The Instigator
popculturepooka
Pro (for)
Losing
6 Points
The Contender
Rational_Thinker9119
Con (against)
Winning
12 Points

Moral subjectivism is false.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 6 votes the winner is...
Rational_Thinker9119
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/28/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 6,746 times Debate No: 39281
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (79)
Votes (6)

 

popculturepooka

Pro

I thank Rational_Thinker for agreeing to debate this topic with me.

I will be arguing that moral subjectivism is false or that there are good reasons for supposing that moral subjectivism ought to be rejected as a meta-ethical theory.

Definitions

I take moral subjectivism to mean:

The meta-ethical view which claims that:
Ethical sentences express propositions.
Some such propositions are true.
Those propositions are about the attitudes of people. [1]

Rules

Round 1 is for acceptance and clarification and/or added definitions.
Rounds 2 - 4 are for argumentation.

Sources

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
Rational_Thinker9119

Con

I accept, and look forward to Pro's opening arguments.
Debate Round No. 1
popculturepooka

Pro

Again, thank to Rational_Thinker. My goal is to argue to argue that moral subjectivism is false and there is good reason to reject it. There a multiple, I think, fatal problems with moral subjectivism but I will only be canvassing a few of the most salient. They mainly take the form of reductio ad absurdum. [1] I take a lot of the inspiration for my criticisms from Michael Huemer. [2]


Circularity and Incoherence

Suppose, as subjectivists will say, that saying that "x is good" (where anything can be plugged in for 'x') consists of the speakers approval of x. If we consider the idea that approval of x is a moral belief about the goodness of x then subjectivism really entails that "x is good" just means that the speaker "believes that x is good". If we are trying to figure out what exactly it means to say that some speaker thinks x is good we have to know what "good" is first. This leads to an infinite regression. If x is good = the speakers believes x is good then, naturally, the speaker believes x is good = [the speaker believes (the speaker believes x is good)]. Then [the speaker believes (the speaker believes x is good)] = [the speaker believes (the speaker believes (the speaker believes x is good))]. And on and on and on, ad infiintum. That is a very clear problem threatening the very coherency of moral subjectivism.


No Moral Disagreement

Let's say that the above objection doesn't go through and approval cannot be construed in terms of moral belief. Even then, moral subjectivism appears to have multiple absurd consequences that we have no reason to accept unless strong argument is given in it's favor. It's implies that there is no such thing as moral disagreement. In every day, normal moral discourse and dialogue we presume that we are actually contradicting each other when one person says that "abortion is wrong/bad" and the other says that it isn't (one can check the debates on abortion this very site as further evidence of this phenomena. People take themselves to be disagreeing on the issue of abortion). We take it as obvious that it simply can't be the case that both abortion is wrong and that it isn't wrong (controlling for context and the like). But moral subjectivism entails that this isn't the case because, remember, "x is good" merely means the speaker who thinks "x is good" approves of x. And it would be true that "x is good"; that is a psychological fact about that speaker. But another person can come along and say about the same x that the original speaker was talking about and truthfully say that "x is bad" - because that would merely be reporting the psychological fact that the second speaker disapproves of x. Note that both speakers aren't actually disagreeing on anything. They are both truthfully reporting their approval and disapproval with is all goodness and badness consists of on moral subjectivism. To make matters clearer: if person A says "I'm sad" and person B says "I'm not sad" they aren't really disagreeing on anything; they are just reporting their own feelings, and assuming they both reported their feelings accurately, it is the case that person A can be sad and person be could be not sad at the same time.

I know when I say that "slavery is evil" I intend to contradict the person who says that slavery is not evil. I suggest most people do intend their moral pronouncements in the same way. But, again, if subjectivism were the case there would be no moral disagreement. There seems to be moral disagreement - or, at least, it's more reasonable to believe there is moral disagreement then there isn't - therefore subjectivism is false and we have reason to reject it.

It also implies the following absurdity:

Imagine a rapist says:

1) I approve of raping children.
2) Raping children is good.

On subjectivism they both mean the same thing, even though they appear to be logically distinct. We would normally say that while they may approve of raping children it is not the case that raping children is good, but this distinction cannot be made on subjectivism.

Moral Infallibility

Subjectivism has the absurd implication that everybody is morally infallible. I can say "if I approve of x (ANY x) then it is automatically good" and be truthfully saying it. Goodness of x = my approval of x on subjectivism. I can never actually be wrong about any of my moral beliefs which, again, seems to go against the view that many people take that when they talk about morality and make moral claims there is the possibility that they are wrong about them. It makes nonsense of claims like "I may approve of shooting random people, but is shooting random people actually right/good?" I can know that I can believe something but have doubts about it's truth status; the same seems to be true about moral matters. I can know that I approve of something, but have doubts about whether it is really good or not. But all of that goes out the window on subjectivism. Another reason to reject it.

Arbitrariness

Yet another problem rears it's head when we consider the simple question of why some approves of the things they do. It leads to an interesting dilemma. On one hand, if someone approves of x for some reason then it shows that that particular reason, and not that persons mere approval, explains why x is good. This would refute subjectivism because that means that someone's approval of x IS NOT equal to the goodness of x. That reason would be a moral fact that is independent of that persons' approval. That reason would have to be in some way desired. But, the other horn of the dilemma is this: if there actually is no reason why some approves of x then that approval is arbitrary and there is no principled way to evaluate that approval. This raises the difficult question of why someone approving of something for no reason at all (or arbitrary reasons) make something good. There seems to have to be a reason why approval makes something good. There appears to be no good answer to that question.


Given that there are all these absurd implications of moral subjectivism and it's attendant incoherencies I think that renders it more than sufficient to show that moral subjectivism is false and ought to be rejected.


