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

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

Post by brimstoneSalad » Sat May 26, 2018 7:13 pm

Cirion Spellbinder wrote:
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?
The latter is suitable to an arbitrary moral concept, but not to an objective one. If we're talking about objective morality, that precludes such arbitrarity. And when we look at the nature and purpose of moral discourse, objective morality is pretty clearly what people are interested in/talking about (we don't suppose they are just shouting at each other about their personal opinions and that they are not presuming anybody else to be wrong).

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Post by Frank Quasar » Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:25 pm

Well, personally I think there are like two different ways to go about this:

(1) Show them why their worldview is absurd and essentially renders moral discourse futile
(2) Get them to justify their claims -- Provide their best argument to prove that morality is "subjective".

With respect to (1) I usually find extreme hypotheticals/examples to be effective as a means to communicate the idea. Brim talked about something called "signal to noise ratio" if I remember correctly, and I think it usually tends to work splendidly. Granted, if they're willing to concede to everything on subjectivism then it illustrates how futile discourse is, but further cements the notion that they have no basis by which to judge others. I don't know if people would call this debunking, but nonetheless, it still helps illustrate how absurd their worldview is. Why don't we just talk about our favorite colours too while we're at it?

Also, these subjectivist people tend to fall back and try to judge others by a standard of some sort. People like AY (or his followers) always get around this by appealing to logical consistency, so clearly they have some kind of logical standard to go to. Would you guys say they are definitely lingering towards some objective morality boundaries here? Or at least trying to have a discussion in a way that moral realists tend to strive for?

They can still say "i'm not a moral realist!!" but it's evidently clear that these people do look towards some kind of standard for discussion, and they call out other positions if they're inconsistent. I see this with cultural relativists when they appeal to their cultural standards as a means to rule out some arguments as "worse" than others. The key point being, they are always looking for some kind of standard to go towards, and they want to seek out a meaningful way to discuss morality.

With respect to (2) I just look for whatever justification that they have in order to defend their claims. As of now, I have not really encountered a compelling argument from these subjectivists, to be fair. As a matter of fact, I find a lot of their "arguments" to be points that can be reduced to absurdity in other fields, like logic/math/science. Anything they say to prove why morality is "subjective" can inadvertently be backfired on other areas by way of analogy, and unless they're willing to concede, they're inconsistent if they reject.

Examples: Morality is subjective because people always disagree and have many different opinions! -- You can apply this to something like Math or the shape of the Earth and see if they bite.

Morality is subjective because it's man-made! People are the ones to construct morality and to guide their actions! -- Same is true of Math and Science.

Morality is subjective because it eventually breaks down to human reasoning! -- Apply it to the same as above.

(PS: Some idiot that I've recently spoken to provided an argument as to why morality is "100%" subjective. His best argument was that an individual is not born into this world with a moral code, incapable of comprehending notions such as "murder is wrong etc." and as a means to obtain knowledge of morality it has to be done through other means that are direct or indirect. It was a very poor argument, and I was laughing at the absurdity of it for a few minutes. I wonder if he holds this notion to be true of math and logic? Are they subjective too because the logic applies there also, but it doesn't negate the idea of objective truths/principles)

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Post by carnap » Fri Aug 17, 2018 3:12 am

Frank Quasar wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:25 pm
(PS: Some idiot that I've recently spoken to provided an argument as to why morality is "100%" subjective. His best argument was that an individual is not born into this world with a moral code, incapable of comprehending notions such as "murder is wrong etc." and as a means to obtain knowledge of morality it has to be done through other means that are direct or indirect. It was a very poor argument, and I was laughing at the absurdity of it for a few minutes. I wonder if he holds this notion to be true of math and logic? Are they subjective too because the logic applies there also, but it doesn't negate the idea of objective truths/principles)
The argument is wrong on a factual level, humans have an innate sense of morality and you see consistent themes in morals between societies. But there are also significant differences.

But there is a fundamental difference between a morals and logic/math. Logic and math have real world applications and what people believe has no impact on the consequences. In contrast the consequence of moral beliefs has everything to do with what others believe, you can give arguments as to why X is immoral but if society accepts X then there is no consequence to doing X. So one can pontificate about objective morals but such theories have no teeth.

