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Objectivity

bladerunner060
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1/19/2013 11:27:23 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
The whole "God is an objective source for morals" argument has floated for quite some time, I think we all know.

I would like to have someone define objectivity for me as a concept, preferably someone who subscribes to that notion.
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philochristos
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1/19/2013 11:39:33 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
"Objective" can mean one of two different things, depending on the context.

Sometimes, we say that somebody is being objective in their assessment of the evidence, and what we mean is that they are assessing the evidence fairly and without too much influence from their own bias.

Sometimes, we say that a statement or proposition is objectively true, and what we mean is that its truth is independent of anybody beliefs about it.

It is this second sense that theists usually use in the context of the moral argument. There are two kinds of statements one could make--subjective and objective.

Subjective statements often appear to be objective statements. For example, "Ice cream tastes good," appears to be about ice cream. But in reality, it's about the subject making the claim. Ice cream only tastes good to the subject. It doesn't taste good independently of the subject.

Objective statements refer to the object. For example, "Ice cream is sold in pint sizes." is an objective statement because it's about the object, ice cream, and not the subject making the claim.

Subjective statements depend on the subject making the claim. They are true or false relative to the subject, so they can be true for one person but false for another.

Objective statements depend on a correspondence with the object. They are true or false independently of the subject making the claim.

When theists say that God is an objective source of morality, they mean God is a source of morality external to humanity, and that the morals that originate from God are objectively true to us since they don't depend on our believing them. They are not products of our own minds.
"Not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education." ~Aristotle

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." ~Aristotle
bladerunner060
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1/19/2013 11:48:47 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
When theists say that God is an objective source of morality, they mean God is a source of morality external to humanity, and that the morals that originate from God are objectively true to us since they don't depend on our believing them. They are not products of our own minds.

So, if I wrote down a set of morals, and you followed them, then they would be objective to you, and subjective to me, correct?
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philochristos
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1/19/2013 11:59:54 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/19/2013 11:48:47 AM, bladerunner060 wrote:
So, if I wrote down a set of morals, and you followed them, then they would be objective to you, and subjective to me, correct?

They would be subjective to you, but the only sense in which they would be objective to me is that it would be objectively true that "bladerunner considers such and such to be immoral." They wouldn't be objectively true to me in the sense that, "I ought not do that" because you don't have moral authority over me. Morality needs an authority behind it to be binding on anybody, so the only way statements like, "You shouldn't eat people" can be objectively true is if there is an objective source of authority in the sense that the authority lies outside of us.

When we say that morality is objective, we mean it it transcends personal opinion and culture. That means its source must also transcend personal opinion and culture. It must be other than us.
"Not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education." ~Aristotle

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." ~Aristotle
bladerunner060
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1/19/2013 12:03:20 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
They would be subjective to you, but the only sense in which they would be objective to me is that it would be objectively true that "bladerunner considers such and such to be immoral." They wouldn't be objectively true to me in the sense that, "I ought not do that" because you don't have moral authority over me. Morality needs an authority behind it to be binding on anybody, so the only way statements like, "You shouldn't eat people" can be objectively true is if there is an objective source of authority in the sense that the authority lies outside of us.

When we say that morality is objective, we mean it it transcends personal opinion and culture. That means its source must also transcend personal opinion and culture. It must be other than us.

Then wouldn't the next three questions be:
1. Upon what grounds does God have moral authority over humanity?

2. Isn't "transcends personal opinion and culture" a meaningless statement in reference to what I posited, as I could just say "eating pickles of morally correct, and transcends any personal opinion or culture", and that would make it objectively so, to you.

3. If a will has said something, isn't that that by definition that will's personal opinion, and/or something that will arrived due to external influence to itself?
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philochristos
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1/19/2013 12:08:05 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/19/2013 12:03:20 PM, bladerunner060 wrote:
Then wouldn't the next three questions be:
1. Upon what grounds does God have moral authority over humanity?

The fact that he created us, and his autonomy.

2. Isn't "transcends personal opinion and culture" a meaningless statement in reference to what I posited, as I could just say "eating pickles of morally correct, and transcends any personal opinion or culture", and that would make it objectively so, to you.

