Right and Wrong do exist

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jakeel1
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In science we say that objectivity consists in detachment and commitment to an objective, namely the accumulation of knowledge through social criticism (peer-review), observation, experiment, comparison and so forth. Objectivity then presupposes an objective, in the case of science it is knowledge.

In the case of morals, the objective might be disputed but if one agrees to commit to a definition they can work out the logical consequences of that definition. For example if we agree that the objective of morality is utility, right would be whatever promotes utility, and wrong whatever reduces it.

So in some superficial sense right and wrong are absolute, so long as we agree with the elementary definition.

Doesn't this mean they don't exist? Well no one would claim that science is wrong (quite a bold claim, insane people do but they shouldn't really be making moral decisions for the rest of us) because it fufils its objective (to get knowledge), equally through an application of science we can determine the best definition of morality and dismiss others as irrelevent.
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Adam C
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I don't see how science can tell us what is right or wrong. Certainly, if we decide that, say, maximising pleasure as far as is possible is the morally correct thing to do, then science can tell us how best to do that, but it can't tell that maximising pleasure is what we should be doing in the first place, and there are a number of objections to utilitarianism. I don't see, therefore, how science will allow us to "determine the best definition of morality".
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jakeel1
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(Original post by Adam C)
I don't see how science can tell us what is right or wrong. Certainly, if we decide that, say, maximising pleasure as far as is possible is the morally correct thing to do, then science can tell us how best to do that, but it can't tell that maximising pleasure is what we should be doing in the first place, and there are a number of objections to utilitarianism. I don't see, therefore, how science will allow us to "determine the best definition of morality".
Why wouldn't we be doing exactly that in the first place? Science can show us which objective makes the most sense, for example most of us dismiss religious ethics now.
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Nogoodsorgods
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Your argument fails because 'social criticism (peer-review), observation, experiment, comparison' are, no matter what humans, however 'distinguished' might like to think, only objective in comparison to normal subjectivity, not ACTUALLY objective. In fact, since none of us are God, it can be argued that no such thing as objectivity actually exists UNLESS you 'accept the word of God' and enter that it in your everyday subjectivity. But if 95% of people aren't doing the same, you can see how that comes undone, like a popular band going out of fashion.

For the sake of convenience scientists might say that , because every time such and such persistently happens, this happens, we'll call that a scientific law unless it stops happening.

But, in morality, it is arbritary or learned choices and circumstances that sometimes result in persistence.

For example, if a railway station puts up a sign saying 'Do not stand in groups of more than 3 people', it might become the norm not to do that even though everyone was perfectly happy to stand around in groups before the sign went out and in fact even encouraged doing so because most people found it helped social cohesion.

And if the sign ended with 'Fine £1000' the hatred from others might be even greater. It's as if any bystanders gain extra pleasure from imagining that a simple 'Please disperse' from the station master would be accompanied with a penalty plucked out of the air but 'authorised' by the fact that it is on a sign.

Possibly part of the bystanders equates this kind of situation with what they regard as a similar one such as a company calling a residential phone number that's registered with the Telephone Preference Service.

Yet what they fail to take in to account is that, unlike that kind of rule which is designed to stop people's daily lives being interuppted for business pruposes, the railway station's sign might have no moral force intended behind it other than 'always obey signs'. The station master might have no moral or practical obejction to people being in groups at all but just realised that it could be a way to raise funds for the station through fines.

There are certain things that seem strikingly so wrong, such as murder, because their consequences are so final.

So why, in a war, are the winning countries allowed to, relatively carte blanche, attack other countries, killing civilians 9as long as it is from on high such as a bombing , inclusing nuclear bomb) who have not been individually asked as to whether or not they support their leader? Perhaps there are different laws allowed in war. But, in that case, cannot it be seen that perhaps there should sometimes be allowed different laws in so-called 'Peace'? (So called because some people have psychological wars to fight every day of their life to do with other people's views and expectations of them). The action is sometimes not as bad depending on who is doing it and from what short or long term mindset. A short term 'bad' could be done for the sake of a long term 'good'.

