Nicholas Lukowiak


This conversation is closed.

There exist objective moral truths

I do believe there exist objective moral truths, such as, "a person being punished for something they did not do is wrong."

But, there exist counter arguments and positions which believe there are no objective moral truths, because ethical knowledge is usually subjective or relative which means they cannot be consider objective. Such as non-cognitivism and emotivism

Obviously the process to figure out what is objectively moral would be a difficult one, but can it be done? Consensually, empirically?

Are there objective moral truths? What are they?!?!

Closing Statement from Nicholas Lukowiak

Dear future interested reader,

IF there is anything to take from this closed debate, it is the fact one must define their terms and defend them in order to be 'right'. This creates monumental problems when debating with other people. So, try to stick with the most recognizable or common context of terms.

As far as being 'objective' I propose there is no way around being first subjective. While many believe since we are automatically subjective, we can never not be subjective. I see much error in this way of thinking, but appreciate the challenge of figuring out why. I believe in process/procedure in alignment with all of the universe. There is nothing that exist without evolving... Change in decay, [re]production, or [re]acting... Therefore, to assume there exist an 'objective truth' and then believing we can never know the exact nature of such... Seems counter-intuitive and only productive in a form of absurdity. The sciences are very successful building off of what is considered objective;by means of community, consistency and consensus.

Morality is individual. Ethics is the subject of morality. A moral decision is a personal one, not a communal thing. Although communities can dictate an individual's morals... The moral is still the individuals'.

I believe there are objective moral truths.

No one can make an argument genocide is proper or punishing an innocent is amazing! These thoughts are innately wrong for a reason... We are naturally endowed with wanting to seek social acceptance, and that involves questioning what we accept with how others treat us socially. If you, yourself, do not enjoy being harmed, what makes you think another would? What human doesn't want the basic needs of life?

What made people not want to accept my position is the immediate condition of the world... Well, the world, cultures, work in giant cultural cycles... Figuring them out helps.

Keywords: Prosocial selection and evolutionary psychology

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    Dec 18 2012: Do on to others, as you would have others do on to you
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      Dec 20 2012: golden rule - a moral truth?*

      What if another wants something you are not comfortable with giving? What if I like to be criticized and argued with and you don't? Are you going to, even if you do not like to be criticized or argued with?

      Or - What if, whatever you do normally, is actually offensive to me? Like eating meat. Are you going to stop eating meat near me, because I find it offensive? Or, will you eat anyways, believing I should have no say in your meat eating?
      • Dec 20 2012: There is an 'extension' to the golden rule :
        " dethrone yourself from the center of your world, put another there and you'll transcend yourself."
        If we could do that , ' don't do to others ...' would be just a daily habit.
        Actually, we do that when we are in love or... aware of how this world works , which is pretty much the same :)
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    Dec 17 2012: "There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so." -- Shakespeare

    Nothing in nature is objectively good or bad. There is no liquid water on Mars, but there is no one there to suffer from it. We worry about global warming on Earth, yet, on Venus it is much hotter and there there are rains of sulfuric acid, but there are no movements for ecology on Venus. There are dead stars in the universe. Perhaps, with their death some planets with living creatures ceased to exist. Is it good or bad? When a lion kills its prey for food - is it good or bad? Perhaps, neither. What if the prey is a human child? Suddenly, the lion becomes evil for trying to feed itself. Why is it OK to exterminate a colony of termites or a nest of wasps, but not OK to exterminate a village of people?

    What if Earth once becomes like Mars or like Venus? What if Sun once becomes cold and black? (And it will) Is it good or bad?

    To assume existence of objective moral truths is to assume that the universe "cares" about people. It means to assume a special status of the Sun and the Earth and to assume a special status of humans among the living creatures on Earth. Essentially, it means to assume the existence of God. Ironically, that's what atheists like Sam Harris do when they assume that science can answer moral questions.
    • Dec 17 2012: I don't think belief that science (or religion, or anything) can answer moral questions commits one to the belief that humans have a special status (that the earth 'cares' for them). I'd say it was more about humans 'making their own meaning'. Just like the meaning of life, there is no 'answer'' (42 >.>) but we have to make one for ourselves.
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        Dec 17 2012: Re: " I don't think belief that science (or religion, or anything) can answer moral questions commits one to the belief that humans have a special status (that the earth 'cares' for them)."

        I'm speaking specifically of "objective" morality which, presumably, may exist in the absence of humans and independently of them. IMHO, one cannot place morality into the competence of science (as Mr. Harris is trying to do) without such assumption. Wouldn't such assumption ascribe willful intent to nature? Science is about what is, morality is about what ought to be. It's best to keep these categories clearly separated for our own sanity.

        I agree on the point about the meaning. Meaning is something that we come up with. E.g. "money" can symbolize survival, power, freedom, slavery, happiness, misery, economy, and many other things. Whereas, in reality, money are just pieces of paper or metal or, even less than that - a number in computer memory.
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      Dec 17 2012: I feel you're confused the objective with an absolute understanding of morality...

      The morality or ethics applied to people in one place may not be very moral in another (the platinum rule), however we can consider that there will still be overlapping ethical principles. By this above notion... We are limited to being only objective, and not absolute. We can objectively say every human being needs 2000 calories, warmth and company to survival with basis needs, but we cannot say absolutely that is treating all animals and other humanoid species correctly.

      Please - I make a strong case that absolutes and objective conclusions are fundamentally different - but rely on one another, certainly. I feel you are not considering this fact as much as I am, and that will make things seem unable to be static..

      "I'm speaking specifically of "objective" morality which, presumably, may exist in the absence of humans and independently of them."

      That would make it more absolute than objective, therefore we are limited to the human experience in order to be objective. Have we another humanoid race to conflict with in order to know whether our objective truths are valid, well then, we can begin to suggest these are (and there are) absolute morals that permeate the universe, therefore they exist within themselves (and not limited to anthropocentric interpretations of absolutes).

      When we can figure out what 'moral truth' is as true as '1 + 1 = 2' - we can begin to find the already existing absolute truths, but we can never NOT do so without our human-objectivist lens.

      Does this find middle ground between your thoughts and mine?
    • Dec 17 2012: Arkady,

      Shakespear has an excellent point here. I have enjoyed your other comments here as well.

      What Shakespear is really getting at is the fact that "thinking" itself does not fall under either condition of being subject or object. Good or evil. The two ideas themselves "exist" simply because we "can think".... The exist at the mercy of our own thinking... Thinking is the force within the human being that "sets up" the whole "subject / object" relationship. Thinking is the creator of the S / O model ! Do you see what I mean? Both the subject (or the observer) as well as the object (the thing itself in the outside world, this including our own feelings and even our OWN THINKING.... We can observe our own thinking... re-evaluate it, and correct it if necessary ! ... and this strictly human faculty is the key to our own freedom ....
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        Dec 17 2012: I agree. However, these "thinking" and "self awareness" concepts are extremely elusive. "I think, therefore I am" (Descartes). But why do we think that we think? "I think that I think, therefore I think that I am." But do I really think? Or is it just neurons firing in my brain? What does it mean to think? Even if I answer this question, why would I think that the answer means anything?

        Some questions are better not asked at all. I'm with Zen Buddhists on that. Here is a funny Q/A from (

        Q: "What questions should I ask a Zen Buddhist in an interview?
        I m doing an interview this coming Sunday, but I am a little short on questions to ask, as I am supposed to make a 3-page report out of it. Any help is greatly appreciated!"

        A: Best Answer - Chosen by Asker
        "OMG, you have to be kidding! But I'll bet you get an A+ if you turn in three blank pages. This assumes, of course, the instructor knows anything about Zen Buddhism."

        By the way, dolphins and whales are known to have some degree of self-awareness (just to add to confusion) :-)
        • Dec 18 2012: Hi again Arkady,

          Thinking is a "spiritual activity" within us. The neural firing is simply the footprint that is left behind. The footprint only points towards the activity. The thought does not originate from the neurons firing. The neurons fire because the thought activity is present within the structures of the brain. This living activity or life force, is the same activity that "sustains" life in all living creatures.