No, because it doesn't transcend personal opinion or culture. It's only your subjective opinion and has no binding force on any other person or culture.

3. If a will has said something, isn't that that by definition that will's personal opinion, and/or something that will arrived due to external influence to itself?

I'm not sure I understand this question. I do think morality is subjective to God in the sense that he is the subject from whom all morality flows. It flows from his own character, including his desires and preferences.
"Not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education." ~Aristotle

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." ~Aristotle
bladerunner060
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1/19/2013 12:11:21 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/19/2013 12:08:05 PM, philochristos wrote:
At 1/19/2013 12:03:20 PM, bladerunner060 wrote:
Then wouldn't the next three questions be:
1. Upon what grounds does God have moral authority over humanity?

The fact that he created us, and his autonomy.

So, the "might makes right" argument? If you create a thing, you own it and it owes you its behavior?


2. Isn't "transcends personal opinion and culture" a meaningless statement in reference to what I posited, as I could just say "eating pickles of morally correct, and transcends any personal opinion or culture", and that would make it objectively so, to you.

No, because it doesn't transcend personal opinion or culture. It's only your subjective opinion and has no binding force on any other person or culture.

What's "binding force"? Does it just return to the previous point, that because God created us and was before us, it therefore transcends?


3. If a will has said something, isn't that that by definition that will's personal opinion, and/or something that will arrived due to external influence to itself?

I'm not sure I understand this question. I do think morality is subjective to God in the sense that he is the subject from whom all morality flows. It flows from his own character, including his desires and preferences.

So if it IS subjective to god, then the argument that trying to claim morality from god is "objective" seems disingenuous; it shifts the burden of subjectivity to God, but doesn't solve it.
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GarretKadeDupre
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1/19/2013 12:34:22 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Could not have picked a better time to post this thread.

I have nothing else to add except that the clown hat guy seems to make sense.
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THEVIRUS
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1/19/2013 1:24:28 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
So I take it subjectivity is opinionated and objectivity is fact-based?
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Sidewalker
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1/19/2013 2:01:52 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/19/2013 12:11:21 PM, bladerunner060 wrote:
At 1/19/2013 12:08:05 PM, philochristos wrote:
At 1/19/2013 12:03:20 PM, bladerunner060 wrote:
Then wouldn't the next three questions be:
1. Upon what grounds does God have moral authority over humanity?

The fact that he created us, and his autonomy.


So, the "might makes right" argument? If you create a thing, you own it and it owes you its behavior?

That certainly isn't what he said.


2. Isn't "transcends personal opinion and culture" a meaningless statement in reference to what I posited, as I could just say "eating pickles of morally correct, and transcends any personal opinion or culture", and that would make it objectively so, to you.

No, because it doesn't transcend personal opinion or culture. It's only your subjective opinion and has no binding force on any other person or culture.

What's "binding force"? Does it just return to the previous point, that because God created us and was before us, it therefore transcends?

He explained moral authority in the previous post, pay attention.

How so,

3. If a will has said something, isn't that that by definition that will's personal opinion, and/or something that will arrived due to external influence to itself?

I'm not sure I understand this question. I do think morality is subjective to God in the sense that he is the subject from whom all morality flows. It flows from his own character, including his desires and preferences.

So if it IS subjective to god, then the argument that trying to claim morality from god is "objective" seems disingenuous;

How so, didn't you understand the explanation of the difference between subjective and objective? He explained it extremely well in the earlier posts, this statement doesn't follow unless you still don't understand the difference between subjective and objective.

it shifts the burden of subjectivity to God, but doesn't solve it.

What on earth is the "burden of subjectivity", and why does it need to be "solved"?

Your responses are sounding more and more like non-sequiturs, please explicate.
"It is one of the commonest of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive." " C. W. Leadbeater
Sidewalker
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1/19/2013 2:08:18 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/19/2013 1:24:28 PM, THEVIRUS wrote:
So I take it subjectivity is opinionated and objectivity is fact-based?

