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    17 Jun '10 13:28
    I think moral objectivism is back in fashion and those that advocate it claim that the subjectivists, non cognitivists and error theorists are giving a debunking account of morality which potentially robs normative theories of their ability to guide. They say that moral claims appear to have a special authority, a 'must-be-doneness' which moral anti-realist accounts undermine.

    The religious specifically invoke god to give moral claims 'clout' but atheists can be objectivists as well.

    I don't think that subjectivism, properly understood, is a debunking account, but I'd be interested in what people here think.

    To illustrate, a debunking account of ghosts might be that they are a trick of the light. People holding this view would no longer believe talk of ghosts as supernatural agents and so would probably be error theorists with respect to ghost talk.

    Subjectivists broadly speaking hold that moral talk refers to concepts that are rooted in sentiment. There are different sorts of subjectivist, but I have in mind something like Hume's position. Here it is not individual sentiments which ground morality, but fundamental human values, where a 'value' is something we have a particular type of emotional/cognitive response to, something like 'cherishing'.

    My claim is that the objectivist account fares no better than the subjectivist as an account of our normative theories.
  2. Territories Unknown
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    17 Jun '10 18:28
    Originally posted by Lord Shark
    I think moral objectivism is back in fashion and those that advocate it claim that the subjectivists, non cognitivists and error theorists are giving a debunking account of morality which potentially robs normative theories of their ability to guide. They say that moral claims appear to have a special authority, a 'must-be-doneness' which moral anti-reali ...[text shortened]... ccount fares no better than the subjectivist as an account of our normative theories.
    Interesting conjecture. However, even more interesting is how--- either consciously or subconsciously--- you equate this realm of human existence a spiritual concern.
  3. Joined
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    17 Jun '10 22:19
    Originally posted by FreakyKBH
    Interesting conjecture. However, even more interesting is how--- either consciously or subconsciously--- you equate this realm of human existence a spiritual concern.
    No, I don't think that is more interesting. Still, each to their own.
  4. Donationbbarr
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    17 Jun '10 22:401 edit
    Originally posted by Lord Shark
    I think moral objectivism is back in fashion and those that advocate it claim that the subjectivists, non cognitivists and error theorists are giving a debunking account of morality which potentially robs normative theories of their ability to guide. They say that moral claims appear to have a special authority, a 'must-be-doneness' which moral anti-reali ccount fares no better than the subjectivist as an account of our normative theories.
    It is a mistake, I think, to characterize moral objectivism as so closely tied to deontic notions. There are a cluster of views according to which moral reasons, or considerations, or principles have a special authority (the 'must-be-doneness' you mention). Many objectivist moral theories want to retain something like this. But, ever since G.E.M. Anscombe's paper "Modern Moral Philosophy", moral philosophers have been questioning whether these cluster of views makes sense. One of Anscombe's points is that these deontic construals of the moral domain are conceptually tied to an outmoded legalism. Bernard Williams, for instance, in "Morality, the Peculiar Institution", argues that moral considerations are just those relevant to centrally important human concerns. This is why we should take them as especially weighty in our deliberations, but it does not follow that they cannot be outweighed by other reasons in particular circumstances. Of course there are the Kantians and neo-Kantians, who think that moral reasons are requirements of practical rationality, and some social-contract theorists who think that moral reasons are requirements of instrumental rationality, but particularists, virtue ethicists, pluralists, and some other anti-theorists think that moral reasons, although objective, should not count as decisive in our deliberations simply by their nature.

    Any distinction between objectivism and subjectivism in this arena will have to be drawn according to what the putative truth-conditions are for moral claims. But this can be really difficult. Consider a Utilitarian view according to which agents should only act in accord with those rules which, if generally followed, would maximize overall happiness. Suppose, however, that these Utilitarians define 'happiness' as having one's considered preferences satisfied. Here there are two levels, the theoretical, which deals with determinations of rightness/wrongness and action-guidance, and the axiological, which deals with value. You get moral duties from the theoretical level, but what is ultimately of value is the satisfaction of subjective preferences. Does this count as moral objectivism or subjectivism, on your distinction?
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    17 Jun '10 23:57
    Originally posted by bbarr
    It is a mistake, I think, to characterize moral objectivism as so closely tied to deontic notions. There are a cluster of views according to which moral reasons, or considerations, or principles have a special authority (the 'must-be-doneness' you mention). Many objectivist moral theories want to retain something like this. But, ever since G.E.M. Anscombe's ...[text shortened]... ferences. Does this count as moral objectivism or subjectivism, on your distinction?
    I agree that it is a mistake to characterise all moral objectivism as closely tied to deontic notions. I'm considering one kind of motive for the support of objectivism, which is the suspicion that the alternatives amount to a debunking of moral concepts.

