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Cogito ergo sum

Here in the Philosophy forum we will talk about all the "why" questions. We'll have conversations about the way in which philosophy and theology and religion interact with each other. Metaphysics, ontology, origins, truth? They're all fair game so jump right in and have some fun! But remember...play nice!

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Atheism And Moral Progress

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  • Originally posted by JimL View Post
    So, leaving aside the asserted communities that don't value personal property, I don't believe there are any such people, but leaving that aside for the moment, you wouldn't agree then that the moral against murder, or random killing if you will, or theft for instance, or rape etc etc. is a "good" when it comes to being in the best interests of society as a whole?
    Anyone who values life will see "random killing" as a moral evil (as I do). Anyone who values life will see a prohibition against random killing as a "good" for a society (as I do). Someone who values power or money above life will not see this as a "good" for society if it prevents them from accumulating power or money. Someone who believes in social Darwinism might believe that culling the population is "for the good of society." By their metric, that would be true.

    You are trying to establish an absolute/objective good for a society and it simply doesn't exist. "Good" is a qualitative assessment that requires a valuer and a metric to assess. Depending on the valuer and the selected metric, the assessment will differ. A thing is not "intrinsically good." It is "good as assessed by X using metric Y."

    If you don't believe this, take your "random killing is immoral" principle and explain why it is an objective good without making reference to any subjectively selected metric and in a way that demonstrates that everyone/everywhere/everywhen will assess it as a "good." This is what you need to do to show it is objective and absolute/universal.
    The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy...returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King

    I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong. Frederick Douglas

    Comment


    • Originally posted by carpedm9587 View Post
      Anyone who values life will see "random killing" as a moral evil (as I do). Anyone who values life will see a prohibition against random killing as a "good" for a society (as I do). Someone who values power or money above life will not see this as a "good" for society if it prevents them from accumulating power or money. Someone who believes in social Darwinism might believe that culling the population is "for the good of society." By their metric, that would be true.

      You are trying to establish an absolute/objective good for a society and it simply doesn't exist. "Good" is a qualitative assessment that requires a valuer and a metric to assess. Depending on the valuer and the selected metric, the assessment will differ. A thing is not "intrinsically good." It is "good as assessed by X using metric Y."

      If you don't believe this, take your "random killing is immoral" principle and explain why it is an objective good without making reference to any subjectively selected metric and in a way that demonstrates that everyone/everywhere/everywhen will assess it as a "good." This is what you need to do to show it is objective and absolute/universal.
      Well, I think I have to disagree. I don't believe that what is "good," i.e. what is in the best interests of any particualr society, i.e any group of people living in community, has anything to do with what any one individual might subjectively think about it. If random killing, theft, rape etc etc, were considered to be perfectly "good," i.e moral rather than immoral, that society would amount to chaos, would be a terrible, i.e. not a "good" place in which to live. That's why random killing, theft, rape, etc are, in my opinion, objectively immoral if some might subjectively disagree, because objectively, those behaviors would not be "good" for a healthy functioning society within which the majority members thereof can live a healthy functional life.

      I think we may be focusing on different things when thinking about morals, you are focusing on individuals and there subjective perspectives, while I think they, i.e. morals, have only to do with societies as a whole, i.e. people living together in community. For an individual living alone on an island, there would be no such thing as morality.
      Last edited by JimL; 09-15-2019, 05:36 PM.

      Comment


      • Originally posted by seer View Post
        Tass, equal rights are not necessary for human survival, and haven't been for most of our history.
        Neither are gods.

        Nevertheless, the concept of “equal rights” has developed, whether you like it or not. They have been successfully implemented by many Western cultures with overall positive results…some such countries have topped the World Happiness Report and Human Development Index.

        And you talk about evolved values as if there are objectively better or worse values - which there are not in your world.
        No. I talk about “evolved values” as something that has demonstrably developed over time and adopted by many societies - Your use of “your world” being the natural world as opposed to your fictional world of gods and spirits I presume.

        First Tass, the majority of Christian through most of History had nothing to do with slavery,
        This is factually inaccurate. Furthermore, Christian societies had a great deal to do with the establishment of colonies worldwide resulting in the near destruction of the indigenous cultures of the original inhabitants.

        second it was largely Christians that took down slavery in the West.
        Yes, we saw how that worked with the Southern Baptist Convention.

