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← Do we need objective morals?

Pete H's Avatar Jump to comment 15 by Pete H

I agree with Jos Gibbons.

All definitions of the objective concept are irrelevant and silly when human minds are involved. Same misleading issue arises in economics where there is often a presumption of an objective position, when the nature of economics (human actions) can only ever be inherently subjective.

I like to compare with economic theory. Because economics sprang out of morality, but more because economics is possibly the next most dysfunctional scientific discipline after nutrition and theology. So you can see the same silliness in a slightly different context. Just think of cholesterol lowering drug treatments or today’s interest rate ‘settings’ according to your local reserve bank officials who’re paid million dollar salaries to ‘run the economy’. Objective monetary policy ‘settings’ are always in the goldilox zone. And there is no conceivable economic outcome that is incompatible with monetary policy. The theory is ostensibly objective but is completely unfalsifiable. Just look at this present great depression: Reserve banks were instituted to prevent such events, so the modified claim is that this current depressing event would certainly have been very much the worse had whatever heroic money printing and spending processes not occurred.

Objective supernatural-related morals could be a potentially useful tool of analysis, like perfect competition in economics. It’s an oversimplification but it might help illuminate important aspects. (I don’t know what those aspects might be, but it sounds plausible.)

Economists don’t usually invoke supernatural entities to explain the origin of perfect competition. They just say ‘imagine, for momentary purposes, that all other things are equal or that economic players have perfect information’. Etc. Perfect knowledge is, by definition, superior to actual real knowledge. Just as any imaginable number is never the largest - there is always 1 number greater. Meaningless really. For illustrative purposes Information doesn’t have to actually be perfect, just be significantly better quality than the alternative. Information, knowledge, and energy are more or less the same thing as matter/energy or space/time. So anytime there’s a magic ‘something for nothing’ phenomena based on a reference to perfect information then it really means that someone can’t be bothered to expend the necessary energy or time to obtain the real thing.

Despite appearing in every text book, no sane economist believes there really could be such a thing as perfect information and perfect competition. If it existed it would put them out of a job. Similarly I assume that no sane victim of religious misbelief seriously believes in their text book’s equivalent: a perfectly omniscient and omnipotent god determining morality. There’s only 1 possible candidate for an external, non-human observer objectively assessing human activity, and capable of providing the necessary feedback – salt pillars, wine from water etc. which oddly seems only to occur in the distant past or distant future. This immense time lag allows huge scope for runaway feedback effects or other morality system breakdowns and failures. Compelling the religious to heroically intervene to prevent complete collapse. (Much in common with the governor of the reserve bank.) So if an effective supernatural entity really existed then the clergy also would not have a job. On the other hand (as economists are supposedly prone to say) if they publically accept that there is no divine source of objective morality then they are also out of a job. Either way they lose.

All the religious are left with is the claim that there really is an objective morality, imposed by god, but that god acts (or fails to act) in precisely the way which creates the almost perfect illusion that he doesn’t exist and that there is no objective morality (and that religious leaders are wasting their time and deceitfully misleading people).

The alternative to objective morality is subjective morality. Which rests on an assumption of imperfect information and therefore depends on error correction processes. i.e. As incorporated in legal systems. The essential difference is that logic dictates that one form of morality is claimed to self-evidently not need error correction. This makes its practitioners inclined to continue to do the same thing over and over, each time faithfully hoping for different and less disappointing outcome, but never changing or improving anything in the foolishly optimistic knowledge that they’re doing the right thing despite the lack of worthwhile outcomes.

Much like reserve banking. It’s kind of like how government policies inevitably fail to work in economic matters. No one would ever vote for a political leader who claimed to not know what to do regarding economic policy, but were instead willing to try and find out by looking at the evidence for what really works and making policy corrections. Similarly no one is interested in worshipping a god who isn’t absolutely sure of their moral policy impositions about what should happen. As they say, if these entities don’t exist then it would be necessary to make them up and pretend that they do. Given they’re a fantasy then this also requires believers to pretend that the relevant outcomes really did happen, or would have been very much worse outcomes if whatever didn’t happen or barely happened hadn’t been pursued.

You could employ this as an argument to prove that excellent politicians exist – and they do (politicians arguing that they're excellent that is).

Wed, 25 Jul 2012 09:41:09 UTC | #950028