The Meaning of Objective and Subjective

What does objective mean? Objective means a mind-independent reality. That is, an objective feature of the universe is something that does not rely on my own – or anyone else’s – personal beliefs or feelings on the matter.

For example, gravity is an objective feature of the universe. It doesn’t matter how much I believe that I can fly, or how passionately I feel about it, when I leap unaided off the to of the building, I will come down. That is an objective fact. The claim that “the world is round” is an objective claim, and would be true even if everyone thought the world was flat. Similarly, If I were standing on a main highway, and you saw a truck speeding towards me, you would perhaps yell out “Get off the road, a big truck is coming!” If I then turned to you and said, “That may be true for you, but its not true for me,” it doesn’t really matter what I think, as the truck is an objective feature of the universe, unless circumstances change, I’ll soon be paste on the road.

So what is meant by objective moral virtues and duties is this: That it is bad and wrong to kill Jews and homosexuals, and even if Hitler had won the war, and succeeded in killing off or brainwashing all his opposition so that the whole world believed it was right, it would still be wrong. No matter what you personally believed about the matter, it would be wrong in that objective sense. Likewise, there are some things that are genuinely good and right, like loving your neighbour as yourself, caring for people who are suffering, generosity to those who are in need, and justice for the down-trodden, and these are all true in the objective sense.

Subjective, is precisely the opposite of objective. That is subjective belief relies on the individual. It is mind-dependant. For example, the statement “I am a man,” is an objective fact. The statement “I am here,” is a subjective fact as it’s truth relies on my own perspective. When morality is subjective, moral values and duties like “you should treat people with dignity and respect” become simply preferences of taste, equivalent to “I like chocolate over vanilla,” or “I hate television ads.”

It is clear then that subjectivism is an inadequate ethical system, not only practically but in truth as well. But that is for another time.

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  1. Simon
    Simon says:

    There is no access to the world except through our minds and so there is no such thing as a purely ‘objective’ statement.
    I agree though, Stuart, that it is useful to talk as though there is a mind-independant reality (Although QM might have something to say on this matter!).

    I do not see that you have made any example of a subjective fact. It seems to me that “I am here” is also an objective statement. It can be measured and verified just as gravity can. The possible ill-definition of “here” does not make it subjective.

    But I would like to put forward a subjective moral statement:
    “It is moral to stone adulterers”

  2. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Hello Simon,

    Before I engage with you here – and before anyone else jumps in, as they are welcome – I’d like to say a couple of things on conduct and method in the following thread.

    First, I’d like this thread to be able to stand by itself with as little reference to other threads as possible. No references to other threads would be better. This should ensure fresh readers don’t feel overwhelmed or as if they are missing something, and also hopefully cut down on things getting convoluted and confused.

    Second, I’d also like you to explicitly clarify before we begin – even if you believe you have already done so on other threads and at other times – that you will be using plain reason, i.e., that you accept and abide by the logical laws of inference. I especially have in mind the law on non-contradiction (which states a cannot be non-a at the same time and at the same place).

    Thank you. :-)

    By way quick response on comment 1:

    First, I observe you have disputed if the term “objective” applies, and not disputed the definition I have given. I take it then you accept that definition and will use that definition in the following.

    Second, I have no idea what “QM” refers to

    Third, that statement “I am here” is certainly subjective. You are right in thinking that the statement is objective if “here” refers to where you actually are. But insofar as (i) the statement does not make reference to where you actually are and (ii) the truth of that statement depends entirely on the perspective of the speaker, it is subjetive. A better example would be if I held up a rock and said “This rock is from here” that is subjective, as the truth of it relies on where I am (notice that subjective facts can be true). But the statement, “This rock is from Utah,” is objective. That is because the truth of that statement does not rely on my own perspective.

  3. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    In lieu of the comments thus far, one other point that could be agreed upon and which might save a lot of time:

    In a naturalistic worldview, all statements on (or about) morality are subjective.

    It is not just the moral statements that appear bad to someone, (which is in itself subjective, as “bad” is subjective) but the apparent “good” statements as well, like; “It is right to help another person”. For the naturalists, this also is subjective.

    Stuart – sorry to butt-in early. You can delete this post if you like and I can add it again later. I thought it would be most beneficial to add one more request and I suggest people agree to answer both:

    (1) That we will use plain reason, i.e., accept and abide by the logical laws of inference. I especially have in mind the law on non-contradiction (which states “a” cannot be “non-a” at the same time and at the same place).

    (2) State whether you agree that in a naturalistic worldview, all statements on (or about) morality are subjective.

  4. Simon
    Simon says:

    Stuart,

    Yes no probs with those “rules of engangement”!

    Yes, I’m happy to run with your definition of objective.

    Oh, sorry. QM is Quantum Mechanics.

    I think the problem you are going to have with your position on the statement “I am here” being subjective is that I could then claim that the statement “gravity makes things fall down” is also subjective because the direction “down” is entirely dependent on what the speaker takes the word “down” to mean. One could object and say well, sure, but if take the proper definition of ‘down’ as being towards a mass….. But hold on, for then I can also completely reasonably demand that the word “here” be properly defined as being where the speaker is. Both these words are ‘subjective’ by your method.

  5. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Simon,

    You have not yet answered question (1) – see comment 3. I must insist you do before we continue. Answer question (2) if you wish.

  6. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Right-E-O.

    Now that I’m clear you will be following accepted rules of logic in the upcoming discourse, I can proceed with confidence.

    Two problems arise in your critique on the definition of subjective in comment 4.

    (i) the truth of the statement “gravity makes things fall down” is, as you rightly point out, contingent on what is meant by down. If the direction of down depends on the perspective of the person then the statement does become subjective. Now distorting the definition of “down” and pushing examples beyond their intended purpose is hardly worth the effort it takes to type this response. But insofar as the word “down” is commonly understood as being towards the earth (and other contingent factors of course, like the weight of the thing and the weight of the air) then the statement is true and objective still.

    (ii) The second problem is that just about any subjective statement (subjective: in the sense that it is true from my perspective or in my mind) can also be an objective statement (in the sense that it is also true in reality or in a mind-independent fashion). The two notions, expressed such, are not mutually exclusive. Where mutual exclusivity enters in is when the term “subjective” comes to mean not-objective. This is how the word is commonly understood and used. So when subjective moral values and duties are referred to, what is meant is these values and duties are merely or only subjective.

  7. Simon
    Simon says:

    In a naturalistic worldview, all statements on (or about) morality are subjective.

