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Problems of Moral Relativism

Fkkize
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8/11/2015 9:09:36 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
Since I couldn't find anyone to debate this topic formally, I am just going to share my views here. Moreover, I decided to, from now on, do one of these topics every once in while so I can write down my thoughts and have them criticized. When I'm done presenting my reasons for rejecting other views, I am going to give some arguments in support of my own.

Moral relativists and subjectivists are often charged, rather polemically, with nothing being really wrong, according to their view.
"If there are no objective standards, then the Nazi's weren't really doing something wrong. It was Ok relative to their view and you can't properly condemn them!"
Usually this is shrugged of as an appeal to emotion and rightly so. I think, however, these derogatory remarks reveal at their core a rather big flaw in the relativist view.

In developing his error-theory, Richard Joyce identified so called 'non-negotiable aspects' of moral discourse. He also loves, as many philosophers do, to draw analogies to phlogiston and other outdated theories.
For Newton, objects travelled through absolute space. Later, we found out that this is, in fact, wrong, space is relative. Frankly, we did not banish all talk about motion. This is because absoluteness of space is not a non-negotiable aspect of motion-talk. Change of position is.
On the other hand we have phlogiston theory. It was used for many years and actually produced some reasonable results (although the idea of an invisible fluid, negative in mass was always suspect). Later, we found out that there is no such thing as phlogiston, oxygen causes combustion. Contrary to Newton, a phlogiston theorist cannot simply say, this is what he meant all along. Phlogiston is fundamentally different from oxygen, one escapes from an object into the air, the other is already in the air and then reacts with an object. This was a non-negotiable aspect of phlogiston-talk, which is why we banished all talk of it and replaced it with oxygen talk.

Joyce argues that, similarly, moral-talk has non-negotiable aspects as well. One of which is objectivity. If we were to find somebody torturing a child, we are not interested in whether it is ok relative to him or his culture or whatever, we want him to stop regardless of what he thinks, approves of or desires. We do not even consider the moral framework of child torturers, what he does is wrong, period.
And I agree with Joyce in that "it is "the whole point" of moral discourse that it allows us to speak of actions in such a manner" (The Myth of Morality, sec.4.5).

So, either we find an account of moral discourse that makes sense of this objectivity (moral realism) or we have to discard moral discourse as fundamentally flawed (error-theory).
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
Fkkize
Posts: 2,149
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8/11/2015 2:43:40 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
I don't want anyone to think I present some cooked up strawmen. Therefore, I am only going to summarize ideas from proper philosophers, like Joyce, Shafer-Landau, Korsgaard and Enoch among others and state my own views somewhere near the end of each post.
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
sdavio
Posts: 1,798
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8/11/2015 3:01:13 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/11/2015 2:43:40 PM, Fkkize wrote:
I don't want anyone to think I present some cooked up strawmen. Therefore, I am only going to summarize ideas from proper philosophers, like Joyce, Shafer-Landau, Korsgaard and Enoch among others and state my own views somewhere near the end of each post.

As I see it, then you're not criticizing the view which would totally ditch morality - only the kind which would accept moralistic language without keeping the absolutist grounding? I would seem to agree that the whole discourse and concept of "morality" is too caught up in universalizing concepts to be retrievable as something more along the lines of personal preference. It seems you are framing this as almost axiomatic where I'd see it as more of an effect of previous understandings and hence the connotations of words, however the conclusion seems similar.
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,245
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8/11/2015 3:12:38 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
If Moral Relativism is to mean "believing that something is moral makes it so", then I think your criticism is on target. But if it just means "All moral systems are equal in their arbitrariness, with none being objectively preferable to any others" then Moral Relativism isn't even trying to engage in moral-talk - it's rejecting the premise of morality altogether.
Fkkize
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8/11/2015 3:18:02 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/11/2015 3:01:13 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 8/11/2015 2:43:40 PM, Fkkize wrote:
I don't want anyone to think I present some cooked up strawmen. Therefore, I am only going to summarize ideas from proper philosophers, like Joyce, Shafer-Landau, Korsgaard and Enoch among others and state my own views somewhere near the end of each post.

As I see it, then you're not criticizing the view which would totally ditch morality -
Abolitionist error-theory? Well, I didn't aim to do that anyway. It's is planned for another thread.

only the kind which would accept moralistic language without keeping the absolutist grounding?
This line of reasoning goes against relativist/subjectivist metaethics. Just as the title says.

I would seem to agree that the whole discourse and concept of "morality" is too caught up in universalizing concepts to be retrievable as something more along the lines of personal preference.
How then would you respond to Joyce's argument?

It seems you are framing this as almost axiomatic where I'd see it as more of an effect of previous understandings and hence the connotations of words,
I don't think there is much of pre-theoretic commitment a plausible metaethics can dispense with. Take for instance Railton's realism (I think). One big problem his account has is that it is completely revisionary. It is alienating. Similarly, if we dispense with reason giving, objectivity or some other aspect then we ultimately have an account that is either incomplete, incoherent or alienating.

however the conclusion seems similar.
It seems to me that you claimed the exact opposite of the conclusion to be true. Perhaps I just don't understand you correctly
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
Fkkize
Posts: 2,149
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8/11/2015 3:23:08 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/11/2015 3:12:38 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
If Moral Relativism is to mean "believing that something is moral makes it so", then I think your criticism is on target. But if it just means "All moral systems are equal in their arbitrariness, with none being objectively preferable to any others" then Moral Relativism isn't even trying to engage in moral-talk - it's rejecting the premise of morality altogether.

Relativism is understood here as Gilbert Harman formulates it: moral imperatives are agent relative. But your first one works just fine.
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
sdavio
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8/11/2015 4:13:57 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/11/2015 3:18:02 PM, Fkkize wrote:
I would seem to agree that the whole discourse and concept of "morality" is too caught up in universalizing concepts to be retrievable as something more along the lines of personal preference.
How then would you respond to Joyce's argument?

If you're talking about the thing about objectivity as a non-negotiable aspect of moral-talk, this is what I was interpreting in just what I said above; maybe this was a misunderstanding?

It seems you are framing this as almost axiomatic where I'd see it as more of an effect of previous understandings and hence the connotations of words,
I don't think there is much of pre-theoretic commitment a plausible metaethics can dispense with. Take for instance Railton's realism (I think). One big problem his account has is that it is completely revisionary. It is alienating. Similarly, if we dispense with reason giving, objectivity or some other aspect then we ultimately have an account that is either incomplete, incoherent or alienating.

