disillusioned

The Question of Objective Morality

Recommended Posts

Ok Disillusioned...

 

Here's the deal.

I have no training in philosophy and will probably need to be spoon-fed, when it comes to understanding the difference between found and made moral laws. C'est la vie.  The only parallel in my experience and understanding that might have some resonance is the way the Copernican Principle (CP) is used in astronomy and cosmology.  By observation we have found that the speed of light (c) is a cosmic absolute that is never violated in nature.  Thus, when we employ the CP, the absolute of c is considered to apply where we have not found it.  Where we have not observed it.  

 

The finite speed of c denies us the possibility of seeing the stars and galaxies as they are today.

We can only see them as they were, long ago.  But using the CP, we assume that c applies everywhere - today, yesterday and long ago.  In galaxies we cannot observe today.  In places that we cannot find it or observe it.  Which prompts me to think that the CP converts c from a found aspect of nature to a made law that we arbitrarily apply.

 

Your thoughts? 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


Keeping this site online isn't free, so we need your support! Make a one-time donation or choose one of the recurrent patron options by clicking here.



Some related (but esoteric) humor, D.

 

Q.

When a space pirate dies, why do they want their coffin to be ejected into space at 99.999999999999999999999999999999999999% of light speed?

 

A.

Because it's a pirate tradition to be buried at c.  

(Or as near as the space-time continuum will permit!)

 

;)

 

 

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 hours ago, bornagainathiest said:

Ok Disillusioned...

 

Here's the deal.

I have no training in philosophy and will probably need to be spoon-fed, when it comes to understanding the difference between found and made moral laws. C'est la vie.  The only parallel in my experience and understanding that might have some resonance is the way the Copernican Principle (CP) is used in astronomy and cosmology.  By observation we have found that the speed of light (c) is a cosmic absolute that is never violated in nature.  Thus, when we employ the CP, the absolute of c is considered to apply where we have not found it.  Where we have not observed it.  

 

The finite speed of c denies us the possibility of seeing the stars and galaxies as they are today.

We can only see them as they were, long ago.  But using the CP, we assume that c applies everywhere - today, yesterday and long ago.  In galaxies we cannot observe today.  In places that we cannot find it or observe it.  Which prompts me to think that the CP converts c from a found aspect of nature to a made law that we arbitrarily apply.

 

Your thoughts? 

I think when it comes to morality, we may find morality, but we can't distinguish found and made because found is not absolute in our findings...

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
  21 hours ago, bornagainathiest said:

Ok Disillusioned...

 

Here's the deal.

I have no training in philosophy and will probably need to be spoon-fed, when it comes to understanding the difference between found and made moral laws. C'est la vie.  The only parallel in my experience and understanding that might have some resonance is the way the Copernican Principle (CP) is used in astronomy and cosmology.  By observation we have found that the speed of light (c) is a cosmic absolute that is never violated in nature.  Thus, when we employ the CP, the absolute of c is considered to apply where we have not found it.  Where we have not observed it.  

 

The finite speed of c denies us the possibility of seeing the stars and galaxies as they are today.

We can only see them as they were, long ago.  But using the CP, we assume that c applies everywhere - today, yesterday and long ago.  In galaxies we cannot observe today.  In places that we cannot find it or observe it.  Which prompts me to think that the CP converts c from a found aspect of nature to a made law that we arbitrarily apply.

 

Your thoughts? 

End3 wrote...

 

I think when it comes to morality, we may find morality, but we can't distinguish found and made because found is not absolute in our findings...

.

.

.

Why would found morality have to be absolute in order for us to distinguish it from made morality, End?

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/4/2017 at 5:19 PM, bornagainathiest said:

The finite speed of c denies us the possibility of seeing the stars and galaxies as they are today.

We can only see them as they were, long ago.  But using the CP, we assume that c applies everywhere - today, yesterday and long ago.  In galaxies we cannot observe today.  In places that we cannot find it or observe it.  Which prompts me to think that the CP converts c from a found aspect of nature to a made law that we arbitrarily apply.

Just some simple thoughts on this:

 

While I understand that the speed of light (c) is present irregardless of our observation of it or not, and it certainly seems logical that it is the same everywhere in our universe (seen or unseen), the one difference that I see between c and morality is that I cannot (in my very limited understanding) see c having any type of influence in the universe except our perception of time from when observed as opposed to the moment it occurred. I assume the speed is the same at the beginning as it was in the time it was observed, no matter where it was observed (locally).

 

But morality is not a constant like the speed of light. It is ever changing. Its interpretation can change from the point of inception to the time of its observation, like in the WWII or murdered family examples. Morality is also viewed differently by each "system" (individual or community based) and thus is not constant universally. I think it would be safe to say that morality is in the eye of the beholder.

 

I am not sure there is a morality that would be found, but only one that would be made. But even then, the made one would only be applicable to whatever system chooses to agree that it is inherently moral.

 

I am also not sure you would ever find a universally moral event that would be found, because I think that its most likely that morality is simply a human construct and was birthed through evolutionary necessity for self preservation and group social dynamics, among other things. Morality is based on concepts of human behavior and our interpretation of those behaviors. Morality serves a purpose, but its not necessarily the perfect process to complete that purpose. Which is why it can change and be adaptable. Its also why the endgame may be different among the different systems.

 

Based on a cursory google search, I found something that relates to your question, and its this ( as I understand it): in the theory of General Relativity c is only constant when you measure it locally. So, based on this, I have come to believe the same holds true when you apply it to morality. Morality is only constant to the local system its being measured in.

