusual meaning.
 

The AntiChris

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So, I have already provided two pieces of evidence that the term 'mind-independent' is used in a widely variable manner.
You're missing the point.

I don't think anyone has claimed that 'mind independent' can only mean one thing. I certainly haven't.
The AntiChris said:
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.
I do not know where you get that that sense is the most common one. In my experience, none is predominant (i.e., above 50% usage), and it's not clear to me which one is the first minority so to speak.

I can't possibly comment on what you claim is your experience, but I can tell you that on this discussion board, the only occasions, that I can find, on which mind independence (or very similar terms) has arisen in Morals and Principles , "independent of opinions or feelings" has been the intended meaning of the term every time and you have been involved in all of them.
 

ruby sparks

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Fun intermission:

What does anyone think of this?

Mary attends the funeral of her mother. At the funeral she meets a man she had not met before. She thinks he is amazing and believes him to be the love of her life. After the funeral, she realises that she did not get any contact details for him.

A few days later, Mary killed her own sister. Why did she do it?

Best not to think too much and just give a spontaneous answer.
Nothing spontaneously comes to mind, and there is insufficient information to even make a probable guess. So, I have no clue.

Good. :)

It is good for you in that case I mean.

If you had thought 'in order to hopefully meet the man again' then you might score a bit higher on the psychopath scale than you would have liked. :)

It was just a diversion onto a related point, which I think is interesting.
 

ruby sparks

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It's very odd that we are wrangling over this. I distinctly remember hypothetical scenarios (one for example about there being no one left in the universe except one psychopath on another planet, who then dies if I recall correctly) being constructed in previous discussions on other threads which involved trying to show that moral judgements were independent of thoughts and feelings (judgements, whatever) about them, effectively by eliminating all entities who could think, feel or make judgements. It appears there was common understanding about the issue then.

That did not seem to be the case. I presented several scenarios and arguments, but you kept misrepresenting the exchange and particularly my views (as B20 said, that's "beyond exasperating", and I've taken a lot more of that from you then he did), and still failing to see the point in the analogies and several of the scenarios, speaking about something you called 'independence' or 'independent', even after I challenged your usage of the term - but you did not seem to understand the challenge, and instead kept accusing me a number of bad things.

The situations you concocted literally did not show independence. That you concocted them to try (but fail) to eliminate 'anyone capable of making a judgement or having thoughts or feelings about it' shows that at that time you essentially accepted and used the not uncommon meaning of mind-independent I am now and always have been using. And now you claim you don't. You repeatedly try to move the goalposts in a variety of ways when it suits you. I haven't even cited them all. The appeal to the lesser standard of probabilities on some occasions and not others is another one. Just about the only thing that remains constant is the ability to resort to pointless, evasive sophistry.
 

Angra Mainyu

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You're missing the point.

I don't think anyone has claimed that 'mind independent' can only mean one thing. I certainly haven't.
I do not know where you get that that sense is the most common one. In my experience, none is predominant (i.e., above 50% usage), and it's not clear to me which one is the first minority so to speak.

I can't possibly comment on what you claim is your experience, but I can tell you that on this discussion board, the only occasions, that I can find, on which mind independence (or very similar terms) has arisen in Morals and Principles , "independent of opinions or feelings" has been the intended meaning of the term every time and you have been involved in all of them.

That has not been my experience in that context, either. But it is no longer yours: here there seems to be a clear example: ruby sparks does not mean the same as you do by 'mind-independent'.

ETA: And it's not about whether it can mean more than one thing. Rather, whether relatively common usages (not rare ones) are widely varied in philosophy (and even in amateur philosophy).
 

Angra Mainyu

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It's very odd that we are wrangling over this. I distinctly remember hypothetical scenarios (one for example about there being no one left in the universe except one psychopath on another planet, who then dies if I recall correctly) being constructed in previous discussions on other threads which involved trying to show that moral judgements were independent of thoughts and feelings (judgements, whatever) about them, effectively by eliminating all entities who could think, feel or make judgements. It appears there was common understanding about the issue then.

That did not seem to be the case. I presented several scenarios and arguments, but you kept misrepresenting the exchange and particularly my views (as B20 said, that's "beyond exasperating", and I've taken a lot more of that from you then he did), and still failing to see the point in the analogies and several of the scenarios, speaking about something you called 'independence' or 'independent', even after I challenged your usage of the term - but you did not seem to understand the challenge, and instead kept accusing me a number of bad things.