          Although the "I am" remains dormant in the developing child until the age of around 2.5-3 years, there comes a point when the child "discovers" that it too is an "I" or an individual separate from all other individuals. But it is "sleeping" within the child's consciousness like the entire "form" of the plant is also "sleeping" within the seed. The child awakens so to say, to this phenomenal discovery. If you have children you know that the child says "Jerry wants an candy" or "Jerry wants to do this or do that" This "observation" on the part of the thinking activity in the child is a milestone in the development of their thinking process.
          As human beings, we gradually awaken to abstract ideas such as "moral truths" As mentioned earlier here, the development of our cognitive abilities is directly correlated to our ability to grasp "abstractions" like the term moral truths.
          The concept "moral truths" exists only because we are thinking (and feeling) beings. The combination of our thinking observing our own feelings as well as other peoples feelings is commonly called empathy. Could we not perceive our own feeling life, could we neither be able to "interpret" other peoples feelings. I know from person experience that it hurts to hit my thumb with the hammer... therefore I know it hurts you when you do it!
          The fact that feelings of pain and pleasure can be "objectified" is not due to mere neural firing but rather due to the faculty of empathy ..which is also generated by thinking.
        • Dec 19 2012: Descartes could have better said it this way,

          My searching first comes onto firm ground when I find an object from which I can derive the sense of its existence out of it itself. This I am myself, however, in that I think, for I give to my existence the definite, self-sustaining content of thinking activity. Now I can take my start from there and ask whether the other things exist in the same or in a different sense.

          Rudolf Steiner said that
      • Dec 18 2012: Daniel,
        Re : "I am" remains dormant in the developing child until the age of around 2.5-3 years, there comes a point when the child "discovers" that it too is an "I" or an individual separate from all other individuals.

        That seems to be what is really happening, that's why Henry David Thoreau once said :

        I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born.

        And another famous quote :

        " Except you become as little children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven "

        What is destroyed by the act of growing up is this unconscious state of being one with everything else. In one case scenario it's ego that is growing and strengthening into
        ' I am that ', in another it is a journey and 'return to the garden'. Is there any sense in the journey without return ?

        And about thinking as ' the key to our own freedom ' . On the one hand yes, on the other ...the issue here , as David Bohm put it , is that " thought doesn't know it is doing something and then struggles against what it is doing . "
        It's worth while thinking about :)
        • Dec 18 2012: Well said Natasha,
          I'm off to bed now but I'll respond properly to your comment tomorrow ... ;-)
        • Dec 19 2012: Hi Natasha, Here is a quote from Rudolf Steiner's book "The Philosophy of Freedom" Tell me what you think of it !

          ...thinking must never be regarded as merely a subjective activity. Thinking lies beyond subject and object. It produces these two concepts just as it produces all others. When, therefore, I, as thinking subject, refer a concept to an object, we must not regard this reference as something purely subjective. It is not the subject that makes the reference, but thinking. The subject does not think because it is a subject; rather it appears to itself as a subject because it can think. The activity exercised by man as a thinking being is thus not merely subjective. Rather is it something neither subjective nor objective, that transcends both these concepts. I ought never to say that my individual subject thinks, but much more that my individual subject lives by the grace of thinking.
      • Dec 20 2012: Hi Daniel !
        Our thinking processes do not neutrally report in what is 'out there' ; thought actively participates in forming our perceptions. And we've come to the edge with the question ; what is real ? Apparently ' real' is what we perceive as real.
        We think reality into existence, it's what i think we do by thinking.
        Maybe it's too radical idea but for the 2 AM which i have here now, it's OK , so I'd better be back tomorrow : )
        Re :' my individual subject lives by the grace of thinking.' i would like to challenge the celebratory tone of this statement, though ' individual' and ' thinking ' is not simply related but is pretty much the same thing, i guess.
        Thank you !
      • Dec 20 2012: Hi, Daniel ! I am back :)
        The word ' individual ' was coined in early 15 c. and meant " one and indivisible " , the Renaissance attitude can be summed up in famous aphorism ' man is the measure of all things '. It contradicts to older notion ' nothing has independent existence from anything else ' There is nothing good or bad about it, it was a natural reaction to the pressure of the church in middle ages. But when it reached its apogee in the 20 c.and we witnessed all devastation around us , which is in deep root level is the result of that seemingly glorious ' man is the measure of all things ' and glorifying the concept of individual , aren't we ready to change our attitude ? ' free individual ' is an unknown person, who is free in individualistic society ? Every thing is what it is and what it is not, ' free individual' is coupled with a 'slave '.
        Does thinking make us free ( meaning ' unique ' ) ? I have serious doubt about it. 99% we think we are thinking we are listening. Where is the original thought that belongs to you ? Ask me and i don't know :) But i have some freedom to choose what to listen to, right ? Some things resonate with me some don't. You know this ' aha ' feeling , you hear inside this ' bingo ' click. And what is the criteria ? Experience !
        Mostly unconscious experience , the moment we find the name for it and evaluate it , it becomes a mental concept and it is not quite true.
        What i am trying to say is : we should dethrone the very concept of ' individual ' , to bring it into the balance with the Whole, God or what have you. Consciousness, Mind doesn't belong to you , it goes through you ; everything is yours and nothing belongs to you. What we call ' individual mind ' is just a filter to insure the survival of the seemingly separate being ( and thanks god, we have it ! )
        What is real ( i think is real :) ) is a unique being , that experience the Whole in its unique way and is the Whole.
        I guess i've abused your attention , sorry !
      • Dec 20 2012: One more thing to sum it up : thinking makes you individual, capable of creating virtual reality ( look around you ) ; experience encourages your uniqueness, meaning your unique experience of one undivided Whole.
        I can challenge my own statement, it's always the case :)
        I mean, ' thinking ' is a very important part of our experience too.
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          Dec 28 2012: "Remember, you are unique - just like everyone else." -- A bumper sticker I recently saw.

          Many interesting thoughts. I like the idea that "mind does not belong to me - it's flowing through me".

          The more I read and think about things, the less meaning I can find. Freedom, free will, control, ownership, reason, intelligence, time and space, good and evil, truth, evidence - none of this makes sense. All I see around me are circular processes - feedback systems with output directed back to the input, with no beginning or end, originating in themselves.
        • Jan 3 2013: HI nn

          AND YES "THANK US"!!!" and now "Happy Orthodox Christmas"

          And no need for "sorry" as I don't come to TED any more but to see / hear what you are up to ;-) annnnnd....perhaps your are not "orthodox" i the Christmas term but I am sure that where do will be into some very good food and fun anyway. :-) So Merry Christmas!!! Ukrainian style. :-) Lots of that here in Canada Too.

          Yes I tagged you with those links because I could hear them in your words. Thinking ...when it utilizes the inherent access to LOGOS has inflate potential ...and is what/why HUman BE-ings are. This is seldom realized but eventually , yes, it will come about. "Reason" is the operative word .....I for one will be attending the gatherings of the Researchers of Truth this year in Cyprus and Germany ....for that very purpose ....I don't know if Daskalos' teaching are as active in the Ukraine but I am sure it is known.

          All for now ..Be Good and Play safely!!!
    • Dec 29 2012: Arkady,
      would you agree that 'circular processes' are arranged in a spiral ?
      "Nothing ever changes but the Same " iow .' the same' is always changing and looks more like a spiral, where nothing lasts, but nothing lost either.
      If you can't find meaning in all those things you've listed, maybe you are searching for another understanding of these things ? To see something new you don't need new landscapes but new eyes .

      What do you think " only he who looses his life shall find it " is about ?

      Thanks !
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        Dec 30 2012: "You do the hokey-pokey and you turn yourself around - that's what it's all about." :-)

        I had this discussion about patterns and cycles with Mark Meijer a while ago. He pointed out that nothing really repeats itself. Things seem to be similar to each other, yet different every time. A spiral is just one analogy. I'd rather compare the universe and various phenomena we observe to a Mandelbrot set where the whole is similar to each part, but not identical.