(edited for grammatical errors and to say that my statement about c being the same only if its measured locally is based on a curved spacetime model)

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 04/09/2017 at 5:19 PM, bornagainathiest said:

Ok Disillusioned...

 

Here's the deal.

I have no training in philosophy and will probably need to be spoon-fed, when it comes to understanding the difference between found and made moral laws. C'est la vie.  The only parallel in my experience and understanding that might have some resonance is the way the Copernican Principle (CP) is used in astronomy and cosmology.  By observation we have found that the speed of light (c) is a cosmic absolute that is never violated in nature.  Thus, when we employ the CP, the absolute of c is considered to apply where we have not found it.  Where we have not observed it.  

 

The finite speed of c denies us the possibility of seeing the stars and galaxies as they are today.

We can only see them as they were, long ago.  But using the CP, we assume that c applies everywhere - today, yesterday and long ago.  In galaxies we cannot observe today.  In places that we cannot find it or observe it.  Which prompts me to think that the CP converts c from a found aspect of nature to a made law that we arbitrarily apply.

 

Your thoughts? 

 

This is a nice thought, BAA.

 

Let's say for the moment that we assume the following:

1) The natural world exists

2) At least some aspects of the natural world are rationally intelligible

 

On these two assumptions, it follows that, through science, we may be able to discover and understand some actual laws of the universe. In other words, when we build a scientific theory, we may be able to correctly describe some of these actual laws. It isn't a problem that our models aren't perfect. It may still in principle be possible to have a theory of everything, and it may not. We can't say. But, on the two assumptions above, there are not only some genuinely true things that we can say with certainty, there are some things that are actually true regardless of what we say.

 

Let's suppose that the absolute value c is one the aspects of the universe that is rationally intelligible. In other words, we are assuming that what we know about the finite and constant nature of c is not merely a product of our bumbling attempts to model the universe, it is an actual, genuine, law of the universe which we have discovered. In this case, in my understanding, c would be a genuine found law. It would be a law that is just true, irrespective of whether or not we know about it, and irrespective of what we have to say about it. The fact that we happen to know about it is nice, but it doesn't have any bearing on its truth.

 

The Copernican principle, on the other hand, seems to me to be entirely a made law. I can't see how it could possibly be a found law, given that it concerns assumptions that humans should and shouldn't make about our position in the universe. Any data that we could find to support the CP is (must be!) gathered from our position in the universe. So in order for us to actually find it to be true, we would need to violate it by assuming that our position in the universe is, at least in some sense, privileged. If this is correct, then we can't have it as a found law; it's just a law that we have made. Now, this doesn't mean that it isn't an effective made law, but I don't think it can properly be called a found law.

 

Now here's the thing: if the CP is a made law, then when we use it to make generalisations we are making the move that you suggest we are, and are moving from a found aspect of nature to a made law. All this to say, that I think you're basically correct.

 

That's all that I have time for for the moment, save to say that I think Storm is onto something in his most recent post regarding the unconstant and evolutionary nature of morality. I need to think more about how to phrase my thoughts here, and, unfortunately, I don't have the time at the moment to do this justice. I'll be back to comment further in the next couple of days. Please carry on in the meantime!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 hours ago, bornagainathiest said:
  21 hours ago, bornagainathiest said:

Ok Disillusioned...

 

Here's the deal.

I have no training in philosophy and will probably need to be spoon-fed, when it comes to understanding the difference between found and made moral laws. C'est la vie.  The only parallel in my experience and understanding that might have some resonance is the way the Copernican Principle (CP) is used in astronomy and cosmology.  By observation we have found that the speed of light (c) is a cosmic absolute that is never violated in nature.  Thus, when we employ the CP, the absolute of c is considered to apply where we have not found it.  Where we have not observed it.  

 

The finite speed of c denies us the possibility of seeing the stars and galaxies as they are today.

We can only see them as they were, long ago.  But using the CP, we assume that c applies everywhere - today, yesterday and long ago.  In galaxies we cannot observe today.  In places that we cannot find it or observe it.  Which prompts me to think that the CP converts c from a found aspect of nature to a made law that we arbitrarily apply.

 

Your thoughts? 

End3 wrote...

 

I think when it comes to morality, we may find morality, but we can't distinguish found and made because found is not absolute in our findings...

.

.

.

Why would found morality have to be absolute in order for us to distinguish it from made morality, End?

 

 

I expect we might find made morality routinely.  I was understanding you as saying found morality as being synonymous to an undiscovered cosmic constant.  In retrospect, we would have to have the ability to measure..... 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
  On 05/09/2017 at 8:18 PM, bornagainathiest said:
  On 04/09/2017 at 10:19 PM, bornagainathiest said:
  21 hours ago, bornagainathiest said:

Ok Disillusioned...

 

Here's the deal.

I have no training in philosophy and will probably need to be spoon-fed, when it comes to understanding the difference between found and made moral laws. C'est la vie.  The only parallel in my experience and understanding that might have some resonance is the way the Copernican Principle (CP) is used in astronomy and cosmology.  By observation we have found that the speed of light (c) is a cosmic absolute that is never violated in nature.  Thus, when we employ the CP, the absolute of c is considered to apply where we have not found it.  Where we have not observed it.  

 

The finite speed of c denies us the possibility of seeing the stars and galaxies as they are today.

We can only see them as they were, long ago.  But using the CP, we assume that c applies everywhere - today, yesterday and long ago.  In galaxies we cannot observe today.  In places that we cannot find it or observe it.  Which prompts me to think that the CP converts c from a found aspect of nature to a made law that we arbitrarily apply.

 

Your thoughts? 

End3 wrote...

 

I think when it comes to morality, we may find morality, but we can't distinguish found and made because found is not absolute in our findings...