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Fri Aug 17, 2018 6:33 pm

carnap wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 3:12 am
Logic and math have real world applications and what people believe has no impact on the consequences.
Moral discourse has real world applications too. What do you mean that "what people believe has no impact on the consequences"?
carnap wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 3:12 am
In contrast the consequence of moral beliefs has everything to do with what others believe, you can give arguments as to why X is immoral but if society accepts X then there is no consequence to doing X.
False and false.

If your math teacher believes that 2+2=5 then you WILL suffer consequences for answering differently (e.g. actually answering correctly), but none for answering in accordance with your teacher's beliefs.

What people believe DOES have an effect in terms of math, there's just more general agreement on those topics so it's not as likely to be seen (Math teachers make mistakes, although usually not such simple ones).

But society holding false beliefs about math, JUST as with morality, has consequences upon everybody.

The moral ones are arguably much more serious.

Image

THIS was not caused by a mathematical error.

If society accepts X immoral action and you do X, there may not be an immediate apparent consequence of that to YOU, but it does have serious consequences for those you are victimizing by doing that.

If you're completely short sighted and self interested then there may not be an obvious compulsion to be moral, but we have learned that it can often come back to bite people as society refines and corrects its moral understandings. Not all bad deeds go unpunished forever. Many of the leaders of the Third Reich learned that at the end of a nuse.
carnap wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 3:12 am
So one can pontificate about objective morals but such theories have no teeth.
So people are not forced by immediate and severe personal consequences to be actually moral, rather than just go along with society?
Neither are people forced to be mathematically literate/correct.
In fact, being very bad at math could be beneficial. If through incompetence you balance your books poorly and pay less income tax, you immediately and materially benefited from that and it's possible it would never be discovered (and if it is, it was an honest accident rather than fraud).

On a societal level, there may even be particular systems of bad math that would have prevented the development of advanced weaponry (like the atomic bomb) while still permitting some basic technology with more tolerance to rounding errors, and also resulted in accidental wealth redistribution: it's very plausible that the consequences of those systems would be universally beneficial in many ways.

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Post by carnap » Sat Aug 18, 2018 2:28 am

brimstoneSalad wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 6:33 pm
Moral discourse has real world applications too. What do you mean that "what people believe has no impact on the consequences"?
Moral discourse has an impact on the development and structure of human societies but anybody can readily violate a moral principle. In contrast you cannot violate logic, you cannot violate applied mathematics because they describe the very nature of the world as we experience it.
brimstoneSalad wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 6:33 pm
If your math teacher believes that 2+2=5 then you WILL suffer consequences for answering differently (e.g. actually answering correctly), but none for answering in accordance with your teacher's beliefs.
In this analogy you're assuming precisely what I'm disputing, namely, morals aren't objective in the sense that mathematics is objective. Violating a moral principle will only impact an individual if their society upholds the moral principle and the impact will be social.
brimstoneSalad wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 6:33 pm
If society accepts X immoral action and you do X, there may not be an immediate apparent consequence of that to YOU, but it does have serious consequences for those you are victimizing by doing that.
Any social action will have consequences but the minute you start normalizing the outcomes as you're doing you're talking about ethics. If society accepts some action you can argue that its "immoral" but the argument really has no teeth, people can continue the act without any negative consequence to themselves.

brimstoneSalad wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 6:33 pm
Not all bad deeds go unpunished forever. Many of the leaders of the Third Reich learned that at the end of a nuse.
How many slave owners do you imagine were punished? What you're referring to is a different sort of issue, the minute Germany lost the war they were subject to someone else's norms. Might makes right.

brimstoneSalad wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 6:33 pm
On a societal level, there may even be particular systems of bad math that would have prevented the development of advanced weaponry (like the atomic bomb) while still permitting some basic technology with more tolerance to rounding errors, and also resulted in accidental wealth redistribution: it's very plausible that the consequences of those systems would be universally beneficial in many ways.
A society wouldn't function at all if everyone disregarded logic and math, you're talking about very advanced mathematics and that isn't something the vast majority know about anyways. But everyone utilizes logic and math in their daily life and if people readily ignored the basic rules of logic and math society would collapse. In contrast society functions just fine when people do acts that some may view as immoral.