If we think of morality as fixed then the danger is that yesterday's law in favour of liberalism is somehow now regarded as the 'conservative' thing to do. Even though the original law was not meant to encourage it that is how it has ended up in the hands of people outside of high government.

Some universal laws I'd have:

'Don't enter something (including a person whether it be sexually or with a weapon) without permission',

'Don't make somebody unnecessarily fearful of you'

'Don't assume that your aims are the norm. Even if you hold them passionately you must realise that not everyone is as passionate as you and, if that proves to be an annoyance to you, you must display- or feel- in practice why your way is better in the hope that they might come round to your way of thinking if that is what you want'

'Don't assume that doing the same as what you've always done - or alternatively radically changing what you've always done- should not have diminishing social returns depending on your outlook of what those are. If you are old you are not necessarily wise so do respect the wise however old they are'

'In human terms, only you are guaranteed to be with you, so try to make sure that it is in some way a continual pleasure to be you in terms of the places and people you surround yourself with and, for your own and others sake, for that not to be at the expense of the pleasure of others'.

'Don't ignore or destroy unless an explanation for why you are doing that could be regarded as reasonable by a very sensitive person'.
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viddy9
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Even as a utilitarian, I'm skeptical of any claim of objectivity on its part when it comes to morality. However, from the point of view of the universe, we can use observation and empirical evidence to infer that other beings endure pain and suffering and that their pain and suffering is what we, in their position, would consider to be 'bad'. Something 'bad', almost by definition, is something we ought to get rid of. A bit tautological, but that's the best argument for objectivity I've come across.

I'd recommend the utilitarian moral philosopher Peter Singer's The Point of View of the Universe on this topic.
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German123
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Right and wrong exist because of morality and our reasoning imo.
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Kallisto
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Right and wrong are not so clear in morality and all the more in terms of justice, just because different people have different imaginations about morality and justice.
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TorpidPhil
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Wrote about this many times before. People seem to not understand the nature of moral claims or the meaning of "objective" when it comes to claiming that moral claims cannot be objectively true.
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Kallisto
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(Original post by TorpidPhil)
Wrote about this many times before. People seem to not understand the nature of moral claims or the meaning of "objective" when it comes to claiming that moral claims cannot be objectively true.
Objectivity in terms of moral acting is a matter of impossibility. Some actings are so complex that a classification in right and wrong is not appropriate. Most of the people are acting by feelings and feelings are always subjective.
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TorpidPhil
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(Original post by Kallisto)
Objectivity in terms of moral acting is a matter of impossibility. Some actings are so complex that a classification in right and wrong is not appropriate. Most of the people are acting by feelings and feelings are always subjective.
Feelings aren't what influences the truth of a moral claim. Feelings in fact have absolutely nothing to do with it. Just like they have nothing to do with scientific or mathematical claims.
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Kallisto
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(Original post by TorpidPhil)
Feelings aren't what influences the truth of a moral claim. Feelings in fact have absolutely nothing to do with it. Just like they have nothing to do with scientific or mathematical claims.
I didn't talk about scientific or mathematical claims. In my opinion feelings determine our actings more than people believe. Not only in morality, but also in general (apart from scientific acting).
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SnoochToTheBooch
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If this is true... then what are the things that are scientifically right or wrong?
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TorpidPhil
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(Original post by Kallisto)
I didn't talk about scientific or mathematical claims. In my opinion feelings determine our actings more than people believe. Not only in morality, but also in general (apart from scientific acting).
Yes but what people do is absolutely distinct what is the right thing to do.