Sources


[1] http://www.iep.utm.edu...
[2] Huemer, Michael. "Subjectivism." Ethical Intuitionism. 49-51. Print.
Rational_Thinker9119

Con

Circularity and Incoherence

This argument from Pro is rather absurd. I can just say that if something is true, then it must be true that it is true, and it must be true that it is true that it is true. Does that mean truth is incoherent because of an apparent infinite regress? If it does then Pro cannot say his argument is true. Thus, his position here is self-refuting.

In any event, I could just say that if moral realism is true then what is "good" is based on underlying objective reasons. However, there has to be objective reasons for those objective reasons, and objective reasons for those objective reasons for those objective reasons; thus Moral Realism is incoherent based on Pro's same reasoning.

No Moral Disagreement

Pro says that if Moral Subjectivism is true, then there is no real moral disagreement. Since we operate as a society as if there is disagreement, then this implies Moral Subjectivism is wrong (hopefully I am not straw-manning Pro). However, it is not obvious that if Subjectvism in this sense is true, that there would be no moral disagreements based on Pro's arguments. As Keith Augustine states:

"Subjectivism also does not deny that there are substantial moral disputes. It simply acknowledges that morality is a human (or sentient) invention... Moral disputes can arise even if the premises they arise from are invented; the premises of those disputes need not reside independently of us in some Platonic realm of ideas." - Keith Augustine[1]

Either way, Pro seems to argue that we cannot debate things unless there is an objective answer. This is false. I have feelings of disagreement with my friend that Das Boot was the best movie ever made, but that doesn't mean that there is actually an objective answer to the question:

Q: "What was the best movie ever made?"

At the end of the day, what the best movie ever made is; is a subjective matter. It doesn't matter how "intuitive" you think it is to assume that The Godfather is a better movie than Gigli. That strong feeling of you being right doesn't change the fact that if someone says Gigli is better; they are not really wrong. Thus, even if Pro is right about the notion that people talk as if morality is objective, that doesn't seem to raise the probability of it actually being true. Similarly, just because people debate about movies as if there is a right answer, that doesn't mean there is a right answer. Therefore, Pro's argument here is not all that convincing to say the least.

In any event, Pro asks us to imagine a rapist saying:

1) I approve of raping children
2) Raping children is good

Pro asserts that they seem distinct. This is because Pro should have presented it as:

1) I approve of raping children
2) Raping children is good to me

The two above represent Moral Subjectivism more accurately, and entail two statements which do not seem distinct.

Moral Infallibility

Pro says that if Moral Subjectivism is true, then morality is infallible. Since we operate as if we could possibly wrong about certain moral claims, that this seems to imply Moral Realism. However, I disagree. Lets say I believed that punching old people in the mouth was fine until my father talked to me and changed my mind. According to Pro, this implies that I realized I was wrong. However, if I was wrong, then there must be an objective answer to that moral question! What stinks with this argument? Well, all my father did was convert me into someone who shares the same views as him. It doesn't follow from this that my fathers view is the correct view, just that I realized that my feelings fall more in line with his view after further consideration. Therefore, if someone asks:

"I may approve of shooting random people, but is shooting random people actually right/good?"

What they actually could be saying is:

"I may approve of shooting random people, but is shooting random people really what I approve of after further consideration, and will continue to approve of in the future?"

People change their subjective feelings all the time... Thus, I am not sure that Pro has really pointed out any problems in the idea of Moral Subjectivism with his line of reasoning.

Arbitrariness

Pro claims that if one approves of x, then they approve of it for a reason. However, this reason would be what makes something good, not my approval of it. Since morality being subjective presupposes that it is the approval of a thing that makes it good; Moral Subjectivism is false. However, Pro hasn't actually shown that it is the reason for approval that adequately makes x good, instead of the approval of it. This crucial premise was just assumed. Perhaps it is the case that until approval occurs, we have no sufficient condition for subjective morality (with a reason for approval being just a necessary condition for subjective morality). Until Pro rules that possibility out; his dilemma cannot even get off the ground.

Conclusion

Pro's arguments in favor of Moral Subjectivism being false are simply lackluster. If they are not self-refuting, they have hidden or unproved premises that have not been demonstrated. Since I have undermined all of my opponent's arguments sufficiently; Pro has not established the resolution.

Source

[1] http://www.infidels.org...
Debate Round No. 2
popculturepooka

Pro

Circularity and Incoherence

Con's response here utterly misses the point and that may be my fault for not making it clear).

In other words moral subjectivism descends into a viscous circularity. In order for us to know what it is for some "x" to be believed to be "good", we have to first know what "good" is. But if "x is good" just is "the speaker believes that x is good" (because, remember, it is plausible to suppose that approval just is a moral belief) and "the speaker believes that x is good" just is "x is good" we still don't know what it is for "x" to believed to be "good".

This is a classic example of a circular definition:

A circular definition is one that uses the term(s) being defined as a part of the definition or assumes a prior understanding of the term being defined. Either the audience must already know the meaning of the key term(s), or the definition is deficient in including the term(s) to be defined in the definition itself. Such definitions lead to a need for additional information that motivated someone to look at the definition in the first place and, thus, violate the principle of providing new or useful information. If someone wants to know what a cellular phone is, telling them that it is a "phone that is cellular" will not be especially illuminating. Much more helpful would be to explain the concept of a cell in the context of telecommunications, or at least to make some reference to portability.

The 2007 Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a "hill" and a "mountain" this way:

Hill - "1: a usually rounded natural elevation of land lower than a mountain"
Mountain - "1a: a landmass that projects conspicuously above its surroundings and is higher than a hill"

....

In short: the two words define each other.