By definition:

subjectivity
Web definitions:
judgment based on individual personal impressions and feelings and opinions rather than external facts.
wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

objectivity
Web definitions:
judgment based on observable phenomena and uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices.
wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn
"It is one of the commonest of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive." " C. W. Leadbeater
bladerunner060
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1/19/2013 2:13:04 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/19/2013 2:01:52 PM, Sidewalker wrote:
At 1/19/2013 12:11:21 PM, bladerunner060 wrote:
At 1/19/2013 12:08:05 PM, philochristos wrote:
At 1/19/2013 12:03:20 PM, bladerunner060 wrote:
Then wouldn't the next three questions be:
1. Upon what grounds does God have moral authority over humanity?

The fact that he created us, and his autonomy.


So, the "might makes right" argument? If you create a thing, you own it and it owes you its behavior?

That certainly isn't what he said.

How is it different? He has the moral authority of the "ought" because he created us, and because he has his own self-rule.



2. Isn't "transcends personal opinion and culture" a meaningless statement in reference to what I posited, as I could just say "eating pickles of morally correct, and transcends any personal opinion or culture", and that would make it objectively so, to you.

No, because it doesn't transcend personal opinion or culture. It's only your subjective opinion and has no binding force on any other person or culture.

What's "binding force"? Does it just return to the previous point, that because God created us and was before us, it therefore transcends?

He explained moral authority in the previous post, pay attention.

Right, which is why I said that it seemed to refer right back to the "might makes right" argument of "I created you, so do what I say".


How so,

3. If a will has said something, isn't that that by definition that will's personal opinion, and/or something that will arrived due to external influence to itself?

I'm not sure I understand this question. I do think morality is subjective to God in the sense that he is the subject from whom all morality flows. It flows from his own character, including his desires and preferences.

So if it IS subjective to god, then the argument that trying to claim morality from god is "objective" seems disingenuous;

How so, didn't you understand the explanation of the difference between subjective and objective? He explained it extremely well in the earlier posts, this statement doesn't follow unless you still don't understand the difference between subjective and objective.

He explained that to the creator of rules, they would be subjective. So therefore, when someone is defending god as the "objective creator" of morality, they are flatly wrong: the rules are subjective to him, as philocristos admitted. Therefore, everyone who complains about the subjectivity of morality WITHOUT god is complaining about nothing, since the rules are created just as subjectively with him as without him, the only real difference is that the subjectivity is removed one step (and of course, that doesn't factor in the fact that there's going to be a subjective element in interpretation of those rules, as evidenced by the many religions.


it shifts the burden of subjectivity to God, but doesn't solve it.

What on earth is the "burden of subjectivity", and why does it need to be "solved"?

Your responses are sounding more and more like non-sequiturs, please explicate.

You're choosing not to understand them. I was referencing the argument that "God produces objective morals", where the subjectivity is raised as a reason you "need" god to provide morals. Except since the morals are subjective to god, that doesn't solve the problem, all it does is remove it one step.
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bladerunner060
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1/19/2013 2:14:39 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/19/2013 2:08:18 PM, Sidewalker wrote:
At 1/19/2013 1:24:28 PM, THEVIRUS wrote:
So I take it subjectivity is opinionated and objectivity is fact-based?

By definition:

subjectivity
Web definitions:
judgment based on individual personal impressions and feelings and opinions rather than external facts.
wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

objectivity
Web definitions:
judgment based on observable phenomena and uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices.
wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

And, at the risk of being repetitious: Therefore the morality that God espouses is subjective. It is based on his own personal impressions and feelings and opinions rather than external facts.
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philochristos
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1/19/2013 5:42:31 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/19/2013 12:11:21 PM, bladerunner060 wrote:
At 1/19/2013 12:08:05 PM, philochristos wrote:
At 1/19/2013 12:03:20 PM, bladerunner060 wrote:
Then wouldn't the next three questions be:
1. Upon what grounds does God have moral authority over humanity?

The fact that he created us, and his autonomy.


So, the "might makes right" argument? If you create a thing, you own it and it owes you its behavior?

In God's case, yes. The reason we ordinarily oppose "might makes right" and "you create it, you own it" is because that doesn't work in our case, and the reason it doesn't work in our case is because there is a law above us. There is no law above God.