        Third, discrimination and racism are not New Testament principles - just the opposite, and you know that.
        New Testament principles have historically meant whatever its Christian adherents want them to mean. Slavery was justified by the judicious selection of biblical texts, e.g. Ephesians, VI, 5-7: “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling…”

        https://time.com/5171819/christianit...-book-excerpt/

        Also, the implementation of the 1964 Civil Rights Acts against “discrimination” was opposed by many white Evangelical Christians at the time.

        And it is not like slavery is an evil in your world - just animals doing what animals do.
        Define “evil”.

        - why do you dislike nature so much?
        …compared to what?
        “He felt that his whole life was a kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.” - Douglas Adams.

        Comment


        • Originally posted by JimL View Post
          Well, I think I have to disagree. I don't believe that what is "good," i.e. what is in the best interests of any particualr society, i.e any group of people living in community, has anything to do with what any one individual might subjectively think about it. If random killing, theft, rape etc etc, were considered to be perfectly "good," i.e moral rather than immoral, that society would amount to chaos, would be a terrible, i.e. not a "good" place in which to live. That's why random killing, theft, rape, etc are, in my opinion, objectively immoral if some might subjectively disagree, because objectively, those behaviors would not be "good" for a healthy functioning society within which the majority members thereof can live a healthy functional life.
          It would be terrible to you, because you value life and harmony, two metrics you have subjectively chosen. Most of us do, so most of us would agree with you. But the adrenaline junkie who values the thrill of the hunt would find your society boring and staid and evaluate it differently. The sociopath who wants more than anything to slate his blood lust would not only disagree with your rule, but would (and does) ignore it. Most of us think as you do - and value life and harmony. But the fact that most of us value this does not make it objectively a good, and does not make that good universal or absolute. It simply makes it "widely held."

          Originally posted by JimL View Post
          I think we may be focusing on different things when thinking about morals, you are focusing on individuals and there subjective perspectives, while I think they, i.e. morals, have only to do with societies as a whole, i.e. people living together in community. For an individual living alone on an island, there would be no such thing as morality.
          Societies don't have morals. Societies don't think. Individuals do. When someone says "Society Y believes X" they are actually saying, "Most of the individuals in Society Y believe X."

          While it is true that most moral guidelines are about interactions, there are also moral prohibitions against suicide, masturbation, gluttony (though one could argue that is about taking "more than your fair share"), and various forms of excess that have only to do with the self. So the person living alone on an island could (and probably would) still develop a moral code. It would simply be devoid of elements that have to do with interactions with others. Morality is about action - not just interaction.
          The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy...returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King

          I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong. Frederick Douglas

          Comment


          • Originally posted by carpedm9587 View Post

            While it is true that most moral guidelines are about interactions, there are also moral prohibitions against suicide, masturbation, gluttony (though one could argue that is about taking "more than your fair share"), and various forms of excess that have only to do with the self. So the person living alone on an island could (and probably would) still develop a moral code. It would simply be devoid of elements that have to do with interactions with others. Morality is about action - not just interaction.
            I don’t think so. An individual on an island would develop a life-style that suits his needs, not a moral system per se. Whereas individuals living in community need to temper their individual needs so as to not impinge on those of others. Hence a system of rules is developed to which all can agree for the effective maintenance of society. And this we call morality.
            “He felt that his whole life was a kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.” - Douglas Adams.

            Comment


            • Originally posted by Tassman View Post
              Neither are gods.

              Nevertheless, the concept of “equal rights” has developed, whether you like it or not. They have been successfully implemented by many Western cultures with overall positive results…some such countries have topped the World Happiness Report and Human Development Index.
              Positive according to whom?



              No. I talk about “evolved values” as something that has demonstrably developed over time and adopted by many societies - Your use of “your world” being the natural world as opposed to your fictional world of gods and spirits I presume.
              What is your point? There are no objectively better or worse morals, just moral change.

              This is factually inaccurate. Furthermore, Christian societies had a great deal to do with the establishment of colonies worldwide resulting in the near destruction of the indigenous cultures of the original inhabitants.
              I said the majority of Christians for the majority of time had nothing to do with slavery, do you have evidence otherwise? There are two billion Christians earth today, more than at any other single time in history. Where are we practicing slavery?


              Yes, we saw how that worked with the Southern Baptist Convention.
              Yes or no Tass, was it primarily Christians that led the Abolition movement in the West? I will be waiting for your answer.

              New Testament principles have historically meant whatever its Christian adherents want them to mean. Slavery was justified by the judicious selection of biblical texts, e.g. Ephesians, VI, 5-7: “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling…”
              And, does it say that slavery is good? That we should have slaves? And how are we to treat our fellow man - slaves or not?