        I'd like to read more about chaos theory and fractals. There is something very fascinating in these concepts. I've seen people calling a Mandelbrot set "a thumbprint of God". Golden ratio is based on the same concept of self-similarity.
        • Dec 30 2012: OK then, i was preaching the converted :)
          Your idea of 'circular processes' confused me. The spiral image( Fibonacci numbers ) is just a step further from circles/cycles towards Mandelbrot set ,fractals....don't forget about the holographic principle and quantum idea of the Whole.
          What fascinates me is how all these things and many others ( DNA, musical tones...the Bible , sacred geometry, Kabbalah, Hermetisism ..... ) complement each other ; the bigger picture becomes dimly visible :) :)

          Happy New Year !
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        Dec 30 2012: Yes. I also see a lot of analogies. Not as many as you, though. Perhaps, I was not looking as long as you. It's interesting that many people in TED also seem to have this fascination with the concept of "self" and also see these analogies quite independently.

        Happy New Year to you too!
      • Dec 31 2012: Happy And Safe New Year nn!!!!

        Yes yet more "analogies" (below) with attractive images to go with them!!

        Be Well Be Present...............:-)

        "Inner Worlds, Outer Worlds"

        Part 1:

        Part 2:

        Part 3:

        Part 4:
        • Jan 3 2013: Ed !!!
          Sorry for the delay with my response, i was away with no access to the Internet.
          Thank you very ...very much for the links !!!
          What i've seen in the videos is very close to what goes through my mind, really.
          Maybe thinking is bad , but thinking it's bad is not good either :) It's just what is happening, we do think intensively. We think about unspeakable ; we try to language it.
          It occurred to me earlier, that maybe all millennia of human 'fall' into the matter which led to strengthening of ego ,thinking , science was aimed to make Logos visualized imaged and even speakable ? Impossible task, by definition, but it's the path, the chosen way and i guess, we are moving towards...
          Is there any rise without a fall ?
          It's what i am thinking, and there is less and less ' me' in my thinking, it's a kind of ego dissolving thinking. Btw. i don't not necessary agree with what i am saying :)

          Being a bit late with my New Year greetings, i do wish you joy in the coming year, we are in the Age of Reason now, it must mean something !
          Thank us ! :)
        • Jan 4 2013: Hi, Ed !
          Maybe you don't remember , but it's you who introduced me to 'thank us ', so it's come back to you.:)
          What i am up to is something that is difficult to say, discuss or share and totally impossible to debate. For me you are one who tries to communicate 'experience' on line : minimum words to produce a resonance, those who are tuned can hear a lot. Marshal McLuhan would call it a ' cool media ' :)
          Could you tell me about the gatherings of the Researchers of Truth or any proper link/links ?

          Thanks for your greetings, as you can guess i am not much of an orthodox christian ; i have a confession to make: i love to celebrate days, just ordinary days, maybe i am a very grounded person, but i don't feel anything special on a special day, every day is worth being celebrated, enjoyed , so... thank us ! :)
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    Jan 6 2013: perhaps. perhaps not. but there is ethics.
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    Jan 5 2013: treat others how you would want to be treated. This is hard to do but when someone puts a situation in your hands, the best way to always act is as if you were handing them the problem or maybe you already have in the past handed over a concern or problem. To someone you thought cared or would help but then they ended up making it worst or it just wasn't the right words you wanted to hear at that time. Think of the words that you wanted to hear to make whatever the situation better for you. And then relate those thought and those feelings to your friends specific situation and chances are the 2 of you or x number of you can solve any problem that is put in front of them.
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      Jan 5 2013: I feel as though you described the platinum rule: treat others how they wish to be treated, not how you expect to be treated.

      Morality is indeed situational, but that doesn't mean morality cannot be weighed and measured based on situations.
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        Jan 5 2013: Set and setting should always be considered, my action at war time and my actions at peace time might reflect my inner soul. That does not mean that either of my reactions are wrong or right as long as you are preforming the platinum rule. One can only hope peace will follow in any of its magnificent forms
  • Jan 3 2013: You did, my speed reading sometimes misses the whole picture. I hope I did not offend you as that is never my intention with anyone. Thank you for bringing my mind back into focus.
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      Jan 4 2013: Hitting 'reply' to comments allows you to directly respond. It helps with keeping a conversation neat.

      Otherwise, no big deal!

      Please any further inquiry (if you feel there are in fact no obj. moral truths), continue to comment!
  • Jan 3 2013: This is a very hard subject. I don't think it can be decided by philosophical debate. There are way too many factors going into what's right and wrong according to the situation. Who are we to decide what's objective or not? No one has any more authority on this subject than anybody else. We're all equal as humans. Either there's a God and He decides what's right and wrong according to the situation, or there's no God and there's no objective morality. By definition any morality a human comes up with is subjective.
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      Jan 3 2013: So if there are creator gods, we still don't know if they have an opinion on what is moral. So it comes back to humans to work out what sort of values we base morality on.

      If the creators do have an idea of what human morality should be, its not clear we know what this is. Religious beliefs conflict in many areas. Most masks worshipping the right god top of the list. But we don't know which construct of god and the associated morality is other correct one. So it comes back to humans try work it out.

      If there are creator gods, why are their moral ideas the best ones. Is it simply divine command, so if they support slavery, or genocide, or homophobia, or racism, murdetrering aduleters, or non believers, do we just go along with that.

      You need to make all sorts of assumptions before a god given morality makes sense.
      • Jan 4 2013: I understand your point. There are all kinds of religions claiming some kind of divine authority. How do we know in the long run what is actually right? But the point stands that only God knows what is right. He knows everything, loves us, and would never do anything that is not for our benefit. By definition, if He is God, He knows what is objectively right. If He's not objectively right, He's not God. Obey, you also seem to be assuming we can't communicate with God. That's not true. You can ask God directly what is right and what is wrong, what is true. You pray, you talk to Him, and if you're sincere, He talks back. I obviously can't show you any scientific evidence backing this up, but I can promise you that if you try to talk to Him sincerely, with an open mind, He'll answer you. He answered me, my family, and many of my friends.
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      Jan 5 2013: einstein's theory of relativity suggest that we are in the reality where all realities can exist and are happening simultaneously. Newton say that for every action creates an opposite but equal reaction. (also suggesting infinity) Would your shadow be your equal but opposite of self? Is this were the duality of life comes from? If we are equals; does that mean we can come together as one? Could then the parts be greater then the whole? Which is what democracy was founded on? Do we have answers for these questions? Or will it simply create another question that needs to be addressed and answered? yes
  • Jan 3 2013: Morality is situational.
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    Jan 3 2013: I have read some of the conversation and would like to ask a question about this that I have put much philosophical thought into: Since the world consists of [almost] infinitely many subjective choices (within that there exists objective areas and subjective ares), could that itself be the objective moral truth? That the truth of choice is the eluded objective truth? I speculate this to come from the Duty (or Rights) based ethics side of this debate, since it takes choice to establish what is 'moral' in the first place.
  • Jan 3 2013: Monkeys, dogs, people, they all have a sense of right, wrong, and fairness. It is encoded in our DNA, with the exception of some mentally ill. Give only one of a group of dogs, a treat. Let one child play while another has to sit.
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    Jan 2 2013: I only quickly skimmed through the responses, but I think I have a general understanding of the direction of the conversation.

    In my opinion, there is no full or complete objectivity on any given issue or field, ethics and morals included. I do however believe that after a contextual agreement on what counts for moral and what doesn't, a certain level of order and justice can be achieved and maintained in a largely objective manner.

    I actually tend to follow the classical trend of philosophy and advocate the use of evaluation in approaching political philosophy. It seems to me that sometimes the sole utilization of objectivity - as is the case in the behavioral method in political science - proves more problematic than beneficial in the implementation and maintenance of justice in the modern state of law.