.

.

.

Why would found morality have to be absolute in order for us to distinguish it from made morality, End?

 

 

I expect we might find made morality routinely.  I was understanding you as saying found morality as being synonymous to an undiscovered cosmic constant.  In retrospect, we would have to have the ability to measure..... 

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Ah... now I get where you're coming from, End.   :goodjob:

 

Firstly, an apology.

This is my screw up and I'll own it.  I can see how you've taken what I wrote and come to a reasonable conclusion about it.  Yes, it does look as if I'm suggesting that, doesn't it?  But No, actually I wasn't.  Sorry again.  I'll explain and clarify.

 

What I was trying (and failing) to do was to illustrate my state of ignorance about found and made moral laws.

I cited the speed of light (c) and the Copernican Principle (CP) because they're two things I'm familiar with and it seemed like a good idea to begin with the familiar, before learning about something new and unfamiliar.    If you'd been in my shoes you might have used something from chemistry as your starting point, before going on to something new.  That a fair comparison?

 

Anyway, Storm and Disillusioned have replied and now it's up to me to read, digest and (hopefully!) respond to them in an intelligent way.

 

So, thanks for your input and for getting me think carefully.

 

:)

 

BAA.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, Storm said:

Just some simple thoughts on this:

 

While I understand that the speed of light (c) is present irregardless of our observation of it or not, and it certainly seems logical that it is the same everywhere in our universe (seen or unseen), the one difference that I see between c and morality is that I cannot (in my very limited understanding) see c having any type of influence in the universe except our perception of time from when observed as opposed to the moment it occurred. I assume the speed is the same at the beginning as it was in the time it was observed, no matter where it was observed (locally).

 

But morality is not a constant like the speed of light. It is ever changing. Its interpretation can change from the point of inception to the time of its observation, like in the WWII or murdered family examples. Morality is also viewed differently by each "system" (individual or community based) and thus is not constant universally. I think it would be safe to say that morality is in the eye of the beholder.

 

I am not sure there is a morality that would be found, but only one that would be made. But even then, the made one would only be applicable to whatever system chooses to agree that it is inherently moral.

 

I am also not sure you would ever find a universally moral event that would be found, because I think that its most likely that morality is simply a human construct and was birthed through evolutionary necessity for self preservation and group social dynamics, among other things. Morality is based on concepts of human behavior and our interpretation of those behaviors. Morality serves a purpose, but its not necessarily the perfect process to complete that purpose. Which is why it can change and be adaptable. Its also why the endgame may be different among the different systems.

 

Based on a cursory google search, I found something that relates to your question, and its this ( as I understand it): in the theory of General Relativity c is only constant when you measure it locally. So, based on this, I have come to believe the same holds true when you apply it to morality. Morality is only constant to the local system its being measured in.

(edited for grammatical errors and to say that my statement about c being the same only if its measured locally is based on a curved spacetime model)

 

Many thanks, Storm.

 

This explains and clarifies it very well.  

Morality needs to be seen in it's proper social and historical context and it also seems to evolve over time.   This suggests that unlike some kind of unchanging universal constant or eternal cosmic law, morality is inherently flexible and adaptable to it's circumstances.  

 

Hmmm...

I can see that this would stick in the craw of those theists who believe in an absolute and timeless moral standard, coming down to us from an absolute and timeless God.

 

Thanks,

 

BAA.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 hours ago, disillusioned said:

 

This is a nice thought, BAA.

 

Let's say for the moment that we assume the following:

1) The natural world exists

2) At least some aspects of the natural world are rationally intelligible

 

On these two assumptions, it follows that, through science, we may be able to discover and understand some actual laws of the universe. In other words, when we build a scientific theory, we may be able to correctly describe some of these actual laws. It isn't a problem that our models aren't perfect. It may still in principle be possible to have a theory of everything, and it may not. We can't say. But, on the two assumptions above, there are not only some genuinely true things that we can say with certainty, there are some things that are actually true regardless of what we say.

 

Agree.

Perfect or absolute knowledge isn't necessary for an adequate working understanding of something.  So long as something works well enough, that'll do just fine, thank you very much!

 

19 hours ago, disillusioned said:

 

Let's suppose that the absolute value c is one the aspects of the universe that is rationally intelligible. In other words, we are assuming that what we know about the finite and constant nature of c is not merely a product of our bumbling attempts to model the universe, it is an actual, genuine, law of the universe which we have discovered. In this case, in my understanding, c would be a genuine found law. It would be a law that is just true, irrespective of whether or not we know about it, and irrespective of what we have to say about it. The fact that we happen to know about it is nice, but it doesn't have any bearing on its truth.

 

Agree.

We may not be able to say why c is an absolute value, but we can still know that it is an absolute value.  The truth of the second point is not dependent on the first.

 

19 hours ago, disillusioned said:

 

The Copernican principle, on the other hand, seems to me to be entirely a made law. I can't see how it could possibly be a found law, given that it concerns assumptions that humans should and shouldn't make about our position in the universe. Any data that we could find to support the CP is (must be!) gathered from our position in the universe. So in order for us to actually find it to be true, we would need to violate it by assuming that our position in the universe is, at least in some sense, privileged. If this is correct, then we can't have it as a found law; it's just a law that we have made. Now, this doesn't mean that it isn't an effective made law, but I don't think it can properly be called a found law.

 

Agree.

The CP cannot help but be a made anthropocentric law.  An effective one, but still a man-made one.  Even if we contact intelligent aliens and they have their own versions of the CP, that will not be a valid indicator that it is a law waiting to be found by various intelligent life forms across the universe.  All that would seem to indicate is that they agree with us and we with them.  Nothing more.  Our CP would remain a man-made law and their CP would remain a Martian/Klingon/Vorlon - made one.