The situations you concocted literally did not show independence. That you concocted them to try to eliminate 'all entities capable of making a judgement' shows that at that time you essentially accepted and used the definition I am now using. And now you don't. You repeatedly move the goalposts in a variety of ways.

I would just invite readers to read our exchanges in the following threads:



https://talkfreethought.org/showthread.php?19934-The-Great-Contradiction


https://talkfreethought.org/showthread.php?20677-FORGIVENESS
https://talkfreethought.org/showthread.php?20647-RETRIBUTIVISM
 

The AntiChris

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You're missing the point.

I don't think anyone has claimed that 'mind independent' can only mean one thing. I certainly haven't.
I do not know where you get that that sense is the most common one. In my experience, none is predominant (i.e., above 50% usage), and it's not clear to me which one is the first minority so to speak.

I can't possibly comment on what you claim is your experience, but I can tell you that on this discussion board, the only occasions, that I can find, on which mind independence (or very similar terms) has arisen in Morals and Principles , "independent of opinions or feelings" has been the intended meaning of the term every time and you have been involved in all of them.

That has not been my experience in that context,
Sorry, I don't understand this response.
 

ruby sparks

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...ruby sparks does not mean the same as you do by 'mind-independent'.

How do you know that? And even if it were true, is it anything more than time-wasting hair-splitting? Maybe you find my meaning 'problematical'. Is that any more than time-wasting hair-splitting?

In any case, your standards are a moving target, so I wouldn't necessarily know which ones you are using at any one time.
 

Angra Mainyu

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It does not depend at all on my evaluative attitudes, or on the attitudes of any other observer in her capacity as observer.

Of course it doesn't depend on your evaluative attitudes or those of an observer. I never said it did!

All that it means is that it depends on someone's judgement (thoughts, feelings, attitudes, etc) about it.

I actually am finding it hard to believe you now don't understand this not unusual meaning.

Great!
Suppose hypothetically that Street's constructivism as described it true (her actual position is more complex, but I'll go with that one). Then morality is mind-dependent, not objective, and so on. Yet, in the usual sense of the words, there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether, say, Trump is a good person. Now, if millions of people claim that he is, and millions of people claim that he is not, then millions of people are mistaken.
 

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Yet, in the usual sense of the words, there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether, say, Trump is a good person.

But there isn't really. And I would quibble about your use of the word 'usual sense' there. In any case, it's not mine.
 
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Angra Mainyu

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Yet, in the usual sense of the words, there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether, say, Trump is a good person.

But there isn't really. And I would quibble about your use of the word 'usual sense' there. In any case, it's not mine.

Well, there is an objective fact of the matter. But what I was saying is that assuming for the sake of the argument that the constructivist view that Street describes is true, then there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether Trump is a good person, again in the usual sense of 'objective fact of the matter' (and if you want to quibble, sure, make your case). The point is that going by the definition of 'mind-independent' that you now embrace, a theory that yields morality mind-dependent is still a theory in which there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether Trump is a good person.
 

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Well, there is an objective fact of the matter.

You think there is.

The point is that going by the definition of 'mind-independent' that you now embrace, a theory that yields morality mind-dependent is still a theory in which there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether Trump is a good person.

You are talking to me about what I mean, not what Street means or what moral Constructivism entails. If all you are saying is that different meanings or theories can be taken from the same brief definition (by, for example, a moral Constructivist) then sure, that's semantics, theorising and varied interpretation for you, but it's not necessarily relevant to what I mean, which is not the above.

As such what I would therefore say (instead of what you said) is that going by the definition of 'mind-independent' that I now embrace, a theory that yields mind-dependent morality can be or is, according to some but not others (including me), a theory in which there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether Trump is a good person.

Incidentally, I consider the constructivist meaning of objective (as I understand it) to be another weak definition and a low bar, and I am also dubious about the appeal to an idealised or hypothetical process of supposed rational deliberation. Furthermore, since it involves thinking, it is not even exempt from the definition I am using anyway.
 
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Angra Mainyu

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Here is a brief explanation of Street's constructivism as I understand it, and the main problem I see with it (apart from a number of errors in the arguments, but that's not central). I recommend the papers if anyone is interested - I'm not an expert on her theory, and I haven't read it in a while in detail. Still, I think I got the gist of it.