Now you could argue that there is some baseline ethical system that societies require to function but that baseline would be much different than what the typical western person thinks of as "moral". For example it would be difficult for a market economy to develop if routine theft occurred throughout the economy.

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Sun Aug 19, 2018 12:35 am

carnap wrote:
Sat Aug 18, 2018 2:28 am
brimstoneSalad wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 6:33 pm
Moral discourse has real world applications too. What do you mean that "what people believe has no impact on the consequences"?
Moral discourse has an impact on the development and structure of human societies but anybody can readily violate a moral principle. In contrast you cannot violate logic, you cannot violate applied mathematics because they describe the very nature of the world as we experience it.
:roll:
You can readily be a good person or a bad person. You're not rewriting morality, you're just WRONG if you think a bad action is good. Morality likewise describes part of the nature of the world we live in; a ratio of harmful or beneficial consequences.

Likewise, you can readily answer anything, 1, 4, 5, or even 'cucumber' to the question "what is 2+2". If you answer incorrectly, you're just wrong.

Getting morality right, like getting math right, has real world applications.

carnap wrote:
Sat Aug 18, 2018 2:28 am
In this analogy you're assuming precisely what I'm disputing, namely, morals aren't objective in the sense that mathematics is objective. Violating a moral principle will only impact an individual if their society upholds the moral principle and the impact will be social.
I'm explaining how it actually works, how it works in a realist/objective context, contrary to your ASSERTION.
We don't need to hear your question-begging assertions pretending to be arguments.

You're the one here just assuming morality is subjective or socially relative, and then claiming based on that assumption that it's subjective. That's your problem. This whole thread is about debunking the very view you're merely asserting circular-logic style.
You have made no actual argument against universalism here, you're not welcome to butt in here and contradict people with off-topic assertions that nobody asked for.

Read the forum rules:
viewtopic.php?f=5&t=2115

These are very permissive rules, but you continually misunderstand and violate them.
carnap wrote:
Sat Aug 18, 2018 2:28 am
Any social action will have consequences but the minute you start normalizing the outcomes as you're doing you're talking about ethics.
I think you missed the point of this thread entirely.
carnap wrote:
Sat Aug 18, 2018 2:28 am
If society accepts some action you can argue that its "immoral" but the argument really has no teeth, people can continue the act without any negative consequence to themselves.
I addressed this clearly, and with multiple points.
carnap wrote:
Sat Aug 18, 2018 2:28 am
What you're referring to is a different sort of issue, the minute Germany lost the war they were subject to someone else's norms. Might makes right.
It's not always about a concurrent norm; we have people suffering the consequences of past speech and actions too (e.g. tweets that get dug up), as society progresses.
Your argument was that people don't suffer the consequences of acting immorally if it's OK in their society: you're wrong. Sometimes they get away with it or die before suffering consequences, but not always.
You can move the goal posts all you want and talk about external norms :roll: (a.k.a. other people who are not evil like you are who may ultimately take you to task), but the fact is that there are liable to be more progressive moral forces that will at least attempt to hold you to account.

Your claim was simply wrong. Trying to move the goal posts won't save you from that.
carnap wrote:
Sat Aug 18, 2018 2:28 am
A society wouldn't function at all if everyone disregarded logic and math, you're talking about very advanced mathematics and that isn't something the vast majority know about anyways. But everyone utilizes logic and math in their daily life and if people readily ignored the basic rules of logic and math society would collapse.
More unfalsifiable assertions.

Also, that is a completely dishonest analogy. I didn't say disregard ALL math and logic, I was very clearly talking about a slightly aberrant/incorrect system. Yes, that's inconsistent to accept some but not all, but people aren't robots and their heads don't explode from inconsistency (supposed 'systems' of social 'ethics' are pretty inconsistent too).
I'm talking about a 'system'-like thing that mostly works in practice but that has certain effects from rounding errors.
carnap wrote:
Sat Aug 18, 2018 2:28 am
In contrast society functions just fine when people do acts that some may view as immoral.
The correct analogy to a society that completely disregards all math and logic would be society that completely inverts/rejects ALL morality. And no, a society probably could not function if people were fixated on torturing and murdering each other above all else or literally had NO norms or prohibitions with consequences at all.