[1]

On subjectivism:

With all that said, we can easily see how

Non-subjectivist: What does "x is good" mean?
Subjectivist: The speaker approves of x.
Non-subjectivst: Okay....well, what is the speaker of approving of x mean?
Subjectivist: X is good.
Non-subjectivist: *blank stare*

The incoherency comes in when we have "good" be in the explanation of "x is good" coupled with the theory that the truth just consists of a particular speaker believing it. In that case we go back to the original formula I gave in the first round.

If [x is good] = [the speaker believes x is good] then, naturally, [the speaker believes x is good] = [the speaker believes (the speaker believes x is good)]. Then [the speaker believes (the speaker believes x is good)] = [the speaker believes (the speaker believes (the speaker believes x is good))]. And on and on and on, ad infiintum

To refute one of Con's examples to make my point clear, saying something is true does not suffer from my line of reasoning at al.

Let's say:

Truth = correspondence with a fact (or reality).
Reality = the actual state of affairs (as opposed to imagined or appeared).

Note that "truth" doesn't appear in the explanation of what truth nor does truth obtaining consist solely in a person believing it (so it's not open to the incoherency objection) and it is is not a circular definition (so it is not open to the circularity objection).

Thus we can see that Con's parity of reasoning objection fails. And subjectivism still seems to be incoherent and viciously circular.


No Moral Disagreement

Not quite. I'm saying that we naturally assume that we have actual, real moral disagreements about facts of the matter, and this is prima facie evidence against moral subjectivism (because there can't be any moral disagreement on subjectivism). It may be the the case that our assumption is wrong, but Con has given us no reason to suppose so. The best explanation of why we assume we are disagreeing about facts of the matter beyond our psychological states is that...we are disagreeing about facts of the matter beyond our psychological states.

Here Pro states that I assume that we cannot debate things unless we have an objective answer. This is false. What I'm saying is that on moral subjectivism you aren't actually disagreeing. Person A can agree with person B that person B approves of child rape, and that for them, child rape is good. Because, after all, goodness of child rape just consists of person B's approval of it (and that approval is just a description of their belief). Person B can also agree with person A that person A disapproves of child rape, and that for them, child rape is bad. Again, that's just describing person A's psychological state. You can't disagree with someone's report of a psychological state unless you think they aren't truthfully reporting their (dis)approval. There's nothing to disagree on here on subjectivism; there is no fact of the matter to disagree with, they agree on all the same facts of matter. On non-subjectivism person A could agree that that person B approves of child rape, but they cannot agree that child rape is good because that is mutually inconsistent with person A's belief that it is not good. In this case, there a fact of the matter they are disagreeing about. Contra Con, there are no real moral disputes/disagreements given subjectivism and this counts as a substantial mark against subjectivism unless Con can give a reason why it's reasonable to not believe there is actual moral disagreement.

Hence Con's rebuttal here just misses the point of the objection.


Moral Infallibility

Con, in his attempt at rebuttal here, actually just makes my case for me. Since subjectivism reduces all moral beliefs down to reports of our psychological states (opinions and so forth), there are actually nothing to consider and deliberate on. That would imply that the reasons that Con's father gives him to change his mind about the goodness of punching old people in the mouth figure into his (dis)approval of the act (which takes me back to the earlier 4th point of arbitrariness I made in the first round). After all, what could Con be considering? That his previous approval of punching old people in the mouth didn't actually have any good reason to back it up? But, on subjectivism,, those reasons don't figure into determining what is good or not; only Con's approval does. It's fairly easy to introspect and tell when you approve or disapprove of something. The reasons we usually can't tell or have doubts about whether we disapprove or approve of something is because we are unsure if we have good reasons for that approval/disapproval. Subjectivism does not make that distinction. This is just how it is when considering and deliberating on other matters of fact - like, say, the truth of the many world interpretation of quantum mechanics. Why should moral deliberation and considerations not be considered of the same type when they follow the same general form? What Con is doing is proposing a radical revision of moral discourse without any reason being given for this. Most of us naturally assume that rational considerations have a role to play when making moral judgements; subjectivism denies this. It denies that we can ever make a moral mistake and that counts against the theory.

Arbitrariness

Con's case here hardly makes any sense. If the reason that you approve of x is what explains why x is good it can't be the case that approval itself is what makes x is good. The reason is independent of your psychological state. That makes it explanatorily prior to the approval of x. On subjectivism the approval itself is what makes x good. That is the necessary and sufficient condition. Con hasn't detailed what exactly the necessary and sufficient conditions for x is good to be, so saying the reason might be a necessary condition doesn't exactly say anything informative. And that is all it takes for x to be good; just approval of x. If you approve of x because you find it admirable, that admirability itself is explanatorily prior to your approval of x. Your approval of x doesn't make x admirable otherwise you had no reason to approve it beforehand. Which brings us back to the arbitrariness horn.

Sources

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...

Rational_Thinker9119

Con

Circularity and Incoherence

Pro argues that "X is good to person Y" is defined under Moral Subjectivism as "Person Y believes X is good to person Y" and vice versa, and the circularity of the definitions apparently implies incoherency. However, it is not clear at all why Moral Subjectivism is committed to that particular definition (it certainly doesn't follow from the definition of Moral Subjectivism I accepted in this debate). This is just a fallacy of presumption on Pro's behalf, and Pro may just be trying to tear down a straw-man. Most importantly, all definitions are inherently circular if you look at how languages work:

"The charge of circularity can be applied to all definitions if we extend the circle far enough. After all, to define a term, we need words other than the term being defined. And if these new terms require definitions, we cannot resort to any term already used. To define a term (term 1), we require a new set of terms (term 2). These new terms have definitions, and to avoid the charge of circularity, none of the definitions can invoke term 1. So we require a third set (term 3) to define term 2. The process continues. To avoid the charge of circularity, none of the new sets can be defined in terms of the preceding sets. But since the number of words in any given language is finite, at some point this condition must fail." - Robert Malcolm Murray, and Nebojsa Kujundzic[1]

The entire language entails circularity. Since Pro is using this language, which presupposes circularity of definitions, and he is arguing against circularity of definitions; his position is contradictory. His argument here falls into the abyss of incoherency.