    This is absurd. For you to be consistent, Jonathan, you must also hold that under naturalsim any statements at all are subjective. Including scientific ones. Because, just like morality “merely” being the workings out of genes and the environment, so is science!

    You may, indeed, wish to define the term “subjective” such that all statements made by naturalism fall under the term, but this goes against Stuart’s definition of “objective” in the OP. Specifically, a naturalist certainly can make statements about mind-independant reality = an objective statement according to Stuart.

  8. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Hello Simon,

    This is absurd. For you to be consistent, Jonathan, you must also hold that under naturalsim any statements at all are subjective. Including scientific ones. Because, just like morality “merely” being the workings out of genes and the environment, so is science!

    I am trying to make sense of your argument here, and the best I can do is bellow. Before I comment on it, would you care to revise it, so I do not argue against straw men?

    1) If – on naturalism – morality is the result of sociological and biological pressures through the course of human evolution, then moral statements are merely subjective.
    2) Science is also the result of sociological and biological pressures.
    3) Therefore – on naturalism – any and all statements are merely subjective.
    4) Because a naturalist can with certainty make objective statements (3) is absurd, and because (2) is true, therefore (1) must be false.

  9. simon
    simon says:

    Stuart,

    Re: post 8

    (i) No, this is not a distortion of the word ‘down’ any more than your statement distorts the word ‘here’.
    You say “But insofar as the word “down” is commonly understood …..” No, no Stuart! If you can argue this then I can argue: “But insofar as the word “here” is commonly understood….”

    Don’t get me wrong I don’t disagree with your definition of ‘subjective’, but embracing this definition leads to this problem with what you have called ‘objective’ statements. I’m more than happy to accept your definitions but statements like those about gravity are necessarily captured by your definition of ‘subjective’.

    (ii) No contentions here :)

  10. simon
    simon says:

    Stuart,

    Re: post 10

    The numbered argument you present is pretty much what I am suggesting that Ian must reason. He seems to think that mere genetic-environmental morality must be subjective. But if this is correct then so must any statement from naturalism, because all naturalism involves is mere genetic-environmental machinations.

    On (4) – there is not such a thing as a purely mind-independant, ‘objective’ statement.

  11. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Hello Simon,

    (A) “Gravity makes things fall down” and (B) “I am here”

    Re 11: I accept that (A) is subjective if you take down to mean “the direction of my feet” for this depends on your own perspective. For instance (A) could well be false if you were an astronaut in orbit looking “up” at the earth. In that case gravity would make things fall up. Thus you could well say (A) is subjective. But why should we take that definition? If you take “down” to mean “the direction of the earth (or the greater mass)” you would do well to call (A) objective. As it is the latter which is commonly understood it makes for a good example.

    In the case of (B) if you understand the word “here” to be referring to a time and/or place where the speaker is (as it commonly is understood), and the speaker is in that time and/or place, then that statement is objectively true. But the statement is also subjective in the following two ways:

    (B-1): I say “I am here.” when I am at my house and computer at 6pm. And then you say while at your own house and computer at 7pm, “Oh, I understand! You are here.” The truth of (A) is dependant on each ones perspective in time and space, and therefore subjective.

    (B-2): I say “I am here.” when I am at my house and computer. I go away from my computer into the kitchen. I say “I am here” and the statement, though identical in words as before means a different thing. The former meant I was at my computer and the latter meant I was in the kitchen. Both of the statements were objectively true, but as each relied on my own perspective they were also subjective.

    But pushing simple illustrative examples around like this is really a waste of time and space. I already admitted it was a poor example and offered a different illustration in comment 2.

  12. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Simon,

    Re 12:

    I thought you were presenting your own argument for disagreeing with Jonathan’s question; whether or not you agree that in a naturalistic worldview, all statements on (or about) morality are subjective.

    Here is what you said;

    Comment 9: This is absurd. For you to be consistent, Jonathan, you must also hold that under naturalsim any statements at all are subjective. Including scientific ones. Because, just like morality “merely” being the workings out of genes and the environment, so is science!

    This is why I stated it – as I understood it – syllogistically in comment 10.

    1) If – on naturalism – morality is the result of sociological and biological pressures through the course of human evolution, then moral statements are merely subjective.
    2) Science is also the result of sociological and biological pressures.
    3) Therefore – on naturalism – any and all statements are merely subjective.
    4) Because a naturalist can with certainty make objective statements (3) is absurd, and because (2) is true, therefore (1) must be false.

    I am not interested in what you think Ian’s argument is. I am interested in what your argument is.

    From comment 12 I see you have tweaked premise (2), from “science” to “naturalism,” and so it now reads

    1) If – on naturalism – morality is the result of sociological and biological pressures through the course of human evolution, then moral statements are merely subjective.?
    2) Naturalism involves only genetic-environmental machinations.?
    3) Therefore – on naturalism – any and all statements are merely subjective.?
    4) Because a naturalist can with certainty make objective statements (3) is absurd, and because (2) is true, therefore (1) must be false.

    Is this your argument? Do you care to restate or recast it?

  13. simon
    simon says:

    No, this is not my argument. Or rather it is my argument, which consists of what Ian’s argument must necessarily look like(1,2, and 3, anyway) based on what he has said. But I must confess this comes from more than just what he has said in this thread – so perhaps we should drop it.

    Anywho, his suggestion in 3 is utterly rejected by me; it is as absurd as suggesting that the human desire for companionship is merely subjective.

  14. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Simon,

    Ian has not commented on this tread. Perhaps you mean Jonathan?

    I and Jonathan (and we are in good company here) would agree with (1).
    You have provided the second premise (2) to show that (1) results in absurdities, namely (3). You reject (3) thus (4) which shows (1) is false.

    Is the argument, here stated, accepted and championed by you? Or do you wish to change it so it makes better sense, and represents what you are trying to say more accurately?

  15. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    If I may respond to what Simon wrote to me in post 9. I know it backtracks and may plough ground already covered, but I would like the chance to answer Simon and justify my statement that:

    In a naturalistic worldview, all statements on (or about) morality are subjective.

    Simon, by the response you gave, I take it that you do not agree with this statement. A simple, “I do not agree” and some logical reasoning would have been a welcome change to bare assertions. Maybe that is asking too much, and now I am left with the arduous task of explaining why your response is nought but empty allegations.

    I am consistent Simon. It is something that I dearly aspire to, and along with truth, what I consider to be essential in my life. If I am not consistent, then show me and I will change. Please do not make baseless assertions and expect me to realise from that, that I am wrong.

