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Morality:  Objective, Subjective, or somewhere in between?
Posted: 22 February 2006 07:55 AM   [ Ignore ]
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How do you view morality?

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Posted: 22 February 2006 07:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Morality:  Objective, Subjective, or somewhere in between?

How do you view morality?

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Posted: 27 February 2006 11:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Oops! Forgot to log in.  :oops:

Just an observation - the “Emoticons” are cute.  Are there any similar things like a “Rationalicon?”  Hmmm—-

Wes

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Fairness is Justice

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Posted: 27 February 2006 12:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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[quote author=“wesmjohnson”]Oops! Forgot to log in.  oops

Just an observation - the “Emoticons” are cute.  Are there any similar things like a “Rationalicon?”  Hmmm—-

Wes


Wes,
Not that I know of but maybe there should be.
Bob

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Posted: 19 March 2006 08:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I view morality as subjective. For me, the only way it seems to be objective is if we use emotions in evaluating. We have a certain emotional response to seeing a child murdered, and this gives us the illusion of objective immorality. But if we look at this without emotion, we can’t really say anything is objectively wrong. All we can do is adhere to various ethical systems.

Perhaps Doug can give us some insight?


-Dave

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Posted: 28 April 2006 01:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Planetary Ethics

I was pleased to learn that Paul Kurtz’s lecture on planetary ethics at United Nations PLaza in NYC on April 11 had overflow attendance.
Bob

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Posted: 28 April 2006 03:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Re: Planetary Ethics

[quote author=“Bob”]I was pleased to learn that Paul Kurtz’s lecture on planetary ethics at United Nations PLaza in NYC on April 11 had overflow attendance.
Bob

Yes, I was there—it was very full, which surprised me.

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Posted: 28 April 2006 03:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Re: Planetary Ethics

[quote author=“dougsmith”][quote author=“Bob”]I was pleased to learn that Paul Kurtz’s lecture on planetary ethics at United Nations PLaza in NYC on April 11 had overflow attendance.
Bob

Yes, I was there—it was very full, which surprised me.

I was invited to attend but unfortunately I wasn’t able to RSVP in time.
Bob

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Posted: 01 May 2006 10:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Re: Morality:  Objective, Subjective, or somewhere in betwee

[quote author=“MikeyG”]How do you view morality?

My morals are better than yours. lol

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Fighting the evil belief that there is a god(s).

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Posted: 19 May 2006 02:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Re: Morality:  Objective, Subjective, or somewhere in betwee

If you define “objective” as the following of a strict set of rules, and knowing without fail when your anticipated reaction to each situation will be in accordance with those rules, then an objective system of morality would be clearly unworkable.  And of course all such proposed systems have been clearly unworkable, because at some point sujectivity always plays a role in making the necessary judgements as to whether the proposed reaction to what is always a partly hypothetical situation would or will meet with the approval of whoever or whatever set down those rules to begin with.

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Roy Niles, Kailua, Hawaii

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Posted: 19 May 2006 03:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Re: Morality:  Objective, Subjective, or somewhere in betwee

[quote author=“royniles”]If you define “objective” as the following of a strict set of rules, and knowing without fail when your anticipated reaction to each situation will be in accordance with those rules, then an objective system of morality would be clearly unworkable.  And of course all such proposed systems have been clearly unworkable, because at some point sujectivity always plays a role in making the necessary judgements as to whether the proposed reaction to what is always a partly hypothetical situation would or will meet with the approval of whoever or whatever set down those rules to begin with.

Hello Roy and welcome!

I think you may be confusing two things: one is our subjective “reactions” or opinions, and another is the objective facts about ethics. Clearly we can make the distinction between opinion and reality, because we all know what it is for someone (let us say a plantation owner in the antebellum South) to have ethical or moral “reactions” or opinions which are not in fact correct.

In the case of the antebellum South, slavery would, as you put it, “meet with the approval” of the person who set down the rules—although it appears to us that the plantation owners set them down, in fact he would almost certainly say that those rules were set down in the Bible.

Clearly, these purported “ethical rules” are nothing more than false opinions on his part, however.

What we do in constructing a system of ethics is to look to some objective features of the world that have ethical purchase. So, for example, the utilitarian will look to happiness and pain; he will say that the objectively ethical system is one that maximizes happiness and minimizes pain. The Kantian will look to some sort of essential character of what it is to be a moral being, and use that essence to tell him what can or cannot be done to such a being. And so on.

It is, of course, very controversial which particular system is correct. I am sure there are as many ethical systems as there are professional ethicists! But at any rate I don’t believe that there is anything in principle wrong with looking for an objective ground to morality.