Pro then commits the red herring fallacy by arguing that the infinite regress implied by "truth" doesn't suffer from his line of reasoning. This, even if true, is utterly irrelevant. Pro implied in his first round that something that entails an infinite regress cannot be the case. I showed that the idea of "truth" does entail an infinite regress. Remember the formula:

[I]f something is true, then it must be true that it is true, and it must be true that it is true that it is true (and so on).

Even if the infinite regress is established through a different line of reasoning, the fact still remains that "truth" implies an infinite regress, and that it must be true that something is true, and true that it is true that the thing is true... ad infinitum. Since he is saying his position is "true" (which entails an infinite regress), but he argues against an infinite regress; he is destroying his own argument extensively in the process.

No Moral Disagreement

Pro starts off this part of his overall case by shifting the burden of proof. He claims that it may be the the case that our assumption is wrong, but I have given no reason to suppose so. However, he has the burden of proof to establish the resolution true. It not being the case that our assumption is wrong is necessary to prove his conclusion true. I also have a problem with saying "our" assumption, as we as individuals all have different assumptions. Now, my opponent claims that the best reason for why we assume we are disagreeing about facts of the matter beyond our psychological states is because it is true, and morality is indeed objective. This sets off red flags right away, as I am not sure how this follows at all. Also, as I said, we all assume different things. For example, I for one do not assume we are disagreeing about actual facts of the matter beyond our psychological states. Since we all have different assumptions, and lack thereof, I think that I would ask Pro to speak for himself and refrain from using words like "we" and "our" in the context that he is.

Pro accuses of me of straw-manning his position when I claimed that Pro's stance is that "we cannot debate things unless we have an objective answer". If this is the case, then I apologize as that was not my intention. Pro further clarifies his argument that if Moral Subjectivism is true, then nobody is actually disagreeing:

"What I'm saying is that on moral subjectivism you aren't actually disagreeing." - Pro

The above is false. We could disagree about whether something is objectively wrong or not even if nothing is objectively wrong. For example, we can debate about whether hip-hop is better than rock even though neither one is actually better; it boils down to what you like more. Even if nobody is disagreeing about a real fact, we could still disagree based on would it would be like if it was real. We would still be exchanging words which describe our views; which accounts for the apparent observation of moral disagreement with regards to objective morality under Moral Subjectivism, without having to presuppose we are disagreeing about a fact that is the case, and which entails objective morality. I can argue that the Godfather is a better movie than Gigli all I want as if it is true, but if you don't believe that, you are no more right than me as this is a subjective issue. Pro completely ignores Keith Augustine's quote which explains that it is not necessary to assume that there is no moral dispute under Moral Subjectivism as well.

Why do we feel we are right if there is no right answer? I am secluded from your subjective experience, which creates an extreme bias. This produces intuitions that the other person is wrong when this is not the case. This is not some ad hoc explanation as similar examples can be found in reality with regards to our lives in many areas. I gave a movie and music example but there are others. My view is that red is a better color than blue for the living room of my my new house, and my girlfriend disagrees as her view is that blue is better. We argued, but the fact of the matter is that there is no objectively right answer to the question:

Q: "Which color is better for this wall?"

Thus, even if people disagree under Moral Subjectivism, assuming that Moral Subjectivism can account for this apparent observation of disagreement in the fashion I described is not ad hoc work, as other similar examples exist in large quantities pertaining to what I am proposing.

Moral Infallibility

Pro continues to argue that if Moral Subjectivism is true there would be nothing to deliberate on. This is false. We could debate about whether it is objectively right or wrong to abort a baby; even if there is no objectively right answer to the question. If one goes back to my example in this round, me and my girlfriend argued about what color to paint the room as if there was an objectively correct answer, even though there wasn't. Thus, even if Moral Subjectivism is true, it is not far-fetched to assume that we could argue about moral issues as if there is a correct answer, even though there is not. There would only be a contradiction in this context under Moral Subjectivism if it was actually true that there is an objectively correct answer to certain moral questions. That assumption doesn't follow from the notion that we debate as if it is true. Just like how there is no right answer as to what color we should have painted the room (she just likes blue, and I like red), even though we argued as if there was an objectively correct answer.

My opponent then claims that with my father analogy, my father's reasons figure into my new disapproval of punching old people in the face. So what? How does that contradict Moral Subjectivity? Pro claims that those reasons don't figure into determining what is good or not to me; only my approval or disapproval does if morality is subjective. Why assume this is true? As I said in my first round, reasons for approval might only be a necessary condition for Moral Subjectivity, while approval is the sufficient condition. Additionally, if I disprove of X for reason Z, that doesn't necessarily mean I think Z is an objectively "good" reason, just that it falls in lines with my current feelings. Feelings change all the time, so if I take my father's view, that in no way implies that his view is the "correct" view.

This way of arguing against Moral Subjectivity falls short.

