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

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

Post by Cirion Spellbinder » Fri May 25, 2018 5:43 pm

carnap wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 3:15 am
You appear to be assuming one of the key issues, namely, that moral assertions are statements about "the nature of the world". After all, moral statements aren't empirical in nature so in what sense do they describe the world?
Neither does mathematics, but it is obvious to us that mathematical propositions can explain empirical particularities. Similarly, ethical propositions can describe certain situations.
carnap wrote:Where do moral statements get their meaning?
From the definition of morality, just as statements about carrots derive their meaning from the definition of a carrot.
carnap wrote:I'm not sure what you mean here, how would you use Occam's razor to compare moral theories? Occam's razor applies to competing hypotheses of some given observation.
I think Occam’s razor can be used to compare different theories of consequentialism. For example, classical utilitarianism is more presumptuous than preference utilitarianism because it not only assumes that preferences should be valued, but that a specific preference should be valued, namely pleasure. Both of these theories are consistent, so Occam’s razor gives us a criteria to favor one over the other.

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Post by Cirion Spellbinder » Fri May 25, 2018 9:29 pm

brimstoneSalad wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 2:00 pm
But what that seems to mean is very broad. Certain moral statements could just be false by being internally contradictory. Otherwise, they may be interpreted as true or false relative to some coherent definition of morality (which could be reason based, something like utilitarianism for example). It's not hard to be at least a minimalist.
Thanks for the article, it was a good read. Is minimalism what resolves which coherent system of morality you should follow?

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Fri May 25, 2018 10:43 pm

Cirion Spellbinder wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 9:29 pm
Is minimalism what resolves which coherent system of morality you should follow?
Minimalism doesn't really resolve anything... it more just tells us there's something TO resolve.

It's the alternative to things like non-cognitivism and error theory.

I'm not so sure we can apply Occam's razor to morality, since that's usually about which theory best explains a particular set of observations. Since different ethical theories have different outcomes, it doesn't really work. It's also an abstract concept, so more assumptions doesn't necessarily mean more likely to be wrong as long as they're actually consistent (although it does probably mean an unseen contradiction may be more likely to arise).

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Post by Cirion Spellbinder » Sat May 26, 2018 12:27 am

brimstoneSalad wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 10:43 pm
I'm not so sure we can apply Occam's razor to morality, since that's usually about which theory best explains a particular set of observations. Since different ethical theories have different outcomes, it doesn't really work. It's also an abstract concept, so more assumptions doesn't necessarily mean more likely to be wrong as long as they're actually consistent (although it does probably mean an unseen contradiction may be more likely to arise).
Why do you, or should we in general, prefer consequentialism of preferences then, over an arbitrary consequentialism?

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Post by carnap » Sat May 26, 2018 3:07 pm

Cirion Spellbinder wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 5:43 pm
Neither does mathematics, but it is obvious to us that mathematical propositions can explain empirical particularities. Similarly, ethical propositions can describe certain situations.
You're trying to compare two very different things. But first mathematics can be used to model physical phenomena it doesn't in itself describe nature and in fact the vast majority of mathematical theories are developed with no physical application in mind but rather theoretical reasons. But mathematics is a formal system, you make assumptions and then you reason from those assumptions using specific inference rules. That is dramatically different that a set of propositions. And what physical phenomena do ethical propositions describe?

Ultimately you can create ethical theories until you're blue in the face but nobody has to follow them. Okay you'll call them a "immoral person" but who cares? Unlike physical laws, there are no (natural) consequences for going against moral codes.
Cirion Spellbinder wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 5:43 pm
I think Occam’s razor can be used to compare different theories of consequentialism. For example, classical utilitarianism is more presumptuous than preference utilitarianism because it not only assumes that preferences should be valued, but that a specific preference should be valued, namely pleasure. Both of these theories are consistent, so Occam’s razor gives us a criteria to favor one over the other.
You're ignoring the fact that these two theories have difference consequences and that is how the theories are being judged. Occam's razor doesn't apply here, you're not comparing theories of physical phenomena. Also it should be noted that Occam's razor isn't a logical rule, there is no purely logical reason why the simple theory would always be the more correct theory. Occam's razor is a normative preference.