    Thank you for bringing up the topic; I find it particularly interesting.
  • Jan 1 2013: With our terms defined my response is: Absolutely. "Objective Moral Truths" exist and we can identify them. There are a multitude of studies, and for that matter talks that can be viewed here on Ted that give scientific data on the benefits of many things we refer to as "Moral". Take Michal Norton in "How to buy Happiness". He's done studies that show that when a person contributes to the good of another, their happiness increases. He's come to this claim using a Science model; his results qualify as both "Objective" and "True". I think we can all agree that happiness is "good"/beneficial so contributing to the good of others is "Moral". Thus we have an excellent start towards identifying that "Contributing to the Good of Others is an Objective Moral Truth." Notice I said "start towards". I wouldn't expect us to accept the conclusion that "Contributing to the Good of Others" is an "Objective Moral Truth" on the basis of a portion of a single researchers work; I am only using it as model for the process by which we can identify "Objective Moral Truths". The thing is this kind of finding is repeated. I've watched many, many Ted Talks that demonstrate to us "Moral Truths" with similar "Objective" support. Things like "It's bad for a society AND its individuals to have too large a disparity in income between its richest & its poorest". These studies show it's not just "bad" for the poor; it's actually, measurably, "Objectively" "bad" for the rich as well. Not something we'd imagine, but it functions that way in Reality none the less. Another example: we can (and have) study and state conclusively that it is healthier, more "good", in the long term, for a person to forgive someone who has done them harm, than to carry anger and resentment long term. That doesn't necessarily make it easier, but we can "Objectively" state that the "Moral" of Forgiveness is "True". This is just a small sampling of why: "Yes, we can identify "Objective Moral Truths"."
  • Jan 1 2013: Objective Moral Truths. I'll start with a definition of terms pulled from Wikipedia, as it's expedient & sufficiently reliable for this type of definition.

    Objective: the quality of being true even outside of individual or group feelings, imaginings, or interpretations. (This is what Science excels at.)
    Moral: Intentions, decisions, and actions whose effect is "good"/beneficial.
    Truth: Accurate representation of the functions of Reality. (Again, Science excels at this)

    (My Arguement follows..)
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    Jan 1 2013: I am really not sure about objective moral truths but if there are any would they not be made around the concept of survival? Not personal survival because if you look at it just on the surface you can see that most fundamental morals are contradicted by the need to survive but what about the survival of our species in the best way possible.

    If there are objective moral truths I think that the most fundamental of them is that you should do whats best for the species. Murder is very rarely for the benefit of the species as a whole. Lying, theft and any type of deceptive practice is generally bad for the race as a whole.

    Any idea's on this concept?
  • Dan F

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    Dec 31 2012: I subscribe to the position that our biological evolution is exotic, increasing better understood and increasing difficult to refute on an increasing esoteric level, including this issue.

    A unique result of the biological evolution specific to our species is our human cultural evolution. Very interestingly, as clearly indicated in this debate, cultural evolution has a "life" with its own independent standings of ideas, beliefs, etc., which exist concurrently without the constraints applicable to the life products of biological evolution. The survival of ideas, beliefs, etc., are not without selection, but of a less predictable inheritance and longevity.

    To contemplate the existence of objective moral truths constitutes just how mind boggling the natural world is and has become throughout our human history. Is it not this aspect of life that has made our existence all the more precious?

    The concept an objective moral truth is subject to a process that can be highly selective, or predictable given the discipline of knowledge, the constraints of liberty, or cost of honesty, etc.

    I think Sam Harris on an earlier TED Talk addressed this issue square on. There is no need to get mystical about the development of our rich, diverse cultural evolution. It is rooted in us.
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      Jan 2 2013: Evolutionary paradigms are among the most important frame works for developing cognitive studies.

      Check out: [cog] psych of religion

      Painting the overall picture that individually we all act 'religious' in nature - we function with groups as a condition of survival; part of surviving which involves finding 'happiness' and 'knowledge' among groups - in a sense - or rather, our sub- and unconscious brain dictates requirements our immediate conscious is not aware of...

      It's merely a conflict of verbal context. I call it religious, another may call it natural. But, calling it ''natural' is an existential cop out... The term, religious, makes you think. How do I act religious, normally, do I? In what ways? No matter the conflict, what is clear is that without metacognition (reflection, retrospection, etc) of cognition, there is a lot more room to follow the group; band-wagon.

      As much as I detest the new age atheism... Sam Harris is a brilliant contemporary philosopher. Dawkins' memes are so revolutionary... But, his philosophy is so 'neoatheist' it corrupts his own practical usage of the idea... I argue greatly, new age atheism has created an underground religion; a disorganized group, but none the less having doctrine, argument, metaphysical position... to establish their head in the room of religious debate... Indeed, no need to get mystical; it is important that a human follows the herd (we need to), but also, while making sure each human understands that exact nature of thought...

      I don't think mysticism will die, it's a consistency. Science believe in the 'Big Bang' or at least that's the best theory and it makes the most sense to use... Couldn't of something else happened? The Big Bang, says the entire universe, yet we do not know the actual 'size' of universe... It's a theory, for a reason. Yet many say "it is the truth" - seems mystical to call a theory the best 'truth' thus the TRUTH, no?

      We learned too much about the universe before we figured out...
      • Dan F

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        Jan 2 2013: I checked your reference and within these evolutionary paradigms is sociobiology which is my preferential view over the other approaches including the supernatural. E.O. Wilson's definition is the basis: “The extension of population biology and evolutionary theory to social organization”

        Sociobiology restricts its insights to the observable natural and physical world and is the reason biologist often consider themselves naturalist. I think you may be misreading my use of the word natural. I'm using it in terms of our human evolutionary history.

        From this point of view our concurrent cultural evolution opened the doors to an increasing awareness of ourselves enabling a free will to be more creative in how to better get along more civilly, comfort one another in tough times, etc. This expanding capacity motivated stories and ideas to adopt, as for example your question about objective moral truths, in that effort. A subjective realm, but one of collective appeal and group benefit potentially aiding in our survival as a species.

        I do note a distinction between the mysteries of the testable and the conjectured real world truths and unknowns and the handed down traditional organized political/religious/educational belief systems through the years with their own more self serving impetus.

        Atheist are organized? Are you sure? Just so you know, I don't worship anything not even science, but I do seek to better acknowledge it.
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          Jan 2 2013: Your usage of natural is valid, as long as it is not limited to those definitions found in 'science'

          The rest, is great writing and we will agree more often than not.

          And yes, I am sure atheist are more disorganized than not, but they still have organized features... In politics and scientific communities especially.

          Atheism is a term people use for themselves to put themselves in the minority category, but at the same time, will realize what atheism means to them personally is more often a religious naturalist ideology - nature is my religion - sort of thing.

          To me, clearly dictating that spirituality is impossible to ignore, as we are all prone to being 'religious' in some sense.
  • Dec 26 2012: Morality, moral truth, right or wrong. These are things we love to debate about. Here is the real problem. Deep down we do not like to be told what to do. Most of us have a deep longing to be free. Free of what or what true freedom means I'm not sure but we are looking for something. One complication is that when we decide to be a part of a society there has to be social order or rules. But, who gets to make the rules? Most of the time, its whoever has the most power or money. Whether a religious group or rich rulers or the elite. etc. When are we as the human race ever going to get together and say enough! Enough fighting, stealing, back stabbing, and the list goes on and on. How in the world will we ever agree on a universal social order, code, rule etc. I like to believe if we could just all agree on the 10 commandments, whether you believe in God or not is not the point. A true common sense approach to the 10 commandments could very easily argue that they will work for the over all good and serve as a formula to create a world peace. Think about a world with no stealing, direct or indirect, no murder, people who respect one another, no lying, etc. etc. Oh but wait, I want to indulge my sexual desires to please myself or lie at work to get raises, or you get the point. I personally just don't want to be told what to do. I guess history will just keep repeating itself, it is a shame, at least from an american's view, I really liked this country, maybe the next world super power will be gentle with us?? Just kind of typing off of the top of my head. Agree, disagree, debate, or whatever, all welcome. Love, Jerry.
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      Dec 28 2012: "How in the world will we ever agree on a universal social order, code, rule etc."

      Agree or not, the Rule exists. It's call the Golden Rule, "Do to others as you would have them do to you." This Rule reaches its pinnacle in this statement: "As you sow, you reap."