    I also agree that the objectivism/subjectivism divide is difficult to draw; I think this is because the kinds of mind dependence relations that count as important are not so clear.

    So consider a rule utilitarian whose criterion is maximising happiness, and they define this slippery concept as preference maximisation. Within the normative theory, 'right actions' are defined as actions that tend to maximise considered preferences.

    The meta-ethical theory must consider what this 'rightness' consists in. The fact that preferences are mind dependent is not enough to qualify a stance as subjectivist, since this would trivially make almost all stances subjectivist. I think what counts is what it is that makes it true that it is right to maximise preferences. If it is that we especially care about our preferences, then the stance is subjectivist.
  6. Donationbbarr
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    18 Jun '10 00:361 edit
    Originally posted by Lord Shark
    I agree that it is a mistake to characterise all moral objectivism as closely tied to deontic notions. I'm considering one kind of motive for the support of objectivism, which is the suspicion that the alternatives amount to a debunking of moral concepts.

    I also agree that the objectivism/subjectivism divide is difficult to draw; I think this is becaus s. If it is that we especially care about our preferences, then the stance is subjectivist.
    O.K., so does subjectivism, on your account, agree with the following claims?:

    By 'first-order' here I mean claims about the rightness or wrongness of particular actions or action-types (e.g., It is wrong to lie).

    1) First-order moral claims have truth-conditions. (Cognitivism)
    2) At least some first-order moral claims are true. (Realism)
    3) The truth conditions for all first-order moral claims are, essentially, at least partly constituted by facts about the cognitive/conative/emotive states of human beings. (Subjectivism)

    While this view would be compatible with relativism, it would not entail it. To the extent that the truth-conditions for first-order moral claims are indexical, the view is relativist. So, if these truth-conditions make reference to facts about the subjective states of some particular individual, group, or culture, then the view is relativist. If the truth-conditions only make reference to facts about the subjective states of all humans, or humans as such, then the view is universalist. Some combination is possible here as well, which may be a good thing for first-order moral judgments that are obviously culturally dependent but seem to make good sense in that culture.
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    18 Jun '10 01:17
    Originally posted by bbarr
    O.K., so does subjectivism, on your account, agree with the following claims?:

    By 'first-order' here I mean claims about the rightness or wrongness of particular actions or action-types (e.g., It is wrong to lie).

    1) First-order moral claims have truth-conditions. (Cognitivism)
    2) At least some first-order moral claims are true. (Realism)
    3) The tr ...[text shortened]... judgments that are obviously culturally dependent but seem to make good sense in that culture.
    Yes I am using the term subjectivist in the way you describe. Within this taxonomy, error theorists, non cognitivists and subjectivists are non overlapping sets.

    I am also aware that subjectivism does not entail relativism and of the distinction between indexical relativism and so called genuine relativism (as discussed for example by Max Kölbel, "Indexical Relativism versus Genuine Relativism", International Journal of Philosophical Studies Vol. 12(3), 297–313).
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    18 Jun '10 02:08
    Originally posted by Lord Shark
    I think moral objectivism is back in fashion and those that advocate it claim that the subjectivists, non cognitivists and error theorists are giving a debunking account of morality which potentially robs normative theories of their ability to guide. They say that moral claims appear to have a special authority, a 'must-be-doneness' which moral anti-reali ...[text shortened]... ccount fares no better than the subjectivist as an account of our normative theories.
    I agree.


    "Subjectivists broadly speaking hold that moral talk refers to concepts that are rooted in sentiment."

    How about the sentiment of not feeling alone? I don't mean being alone as in by one's self. I mean being alone as in without someone we can trust 100%.
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    18 Jun '10 02:10
    Originally posted by bbarr
    It is a mistake, I think, to characterize moral objectivism as so closely tied to deontic notions. There are a cluster of views according to which moral reasons, or considerations, or principles have a special authority (the 'must-be-doneness' you mention). Many objectivist moral theories want to retain something like this. But, ever since G.E.M. Anscombe's ...[text shortened]... ferences. Does this count as moral objectivism or subjectivism, on your distinction?
    You lost me at deontic.

