What’s the most effective way to debunk moral relativism / subjectivism?

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carnap
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Re: What’s the most effective way to debunk moral relativism / subjectivism?

Post by carnap » Thu May 17, 2018 2:48 pm

Cirion Spellbinder wrote:
Wed May 16, 2018 4:36 pm
I'm aware of the existence of those positions, but not that aware of the positions themselves. I'm currently doing some reading on metaethics, do you recommend any particular resources?
Here is a brief article about moral skepticism which includes moral nihilism:

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/skepticism-moral/

Cirion Spellbinder wrote:
Wed May 16, 2018 4:36 pm
Given the law of excluded middle, there must be only some moral truths as all of them being false or all of them being true, contradictions arise. I don't think there's a universal compulsion to act on them or any supernatural rewards.
This doesn't follow. The law of excluded middle only applies to propositions with truth value but this is the very issue with some moral nihilists, namely, they deny that moral statements have truth value. Also even if you agreed that moral statements have truth value that doesn't mean you can determine it. This goes back to the discussion on classical vs constructive logic, classical logic would just tell you that one or the other is true but it doesn't give you a way of determining which one is true. So in this case you can have a sort of epistemic moral nihilism. That is you agree that moral statements have truth value but don't think there is a way to actually determine what they are.

Moral relativism in contrast doesn't deny that moral statements have truth value, just that the truth of moral statements is relative to a specific culture.

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Post by carnap » Thu May 17, 2018 3:00 pm

brimstoneSalad wrote:
Wed May 16, 2018 11:01 pm
Then they are essentially nihilists, they can not criticize others on moral grounds, and moral discourse means nothing to them.
A moral nihilist can, to a degree, speak about and criticize moral statements. See Moral fictionalism:

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/fictionalism/
brimstoneSalad wrote:
Wed May 16, 2018 11:01 pm
Do you think the same applies to mathematical standards, or standards of logical discourse? Are you a presuppositionalist?
As with morals, you can hold a anti-realistic position on mathematics while still upholding it as a useful tool. Mathematical fictionalism is one just response. Many professional mathematicians hold anti-realistic positions on mathematics, realism in mathematics requires that you posit the exist of abstract entities that exist beyond the human mind. Its a very metaphysically loaded position.

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Post by Cirion Spellbinder » Thu May 17, 2018 3:31 pm

carnap wrote:
Thu May 17, 2018 2:48 pm
Here is a brief article about moral skepticism which includes moral nihilism:
Thanks, I'll give it a read.
carnap wrote:The law of excluded middle only applies to propositions with truth value but this is the very issue with some moral nihilists, namely, they deny that moral statements have truth value.
Why would sentences making claims about the nature of the world not have a truth value?
carnap wrote:Also even if you agreed that moral statements have truth value that doesn't mean you can determine it. This goes back to the discussion on classical vs constructive logic, classical logic would just tell you that one or the other is true but it doesn't give you a way of determining which one is true.
What if you rule out moral systems that aren't consistent with classical logic and use Occam's razor to determine the best consistent one?

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brimstoneSalad
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Post by brimstoneSalad » Thu May 17, 2018 4:20 pm

carnap wrote:
Thu May 17, 2018 3:00 pm
brimstoneSalad wrote:
Wed May 16, 2018 11:01 pm
Then they are essentially nihilists, they can not criticize others on moral grounds, and moral discourse means nothing to them.
A moral nihilist can, to a degree, speak about and criticize moral statements. See Moral fictionalism:

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/fictionalism/
Thank you, Mr. Deepak Peterson.

Not really interested in "different kinds of truth" rationalizations here, though. I know everybody wants to be contrarian and answer "both or neither" to a yes or no question, but that's not really helpful.

Whether you see concepts as fictions or not, there are truths to them. It's still true that Bilbo Baggins found an invisibility ring, even if just in a narrative. You could argue that's why the third metaphysical premise in moral realism is important and that minimal realism doesn't say much, but unless you're going to argue that and talk about what that premise would mean, none of this really contradicts minimal realism.

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Post by Porphyry » Fri May 18, 2018 10:09 am

Cirion Spellbinder wrote, "What prevents the transcendental source from requiring a transcendental source?"

It depends on how someone understands the transcendent. If the transcendent is understood to be uncreated then there is no need for the source to have a source. There is a long philosophical discourse and discussion that unpacks this view.