 

19 hours ago, disillusioned said:

 

Now here's the thing: if the CP is a made law, then when we use it to make generalisations we are making the move that you suggest we are, and are moving from a found aspect of nature to a made law. All this to say, that I think you're basically correct.

 

Good.

I suspected that there was some kind of transition involved.  

 

19 hours ago, disillusioned said:

 

That's all that I have time for for the moment, save to say that I think Storm is onto something in his most recent post regarding the unconstant and evolutionary nature of morality. I need to think more about how to phrase my thoughts here, and, unfortunately, I don't have the time at the moment to do this justice. I'll be back to comment further in the next couple of days. Please carry on in the meantime!

 

Yes, I think Storm's points definitely deserve further thought.

 

Many thanks,

 

BAA.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, bornagainathiest said:

 

Many thanks, Storm.

 

This explains and clarifies it very well.  

Morality needs to be seen in it's proper social and historical context and it also seems to evolve over time.   This suggests that unlike some kind of unchanging universal constant or eternal cosmic law, morality is inherently flexible and adaptable to it's circumstances.  

 

Hmmm...

I can see that this would stick in the craw of those theists who believe in an absolute and timeless moral standard, coming down to us from an absolute and timeless God.

 

Thanks,

 

BAA.

I took a leap there with my c explanation and expected to get an education from you about possible flaws in it. Must have been close enough to make sense, so yay for me, lol.

Much like you, I'm very much out of my comfort zone in this discussion. I do have a somewhat competent grasp of human behavior, so I think that lends itself to this discussion. I'm eager to see what disillusioned has to say as well. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Alright, back to it. Apologies for the delay.

 

I want to take a bit of time to look at what Storm said about morality a few days back. Keep in mind here that I'm still adhering to the two assumptions I listed in my previous post. By extension, I'm assuming that we agree that, on these assumptions, the fact that the speed of light is c is an example of a genuine found law of nature. The speed of light is c. It would be c even if we thought it wasn't c. It would be c if we didn't exist. It's just c, irrespective of what anybody thinks about it, or even if anybody thinks about it. Hence, it can be said to be an objective fact that the speed of light is c.

 

Right. Now. The question of whether or not objective moral principles exist is somewhat akin to asking whether or not there is a moral "equivalent" to c. Objective moral principles would serve as a measuring stick against which actions could be adjudicated for authentic "rightness" and "wrongness". Moreover, the existence of these principles would, in principle, allow for a final answer to the "sez who" question. If Q is the set of objective moral principles (which have necessarily been found and not made), and X is really right according to Q, then there is nothing further to discuss. X is just right. Says Q. End of discussion.

 

I have no reason to think that Q is non-empty, and a number of what I consider to be good reasons to think that it is empty. The only idea that has hitherto been proposed in this thread as a basis for a godless objective morality is Sam Harris' notion of a moral landscape based on pain/suffering. On this view, actions which increase pain and suffering are thought to be objectively wrong, and actions which decrease pain and suffering are thought to be objectively right. I don't want to be accused again of claiming that we don't know when we are experiencing pain, so let me be very clear: I concede that we are aware of when we are suffering. Moreover, in addition to this, we may be able to say when a particular action alleviates some of our suffering. But what we cannot say is whether a particular action increases or decreases suffering in the aggregate. I think this is the case for a number of reasons, but I'll restrict myself to three objections for the purposes of this post. First, we don't have a good way of measuring suffering. Second, it is impossible to know whether or not an action which alleviates suffering here and now will increase suffering in another place or at another time. Third, we don't have a clear and concise way of determining who's suffering we are concerned with and why.

 

To illuminate why these objections are important, I want to look at a trivial example. I get up in the morning at 5 am. After I wake up, I drink coffee. I don't particularly enjoy waking up at 5 am. It may even be said that waking up this early causes me to suffer. But when I drink coffee, I feel better. My suffering decreases. So, if we take Harris' view, then my drinking coffee should be seen as objectively good. But that's not the end of the story. Drinking coffee may not be good for me in the long run. It might lead to health problems down the road. So maybe the fact that my current suffering is decreased by drinking the coffee may be offset by future suffering on my part. Can we still say it's objectively right for me to drink coffee? Suppose we can. We also need to consider the well-being of the individual who grew and harvested the coffee, and whether doing this caused them to suffer. Then we need to consider the individuals involved in packaging, shipping, stocking and selling the coffee to me. Did any of them find this to be a stressful experience? Perhaps we should also consider the organisms whose lives were affected by the planting, cultivating and harvesting of coffee. Does their potential suffering count? Who can say?

 

Now suppose we concede that at least one of the individuals considered above has experienced suffering as a result of my drinking the coffee. If we are now to determine whether or not my drinking the coffee is objectively good we need to be able to measure suffering. Let's say Steve works at the grocery store where I buy coffee, and he really hates selling coffee. It causes him to suffer. My drinking the coffee may still be objectively good if my suffering is decreased by more than his is increased. But we don't have a way of measuring suffering, so we can't know if this is the case. Also, who is to say that I'm not more important than Steve? We're all happy to assume that I'm more important than the coffee plant itself. Where do we draw the line? Why do we draw it there? These are all questions that must be answered if we are to say that my drinking the coffee is objectively good.

 

So it seems quite clear to me that, on this view, we can't actually say if my drinking the coffee is objectively good or not. And keep in mind that this is a trivial example. Surely a more substantive example would be even more difficult to treat. So it seems to me that the idea that we can obtain objective morality in this way gets us precisely nowhere. Anyone who wants to say otherwise needs to be able to give me an example of an action which is objectively right under this system. I've never heard any such example.