    Calling the above statement ‘absurd’ is what? Another good example of a subjective statement, perhaps. Unless you explain why, this is just your personal opinion. Maybe you think you did explain why. Hmm, we had better get to that then. All you actually did was make false allegations. Points in case:

    “you must also hold that under naturalism any statements at all are subjective”
    Well, thanks for the subjective opinion. But no, this is wrong. To take an already used example, irrespective of what I think, gravity is still objective. The attraction of one mass to another is going to occur whether consciousness is there or not. It will occur whether I state it or not, or whether I believe it or not. Thus you should understand that science (which I take as the study of physical laws) is entirely and purely objective. Find me a law and everything must conform to it. If we find that something does not conform to the law, the law may no longer be considered objective and either the law has to change or the process that apparently broke the law must be explained.

    ”morality is derived from genes and environment”
    This is an opinion that is itself derived from the idea that naturalism is true. It is a belief system. How is morality derived from atoms? And how is intelligence derived from atoms? Or even, how is reason derived from atoms? These are very big assertions to make. Very big indeed!

    you may wish to define the term “subjective” such that all statements made by naturalism fall under the term
    Go and quote me directly where I said such a thing! Where did I define subjective like that? Apart from defying logic when you agreed not to, you are making up false arguments that I never made, and do not even “wish” to make. Well this is plain nonsense and clearly false. You have a responsibly to represent what I say accurately, not build up your own ideas. If you cannot be reasonable in a discussion, then there is no point at all in having a discussion. If I have to correct you every single time that you misrepresent me, it is going to get awfully long. Look at what has happened already! To make this very clear for you:

    Naturalism is a belief that unguided matter and energy is all that exist. There are some variations to this and of course there are some people who will disagree with that statement. They will say that naturalism covers everything that exists whether we know it or not. This is vague enough to be entirely useless. If God exists then naturalism includes God and the word has entirely lost its meaning. Naturalism may be best understood in that it agrees with objective statements on how matter and energy operate. These are not statements made by naturalism, but they are statements that naturalism can agree with. Obviously, with God creating matter and setting the laws by which it operates, theism also agrees with the objective statements on how matter and energy operate. Such things are not solely the domain of naturalism. What is solely in the domain of naturalism is the claim that matter and energy are all that exist.

    I have not gone against Stuart’s definition of “objective” in the OP. I agree entirely with Stuart’s definition of the term objective. “Specifically, a naturalist certainly can make statements about mind-independant reality = an objective statement according to Stuart.” Absolutely! And those are the only objective statements that naturalists can make, for that is all they believe exists.

    Where naturalism becomes subjective is when it leaves this physical-law base and starts to make claims like your moral proclamations, “It is right for a person to behave in a particular way” and “It is wrong to stone adulterers.” Physical laws of matter and energy have no path to such statements. This is not just the claim of Christians, atheists agree and to quote the currently most prominent one:

    The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. As that unhappy poet A.E. Housman put it: ‘For Nature, heartless, witless Nature Will neither care nor know.’ DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music
    Dawkins, River out of Eden. p.133

    Or an even more clear analysis:

    Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) no gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent.
    William Provine, Evolution: Free will and punishment and meaning in life 1998 Darwin Day Keynote Address

    Apart from Dawkins spouting out propaganda, ”the universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect”, his understanding of naturalism is laid bare. There is no evil, no good, no right, no wrong, no purpose, no meaning, no design, no free-will. It is not that he identified these things as false. It is not that he proved these things do not exist, and thus concluded naturalism is true. It is that naturalism does not allow for these things to be real, so they must be declared not real in the most forceful manner.

    By claiming morality evolved in the scope of naturalism, you have provided a story about where you think it came from. But it is a story. It is not a fact in the sense that you can add chemical A to chemical B and on and on and you will get morality. Yet, let us pretend that naturalism is true. Given this premise, it is clear that the evolution of morality is exactly what happened. Chemical mixes with chemical and over a long period of time we get morality. Given the premise of naturalism, no objective explanation is required. All we need to say is a long period of time.

    As my original statement is all about what naturalism allows, or in this case what it does not allow, we are free to work under the premise that it is true. That is, morality did evolve! Given this statement, which moral standard is correct? Is the person without a moral standard, wrong? Why? When two people disagree on what is right, is one of them correct and the other incorrect? The claim can be put forward that morality has evolved yet in doing so we leave morality itself, impotent. Most people are born with five digits on each foot. Is the person born with six digits wrong? No, they are just different. I like to eat vegemite. Are the people who find vegemite repulsive, wrong? Again, no! This is just a difference that we may expect due to genetics, environment, upbringing and other factors. When morality is placed in the same basket, one person may have a view on what is good and what is evil, but are they right? Once again, the answer can only be no. Given the claimed basis of evolved morality, we have a story to tell where morality came from, but we have nothing to deem any particular moral standard as correct. Every moral standard is subjective. It is possible for a person to not even have a moral standard. They may not think that anything is right or wrong. In which case, even morality itself is subjective. Thus, it is entirely true to make the statement that:

    In a naturalistic worldview, all statements on (or about) morality are subjective.

    Anything that naturalism has to say on the correct moral standard, is subjective. You can make up your own meaning. You can make up your own good and evil. Whatever you make up may be right for you, but it does not have to be right for me! Once you take off your shoes, you are going to have to walk around bare foot. Naturalism claims to remove us from the responsibility of following God. It claims to free us to do whatever we want. There’s probably is no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life. Once naturalism castrates right and wrong, it cannot turn back and breed a real morality.

    I suggest that you do not cut up my post and object to a sentence here or there. Understand the concepts, try to digest the reality of naturalism and if you can, come and explain to me one thing:

    Why is what you say is “right”, actually right! Why is your moral standard the correct one?

    “My genes and the environment”, does not quite cut it buddy. Clearly someone else’s genes and environment may lead to a different “right” for them, exactly like what I enjoy eating can be totally different to what the other person enjoys eating. Naturalism demands that ‘genes and environment’ lead to morality, but all it produces is a toothless tiger. It does not provide a real right and wrong.

  16. simon
    simon says:

    Stuart,

    Blast, yes, I mean Jonathan.

    Scratch the argument I’ll put it in question form.

    You believe that if morality is the result of genetic-environmental machinations, then morality is subjective. Does this mean that you also beleive that if science is merely the result of genetic-environment mechanics, that scienctific findings are also subjective?

    Also, why does mere atomic machinations automatically mean mind-dependance. I don’t see a link.