Arbitrariness

This section is rather absurd. The reason for approval/ disapproval itself cannot account for, or explain by itself why something is good to me or bad to me. Lets say that I disapprove of raping girls because it enduces negative emotions in me and I feel sympathy for the girl in question and the people who care about her. There is nothing about that reason which makes it required that I disapprove of it. Thus, it isn't sufficient for subjective morality by Pro's own definitions of it. It just so happens, due to my preference, that I do not approve of it for that reason; and only when we have that disapproval do we have a sufficient condition. The argument from my opponent is bizarre, as Moral Subjectivity presupposes that the existence of beings would be a necessary condition for subjective morality, as no type of morality would have any meaning without conscious beings. This is self-evidently a necessary condition for any approval or disapproval. Implying that I would endorse a theory where approval by itself gets us subjective morality is ludicrous, as approval/ disapproval cannot occur without certain necessary conditions (such as beings existing). If that is not what Pro is implying, then I see no reason why we cannot view the reason for approval/ disapproval as just another necessary condition, but not a sufficient condition for Moral Subjectivity.

The reason for approval/ disapproval is not enough to establish that "x is good or bad to me", it is only a necessary condition; approval/ disapproval is the sufficient condition, and they have necessary conditions; this view doesn't seem to have any logical problems

Conclusion

Pro's argument fails to stand up to critical scrutiny; the resolution has not been established.

Sources

[1] Critical Reflection: A Textbook for Critical Thinking by Robert Malcolm Murray and Nebojsa Kujundzic (P. 134)

Debate Round No. 3
popculturepooka

Pro

Circularity and Incoherence

Pro argues that "X is good to person Y" is defined under Moral Subjectivism as "Person Y believes X is good to person Y" and vice versa, and the circularity of the definitions apparently implies incoherence

Con contends that subjectivism doesn't commit him to that the particular definition but gave no reason to think that this is not the case. If "X is good" just is "person Y approves of X" and if approval just is a moral belief as I contended in my first round then that does translate into "X is good = person Y believes X is good". Con hasn't contended this point so it can be fairly assumed Con agreed with that point so it's hard to see how I committed a "fallacy of presumption".

As to Con's second point - it seems to prove too much. One can agree that at some point all definitions will be circular (if you extend the circle far enough) while not agreeing that the charge of circularity and incoherence doesn't stick in at least some situations. It'd be wholly absurd to be debating someone about the usefulness of cordless phones and when person B asks what a cordless phone is or means person A replied: "A phone without a cord." When person B complains that person A hasn't actually said anything useful, the proper reply shouldn't be for person A to "go nuclear" and say "Well, all definitions are circular on some level, so your complaint isn't valid". [1] I'm talking about viscous circularity where the circularity is undeniably objectionable. The following definition "an object has property P IFF it is not next to anything that has property P" is undeniably objectionable, and if approval is a moral belief and my argument is right then on subjectivism where "x is good" means "person y approves of x" then it reduces to an undeniably objection vicious circularity.

Con argues that I was implying that if something entails an infinite regress it cannot be the case. This is not true. Some infinite regresses are virtuous, and I have no problem with infinite regresses per se.

"In the objectionable kind of infinite regress, two or more propositions join to constitute the meaning of some proposition; of these constituents, there is one at least one whose meaning is similarly compounded; and so on ad infinitum. This form of regress commonly results from circular definitions(pm348)

If A be a proposition whose meaning is perfectly definite, and A implies B, B implies C, and so on, we have an infinite regress of a quite unobjectionable kind. Thus there is no logical necessity to complete the infinite regress before A acquires a meaning(pm349)" [2]

I am arguing that subjectivism is leads to the objectionable kind of infinite regress. Notice on the unobjectionable kind of infinite regresses it is said that there is no logical necessity to "complete" the infinite regress before x acquires a meaning. But on my argument this isn't the case. It is argued that "x is good doesn't acquire a meaning from "person Y approves of x" because "person Y approves of x" just means "person Y believes X is good". Obviously you can't define "good" by having "good" in the definition.

No Moral Disagreement

There is no shifting of the burden of proof. I am assuming that moral disagreement is a prima facie real phenomena because it seems as if it is (because there can't be disagreement without contradiction). Or it appears that it is the case for the vast majority of people. In philosophy, the existence of moral disagreement has been a hotly debated topic and it is presumed that they are disagreeing (i.e contradicting each other) about actual facts of matter. I don't think it's a stretch of the imagination to say the vast majority of people who argue about ethics have presumed themselves to be contradicting each other. This presumption may be wrong, but given some plausible epistemological principle like that of phenomenal conservatism the initial presumption is justified absent defeaters. [3] Con has provided no defeaters. In accordance with with that epistemological principle the best explanation would be that since we assume that we are disagreeing about facts of the matter in ethical debates, we actually are disagreeing about facts of the matter in ethical debates. This would be similarly compared to the assumption that there is an external world - we are prima facie justified in believing in it's existence because it appears that way and we assume and live our lives as if it does. That there exists solipsists and idealists and the like who don't initially assume that the external world is real as most people do does nothing itself to defeat the rationality of believing so. If they brought some defeater (arguments) then we would have to consider them and see if they defeat our presumptions. Much is the same, I contend, in the debate about moral disagreement. Most of us presume that moral disagreement is a real phenomena and going by the principle we are justified in doing so absent defeaters.


Con says: Even if nobody is disagreeing about a real fact, we could still disagree based on would it would be like if it was real.

That is the crucial point. I'm saying moral disagreement here is a matter of contradiction. If does not involve contradiction, in certain domains of moral dispute then it isn't disagreement.

The definition of contradict is:
deny the truth of (a statement), esp. by asserting the opposite

On non-subjectivism you are contradicting someone by saying "raping children is wrong" when they are saying "raping children is right". On subjectivism, you aren't as I have detailed in the rounds before. You can entirely agree with your interlocutor that raping children is right (since that statement just reports their approval of child rape) even when you think raping children is wrong without falling into contradiction. No contradiction, no disagreement.