      The rule is no respecter of person, can't be bargained with, and is amoral. It doesn't tell you what to sow but assures you that it will be returned to you. It doesn't even identify what's right or what's wrong, only that for every action there's a reaction, and for every sowing there's a reaping--leaving what to sow to us.

      Doubt might arise as to whether such a Rule actually exists. I'm certain of it, but because cause and effect are modified by time, rarely do we see the connection between one and the other, unless we do, leading many to disbelieve in the existence of such a Rule.

      If the scales of Justice aren't satisfied in this life, rest assured the scales will be balanced in a future life or future lives.
  • Dec 20 2012: PART TWO: CONCLUSION

    Faith is not blind: that there are tautologies in mathematics, I believe, is evidence of God. Arthur Benjamin wrote that “Another special quality of mathematics... is its ability to achieve absolute certainty. Once the definitions and rules of the game (the rules of logic) are established, you can reach indisputable conclusions. For example, mathematics can prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there are infinitely many prime numbers and that the Pythagorean theorem ... is absolutely true, now and forever. It can also ‘prove the impossible’, form easy statements, such as ‘The sum of two even numbers is never an odd number, to harder ones such as ‘The digits of pi... will never repeat.... A mathematical theorem is true forever.
    Philosophy provides evidence of God. The idea of absolute ethics (standards of conduct based upon principles of what is right and wrong), as a process, is evidence of God. Mihalyi Csikzentmihalyi, in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1991), wrote about the fallacy of cultural relativism as a means to understanding and enhancing the quality of life.

    Optimal experience is a form of energy…. Energy is power, but power is only a means. The goals to which it is applied can make life either richer or more painful…. The Marquis de Sade perfected the infliction of pain into a form of pleasure, and in fact, cruelty is a universal source of enjoyment for people who have not developed sophisticated skills…. [FLOW] is good only in that it has the potential to make life more rich, intense, and meaningful; it is good because it increases the strength and complexity of the self

    So, subjective and objective, inductive and deductive are all a part of this search for truth. Perhaps truth is in the being of the Personal Creator and he creates life for us to live truth as a process rather than as an ethical rule, those ethical rules are merely outcomes of the process.
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    Dec 20 2012: We can say that moral truths don't exist....but I think we should consider that we may be completely wrong.

    Even in nature...a food chain exists that must fall in line...create balance...and then achieve stability. When a certain animal gets out of can destroy other species and in turn kill other species in a domino effect.

    Humans thrive when cooperation is the focus. When humans work together they can live longer, be happier, and generally evolve socially at a much faster rate.

    So yeah we can say morals are subjective....but the environment we live in forces us down a very specific path. If you are born as a long do you expect to live? If you are born as a cunning...cooperative leader of much farther will you go in much happier will you be with true friends and followers. took kings a while to figure out that killing their own people wasn't necessarily the way to go. Kings realized that they needed to treat the people well..because the people were the backbone of any countries stability and long-term control.

    Morals are definitely not subjective.

    Racism - Negative
    Killing Others - Negative
    Abuse of Others - Negative

    These things cause pain...and will in turn create negative energy (revenge, family may get revenge, karma). I do believe it works this way. Karma is not some magic force that guides wrongdoers into ultimate demise. Karma is just cause and effect.

    As early as 350 BC people spoke of happiness and human potential.

    I don't think we should remove culture....we should learn to live together...and not believe the same things. We can have respect for how we want...and progress as a unit.
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      Dec 20 2012: You have me sold, but, what is the first practical step towards achieving 'singularity' as a species? Where is all the most effort towards unity of morality? How do we get people to start being brothers/sisters, tomorrow?
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    Dec 18 2012: Agree that it starts with defining what is good or bad,
    This is subjective,
    Suggest we can also do this in other species.
    A lot of this comes back to group dynamics.
    Dealing with freeloaders, managing tensions intra and inter group.

    Deciding what is good and bad is somewhat , but there are common themes.

    So I suggest there is some evidence of morality in nature, some animals make choices aware of consequences, although not to the same degree as humans, but there is a progression.
  • Dec 17 2012: I would say that there are certain 'moral' truths that are objective (in the human-centric sense) but that they do not exist (are not derived from) out of some special sense of morality. I propose that the underlying cause of our 'moral' thought is survival sense. A survival sense upon which (after-the-fact) we have developed a rich variety of moral views (including some apparent distortions) and that this is simply a product of developing higher functioning (particularly: Reasoning). So Yes and No! Yes there is probably a common 'ancestor' that has driven what we consider 'morality' which could be called 'objective'. Yet if the survival sense itself is not 'morality ' and rather 'morality' is more the frame-work we applied after-the-fact (perhaps to explain, or communicate or what not), then it is far more subjective, because there are many more factors that affect how we perceive and develop the 'moral' sense out of the 'survival sense'.

    Then you have people that diverge from even the seemingly obvious (or 'strong'/'common') examples such as "do not kill", but even then I believe this can be coherent with a 'moral' sense that develops from a 'survival sense; .... e.g a psychopath that has no moral qualms with killing. These cases are interesting because they have what we might consider an 'abnormal' human psyche, they may not share (though not easy to tell!) any sense of community, which might be just one of the strong survival type motivator for 'do not kill' ( communal species).
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      Dec 17 2012: Quoting survival as the source of morality is controversial. Survival often dictates to violate the most obvious moral rules. Most moral rules contradict the sense of survival.

      Perhaps, we may distinguish between individual survival and survival as a group. (E.g. sharing food during a famine does not make sense for individual survival, but may be beneficial for survival of a group.) But even this does not help! Where do we draw the boundary of the "group"? Self? Family? Family and friends? Community? Nation? Humanity?

      One thing is clear to me - reason, logic, or science are utterly useless to answer moral questions.
      • Dec 17 2012: I am saying that 'morality' is subjective. I argue that Moral similarities exist because of a common ancenstorial source (survival) and NOT because there are objective moral truths. In fact this makes sense with the example you have given. If you are in a famine, is it an objective moral truth that one should share there food? - or do certain moral ideas (or 'morality' itself) develop as a social-tool, to communicate about the 'best' course of action.

        It does not make sense to distinguish between whether individual, group or species survival is the 'source of morality' if we consider 'morality' as derived FROM our evolution as a social-species. Then morality is not 'chosen' and 'survival' does not dictate its violation - it is not a matter of 'choosing' whether I should survive, or my group, or my species - rather survival is whatever 'worked' and morality reflects this. This is coherent with the idea that morality could have originated from 'survival -sense' -also why we can easily divide our own social groups - we are a social species

        That SAID morality forms an important part of our social lives. It has itself becomes a source of motivation , moral ideals are shared between groups and come to have a 'special' meaning as moral doctrines - e.g 'do not kill' , even if killing might be prudent (consider a child born without a brain [with no chance of autonomy] whoes death may save another life through organs). Although in it's modern manifestation morality can 'appear' to be against 'survival' (e.g self-centered survival) this social-concern (e.g share the food) probably originates from (and was neccessary for) the human survival-success as a social species. It has simply taken on a, subjective, meaning of it's own as a product of our higher-thought and need for understanding.

        My argument is simply that morality is subjective, but there is often common ground which indicates common origin. That it has a positive purpose, but can sometimes go against reason (neg.
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          Dec 17 2012: Re: "My argument is simply that morality is subjective, but there is often common ground which indicates common origin."

          I agree that morality is subjective. In the absence of humans it loses meaning. In the absence of humans meaning itself vanishes.

          You comment seems to raise a question about the existence of "universal" moral rules shared by all humans. Moral rules seem to be a form of a social contract, an unspoken code of expected behavior to ensure some *perceived* individual or social benefits. Finding common ground on moral rules seems to be a matter of finding common values - things that people inside a social group view as beneficial to them. Considering a vast variety of human physical characteristics, tastes, and preferences, I doubt that such universal common ground is possible.

          Now, this view leads to an idea that moral rules are relative to the social group and conform to the prevalent opinion in society. This, perhaps, is how things are, but not how things ought to be. In ancient Sparta, for instance, killing babies who appeared weak was moral and was considered beneficial for society. Now we think it "shouldn't have been so".