2. Isn't "transcends personal opinion and culture" a meaningless statement in reference to what I posited, as I could just say "eating pickles of morally correct, and transcends any personal opinion or culture", and that would make it objectively so, to you.

No, because it doesn't transcend personal opinion or culture. It's only your subjective opinion and has no binding force on any other person or culture.

What's "binding force"? Does it just return to the previous point, that because God created us and was before us, it therefore transcends?

"Binding" means you have an obligation to obey it.

3. If a will has said something, isn't that that by definition that will's personal opinion, and/or something that will arrived due to external influence to itself?

I'm not sure I understand this question. I do think morality is subjective to God in the sense that he is the subject from whom all morality flows. It flows from his own character, including his desires and preferences.

So if it IS subjective to god, then the argument that trying to claim morality from god is "objective" seems disingenuous; it shifts the burden of subjectivity to God, but doesn't solve it.

It solves it to my satisfaction. Morality is objective to us in the sense that statements like "You ought to be kind to people" are true independently of whether any of us believe it, like it, value it, prefer it, etc. But since those statements are grounded in God's preferences, they are subjective to him.
"Not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education." ~Aristotle

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." ~Aristotle
bladerunner060
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1/19/2013 6:18:36 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/19/2013 5:42:31 PM, philochristos wrote:
At 1/19/2013 12:11:21 PM, bladerunner060 wrote:
At 1/19/2013 12:08:05 PM, philochristos wrote:
At 1/19/2013 12:03:20 PM, bladerunner060 wrote:
Then wouldn't the next three questions be:
1. Upon what grounds does God have moral authority over humanity?

The fact that he created us, and his autonomy.


So, the "might makes right" argument? If you create a thing, you own it and it owes you its behavior?

In God's case, yes. The reason we ordinarily oppose "might makes right" and "you create it, you own it" is because that doesn't work in our case, and the reason it doesn't work in our case is because there is a law above us. There is no law above God.

2. Isn't "transcends personal opinion and culture" a meaningless statement in reference to what I posited, as I could just say "eating pickles of morally correct, and transcends any personal opinion or culture", and that would make it objectively so, to you.

No, because it doesn't transcend personal opinion or culture. It's only your subjective opinion and has no binding force on any other person or culture.

What's "binding force"? Does it just return to the previous point, that because God created us and was before us, it therefore transcends?

"Binding" means you have an obligation to obey it.

3. If a will has said something, isn't that that by definition that will's personal opinion, and/or something that will arrived due to external influence to itself?

I'm not sure I understand this question. I do think morality is subjective to God in the sense that he is the subject from whom all morality flows. It flows from his own character, including his desires and preferences.

So if it IS subjective to god, then the argument that trying to claim morality from god is "objective" seems disingenuous; it shifts the burden of subjectivity to God, but doesn't solve it.

It solves it to my satisfaction. Morality is objective to us in the sense that statements like "You ought to be kind to people" are true independently of whether any of us believe it, like it, value it, prefer it, etc. But since those statements are grounded in God's preferences, they are subjective to him.

You and I fundamentally disagree on the validity of that, as I find it to be irresponsible. However, I can respect that it is your opinion.

I am curious if it is the general consensus on the subject from your side of the fence, though.
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philochristos
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1/19/2013 8:46:22 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/19/2013 6:18:36 PM, bladerunner060 wrote:
You and I fundamentally disagree on the validity of that, as I find it to be irresponsible. However, I can respect that it is your opinion.

I am curious if it is the general consensus on the subject from your side of the fence, though.

I don't know.
"Not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education." ~Aristotle

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." ~Aristotle
GarretKadeDupre
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1/20/2013 10:15:27 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
God creates a garden and two people to tend to it. He offers them unending happiness as long as they don't eat the fruit of a particular tree, but suffering if they disobey him.