              Also, the implementation of the 1964 Civil Rights Acts against “discrimination” was opposed by many white Evangelical Christians at the time.
              And how many Christians support it? Do you have the number for and against?


              Define “evil”.
              Some thing objectively immoral which doesn't exist in your world



              …compared to what?
              Compared to nothing. Maoists or Stalinist or Inquisitors or Racists are only doing what nature created them to do. Why do you dislike these acts of nature so much?
              Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbnueb2OI4o&t=3s

              Comment


              • Originally posted by seer View Post
                I don't know if it is compelling to God, it is just His nature. And I'm not sure what you mean by assertions - they seem like pretty classic attributes of the Christian God. Of course if you don't believe in God it would be no more than an assertion. Like the fact that other minds exist.
                I do believe in God. I just have never understood how God adds to moral justification.

                Comment


                • Originally posted by Jim B. View Post
                  I do believe in God. I just have never understood how God adds to moral justification.
                  What do you mean add justification? God is just immutably just and good. What else does the Christian need?
                  Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbnueb2OI4o&t=3s

                  Comment


                  • Originally posted by carpedm9587 View Post
                    As I have noted before, there are four ways by which a person with a subjective morality can be "wrong" or "fallible"

                    1) They may hold a moral position that is not consistent with their underlying valuing/cherishing and method for moving from valuing/cherishing to moral principle. Example: the person who values/cherishes all human life and believes reason is the method for moving from valuing/cherishing to moral principle - but concludes "randomly killing humans is moral." You cannot value/cherish all human life and reasonably/rationally conclude "randomly killing humans is moral." Something has gone awry and we should be able to use reason to uncover the problem.
                    Don't you see how this point directly contradicts ethical subjectivism? If you can conclude that your subjective moral beliefs and desires are 'mistaken' and can be overriden by criteria of reason and rationality, then your subjective moral beliefs and desires are not always the ultimate arbiters of your moral actions. Unless you maintain that reason and rationality are 'rooted in' your subjective opinions, beliefs, and desires, but then you'd have to say that the same is true of philosophers, mathematicians and physicists, in which case ALL knowledge is 'rooted in,' ie 'begins in' subjective experience, but that trivial point does not establish that all knowledge is therefore subjective in nature.

                    2) Because we all assess all moral actions from the perspective of our current moral position, if our moral position changes, we will assess previous moral positions as "wrong." This is no different then Person A assessing Person B's moral position as "wrong" because it does not align with their own. In this case, Person B is simply Person A at a different point in time.
                    Yes, but this is the very point I'm making and the point you're apparently missing.

                    3) We will also be perceived as "wrong" in our moral position by anyone who holds a differing moral view, and by society at large if the moral principle we hold is at odds with the inter-subjective moral norm. This happens all the time. If the inter-subjective moral norm remains across time, we will be assessed as wrong perpetually. If the inter-subjective moral norm shifts (e.g., which is happening today with same-sex intimacy), the new social norm will celebrate us as a "visionary" or "leader" and condemn the moral norm held by the previous society.
                    The argument has to do with intra-subjective wrongness, about assessing oneself as being wrong.

                    4) Finally, we can be "fallible" in how we execute our moral position, failing to live up to a moral principle we actually hold.
                    We've gone over this before. Ethical subjectivism is about moral deliberation and principles, about beliefs and desires, not about failing to live up to our principles.



                    In a subjective moral world, the correctness of a moral position is always assessed from the perspective of our own current position. We have a natural desire that everyone align with our own moral framework because that is what best protects/nurtures/enhances what we value/cherish. So we assess the "correctness" of all moral principles from that perspective. Person A assesses the moral position of Person B from the perspective of their OWN moral position - not from the perspective of Person B. Assessing some former time in our own history is simply a case where Person B is ourselves at another point in time. If we assess from the perspective of that former person in time, we see "no error." If we assess from the perspective of our current point in time (and something has shifted) we perceive "error."
                    The point though is that morality is not a good fit for this kind of understanding of moral deliberation which is based off of one's current mental state. Your own explanation of it, above, where you talk about being mistaken in your moral beliefs in light of reason and rationality, points up the problem with such a simple mechanistic, atomisitic model of deliberation. The fact that it doesn't fit does NOT depend upon an objectivist assumption, as you yourself attest to, above, but is evidenced by "morality talk" of any and every variety. There is ineliminable moral talk by people about actually really being mistaken in their own moral beliefs and really having moral disagreements.