          This mental struggle between what things are and what they ought to be is the source of our suffering. The Bible is right - Eve shouldn't have eaten from that tree of knowledge of good and evil. ("shouldn't" again).

          The moral of my comment is that morality itself is not what we think it should be :-) I find it most ironic... I hope I confused you enough to abandon any reasoning on this issue :-)
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        Dec 17 2012: " One thing is clear to me - reason, logic, or science are utterly useless to answer moral questions. "

        I would not be so extreme on this point. Logic is both a topic and a personal 'skill' - as well as reason.

        If anything - 'science (because the other two are seen as a part of science), alone cannot answer moral questions, we must rely on survey, consensus and subjectivity... Because science is not the only field(s) of study which require consistency to be true..."
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          Dec 17 2012: Re: "If anything - 'science (because the other two are seen as a part of science), alone cannot answer moral questions, we must rely on survey, consensus and subjectivity..."

          This suggests moral relativism. If I live in a corrupt society where bribery is a norm, shall I accept bribery as moral?

          Our own personal emotional attitudes is (and should be) the only way to make moral judgments. If we rely on anything else - science, logic, reason, religion, opinion of others, authority, we are bound for evil...

          This makes me believe that it is extremely important to keep our personal emotional attitudes under constant close scrutiny through self-reflection (meditation, prayer or whatever we may call it). I see it as the only way for progress, individual and social.
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      Dec 17 2012: I settled the psychopath circumstance, I believe, further down the conversation...

      But, I see it as no argument against obj. moral truths... Individuals can be seen easily to not be objectively moral by the history of their actions as well as state of their current personality and intellectual progression. Rehabilitation being possible, but, obviously if they are psychopaths, that is a system which should be HEAVY and consistently mandated.

      However, if a group of people were deemed psychopathic... Then we could have an interesting discussion. But that would require a great deal of effort to defend. But... I feel even if a group is deemed psychopathic, those who unconscious they support such a group can be shown their own short comings. And those (groups - large and small) outside of the group can 'attempt' or at least be sampled for an unbiased perspective, in order to dictate why they feel the group is psychopathic.

      This issue, can get built up very easily, when an entire country could be deemed psychopathic... Then are their applied ethics really objectively wrong? Perhaps not. But certainly, in the subject of ethics (as thousands of historic figures gave arguments for...) they can be argued to be objectively not moral individuals or systems of individuals... Where to get the criteria for a good ethical system? Well, by even starting to tell anyone where to start reading or researching... I feel I prevent them from being able to know true obj. morals.

      An existential dilemma of my life. . .

      Thank you Artemis
      • Dec 18 2012: It certainly is a minefield! I agree that 'morality' is something of human construction and perhaps most interesting that whatever it's origins were, that it takes on it's own meaning and itself becomes a motivator often over it's (possible) origin - such that we do look at past actions (greek infantcide) and think 'they shouldn't have' based often purely on our 'set-of'moral-rules' that has become an integrated and integral part of ourselves, our species that our moral feelings ('it just feels right') are quiet strong. Even though we can often appreciate/understand why greeks might have been morally ok with infantcide (or a good example might be eskimos amongst whom infancide is common because of the strain and subsequent risk extra mouths to feed causes in a harsh environment.

        *note* it keeps only posting half my comment so i've given up writing the second half to this, but basically I wrote about 'true objectivity' versus 'very broad human-centric subjectivity' whereby as a species or a social group within the species, we may have some pretty strong moral ideas that are only meaningful within the context of the group.
  • Dec 16 2012: IMO, if objective moral truths do exist, they will still prove nearly useless in the real world.

    Human behavior is much more about emotion than logic. Logic is used to rationalize what we want to do. Even terrorists can "justify" their actions.

    Did these objective moral truths exist before the existence of life? In practice an objective moral truth must be expressed by a human being before it has any practical existence. Then the arguments start, and they will never end, because these truths say that people should not do what they want to do.

    Suppose one day someone or some institute writes a book of all objective moral truths, supporting each one with logic that is as solid as mathematics. This code of morality would then have to be put into the form of laws, which would then have to be applied by judges and juries, that is, by people. Would the logical foundation for these laws make it easier or more difficult for people to make just decisions? Would it matter at all? Can justice be based solely on logic with no emotional influence? Sometimes it is easier to reach a just judgment because the roots of our laws are political and not objective.

    To address your question directly, I think that objective moral truths do exist. I am a big fan of logic, and I believe that science and logic can help us develop a more just world. Trying to find objective moral truths is probably not the fastest way to improve our situation.
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      Dec 20 2012: Your last sentence is practically true.

      The 'real' world though, is just a thought - a form, in which you accept to be real.

      Now, you are really saying, roughly, that in connection to how the 'real' world works, and not how the world should 'work' - the idea of obj. moral truths mean little...

      Well, the world isn't going to get better with just knowing and giving up... Yeah, the world is in a pit, but it can get itself out. . .We are the world, you and I, we are small (an ant on an ant hill), but we do have a say in the matter and we are made of matter... lol.

      So you are wrong and right...

      By finding the paralleled obj. moral truths that already exist in cultures and histories... We can find the true answers which everyone can agree with and finally have a premise to come together on...

      Idealistic - indeed, absolutely, no question... But there comes a time when an idea becomes so strong, that someone cannot comprehend not living without that 'idea' - I think the idea, finding obj. moral truth is useless is an idea worth forgetting or attempting to forget it... The opposite conception; the idea there are obj. moral truths - would only create a path to finding them... The existential dilemma; how do you know they are truly moral? That's just another part of being truly moral...
      • Dec 20 2012: I did say probably. I never suggested giving up. You may well be right, sometimes the pen is mightier than the sword, sometimes an idea takes hold in the minds of people and changes the world.

        There are people working to bring justice to the world in very practical ways, by building judicial systems that can be acceptable to very diverse populations. I think that approach will prove to be more effective, but I could be wrong. Perhaps the most effective way is the combination of both.

        Good luck with your endeavors.
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    Dec 14 2012: The problem with objective morality is agreeing on the basis for what is moral.

    Once you agree on what the basis is for morality then perhaps you can be objective within that framework.

    For example if you assume morality is from a particular interpretation of divine command you may not agree with other scritpyures, religious authorities, and revelations outline different divine commandments.

    And perhaps divine command interpretations conflict with secular approaches based on minimising harm, and suffering and increasing happiness and joy. The bible might say you should kill homosexuals, but I'm not sure that is moral from a secular harm reduction based perspective.

    Also from a practical perspective, even with largely similar scriptural foundations, say the bible,different sects and different denominations have different interpretations of what divine command morality means. And even within a denomination, individuals may not agree with their pope, priest, guru, rabbi or I man on what is moral.

    I suggest understanding the natural basis for human morality, and agreeing on some foundational secular principles, leaving millinia of philosophy and moral thought is a good started point for a shared practical moral framework.

    Even if there is a creator, there is no reason to assume it is the appropriate source of a moral framework. Particularly the jealous, murderous, god described in the bible. Any being described as eternally punishing other beings is perhaps not a great example to follow.
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    Dec 14 2012: Moral Truth?
    What does this mean to you

    What is moral is much easier to define than truth.
    We only share a perspective of what is true and can not possess it or know it.

    Other animals exhibit a morality, but do they know what is true?
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      Dec 15 2012: Excellent stipulation!

      [Objective] moral truths are something that is consistently good to each and every human being.
      [Absolute] moral truths are something that is always good to each and every 'thing' in existence.

      Thus a moral truth is what can never be proven to not be good.

      You are right, what is moral is much easier to define than truth, but that does not mean we cannot define truth. Whether truth be in a correspondence, coherence or pragmatic theory - we can have a very good idea of what is metaphysically and physically true. Physically true often does not need a theory behind it, but still does for philosophic pursuits.

