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Go to: Moral Clarity and Richard Dawkins

Son of Mathonwy's Avatar Jump to comment 208 by Son of Mathonwy

Comment 206 by tomasfritzhansen :

Some peoples' moral belief is based on imaginary things, but others (albeit probably a minority) are not.

What I am arguing is that ALL moral belief is based upon imaginary things, the imaginary things people call good and evil. Good and evil don't really exist. They are imaginary unfalsifiable concepts. So as far as I'm concerned morality is the study of nothing, like theology is.

Well, I'd say "doesn't objectively exist", but I understand what you mean.

Yes, it's doesn't objectively exist, i.e. it doesn't really exist, i.e. it doesn't exist.

That's only true if you deny the existence of all subjective things.

To use Akaei's example, you would have to be happy to say "suffering doesn't exist". Full stop.

Mon, 11 Jun 2012 13:08:01 UTC | #946857

Go to: Moral Clarity and Richard Dawkins

Son of Mathonwy's Avatar Jump to comment 205 by Son of Mathonwy

Comment 204 by tomasfritzhansen :

Yes. Moral belief and god belief are based on things that as far as we can tell do not exist. There are no gods, and no rights and wrongs, other than the gods and the rights and wrongs that we invent. They are imaginary.

Some peoples' moral belief is based on imaginary things, but others (albeit probably a minority) are not.

As I said earlier, my personal meta-ethical view is an "ethical subjectivist" one, in particular, I see a moral framework being composed of moral statements which are propositions concerning the opinions of real or imaginary (perhaps ideal) beings. Therefore we can treat them as truth-bearing, as long as we keep in mind that this truth is not objective

Those moral statements are not "truths". They are statements of opinion. They can't all be truths because people assert contradictory moral statements. Contradictory statements cannot all be true, at least not in any meaningful sense.

Agreed, they can't all be true. I'm just saying that some of them can. This is fine if you take the axioms of ethics to be some set of (non-contradictory) preferences. Then you can say there is truth (or otherwise) in a moral statement.

However, you could take a non-cognitivist meta-ethical position that moral statements are neither true nor false because they do not express genuine propositions (which sounds more like your position to me).

Personally I think its more helpful to deal with these statements as logical propositions, even if the truth is not "universal".

I'm suggesting that when you say that "morality doesn't exist", you really ought to clarify which kind of morality you're referring to

I mean the subject of morality - good and evil - doesn't exist. As a cultural phenomena, yes it exists, similar to how theology exists.

I agree that there is no universal obligation on a person to behave in a certain way.

Exactly. Which is to say that morality doesn't really exist.

Well, I'd say "doesn't objectively exist", but I understand what you mean.

Sun, 10 Jun 2012 20:37:08 UTC | #946769

Go to: Moral Clarity and Richard Dawkins

Son of Mathonwy's Avatar Jump to comment 203 by Son of Mathonwy

Comment 200 by tomasfritzhansen :

I suspect we're only disagreeing over the meaning of words rather than the nature of reality, but here goes...

I'm not so sure. You appear to believe that moral beliefs and frameworks are valid and real in a way that theological beliefs and frameworks are not. I disagree.

I think moral beliefs and frameworks and theological beliefs and frameworks are indeed real in the same kind of way. They are beliefs and frameworks ie mental experiences and states, or ideas (or memes). If they exist in someone's head then they exist, ie are real.

This says nothing about the reality of the thing they are based on:

           In the case of morality I'm saying that the basis is biological and cultural evolution, hence real but not objectively real. There is no one "true" morality.

           In the case of theology I'm saying that the basis is entirely imaginary, ie not real in any sense.

So the beliefs and frameworks have a similar nature, but the things they are based on do not. Are you sure you disagree with this?

Yes, they associate their experience with something above and beyond themselves - a god. And so too when people declare something right or wrong they believe they are referring to something above and beyond themselves. When people say "Murdering children is wrong", they don't mean "I prefer children aren't murdered", or "My particular society dissapproves of child murder", they mean a lot more than that. They are referring to something extra. And that supposed extra something which goes beyond mere personal or societal preference is the very essence of what most people mean by morality.

If we define morality as nothing but a statement of personal and societal preferences - regardless of what they may be - then yes I agree morality is real. But that's a very watered down definition of morality, and is not what most people mean by morality.

Well, first of all, I defined morality as: a framework or model for describing and evaluating right and wrong behaviour, and good and evil states. This does not state what the basis or "grounding" of the morality is. As such, I think it's clear that morality exists.

As I said earlier, my personal meta-ethical view is an "ethical subjectivist" one, in particular, I see a moral framework being composed of moral statements which are propositions concerning the opinions of real or imaginary (perhaps ideal) beings. Therefore we can treat them as truth-bearing, as long as we keep in mind that this truth is not objective, eg "X is good" = "I think that X is morally preferable to not(X)" or "a being dedicated to maximisation of universal pleasure would prefer X to not(X)", etc. So it's slightly more general than "a statement of personal and societal preferences" in that the preferences may not be those of any person or society, merely things that someone has decided that they "ought" to do (whether they prefer the outcome or not). But near enough.