What is in question here ultimately seems to be the issue of at what point within discourse it the "dispensable" is delineated from the "indispensable". I am placing this delineation squarely within the realm of discourse itself - as its work - whereas your statements seem to place it in the "pre-theoretical" which I think betrays a Platonic inheritance in the sense that theory can only be the imperfect recollection of pre-determined distinctions. This actually plays out as normative in the sense that it functions as a prescriptive standard for all discourse.

however the conclusion seems similar.
It seems to me that you claimed the exact opposite of the conclusion to be true. Perhaps I just don't understand you correctly

I'm not sure I know what the conclusion is any more, but I assumed that in talking about non-negotiable aspects you were referencing those aspects of a definition which cannot be cleaved without depriving the concept in question of an integral part of its commonly-understood meaning. I'd agree in this respect, if this was your intended meaning, in that talk of a "morality" which is non-objective or otherwise radically personal would involve essentially reinventing or re-using the word "morality" with an almost irrelevant meaning, or to hide an implicit universalizing under a deceptive pretence.
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
Kozu
Posts: 381
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8/11/2015 4:14:03 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/11/2015 9:09:36 AM, Fkkize wrote:
Joyce argues that, similarly, moral-talk has non-negotiable aspects as well. One of which is objectivity. If we were to find somebody torturing a child, we are not interested in whether it is ok relative to him or his culture or whatever, we want him to stop regardless of what he thinks, approves of or desires. We do not even consider the moral framework of child torturers, what he does is wrong, period.
And I agree with Joyce in that "it is "the whole point" of moral discourse that it allows us to speak of actions in such a manner" (The Myth of Morality, sec.4.5).

So, either we find an account of moral discourse that makes sense of this objectivity (moral realism) or we have to discard moral discourse as fundamentally flawed (error-theory).

I don't recognize torturing a child as a non-negotiable aspect of moral-talk. Even if most of us think its "wrong" and he should just stop, I don't see how that makes it objectively wrong. Clearly the man torturing the child saw this as negotiable, he's probably goal driven. To even assert that there are "non-negotiable" aspects of moral talk seems to beg the question of moral realism.

If the point of moral talk is to establish rights and wrongs but we cant objectively do so, then I supposed we should just do away with it. As unpragmatic as that may be.
Fkkize
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8/11/2015 4:23:32 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/11/2015 4:14:03 PM, Kozu wrote:
At 8/11/2015 9:09:36 AM, Fkkize wrote:
Joyce argues that, similarly, moral-talk has non-negotiable aspects as well. One of which is objectivity. If we were to find somebody torturing a child, we are not interested in whether it is ok relative to him or his culture or whatever, we want him to stop regardless of what he thinks, approves of or desires. We do not even consider the moral framework of child torturers, what he does is wrong, period.
And I agree with Joyce in that "it is "the whole point" of moral discourse that it allows us to speak of actions in such a manner" (The Myth of Morality, sec.4.5).

So, either we find an account of moral discourse that makes sense of this objectivity (moral realism) or we have to discard moral discourse as fundamentally flawed (error-theory).

I don't recognize torturing a child as a non-negotiable aspect of moral-talk. Even if most of us think its "wrong" and he should just stop, I don't see how that makes it objectively wrong. Clearly the man torturing the child saw this as negotiable, he's probably goal driven. To even assert that there are "non-negotiable" aspects of moral talk seems to beg the question of moral realism.

If the point of moral talk is to establish rights and wrongs but we cant objectively do so, then I supposed we should just do away with it. As unpragmatic as that may be.
I haven't argued for realism in any way. This is merely an argument against relativism. If you are already a nihilist, then of course you wouldn't consider it wrong, but even a nihilist (like Joyce) can make an argument based on the analysis of everyday moral discourse. The point is not that torturing children is non-negotiable. Rather objectivity is. But you can't hold nihilism without any reason, first you have to argue for it. If you first have to assume realism for a reductio then so be it, nothing wrong with that.
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
kp98
Posts: 729
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8/11/2015 4:29:49 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
I don't see how that makes it objectively wrong.

Why do you need to see how it works? Isn't the realisation that it could never be right to torture a baby for fun be sufficient to demonstrate that some things have a non-negotiable/objective morality? I think if one was to disagree with that and insist that maybe baby torture isn't so bad after all then your clutching at a very unlikely straw - far more unlikely that torturing babies really is bad....period.

We can worry about the how it works when we recognise that the phenomenon of objective morality is at least arguably real.
Fkkize
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8/11/2015 4:31:45 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/11/2015 4:13:57 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 8/11/2015 3:18:02 PM, Fkkize wrote:
I would seem to agree that the whole discourse and concept of "morality" is too caught up in universalizing concepts to be retrievable as something more along the lines of personal preference.
How then would you respond to Joyce's argument?

If you're talking about the thing about objectivity as a non-negotiable aspect of moral-talk, this is what I was interpreting in just what I said above; maybe this was a misunderstanding?
Sorry, I misunderstood what you initially said.

It seems you are framing this as almost axiomatic where I'd see it as more of an effect of previous understandings and hence the connotations of words,
I don't think there is much of pre-theoretic commitment a plausible metaethics can dispense with. Take for instance Railton's realism (I think). One big problem his account has is that it is completely revisionary. It is alienating. Similarly, if we dispense with reason giving, objectivity or some other aspect then we ultimately have an account that is either incomplete, incoherent or alienating.

What is in question here ultimately seems to be the issue of at what point within discourse it the "dispensable" is delineated from the "indispensable". I am placing this delineation squarely within the realm of discourse itself - as its work - whereas your statements seem to place it in the "pre-theoretical" which I think betrays a Platonic inheritance in the sense that theory can only be the imperfect recollection of pre-determined distinctions. This actually plays out as normative in the sense that it functions as a prescriptive standard for all discourse.
I'm not sure where the difference is between "the" discourse and the "pre-theoretic" discourse. But overall I think we are in agreement.

however the conclusion seems similar.
It seems to me that you claimed the exact opposite of the conclusion to be true. Perhaps I just don't understand you correctly

I'm not sure I know what the conclusion is any more, but I assumed that in talking about non-negotiable aspects you were referencing those aspects of a definition which cannot be cleaved without depriving the concept in question of an integral part of its commonly-understood meaning.
Yes.

I'd agree in this respect, if this was your intended meaning, in that talk of a "morality" which is non-objective or otherwise radically personal would involve essentially reinventing or re-using the word "morality" with an almost irrelevant meaning, or to hide an implicit universalizing under a deceptive pretence.

Yes, once more.
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
Kozu
Posts: 381
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8/11/2015 5:14:46 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/11/2015 4:23:32 PM, Fkkize wrote:
At 8/11/2015 4:14:03 PM, Kozu wrote:
At 8/11/2015 9:09:36 AM, Fkkize wrote:
Joyce argues that, similarly, moral-talk has non-negotiable aspects as well. One of which is objectivity. If we were to find somebody torturing a child, we are not interested in whether it is ok relative to him or his culture or whatever, we want him to stop regardless of what he thinks, approves of or desires. We do not even consider the moral framework of child torturers, what he does is wrong, period.
And I agree with Joyce in that "it is "the whole point" of moral discourse that it allows us to speak of actions in such a manner" (The Myth of Morality, sec.4.5).