  17. simon
    simon says:

    Jonathan,

    Yes I thought that I’d explained post 9 logically and clearly. Obviously not clearly enough. You have stated that “Naturalism is a belief that unguided matter and energy is all that exist. “ The statement which you entered this thread with is:

    In a naturalistic worldview, all statements on (or about) morality are subjective.

    Now, putting these two statements together means that: If the world is merely atomic machenations, morality is subjective.

    Now, if the world really is merely atomic machenations, then statments about morality are merely machenations, BUT ALSO statments about ANYTHING are merely machenations. Therefore, you must believe that if naturalism is correct, ANY statment is subjective.
    Perhaps you somehow think that moral statments would be different to scientific/other statements, but I don’t see how this could be because they would both merely be machenations.

    The above is why I think your statement is absurd, because you must necessarily think that under naturalism EVERY statement is subjective.

    ———————————-

    Thus you should understand that science (which I take as the study of physical laws) is entirely and purely objective

    This is simply not the case. Read Kuhn. Specifically The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions Everyone agrees that he got it right on the philosophy of science. Certainly science is very much on the objective side, but it is most certainly not completely objective.

    ”morality is derived from genes and environment”
    I feel that this is a far, far less crazy claim – indeed, the writing is on the wall – than the claim that there is some conveniently-unfalsifiable magical-god-dimension from which these things arise.

    The claim can be put forward that morality has evolved yet in doing so we leave morality itself, impotent.

    I find that this is one of the major motivations behind religion; the wish for absolutisms. I guess I understand it in many ways. But I find that I am just as much a follower of Jesus [‘ morals] today as I was when I was a christian. I think this reasoning stems from fear, and I don’t think fear is a good base for much.

    but we have nothing to deem any particular moral standard as correct

    I disagree, and I disagree with Dawkins etc. Certainly I don’t think the standard is as clear-cut as a religious person does, but I think our genes are an ample mandate to revere. As I have tried to point out several times, I think that morality is more like the human need for companionship or attraction to certain foods than it is scientific truths. But these things – companionship and foods – sure they are a bit fuzzy, there is some variation among individuals – but they are truths nonetheless.

    Why is what you say is “right”, actually right! Why is your moral standard the correct one?

    “OUR genes and the environment” cuts it for me. Certainly there are disagreements ‘tween individuals, but so what? Does the fact that we all need different levels of companionship make human companionship unobtainable or untrue?I notice that you say “Naturalism demands that ‘genes and environment’ lead to morality…” Now, why not go one step further. Certainly, naturalism demands that genes and environment lead to morality, but remember, naturalism has also led to fruitful and co-operative societies; good societies – no matter which of those societies it is that you consider to be good.

    I do sense a lot of fear behind your post, Jonathan. Clearly you are of the “the world is turning to chaos”, conservative ilk (In contrast to the likes of Rob Bell). I feel I should say that I, personally, have much hope in the future. Look at NZ. It is a paradise! I’ve said it before – I think that if Jesus were to visit us today he’d think this was heaven compared to the injustices of his day.

  18. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Well Simon,

    Here is your argument;

    Now, if the world really is merely atomic machenations, then statments about morality are merely machenations, BUT ALSO statments about ANYTHING are merely machenations. Therefore, you must believe that if naturalism is correct, ANY statment is subjective.?Perhaps you somehow think that moral statments would be different to scientific/other statements, but I don’t see how this could be because they would both merely be machinations.

    1) If the world really is merely atomic machenations, then statements about morality are merely machinations.
    2) If statments about morality are merely machinations, then statments about ANYTHING are merely machinations.
    3) Therefore, if naturalism is correct, ANY statement is subjective.

    Excellent hypothetical syllogism. The problem is obviously premise 2. First, statements about morality are not merely machinations. Moral statements are prescriptive norms. Second, there’s no real reason to think that it follows if it were the case that statements about morality are merely machinations then, statements about ANYTHING are merely machinations.

    You ask,

    Does this mean that you also beleive that if science is merely the result of genetic-environment mechanics, that scienctific findings are also subjective?

    Science is not merely the result of genetic and environmental mechanics. Science, broadly speaking, is investigating nature. Science comes about because we have rational minds, because we believe our minds correspond to nature thus it can be explained – if somewhat imperfectly, and because there is nature. Morality comes about because there are certain normative prescriptions which either are true or false, and because we perceive them somehow.

    Now the ground for science is nature. The ground of morality is an order that is entirely different. Now I see no reason that the naturalist cannot rationally accept scientific realism, for it is rational for the naturalist to accept there is such a thing as nature. But I do not see how a naturalist can accept moral realism. Nihilism would be the most rational ethical theory available for the naturalist.

  19. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    I have something to say, but answer Stuart first and if you could explain what version of naturalism you hold to, it would be very helpful in shedding some light on this discussion. Thanks Simon.

  20. Simon
    Simon says:

    Stuart,

    I realise that you are going to disagree with at atomic-machenation world. But we are discussing what Jonathan thinks naturalism involves. He has already stated that everything under naturalism would merely be atoms in motion, and that morality under naturalism is subjective. Therefore he must also believe that any other statement under naturalsim is subjective. Or if he thinks moral statements are somehow different, under naturalism, than other statements – e.g. scientific statements – he needs to explain why scientific statements are different to moral statements, under natuiralism. And he is going to find this hard, because he has already stated that everything under naturalism is merely atoms in motion.

    To put it in a much simpler form, perhaps I should just ask Jonathan directly:
    Jonathan, given that under naturalism everything is just atoms in motion, and given that you believe that moral statements in this atom-in-motion world would be subjective, why is it that, in this atoms-in-motion world, scientific statements would not be subjective? What is so different about scientific statements compared to moral statements in a world in which everything is just atomic machenations?

    I subscribe to my own version of naturalism. I have my own views.

  21. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Hey Simon, you cheated and jumped to the end of the trail and have uncovered why I reject naturalism. As I do reject it for being false and self-contradictory, I am going to find it impossible to logically justify the progression. And that is the whole point! As it can not be justified, it is rejected. Naturalism is false.

    Obviously you do have your own version. And that is what I was asking for you to explain. I have looked at naturalism and found it to be false. I am intrigued to know exactly what you subscribe to, that allows you to find your version true. So please do share.

  22. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Simon,

    If indeed you are a naturalist then the most sensible thing to do is affirm that all moral statements are merely subjective. If everything is just “atoms in motion” – a poetic way of describing reality on the naturalists view – then there is no way you can account for objective moral values and duties, so therefore, in short, all morality is merely subjective and illusory.