Most societies hold moral codes that are only partially incorrect. A radically wrong morality would not be functional in any plausible sense, but even partial deviations have deleterious effects on the societal level.
An anarcho-capitalist society, for example, might function in a way, but massive wealth disparities and poverty create crime and affect the productivity of the workforce. Usually morality is win-win, at least on the societal level (even if some individuals may get away with win-lose sometimes and for a limited time within a morally corrupt framework).

As I already explained clearly and you dismissed with a wild straw man, a technically wrong mathematics (only 'partially' wrong) could be functional most of the time, and may even be accidentally beneficial by promoting wealth equality through rounding errors and preventing things like development of nuclear weapons while still being accurate enough to allow some lower level technology. And mathematical errors of certain kinds can absolutely be beneficial to individuals.

Does logic suffer from the principle of explosion when you examine it rigorously? Yes. But in practice this might not have any effect since most people don't look at it that closely and piling on enough ad-hoc rules could impede loopholes from being exploited, particularly if the belief were society-wide (look how long bad religious arguments last).
carnap wrote:
Sat Aug 18, 2018 2:28 am
Now you could argue that there is some baseline ethical system that societies require to function but that baseline would be much different than what the typical western person thinks of as "moral". For example it would be difficult for a market economy to develop if routine theft occurred throughout the economy.
A baseline for minimal social function is not only seemingly impossible to draw (is a society only made up of two people not killing each other? Is that all?) but it's not the definition of morality... not by a long shot, Randroid.
And as I explained, morality is typically win-win on a societal level, so if you want maximal social output (by any sensible metric) you're looking at moral progress as a way toward that.

Does that create an "ought" that we should be more moral? On the societal level maybe. On the individual level maybe not, but as I have explained many times in multiple threads (and probably in this one too), binding force is not a necessary part of minimal moral realism, and as I have just explained multiple times, mathematics doesn't necessarily have such a binding force either. It's possible that neither will always have teeth.
If you want to believe true things, you need to abide by mathematics. This may not always be advantageous by certain metrics if you only care about yourself.
If you want to be a good person, you need to abide by morality. Again, may not always be advantageous if you only care about yourself (but on the other hand, it may be so on average even if you're only self interested: viewtopic.php?p=19543#p19543 ).

If you're going to post again in this thread, be ready to engage with the metaethics and come with a serious non-circular argument. No more of this citing your assumptions as evidence for your assumptions. And stop with the slanted/dishonest analogies.

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Post by carnap » Thu Aug 23, 2018 3:59 am

brimstoneSalad wrote:
Sun Aug 19, 2018 12:35 am
You're the one here just assuming morality is subjective or socially relative, and then claiming based on that assumption that it's subjective.
Except that I haven't once claimed that "morality is subjective" but rather have argued that morality lacks the sort of objectivity that you see in mathematics and logic.
brimstoneSalad wrote:
Sun Aug 19, 2018 12:35 am
These are very permissive rules, but you continually misunderstand and violate them.
Really? Don't you think it would be more useful to actually explain which rule was violated and why? Of course your claim is bullshit, you're just an authoritarian that has a low tolerance for people disagreeing with you. Now you've clearly deluded yourself into thinking your some how an expert in various subjects despite not having any expertise in any of them but let's get real here. Your only authority is banning people from a forum you've already made largely inactive because your low tolerance for dissension.

So I will continue to discuss matters on the forum and if you have an issue with that you can ban me and have fun in your echo-chamber.

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Post by esquizofrenico » Mon Sep 03, 2018 12:22 am

Hi carnap:

I agree with mostly with what you are saying, but the thing is that you sound exactly like the Humanities students in my High School that complained about having to study derivatives because "they would never use them in their life". And the truth is, they were fundamentally right. I fail to see what kind of effect would have in the life of 90% of the world population believing that the derivative of the cosine of x is the logarithm function. As long as there is a widespread believe in society that mathematicians have the right answer and a lack of interest in this people in pursuing the conclusions from their idea, the life of that person would be totally unaffected. I can write d cos(x)/ dx = log(x) and the world goes on spinning.