Yes, many people will assume that morality is an objective thing. But many will understand that it's entirely possible for people to have differing moral codes and that they can still be respected eg chivalric codes, Bushido, swearing an oath etc. Also, clearly anyone remotely familiar with philosophy will understand that morality can be relative or objective.

Since many people reading this site will have a sophisticated enough view of morality not to assume it must be objective, then I'm suggesting that when you say that "morality doesn't exist", you really ought to clarify which kind of morality you're referring to. Otherwise you just get into (ultimately pointless) arguments over the meanings of words, rather than of substance.

Morality (being a set of ideas) can exist without being objective, but god is a being, therefore if existing at all, would have to exist objectively. Therefore I can say that morality exists but god does not.

You can say that, and I can disagree, and ultimately there's no evidence either way. Until I see evidence that we really ought to behave in certain ways, I shall remain skeptical of morality.

What do you think of parallels with emotions, sensations and language? Do you think that these things "exist"?

Yes they appear to exist.

I agree that our experience of morality exists. I agree we have personal and societal moral codes. What I am disputing is that we are truly morally obligated to behave in certain ways. And if we are not under any such obligation, and can instead define right and wrong however we like, then morality doesn't exist in any meaningful sense. Really it is just pretense.

Which is what I mean when I say morality doesn't exist.

I agree that there is no universal obligation on a person to behave in a certain way. I can't see a way out of the "is-ought problem.

Sat, 09 Jun 2012 21:45:45 UTC | #946647

Go to: [Update] How Christian fundamentalists plan to teach genocide to schoolchildren

Son of Mathonwy's Avatar Jump to comment 35 by Son of Mathonwy

Pretty scary stuff. Are they priming children to commit or at least to allow genocide?

Amazing stuff, this divine command theory: you don't even need to convince people that the victims are subhuman - you just say God commands their deaths. Nice.

Fri, 08 Jun 2012 16:06:08 UTC | #946357

Go to: Moral Clarity and Richard Dawkins

Son of Mathonwy's Avatar Jump to comment 199 by Son of Mathonwy

Comment 197 by tomasfritzhansen :

Son of Mathony & Akaei,

Yes, people experience morality, and those experience are real. In that sense I agree that morality "exists". However in that sense god exists too. Do you believe morality is more real than god? If so, how?

I suspect we're only disagreeing over the meaning of words rather than the nature of reality, but here goes...

Other than those suffering from hallucinations, people do not experience god (as in hear or see or have direct sensation of god). They say they do, but what's actually happening is:

1) they're lying (perhaps to themselves as well), and/or 2) they experience some calm, warmth, contentment, excitement, ecstacy etc which they associate with god.

So the direct "god experience" is unusual/abnormal, whereas it is only the highly abnormal who do not experience morality. But, you could say this is just a matter of degree: it's not a clear-cut distinction between the two concepts. So let's think a little harder...

Definitions are vital (as per Akaei's previous post). Mine are something like:

Morality: a framework or model for describing and evaluating right and wrong behaviour, and good and evil states. Right and wrong behavour is that which ought or ought not be done, respectively (according to the model). Good and bad are states which are intrinsically preferable or not preferable (according to the model).

Objective: mind-independent, ie not contingent on the thoughts, opinions, experiences or even existence of minds.

God: a unique being, creator of all other reality; having a number of "supreme" qualities eg omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, perfect goodness, etc.

People (well, most people) experience morality or have a moral framework, a sense of right and wrong etc. So morality exists (even if some people do not experience it). However, there is no reason to think that objective morality exists. There will potentially be a different morality for each person (and even the same person over time).

Some people have experience of god. Let's focus on those who actually have the direct mental experience of hearing or seeing god. They really have an experience of god (albeit an hallucination). But that isn't the same as saying that god is real, since god is a being, not an experience or a model or a framework. Theories and descriptions of god exist; but I would contend that we have no reason to think that god exists.

This results from the definitions above. Morality (being a set of ideas) can exist without being objective, but god is a being, therefore if existing at all, would have to exist objectively. Therefore I can say that morality exists but god does not.

For morality to be real it has to have some authoritative reasons behind it. People suppose such a reason when they say "murder is wrong". They assume that there is a moral nature to reality and that murdering is on the "wrong" part of the scale. I am saying that there is no such real moral scale, other than the one we invent according to the whims of our genes and our culture.

There is no hard evidence for morality. We all disagree on right and wrong. The most logical conclusion I see is that morality doesn't exist as anything other than illusion in our brains.

I should also add that I defended morality a long time (similar to how you do), before I finally gave up and became an "unbeliever", so to speak.

Sure, I think we're only disagreeing over language here. I just think it's misleading to say that morality must be objectively true, so that by definition mind-dependent morality is impossible. If that's your definition, then I think it leads to arguments and misunderstandings. Do you have a definition of morality?

What do you think of parallels with emotions, sensations and language? Do you think that these things "exist"?

Fri, 08 Jun 2012 14:39:22 UTC | #946334

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