Briefly, Street seems to conflate morality with rationality, though the error goes back to other prominent philosophers. She argues against the idea - which is common enough - that an agent A may have reasons that are not dependent on the evaluative attitudes of A, though not necessarily the present ones, but rather, what A would have in a situation of 'reflective equilibrium'. But she equates something like 'A has reasons to X' (or 'A has overall reasons to X', though she often leaves that implicit) with 'A ought to X', and for the most part at least, she makes no distinction between 'all-things-considered' 'ought' and moral 'ought', though clearly she assumes that the 'all things considered' is a matter of rationality.

When one looks at it as a theory of rationality, it does seem to yield the right results:

When it comes to rationality, I would say it would be all-things-considered irrational of agent A to X if, given the information available to A (including processing capacity), it would be against A's final goals, ordered according to A's own evaluative attitudes (or preferences, in a general sense). Now Street's theory would say it would be irrational if and only if A in reflective equilibrium, aware of A's evaluative attitudes, would reckon that doing X would be irrational. That's kind of a weird way of saying it, and I suspect it has the direction dependence wrong depending on how she construes reflective equilibrium (but I'm not sure how she construes it), but still, with a good characterization of reflective equilibrium that gives the right results (one of my worries is that it might end up being tautological, but that might not be a bug).

But with those caveats, I would not claim the theory gets the wrong results when it comes to all-things-considered means-to-end rationality. The problem seems to be for morality. To use one of her examples, this theory holds that whether 'Hitler was morally depraved' is true depends on what Hitler's own assessments would have been, in reflective equilibrium. Leaving aside the issue of whether Street gets the direction wrong, it may well be true that Hitler's infamous actions (e.g., to start WW2, to commit genocite) were irrational on his part if and only if Hitler in reflective equilibrium would have reckoned so (I think something like that is true, though there is a risk it might be trivially true). But whether his actions were immoral - and whether he was morally depraved - does not depend on that (further caveat, though: Street is considering all sorts of aliens with alien minds, and that would require further consideration).

However, all of the above says Street's metathics theory is false. But it is a form of moral objectivism, in the usual sense of the word 'objective'. It is also a theory in which morality would be mind-independent, in one of the senses proposed in this thread. And to give an example,

https://philpapers.org/rec/WARDMM
A central feature of ordinary moral thought is that moral judgment is mind-independent in the following sense: judging something to be morally wrong does not thereby make it morally wrong. To deny this would be to accept a form of subjectivism.
One could nitpick (how about judging something morally praiseworthy? etc.), but that gets pretty close to another sense of mind-independence, according to which Street's theory would make morality clearly a mind-independent matter.
 

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ruby sparks said:
You are talking to me about what I mean, not what Street means or what moral Constructivism entails.
Sure, but I am going by what you said about what you mean.
ruby sparks said:
If all you are saying is that different meanings or theories can be taken from the same brief definition (by, for example, a moral Constructivist) then sure, that's semantics, theorising and varied interpretation for you, but it's not necessarily relevant to what I mean, which is not the above.
I am not sure I understand that. What I did was provide an example of a metaethics (and meta-normativity) theory that, according to your definition, would make morality mind-dependent and thus not objective, but under which there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether Trump is a good person.

ruby sparks said:
As such what I would therefore say (instead of what you said) is that going by the definition of 'mind-independent' that I now embrace, a theory that yields mind-dependent morality can be or is, according to some but not others (including me), a theory in which there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether Trump is a good person.
Hmm... I think there might be a misunderstanding. Sorry if I was unclear. When I said "The point is that going by the definition of 'mind-independent' that you now embrace, a theory that yields morality mind-dependent is still a theory in which there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether Trump is a good person.", I by 'a theory' I did not mean 'any theory', but rather, I meant that there is an example of a metaethics theory that does just that. The point of this was to show that your usage of 'mind-independent' (and thus, of 'objective') is not the same as that proposed by The AntiChris, and not one that is in conflict with there being an objective fact of the matter about moral issues.
 

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I meant that there is an example of a metaethics theory that does just that.

Sure. And thanks for clarifying that that was what you meant.

The point of this was to show that your usage of 'mind-independent' (and thus, of 'objective') is not the same as that proposed by The AntiChris, and not one that is in conflict with there being an objective fact of the matter about moral issues.

I am still not clear as to whether my meaning differs from AntiChris's (or if so by how much or in what ways) but it is not something I am primarily concerned about. That said, it might be interesting to hear what AntiChris thinks on that.

