Re: Morality: Objective, Subjective, or somewhere in betwee
[quote author=“royniles”]I agree with most of what you’ve said, but my point was that no system can be completely objective - that there is always subjectivity involved. The topic seems to be asking for a choice between alternatives, and “Objective” is cleartly not a viable alternative. And you’ll have to agree that fundamentalists of various stripes would argue that it is. And in effect, your reply is a more detailed examination of the inference I intended to have drawn from my brief remarks. Which is that the application of any of these rules requires judgements that are necessarily subjective.
As to the reference to antebellum slavery, and the “ethical” rules then in effect, there were no objective sets of rules that I’m aware of, and no-one to turn to who had either set them down or was an undisputed expert as to what the “ideal” rules for slave ownership should be. Some slavers were vilified for being too kind to slaves, and some for being too cruel - some for educating them, and some for not, and so on and on. And if the bible were to be turned to as the source of these rules, one would again have to choose subjectively as to which of the contradictory messages were applicable.
But I don’t want to start off by nit-picking what others have to say. No-one will ever be completely satisfied with the way someone else illustrates what are essentially the same points.
And we certainly can find a more scientific or rational basis for constructing a system of ethics that doesn’t rely on myth or religion (same difference) as the authority. But the objectivity involved will still be a relative thing, “subject” to our own inherent limitations.
And it’s not that clear that we can make a distinction between opinion and reality that will stand the test of time, but we can certainly try.
If I understand you correctly, what you’re saying is that no system can be completely objective, since we have to rely on our own opinions in constructing such a system.
If that’s what you mean, you may have a point; but then we have to figure out what we mean by “objective” here. Is anything objective on your criteria? I mean, clearly we want to say that it is objectively true that the earth goes around the sun. That’s not the sort of thing that should be up for debate. But on the other hand, all our beliefs about the earth and sun are, in the final analysis just opinions.
I would argue that something can be “objectively true” and “subjectively true” at the same time. So arguing that an ethical (or physical) system is subjectively true to me isn’t an argument that it can’t be objectively true as well.
Then the question is, which subjectively true beliefs are also objectively true? How do we distinguish those that are from those that aren’t?
The answer is if we can come up with arguments from reason or experiment which shows these subjective opinions to hold general purchase. For example, the classic criteria of good experimental design is repeatability. So if I do an experiment that shows the earth goes around the sun, it has to be that you could do the same experiment and it would show you the same thing.
Merely subjective truths are things like taste: I like chocolate better than vanilla. But there is no principled argument that shows chocolate to be “objectively” better tasting. (I can cook one up, but it would sound pretty silly).
My supposition is that morality can be made objective.