 

Here I want to return to what Storm said:

On 05/09/2017 at 5:51 PM, Storm said:

I am also not sure you would ever find a universally moral event that would be found, because I think that its most likely that morality is simply a human construct and was birthed through evolutionary necessity for self preservation and group social dynamics, among other things. Morality is based on concepts of human behavior and our interpretation of those behaviors. Morality serves a purpose, but its not necessarily the perfect process to complete that purpose. Which is why it can change and be adaptable. Its also why the endgame may be different among the different systems.

 

I think this is very, very astute. I can't improve upon it at all.

 

The only other thing I have left to say for the moment is that I think the view that any moral law is inherently a made law solves a great number of problems. If morality is just a human construct, then it isn't really troubling if it's messy. We're just human. What the hell do we really know about anything?

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have been thinking about what BAA brought into the discussion regarding what we observe with c, and I have been trying to apply it with morality in our observable universe, which in my case (and likely for everyone else) means what happens here on earth, since we have not located any other life forms (that I am aware of) in our universe.

 

What I see is that there are events that occur that would constitute being labeled as moral. For example, a few weeks ago, I watched a YouTube video that showed a dog who was being swept downstream and was completely helpless to save itself, but then another dog comes by with a stick in its mouth and approaches the struggling dog and the dog in the water is able to grab it and pull itself out of the water. I believe most people would say this constitutes a moral act. Or a video I watched of a baby elephant trying to get out of a creek bed that had a steep slope and it struggled for a few minutes before another grown elephant (I assume it was the mother) comes along and pushes the baby and allows it to get up the hill. Again, another event that I believe most people would call moral. It is my belief that there are likely numerous other examples across multiple species that would likely fit as these examples do in the scope of moral events.

 

So, upon initial observation, it could be said that morality is universal among our earthly species. So, earlier I did say that morality is a human construct that is based on our interpretation of behaviors. I believe that is true, but that statement begs a question: so is what is occurring across the various non-human species morality? There is certainly a common denominator between what the dog did to help the other dog in the stream and the Cajun Navy going to Texas to help those affected by the flooding. Two different species essentially doing the same thing. In the eyes of the human, they are both moral events. But, what does the dog see it as? Then I want to ask "Why did the dog take the stick and help the other dog?" and "What force works commonly between humans and dogs that evokes the same response between the two? Is that force some type of evolutionary mechanism for survival?" Possibly, but I don't know with any certainty. This is the perplexing part of morality and how I struggle to equate a "c" with morality. I find that there are so many variables and outcomes that influence the moral event and influence whether or not it might actually be a moral event. .

 

As I was thinking about all of this, I thought of the butterfly effect and I was just reviewing on Wiki what it was and I found the following quote that is certainly thought provoking: Peter Dizikes says "It speaks to our larger expectation that the world should be comprehensible – that everything happens for a reason, and that we can pinpoint all those reasons, however small they may be. But nature itself defies this expectation." I think this fits very aptly to our discussion. We want morality to be universally true because it makes sense to us as humans. It is inherent in our genes and our way of life. It often motivates us and influences our choices. And our way of thinking essentially forces us to fill in the gaps of our lack of information, because our brains need there to be a sense of continuity in our thought processes, and having gaps and not knowing something makes it difficult to be efficient in our thoughts and actions. This is why religion fits so well in humanity. It works because it attempts to fill those gaps with information and it also takes advantage of our innate need to rely on someone else for our survival (due to our long maturation process as children and juveniles).

 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/7/2017 at 0:08 AM, Storm said:

I took a leap there with my c explanation and expected to get an education from you about possible flaws in it. Must have been close enough to make sense, so yay for me, lol.

Much like you, I'm very much out of my comfort zone in this discussion. I do have a somewhat competent grasp of human behavior, so I think that lends itself to this discussion. I'm eager to see what disillusioned has to say as well. 

 

Yay! :)

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/8/2017 at 0:38 AM, disillusioned said:

Alright, back to it. Apologies for the delay.

 

I want to take a bit of time to look at what Storm said about morality a few days back. Keep in mind here that I'm still adhering to the two assumptions I listed in my previous post. By extension, I'm assuming that we agree that, on these assumptions, the fact that the speed of light is c is an example of a genuine found law of nature. The speed of light is c. It would be c even if we thought it wasn't c. It would be c if we didn't exist. It's just c, irrespective of what anybody thinks about it, or even if anybody thinks about it. Hence, it can be said to be an objective fact that the speed of light is c.

 

Right. Now. The question of whether or not objective moral principles exist is somewhat akin to asking whether or not there is a moral "equivalent" to c. Objective moral principles would serve as a measuring stick against which actions could be adjudicated for authentic "rightness" and "wrongness". Moreover, the existence of these principles would, in principle, allow for a final answer to the "sez who" question. If Q is the set of objective moral principles (which have necessarily been found and not made), and X is really right according to Q, then there is nothing further to discuss. X is just right. Says Q. End of discussion.

 

I have no reason to think that Q is non-empty, and a number of what I consider to be good reasons to think that it is empty. The only idea that has hitherto been proposed in this thread as a basis for a godless objective morality is Sam Harris' notion of a moral landscape based on pain/suffering. On this view, actions which increase pain and suffering are thought to be objectively wrong, and actions which decrease pain and suffering are thought to be objectively right. I don't want to be accused again of claiming that we don't know when we are experiencing pain, so let me be very clear: I concede that we are aware of when we are suffering. Moreover, in addition to this, we may be able to say when a particular action alleviates some of our suffering. But what we cannot say is whether a particular action increases or decreases suffering in the aggregate. I think this is the case for a number of reasons, but I'll restrict myself to three objections for the purposes of this post. First, we don't have a good way of measuring suffering. Second, it is impossible to know whether or not an action which alleviates suffering here and now will increase suffering in another place or at another time. Third, we don't have a clear and concise way of determining who's suffering we are concerned with and why.