By the way, my previous comments about it aside, I felt the paper by Street was very thought-provoking, so thanks for posting. If I recall correctly I had read it before at some time in the past. Generally speaking, I do agree with the suggestion (broadly put by B20 as I recall) that explanations about morality can be greatly enhanced by looking at biology, neuroscience, psychology, and evolution. If there are natural moral behaviours, 'rules' and norms (which I agree there are) I would expect them to be largely explainable in such terms. As such, discussions on Darwinism seem very relevant, and as regards Constructivism, while I might not go along with it entirely, or endorse its use of the word objective, I think it might at least in in some ways be on a useful track (a sort of middle road between moral realism and its counterparts) if coupled with the areas of study I have just mentioned.

And to repeat what I have said before, I do think that the theories, arguments and points that you are presenting are very stimulating and worthwhile indeed (otherwise I would not be engaging with you at such length about them) even if I have reservations about how far you appear to take them (towards conclusions about morality). So in other words, let's not lose sight of how much we agree, even while disagreeing. And when we stop discussing such issues, as we surely will at some point, I will be grateful to you for having stretched and challenged my thinking, which is, at the end of the day, mainly what I come to such discussions for.
 
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I am still not clear as to whether my meaning differs from AntiChris's (or if so by how much or in what ways) but it is not something I am primarily concerned about. That said, it might be interesting to hear what AntiChris thinks on that.
I'm not sure what you think I can add.

I'm reasonably happy with the idea that, in my view, 'objective' means independent of anyone's subjective opinions, attitudes or feelings. I'm in no position to comment on whether this precisely comports with your notion of objectivity.
 

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ruby sparks said:
By the way, my previous comments about it aside, I felt the paper by Street was very thought-provoking, so thanks for posting. If I recall correctly I had read it before at some time in the past.
No problem. Pre-prints of all of her papers used to be on her university webpage, but they were removed later for some reason, so now they are paywalled afaik. Luckily I downloaded them all when they were available.

ruby sparks said:
Generally speaking, I do agree with the suggestion (broadly put by B20 as I recall) that explanations about morality can be greatly enhanced by looking at biology, neuroscience, psychology, and evolution.
I agree with that too of course.

ruby sparks said:
Constructivism, while I might not go along with it entirely, or endorse its use of the word objective, I think it might at least in in some ways be on a useful track (a sort of middle road between moral realism and its counterparts) if coupled with the areas of study I have just mentioned.
In the sense in which Street uses the word 'objective', means-to-ends rationality is not objective: even if there is a fact of the matter as to whether it is rational for agent A to X, the fact of the matter depends on what A values, in one way or another.
 

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The AntiChris said:
I'm not sure what you think I can add.


I'm reasonably happy with the idea that, in my view, 'objective' means independent of anyone's subjective opinions, attitudes or feelings. I'm in no position to comment on whether this precisely comports with your notion of objectivity.
I think either you are in a position to comment on that, or I vastly misunderstood what you mean by 'objective' - in which case, I would ask for clarification.

For example, you can take a look at the kind of constructivism I described, and check whether it is a form of objectivism according to the definition you propose. Then:

1. If the answer is 'yes', then you can tell that your definition does not comport precisely (or is even close to) the notion ruby sparks supports here (which does not mean he uses it intuitively in all contexts).

2. If the answer is 'no', then indeed you probably cannot tell whether your definition precisely comports with ruby sparks's. However, if the answer is 'no', then I would want to know, because in that case, I did not understand your definition at all - or even close.

Regarding point 2., I would like to stress that these two notions are not close to one another. They are very, very different. On one notion, crucially, rationality is not objective, whereas on the other, it is objective.

Perhaps, the most direct way of realizing the difference is as follows: When you say that "'objective' means independent of anyone's subjective opinions, attitudes or feelings", does that include the evaluative attitudes of the person whose behavior is being assessed? For example, suppose that whether it is rational for an agent A to X depends on the evaluative attitudes of A, but does not depend on the subjective opinions, attitudes or feelings of the people assessing whether it is rational for A to X, or anyone else for that matter. Would that mean rationality is objective, or not, going by your notion?

Just to avoid nitpicking: what if the person assessing whether it is rational of A to X is A herself? Well, in that case, her evaluative attitudes count but not in her capacity of assessor, but in her capacity of agent whose behavior is being assessed. Moreover, she can of course be mistaken, as she may not be aware at the time she makes the assessment about some of her evaluative attitudes (yes, this can happen because she can fail to put herself in some situations so to speak, among other reasons), or can be making an epistemically irrational assessment about probable consequences, and so on.
 

