Hi Brennan, long time no speak
Yes, we’ve been over this gorund and may have reached the limits of mutual comprehension, but I’m always willing to try again. I do want to avoid dominating the conversation since everybody here has probably heard my opinon on morality more times than they care to!
I agree both ways that is . I would like to brief in my reply but you, as usual, you make too many contentious but nevertheless interesting points that need addressing
My point about cultural differences was that they are integral to deciding what is or is not subject to moral judgements and how those judgements come out.
I disagree. Many cultures, past and present have been mistaken about facts of the matter. What is different when it comes to morality? As a subjective term it can be subjected to all sorts of manipulations and distortions to suit one group over another. I need an argument - beyond such observations - of why this is immune to analysis, evidence and arguments that work in just about every other aspect of life. I would be delighted if you could give one, but have not seen one from you nor anyone else who defends such a thesis like yours.
I am not arguing for the elimination of cultural differences, far from it, I welcome the diversity of clothes, music, dance, art, food and so on. That is culture to me. There is nothing that could be wrong there only differences and different preferences. Morality instead -coming from just about every different moral approach - does have one key convergence, namely the principle of universalisability. That is about the only starting point - maybe the OP’s fundamental axiom is too strong a notion here - still that is where one starts.
Pluralism only works if the culture supports it, so it’s not a great example.
No this is work in progress. Many cultures recognize the need to deal with this “inclusively”. Just that the current solutions e.g in the UK, have often been (very) poor. Why do you want to summarily dismiss any real attempts to deal with this?
I know you don’t like my use of arbitrary, but all I mean is dependant on local beliefs that don’t of necessity have an intrinsic moral dimension.
Well I deny there is such a thing as an “intrinsic moral dimension”. That is the challenge I have presented to you. You both seem to deny it and affirm it - the “specialness” that I noted in previous comments, which is why I think your position is self-contradictory.
I’m not sure how better to explain what I mean about beliefs and desires. I think what we call morality is a set of principles and rules we intuit and then make explicit through reason. It arises from what we want and how we believe the universe operates. “Thou shalt not kill” arises from the desire for life and to avoid violence and death and is elaborated as a rule by our understanding about the universe (God exists, God makes the rules, God wants us not to kill each other so this is a rule, etc).
Yes but implicit in all this is the assumption that this is dependent only on beliefs and desires. I have seen no argument that this is the case. Observing that people have differing opinions, individually or culturally, is just so trivial and cannot lead to the conclusion that is al there is to morality.
I agree with the notion that our desires are fundamentally determined by our biology for the most part, with perhaps a few more abstract desires arising out of the exuberant and not nexcessarily advantageous in evolutionary terms activity of our forebrains. Our beliefs are strongly shaped by our biology since they are predicated on how our senses and reason operate, but they are more indeirectly determined and less fixed. Some moral rules are common and probably have a basis in our natural history as social primates (not killing, stealing, a general aversion to violence for most, and perhaps a predisposition to it for others, etc). Other moral rules arise from desires and beliefs in a more complex and roundabout way, such as the dress taboos I mentioned.
Now here I see another practical contradiction. Now I grant that your use of the word arbitrary allows for this - but why then use such a word that is open to confusion and equivocation then? Still an evolutionary argument above, even as I disagree with it on other points, contradicts that morality is just about beliefs and desires. Evolution provides all sorts of constraints on how these work so one has to look outside beliefs and desires to understand these. You seem to both want to exclude any external factors - such as evolution - yet then drop them in as it suits you. It just looks very inconsistent to me.
I believe we can construct rational moral rule systems and then evaluate them empirically, but of course the kinds of rules we can make and the standards by which we evaluate them are limited by our biology and culture.
OK fine but how does such a “rational moral rule system” work? Is it entirely rational? I think not and think you agree on that but that still does  not [/edit] prevent analysis and the drawing of conclusions. If one assume means-ends rationality - as I and I think you do too - then how to you evaluate ends rationally? I have given an answer to this before and will, if requested, again, but I have seen no alternate proposal from you. Without something, it does not matter how much you “believe” it is possible, you do not know how to do it.
The specter of non-religious ethics that encourage cannibalism, and such nonsense, is unlikely to be realized for sound biological reasons.
Wow you lost me there. Cannabilism does exist - more likely from the anthropological studies I have read from at least partly religious type of thinking. What on earth has this do with non-religious ethics? There is one point that I can think of. I like to say “do not sacrifice truth on the alter of comfort” by that I mean we might find unpalatable uncomfortable truths if we look properly and (not but) that is not an excuse to ignore them. For sure a more realistic culture-independent moral framework would lead to uncomfortable results for some. But that has always been the way in any discourse and is not a reason to avoid it here.
Still, if we establish a simple moral proposition, such as “The greatest individual freedom possible that does not substantively interfere with the same freedom for others is a good,” then we can look at rule structures and evaluate them semi-objectively in terms of how well they meet the standard.
What one earth does “semi-objective” mean? Granted such an “axiom” one can achieve epistemic objectivity in analysis - once one has disambiguated the notion of freedom (e.g. Berlin’s positive versus negative freedom). The question really is what is the set of ethically substantive principles to select - such as your illustrative (I assume) “freedom” one above - or does one need to do so at all?
So reason has a role to play, and there is a degree of objectivity possible, but yes the underlying principles are still conditioned by beliefs and desires and all the factors that inform these (biology, culture, historical accident, etc).
Is this what you mean by semi-objective? The fact that these are “conditioned by beliefs and desires and all the factors that inform these” would be incorporated into such an analysis and not a post-process modifier and none of this makes it “semi-objective”.