 

To illuminate why these objections are important, I want to look at a trivial example. I get up in the morning at 5 am. After I wake up, I drink coffee. I don't particularly enjoy waking up at 5 am. It may even be said that waking up this early causes me to suffer. But when I drink coffee, I feel better. My suffering decreases. So, if we take Harris' view, then my drinking coffee should be seen as objectively good. But that's not the end of the story. Drinking coffee may not be good for me in the long run. It might lead to health problems down the road. So maybe the fact that my current suffering is decreased by drinking the coffee may be offset by future suffering on my part. Can we still say it's objectively right for me to drink coffee? Suppose we can. We also need to consider the well-being of the individual who grew and harvested the coffee, and whether doing this caused them to suffer. Then we need to consider the individuals involved in packaging, shipping, stocking and selling the coffee to me. Did any of them find this to be a stressful experience? Perhaps we should also consider the organisms whose lives were affected by the planting, cultivating and harvesting of coffee. Does their potential suffering count? Who can say?

 

Now suppose we concede that at least one of the individuals considered above has experienced suffering as a result of my drinking the coffee. If we are now to determine whether or not my drinking the coffee is objectively good we need to be able to measure suffering. Let's say Steve works at the grocery store where I buy coffee, and he really hates selling coffee. It causes him to suffer. My drinking the coffee may still be objectively good if my suffering is decreased by more than his is increased. But we don't have a way of measuring suffering, so we can't know if this is the case. Also, who is to say that I'm not more important than Steve? We're all happy to assume that I'm more important than the coffee plant itself. Where do we draw the line? Why do we draw it there? These are all questions that must be answered if we are to say that my drinking the coffee is objectively good.

 

So it seems quite clear to me that, on this view, we can't actually say if my drinking the coffee is objectively good or not. And keep in mind that this is a trivial example. Surely a more substantive example would be even more difficult to treat. So it seems to me that the idea that we can obtain objective morality in this way gets us precisely nowhere. Anyone who wants to say otherwise needs to be able to give me an example of an action which is objectively right under this system. I've never heard any such example.

 

I've two comments to make here, D.

 

Firstly, in the sciences a commonly-used method of finding a meaningful signal in a lot of noisy data is to look for a pattern.  Humans can do this quite well and now we've created programs that do it even better and more quickly.  The catch is, you have to tell the computer what kind of pattern to look for.   Once it knows it can get on with the job.  

 

Now, transferring that example (loosely) over to the topic of discussion in this thread, if we could establish just what constitutes objective morality,  then we might then be able to search through the noisy data of human history to see how often it occurs, when it occurs, why it occurs, where it occurs and in what context it occurs.   But without proper 'search criteria' we cannot make that search.  We have no pattern to look for.

 

Secondly, building on your relatively simple example of drinking coffee...

...If we struggle to cope with the cascade of consequences that radiate outwards from your decision to take a drink, how can we possibly hope to establish a neat and precise set of search criteria, as per my  definition above?  Ironically,  it may be that only a super-human intelligence (God?) could see all ends and be able to say what actions were objectively good and what weren't.  The severely limited view of reality and person or group of people might have seems to be hopelessly inadequate, falling well short of the task.  

 

On 9/8/2017 at 0:38 AM, disillusioned said:

 

Here I want to return to what Storm said:

 

I think this is very, very astute. I can't improve upon it at all.

 

The only other thing I have left to say for the moment is that I think the view that any moral law is inherently a made law solves a great number of problems. If morality is just a human construct, then it isn't really troubling if it's messy. We're just human. What the hell do we really know about anything?

 

Not sure that I agree with what you say about solving a great number of problems.

Declaring our challenge to be intractable isn't the same as solving it.   Surely we're bypassing what we can't deal with and going on to what we can? If we settle for accepting that any moral law is a made one we still haven't solved the question of discovering if there are any found ones out there.  There may be or there may not be.  We don't know and probably can't know.  So imho, we've lowered the bar so that we can clear it ...because we couldn't clear it at it's original height.  

 

Btw, I have no particular problem with this approach.  I'll take realistic over idealistic and practical over impractical, every time.

 

Thanks,

 

BAA.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
23 hours ago, Storm said:

I have been thinking about what BAA brought into the discussion regarding what we observe with c, and I have been trying to apply it with morality in our observable universe, which in my case (and likely for everyone else) means what happens here on earth, since we have not located any other life forms (that I am aware of) in our universe.

 

What I see is that there are events that occur that would constitute being labeled as moral. For example, a few weeks ago, I watched a YouTube video that showed a dog who was being swept downstream and was completely helpless to save itself, but then another dog comes by with a stick in its mouth and approaches the struggling dog and the dog in the water is able to grab it and pull itself out of the water. I believe most people would say this constitutes a moral act. Or a video I watched of a baby elephant trying to get out of a creek bed that had a steep slope and it struggled for a few minutes before another grown elephant (I assume it was the mother) comes along and pushes the baby and allows it to get up the hill. Again, another event that I believe most people would call moral. It is my belief that there are likely numerous other examples across multiple species that would likely fit as these examples do in the scope of moral events.