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The AntiChris said:
I'm reasonably happy with the idea that, in my view, 'objective' means independent of anyone's subjective opinions, attitudes or feelings. I'm in no position to comment on whether this precisely comports with your notion of objectivity.
I think either you are in a position to comment on that,

Only if I were a mind reader.

or I vastly misunderstood what you mean by 'objective' - in which case, I would ask for clarification.

:confused:

How on earth can what I mean by 'objective' bear on my ability to know what RS precisely means by 'objective'?

I get the idea that what RS means by 'objective' is broadly in line with my view but I can't possibly know if what he means comports precisely with my view.

I sometimes find your reasoning bewildering.

For example, you can take a look at the kind of constructivism I described, and check whether it is a form of objectivism according to the definition you propose.
I took a look and quickly lost the will to live (I'm afraid my eyes glazed over when attempting to make sense of "reflective equilibrium").

So, I really have no idea if Street's version of constructivism is consistent with my views. It follows therefore that RS's agreement (or otherwise) with Street has no bearing on my ability to know if RS's views comport with mine.

Basic logic.
 

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I agree with that too of course.

And as I said, I would agree that as a result, there are natural moral behaviours, 'rules' and norms. I tend to like trying to explain morality via this route than appealing to.....ideals.

My only caveat is that we have evolved to think up these moral ideals, which makes that thinking a part of natural morality also*. :)

In other words, even if there were, hypothetically, an objective moral fact, it would, I think, then become an 'is', and we would still have to grapple with getting an ought from it.

Yet another way to put it might be to say that we are being descriptive only when assessing 'rules' about morality. Normativity is another step.


In the sense in which Street uses the word 'objective', means-to-ends rationality is not objective: even if there is a fact of the matter as to whether it is rational for agent A to X, the fact of the matter depends on what A values, in one way or another.

That makes sense to me. I would tend not to think of rationality as being even capable of being what I would call objective.





*In other words, we may not necessarily be prisoners of our own extant nature, since that too can change. Imagine a hypothetical future creature that has evolved from us but is not us (think of the past example of homo australopithecus not being homo sapiens). That creature, let's call it 'homo futuris', might have different morals. More to the point, the change would likely happen very very gradually.
 

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The AntiChris said:
Only if I were a mind reader.
That reply is out of place. You cut my sentence is half, but it was an either-or.


The AntiChris said:
How on earth can what I mean by 'objective' bear on my ability to know what RS precisely means by 'objective'?
Let us not change the subject. Remember, you told ruby sparks

The AntiChris said:
I'm in no position to comment on whether this precisely comports with your notion of objectivity.
You did not make just the claim that you were in no position to know what ruby sparks precisely means by 'objective'. Rather, you claimed that you were in no position to tell whether your definition of 'objective' precisely comports with ruby sparks's notion. What I am saying is that either you are in a position to tell that your definition of objective does not comport - not even close - to that proposed in this thread by ruby sparks, or else I seriously misunderstood the definition that you proposed. The reasons are as explained earlier.

Of course, if you can figure out that your definition does not[/ b] comport - not even close - to ruby sparks's notion of objectivity, then that does not entail that you can figure out precisely what he means by 'objective' in the context of this thread and metaethical discussions (at least, the concept he proposes for this discussions).


The AntiChris said:
I get the idea that what RS means by 'objective' is broadly in line with my view but I can't possibly know if what he means comports precisely with my view.
Well, either you can, or else I seriously misunderstood your position. And I already explained why. But let me put it in a different way:

1. I read your definition and your explanations involving it in your replies to B20 and to me.
2. I read ruby sparks's definitions and his explanations involving it in his replies to B20 and to me.

Even if I am not be able to tell precisely what either of you mean, I can easily tell that the two of you do not mean the same, or even something similar, unless I very seriously misunderstood what you meant. Since you have access to this thread as much as I do, then you are also in a position to compare ruby sparks's definition with your own, in particular in the example I provided. If I did not misunderstand your definition badly, then you should be able to tell that his proposed concept and yours are very different. On the other hand, if you cannot tell that his proposed concept and yours are very different, then I vastly misunderstood your definition, because the understanding of your definition that I have yields to the easy assessment that his and yours are very different.



The AntiChris said:
I sometimes find your reasoning bewildering.
I am being pretty precise.