      I happen to believe in true statements, but I also believe that nothing is 'static' and everything is always changing. So, although I feel I am certain there are objective moral truths, that does not mean I am willing to settle with them easily because they are likely to change or need to be changed. The objective part of the moral truth then would be how well it works consistently, and not necessarily how much people argue it will always work that way.

      As far as animals... With there lower cognitive abilities they are acting out of instinct - they do not have the ability to rationalize their actions in long term pretenses. Indeed, we instinctively have drives that are altruistic (check out: prosocial behavior). So, we must have an ability to know moral truths in which to behave with one another. Will they always be consistent? Perhaps not, but that requires what we have and animals do not - the ability to rationalize our actions in long term pretenses.

      Thank you for your input Theodore.
      • Dec 16 2012: Hi Nic,

        Frans de Waal has really fooled a lot of people on claim that "scientific research" shows that animals too have morality. I don't know if you've seen the video but it's worth watching. If you read some of the comments on the page you too can see how people are utterly confused in regards to this question. I made a few comments there a long time ago but had to just give up. People don't understand the word "a"moral. It really shocks me that people bit off this whole lecture as some sort of "proof" of "morality in animals" ... hook, line and sinker !!

        I didn't have room for a further comment below so I'll make a short one here.
        "Consensual reason" is perhaps what one could operate with in regards to moral truths. But it will never hold water in regards to mathematics. Here, 2+2=4 if your a Muslim a Christian a Jew or an Atheist. There is absolutely no room for what I like or dislike about the numbers 2+2=4

        As the taste of pork can be good to some, bad to others, sweet to this or that degree, or even forbidden if you happen to fall to this or that religious conviction .. a vegetarian would certainly have some problems for this or that reason of an ideological nature.. in other words subjective.

        If you now say that numbers in themselves are "agreed upon" by society or by consensus, then we also have to say that all language is the same. The fact that you can read this at all is because the English language is something that has developed through time by rules that are structurally imposed upon the words to make them understandable, so that you can understand me and I can understand you.
        Here is where the "reality of an idea" comes to the foreground again. Now although a hundred different languages would surely have a hundred different words for the numbers 2+2=4 , the fact remains that the "idea 2 " and the "idea 4" are something that is as close as we can get to objectivity. Even though they are totally " immaterial " in their nature
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          Dec 16 2012: You know all of the first paragraph could of been avoided if you had search the phrase: prosocial selection. The way I interpret it (w/o dictating a degree of altruism) would be as we evolved, less and less physical survival was required (hunting, gathering) and the need for reasoning with one another, politics and group organization rose. Because of this our brain adapted the ability to be 'social' by standards of groups - in another sense, we have natural drives to wanting to be popular; we enjoy being with groups. Therefore, we would have natural tendencies to knowing what is good or bad for the group. Very hard to measure, but as the studies develop, more is illuminated.

          As far as numbers, I believes I said the theory in the philosophy of math dictates they are absolutes and not objective things... And by your own reasoning (unless you think obj. = abs.) you have suggested there difference.

          Did you NOT notice my other comment?

          Stick to morals, ethics, objectivity and subjectivity - by comparing these to preference of food and not how one wishes to be treated, any argument will become misleading...
  • Dec 13 2012: The problem is that the concept of punishment is misleading here. People act based on motivators. If someone is punished, but he is innocent, there has to be a reason he is being punished. Either the punishers are 100% convinced that he is guilty, in which case it is really questionable to declare it as a moral wrong, or the punishers have another motivation. If they have another motivation this is a retaliation in response to an action and not truly a punishment.

    What of the case where we punish a person mildly (e.g. a reprimand only) as part of a social experiment which would benefit humanity greatly. In that case it would be morally acceptable. So the determination becomes morally subjective very quickly.

    A moral dilemma used to illustrate this is the situation where you need to kill an innocent to save thousands of people. This is a typical case where it is deemed moral to kill an innocent, punish him without being guilty so to speak, for the greater good.

    This would mean that your moral truth is subjectively true, but not an objective moral truth.

    The reason you find it so hard to define objective moral truths is simply because they do not exist.
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      Dec 13 2012: I see no argument you state where there cannot be an obj moral truth; Besides maybe your first statement.

      Please explain your first paragraph more; as your second and third are more argumentative towards their being obj. moral truths but they are fuzzy; they are developed through leveling of what is not moral. Making your final statement a false conclusion.

      Note: I know that the only way to be objective is through subjective measures - since you cannot be impersonal without being personal first, or non-biased without first knowing the bias and/or being biased.
      • Dec 13 2012: Well punishment is after all justified abuse, and the justification is clearly subjective. Even if the person is guilty the punishment can still be deemed immoral if it is judged to be excessive - subjectively.

        The other question is how do we decide objectively if someone is innocent or guilty? The Judge can only act based on a balance of probabilities. If you ever punish someone where the probability is not 100% that they are guilty, then you would consider it immoral? I would argue that you can never know 100% that someone is guilty, which automatically makes all punishment immoral by that definition, and if all punishment is immoral then your statement that punishing the innocent is immoral is a non sequitur as punishing the guilty would also be.
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          Dec 15 2012: Uh, no punishment in a system may be considered justifiable abuse, but as Daniel's article dictates obviously there are those who are outside of the system that can dictate the abuse was not justifiable.

          To compare what/how a system is ran, is based upon ethics, not morals - that seems to be a real confusion here. Ethics is to dispute what are good morals, and applied ethics is systematic ideals of how to use the disputes morals. No, way, in any of my arguments does any system in this world respond to objective moral truths. Which does not mean they do not exist, it just means they are not applied anywhere, in any system.

          I would like to hear more about what you think are motivators, because as an philosophy of education and sociology nerd, I find that what motivates people is often confused with what motivates them within a system and not as a result of human nature.

          The moral standing is, punishing for something they did not do is morally wrong, objectively - whatever procedure it may take for a judge to declare 'guilty' is not objective, you are right. But this still is not disputing anything about the original moral standing; in retrospect of the decision of being falsely accused, it would have been figured out it was wrong.
    • Dec 13 2012: Good point Cobus.

      There seems to be some confusion about just the difference between what is "subjective" and what is "objective" Nic Nak makes a little trap for himself in his last comment. Please read over my few comments if you will. It seems like we are at least on the same wavelength....
  • Dec 12 2012: "Music is a moral law"
    It's difficult to define, but easy to ' catch ' what is music in this context : Harmony, the code , which is downloaded in our DNA ; we can feel it, if we are truly attentive and not corrupted by ego. The set of dos and don'ts, moral laws, which are fixed and many is a kind of a residue of this feeling.
    Imperfect reflection to guide imperfect us in our imperfect world :)
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      Dec 12 2012: Sounds like an objective-subjectivist argument if I ever heard one.

      Objectivity is achieved through trial and error, not by figuring out it exist somehow...
      • Dec 13 2012: Nic,

        This was a most peculiar comment.....
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          Dec 13 2012: How would one configure objectivity without first being subjective?
      • Dec 13 2012: Nic,

        Isn't the process of "figuring out the existence" of something the crux of matter? Trial and error is also a part of that process. When we confirm the existence of something (something, anything, including "objective moral truths" we are first fully emerged in the process of evaluating the outer (and inner) conditions of that perception. When our own subjective ideas are placing before our individual eye of reason, we can then again evaluate and re-evaluate the object of our perception . When reason tells us that our concept (or our own mental picture or idea) does not coinciding with these conditions of the object in our realm of observation, then we have to readjust our concept so that it does coincide. This is the process of gaining knowledge.

        What is often misconstrued in this process of gaining knowledge is the fact that the whole "model" that we set up for ourselves .... the "objective" and the "subjective" is also a product of our own thinking. This is very often misunderstood. Because thinking, by it's nature, is in itself neither subject or object. The two ideas themselves, .... the "subject / object relationship" ...are existing only at the mercy of the activity of thinking..... This is how our own subjective thought can be reunited with the world of percepts and the things we can call "truths"

        Once again, mathematics and geometry are the closest we can get to real "objectivity" This is not to say that other forms of objective truths do not exist. I never said that.