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Posted: 19 May 2006 04:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Re: Morality:  Objective, Subjective, or somewhere in betwee

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.

Hello Roy and welcome!

I think you may be confusing two things: one is our subjective “reactions” or opinions, and another is the objective facts about ethics. Clearly we can make the distinction between opinion and reality, because we all know what it is for someone (let us say a plantation owner in the antebellum South) to have ethical or moral “reactions” or opinions which are not in fact correct.

In the case of the antebellum South, slavery would, as you put it, “meet with the approval” of the person who set down the rules—although it appears to us that the plantation owners set them down, in fact he would almost certainly say that those rules were set down in the Bible.

Clearly, these purported “ethical rules” are nothing more than false opinions on his part, however.

What we do in constructing a system of ethics is to look to some objective features of the world that have ethical purchase. So, for example, the utilitarian will look to happiness and pain; he will say that the objectively ethical system is one that maximizes happiness and minimizes pain. The Kantian will look to some sort of essential character of what it is to be a moral being, and use that essence to tell him what can or cannot be done to such a being. And so on.

It is, of course, very controversial which particular system is correct. I am sure there are as many ethical systems as there are professional ethicists! But at any rate I don’t believe that there is anything in principle wrong with looking for an objective ground to morality.

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Roy Niles, Kailua, Hawaii

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Posted: 20 May 2006 05:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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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.

Hello Roy,

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.

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Posted: 20 May 2006 07:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Re: Morality:  Objective, Subjective, or somewhere in betwee

Doug:  I knew that the definition of “objective” would be a problem - at least for me.  Which is why I qualified my opening remarks with the caveat: “If you define “objective” as the following of a strict set of rules, and knowing without fail when your anticipated reaction to each situation will be in accordance with those rules.”

Other applicable definitions might be:
a. Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices.
b. Based on observable phenomena; presented factually.

Using these definitions, a supposition that morality can be made objective could be one based more on hope than expectations.  But we certainly can agree that a system of morality that is more objective than the hodge podge we have now is something to strive for - and perhaps the most important something.

As an aside, and a bit off topic, I would add that an interdisciplinay approach to the problem should now produce better results than a strictly philisophical one, although philosophers will always be needed to keep the rest of “honest.”  But when we consider that it appears to be our “emotional brain” which regulates our moral and ethical responses to stimuli, we need to do more than speculate about the role played by that part of our anatomy.  And scientists are of course doing that very thing as we speak.

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Posted: 21 May 2006 02:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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The horse, Barbaro, broke his leg yesterday in the Preakness, I didn’t see it, too busy with this stuff but the picture this morning in the paper of that animal standing on three legs, elicited several emotions, anger being the first, and sorrow, really deep and abiding sorrow, the last.

My point being emotional responses are probably not worth much when used in assessing the value of a structure of moral ideology - I came close to using the word Theology. My emotional response to that picture tends to lead me to ban horse racing.

I will be back later to discuss this in greater detail and hope to make a positive contribution, a friend sent me an essay on Jurgen Habermas’ approach to the subject in post-secular societies, whatever that means.

I like the idea of defining terms, I like even more using simple words and not coining new ones, Eupraxsophy, is that what this is about?

UGH!

Jim

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Jimmie Keyes
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Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. (MLK Jr.)

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Posted: 21 May 2006 05:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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[quote author=“jimmiekeyes”]My point being emotional responses are probably not worth much when used in assessing the value of a structure of moral ideology - I came close to using the word Theology. My emotional response to that picture tends to lead me to ban horse racing.

Yes, emotion is something we definitely have to be very careful with when assessing the value of any reasoned argument. Emotions are very tightly regulated by deep biological mechanisms; and many of these mechanisms lead us wrong.

For one clear example, think of nationalism.

[quote author=“jimmiekeyes”]I will be back later to discuss this in greater detail and hope to make a positive contribution, a friend sent me an essay on Jurgen Habermas’ approach to the subject in post-secular societies, whatever that means.

Habermas is one of those so-called “continental” philosophers, somewhere in between being a post-modernist and something a bit more intelligible. I’d tread carefully with his stuff.

I always get a bit skeptical when people start throwing around terminology like “post-secular society”. Tends to be part of a highly “theory driven” (read: bad) approach to history.

[quote author=“jimmiekeyes”]I like the idea of defining terms, I like even more using simple words and not coining new ones, Eupraxsophy, is that what this is about?

UGH!

LOL

Yes, poor Paul Kurtz ... it’s not the most felicitous word. Why not just say “the practice of wisdom”? Or, “wisdom in practice”? Or, “wise action”? Or something along those lines.

He means well though.

:wink:

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