The AntiChris said:
I took a look and quickly lost the will to live (I'm afraid my eyes glazed over when attempting to make sense of "reflective equilibrium").
The precise characterization of 'reflective equilibrium' part is not relevant when it comes to the question of whether this is an objective matter, unless I seriously misundertood your definition. But it's like the case of rationality. Now, whether it is rational of agent A to X depends of course - among other things - on A's values. But it does not depend on the values of anyone trying to assess whether it is rational of A to X. Of course, A can be mistaken about whether it is rational of A to X. Let me give you an example:

A=Joe.
X=Have lots and lots of casual unprotected sex for fun.

Joe reckons it is rational on his part to have lots and lots of casual unprotected sex for fun. Is Joe correct?
Well, that depends on the information available to Joe, and also on what he values.
For example, Joe might make an error of epistemic rationality and assing a much lower probability to the hypothesis that he gets a serious STD than he rationally should.
Or he makes the right probabilistic assessment about that, but fails to realize just how bad it would feel to get an illness like that, or how much it would matter to him to avoid the STD if he were properly considering how it feels.


Maybe he is correct, or maybe not. But regardless, whether it is rational on his part depends on his evaluative attitudes, values or whatever one calls them, even those he might not be aware of at the time he makes the assessment (e.g., because he fails to properly think about just how bad it would be to be in that situation - to have one of those diseases - and how much his own evaluative attitudes would tell him to avoid it, if he were considering the matter rationally). But the specific characterization should not matter when it comes to assessing whether it is a form of objectivism by your definition.


The AntiChris said:
So, I really have no idea if Street's version of constructivism is consistent with my views. It follows therefore that RS's agreement (or otherwise) with Street has no bearing on my ability to know if RS's views comport with mine.
But I do not claim that you do know; rather, I claim that either you are in a position to tell (even if you choose not to because you lost your will to live), or else I seriously misunderstood your definition. But let me make it simpler:

Suppose epistemic theory T says that whether it is rational of an agent A to X depends on the values, evaluative attitudes, etc. of A, but it does not depend at all on the values, evaluative attitudes, etc. of anyone else. In particular, if B=\=A and B is assessing whether it is rational of A to X, then according to theory T, it does not depend on the values, evaluative attitudes, etc. of B whether it is rational of A to X. And it does depend on the values, evaluative attitudes, etc, of A, regardless of whether A ever ponders whether it is rational of A to X.

Is epistemic theory T a form of objectivism about rationality?
According to ruby sparks's notion of 'mind-independence', the answer to that would be no (as is the case with Street's theory). What about your notion? Can you tell?
 

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The AntiChris said:
I'm in no position to comment on whether this precisely comports with your notion of objectivity.
You did not make just the claim that you were in no position to know what ruby sparks precisely means by 'objective'. Rather, you claimed that you were in no position to tell whether your definition of 'objective' precisely comports with ruby sparks's notion.

I have no idea what distinction you're trying draw here. Even more baffling is why this is so important to you.:confused:

What I am saying is that either you are in a position to tell that your definition of objective does not comport - not even close - to that proposed in this thread by ruby sparks, or else I seriously misunderstood the definition that you proposed.

As I tried to explain before, this makes no logical sense.

My ability to tell that my definition of objective does not comport with anyone else's definition cannot possibly be contingent upon your understanding of my definition.

This can't be what you mean. But I'm at a loss as to what could possibly mean.
 

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Angra, a more fruitful direction might be to explore how much we (you and I and anyone else who participates here) agree, on for instance, the existence of natural (biological/psychological/evolved) moral behaviours, 'rules' and norms. It may be that there certain things we will never agree on, so it might be interesting to try setting those aside, for a change if nothing else, and focus on agreement where possible. Common ground in other words. We would be covering much of what B20 previously said, and on which I agree with him, and with you too.
 
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Angra Mainyu

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The AntiChris said:
I have no idea what distinction you're trying draw here. Even more baffling is why this is so important to you. :confused:
The distinction should be very clear. You may well not be able to tell what agent A exactly proposes as a definition of 'O', but you can still tell that agent A's definition is not the same as yours if - say - by your definition, Fs are not Os, but by A's definition - as applied and explained by A -, Fs are Os. It is important because you said

The AntiChris said:
How on earth can what I mean by 'objective' bear on my ability to know what RS precisely means by 'objective'?
which ridicules my views and arguments by grossly mischaracterizing them. Again, I never claimed that you were in a position to know what RS precisely means by 'objective'. I never even made an either-or argument with that. I meant what I said and explained in detail by now.