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Post by carnap » Sat May 26, 2018 3:17 pm

brimstoneSalad wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 5:21 pm
It isn't mutually exclusive if you're dishonest, no. Unless you contextualize your claims, like "A utilitarian would say..." but then that's not a moral claim.
Its not mutually exclusive because the one doesn't logically rule out the other. As I pointed out, moral fictionalism allows a moral nihilist to continue to make moral claims. Moral fictionalism is consistent with most forms of moral nihilist. And that is just one way of understanding matters.

brimstoneSalad wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 5:21 pm
It's not about the purpose of a person; it can also be about the purpose of language. Language has an intended purpose, and so does moral discourse; this purpose limits the definitions that would be consistent, and on that basis there are claims that are inconsistent and can be understood as false.
Language wasn't created by an intelligent process so talking about its "purpose" is problematic. You can talk about what selection pressures may have motivated some feature but that is different than "purpose". But its not even clear why human language was selected, the obvious answer seems to be for communicate but that could easily be wrong. Perhaps language was a byproduct of sexual selection, like a bird's song.

The knife cases works only because a knife was created by intelligent design. Absent such design in humans the same sort of arguments do not work with people. As I said, you just kick the can down the street a bit.

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Post by Cirion Spellbinder » Sat May 26, 2018 3:49 pm

carnap wrote:
Sat May 26, 2018 3:07 pm
But first mathematics can be used to model physical phenomena it doesn't in itself describe nature
Logic doesn't itself describe mathematical theorems, but with some additional assumptions, the inference rules of logic can provide a coherent description of mathematics. There are just additional assumptions we need to make to allow mathematics to facilitate empirical descriptions, namely induction.
carnap wrote:and in fact the vast majority of mathematical theories are developed with no physical application in mind but rather theoretical reasons.
Intent does not govern capacity, and even if some mathematics cannot be used to describe some physical phenomenon, that doesn't invalidate the contributions of the rest.
carnap wrote:But mathematics is a formal system, you make assumptions and then you reason from those assumptions using specific inference rules.
Ethics takes those assumptions, some scientific and metaphysical assumptions, and some additional assumptions which fit the definition of morality and uses inference rules to reason about them.
carnap wrote:That is dramatically different that a set of propositions
A set of propositions we deduced from axioms and inference rules?
carnap wrote:And what physical phenomena do ethical propositions describe?
None, rather they give new meaning to certain empirical circumstances. Why do ethics, or anything for that matter which is consistent, have to describe a physical phenomenon? How could you even reason yourself to such a necessity without abstract ideas?
carnap wrote:Ultimately you can create ethical theories until you're blue in the face but nobody has to follow them.
Maybe you don't care about being a good person unless the universe mandates it, but I do (arbitrarily, like I would with any other desire), and not caring doesn't change anything but your own disposition.
carnap wrote:Okay you'll call them a "immoral person" but who cares?
People do for some reason.
carnap wrote:Unlike physical laws, there are no (natural) consequences for going against moral codes.
That's not a problem, but there are: there are physical changes in your body caused by any given thing. There are also no natural consequences for going against natural laws (for a different reason, obviously).
carnap wrote:You're ignoring the fact that these two theories have difference consequences and that is how the theories are being judged. Occam's razor doesn't apply here, you're not comparing theories of physical phenomena. Also it should be noted that Occam's razor isn't a logical rule, there is no purely logical reason why the simple theory would always be the more correct theory. Occam's razor is a normative preference.
You're right, sorry. I have an Occam's razor fetish :? .

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Post by carnap » Sat May 26, 2018 5:01 pm

Cirion Spellbinder wrote:
Sat May 26, 2018 3:49 pm
Logic doesn't itself describe mathematical theorems, but with some additional assumptions, the inference rules of logic can provide a coherent description of mathematics. There are just additional assumptions we need to make to allow mathematics to facilitate empirical descriptions, namely induction.
I'm not sure what you're trying to say here but induction has nothing to do with mathematics, induction is used in science. Scientists use mathematics as a tool to make predictions and model physical phenomena via induction. Also inference rules don't describe anything, they are just rules that tell you how to move from one syntactic configuration to another.
Cirion Spellbinder wrote:
Sat May 26, 2018 3:49 pm
Ethics takes those assumptions, some scientific and metaphysical assumptions, and some additional assumptions which fit the definition of morality and uses inference rules to reason about them.
And doing that is just fine but the truth of your conclusions all hinge on the truth of your assumptions. But that doesn't make ethics, as a field, like mathematics. As I said before, mathematics is just a formal system and there is no object of study beyond the formalism. On the other hand ethics is a field that studies a particular topic using a variety of methods. To put it another way, mathematics is a method not a subject.