So, either we find an account of moral discourse that makes sense of this objectivity (moral realism) or we have to discard moral discourse as fundamentally flawed (error-theory).

I don't recognize torturing a child as a non-negotiable aspect of moral-talk. Even if most of us think its "wrong" and he should just stop, I don't see how that makes it objectively wrong. Clearly the man torturing the child saw this as negotiable, he's probably goal driven. To even assert that there are "non-negotiable" aspects of moral talk seems to beg the question of moral realism.

If the point of moral talk is to establish rights and wrongs but we cant objectively do so, then I supposed we should just do away with it. As unpragmatic as that may be.
I haven't argued for realism in any way. This is merely an argument against relativism. If you are already a nihilist, then of course you wouldn't consider it wrong, but even a nihilist (like Joyce) can make an argument based on the analysis of everyday moral discourse. The point is not that torturing children is non-negotiable. Rather objectivity is. But you can't hold nihilism without any reason, first you have to argue for it. If you first have to assume realism for a reductio then so be it, nothing wrong with that.

Like atheism, I'v always considered nihilism as the "default" position. It makes no assertions, its the other moral systems that are saying something is right or wrong. I hold to nihilism because the other systems have failed to justify themselves or any moral actions.

When you talk about objectivity being non-negotiable, exactly what are you referring to that's objective? Our intuitions?
sdavio
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8/11/2015 5:22:32 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/11/2015 5:14:46 PM, Kozu wrote:
When you talk about objectivity being non-negotiable, exactly what are you referring to that's objective? Our intuitions?

As I see it, it's just saying that it's non-negotiable as part of the concept; if I proved the existence of X 'person without a beard' I didn't just prove Santa, if we define Santa's beard as a 'non-negotiable property'. And in the same way, I could prove the existence of subjective standards without proving morality because objectivity is an essential part of the concept.
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
Fkkize
Posts: 2,149
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8/11/2015 5:35:18 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/11/2015 5:14:46 PM, Kozu wrote:
At 8/11/2015 4:23:32 PM, Fkkize wrote:
At 8/11/2015 4:14:03 PM, Kozu wrote:
At 8/11/2015 9:09:36 AM, Fkkize wrote:
So, either we find an account of moral discourse that makes sense of this objectivity (moral realism) or we have to discard moral discourse as fundamentally flawed (error-theory).

I don't recognize torturing a child as a non-negotiable aspect of moral-talk. Even if most of us think its "wrong" and he should just stop, I don't see how that makes it objectively wrong. Clearly the man torturing the child saw this as negotiable, he's probably goal driven. To even assert that there are "non-negotiable" aspects of moral talk seems to beg the question of moral realism.

If the point of moral talk is to establish rights and wrongs but we cant objectively do so, then I supposed we should just do away with it. As unpragmatic as that may be.
I haven't argued for realism in any way. This is merely an argument against relativism. If you are already a nihilist, then of course you wouldn't consider it wrong, but even a nihilist (like Joyce) can make an argument based on the analysis of everyday moral discourse. The point is not that torturing children is non-negotiable. Rather objectivity is. But you can't hold nihilism without any reason, first you have to argue for it. If you first have to assume realism for a reductio then so be it, nothing wrong with that.

Like atheism, I'v always considered nihilism as the "default" position.
I disagree on the atheism part, but I don't want to discuss that here.

It makes no assertions, its the other moral systems that are saying something is right or wrong. I hold to nihilism because the other systems have failed to justify themselves or any moral actions.
Moral nihilism does make assertions. Namely that nothing is morally wrong (or right) or that no moral properties exist, however you like to formulate it. The only one who makes no assertions whatsoever is a pyrrhonian skeptic. It is widely agreed among realists and anti-realists alike that the greater burden is on the latter. Joyce concedes this.

When you talk about objectivity being non-negotiable, exactly what are you referring to that's objective? Our intuitions?
When I say moral claims purport objectivity, I mean they leave no room for matters of personal perspective. As I've written in the OP, nobody cares, in the face of seeing somebody torturing a child or thinking about child torture in general, about anyone's perspective or desires on the matter. It is irrelevant whether the torturer in question is from a culture that accepts child torture or whether he enjoys it. It's wrong, period.
Note, I am not making an argument for moral realism here.
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
Kozu
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8/11/2015 6:57:35 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/11/2015 5:35:18 PM, Fkkize wrote:
At 8/11/2015 5:14:46 PM, Kozu wrote:
At 8/11/2015 4:23:32 PM, Fkkize wrote:
At 8/11/2015 4:14:03 PM, Kozu wrote:
At 8/11/2015 9:09:36 AM, Fkkize wrote:
So, either we find an account of moral discourse that makes sense of this objectivity (moral realism) or we have to discard moral discourse as fundamentally flawed (error-theory).

I don't recognize torturing a child as a non-negotiable aspect of moral-talk. Even if most of us think its "wrong" and he should just stop, I don't see how that makes it objectively wrong. Clearly the man torturing the child saw this as negotiable, he's probably goal driven. To even assert that there are "non-negotiable" aspects of moral talk seems to beg the question of moral realism.

If the point of moral talk is to establish rights and wrongs but we cant objectively do so, then I supposed we should just do away with it. As unpragmatic as that may be.
I haven't argued for realism in any way. This is merely an argument against relativism. If you are already a nihilist, then of course you wouldn't consider it wrong, but even a nihilist (like Joyce) can make an argument based on the analysis of everyday moral discourse. The point is not that torturing children is non-negotiable. Rather objectivity is. But you can't hold nihilism without any reason, first you have to argue for it. If you first have to assume realism for a reductio then so be it, nothing wrong with that.

Like atheism, I'v always considered nihilism as the "default" position.
I disagree on the atheism part, but I don't want to discuss that here.

It makes no assertions, its the other moral systems that are saying something is right or wrong. I hold to nihilism because the other systems have failed to justify themselves or any moral actions.
Moral nihilism does make assertions. Namely that nothing is morally wrong (or right) or that no moral properties exist, however you like to formulate it. The only one who makes no assertions whatsoever is a pyrrhonian skeptic. It is widely agreed among realists and anti-realists alike that the greater burden is on the latter. Joyce concedes this.

Why do anti-realists have the burden? Prima facie, it seems there are no moral features in this world. When you consider morality is entirely a human construct and thus relies on human perspective, I don't see how it's possible for morality to be objective when its subjective by its very nature.