    You ask why, if (A) everything is merely atoms in motion and morality is subjective, it does not follow that (B) scientific statements are subjective?

    This underlines a confusion you have about the nature of morality. In order for B to follow from A it would have to be of the same order of things. But they are not. Science describes physical reality, and morality describes a realm of non-physical, prescriptive norms. So if naturalism is true there is no morality. So the question is how you account for moral statements (they’re nature, and more specifically they’re existence) on naturalism. Here is the same question posed negatively: why is nihilism not entailed if naturalism is true?

  23. simon
    simon says:

    Stuart,

    Our thinking couldn’t be more orthogonal. The last thing I would do is to agree that under naturalism moral statments are subjective. I do not believe this in the slightest: look at my comparisons to companionship and food.

    Moral statements are not non-physical at all! Can’t you see the writing on the wall? Look, for instance, at this example of how morality is very, very physically dependant. Seriously, you need to see this. It is about neurochemicals and monogomy-polygamy behaviour in voles. I think it an important datum illustrating that morality is completely dependant on the physical. I think it will really challenge your view of morality as non-physical. The speaker’s name is Patricia Churchland. She is a philosopher and neuroscientist. You want to start at 1:23:00

    http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/beyond-belief-science-religion-reason-and-survival/session-5-1
    —————————————

    Jonathan, I’ve got a response in the pipeline.

  24. simon
    simon says:

    Jonathan,

    Ah, we are on the same page then! :)

    You spoke before of scientific truths fitting like a glove, and in comparison, moral truths being all awash and unproveable; undeterminable – at least compared to scientific truths. I agree with you to a point. I agree that, in general, morality is a more fuzzy affair than science. I pointed to the underpinnings of modern science; the axioms if you like, and I did so to try to show that, ultimately, modern science’s underpinnings, and therefore science itself is merely built upon our innate senses. Take, for instance, Occam’s razor. We inherantly know that a scientific theory, or an explanation, which predicts the world around us more acurately than another theory, is correct. Where do we get this understanding from? On what is it based? Or the idea of ‘fair testing’. I used to try to convince my junior science students that a tennis ball bounced higher than a golf ball by dropping the tennis ball from twice the height. It never worked; they were always wise to it. How did they know? How is it that we inherantly know what a fair test is? Or logic. If five people enter a room and only two come out, we don’t need an education to know that there are still people in the room. Even birds have been shown to have this ability.
    All of these things just seem obvious to us; and mysterious when we ponder why this is so. And yet they are the underpinnings of so much – including science. These instincts are given to us by the universe. The universe is what we call ‘logical’, and we are a product of it.

    Similarly we inherantly know that it is wrong to commit murder; we know that it is wrong to cheat and steal. Unsurprisingly we are evolved to have empathy for others, which assures most of these qualities. Obviously morality only evolves for social animals – other than certain actions performed for it’s offspring I don’t think that a snake, for instance, would have any moral sensibilities – and I think social is the key; social necessarily involves empathy. That’s the ability that a social animal has – the ability to empathise with others. From there it’s quite easy, I suppose. Any individual can consider an action and judge it’s morality by whether they would like to be treated that way.

    As I have pointed out, naturalism must necessarily be impotent according to your way of thinking. This is because to you the word ‘objective’ is an absolute concept. It is not to me. Because we are a product of the world we are naturally endowed with the ability to understand it. But any observation we make is entirely internal to the universe. (My evidence here would be Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions – this work is almost universally accepted, and illustrates how scientific statements are certainly not completely objective) I do agree that there is a spectrum of Objective——Subjective, but nothing can be entirely objective, and nothing can be entirely subjective. In other words, nothing can be entirely mind-independant (we can’t behold anything in the universe without the mind) and nothing can be entirely mind-dependant (we can’t have a thought apart from the universe, as our mind is part of the universe)

    ………..So, back to the morality thing. Since deconverting I have long recognised the old testament as reading like a people attempting to axiomatise morality. The mould on the walls..the Urim and Thummim (these make homeopathy look like physics!).. cloven hoofs – and they were caught up in the vicissitudes of the day, exterminating enemy tribes(hardly the mark of an unchanging deity).. stoning adulterers.. burning sacrifices (like all cultures back then).
    I think that, in large part, this is religion’s purpose – to axiomatise morality – to give authority to the rules of society; to make the rules absolutely objective; to cement the group (e.g. David Sloan Wilson, Darwin’s Cathedral). If these rules are given by god, by jove you bet they’re real; you’d better obey them! I do often like to point out that I think that Jesus was the first to see through the axioms in place (the Law). While everyone around was following the axioms(like don’t harvest on the sabbath), he understood that the axioms were not the point. The spirit of the Law was. My point here is that……I think he was right! We inherantly know good when we see it, just like we know a fair test or a more successful theory. We get caught up in the axioms of scientific theories and we get caught up in the axioms of morality. And there is much truth to those axioms, don’t get me wrong. But those axioms are never going to be completely objective; they will never be the end, they are just a means.

    ——————–

    Take your views, Jonathan. Your religio-moral ones. You stated in another thread:

    It may be worth noting at this point that since Simon believes morality is tied directly to atoms and energy moving about, he is forced to maintain that morality is certainly objective…

    This is certainly true of my beliefs. If everything is matter in motion, then everything is objective (Clearly, not in the way you think of the term objective; just matter-objective). This includes your beliefs, too, Jonathan, for your beliefs are there for very good reason. I do not mean ‘good’ as in morally good, I mean ‘good’ as in brain machenations; atom machenations. For whatever reason – the details do not matter much – you/yourmind sees fit to assert that there are absolute super-nature moral standards.
    Now you, I assert, are given the same in-built senses as to what is morally good as I am, just as you are what a ‘fair test’ is or basic logic. And I trust that you, just as I do, instantiate(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/instantiate) that moral good as best you see fit. If you like I could put it this way: Given a religious person’s nature, upbringing, happenstance etc. they are making calculations; brain machenations; atom machenations which are – in a word, objective.

    Ironically, despite its objectivity – atomic-machenations objectivity – the above reasoning is exactly the type of reasoning which will be said to advocate subjectivity. And in a very real way it is. It would/will invite derision and malice from the platonic-thinkers here, but it gives me an understainding, an incorporation, (and at my more flattering times) an empathy toward those opposing views which will never be adorned with such.

    p.s. I invite sincere questions into the above. I don’t claim to have everything ‘squared away’; it would help me clarify this work-in-progress.