Let's look at scientific claims. Imagine everyone believes that the theory of gravity is incorrect and something else explains the phenomena of gravity better. Does this make the theory of gravity incorrect, or in anyway influence it's truth in the first place? If so how? If not then why is this different for the truth of moral claims?
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minor bun engine
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No such thing as absolute/objective morality, it's ridiculous to think so. Morality only even exists as a concept due to the complexity and intelligence of humans. In a universe devoid of intelligent life, the idea of morality is completely meaningless. Even when we consider less intelligent life forms, morality is still pretty meaningless, eg. when a dog mauls a human we wouldn't label the dog as "morally evil". Morals are just a subjective subsidiary of our evolution, a set of principles which benefit social cohesion among highly intelligent creatures. Fortunately, pretty much all the nasty stuff that we might fear are considered, almost ubiquitously in our subjective opinion, as morally evil. So why people think there even needs to be an objective morality I'm not sure.
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TorpidPhil
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(Original post by minor bun engine)
No such thing as absolute/objective morality, it's ridiculous to think so. Morality only even exists as a concept due to the complexity and intelligence of humans. In a universe devoid of intelligent life, the idea of morality is completely meaningless. Even when we consider less intelligent life forms, morality is still pretty meaningless, eg. when a dog mauls a human we wouldn't label the dog as "morally evil". Morals are just a subjective subsidiary of our evolution, a set of principles which benefit social cohesion among highly intelligent creatures. Fortunately, pretty much all the nasty stuff that we might fear are considered, almost ubiquitously in our subjective opinion, as morally evil. So why people think there even needs to be an objective morality I'm not sure.
The reason why there must be an objective morality is because without it there is no point having any discussion whatsoever about social reform - politics would be a waste of time, and there would be no rational basis for actually changing the government from how it is now and it would also be impossible to justify why not having one would be worse than having one if you were a remotely rich or socially powerful person.

It's not ridiculous though, you just don't seem to understand the nature of objectivity. Moral claims talk about properties within the actions of humans. Actions of humans don't exist unless humans do. The moral objectivist doesn't claim otherwise, however due to the definitions of morality and actions moral truths would still be true (Although they wouldn't "exist") for the reason that mathematical truths are still true (albeit non-existent) if humans don't exist.
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jakeel1
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(Original post by SnoochToTheBooch)
If this is true... then what are the things that are scientifically right or wrong?
Operational definitions, morality in my view doesn't exist but is also objective, because the contradiction resolves itself through human pragmatism, namely that since we need ethics we define the terms 'right' and 'wrong' ourselves, and that the most scientific a definiton of possible is the best possible one.
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minor bun engine
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(Original post by TorpidPhil)
The reason why there must be an objective morality is because without it there is no point having any discussion whatsoever about social reform - politics would be a waste of time, and there would be no rational basis for actually changing the government from how it is now and it would also be impossible to justify why not having one would be worse than having one if you were a remotely rich or socially powerful person.

It's not ridiculous though, you just don't seem to understand the nature of objectivity. Moral claims talk about properties within the actions of humans. Actions of humans don't exist unless humans do. The moral objectivist doesn't claim otherwise, however due to the definitions of morality and actions moral truths would still be true (Although they wouldn't "exist") for the reason that mathematical truths are still true (albeit non-existent) if humans don't exist.
No one in history has ever managed to successfully show that objective moral truths exist, or define what these truths are. The typical religious "objective morality resides with God" argument holds no weight, as God is just another conscious being whose decisions are subjective (and that's just the first problem with this idea). Sam Harris's attempt at defining objective morals in science is also fraught with problems. It may seem simple to say a moral truth is "objective" when we look at straight forward things such as murder and rape, but when we examine any complicated scenario it all goes out the window, and becomes highly subjective and open to interpretation.

Mathematical truths will still exist in a universe devoid of humans, and they will still govern the laws of physics, this is undeniable. Moral truths cannot exist in a universe devoid of humans, it has absolutely no meaning if sentient intelligent life does not exist. In a universe which had never seen intelligent life, you would not be able to even conceive the notion of morality and ethics.