When you talk about objectivity being non-negotiable, exactly what are you referring to that's objective? Our intuitions?
When I say moral claims purport objectivity, I mean they leave no room for matters of personal perspective. As I've written in the OP, nobody cares, in the face of seeing somebody torturing a child or thinking about child torture in general, about anyone's perspective or desires on the matter. It is irrelevant whether the torturer in question is from a culture that accepts child torture or whether he enjoys it. It's wrong, period.
Note, I am not making an argument for moral realism here.

I keep reading this part as an argument for realism. How can you just say "its wrong, period." without trying to affirming realism?
Fkkize
Posts: 2,149
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8/11/2015 7:12:27 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/11/2015 6:57:35 PM, Kozu wrote:
At 8/11/2015 5:35:18 PM, Fkkize wrote:
At 8/11/2015 5:14:46 PM, Kozu wrote:
At 8/11/2015 4:23:32 PM, Fkkize wrote:
At 8/11/2015 4:14:03 PM, Kozu wrote:
At 8/11/2015 9:09:36 AM, Fkkize wrote:
So, either we find an account of moral discourse that makes sense of this objectivity (moral realism) or we have to discard moral discourse as fundamentally flawed (error-theory).

I don't recognize torturing a child as a non-negotiable aspect of moral-talk. Even if most of us think its "wrong" and he should just stop, I don't see how that makes it objectively wrong. Clearly the man torturing the child saw this as negotiable, he's probably goal driven. To even assert that there are "non-negotiable" aspects of moral talk seems to beg the question of moral realism.

If the point of moral talk is to establish rights and wrongs but we cant objectively do so, then I supposed we should just do away with it. As unpragmatic as that may be.
I haven't argued for realism in any way. This is merely an argument against relativism. If you are already a nihilist, then of course you wouldn't consider it wrong, but even a nihilist (like Joyce) can make an argument based on the analysis of everyday moral discourse. The point is not that torturing children is non-negotiable. Rather objectivity is. But you can't hold nihilism without any reason, first you have to argue for it. If you first have to assume realism for a reductio then so be it, nothing wrong with that.

Like atheism, I'v always considered nihilism as the "default" position.
I disagree on the atheism part, but I don't want to discuss that here.

It makes no assertions, its the other moral systems that are saying something is right or wrong. I hold to nihilism because the other systems have failed to justify themselves or any moral actions.
Moral nihilism does make assertions. Namely that nothing is morally wrong (or right) or that no moral properties exist, however you like to formulate it. The only one who makes no assertions whatsoever is a pyrrhonian skeptic. It is widely agreed among realists and anti-realists alike that the greater burden is on the latter. Joyce concedes this.

Why do anti-realists have the burden? Prima facie, it seems there are no moral features in this world. When you consider morality is entirely a human construct and thus relies on human perspective, I don't see how it's possible for morality to be objective when its subjective by its very nature.
I'd say 99.8% of people think that prima facie there are some moral values, objective or relative and I don't think this can be reasonably disputed. Especially since a great majority of people are religious, I doubt they think of morality as a purely human construct.

When you talk about objectivity being non-negotiable, exactly what are you referring to that's objective? Our intuitions?
When I say moral claims purport objectivity, I mean they leave no room for matters of personal perspective. As I've written in the OP, nobody cares, in the face of seeing somebody torturing a child or thinking about child torture in general, about anyone's perspective or desires on the matter. It is irrelevant whether the torturer in question is from a culture that accepts child torture or whether he enjoys it. It's wrong, period.
Note, I am not making an argument for moral realism here.

I keep reading this part as an argument for realism. How can you just say "its wrong, period." without trying to affirming realism?
Because it is an analysis of ordinary moral discourse. Joyce uses this for a reductio along the lines of "these are the non-negotiable aspects of moral discourse, but they cannot be made sense of, therefore one is never under any moral obligation" (of course extremely caricatured).
The moral I draw from the OP argument (not the caricatured) is that either we can in fact make sense of moral discourse or we cannot, resulting in either moral realism or error-theory (objectivity or nihilism). The argument alone makes no preference either way, it just excludes non-objective, cognitivist (not sure about non-cognitivist) metaethics.
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
Kozu
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8/11/2015 11:59:34 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/11/2015 7:12:27 PM, Fkkize wrote:
At 8/11/2015 6:57:35 PM, Kozu wrote:
At 8/11/2015 5:35:18 PM, Fkkize wrote:
At 8/11/2015 5:14:46 PM, Kozu wrote:
At 8/11/2015 4:23:32 PM, Fkkize wrote:
At 8/11/2015 4:14:03 PM, Kozu wrote:
At 8/11/2015 9:09:36 AM, Fkkize wrote:
So, either we find an account of moral discourse that makes sense of this objectivity (moral realism) or we have to discard moral discourse as fundamentally flawed (error-theory).

I don't recognize torturing a child as a non-negotiable aspect of moral-talk. Even if most of us think its "wrong" and he should just stop, I don't see how that makes it objectively wrong. Clearly the man torturing the child saw this as negotiable, he's probably goal driven. To even assert that there are "non-negotiable" aspects of moral talk seems to beg the question of moral realism.

If the point of moral talk is to establish rights and wrongs but we cant objectively do so, then I supposed we should just do away with it. As unpragmatic as that may be.
I haven't argued for realism in any way. This is merely an argument against relativism. If you are already a nihilist, then of course you wouldn't consider it wrong, but even a nihilist (like Joyce) can make an argument based on the analysis of everyday moral discourse. The point is not that torturing children is non-negotiable. Rather objectivity is. But you can't hold nihilism without any reason, first you have to argue for it. If you first have to assume realism for a reductio then so be it, nothing wrong with that.

Like atheism, I'v always considered nihilism as the "default" position.
I disagree on the atheism part, but I don't want to discuss that here.

It makes no assertions, its the other moral systems that are saying something is right or wrong. I hold to nihilism because the other systems have failed to justify themselves or any moral actions.
Moral nihilism does make assertions. Namely that nothing is morally wrong (or right) or that no moral properties exist, however you like to formulate it. The only one who makes no assertions whatsoever is a pyrrhonian skeptic. It is widely agreed among realists and anti-realists alike that the greater burden is on the latter. Joyce concedes this.

Why do anti-realists have the burden? Prima facie, it seems there are no moral features in this world. When you consider morality is entirely a human construct and thus relies on human perspective, I don't see how it's possible for morality to be objective when its subjective by its very nature.
I'd say 99.8% of people think that prima facie there are some moral values, objective or relative and I don't think this can be reasonably disputed. Especially since a great majority of people are religious, I doubt they think of morality as a purely human construct.

When you talk about objectivity being non-negotiable, exactly what are you referring to that's objective? Our intuitions?
When I say moral claims purport objectivity, I mean they leave no room for matters of personal perspective. As I've written in the OP, nobody cares, in the face of seeing somebody torturing a child or thinking about child torture in general, about anyone's perspective or desires on the matter. It is irrelevant whether the torturer in question is from a culture that accepts child torture or whether he enjoys it. It's wrong, period.
Note, I am not making an argument for moral realism here.

