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Comment 10 by Quine :

I, for one, do accept that. We decide what is goodness, even when we accept it from some scripture or social consensus. The idea of objective moral values is feel-good self delusion. If you have evidence of truly objective moral values, bring it.

Got evidence?


I'd expect you would be aware of the following..but since you phrased your post as you did....

Asking for evidence isn't too productive until some of the more fundamental issues are addressed. The fundamentals generally involve arguing for moral axioms. After all, if one can accept as a moral axiom that "Human well being" or "minimising suffering/maximising human well being" is an axiomatic "good," then you can have evidence galore in favor of or against actions, as measured from the foundational axiom. That could include someone taking a baseball bat to your shins and asking "Did that make you suffer? Yes. Ok...there's some evidence for you that shattering people's shins with a baseball bat is a bad thing."

So this question has to start by uncovering what we do, or could, mean by "value" and "objectivity" and "is it possible for moral ought statements to have truth values" and the like.

I believe that objective morality is possible, insofar as we could say normative statements "Rape is bad" (i.e."We ought not rape other people") have truth values: you can be objectively right or wrong.

On this view, morality has subjective component, relative components, and objective components.
Subjective insofar as value arises only in response to the existence of "desires" (which are subjective mental attitudes about how we with the world to be). In fact, as far as I can see, desires provide the only existing "reasons for actions" available. So any "ought" statement would only coherently trace to a desire (or set of desires, or tendency to fulfill desires in general etc). "Ought" statements are relational - making a claim about which state of affairs would be such as to fulfill a desire. And relationships can change (yet still be I was once shorter than my mother, now I'm taller, but these were/are objective facts nonetheless). But the relationship of how the real world works, and facts about ourselves and our desires, mean that any claim about "what would be such as to fulfill a desire" would be making objective claims about the world.

So if goals/desires are seen as the key for providing reasons for actions, and to act in the world means any "ought" statement must make claims about actions occurring with real world consequences, then prescriptions would be objective, in principle.

One problem I see that happens a lot is that people think if they can spot any subjectivity in the chain, then, well..."it's all subjective, isn't it?" But that isn't the case when you look at such value theories as a whole: they say that morality, and ought statements, involve a COMBINATION of factors that, taken together, mean moral statements come out as objective. So to think that the presence of a subjective component...e.g. the subjectivity of our desires as establishing value...means it's all built on subjectivity and thus morality must be subjective, is a similar mistake to the creationist view of evolution as being "random" or "chance" simply because they can point to "random/chance" mutation in the process. But, of course, that ignores the relationship with non-chance elements like Natural Selection etc. Same with moral prescriptions: there are value theories that identify necessary objective components in play with the subjective components, as above.

That's only one brief outline of an approach; there are various secular moral theories that amount to moral realism/objective morality. It boils down to sticky details, though, as always.


Tue, 30 Aug 2011 21:26:49 UTC | #865681