Are morals objective? | INFJs.com

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Discussion in 'Philosophy and Religion' started by wolly.green, Jan 8, 2017.

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  1. wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    Are morals objective or are they subjective. Can a person ever be wrong about what is moral, or are moral truths always relative? And if moral truths are relative, does this mean all truths are?



     
  2. charlatan

    charlatan Community Member

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    What's your view?

    I think the starting point for me is to ask: do we have at least a heuristic definition of morality that we can agree upon? Is that important, in your view, and why/why not?
    As a note: suppose we said it is about right action.
    OK, great, but what does "right" refer to?

    I have possible definitions, but I guess this is the first hurdle for me. Other than that, my only comment is that "physical" seems to at least have a sort of heuristic definition in that physical properties seem to more or less be those we can describe using mathematical relations. The quantifiable character of physical reality is what gives us the objectivity to physics (this is not saying that physics IS empiricism at work, rather that even if we take the "good explanations" point of view, what makes physics explanations hard to vary in practice seems to be the rigid character of the mathematics).

    If someone wants to throw morality into subjective-land, maybe he/she will argue that moral explanations are not hard to vary, because good/not have at least some strong root in sentiments, which obviously vary from person to person and culture to culture.

    You needn't agree with that (it's not even my own thoughts, for what it's worth, just possible thoughts), but anyway, that's just some stuff on the table that I'd be curious to see your thoughts on.
     
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  3. Flavus Aquila

    Flavus Aquila Spruced Up

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    Morals only apply to beings with sufficient understanding and freedom of will, to follow them.

    There is an objective aspect to morality, which is a measure of how fitting an action is for its purpose. For example, in humans eating is conducted for various purposes: nutrition, enjoyment, socialising, etc. The most necessary and fundamental purpose of eating is nutrition, because it is a fundamental necessity of life. This fundamental purpose governs the morality of any other purposes eating may fulfill.

    For example, it would be immoral to emphasize enjoyment, over nutrition, to the detriment of nutrition: if one had a child who only liked eating sugar, it would be immoral to cater to taste, over a balance of proteins, fats, minerals, and other nutritional necessities.

    The objective hierarchy of purpose is applied to each subjective situation, so that at times eating sugar for enjoyment is moral, so long as it is subordinated to the principal purpose of nutrition: eating sugar at times, and eating vegetables at other times. Enjoyment of eating is not immoral, so long as it does not usurp nutrition. For this reason gluttony: eating, then deliberately vomiting, so as to continue eating is considered immoral in most moral systems.

    Subjective circumstances also affect situational morality: it may be immoral for most people to eat significantly beyond their needs, because of the effects of excessive weight. However, if it is foreseen that excess body fat will be necessary, and thus not excessive, it would be both moral and praiseworthy to eat huge amounts. For example, prior to an Antarctic expedition, or before foreseeable times of famine, or during pregnancy.

    The moral principle has an objective quality, insofar it is related to an objective aspect of the subject's nature. These principles guide the subjective choices/situations, so that few specific actions are objectively moral, but all particular decisions can be.
     
  4. wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    Cool.

    Is that important, in your view, and why/why not?

    Its very important to me. I remember reading an article that endorsed the murder of young children, and justified it by claiming that morals are relative to culture: "if the culture says its moral, who am I to judge". Does this last comment seem right to you?

    The quantifiable character of physical reality is what gives us the objectivity to physics (this is not saying that physics IS empiricism at work, rather that even if we take the "good explanations" point of view, what makes physics explanations hard to vary in practice seems to be the rigid character of the mathematics).

    Ah, but why should "difficult to vary" be isomorphic to "mathematically rigorous"? Psychology is no grounded in mathematics, yet it produces explanations that are difficult to vary. You might argue that with a bit of effort, psychology can be made to conform to mathematics. But the problem here is you must show why we should expect this to be the case. Otherwise saying psychology can be made to conform to mathematics is just mere speculation.

    because good/not have at least some strong root in sentiments, which obviously vary from person to person and culture to culture.

    One could argue that this is actually referring to values, not morals. Maybe morals and values might be different?
     
  5. wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    Its clear you think morals are objective so ill ask questions about your morality instead.

    Your morality is very utilitarian. What are you views on actions directed at people other than oneself.
     
  6. Flavus Aquila

    Flavus Aquila Spruced Up

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    My original example was about eating (mostly self-directed) and governed by the principles of temperance, seeking what is necessary, with moderation in respect of what is appealing.

    When dealing with other people, principles of justice apply: to render to each his due. The objective aspect of interpersonal justice is derived from the condition of both parties, the nature of the relationship, and certain circumstances.

    In dealing with difficult persons/things/circumstances some self-benefiting morals apply under the principles of fortitude, neither exceeding, nor falling short of fitting action... and in moderation with respect to what is repellent.
     
  7. wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    to render to each his due

    As Socrates pointed out, what if to render to each his due means to render a weapon to a man of unsound mind? Particularly to a man of unsound mind whose murderous intentions are made clear.
     
  8. charlatan

    charlatan Community Member

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    Oh it most certainly isn't -- I was just saying that seems to be one instance of "difficult to vary" -- it seems to pretty reliably render scientific explanations difficult to vary. The task of finding an objective morality is, to me, tantamount to finding something similarly reliable in the moral, as opposed to physical, sphere!
    That we can reliably map physical --> quantitative is incredibly powerful, and we'd want something at least almost as powerful.