I keep reading this part as an argument for realism. How can you just say "its wrong, period." without trying to affirming realism?
Because it is an analysis of ordinary moral discourse. Joyce uses this for a reductio along the lines of "these are the non-negotiable aspects of moral discourse, but they cannot be made sense of, therefore one is never under any moral obligation" (of course extremely caricatured).
The moral I draw from the OP argument (not the caricatured) is that either we can in fact make sense of moral discourse or we cannot, resulting in either moral realism or error-theory (objectivity or nihilism). The argument alone makes no preference either way, it just excludes non-objective, cognitivist (not sure about non-cognitivist) metaethics.

I see what your saying now, and I don't disagree. That's probably why I'm nihilistic.

I do like what sdavio said in his first post though.
" I would seem to agree that the whole discourse and concept of "morality" is too caught up in universalizing concepts to be retrievable as something more along the lines of personal preference."

Why not treat morals as preferences? Because it would lead to the absurd conclusion that we can't justifiably do anything to the torturer?
Sidewalker
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8/12/2015 1:19:35 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/11/2015 2:43:40 PM, Fkkize wrote:
I don't want anyone to think I present some cooked up strawmen. Therefore, I am only going to summarize ideas from proper philosophers, like Joyce, Shafer-Landau, Korsgaard and Enoch among others and state my own views somewhere near the end of each post.

It's not clear what your own views are in the OP, as I recall, you ascribe to error theory, correct?

Are you a global skeptic, do you believe that knowledge is possible? If you aren"t a global skeptic, then what is it about moral knowledge that makes it more problematic than other kinds of knowledge?
"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
Fkkize
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8/12/2015 1:53:05 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/12/2015 1:19:35 AM, Sidewalker wrote:
At 8/11/2015 2:43:40 PM, Fkkize wrote:
I don't want anyone to think I present some cooked up strawmen. Therefore, I am only going to summarize ideas from proper philosophers, like Joyce, Shafer-Landau, Korsgaard and Enoch among others and state my own views somewhere near the end of each post.

It's not clear what your own views are in the OP, as I recall, you ascribe to error theory, correct?
I have at least until recently. In the OP I described a dichotomy near the end between realism or error-theory. I have to do some reading before I can decide.

Are you a global skeptic, do you believe that knowledge is possible? If you aren"t a global skeptic, then what is it about moral knowledge that makes it more problematic than other kinds of knowledge?
Error-theory is perhaps better classified as nihilism than skepticism. It depends on how you read Mackie or so some say, but a modern error-theory is not unsure, it actively denies. The error-theory I am sympathetic with is limited to moral truth value. I think non-moral normativity is just fine, but moral properties seem to claim an authority that doesn't make sense.
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
Philocat
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8/12/2015 12:19:16 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Just some thoughts.

Many people seem to use the term 'moral relativism' synonymously with moral nihilism/error-theory, which is intellectually disingenuous because the former is relatively easy to refute whereas the latter is, by its nature, very difficult to counter. This is probably why moral relativism has remained somewhat popular in the modern world, because it has sheltered itself under the strong umbrella of moral nihilism. The distinction between the two is that moral relativism does not deny that morality exists, whereas moral nihilism does.

Moral relativism can be roughly split between two theories: cultural relativism and moral subjectivism.

The thing about moral relativism is that it doesn't deny the existence of morality, it denies the existence of a trans-cultural/trans-personal objective moral standard. Nevertheless, it does hold that morality does exist, but (in the case of cultural relativism) its nature is dependent on general social consensus and (in the case of moral subjectivism).

For example, if there is a general social consensus that same-sex marriage is morally right, then same-sex marriage is morally right according to cultural relativism. It is made so by virtue of its approval by society.

Moral subjectivism, on the other hand, asserts that if a person believes that abortion is morally right then abortion is therefore morally right.

To put it in a rough logical form:

Cultural relativism

If X is thought of by society to be morally right
Then X is morally right in that society

Moral Subjectivism

If X is thought of by a given person to be morally right
Then X is morally right for that person

The problem with moral relativism, however, is that it doesn't really describe morality. Even if it does, then this view of morality is so arbitrary that it isn't worth considering. If morality is simply 'that which is desired', then there is no point talking about morality - we would be better off sticking to talk of personal/cultural desires.

Also, the conclusions of these theories are counter-intuitive. Under cultural relativism, it is impossible for society to desire a morally wrong act, because this entails a contradiction (an act is morally wrong if it isn't desired by society, if it is desired then it cannot be called morally wrong). As Fkkize wrote in the OP, we would have no moral justification at all for denouncing Nazi atrocities, because these atrocities are morally right by virtue of the fact that the Nazi society deemed them to be morally right.

Similarly, within moral subjectivism it is impossible for one to make a sincere but false moral proposition, since if they sincerely hold a proposition to be true, then that is all that is needed to render it true. Therefore, we would have no moral justification whatsoever to condemn rapists, child-torturers, mutilators or murderers. It also makes morality so arbitrary that it effectively ceases to exist. 'Morality' implies some criteria above subjective desires that determines right and wrong. We can deny that this criteria exists, as the moral nihilist does, but to maintain the existence of a criteria whilst making it entirely subjective according to personal desires, then can we even call it a criteria anymore?
Fkkize
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8/12/2015 1:17:40 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/12/2015 12:19:16 PM, Philocat wrote:
Just some thoughts.

Many people seem to use the term 'moral relativism' synonymously with moral nihilism/error-theory, which is intellectually disingenuous because the former is relatively easy to refute whereas the latter is, by its nature, very difficult to counter. This is probably why moral relativism has remained somewhat popular in the modern world, because it has sheltered itself under the strong umbrella of moral nihilism. The distinction between the two is that moral relativism does not deny that morality exists, whereas moral nihilism does.

Moral relativism can be roughly split between two theories: cultural relativism and moral subjectivism.

The thing about moral relativism is that it doesn't deny the existence of morality, it denies the existence of a trans-cultural/trans-personal objective moral standard. Nevertheless, it does hold that morality does exist, but (in the case of cultural relativism) its nature is dependent on general social consensus and (in the case of moral subjectivism).

For example, if there is a general social consensus that same-sex marriage is morally right, then same-sex marriage is morally right according to cultural relativism. It is made so by virtue of its approval by society.

Moral subjectivism, on the other hand, asserts that if a person believes that abortion is morally right then abortion is therefore morally right.

To put it in a rough logical form:

Cultural relativism

If X is thought of by society to be morally right
Then X is morally right in that society

Moral Subjectivism

If X is thought of by a given person to be morally right
Then X is morally right for that person

The problem with moral relativism, however, is that it doesn't really describe morality. Even if it does, then this view of morality is so arbitrary that it isn't worth considering. If morality is simply 'that which is desired', then there is no point talking about morality - we would be better off sticking to talk of personal/cultural desires.