The fact that morals are subjective ,and change and improve over time, is exactly why our societies have continued to fare better and better, with more people being afforded individual freedoms, protection from injustice, protection from discrimination, etc etc.
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TorpidPhil
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(Original post by jakeel1)
Operational definitions, morality in my view doesn't exist but is also objective, because the contradiction resolves itself through human pragmatism, namely that since we need ethics we define the terms 'right' and 'wrong' ourselves, and that the most scientific a definiton of possible is the best possible one.
This is correct. I too am an "anti-realist" about morality because being a realist about it requires belief in God for it to make any sense and belief in God itself is irrational, hence, not a moral realist.

However, given that we actually can have reasonable debate about ethics and that our legislative system is based on it it is quite clear that moral discourse has as a part of it some claims which are objectively true or objectively false.

You can solve the meta-ethical problems associated with this by adopting quasi-realism. You can solve the scientific ones via evolutionary theory & and a normative ethics based around increases in economic/social development.
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TorpidPhil
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(Original post by minor bun engine)
No one in history has ever managed to successfully show that objective moral truths exist, or define what these truths are. The typical religious "objective morality resides with God" argument holds no weight, as God is just another conscious being whose decisions are subjective (and that's just the first problem with this idea). Sam Harris's attempt at defining objective morals in science is also fraught with problems. It may seem simple to say a moral truth is "objective" when we look at straight forward things such as murder and rape, but when we examine any complicated scenario it all goes out the window, and becomes highly subjective and open to interpretation.

Mathematical truths will still exist in a universe devoid of humans, and they will still govern the laws of physics, this is undeniable. Moral truths cannot exist in a universe devoid of humans, it has absolutely no meaning if sentient intelligent life does not exist.

The fact that morals are subjective ,and change and improve over time, is exactly why our societies have continued to fare better and better, with more people being afforded individual freedoms, protection from injustice, protection from discrimination, etc etc.
:talkhand:

Nooooo.

Nobody in history has given us a theory of everything in physics with "absolute proof". Doesn't mean questions concerning the theory of everything are meaningless or non-objective.

No it doesn't go out the window and become subjective. Are you some mythical creature? Why in some cases do the exact same sort of claim have objective truth and then, just because for some reason humans disagree, it becomes subjective? Humans don't have magic powers in their brains that allow them to make the truth of any claim be based on things internal or external to them at will.

Moral truths can exist without humans because once again, moral truths are about the hypothetical properties of human actions, not about the factual properties of humans. A moral truth says "If a human of sort X existed and did action Y then action Y would have the "property" of Z. The truth or falsity of that claim is not in anyway changed based on 1) whether or not humans exist or 2) whether or not the majority of humans think it is true or false.

This is a mathematical property though as actions are not meta-physically existent things, it is not a material property but a linguistic or definitional one.

I think you might not understand what subjective means. They are not subjective. Subjective is not merely different people having different views on it, or, once again, all scientific claims would be subjective. Rather, subjective means that the truth of the claims is wholly dependent on something internal to humans, maybe the thought of the person claiming it, the thoughts of the person thinking about the claim or the thoughts of the society in which the claimant talks/listens.

Therefore if something is subjectively true then it is possibly that in a dispute about it that both parties are true. This is quite clearly not the case for moral claims. If I say that murder is good and you say that murder is bad moral subjectivity implies that it is at least possible for both you and I to be simultaneously correct. This is false, because it defeats the whole point of how we define "good" and "bad".

You are making the very common mistake of thinking that objective truth means that everyone will be aware of the objective truth or even that humans are able to know of the objective truth. There's no reason to make that assumption. Science talks about objective truth but that means our views of science don't change... Of course they do because just because there is an objective truth that doesn't mean humans have some magic faculty to know everything of it immediately.
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Gnomes&Knights
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According to Atheists there is no such thing as morality so right and wrong don't exist.
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