Moral Infallibility

Con, if I'm not mistaken here, seems to be advocating some sort of fictionalism (correct me if I'm wrong). That is, he's arguing that we don't have to take statements such as "it's right to abort this baby (in circumstance x)" as aiming toward a literal, objective truth but we merely talking as if it was true. That might be the case if subjectivism were the true, but that's the exact issue at hand. And, this goes back to the presumption that the a good reason to assume that moral disagreement is a real phenomena is because the vast majorityy of us take it be so, and absent defeaters (like reasons given for the truth of subjectivism), we are justified in taking it to be so. This takes us back to the contention that Con and his girlfriend wouldn't be having an actual, genuine, disagreement if there is no contradicting taking place.

My point about moral deliberation is just this: if subjectivism is true rational considerations and reasons don't play any role is the deliberative process because it reduces those considerations and reasons down to mere whims and tastes.

"When engaging in this deliberation,when asking yourself these questions, you assume, so it seems to me, that they have answers. You try to @257;nd out what the (better) answers to these questions are, and how they interact so as to answer the arch-question, the one about what it makes most sense for you to do. You are not trying to create these answers....Thus, deliberation should be distinguished from the making of an arbitrary choice....It is worth noting how similar the phenomenology of deliberation is to that of trying to find an answer to a straightforwardly factual question: When trying to answer a straightforwardly factual question (like what the difference is between the average income of a lawyer and a philosopher) you try to get things right, to come up with the answer that is - independently of your settling on it — the right one. When deliberating, you also try to get things right, to decide as— independently of how you end up deciding— it makes most sense for you to decide..." [4]

If this is a correct account of deliberation, and it seems to be so, then, yes, Con deliberating on his father's reasons supports my case against non-subjectivism. Because, on non-subjectivism, you are creating these answers, not discovering them. And if we have good reason to believe that moral deliberation is real, then we have good reason to reject subjectivism.

Arbitrariness

Con seems to miss the point. If Con disapproves of raping girls because of the reasons he mentioned that must mean that there is some prior and independent moral fact (besides just his disapproval) by which he judges those reasons sufficient to render his disapproval. That would refute subjectivism because subjectivism categorically denies that there moral facts independent of Con's attitude of disapproval. On the other hand, if Con does not disapprove of rape for those or similar reasons that would mean that his approval/disapproval has no or arbitrary reasons for his approval/disapproval. That would put subjectivism in a difficult spot as well.

Sources

[1] http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com...
[2] http://philosophy.wikia.com...
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org...
In epistemology, phenomenal conservatism (PC) holds that it is reasonable to assume that things are as they appear, except when there are positive grounds for doubting this.
A later formulation, designed to allow the principle to encompass inferential as well as foundational justification, reads as follows.
-If it seems to S that p, then, in the absence of defeaters, S thereby has at least some degree of justification for believing that p. http://en.wikipedia.org...
[4] http://www.academia.edu...
Rational_Thinker9119

Con

Circularity and Incoherence

Pro starts off the round with a shifting of the burden of proof. He must show why the subjectivist is committed to whatever he believes the subjectivist is committed to. Regardless, it may be true that "x is good" may entail "x believes x is good", but it doesn't follow from this that one specifically defines the other. That is a non-sequitur. I can say that what is "good" is what I "approve of", and what I "approve of" is "what increases positive emotion".

Now, it seems is if Pro is special pleading pertaining to circularity to try to wiggle his way out of a dilemma, and delving into the dark world of double standards[1]:


1. Person A accepts standard(s) S and applies them to others in circumstance(s) C.

2. Person A is in circumstance(s) C.

3.Therefore A is exempt from S.


Circularity is circularity, yet he tries to say that only vicious circularity entails incoherency. This is false. Even though the two are indeed different, the fact still remains that the English language ultimately entails begging the question linguistically just like the definition Pro is claiming is "viciously" circular. Pro either has to say that it is fine to semantically beg the question in this way (therefore destroying his argument here in the process), or say that it is not, and claim that both of our arguments fail due to the incoherency of language. While this may seem like an uncomfortable and counter-intuitive dichotomy for my opponent to deal with, it is a necessary one due to the arguments he is making.

As far as the infinite regress is concerned, in his first round he insinuated that it was the "ad infinitum" which was causing the logical problems for Moral Subjectivism. In any event, if he accepts that infinite regresses can be logical then I apologize for misunderstanding.

Conclusion of Circularity and Incoherence

. "X is good" doesn't have to be defined as "it is believed that x is good" even though it does entail it. I presented a definition of "good" which avoids direct circularity (even though that it wasn't necessary to undermine his argument). This objection takes care of Pro's argument alone.

. It is begging the question semantically that Pro is opposed to, yet he presupposes a language that begs the question semantically. This is a self-refuting argument. Circularity is circularity, whether direct ("vicious") or not. This may be unsettling, but necessary to point out.

I think it is clear that this argument from Pro does not establish the resolution.

No Moral Disagreement

Pro completely ignores the important points in my last round pertaining to this section. He claims that because it seems as if we are actually contradicting each other when we argue about something like abortion, then this gives us prima facie belief in it. However, I mentioned how there are plenty of situations where it seems as if we are contradicting people even though it isn't true in the same fashion. Some prima facie cases are stronger than others with regards to the context. Now, when I say that Biggie is better than 2 Pac, I honestly feel like it is true and I am contradicting the claim that 2 Pac better. However, as I'm sure my opponent agrees, it all boils down to subjective preference. When I argue with my girlfriend about what colour to paint the room, the very fact that we are debating presupposes there is an objectively correct answer; when there is not. Essentially, my rebuttal to Pro's prima facie case is that there are too many instances where conversations take place as if there is an objectively correct answer when there is not. Thus, even though it does seem as if there is a correct answer in a debate, that doesn't even mean it is probably true; even with prima facie warrant. Here is an example. Lets say that in a city a whole bunch of water gets contaminated in a town but nobody knows which areas specifically. Nobody would take a glass of water and say:

"It looks and smells just like the water I have always had, so I have prima facie warrant for thinking it is normal uncontaminated water."