Also, the conclusions of these theories are counter-intuitive. Under cultural relativism, it is impossible for society to desire a morally wrong act, because this entails a contradiction (an act is morally wrong if it isn't desired by society, if it is desired then it cannot be called morally wrong). As Fkkize wrote in the OP, we would have no moral justification at all for denouncing Nazi atrocities, because these atrocities are morally right by virtue of the fact that the Nazi society deemed them to be morally right.

Similarly, within moral subjectivism it is impossible for one to make a sincere but false moral proposition, since if they sincerely hold a proposition to be true, then that is all that is needed to render it true. Therefore, we would have no moral justification whatsoever to condemn rapists, child-torturers, mutilators or murderers. It also makes morality so arbitrary that it effectively ceases to exist. 'Morality' implies some criteria above subjective desires that determines right and wrong. We can deny that this criteria exists, as the moral nihilist does, but to maintain the existence of a criteria whilst making it entirely subjective according to personal desires, then can we even call it a criteria anymore?

Exactly. There is no point in claiming something to be wrong if it does not have authority over another person anyway.
Thanks for responding!
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
Otokage
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8/12/2015 3:23:22 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/11/2015 9:09:36 AM, Fkkize wrote:
Since I couldn't find anyone to debate this topic formally, I am just going to share my views here. Moreover, I decided to, from now on, do one of these topics every once in while so I can write down my thoughts and have them criticized. When I'm done presenting my reasons for rejecting other views, I am going to give some arguments in support of my own.

Moral relativists and subjectivists are often charged, rather polemically, with nothing being really wrong, according to their view.

Are you suggesting moral relativists are incapable of telling right from wrong? Then, why are moral relativists not more prone to do so-called evil things than moral objectivists?

"If there are no objective standards, then the Nazi's weren't really doing something wrong. It was Ok relative to their view and you can't properly condemn them!"

So, here's something that might bother you: as a moral relativist, I condemn them! Take that!

Usually this is shrugged of as an appeal to emotion and rightly so. I think, however, these derogatory remarks reveal at their core a rather big flaw in the relativist view.

In developing his error-theory, Richard Joyce identified so called 'non-negotiable aspects' of moral discourse. He also loves, as many philosophers do, to draw analogies to phlogiston and other outdated theories.
For Newton, objects travelled through absolute space. Later, we found out that this is, in fact, wrong, space is relative. Frankly, we did not banish all talk about motion. This is because absoluteness of space is not a non-negotiable aspect of motion-talk. Change of position is.
On the other hand we have phlogiston theory. It was used for many years and actually produced some reasonable results (although the idea of an invisible fluid, negative in mass was always suspect). Later, we found out that there is no such thing as phlogiston, oxygen causes combustion. Contrary to Newton, a phlogiston theorist cannot simply say, this is what he meant all along. Phlogiston is fundamentally different from oxygen, one escapes from an object into the air, the other is already in the air and then reacts with an object. This was a non-negotiable aspect of phlogiston-talk, which is why we banished all talk of it and replaced it with oxygen talk.

Joyce argues that, similarly, moral-talk has non-negotiable aspects as well. One of which is objectivity. If we were to find somebody torturing a child, we are not interested in whether it is ok relative to him or his culture or whatever, we want him to stop regardless of what he thinks, approves of or desires.

I believe it is a fundamental error of your reasoning that you are using "we" in "we want him to stop". How do you know I want him to stop? How do you know nazis, which you mentioned, want him to stop?

We do not even consider the moral framework of child torturers, what he does is wrong, period.

I do consider the moral framework, in fact, I would be pretty interested on hearing why he considers this child torture something moral. I would still condem it too, simply because I don't like children being tortured. This is only because I value my moral views and want them to take over society, not because I think I objectively have reason on an absolute way, or because somehow my morality is absolutely, and objectively true/valid. The notion of morality being objective, is simply scientificaly inaccurate, because it presupposes metaphysical reasons that will give a moral system authority over others, so that we can tell that particular moral system is objectively better than other.

And I agree with Joyce in that "it is "the whole point" of moral discourse that it allows us to speak of actions in such a manner" (The Myth of Morality, sec.4.5).

So, either we find an account of moral discourse that makes sense of this objectivity (moral realism) or we have to discard moral discourse as fundamentally flawed (error-theory).

Moral systems can be classified in better or worse as soon as we give purpose to morality. Is morality a tool to make people happy? To pursue social cohession? To reduce criminality? Then, the moral system that provides happines, cohession and safety, is better than the others, is in fact objectively better but IN RELATION to the others, so we would still be moral relativists.
Fkkize
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8/12/2015 3:49:27 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/12/2015 3:23:22 PM, Otokage wrote:
At 8/11/2015 9:09:36 AM, Fkkize wrote:
Since I couldn't find anyone to debate this topic formally, I am just going to share my views here. Moreover, I decided to, from now on, do one of these topics every once in while so I can write down my thoughts and have them criticized. When I'm done presenting my reasons for rejecting other views, I am going to give some arguments in support of my own.

Moral relativists and subjectivists are often charged, rather polemically, with nothing being really wrong, according to their view.

Are you suggesting moral relativists are incapable of telling right from wrong?
No.

Then, why are moral relativists not more prone to do so-called evil things than moral objectivists?
No.

"If there are no objective standards, then the Nazi's weren't really doing something wrong. It was Ok relative to their view and you can't properly condemn them!"

So, here's something that might bother you: as a moral relativist, I condemn them! Take that!
Of course, I never said that no relativist condems the nazis. That's not the point.

Usually this is shrugged of as an appeal to emotion and rightly so. I think, however, these derogatory remarks reveal at their core a rather big flaw in the relativist view.

In developing his error-theory, Richard Joyce identified so called 'non-negotiable aspects' of moral discourse. He also loves, as many philosophers do, to draw analogies to phlogiston and other outdated theories.
For Newton, objects travelled through absolute space. Later, we found out that this is, in fact, wrong, space is relative. Frankly, we did not banish all talk about motion. This is because absoluteness of space is not a non-negotiable aspect of motion-talk. Change of position is.
On the other hand we have phlogiston theory. It was used for many years and actually produced some reasonable results (although the idea of an invisible fluid, negative in mass was always suspect). Later, we found out that there is no such thing as phlogiston, oxygen causes combustion. Contrary to Newton, a phlogiston theorist cannot simply say, this is what he meant all along. Phlogiston is fundamentally different from oxygen, one escapes from an object into the air, the other is already in the air and then reacts with an object. This was a non-negotiable aspect of phlogiston-talk, which is why we banished all talk of it and replaced it with oxygen talk.