                    Is there an objectively true moral "error?" Of course not. A subjective moral position cannot achieve an objective moral truth. This is essentially your complaint. There is no mechanism for stating, objectively, that a moral error has occurred. The error is only subjectively assessed, which you are essentially saying isn't adequate. So, when you boil it down, you are complaining (again) that morality cannot be subjectively grounded because then it wouldn't be objective (or have access to objectively true moral statements).
                    The problem is not that it cannot be objective but that it cannot fit with the concept of "morality" as you yourself have shown above.
                    I am not saying, as much as you'd like me to be saying it, that it can;t be subjective because then it wouldn't be objective. What I am saying is that subjectivism, in order to be coherent, would require a sweeping revisionism of the entire concept of morality which you yourself are not capable or willing to undertake.
                    Furthermore, what's wrong with your analogy is that you have selected an objective reality to make your case. "Having an itch" is an event that has an objectively true nature. For me to say "I was wrong to say my nose was itching" from the perspective of my future self is to deny an objective reality. But a moral principle is an assessment - a categorization of action into "ought" or "ought not." It is rooted in our valuing/cherishing, which is a subjective reality impacted by our thoughts, ideas, opinions, and feelings.
                    "Having an itch," like my moral beliefs and desires, is a subjective, not an objective, reality. I have privileged access to the itch that no one else has. Unless I am deluded, I cannot be wrong that I have an itch or that I had an itch one minute ago. Unless I am deluded, I cannot be wrong about my current moral beliefs and desires or about the moral beliefs and desires I had an hour ago. If I am accurate in my knowledge, such knowledge, in either the case of the itch or the beliefs and desires, cannot be wrong. The nature of the knowledge is secondary. The inccorigible nature of either kind of knowledge was the point.

                    You actually make my point in mentioning that with my moral mental state, it is implicated in thoughts, ideas, opinions, and I would add in reasons, unlike the itch, all of which are trans-temporal in nature, which makes the idea of their being 'rooted in' one immediate, more or less arbitrarily chosen, occurrent mental state quite adsurd.
                    Last edited by Jim B.; 09-16-2019, 04:18 PM.

                    Comment


                    • Originally posted by seer View Post
                      What do you mean add justification? God is just immutably just and good. What else does the Christian need?
                      I agree, but God is also immutably wise and knowing. This doesn't mean we don't have independent standards for our knowledge claims.

                      Comment


                      • Here's a youtube video that's pretty good. I posted it especially for the "Normative Web" argument by Terence Cuneo. One of the other argument s begs the question as stated but can be re-stated to where it doesn't.

                        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjkgD4w9w1k

                        Comment


                        • Here's an article defending a secular, relatively weak version of moral realism:

                          https://secularhumanism.org/2014/07/...rswithout-god/

                          Comment


                          • Originally posted by Tassman View Post
                            I don’t think so. An individual on an island would develop a life-style that suits his needs, not a moral system per se. Whereas individuals living in community need to temper their individual needs so as to not impinge on those of others. Hence a system of rules is developed to which all can agree for the effective maintenance of society. And this we call morality.
                            I've done a bit of poking around, visiting at least five different dictionaries and philosophical sources. All of the definitions of "moral" and "morality" are some variation of: "principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior." Not a single one specifies that the behavior must be related to interpersonal interaction. I stand by my original post: morality is about sorting action into "ought" and "ought not." The term "morality" is generally applied when the behavior relates to the things we value/cherish most deeply (i.e., life, liberty, happiness, etc.). That behavior is commonly associated with interactions in the context of a society, but are not necessarily so related. Examples of the latter include prohibitions against such things as suicide and masturbation. These prohibitions can arise with or without a society/culture to relate them to.
                            The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy...returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King

                            I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong. Frederick Douglas

                            Comment


                            • Originally posted by Jim B. View Post
                              I agree, but God is also immutably wise and knowing. This doesn't mean we don't have independent standards for our knowledge claims.
                              Well since I believe that God is also immutably rational, the very laws of logic are sourced in His being. You seem to be suggesting that there are logical or moral truths that are independent of God.
                              Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

                              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbnueb2OI4o&t=3s

                              Comment


                              • Originally posted by seer View Post
                                Well since I believe that God is also immutably rational, the very laws of logic are sourced in His being. You seem to be suggesting that there are logical or moral truths that are independent of God.
                                The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy...returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King

                                I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong. Frederick Douglas

                                Comment

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