The importance of mathematics truth is completely dependant of society context. If you don't have the technology to perform millions of calculations per second, knowing what a Fourier series is, is much less important. So when you say that the importance of breaking a moral law depends on whether that moral law is widely accepted in a society, my answer is "so what?". The truth is that due to physical reasons we are forced to live in societies, that is as much part of reality as the measuring of an scientific instrument. Saying that there are imaginable situations in which breaking a moral law would yield you no ill, is just as saying that Group Theory was pretty irrelevant to a cave man.

The only attack you can give to a farmer that says that the derivative of the cosine of x is the logarithm is "What if the guys that fabricated your phone thought as you do?". That's it. That is the same argument you can give to someone that negates a moral law. So I think if there is a difference between mathematics and morality (which I think most probably is), it is not there.

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Thu Sep 06, 2018 2:09 pm

esquizofrenico wrote:
Mon Sep 03, 2018 12:22 am
Hi carnap:

I agree with mostly with what you are saying, but the thing is that you sound exactly like the Humanities students in my High School that complained about having to study derivatives because "they would never use them in their life". And the truth is, they were fundamentally right. I fail to see what kind of effect would have in the life of 90% of the world population believing that the derivative of the cosine of x is the logarithm function. As long as there is a widespread believe in society that mathematicians have the right answer and a lack of interest in this people in pursuing the conclusions from their idea, the life of that person would be totally unaffected. I can write d cos(x)/ dx = log(x) and the world goes on spinning.

The importance of mathematics truth is completely dependant of society context. If you don't have the technology to perform millions of calculations per second, knowing what a Fourier series is, is much less important. So when you say that the importance of breaking a moral law depends on whether that moral law is widely accepted in a society, my answer is "so what?". The truth is that due to physical reasons we are forced to live in societies, that is as much part of reality as the measuring of an scientific instrument. Saying that there are imaginable situations in which breaking a moral law would yield you no ill, is just as saying that Group Theory was pretty irrelevant to a cave man.

The only attack you can give to a farmer that says that the derivative of the cosine of x is the logarithm is "What if the guys that fabricated your phone thought as you do?". That's it. That is the same argument you can give to someone that negates a moral law. So I think if there is a difference between mathematics and morality (which I think most probably is), it is not there.
That was extremely well said, and great examples, thank you.
Can we use this (copy paste) in the Wiki?

If you're willing, maybe you can post here if you're OK with contributing generally: viewtopic.php?f=5&t=3335

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Thu Sep 06, 2018 2:32 pm

carnap wrote:
Thu Aug 23, 2018 3:59 am
brimstoneSalad wrote:
Sun Aug 19, 2018 12:35 am
You're the one here just assuming morality is subjective or socially relative, and then claiming based on that assumption that it's subjective.
Except that I haven't once claimed that "morality is subjective" but rather have argued that morality lacks the sort of objectivity that you see in mathematics and logic.
The problem is that you're making these claims on the basis of VERY bad arguments.
See above.

If you were making better arguments we could have an interesting discussion; a kind of discussion I legitimately enjoy having when something is actually a challenging argument. I have no interest in an echo chamber because it's just not engaging, but neither is wasting time with extremely poor arguments -- that's even worse.
carnap wrote:
Thu Aug 23, 2018 3:59 am
Really? Don't you think it would be more useful to actually explain which rule was violated and why?
If there's something you don't understand, you're free to ask.
carnap wrote:
Thu Aug 23, 2018 3:59 am
Of course your claim is bullshit, you're just an authoritarian that has a low tolerance for people disagreeing with you.
:lol:
Anybody who has read much on this forum can see that's not true. I've argued extensively here with pretty much every active user. Arguing with people who disagree with you is a very different thing from intolerance.

You're welcome here if you follow the rules, and disagreement is a healthy thing for a discussion forum, but spinning in circles with transparently poor arguments just wastes everybody's time. It IS beneficial to introduce these arguments ONCE so they can be addressed (and we get brilliant responses like that above that others can see), but doing it over and over again once you have been informed that it's a bad argument that we aren't interested in hearing more of is just rude.

Bad time wasting arguments < No arguments "echo chamber" < Good arguments

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