Joyce argues that, similarly, moral-talk has non-negotiable aspects as well. One of which is objectivity. If we were to find somebody torturing a child, we are not interested in whether it is ok relative to him or his culture or whatever, we want him to stop regardless of what he thinks, approves of or desires.

I believe it is a fundamental error of your reasoning that you are using "we" in "we want him to stop". How do you know I want him to stop? How do you know nazis, which you mentioned, want him to stop?
My point remains obvious, doesn't it?

We do not even consider the moral framework of child torturers, what he does is wrong, period.

I do consider the moral framework, in fact, I would be pretty interested on hearing why he considers this child torture something moral.
Still not my point.

I would still condem it too, simply because I don't like children being tortured. This is only because I value my moral views and want them to take over society, not because I think I objectively have reason on an absolute way, or because somehow my morality is absolutely, and objectively true/valid.
Good, but that's also not my point.

The notion of morality being objective, is simply scientificaly inaccurate, because it presupposes metaphysical reasons that will give a moral system authority over others, so that we can tell that particular moral system is objectively better than other.
If you say so.

And I agree with Joyce in that "it is "the whole point" of moral discourse that it allows us to speak of actions in such a manner" (The Myth of Morality, sec.4.5).

So, either we find an account of moral discourse that makes sense of this objectivity (moral realism) or we have to discard moral discourse as fundamentally flawed (error-theory).

Moral systems can be classified in better or worse as soon as we give purpose to morality. Is morality a tool to make people happy? To pursue social cohession? To reduce criminality? Then, the moral system that provides happines, cohession and safety, is better than the others, is in fact objectively better but IN RELATION to the others, so we would still be moral relativists.
Not my point.
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
sdavio
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8/12/2015 4:13:53 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/12/2015 3:23:22 PM, Otokage wrote:
Moral systems can be classified in better or worse as soon as we give purpose to morality. Is morality a tool to make people happy? To pursue social cohession? To reduce criminality? Then, the moral system that provides happines, cohession and safety, is better than the others, is in fact objectively better but IN RELATION to the others, so we would still be moral relativists.

I'd like to point out that strategies like this, by adding such a crucial element of contingency, completely strip the normative force from any moral theory. It becomes mere entailment of a means to a result; an instruction manual is not a text in ethical philosophy.
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
Geogeer
Posts: 4,244
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8/12/2015 6:00:43 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/11/2015 9:09:36 AM, Fkkize wrote:
Since I couldn't find anyone to debate this topic formally, I am just going to share my views here. Moreover, I decided to, from now on, do one of these topics every once in while so I can write down my thoughts and have them criticized. When I'm done presenting my reasons for rejecting other views, I am going to give some arguments in support of my own.

Moral relativists and subjectivists are often charged, rather polemically, with nothing being really wrong, according to their view.
"If there are no objective standards, then the Nazi's weren't really doing something wrong. It was Ok relative to their view and you can't properly condemn them!"
Usually this is shrugged of as an appeal to emotion and rightly so. I think, however, these derogatory remarks reveal at their core a rather big flaw in the relativist view.

In developing his error-theory, Richard Joyce identified so called 'non-negotiable aspects' of moral discourse. He also loves, as many philosophers do, to draw analogies to phlogiston and other outdated theories.
For Newton, objects travelled through absolute space. Later, we found out that this is, in fact, wrong, space is relative. Frankly, we did not banish all talk about motion. This is because absoluteness of space is not a non-negotiable aspect of motion-talk. Change of position is.
On the other hand we have phlogiston theory. It was used for many years and actually produced some reasonable results (although the idea of an invisible fluid, negative in mass was always suspect). Later, we found out that there is no such thing as phlogiston, oxygen causes combustion. Contrary to Newton, a phlogiston theorist cannot simply say, this is what he meant all along. Phlogiston is fundamentally different from oxygen, one escapes from an object into the air, the other is already in the air and then reacts with an object. This was a non-negotiable aspect of phlogiston-talk, which is why we banished all talk of it and replaced it with oxygen talk.

Joyce argues that, similarly, moral-talk has non-negotiable aspects as well. One of which is objectivity. If we were to find somebody torturing a child, we are not interested in whether it is ok relative to him or his culture or whatever, we want him to stop regardless of what he thinks, approves of or desires. We do not even consider the moral framework of child torturers, what he does is wrong, period.
And I agree with Joyce in that "it is "the whole point" of moral discourse that it allows us to speak of actions in such a manner" (The Myth of Morality, sec.4.5).

So, either we find an account of moral discourse that makes sense of this objectivity (moral realism) or we have to discard moral discourse as fundamentally flawed (error-theory).

"If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and those who claim to be the bearers of objective immortal truth, then there is nothing more relativistic than Fascist attitudes and activity. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, we Fascists conclude that we have the right to create our own ideology and to enforce it with all the energy of which we are capable." - Benito Mussolini
Otokage
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8/12/2015 6:41:29 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/12/2015 4:13:53 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 8/12/2015 3:23:22 PM, Otokage wrote:
Moral systems can be classified in better or worse as soon as we give purpose to morality. Is morality a tool to make people happy? To pursue social cohession? To reduce criminality? Then, the moral system that provides happines, cohession and safety, is better than the others, is in fact objectively better but IN RELATION to the others, so we would still be moral relativists.

I'd like to point out that strategies like this, by adding such a crucial element of contingency, completely strip the normative force from any moral theory. It becomes mere entailment of a means to a result; an instruction manual is not a text in ethical philosophy.

Are you suggesting ethics have no purpose in society?
sdavio
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8/12/2015 7:00:56 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/12/2015 6:41:29 PM, Otokage wrote:
At 8/12/2015 4:13:53 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 8/12/2015 3:23:22 PM, Otokage wrote:
Moral systems can be classified in better or worse as soon as we give purpose to morality. Is morality a tool to make people happy? To pursue social cohession? To reduce criminality? Then, the moral system that provides happines, cohession and safety, is better than the others, is in fact objectively better but IN RELATION to the others, so we would still be moral relativists.

I'd like to point out that strategies like this, by adding such a crucial element of contingency, completely strip the normative force from any moral theory. It becomes mere entailment of a means to a result; an instruction manual is not a text in ethical philosophy.

Are you suggesting ethics have no purpose in society?

No, but that that ethics hinges upon the normative (and thus prescriptive / universal) quality it has in differentiating from, and supposing for itself precedence over, preference. A moral theory which derives its prescriptions solely as contingent from a given end goal is no different from a cook-book or an instruction manual in that all it states is that one thing will lead to another. "If you pull the trigger, the gun will shoot. If you don't want to shoot, don't pull the trigger." This doesn't constitute a 'morality' in any commonly understood sense.
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
Otokage
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8/12/2015 10:43:10 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/12/2015 7:00:56 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 8/12/2015 6:41:29 PM, Otokage wrote:
At 8/12/2015 4:13:53 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 8/12/2015 3:23:22 PM, Otokage wrote:
Moral systems can be classified in better or worse as soon as we give purpose to morality. Is morality a tool to make people happy? To pursue social cohession? To reduce criminality? Then, the moral system that provides happines, cohession and safety, is better than the others, is in fact objectively better but IN RELATION to the others, so we would still be moral relativists.