  25. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Thanks Simon for taking the time to write out your thoughts. I know it can be time-consuming when trying to clearly explain a concept to people with diametric views. So I appreciate the effort you put in. It will come as no surprise that I do have questions and comments. In the pipeline … as you might say. My pipeline might be a bit longer as work has some unrealistic demands to be met. Cheers.

    PS: My comments on your arguments for objective naturalistic morality in the other thread was to give your arguments a presentation and my reasons for disagreeing. I hope I was accurate enough for your liking.

  26. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Alright. Sunday is a great day to kick back and do those extra things. Let’s get to this. Hopefully I can help out a little bit in the aim of clarifying your work-in-progress. Here are some friendly comments. I hope you take them as such.

    Assertions are not reasons
    First up, I see a lot of assertions. If you are talking to people who do not share your belief in naturalism, it is no good making statements that just stem from that belief. For example, ”These instincts are given to us by the universe. The universe is what we call ‘logical’, and we are a product of it.” and “Because we are a product of the world we are naturally endowed with the ability to understand it.” This one does not even make sense (to me at least). What necessitates that a product of the universe will lead to the ability for that product to understand itself? It has been well said that:

    An explanation of cause is not a justification by reason – C.S. Lewis

    You have justified the source of morality – not the moral standard
    This is my biggest objection and I have yet to see you see you reason this out, without simply appealing to ‘naturalism is true’.

    If everything is matter in motion, then everything is objective (Clearly, not in the way you think of the term objective; just matter-objective). This includes your beliefs, too, Jonathan, for your beliefs are there for very good reason … For whatever reason – the details do not matter much – you/your mind sees fit to assert that there are absolute super-nature moral standards.

    You tell me that my moral sense is matter-objective. This is a fair enough deduction from the base axiom of naturalism. And yes, my moral sense tells me that there is an absolute, super-nature standard. Obviously such a thing does not exist in naturalism so what my moral sense actually contains, the standard it entails, must be subjective. If what my moral sense holds as “right” is actually subjective, there is no reason whatsoever to follow it. (Other than it is what I hold.) And you agree as you say that, “these axioms [meaning the Law or social rules as morality] are never going to be completely objective … they are just a means.”

    So you tie the standard to a community-useful-survival-beneficial state. This moral standard can only be called somewhat objective – when leveraged from this source. Yet, “right” clearly remains optional and variable. This community-useful-survival-beneficial state is optional. It is not “right” or “wrong” to go either way. If someone does not want to participate in community or survival and decides to take as many people with them, it is not wrong under naturalism. It just is. According to propagation and survival logic, they will not last very long and so will be genetically weeded out. But unless you decide to take a stance that the weakest (or non-survival) tendencies are “wrong”, what they are doing can not be called wrong. And I do not think you can take such a stance without appealing to a super-nature rule.

    the ability to empathise with others. From there it’s quite easy, I suppose. Any individual can consider an action and judge it’s morality by whether they would like to be treated that way.

    The empathy idea is trotted out as the biggest justification for morality. And, in naturalism, I think it is. Nature provides many examples of animals ‘helping’ each other. Altruistic tendencies are used as a basis to say what is “right”. Yet, once again, nature also provides a multitude of examples of animals with a lack of empathy, without altruistic tendencies. For these cases, murder and rape are not wrong. For the empathising animals, such things are wrong. For the non-empathising animals they are not. Who is to say empathising animals are right and non-empathising animals are wrong? Can the empathising animals impose their standard on the non-empathising? Not at all – without being hypocritical! Beneficial is synonymous for ‘meeting my needs or desires’, but it is not automatically “right”.

    Tough to swallow

    but nothing can be entirely objective, and nothing can be entirely subjective. In other words, nothing can be entirely mind-independant (we can’t behold anything in the universe without the mind) and nothing can be entirely mind-dependant (we can’t have a thought apart from the universe, as our mind is part of the universe)

    This could probably be worded a lot better. I do no see how “nothing can be entirely mind-independent”. The story of naturalism is that there was a very long time without “minds” available. In this period, was there an objective reality? According to naturalism there was. It is just that the matter could not yet perceive itself. This is true according to logic and the constraints of naturalism.

    “Not having a thought apart from the universe” is a bare assertion that rests entirely on the assumption of naturalism being true. I see no reason to believe this at all and plenty to doubt it.

    Given that we predominantly use physical senses as input devices, and such sensory input is limited to detecting physical entities, it is fair to say that these senses cannot detect anything apart from the physical universe. They are limited to interactions with the physical universe. We use reason, logic and analysis to process the sensory input. In themselves, they are non-physical. For example, logic says that if I have one object and add another, I will have two objects. But logic does not require objects. One plus one is still two and cannot be otherwise. This is not atomic-based at all

    On Biblical Morality

    If these rules are given by god, by jove you bet they’re real; you’d better obey them! I do often like to point out that I think that Jesus was the first to see through the axioms in place (the Law). While everyone around was following the axioms(like don’t harvest on the sabbath), he understood that the axioms were not the point. The spirit of the Law was.

    Now I know you were claiming that biblical rules are attempts that people made to instantiate the morality that is in-built to people. If this is correct, then nothing is really wrong with their rules. It is just an implementation of the morality that is in-built into them. Exactly what you say we should be doing based on how we obtain moral standards.

    I would like to address a different line of thought that often is raised as an argument: If the OT Laws are morality from God, why has it changed? Since it has changed, it shows that there is no super-natural standard for the standard has changed. I am not claiming that you are making this argument, though I would like to address it briefly for it is an apparent direction that the mind can go.

    Throughout this conversation, I have always maintained that for morality to be objective, something has to exist besides matter and energy. Of course I am talking about what the moral standard entails. I do not consider a personal ‘moral’ standard to actually be a moral standard at all. What is right for one may not be right for another and “right” on its own, has really lost all meaning. It seems quite obvious that if individuals can have their own ‘standards’ then there is no objective standard. For there to be an objective moral standard, it exists apart from nature. The terms that represent this are supernatural or spiritual.

    Such a standard does not require atomic-based life before it exists. The standard is not subject to atomic-life. As such, no law we implement can encapsulate the standard. Yet we can implement the standard. This standard is evident throughout the entire bible and still evident today, and it is the same. Love God and love people. Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly. I agree that this is what Jesus clarified. And we still need it for we get wrapped up in our ‘rules’ all the time. Yes, religions are great at making up rules. Rules do bind, but the Spirit sets us free. Avoid religions and go for relationship.