I would say that its objectively immoral to eat of that tree, and objectively moral to avoid it. You can say it's 'subjectively' immoral to eat of that tree, but then it ignores the fact that there isn't any other standard by which it's moral, because only God's standard brings happiness while any other brings pain.

inb4 you say I'm basing objectivity on happiness: God is happiness.
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Stephen_Hawkins
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1/20/2013 10:18:16 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/20/2013 10:15:27 AM, GarretKadeDupre wrote:
God creates a garden and two people to tend to it. He offers them unending happiness as long as they don't eat the fruit of a particular tree, but suffering if they disobey him.

I would say that its objectively immoral to eat of that tree, and objectively moral to avoid it. You can say it's 'subjectively' immoral to eat of that tree, but then it ignores the fact that there isn't any other standard by which it's moral, because only God's standard brings happiness while any other brings pain.

inb4 you say I'm basing objectivity on happiness: God is happiness.

Yet no-one accepts that definition, and the fact that you understand that people will reject God is happiness implies that god is not tautologically the same as happiness. Which means God is not happiness (though following him results in happiness). Also, happiness is as vague as good. A short-term happiness can be gained at the expense of long-term happiness, or other people's happiness, or other 'types' of happiness.
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GarretKadeDupre
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1/20/2013 10:31:00 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/20/2013 10:18:16 AM, Stephen_Hawkins wrote:
At 1/20/2013 10:15:27 AM, GarretKadeDupre wrote:
God creates a garden and two people to tend to it. He offers them unending happiness as long as they don't eat the fruit of a particular tree, but suffering if they disobey him.

I would say that its objectively immoral to eat of that tree, and objectively moral to avoid it. You can say it's 'subjectively' immoral to eat of that tree, but then it ignores the fact that there isn't any other standard by which it's moral, because only God's standard brings happiness while any other brings pain.

inb4 you say I'm basing objectivity on happiness: God is happiness.

Yet no-one accepts that definition, and the fact that you understand that people will reject God is happiness implies that god is not tautologically the same as happiness. Which means God is not happiness (though following him results in happiness). Also, happiness is as vague as good. A short-term happiness can be gained at the expense of long-term happiness, or other people's happiness, or other 'types' of happiness.

Wow, you missed my point entirely. And this isn't about whether or not God exists; I think the question was --given that God exists-- how can there be objectivity?
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Kinesis
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1/20/2013 10:41:14 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/19/2013 11:39:33 AM, philochristos wrote:
When theists say that God is an objective source of morality, they mean God is a source of morality external to humanity, and that the morals that originate from God are objectively true to us since they don't depend on our believing them. They are not products of our own minds.

By that definition, a system of morality invented by chimpanzees is "objective".
philochristos
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1/20/2013 11:14:44 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/20/2013 10:41:14 AM, Kinesis wrote:
At 1/19/2013 11:39:33 AM, philochristos wrote:
When theists say that God is an objective source of morality, they mean God is a source of morality external to humanity, and that the morals that originate from God are objectively true to us since they don't depend on our believing them. They are not products of our own minds.

By that definition, a system of morality invented by chimpanzees is "objective".

I'm not saying that being external to humanity is a sufficient criteria for being objective. I'm saying it's a necessary criteria for being objective.
"Not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education." ~Aristotle

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." ~Aristotle
bladerunner060
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1/20/2013 12:03:20 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I'm not saying that being external to humanity is a sufficient criteria for being objective. I'm saying it's a necessary criteria for being objective.

The rest of the things you posit as being necessary remove objectivity from anywhere else in society, as far as I can tell, because the rest you seem to require as necessary basically make anything humans think non-objective, from the laws of physics to the color yellow.
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philochristos
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1/20/2013 12:31:36 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/20/2013 12:03:20 PM, bladerunner060 wrote:
I'm not saying that being external to humanity is a sufficient criteria for being objective. I'm saying it's a necessary criteria for being objective.

The rest of the things you posit as being necessary remove objectivity from anywhere else in society, as far as I can tell, because the rest you seem to require as necessary basically make anything humans think non-objective, from the laws of physics to the color yellow.

Oh no. You're confusing epistemology with ontology. The laws of physics are known with the human mind, but they are not products of the human mind. The laws of physics are grounded in the way the natural world actually is, which is what makes them objective. Statements like, "There is a force of attractions between two masses that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and indirectly proportional to the square of the distance between them" are objectively true because they correspond to reality and are not merely the subjective preferences or biases of the people who believe them. Whether they are true or false is independent of whether anybody apprehends them or not.