I'd like to point out that strategies like this, by adding such a crucial element of contingency, completely strip the normative force from any moral theory. It becomes mere entailment of a means to a result; an instruction manual is not a text in ethical philosophy.

Are you suggesting ethics have no purpose in society?

No, but that that ethics hinges upon the normative (and thus prescriptive / universal) quality it has in differentiating from, and supposing for itself precedence over, preference. A moral theory which derives its prescriptions solely as contingent from a given end goal is no different from a cook-book or an instruction manual in that all it states is that one thing will lead to another. "If you pull the trigger, the gun will shoot. If you don't want to shoot, don't pull the trigger." This doesn't constitute a 'morality' in any commonly understood sense.

But, if morality has a purpose, then it obviously can be reduced to an "if___then___" model, as any model that has a purpose.
HououinKyouma
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8/12/2015 11:07:05 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/11/2015 9:09:36 AM, Fkkize wrote:
Since I couldn't find anyone to debate this topic formally, I am just going to share my views here. Moreover, I decided to, from now on, do one of these topics every once in while so I can write down my thoughts and have them criticized. When I'm done presenting my reasons for rejecting other views, I am going to give some arguments in support of my own.

Moral relativists and subjectivists are often charged, rather polemically, with nothing being really wrong, according to their view.
"If there are no objective standards, then the Nazi's weren't really doing something wrong. It was Ok relative to their view and you can't properly condemn them!"
Usually this is shrugged of as an appeal to emotion and rightly so. I think, however, these derogatory remarks reveal at their core a rather big flaw in the relativist view.

In developing his error-theory, Richard Joyce identified so called 'non-negotiable aspects' of moral discourse. He also loves, as many philosophers do, to draw analogies to phlogiston and other outdated theories.
For Newton, objects travelled through absolute space. Later, we found out that this is, in fact, wrong, space is relative. Frankly, we did not banish all talk about motion. This is because absoluteness of space is not a non-negotiable aspect of motion-talk. Change of position is.
On the other hand we have phlogiston theory. It was used for many years and actually produced some reasonable results (although the idea of an invisible fluid, negative in mass was always suspect). Later, we found out that there is no such thing as phlogiston, oxygen causes combustion. Contrary to Newton, a phlogiston theorist cannot simply say, this is what he meant all along. Phlogiston is fundamentally different from oxygen, one escapes from an object into the air, the other is already in the air and then reacts with an object. This was a non-negotiable aspect of phlogiston-talk, which is why we banished all talk of it and replaced it with oxygen talk.

Joyce argues that, similarly, moral-talk has non-negotiable aspects as well. One of which is objectivity. If we were to find somebody torturing a child, we are not interested in whether it is ok relative to him or his culture or whatever, we want him to stop regardless of what he thinks, approves of or desires. We do not even consider the moral framework of child torturers, what he does is wrong, period.
And I agree with Joyce in that "it is "the whole point" of moral discourse that it allows us to speak of actions in such a manner" (The Myth of Morality, sec.4.5).

So, either we find an account of moral discourse that makes sense of this objectivity (moral realism) or we have to discard moral discourse as fundamentally flawed (error-theory).

I would be inclined to agree with you. Moral relativism fails to take into account the emotional reality of human beings, and human history. If morality were truly relative, and there was nothing that everyone could agree was "wrong" or "right" then moral progress, and debate, would be impossible. Historically, this has not been the case.

Furthermore, any moral system that fails to take into account the human drive for self-preservation, and for the preservation of the community, is fundamentally flawed. And moral relativism fails to take this into account.
"Here the ways of men part: if you wish to strive for peace of soul and pleasure, then believe; if you wish to be a devotee of truth, then inquire." F. Nietzsche.

"Freedom is always freedom for the one who thinks differently." R. Luxemburg.

"The principle of the masochistic left is that, in general, two blacks make a white, half a loaf is the same as no bread." G. Orwell, paraphrase.

"Islamophobia is a word created by fascists, used by cowards, to manipulate morons". Andrew Cummins.
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8/13/2015 1:50:20 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/12/2015 1:53:05 AM, Fkkize wrote:
At 8/12/2015 1:19:35 AM, Sidewalker wrote:
At 8/11/2015 2:43:40 PM, Fkkize wrote:
I don't want anyone to think I present some cooked up strawmen. Therefore, I am only going to summarize ideas from proper philosophers, like Joyce, Shafer-Landau, Korsgaard and Enoch among others and state my own views somewhere near the end of each post.

It's not clear what your own views are in the OP, as I recall, you ascribe to error theory, correct?
I have at least until recently. In the OP I described a dichotomy near the end between realism or error-theory. I have to do some reading before I can decide.

Here is what I see as the problems of error theory. I haven"t read arguments for error theory extensively, but what I have read always appears to be more a matter of convenience than solid logical argument. Every argument for error theory I"ve seen seems to be circular in nature; they attempt to argue to the conclusion that there are no moral facts by beginning with the presupposition that there are no moral facts. Error theory frames the question wrong by making it ontological by asserting that moral facts do not exist, but the question of morality is epistemic rather than ontological, it is a matter of how one "ought" to behave, and the philosophical question becomes how do we determine what that is. Consequently, error theory arguments always seem to equivocate between ontological and epistemological considerations. They also seem to contend that the opposite of relative is absolute, but I don"t think that is accurate as it relates to morality, in the context of moral argument the opposite of "relative" is "objective".

Are you a global skeptic, do you believe that knowledge is possible? If you aren"t a global skeptic, then what is it about moral knowledge that makes it more problematic than other kinds of knowledge?

Error-theory is perhaps better classified as nihilism than skepticism.

I mean global skepticism in the sense of discounting that any knowledge can be justified true knowledge. If it"s just a matter of selective application of the ""Munchausen Trilemma", then it isn"t really valid.

It depends on how you read Mackie or so some say, but a modern error-theory is not unsure, it actively denies. The error-theory I am sympathetic with is limited to moral truth value. I think non-moral normativity is just fine, but moral properties seem to claim an authority that doesn't make sense.

OK, but "seem to claim an authority that doesn't make sense" doesn"t really answer the question. Again, what is it about moral knowledge that makes it more problematic than other kinds of knowledge? Is it that moral statements aren"t referential to anything, is it that you don"t believe we are free and responsible causal agents?
"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