The AntiChris said:
As I tried to explain before, this makes no logical sense.
As I explained carefully, it does, and further, it is true.

The AntiChris said:
My ability to tell that my definition of objective does not comport with anyone else's definition cannot possibly be contingent upon your understanding of my definition.
Of course it is not. I do not understand why you fail to understand my point. It is detailed - painfully detailed. Here is a summary, but the painfully detailed explanation is of course better:

1. On the basis of an understanding of your proposed definition and ruby sparks's proposed definition based on what was written by you and by him in this thread, I reckon they are very different from each other.
2. If I did not seriously misunderstand your definition, then you too can, on the basis of what was written in this thread, make that assessment (unless you are not sufficiently intelligent, but I rule that out as the assessment in 1. was very, very easy to make).


The AntiChris said:
This can't be what you mean. But I'm at a loss as to what could possibly mean.
Of course that is not what I mean. But I'm at a loss as to how you can be at a loss about what I mean. Are you reading my posts for at least, say, 5 minutes?
I explained this in detail in this post and this post, the latter being more detailed - really, I dedicate so much time to give every step in the argument, and you still won't dedicate 5 minutes to see it's obviously correct? I doubt you'd need more than that.
 

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I can easily tell that the two of you do not mean the same, or even something similar...

To me it seems clear they are at least similar.
Why would you call them similar?

They differ on the key issue, namely whether an assessment can fail to be objective even if the truth of an assessment cannot depend on the person making the assessment (in her capacity as assessor).



ruby sparks said:
And I am also totally confused as to what your point is about it in any case.
I am both trying to elucidate what your definition of 'objective' is, and trying to get you to change your definition because it is not useful in this context (which I know due to some of its consequences, even if I do not know all of the details about that definition). I am also trying to persuade you and The AntiChris that you two have very different definitions. That is important for the sake of clarity in the conversation, to reduce miscommunication.
 

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Angra, a more fruitful direction might be to explore how much we (you and I and anyone else who participates here) agree, on for instance, the existence of natural (biological/psychological/evolved) moral behaviours, 'rules' and norms. It may be that there certain things we will never agree on, so it might be interesting to try setting those aside, for a change if nothing else, and focus on agreement where possible. Common ground in other words. We would be covering much of what B20 previously said, and on which I agree with him, and with you too.

But I do not see that as very fruitful in this context I'm afraid. Without a clarification of the concept and your claims, there is not much room for a productive discussion. So, I'm trying - also for the sake of readers of course.
 

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The AntiChris said:
As I tried to explain before, this makes no logical sense.
As I explained carefully, it does, and further, it is true.

But you're wrong and you repeat your error:

2. If I did not seriously misunderstand your definition, then you too can, on the basis of what was written in this thread, make that assessment,

This is a conditional statement of the form "if-then".

The "then" clause (emboldened above) does not logically follow from the "if" clause. It is based on an assumption on your part dependent on information (about my abilities and knowledge) that you do not have.

Earlier I said:

Even more baffling is why this is so important to you.:confused:

I'm still baffled.

For some reason you seem intent upon getting me to make an assessment I'm not prepared to make - I really do not understand RS's views sufficiently well to make the kind of judgement you want me to make. For reasons known only to yourself, you do not accept this.

This is all quite bizarre.
 

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The AntiChris said:
The "then" clause (emboldened above) does not logically follow from the "if" clause. It is based on an assumption on your part dependent on information (about my abilities and knowledge) that you do not have.
No, it is based on an assessment. It's extremely obvious to me, and furthermore, I gave the step-by-step explanation, so I reckon an average level of reading comprehension suffices (with perhaps a small effort), and you do have more than that.

The AntiChris said:
For some reason you seem intent upon getting me to make an assessment I'm not prepared to make - I really do not understand RS's views sufficiently well to make the kind of judgement you want me to make. For reasons known only to yourself, you do not accept this.
The reasons have been explained in detail in my posts.
 

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The AntiChris said:
For some reason you seem intent upon getting me to make an assessment I'm not prepared to make - I really do not understand RS's views sufficiently well to make the kind of judgement you want me to make. For reasons known only to yourself, you do not accept this.
The reasons have been explained in detail in my posts.

Are you saying you have reason to not accept my sincere claim that I do not have sufficient information to make the assessment you're asking for?