 

So, upon initial observation, it could be said that morality is universal among our earthly species. So, earlier I did say that morality is a human construct that is based on our interpretation of behaviors. I believe that is true, but that statement begs a question: so is what is occurring across the various non-human species morality? There is certainly a common denominator between what the dog did to help the other dog in the stream and the Cajun Navy going to Texas to help those affected by the flooding. Two different species essentially doing the same thing. In the eyes of the human, they are both moral events. But, what does the dog see it as? Then I want to ask "Why did the dog take the stick and help the other dog?" and "What force works commonly between humans and dogs that evokes the same response between the two? Is that force some type of evolutionary mechanism for survival?" Possibly, but I don't know with any certainty. This is the perplexing part of morality and how I struggle to equate a "c" with morality. I find that there are so many variables and outcomes that influence the moral event and influence whether or not it might actually be a moral event. .

 

Agree, Storm.

As you'll see I've addressed the problem of one kind of scientific methodology (looking for patterns in noisy data) and how it can't help us.  To find patterns you need to know what to look for.  And as you say, there are so many variables and outcomes that simply defining what is moral becomes a struggle.  Is an apparently moral act a truly and objectively moral one?   When no act occurs in a vacuum and all actions are (in part) dependent on acts that preceded them, how can we possibly weigh up the 'goodness' or 'badness' of this apparently moral action?  Likewise, the apparent moral act will itself set in motion consequences, both seen and unforeseen.  Therefore, the apparently  moral action under examination needs to have it's past and future weighed up too.  

 

I submit that this task is beyond any of us.  

A super-intelligent or supernatural agency could possibly do it.  But not us.

 

23 hours ago, Storm said:

 

As I was thinking about all of this, I thought of the butterfly effect and I was just reviewing on Wiki what it was and I found the following quote that is certainly thought provoking: Peter Dizikes says "It speaks to our larger expectation that the world should be comprehensible – that everything happens for a reason, and that we can pinpoint all those reasons, however small they may be. But nature itself defies this expectation." I think this fits very aptly to our discussion. We want morality to be universally true because it makes sense to us as humans. It is inherent in our genes and our way of life. It often motivates us and influences our choices. And our way of thinking essentially forces us to fill in the gaps of our lack of information, because our brains need there to be a sense of continuity in our thought processes, and having gaps and not knowing something makes it difficult to be efficient in our thoughts and actions. This is why religion fits so well in humanity. It works because it attempts to fill those gaps with information and it also takes advantage of our innate need to rely on someone else for our survival (due to our long maturation process as children and juveniles).

 

 

Yes, it's a thought that truly terrifies some people.

The idea that we don't actually matter at all.  That reality and the universe are coldly indifferent to us.  That there is no greater purpose and no higher meaning.  Hence... religion.

 

Thanks,

 

BAA.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 08/09/2017 at 10:38 AM, Storm said:

I have been thinking about what BAA brought into the discussion regarding what we observe with c, and I have been trying to apply it with morality in our observable universe, which in my case (and likely for everyone else) means what happens here on earth, since we have not located any other life forms (that I am aware of) in our universe.

 

What I see is that there are events that occur that would constitute being labeled as moral. For example, a few weeks ago, I watched a YouTube video that showed a dog who was being swept downstream and was completely helpless to save itself, but then another dog comes by with a stick in its mouth and approaches the struggling dog and the dog in the water is able to grab it and pull itself out of the water. I believe most people would say this constitutes a moral act. Or a video I watched of a baby elephant trying to get out of a creek bed that had a steep slope and it struggled for a few minutes before another grown elephant (I assume it was the mother) comes along and pushes the baby and allows it to get up the hill. Again, another event that I believe most people would call moral. It is my belief that there are likely numerous other examples across multiple species that would likely fit as these examples do in the scope of moral events.

 

So, upon initial observation, it could be said that morality is universal among our earthly species. So, earlier I did say that morality is a human construct that is based on our interpretation of behaviors. I believe that is true, but that statement begs a question: so is what is occurring across the various non-human species morality? There is certainly a common denominator between what the dog did to help the other dog in the stream and the Cajun Navy going to Texas to help those affected by the flooding. Two different species essentially doing the same thing. In the eyes of the human, they are both moral events. But, what does the dog see it as? Then I want to ask "Why did the dog take the stick and help the other dog?" and "What force works commonly between humans and dogs that evokes the same response between the two? Is that force some type of evolutionary mechanism for survival?" Possibly, but I don't know with any certainty. This is the perplexing part of morality and how I struggle to equate a "c" with morality. I find that there are so many variables and outcomes that influence the moral event and influence whether or not it might actually be a moral event. .

 

This is all very astute. I also certainly want to say that acts of altruism are genuinely, authentically, objectively correct moral events. There are a couple of things that I think bear mentioning here though.

 

First, it is one thing to say that an action (human or otherwise) is objectively moral, and another to say that objective moral principles exist. As I've argued before, actions can be objectively moral under a certain moral system, and it may be the case that most human moral systems share some notion of altruism. But that does not mean that altruism itself is actually an objective moral principle. It could just be the case that the fact we value altruism is a byproduct of our evolutionary path. As such, it need not be an actual ideal. It just has to favour our reproductive success. By analogy, the human sense of smell is also a byproduct of our evolution, but it is in no sense ideal. Similarly, I think it is possible for most, or even all humans to share a common sense of morality without it being a true found law.