    I personally am almost entirely unsympathetic to culture-based morality. I'd rather say there's zero morality than say there's culture-based morality. Why? It seems to me that, if all we're saying is we can come up with different logically consistent ways of acting, well sure -- we can also concoct tons of totally random logically consistent systems.

    Now this is exactly what I've come to, and exactly how I'd respond to the thing you were responding to. In particular, I think our sentiments do refer to something -- at least psychological attitudes, and that one can form different value systems based on them, and these value systems will actually refer to something that can be said to exist relative to a psychology. A culture is something like a collective psychology, so the same argument applies there.
    I'm much more comfortable saying values might be conferred/imparted in many different ways (that one might adopt different premises/criteria to impart value based on) than saying that there are many different ways to discern the moral rightness/wrongness of, say, murdering.

    With morality, while there may be some subjective component (a compassionate response), this no more seems to render morality subjective than does the subjectivity of my experience of light compared to yours render physics subjective -- the point is there is a rigid map from that sensible feeling to a mathematically rigorous description which uniquely characterizes the phenomenon I sensed, which can be conveyed even to someone who is, say, blind.
    This is why plenty of people who struggle with the affective aspects of compassion can for abstract reasons still decide to behave morally.
    Justice can be understood without the affective aspects of compassion, but experiencing them can help internalize it in a more intuitive way

    Not all spheres of value-judgment have to be subjective by the above view, BTW, just I think there are reasonable value systems one can form which are a balance of reasoning and sentiment rather than almost entirely objective reasoning.
     
    #8 charlatan, Jan 8, 2017
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2017
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  9. ruji

    ruji Permanent Fixture

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    Morals are what guide people. We can make stacks of books defining what's right and wrong, but when
    you reduce it to its purest, wrong is basically the cause to the effect of consequence. No that isn't very
    definitive, but we can derive from this a very important point: Without consequence, we don't know what
    is wrong. People will do whatever they can get away with. No, I don't necessarily mean people will
    deliberately and sneakily do so. They will eventually feel out their boundaries with or without any intention
    of doing so. I understand that people will object to that statement, but you only do so within the context of
    many years being taught your current values. In no normal situation would hurting people let you off
    unscathed. Even if those you hurt were powerless to retaliate, others are still watching you. Put in an
    impossible position of absolute power, you will do anything.
     
    #9 ruji, Jan 8, 2017
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  10. Flavus Aquila

    Flavus Aquila Spruced Up

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    The common good, or the good of any intended victim demand that one not place weapons in the hands of murderers.
     
  11. wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    it seems to pretty reliably render scientific explanations difficult to vary

    I would argue that it is not possible to derive the unknown from the known. It is not possible to render unknown explanations in physics from known mathematical truths. Explanations are always arrived at through a creative leap of imagination. Further, I would argue that mathematical truths are completely independent of physical truths (truths about the laws of physics). Thus although the discovery of new mathematical truths may affect what we know about the laws of physics, they are by no means truths about physics. New theories of physics are first arrived at through a creative leap of imagination, after which they are embedded in mathematics. If mathematics is incapable of expressing a new theory, the physicist might consult the mathematician about creating a new mathematical object. After which he can embed his theory in mathematics. Thoughts?
     
    #11 wolly.green, Jan 8, 2017
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2017
  12. wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    But what is good for the victim? And what is good for the common?
     
  13. wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    So morals are subjective, and people follow morals out of fear of retaliation?
     
  14. ruji

    ruji Permanent Fixture

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    sure
     
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  15. wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    What if a man believes his morals are true, and by following them he simply seeks consistency with his values and actions. What if he is not motivated by fear of retribution but by loathing of inner struggle? In this sense, he is still motivated by self interest, but for very different reasons than you think.
     
  16. ruji

    ruji Permanent Fixture

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    What does a particular person's thought process of his morals have to do with my explanation? People think whatever they want to. It has nothing to do with me.
     
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  17. Flavus Aquila

    Flavus Aquila Spruced Up

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    You hypothesised about a murderer and you need ask?
     
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  18. Ryso89

    Ryso89 Community Member

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    Morals are subjective to each person for very personal reasons, and I believe moral standards are largely shaped by an individual's personality traits. Life experiences likely play a role, but not as strongly. This is my perspective.
     
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  19. charlatan

    charlatan Community Member

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    Sure, all of that sounds right; it's also the reason why I emphasize that seeking good explanations in physics is still the paradigm to go by -- neither empiricism nor pure mathematics will get you there...it's just both these things help produce the hard-to-vary characteristic, even if they alone won't produce the best explanation (which will often involve imagination and so on, like you say). In fact, the fact they're (empirical knowledge and mathematical knowledge) related (the good old "it's amazing how mathematics really seems to be how nature's laws are written" saying) is the really wonderful thing rendering pretty staunch hard-to-vary.
     
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  20. wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    Well "good for the victim" is not really an explanation about why a weapon should not be handed to a man with murderous intent. What does "good for the victim" mean, and how does it relate to "murderous intent?
     
    #20 wolly.green, Jan 8, 2017
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2017
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