The reason that is insane is because even though at first glance the water seems fine, there is a good chance it is not due to the contamination. Thus, it is a weak prima facie case. Similarly, conversations are "contaminated" by debates which may have no objective resolution (I gave countless examples in this exchange). Just because a debate seems like it has an objective answer, that is a not a good reason to think its true unless you have external reasons. Not all prima facie cases are strong and actually raise the probability of a desired conclusion. In a certain area where things are commonly not what they seem at first glance, it would be absurd to say that something probably is the way it seems, because it appears that way at first glance.

Conclusion of No Moral Disagreement

. Pro made a prima facie case. However, there are strong and weak prima facie cases; Pro didn't show his was a strong prima facie case.

. I rebutted Pro's case by showing it a weak prima facie case, due to countless times in our lives when we debate as if there is a objective resolution to the discussion when there is not.

Pro's argument in this regard does not establish the resolution.

Moral Infallibility

He brings up the prima facie case again. However, it is strange because a prima facie case is easily seen for Moral Subjectivism. Morals are based on values (we wouldn't deem rape wrong if we didn't value victim's will), but what we assign value to or "care about" seems to be completely subjective. Therefore, morality seems to have a subjective basis prima facie. To rebut Con's argument, all I need to do is show that a prima facie case can be made against the resolution. They essentially cancel out, and leave Pro not showing the resolution of this debate to be true with the argument. I am not alone in thinking that Moral Subjectivity seems to be the case on the surface:

"To say that music is good is simply to express an opinion. In fact, we could even consider that the vast majority of people may agree that there are certain basic acoustic features of music which makes it distinguishable from noise. Nevertheless, music is a human invention--the distinction between an annoying sound and a pleasant one does not exist in nature but only in our minds. I think it would be relatively uncontroversial to argue that the same holds for the distinction between a moral and an immoral action were it not for people's distaste with the perceived consequences of such a view." - Keith Augustine

People simply "don't like" the idea of morality not being objective. However, if this was removed, people would realize that morality certainly seems subjective.

Pro re-iterates a point:

"If subjectivism is true rational considerations and reasons don't play any role is the deliberative process because it reduces those considerations and reasons down to mere whims and tastes." - Pro

I see no reason to accept that the moral subjectivist cannot take reasons into play in the deliberative process. To take it back to the father example, until a reason was brought up, I may not have realized that I value the elderly people's feelings. Basically, certain reasons can awake certain subjective feelings deep down that have had little attention. At the end of the day, it is still subjective whether I assign value to the elderly (someone else might not value the elderly). Therefore, the Moral Subjectivist can still take reasons into account with regards to ethics. Maybe the person down the street doesn't value the elderly and their well being, so my father's reason would have no similar effect on him as it had on me. There doesn't seem to be anything that makes him right over I. The fact that a reason made me realize my subjective feelings more than previously doesn't entail any problems with moral subjectivism.

Conclusion of Moral Infallibility

. Another reason the prima facie case fails for Moral Obectivism, is that one can be made for Moral Subjectivism.

Arbitrariness

Pro claims:

" If Con disapproves of raping girls because of the reasons he mentioned that must mean that there is some prior and independent moral fact (besides just his disapproval) by which he judges those reasons sufficient to render his disapproval." - Pro

The reason for the approval only means there is a fact which falls in line with my subjective views. For example, I disapprove of rape because I because "it enduces negative emotions in me and I feel sympathy for the girl in question and the people who care about her". However, that reason is not an independently objective moral fact. It could be the case that someone doesn't have sympathy, and doesn't value what I value and would deem that reason insufficient to not rape. That reason could only be an independently existing objective moral fact if it applies to everyone. Since that is exactly what Moral Subjectivism denies, I think Pro is confused.

"That would refute subjectivism because subjectivism categorically denies that there moral facts independent of Con's attitude of disapproval." - Pro

How is "it enduces negative emotions in me and I feel sympathy for the girl in question and the people who care about her" an objective moral fact? That literally makes no sense. That fact has absolutely nothing to do with morality under Moral Subjectivism until I disapprove of rape for that reason.

Additionally, Pro hasn't shown any real problems with arbitrariness in the first place.

Conclusion of Arbitrariness

. It is the disapproval of rape that makes it bad to someone, not an objective reason for the disapproval if Moral Subjectivism is true. That reason might not effect the next person; they might rape. Thus, it wouldn't be an objective reason not to rape. Self-evidently, this is completely consistent with Moral Subjectivism.

Sources

[1] http://www.nizkor.org...
[2] http://www.infidels.org...
Debate Round No. 4
79 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by tejretics 1 year ago
tejretics
@RT: OMG the moment I saw the votes I thought the *exact* same thing as the last comment, like, word-by-word lol
Posted by Rational_Thinker9119 3 years ago
Rational_Thinker9119
Ya, Bladerunner was the only one with a decent RFD. Most of the other ones are crap.
Posted by Rational_Thinker9119 3 years ago
Rational_Thinker9119
That was a sh*t vote from chase. I'm reporting it.
Posted by YYW 3 years ago
YYW
Also, I am amazed at how poor the majority of votes in this debate were. It's one of those circumstances where I can look at the RFD and say with almost invariably confidence... "Yep, that person had no idea what happened here."
Posted by YYW 3 years ago
YYW
I reported Chase's vote. Bullsh!t has no place here.
Posted by popculturepooka 3 years ago
popculturepooka
lol @ chases vote. smh
Posted by calculatedr1sk 3 years ago
calculatedr1sk
You're most welcome, my friend. My tail has been similarly tucked many times thanks to my ego, which is why it is so easy for me to empathize.
Posted by johnlubba 3 years ago
johnlubba
Ok now I would like to get that tail out from between my legs but it might take time. I agree with your outlook and look forward interacting with you in future debates. I feel stupid for piping up at all now, But hey ho. Thanks for your understanding.
Posted by calculatedr1sk 3 years ago
calculatedr1sk
Apology accepted, John, and glad to help.