 

The second thing I want to say about this is that I think the universal regard in which we seem to hold altruism breaks down on closer scrutiny. If I'm walking in the forest and I pass someone who is drowning and I can save them, most people that I know want to say that for me to save them is the morally correct choice. It remains, in the view of most people, the morally correct choice even if I'm somewhat inconvenienced by saving them (say it makes me late for work, for example). Moreover, it may even be said that for me to simply ignore this individual and carry on would actually be immoral. I've put this problem to a number of people in the past, and everyone that I have asked has been happy to agree with the above assertions. But now consider the following: I'm not rich, but I do have some disposable income. There are people in the world who are literally starving to death. I could save at least some of them by giving all of my disposable income to reputable charities. This would inconvenience me slightly, but it wouldn't really negatively affect my life. So it is within my power to save these people, and I just don't. How is this substantively different from me just ignoring the drowning individual? The uncomfortable answer that I've settled on is that it isn't, except for the fact that I don't have to watch these people starve. So I can trick myself into feeling better by just forgetting about them. And yet, I have yet to meet anyone who wants to say that my retaining my disposable income is actually immoral. So it seems to me that our regard for altruism only goes so far after all.

 

On 08/09/2017 at 10:38 AM, Storm said:

As I was thinking about all of this, I thought of the butterfly effect and I was just reviewing on Wiki what it was and I found the following quote that is certainly thought provoking: Peter Dizikes says "It speaks to our larger expectation that the world should be comprehensible – that everything happens for a reason, and that we can pinpoint all those reasons, however small they may be. But nature itself defies this expectation." I think this fits very aptly to our discussion. We want morality to be universally true because it makes sense to us as humans. It is inherent in our genes and our way of life. It often motivates us and influences our choices. And our way of thinking essentially forces us to fill in the gaps of our lack of information, because our brains need there to be a sense of continuity in our thought processes, and having gaps and not knowing something makes it difficult to be efficient in our thoughts and actions. This is why religion fits so well in humanity. It works because it attempts to fill those gaps with information and it also takes advantage of our innate need to rely on someone else for our survival (due to our long maturation process as children and juveniles).

 

I agree with this. We all want to have an objective morality. It fits the way that we think the world should be. But if I have learned anything from studying science, it is that the world is very seldom actually the way we think that it should be. And interestingly enough, I also think that there is a part of most of us that really wants to be told what to do. Being servile is easy, and goes along with human nature. If someone else knows what they are doing, and we'll be safe if we just do as we're told, then follow we will. The first true step to adulthood is the recognition that no one actually knows what they are doing. We are all just making it up as we go along. This is not comfortable, but it is the case. So despite the fact that we want someone to tell us what to do, there is no one who is actually qualified. Similarly, I think it is the case that despite the fact that we want an objective morality, we don't actually have one.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, bornagainathiest said:

 

I've two comments to make here, D.

 

Firstly, in the sciences a commonly-used method of finding a meaningful signal in a lot of noisy data is to look for a pattern.  Humans can do this quite well and now we've created programs that do it even better and more quickly.  The catch is, you have to tell the computer what kind of pattern to look for.   Once it knows it can get on with the job.  

 

Now, transferring that example (loosely) over to the topic of discussion in this thread, if we could establish just what constitutes objective morality,  then we might then be able to search through the noisy data of human history to see how often it occurs, when it occurs, why it occurs, where it occurs and in what context it occurs.   But without proper 'search criteria' we cannot make that search.  We have no pattern to look for.

 

I agree with this.

 

I think it is important to note that we may be able to identify search criteria. But if we do that, then these criteria will be reflective of what we think objective morality is. But true objective morality is supposed to have nothing at all to do with what we think. This is a big problem.

 

Put another way, we may be able to identify patterns in human behaviour, but we can't actually say whether these patterns are reflective of how things should be or just of how things are (the old is-ought problem).

 

4 hours ago, bornagainathiest said:

Secondly, building on your relatively simple example of drinking coffee...

...If we struggle to cope with the cascade of consequences that radiate outwards from your decision to take a drink, how can we possibly hope to establish a neat and precise set of search criteria, as per my  definition above?  Ironically,  it may be that only a super-human intelligence (God?) could see all ends and be able to say what actions were objectively good and what weren't.  The severely limited view of reality and person or group of people might have seems to be hopelessly inadequate, falling well short of the task.  

 

I agree here too, and I think that this relates nicely back to my earlier contention that if God exists, then it follows that objective morality may exist.

 

4 hours ago, bornagainathiest said:

 

Not sure that I agree with what you say about solving a great number of problems.

Declaring our challenge to be intractable isn't the same as solving it.   Surely we're bypassing what we can't deal with and going on to what we can? If we settle for accepting that any moral law is a made one we still haven't solved the question of discovering if there are any found ones out there.  There may be or there may not be.  We don't know and probably can't know.  So imho, we've lowered the bar so that we can clear it ...because we couldn't clear it at it's original height.  

 

Btw, I have no particular problem with this approach.  I'll take realistic over idealistic and practical over impractical, every time.

 

Oh, I see. What I meant when I said that the view that any moral law is inherently a made law solves a great number of problems was not that we have actually answered the question of whether or not there might be a found moral law. What I meant was that, given that we don't seem to have any actual reason to think that there is an objective morality, if we agree to operate without the assumption that there is one, then we are no longer bound to having to decide if my drinking the coffee (for example) is truly objectively moral. This is similar to saying that once we move on from the assumption of God, we no longer need to be concerned with determining which actions are in accordance with His will. So the problem of determining which actions are objectively moral disappears if we move on from the idea of objective morality. This is what I was referring to.

 

But of course, it may still be the case that objective moral principles actually exist. There could be a found moral law. I have not conclusively shown that there is no such law. I don't even think that this could be done. What I'm arguing is that I have no reason to think that there is one. So yes, lowering the bar so that we can clear it. Just as we always do. :) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now