On the other hand, there are those, like Proclus, who are comfortable with the endlessness implied by the infinite regress of the transcendent also having a transcendental source. (See, for example, '18 Arguments for the Eternity of the World'.) There is a misunderstanding that an infinite regress is a type of contradiction; but that isn't always the case. There are many examples of mathematical arguments that generate an infinite regress, in the form of infinitely repeating results, or the generation of irrational numbers, like pi. These are not contradictions. In order for an infinite regress to be a contradiction it also has to be vicious, e.g. the paradox of the liar. But the idea of an infinitely regressive transcendental source is not vicious; it is more akin to the infinite generation of a repeating number in certain divisions, such as 10 divided by 3. Thus, either way asserting a transcendental foundation is coherent.

brimstone salad asked what I mean by 'foundation'. I'm using the word in an ordinary way. I am suggesting that without some kind of transcendental foundation ethical assertions are ultimately subjective and arbitrary. I have yet to see a coherent ethics that at the same time asserts that there is no transcendental foundation for that ethics. This is because nihilism is always an option in such an understanding, and there is no logical defense against said nihilism without appealing to the transcendent. Thanks for the question.

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Sat May 19, 2018 1:45 am

Porphyry wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 10:09 am
I have yet to see a coherent ethics that at the same time asserts that there is no transcendental foundation for that ethics.
Don't make the "I haven't seen it therefore it doesn't exist" mistake.

Are you familiar with minimal realism?

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Post by esquizofrenico » Sat May 19, 2018 5:32 am

Cirion Spellbinder wrote:
Thu May 17, 2018 3:31 pm
carnap wrote:The law of excluded middle only applies to propositions with truth value but this is the very issue with some moral nihilists, namely, they deny that moral statements have truth value.
Why would sentences making claims about the nature of the world not have a truth value?
Well, moral nihilist simply believe that moral sentences are not saying anything about the nature of the world. They think that saying "A is good" is like saying "Leonardo is the best ninja turtle". You surely can create a set of values that classifies a certain, but you'll never be able to say that that set of values is the objective way of determining the "goodness" of something because "goodness" doesn't mean anything.

I agree that for objective morality it is needed a transcendental, objective and immutable reference of goodness. Otherwise you always crash against the "is-ought" problem.

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Sat May 19, 2018 2:15 pm

esquizofrenico wrote:
Sat May 19, 2018 5:32 am
I agree that for objective morality it is needed a transcendental, objective and immutable reference of goodness. Otherwise you always crash against the "is-ought" problem.
Ought a knife be sharp?

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Post by Cirion Spellbinder » Sat May 19, 2018 10:06 pm

Porphyry wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 10:09 am
It depends on how someone understands the transcendent. If the transcendent is understood to be uncreated then there is no need for the source to have a source.
Occam's razor would prefer the universe just be uncreated rather than there exist an entity that created and is uncreated.
Poryphyry wrote:On the other hand, there are those, like Proclus, who are comfortable with the endlessness implied by the infinite regress of the transcendent also having a transcendental source. (See, for example, '18 Arguments for the Eternity of the World'.) There is a misunderstanding that an infinite regress is a type of contradiction; but that isn't always the case. There are many examples of mathematical arguments that generate an infinite regress, in the form of infinitely repeating results, or the generation of irrational numbers, like pi. These are not contradictions. In order for an infinite regress to be a contradiction it also has to be vicious, e.g. the paradox of the liar. But the idea of an infinitely regressive transcendental source is not vicious; it is more akin to the infinite generation of a repeating number in certain divisions, such as 10 divided by 3. Thus, either way asserting a transcendental foundation is coherent.
I suggested something similar when discussing with @mkm here, but I'm still not sure what to think about this. Maybe he'd be willing to explain his perspective? :)

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Post by esquizofrenico » Sun May 20, 2018 2:43 am

brimstoneSalad wrote:
Sat May 19, 2018 2:15 pm
esquizofrenico wrote:
Sat May 19, 2018 5:32 am
I agree that for objective morality it is needed a transcendental, objective and immutable reference of goodness. Otherwise you always crash against the "is-ought" problem.
Ought a knife be sharp?
It really depends. If you think that humanity should become extinct, for example, having non-useful tools that makes it more difficult for us to survive would be a moral good. I think this comes due to the assumptions we make due to the definition of a knife, which includes that its function is to cut things. But I don't think you can draw an "ought" out of that. You just can say: Something is not a knife unless it is sharp. But should a knife be a knife or something else completely?

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