We do all have a bias, which is why the more voters that particpate, the better. One bias which I find most distressing is the assumption that because atheists lack any accountability to a divine authority, we must therefore be untrustworthy or lack integrity. I am not alone in my frustration with this unreasonable stereotype, and although I certainly don't know him well enough to speak for him, I suspect that may at least be a contributing factor to blade's reaction which you consider "acidic".

Rather than focus on our divisions, or who is right and who is wrong, I feel as if it is worth noting that all of us in this conversation seem to share the same value (and this includes blade, and RT, and PCP) for a community in which a diverse range of people are able come together with a wealth of perspectives and engage in serious debate in a fair and respectful environment. Both RT and I have defended the theist/Christian position in debates and other conversations against troll atheists who just want to bash and verbally abuse Christians. If we were to view this as "us" versus "them", then the only "us" that I could count myself among is the side which advocates honest, mature, and respectful discourse, and in this, you are more my brother than many atheists would be.
Posted by johnlubba 3 years ago
johnlubba
Yes calculatedr1sk, I commend your reply for it's civility it has offered me the opportunity to realize i have gotten ahead of myself and I would like to retract my accusations of any wrong doing on your behalf. And also my frustration of Philochristoses votes against me being cynical is also my mistake, I just felt like he had it in for me, when in all honesty I didn't agree with his votes, he said I couldn't use something President Obama said as a source in my debate on minimum wage requirements. Even tho the president claimed as recent as two days before he would raise the minimum wage, I was docked points for this.

Returning to my accusations towards you, I fully apologize, I just would like to see some atheists vote against each other sometimes instead of always, ( in my opinion ) voting for each other. I see theists vote against each other but hardly the atheists. This site has very little voters as it is and to have a following that will always vote on your debates in your favor and seldom against giving someone an unfair advantage.

That is just the way I see it. I've apologized for the rest but this I stand by.

Thanks.
6 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Vote Placed by MysticEgg 3 years ago
MysticEgg
popculturepookaRational_Thinker9119Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: Excellent debate! Well done to both! While I was kind of with Con at the start, I have been convinced by him now. Conduct was fine. Spelling and grammar were excellent; a very good start. The arguments were well presented, but Pro was repeatedly put down by Con. The "circular" argument in particular seemed like a complete evasion and a last ditch effort. I don't see what's wrong with simply conceding a point. While all arguments were well reasoned, Con illustrated Pro's faulty logic. (Well reasoned, faulty logic is an oxymoron) Overall, Pro didn't cut the cheese. Arguments to Con.
Vote Placed by calculatedr1sk 3 years ago
calculatedr1sk
popculturepookaRational_Thinker9119Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: An excellent debate, congratulations to both sides. Pro used 4 lines of attack to establish his case. Con rendered the first charge of circularity to be impotent by showing this doesn't mean it is false, and also by pointing out that all language is necessarily circular, which Pro rightly saw as being overkill ("go nuclear"), but didn't really have any way out of. He tried to distinguish between "objectionable" and "unobjectionable" circularity but to me it wasn't enough to land the punch. Tellingly, in round 4 under no moral disagreement, when Pro says "or it appears that it is the case for the vast majority of people," he has unwittinly appealed to the very same source of legitimacy as the moral subjectivist! Con didn't seem to notice this, but still adequately deflected Pro's argument because he gave many examples of disagreements that don't seem to have objective answers (Gili for the win!). RFD cont'd in comment
Vote Placed by bladerunner060 3 years ago
bladerunner060
popculturepookaRational_Thinker9119Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by janetsanders733 3 years ago
janetsanders733
popculturepookaRational_Thinker9119Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: God must exist for morality to be objectively true. It seems Con's arguments are really showing why morality is subjective. He seems to think that morality can not have a real right or wrong answer no matter how you argue it. I think pro did a great job of refuting that. Both had good conduct and sources. My vote goes to Pro.
Vote Placed by HeartOfGod 3 years ago
HeartOfGod
popculturepookaRational_Thinker9119Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: con said in order for pro not to crap on the language he uses to make the argument he has to accept circular definitions and reject his first argument. This put his opponent in an awkward position. con showed there are times when we argue like there is a right answer even though that?s not true meaning pro is jumping the gun on objective morality being true. and Pro didn't prove why morality being arbitrary would demonstrate the resolution. I believe that morality is objective but con dealt with all of arguments in a proper way.
Vote Placed by TheAntidoter 3 years ago
TheAntidoter
popculturepookaRational_Thinker9119Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: Great Debate from both sides. However, I Feel that Pro has won this debate, so I'm going to break it down. S and G: Great on both sides. Experienced debaters rarely have this flaw. Conduct was Equal on both sides: If there was a fallacy, it would not necessarily be conduct to present it, only if knowingly. Convincing Arguments goes to Pro: This is often the most controversial part of a vote, so I'm going to break it down further. The other points, while good, was not what allowed Pro to win this. The single point that allowed Pro to win this was the first point of infinite regresses. While con tried to counter this, This point did Obfuscate what is truly good, and so there was an objective standard. While Con did present the Last Dilemma of Words being circular, this would have only destroyed the words definition, not what they represent, thus Pro raised doubt on the definition of good, thus raising doubt on subjectivity via no true standard in which to determine an action is