    Concisely
    You claim morality is an ‘attribute’ of people and this makes it objective. This claimed source of morality actually justifies ‘biblical’ morality, for it objectively came from the people back then, so it must be right (for them at least). It does not have to be right for us now.

    Finally

    (and at my more flattering times) an empathy toward those opposing views which will never be adorned with such.

    That was an interesting way to end your presentation. Coming from a ‘Christian’ background, I would have thought you should have been well aware of the servant King. The view that says there is a real right and wrong. I would have expected that you knew about the man whose empathy towards people with opposing views was so great that he was willing to be sacrificially killed for such people. I should have assumed that you knew about the life that leads people to love their enemies, to pray for those who attack them, to serve, to give all they have, to repay evil with good, to act justly and love mercy, to forgive in the face of unspeakable crimes. This life that says, there is a God who loves you and will carry you through all the pain of life. I would have thought you knew about this ‘opposing view’ that provides bucket loads of empathy.

    I did ask for an explanation of why your version of naturalism is true. Why it is able to justify morality? I did get your explanation, I am pretty sure it did not justify naturalism or morality (the standard of right). But thanks for trying.

  27. Simon
    Simon says:

    Jonathan,

    Assertions are not reasons

    I guess I don’t take your criticism here too seriously, because it is gap pointing, and the gaps aren’t really that large, and the gaps in supernaturalism are, comparatively, enormous. It is a trivial stretch that we are made entirely from genes/the universe (e.g. data in post 25), while it is quite a stretch that there is an unverifiable, unfalsifiable supernatural world.
    It is even more trivial that organisms are built to understand the world. That is what evolution does!, it promotes the formation of organisms that understand the world better. (I didn’t mention the understanding of ourselves but you raise a good point. Our selves are a part of the world around us, and in understanding that world it does seem sensible that organisms might understand themselves, too)

    I don’t make any sense out of that Lewis quote; it’s nonsense to me – perhaps you could explain what you mean?

    You have justified the source of morality – not the moral standard

    …If someone does not want to participate in community or survival and decides to take as many people with them, it is not wrong under naturalism.

    Under naturalism I would say that ‘don’t murder people‘ is almost completely objective.

    Tough to swallow

    This could probably be worded a lot better. I do no see how “nothing can be entirely mind-independent”. The story of naturalism is that there was a very long time without “minds” available. In this period, was there an objective reality? According to naturalism there was.

    Of course I am not denying that there would be a reality before there were minds. All I mean is that that ‘reality’ is inaccessible except through mind. Ergo, nothing is mind-independant; nothing is completely objective.

    “Not having a thought apart from the universe” is a bare assertion that rests entirely on the assumption of naturalism being true. I see no reason to believe this at all and plenty to doubt it.

    Lol. Please do share!

    But logic does not require objects.

    I disagree. There is not some supernatural logic-book somewhere to which objects refer before they interact. First there is the universe/objects, then comes our modelling of it; modelling which we refer to as ‘logic’.

    On Biblical Morality

    You claim morality is an ‘attribute’ of people and this makes it objective. This claimed source of morality actually justifies ‘biblical’ morality, for it objectively came from the people back then, so it must be right (for them at least). It does not have to be right for us now.

    Yes, I think the people back then were doing ‘good’ in the sense that they were trying to instantiate that innate moral sense. And I agree that it doesn’t have to be right for us now. But if there is an absolute moral standard, as you claim, these observations hardly point toward an unchanging deity!

    ———

    That was an interesting way to end your presentation. Coming from a ‘Christian’ background, I would have thought you should have been well aware of the servant King. The view that says there is a real right and wrong. I would have expected that you knew about the man whose empathy towards people with opposing views was so great that he was willing to be sacrificially killed for such people. I should have assumed that you knew about the life that leads people to love their enemies, to pray for those who attack them, to serve, to give all they have, to repay evil with good, to act justly and love mercy, to forgive in the face of unspeakable crimes. This life that says, there is a God who loves you and will carry you through all the pain of life. I would have thought you knew about this ‘opposing view’ that provides bucket loads of empathy.

    I am more than aware of all of this, of course. And I agree, there is very much that christianity gets very, very right.
    But I think that ultimately your clinging to your “real right and wrong” is a “get[ting] wrapped up in [our] ‘rules’ “. It has to be, because a “real right and wrong” has to be in the form of rules.
    Of the two of us, I think it is I that has faith in people, and in democracy, and in the future.

  28. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Hi Simon. Thanks for the clarification. Quick one regarding:

    Under naturalism I would say that ‘don’t murder people‘ is almost completely objective.

    Do you mean that:
    a) The standard of “right” that you just presented as ‘don’t murder people’, is right for all people everywhere.
    OR
    b) Don’t murder people is a standard of “right” for you, but not necessarily for others. It is objective to your genetic make-up and social conditioning, but of itself, it is not a true standard of right. It is just objectively right for the people who want it to be, or claim it to be so. By necessity, a person who does not have this ‘don’t murder people’ idea is not actually wrong. Objectively for them, they are correct if they want to murder people.

  29. Simon
    Simon says:

    Jonathan,

    Yes, I suppose I would say that “don’t murder people” is right for all people everywhere in a similar way that other collective knowledge is – knowledge like scientific knowledge. There is not – as I think you imagine – some scientific axioms or edicts somewhere by which we judge everything. We write those axioms based on what produces fruit. Indeed, for much of our past it was theistic axioms which bore the most fruit. (It would be foolish to assume that naturalistic axioms will win out for ever more) The same is true of “do not murder” I think. “Do not murder” bears the most fruit, and the word that we use to describe that which bears the most fruit? “True”!

    But, of course, there are many cases where murdering is considered to be correct. Like warfare, and of course many religious people the world over condone the death penalty.

    How do you explain the cases where, in the old testament, the Israelites actively invaded and murdered neighbouring tribes?

  30. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Hmmm. Bearing fruit eh? That is your reason for justifying an objective moral standard in naturalism. Whatever bears the most fruit is true? Gee Simon, I thought you said you would abide by the laws of logic. Well, there is no point in going any further. You have presented your justification and people are free to read it and make their own decision. For my understanding, despite your insistence to the contrary, you have successfully confirmed how naturalism is totally unable to lead to an objective moral standard.

    I have been pointing out a gap; this huge logical gap between naturalism and the existence of an objective moral standard. Brush it aside if you want. Logical gaps do not close with time. Divert our attention from the issue with accusations. Avoid logic and reason if you must. I am not biting. For your questions on biblical actions, a number of in-depth articles have been posted on this site that explore these very questions. You are free to read them at your leisure. It is a distraction, and irrelevant to the issue here of whether naturalism can or cannot produce an objective moral standard.