    Must I always have to refer to the dictionary when reading your posts? 🙂
  10. Donationbbarr
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    18 Jun '10 02:24
    Originally posted by Lord Shark
    Yes I am using the term subjectivist in the way you describe. Within this taxonomy, error theorists, non cognitivists and subjectivists are non overlapping sets.

    I am also aware that subjectivism does not entail relativism and of the distinction between indexical relativism and so called genuine relativism (as discussed for example by Max Kölbel, "Inde ...[text shortened]... rsus Genuine Relativism", International Journal of Philosophical Studies Vol. 12(3), 297–313).
    It seems to me, at a first pass, that cognitivist subjectivism can accommodate the deontic if the following conditions are satisfied:

    1) The truth-conditions of paradigmatic FO moral claims are constituted by subjective facts about humans as such, where these facts are something like Aristotelian categoricals; facts about us that obtain in virtue of our nature as human. That is, that these truth-conditions supervene on facts that are both subjective and universally shared (or universally shared among those in the normal range, though this clause can be dangerous to employ).

    2) The content of these subjective states is amenable to being weighted in a way that will yield the deontic. If the states in question are doxastic, for instance, perhaps their content could include 'must be/not be done' or 'is always right/wrong', or 'is always the most important consideration'. If the states in question are conative, perhaps they would have to be at least partly specified by reference to their strengths; exceptionally strong conative states would yield moral reasons that cannot in general (ever?) be outweighed by other states.

    Do you think these conditions are necessary for deontic accomodation? Can you think of another condition that would have to be satisfied?

    Also, I can be pedantic. Please note that often the clarifying comments I make in our conversations are intended for the sake of others who may be reading. It is not as though I think you need basic philosophical positions clarified.
  11. Donationbbarr
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    18 Jun '10 02:26
    Originally posted by josephw
    You lost me at deontic.

    Must I always have to refer to the dictionary when reading your posts? 🙂
    'Deontic' means 'relating to duty or obligation'. A moral theory that makes room for the deontic is one that entails that there are some actions, or types of actions, that we have a duty or obligation not to perform, or that there are some moral reasons that should be absolutely decisive when we are trying to figure out what to do.
  12. Standard memberblack beetle
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    18 Jun '10 04:33
    Originally posted by josephw
    You lost me at deontic.

    Must I always have to refer to the dictionary when reading your posts? 🙂
    Sometimes English are Greek to you because sometimes English are Greek
    😵
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    18 Jun '10 10:19
    Originally posted by bbarr
    It seems to me, at a first pass, that cognitivist subjectivism can accommodate the deontic if the following conditions are satisfied:

    1) The truth-conditions of paradigmatic FO moral claims are constituted by subjective facts about humans as such, where these facts are something like Aristotelian categoricals; facts about us that obtain in virtue of our na ...[text shortened]... be reading. It is not as though I think you need basic philosophical positions clarified.
    My first reaction is that 1) seems necessary and the conative part of 2) fits the version of subjectivism that I was thinking of. I'm still thinking about whether doxastic states would do the job. I haven't thought of another condition yet.

    On your clarifying comments, I'm sorry I did not intend to come across as wishing to curtail these.
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    20 Jun '10 11:43
    bbarr,

    I think doxastic states as a basis would give moral statements the flavour of institutional facts, but that could work. Do you agree?

    Also another motivation of objectivism, apart from seeking to underpin the deontic aspec,t seems to be to give a credible account of the form of moral discourse, but again I think that properly understood, subjectivist views are no worse for this than objectivist ones.
  15. Donationbbarr
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    20 Jun '10 22:08
    Originally posted by Lord Shark
    bbarr,

    I think doxastic states as a basis would give moral statements the flavour of institutional facts, but that could work. Do you agree?

    Also another motivation of objectivism, apart from seeking to underpin the deontic aspec,t seems to be to give a credible account of the form of moral discourse, but again I think that properly understood, subjectivist views are no worse for this than objectivist ones.
    What do you mean by 'institutional facts'? Do you mean that they would function like specifications of the rules of a collective agreement?
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