But there is another big difference here, when you make assumptions in mathematics they can be anything. Take the axioms of set theory, the pairing axioms says that if x and y are sets then there is another set that contains them. How do you determine whether this axiom is "true" or not? You don't....you just assume it is for the sake of theory. But that isn't what people are doing with ethics.

So you can apply formal methods to ethics but you still have to find a way to establish your assumptions or nobody has any reason to pay attention to the conclusions.
Cirion Spellbinder wrote:
Sat May 26, 2018 3:49 pm
Maybe you don't care about being a good person unless the universe mandates it, but I do (arbitrarily, like I would with any other desire), and not
People do for some reason.
You're missing the point. You can care about whatever you wish but that doesn't change the fact that nobody has any obligation to follow moral codes which makes them much different than physical laws. Whether I like it or not, if I jump from a building I'm going to fall to the ground.

The only impact one may experience from violating a commonly held moral belief is that others may view them negatively for it. As such morals are inherently social which is why they also show up in intelligent social animals.

[

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Post by Cirion Spellbinder » Sat May 26, 2018 6:23 pm

carnap wrote:
Sat May 26, 2018 5:01 pm
I'm not sure what you're trying to say here but induction has nothing to do with mathematics, induction is used in science.
That’s exactly what I said:
Cirion Spellbinder wrote:There are just additional assumptions we need to make to allow mathematics to facilitate empirical descriptions, namely induction.
Empirical descriptions was just a more verbose way of saying science
carnap wrote:Scientists use mathematics as a tool to make predictions and model physical phenomena via induction. Also inference rules don't describe anything, they are just rules that tell you how to move from one syntactic configuration to another.
If there were no inference rules there would be no way to describe mathematics, ergo inference rules provide a description of mathematics.
carnap wrote:And doing that is just fine but the truth of your conclusions all hinge on the truth of your assumptions.
Obviously, no one was contesting that.
carnap wrote:As I said before, mathematics is just a formal system and there is no object of study beyond the formalism.
Do you reject the existence of abstract ideas? Also, what does it mean that math is a “method?”
carnap wrote:But there is another big difference here, when you make assumptions in mathematics they can be anything. Take the axioms of set theory, the pairing axioms says that if x and y are sets then there is another set that contains them. How do you determine whether this axiom is "true" or not? You don't....you just assume it is for the sake of theory.
The reason that these systems have been so successfully applied to the real world is because the axioms are inspired by natural phenomenon. Intuition is their justification, which is our best bet in this case.
carnap wrote:But that isn't what people are doing with ethics.
Right, the assumptions made for an ethical theory are semantic.
carnap wrote:So you can apply formal methods to ethics but you still have to find a way to establish your assumptions or nobody has any reason to pay attention to the conclusions.
Like the definition of the word we hope to formalize, maybe?
carnap wrote:You're missing the point. You can care about whatever you wish but that doesn't change the fact that nobody has any obligation to follow moral codes which makes them much different than physical laws.
They ought to follow moral laws if they are to be moral. They ought to follow physical laws if they are to exist.
carnap wrote:The only impact one may experience from violating a commonly held moral belief is that others may view them negatively for it. As such morals are inherently social which is why they also show up in intelligent social animals.
You’re not even wrong. Who’s viewpoint exactly are you criticizing here? Why do you want me to support some obviously fraudulent supernatural obligations?

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Sat May 26, 2018 7:09 pm

carnap wrote:
Sat May 26, 2018 3:17 pm
Moral fictionalism is consistent with most forms of moral nihilist. And that is just one way of understanding matters.
I have no problem with metaphorical truth, but this is something different.
Again, this strikes me as the same kind of dishonesty about truth as employed by the likes of Jordan Peterson. If you're into that, maybe you don't see it that way.
carnap wrote:
Sat May 26, 2018 3:17 pm
Language wasn't created by an intelligent process so talking about its "purpose" is problematic.
When you use your mouth to make sounds at other people, those sounds typically have a particular purpose; one you had in mind whether you coined the words yourself or not. Do you contest that?

We don't need to have constructed the language from scratch for it to have purpose when we use it. Indeed, you can pick up a sharp rock and make it into a knife by calling it one, at which point it has gained that purpose from your intent.

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