You mustn't confuse knowledge of a thing with the thing itself.
"Not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education." ~Aristotle

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." ~Aristotle
bladerunner060
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1/20/2013 12:40:05 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/20/2013 12:31:36 PM, philochristos wrote:
At 1/20/2013 12:03:20 PM, bladerunner060 wrote:
I'm not saying that being external to humanity is a sufficient criteria for being objective. I'm saying it's a necessary criteria for being objective.

The rest of the things you posit as being necessary remove objectivity from anywhere else in society, as far as I can tell, because the rest you seem to require as necessary basically make anything humans think non-objective, from the laws of physics to the color yellow.

Oh no. You're confusing epistemology with ontology. The laws of physics are known with the human mind, but they are not products of the human mind. The laws of physics are grounded in the way the natural world actually is, which is what makes them objective. Statements like, "There is a force of attractions between two masses that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and indirectly proportional to the square of the distance between them" are objectively true because they correspond to reality and are not merely the subjective preferences or biases of the people who believe them. Whether they are true or false is independent of whether anybody apprehends them or not.

You mustn't confuse knowledge of a thing with the thing itself.

Fair enough. But then, the statement "it is immoral to murder" seems to be a description of "the thing itself", and I still do not understand why we must have god to define that in order to achieve "objective" morality. I concede the physics example was not a good one, I was just being flippant, but concentrate on color: we, humans, have defined yellow. Can we not objectively say "this is yellow"? After all, we've defined it as a certain set of wavelenths...
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THEVIRUS
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1/20/2013 12:48:21 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
You guys should use numbers when you write so you don't have to quote everything
"So you want me to go to the judge with 'unit, corps, God, country'?" - A Few Good Men

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philochristos
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1/20/2013 10:43:15 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/20/2013 12:40:05 PM, bladerunner060 wrote:
Fair enough. But then, the statement "it is immoral to murder" seems to be a description of "the thing itself"...

That is true. But remember that a lot of things that you and I would probably agree is subjective are stated as if they were objective statements. For example, "Blue bell is the best ice cream in the country" sounds like it's a statement of fact about Blue Bell. But in reality, it's a subjective statement because "best" is a matter of personal preference. So the statement says more about the preferences of the subject making the claim than about Blue Bell.

So you can't necessarily use the grammar of a sentence to tell whether it's subjective or objective.

Moral objectivists and relativist both make moral claims that look exactly the same. Both of them are willing to say things like, "It's wrong to rape your father." But they both mean something different by that statement. When a moral objectivist makes that statement, they are actually talking about the act of rape itself. They are saying the act itself is wrong, regardless of how anybody else feels about it. But a relativist means that they and/or their culture or society oppose the act of rape, so in their case, the statement is about the preferences, feelings, and values of themselves and/or their culture.

and I still do not understand why we must have god to define that in order to achieve "objective" morality.

It's because morals are value judgements, and only persons ascribe value. But if you place value in kindness, and I place value in cruelty, but there is no standard that transcends us, then the value of kindness or cruelty is relative.

Suppose that because of you valuing kindness and me valuing cruelty, you think it's right to be kind and wrong to be cruel, but I think it's right to be cruel and wrong to be kind. Unless there is some authority over and above us who imposes some standard of behavior on us, whether to act cruelly or kindly, then neither of us is right and neither of us is wrong.

The only way there can be a correct answer to questions like, "Should I be kind or cruel?" that applies to all people regardless of their own feelings about it is if there is a moral authority that transcends humanity.

Morality contains imperatives. It prescribes behavior. It is like a rule that we are obligated to obey. But only persons make imperatives. Only persons impose obligations on people.