    Thanks for sharing.

  31. Simon
    Simon says:

    Inability to counter and resort to sarcasm noted. Again, you are completely correct that there is no such thing as an objective standard – in either morality or science (or anything) – based on your notion of what the word ‘objective’ is. Because your definition of the word ‘objective’ is supernatural and, well, nonsense.

  32. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Simon,

    1) Can you please directly quote where I was sarcastic? I used none when I wrote and am disappointed that something could be taken as sarcasm. I meant every word I wrote.

    2) When I have used the term ‘objective’, I have always had in mind the accepted definition. As stated by Stuart;

    Objective means a mind-independent reality. That is, an objective feature of the universe is something that does not rely on my own – or anyone else’s – personal beliefs or feelings on the matter.

    And from the dictionary;

    – intent upon or dealing with things external to the mind rather than with thoughts or feelings, as a person or a book.
    – being the object of perception or thought; belonging to the object of thought rather than to the thinking subject (opposed to subjective ).

    Nothing more than that.

    3) I decided to end our discourse because we had fully explored the nature of morality and objectivity within naturalism. (ie the topic) Branching into other concepts muddies understanding on this topic. I was happy to let you present you view and I think you did that a number of times in different ways. If you think that you have not been countered then congratulations, you can be satisfied in that knowledge. That I disagree with your view is not a slander upon you as a person. The other topics you raised are important and worth discussing. Here is not that place. I am sure we will in the appropriate topic.

    Once again, thanks for sharing and blessings to you.

  33. simon
    simon says:

    Gee Simon, I thought you said you would abide by the laws of logic.

    Yes, I suppose sarcasm is not the right word.

    Objective means a mind-independent reality.

    There is no such thing as mind-independant reality. Or rather, there is no such thing as a mind-independant (completely objective) description of reality. Certainly we can approach mind-independence, but we can never attain it.

    I must again suggest that you read Thoman Kuhn’s The Nature of Scientific Revolutions It explains very well how we can never attain perfect objectivity.

  34. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    There is no such thing as mind-independant reality.

    Does the physical world exist? O no, you don’t really mean that, because you amend the above claim in the next sentence…

    Or rather, there is no such thing as a mind-independant (completely objective) description of reality.

    Do you exist?

  35. simon
    simon says:

    Stuart,

    Yes, good point, I do not actually mean “There is no such thing as mind-independant reality.” I mean “there is no such thing as a mind-independant (completely objective) description of reality.

    I think it is as valid for me to claim that I exist as it is for me to claim that the world exists independant of my mind. And yes, I do believe that the world exists independant of my mind! :) I just don’t believe in a completely objective description which, surely you must necessarily agree with me because it is not possible to view the world except through a mind. ?

  36. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Simon

    The existence of an objective reality? Tick
    The existence of an objective description of reality? Cross. – that’s fine!
    The existence of objective morals? Tick or Cross
    The existence of an objective description of morality? Cross. Fine!

    When we say, if there is no God then there are no objective moral values and duties we speak of the existence question. Not the descriptive (or epistemological) question.

  37. Simon
    Simon says:

    Okay, then. Yes, I agree that there is a hook; I agree that you need to explain why there are differing morals in the bible. But, actually, I don’t think you’re off the hook. It seems absurd to me that a god would purposefully not disclose those existing moral values, and instead play silly-****ers via epistemology.

  38. simon
    simon says:

    Oh, was I supposed to choose tick or cross?! Well, the answer is somewhere inbetween. Remember, I think there is no such thing as completely objective or completely subjective. It is a continuum. And I’d say that the objectivity of different moral statements is different.
    But the answer using you-two’s definition of ‘objective’ is ‘cross’ – there is no completely objective morality, just as there is no completely objective science, or anything!

  39. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Remember, I think there is no such thing as completely objective or completely subjective. It is a continuum. And I’d say that the objectivity of different moral statements is different.

    This shows a complete lack of comprehension on what ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ mean. You said you would accept the above definitions Simon, but all I see is screwing with the definition (which is not just Jonathan and my definition, by the standard definition spelt out in the dictionary, and used and accepted within scholarly discussions and writings in Philosophy of Religion and Meta-ethics) and irrelevant side tracks – like the supposed differing morals in the Bible. You agree there is a hook. Then there are objective moral values. Case closed.

  40. simon
    simon says:

    No. I understand what you mean by ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’. I also understand what you mean by ‘god’. Doesn’t mean the term has any bearing on reality.

  41. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Well, if you do understand the meaning of ‘objective’ and ’subjective’ its not apparent. Your description of them as on a continuum is telling. A moral value or duty either subjectively or objectively exists – there is no in-between. There is no grey area when it comes to the existence question.

    From the article above, the meaning of the term you said you accepted.

    Objective means a mind-independent reality. That is, an objective feature of the universe is something that does not rely on my own – or anyone else’s – personal beliefs or feelings on the matter.

    Subjective, is precisely the opposite of objective. That is subjective belief relies on the individual. It is mind-dependant.

    That is to say they are contradictories. Either P or not-P. For moral values and duties, they are either objective or subjective: either an existent reality, or merely a fabrication of the mind.

  42. simon
    simon says:

    Objective means a mind-independent reality. That is, an objective feature of the universe is something that does not rely on my own – or anyone else’s – personal beliefs or feelings on the matter.

    Consider the above definitions, but instead of morality, think about how they apply to the physical universe; science, if you like.
    Do I believe that there is a mind-independant reality? Yes. Do I believe that we can objectively describe that reality? No, we can approach objectivity, but we can’t achieve it, because we cannot access the universe except through the mind. i.e. our descriptions are always somewhat mind-dependant.

    Do I believe in a mind-independant morality? Yes, but, like physical objectivity I think we can never completely objectively describe it. Our descriptions of it will always be somewhat mind-dependant.

  43. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Do I believe in a mind-independant morality? Yes…

    This is real progress!

    As you do think there are objective moral values and duties, how do you ground them in existence?

    Same question – different analogy: What is the ‘hook’ itself hung on?

    Same question again: what is the ontological (meta-ethical / metaphysical) foundation for objective moral values and duties?

    …but, like physical objectivity I think we can never completely objectively describe it. Our descriptions of it will always be somewhat mind-dependant.

    Irrelevant. The moral argument is not concerned with descriptions.

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