Are you accusing me of dishonesty?
 

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But I do not see that as very fruitful in this context I'm afraid.

That's a bit short-sighted, imo.

Without a clarification of the concept and your claims, there is not much room for a productive discussion.

It seems to be obtusely pedantic sophistry and semantics to me, and I think it's actually preventing productive discussion.
 
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They differ on the key issue, namely whether an assessment can fail to be objective even if the truth of an assessment cannot depend on the person making the assessment (in her capacity as assessor).

Do they indeed. How do you even know that?

Angra, I would say they are broadly very similar. AntiChris agrees. Furthermore, it is a not uncommon meaning and usage of the term. This is getting silly.

Imo the best route to at least getting as close as possible to understanding what 'moral facts' might be is down the biology/evolution route, and that is why I suggest we go down that route instead of this cul-de-sac. It may be that we will find 'facts' (more likely they will be non-universal rules or norms imo) that can be said to be objective by some meaning of the word. Personally, I don't think we will, not because there necessarily aren't such facts but because the matter is probably so incredibly complicated that we as humans can't reliably know or name any of them or more importantly how they pertain to or interact or conflict with each other in any particular situation. As B20 said, they may be irreducibly (for us) complex, or have so many exceptions that they are, effectively, relative. For example, I suggested in an earlier post, that no one has yet replied to, that moral judgements are relative to situationally-activated emotions (which are a subset of thoughts and/or feelings). And since emotions =/= moral judgements* (even if they are related phenomena) it seems to me that that is the case, in other words that this is a good case for saying morality is relativistic.






* I believe =/= means 'not equal to' but I am not sure.
 
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The AntiChris said:
For some reason you seem intent upon getting me to make an assessment I'm not prepared to make - I really do not understand RS's views sufficiently well to make the kind of judgement you want me to make. For reasons known only to yourself, you do not accept this.
The reasons have been explained in detail in my posts.

Are you saying you have reason to not accept my sincere claim that I do not have sufficient information to make the assessment you're asking for?

Are you accusing me of dishonesty?
No, I am saying that you are very probably mistaken, and you have not taken a sufficiently close look, but dismissed my points (sincerely) without realizing they were correct.
Now, if the available information - which is far more than enough to make the assessment I am explaining to you in detail - really is not enough to allow you to make that assessment, then you are much less intelligent than I thought you were. But I consider this very, very improbable - again, using information only available to you (as it is in the thread - it is very, very easy for me to make that assessment, for the reasons I have explained in great detail.
 

Angra Mainyu

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ruby sparks said:
That's a bit short-sighted, imo.
It is not. I have talked to you for quite some time, in this thread and others.



ruby sparks said:
It seems to be obtusely pedantic sophistry and semantics to me, and I think it's actually preventing productive discussion.
See, for example? B20's "beyond exasperating" remains apt.


ruby sparks said:
Do they indeed. How do you even know that?
Yes, unless I vastly misunderstood what The AntiChris proposes as a definition. However, if I did that, I will say that the definition provided by The AntiChris is also not at all useful in this context, and certainly is not what either B20 or I mean by 'objective', or what English speakers who aren't doing philosophy mean when they say there is an objective fact of the matter about something.


ruby sparks said:
Angra, I would say they are broadly very similar. AntiChris agrees. Furthermore, it is a not uncommon meaning and usage of the term. This is getting silly.
No, it is a very uncommon meaning in ordinary English. It's not uncommon in philosophy, I grant you that, because there are several common meanings of 'objective' and 'mind-independent' in use in philosophy. But in any event, at least realize that you do not even understand what B20 or I mean when we say that morality is objective, if you use a definition like that.

ruby sparks said:
As B20 said, they may be irreducibly (for us) complex, or have so many exceptions that they are, effectively, relative.
B20 did not suggest that they are relative, and that is not the sense of 'relative' that matters here. It's not about 'exceptions', but rather, about complex, detailed rules. It's what you'd expect from evolution. But that's not at all a problem for objective morality.

ruby sparks said:
For example, I suggested in an earlier post, that no one has yet replied to, that moral judgements are relative to situationally-activated emotions (which are a subset of thoughts and/or feelings).
What does that mean? What does it mean to say 'moral judgments' are relative to such-and-such? Are you saying that whether they are true depends on whether the person making them has such-and-such feelings? If not, then what is it? Is it that people who have such-and-such feelings are more inclined to make them? If so, then what of it?
 
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