We have many authorities in our own world who make imperatives. Parents over teachers. Employers over employees. Commanders over soldiers. Governments over citizens. Etc. But none of these authorities are sufficient to create a moral right or wrong. The government can't making stealing right by legalizing it, and they can't make caring for one's parents wrong by making it illegal. There is such a thing as an unjust or immoral law because there is a moral law that is above the civil law and by which the civil law can be judged. That means there is an authority over all human institutions, whether parents, employers, commanders, or governments. In fact, there must be an ultimate authority because there is no conceivable imperatives that is over moral imperatives. Moral imperatives are at the top, and every other imperative can be judged by it. So whatever authority those imperatives come from must be an absolute and autonomous authority that transcends all human institutions and has no rivals.

I concede the physics example was not a good one, I was just being flippant, but concentrate on color: we, humans, have defined yellow. Can we not objectively say "this is yellow"? After all, we've defined it as a certain set of wavelenths...

I'm not sure. I guess that depends on whether you define "yellow" in terms of its wavelength or in terms of its perception. If you define it in terms of its wavelength, then, then "This is yellow" would be an objective statement because its wavelength doesn't depend on anybody's perception. But if you define it as perception, then it's a subjective statement because, for all we know, different people may perceive that wavelength differently, each calling it "yellow," but nobody knowing if anybody else is actually perceiving the same thing.
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bladerunner060
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1/20/2013 11:23:25 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I do think you confuse the "relativism" debate with the "subjectivity" one, philocristos.

The "subjectivity" of a moral statement is what comes under fire from many theists, in its own right, as though that subjectivity is a negative. But I can make value judgements, and call them objective; I can base them on certain rules, from which the rest of my moral framework would follow. Now, you may say "No, those are subjective because you're basing them on something you've chosen, only God makes objective rules", but I would reply that his rules are no more objective than mine; they are subjective to HIM as much as mine are to ME.

And you haven't disagreed with that, which is fine and intellectually honest.

The reason I call that irresponsible is:

No matter what, I won't rape a baby. If God himself came down and told me to, I wouldn't do it. Your philosophy would require you to do so, because you have put your decisions off yourself and onto god. Not only is that, to me, irresponsible because it is in itself morally reprehensible, but also because you cannot be sure WHAT your god is telling you is moral with any certainty.
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philochristos
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1/21/2013 12:21:51 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/20/2013 11:23:25 PM, bladerunner060 wrote:
I do think you confuse the "relativism" debate with the "subjectivity" one, philocristos.

The way I'm distinguishing "moral subjectivism" and "moral relativism" is that moral relativism is the idea that morality is a product of the subjective preferences of individuals, whereas "moral relativism" is the collective moral sentiments of groups. They are both opposed to moral objectivism.

But I can make value judgements, and call them objective; I can base them on certain rules, from which the rest of my moral framework would follow.

A lot of people do that, but I don't think it works. You're basically just reducing all morality to one or moral general principles, but the general principle itself needs to be grounded in something other than your own preference or the preference of your culture to be objectively true.

Now, you may say "No, those are subjective because you're basing them on something you've chosen, only God makes objective rules", but I would reply that his rules are no more objective than mine; they are subjective to HIM as much as mine are to ME.

Well, that is just to deny that God has any authority over you or that he is an ultimate authority over everybody. But I don't think you can consistently affirm objective morals while denying that any sort of god exists. If you doubt that any god could be sufficient to ground objective morality, then I think the best thing for you to conclude is that it's impossible for there to be objective morals. If the only thing that possibly could have grounded objective morals turns out to be insufficient, then objective morals just can't be grounded.

I have toyed with that idea myself, but when I'm completely honest with myself, I just can't bring myself to deny that some things really are wrong and some things really are right.

No matter what, I won't rape a baby. If God himself came down and told me to, I wouldn't do it. Your philosophy would require you to do so, because you have put your decisions off yourself and onto god. Not only is that, to me, irresponsible because it is in itself morally reprehensible, but also because you cannot be sure WHAT your god is telling you is moral with any certainty.

A lot of people think divine command theory is counter-intuitive because of certain thought experiments in which God commands you to do something that is clearly immoral--like raping a baby. But that strikes me as being a very weak argument because if God has forbidden baby rape, and he has designed us with a conscience that reflects that prohibition, then of course we would balk at the suggestion that things might be otherwise. Given the current morals that are true in the real world, and given that our conscience is in tune with those morals, we should expect that we would find it reprehensible that things might be otherwise. But that is only because things are not otherwise. If things were otherwise, we likely wouldn't balk at all. So this is not a good argument against grounding morality in God.

I think we can know right from wrong because unless we are sociopaths, morality is built into us. I agree that we can't be certain in every case. Lots of things can cloud our judgement--bad reasoning, self-interest, pride, rationalization, bad habits, bad motives, the difficulty of thinking through moral dilemmas, etc. But I don't see why lack of certainty is counts against my view. There are very few things in life that I'm certain about, but I still manage.
"Not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education." ~Aristotle

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." ~Aristotle
philochristos
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1/21/2013 12:35:55 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/21/2013 12:21:51 AM, philochristos wrote:
The way I'm distinguishing "moral subjectivism" and "moral relativism" is that moral relativism is the idea that morality is a product of the subjective preferences of individuals, whereas "moral relativism" is the collective moral sentiments of groups. They are both opposed to moral objectivism.

Oh, geesh. Typo. The words in bold should read, "moral subjectivism."
"Not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education." ~Aristotle

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." ~Aristotle
bladerunner060
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1/21/2013 10:29:28 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/21/2013 12:21:51 AM, philochristos wrote:

A lot of people do that, but I don't think it works. You're basically just reducing all morality to one or moral general principles, but the general principle itself needs to be grounded in something other than your own preference or the preference of your culture to be objectively true.

The problem that I have is that that is exactly what you have done, except you have reduced your morality to the general principle of "what god says, goes". That is your own preference.

Well, that is just to deny that God has any authority over you

Yup.

or that he is an ultimate authority over everybody. But I don't think you can consistently affirm objective morals while denying that any sort of god exists. If you doubt that any god could be sufficient to ground objective morality, then I think the best thing for you to conclude is that it's impossible for there to be objective morals. If the only thing that possibly could have grounded objective morals turns out to be insufficient, then objective morals just can't be grounded.

I think there are some very basic morals that can be grounded objectively, and I think there are some others that do require basic premises to be accepted. Thinking of theft as morally wrong, for example, requires that one accept the concept of property.


I have toyed with that idea myself, but when I'm completely honest with myself, I just can't bring myself to deny that some things really are wrong and some things really are right.

But while we may agree on many of those things, once you bring up one that I disagree with you about, your only argument boils down to "well, god said", which is both a weak argument and nigh-impossible to prove anyway (a major problem that rarely gets addressed by the "god is an objective source" crowd).

A lot of people think divine command theory is counter-intuitive because of certain thought experiments in which God commands you to do something that is clearly immoral--like raping a baby. But that strikes me as being a very weak argument because if God has forbidden baby rape, and he has designed us with a conscience that reflects that prohibition, then of course we would balk at the suggestion that things might be otherwise. Given the current morals that are true in the real world, and given that our conscience is in tune with those morals, we should expect that we would find it reprehensible that things might be otherwise. But that is only because things are not otherwise. If things were otherwise, we likely wouldn't balk at all. So this is not a good argument against grounding morality in God.

Our conscience was not "designed" into us. While we are born with a capacity to have a conscience, it is shaped by our life and the world around us. If it was not, we would all agree on what is right and what is wrong, naturally. But we do not. Things like eating pork are "wrong" to Orthodox Jews, but not to me (well, I'm a vegetarian, but you get the point). Being homosexual is "wrong" to some Christians, but not to me. The "conscience design" argument fails completely to me.


I think we can know right from wrong because unless we are sociopaths, morality is built into us.

The capacity for morality is built into us, not the morality itself. Watch small children lie without a qualm

I agree that we can't be certain in every case. Lots of things can cloud our judgement--bad reasoning, self-interest, pride, rationalization, bad habits, bad motives, the difficulty of thinking through moral dilemmas, etc. But I don't see why lack of certainty is counts against my view. There are very few things in life that I'm certain about, but I still manage.

Of course, our judgment doesn't matter, according to you, only god's. Your lack of certainty counts against you because if you have an objective standard to apply to something, it should be fairly easy to reach the correct conclusion consistently.
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