        On a higher level, as I mentioned earlier, ( 2nd comment I believe, where I didn't really want to go into just that direction in our discussion, one could say that objective moral truths do in fact "exist" but this would lead the conversation off into a pretty esoteric direction that concerns the question of "ideas in themselves" as existing in their own reality. I don't think that would be very fruitful at this point.
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          Dec 15 2012: Math and geometry are not the closest we can get to objectivity. . . They are tools to measure relative factors in which we theorize about, without the theories (ideas) then there would be nothing for the math to be applied to. . . If anything, the philosophy of math theory insist math is an absolute tool, in which, no matter the relative-language of math, math will always end up being math.

          Can you pull one of the several definitions, that dictate there is NO subjectivity involved in order to be objective?

          3.a. is your best bet... but wait... how can one not have a personal feeling about the manner? By first knowing they have personal feelings about the manner? So, in order to be impersonal, you have to personal, and then realize you are being personal and try to stop being personal? Sounds, procedural to me... But that could just be my rhetoric.

          Mind independent. . . maybe that confuses you? Because without first a 'mind' there is no way for it to be independent of a mind. . .

          And you are wrong... We are subjective-beings, we have no choice in the manner, but we are able to correspond and be coherent to our objective universe (not absolute universe). So we are able to be objective, but we are just unable to naturally be that way. Perhaps absolutes and objectivity confuses you? Reference my back and forth with Edward, the second time around.

          Even in your explanation, of how we are not really separate from the 'subject' and 'object' as in Plato's "forms" - this still insist we can know objectives... Of any sort, I take it further and say we can know obj. moral truths, and at this point you disproving my responds to objectivity, has mislead from the original dispute. Which is still in the air.
      • Dec 18 2012: Nicholas ,
        ' objective-subjectivist argument " is really hard to swallow :)
        Simply put, objectivity is the illusion of any subject ; it's a tricky concept, as all concepts are.
        What Plato didn't address, because he didn't have this notion back then , but we do now is DNA. And DNA is the 'objective through subject' kind of thing. It is the most subtle flawless communicator, we are not conscious of , but it does its job anyway. All dna molecules in every living plant and animal are structured exactly as a double helix ; it is the most powerful transmitter of intelligent data. DNA represents the highest order, it means everything is 'in tune' with every other thing, everything is in harmony with everything else. It's Plato's ' music ' What moral laws do we need if we can feel one with everything else ? Consciously we don't feel this way , but it seems to be the way it is.
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    Dec 6 2012: There is an absolute right, and there is an absolute wrong, and there are things between the two extreme ends.
    Truth does not depend on human/societal opinion. A billion people may repeat a lie, but it is what it is.
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      Dec 6 2012: There is no question a billion people can believe in falsehoods - not the question.

      This question concerns with objective truths - as in all humans can agree upon truths (either consensually or empirically).

      To call absolutes into the question, as far as morals, is spiritual and meta-philosophical. Although I believe in absolutes (but no absolute morals) myself, the process to get to any of them is meticulous and dangerous. To believe this [moral] truth may permeate the universe, to be valid to all species and to all life, is to me, egotistic. We might as well ignore the fact they exist, because we will never know them as even a species, since we are mortal (and history is written by the victors).

      Also, although I believe they exist, but believe we will never know them - this may mean that the process to get to any of them is not a linear or singular path/method.

      Forget absolutes, we are talking objectives. Because before we can claim something is universal, we must first be able to find one that is constantly true within our own species.
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    Jan 6 2013: I will be on for the next 50 minutes...
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      Jan 5 2013: I propose the difference much further down. Where I am charged with verbosity.. Lol

      If my definitions continue to cause frustration. Please comment further. There has to be a difference or else there is no point in having two words. Upon researching more debates I found a lot of people tie them together or straight out confuse them. Which was a topic a few weeks ago on here.

      All the best
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          Jan 5 2013: Again, I answered your question. I am on my phone so couldn't explain again in a new fashion.

          Define objective in the dictionary. And objectivity, absolute.

          They're different

          Now take objective. Unbiased and impersonal.

          What degree of unbiased inspection do you desire? If you are talking like Peter, like objectivity is divine knowledge... Well then okay that's the same as absolute knowledge...

          Now we limit to human unbiased perspectives... We can see theory grow into reality... The positivist image of science...

          My point is, there is truth, it can be found, it's very difficult to find, but it exist. Plato's forms. Aristotle categories. And synonyms do exist.
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          Jan 5 2013: Truth is no absolute, it's relative - strange I know, because I just made an absolute statement. The pit falls of language expressing nature. Contradictions, what have you.

          To be objective is to understand how one is already biased. This is what science does... Which is why I stated you needed communities (a lot of perspectives), consistency (a lot of overlap), and consensus (a lot of research).... In order to be better equipped to be objective. Indeed, we may never be perfectly 'objective' - which again, you're confusing for absolute (which I continue to entertain, although this debate is based on a lot of maybes...)... But as far as creating knowledge which can be used to create further understandings about the universe and nature... It appears we are quite successful at doing such.
          If everyone had the 'biased' idea we should all treat others how we would like to be treated, it is no longer 'biased' - it becomes a consistency in which anyone can observe and see as true... Then when many see it, a community, can discuss the consensus. The golden rule is an obj. moral truth... However, I made another point in this conversation to separate ethics and morality as topics. How the moral is used/applied is not universal, does not mean the moral is not universal.

          So yes, ultimately I will say "you cannot be objective without first being subjective" there is no way to get to objectivity without subjectivity. It's impossible.

          So why try and create rhetoric neglecting such realities?

          You gain truth by a lot of procedures, there is no grand unified theory of truth - you got coherence, pragmatic and correspondence theories at the top of the epistemological community debate...

          Peculiar final words... For one to look through murk and mud, one usually proceeds to filter...

          Consider my method of inspection 'fuzzy' and non-atomistic. If we are to continue to debating... please do research into the differences between absolutes and objectives... We have two words...
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          Jan 5 2013: Why the philosophy of science needs to be based on the same assumptions to see the whole picture. From Nicolaus Copernicus letter to Pope Paul III, that the earth moves.

          " And so I am unwilling to hide from your holiness that nothing except my knowledge that mathematicians have not agreed with one another in their researches moved to think out a different scheme of drawing up the movements of the spheres of the world. For in the first place mathematicians are so uncertain about the movements of the sun and moon that they can neither demonstrate nor observe the unchanging magnitude of the {iiip} revolving year. Then in setting up the solar and lunar movements and those of the five wandering stars, they do not employ the same principles, assumptions, or demonstrations for the revolutions and apparent movements."

          " Moveover, they have not been able to discover or to infer the chief point of all, i.e, the form of the world and the certain commensurability of its parts. But they are in exactly the same fix as someone taking from different places hands, feet, head, and other limbs---- shaped very beautifully but not with reference to one body and without correspondence to one another ---so that such parts made up a monster rather then a man."

          Copernicus continues on to talk about the movement of orbital circles, something the human race has been in for a very long time.

          What you and Mark are in an Ad infinitum or an argument that argues in circles, But we can end the circle discovers because we know how they work. For every action creates and equal but opposite reaction. This can also be seen as duality, and balance or peace, the yin-yang.
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    Jan 4 2013: Mankind is subjective, so objective moral truth cannot begin with mankind. If objective moral truth exists then it must come from a higher source. We are back to the "Does God exist" question.

    • Jan 4 2013: Objective moral truth can be established on facts. Yes, mankind is subjective, but scientific facts are not. When mankind learn the necessary scientific facts objectively concerning a particular moral dilemma, they can use these facts to establish an objective answer. Just because some of the answers to what is "good" or "bad" may be difficult to answer, it doesn't mean there isn't a correct answer, but the best way to get this answer would be through scientific study.
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        Jan 5 2013: History provides examples of nations following various religions & none(which is really just a belief system as well). Some work better than others, but a lack of god doesn't shine out as a moral beacon. There is nothing new under the sun, but each generation thinks it has all the answers; mine included.

        • Jan 5 2013: True, the lack of god doesn't signify the presence of morality or reason, but in some situations it can hold back the progress of it. I agree that each generation thinks it has all the answers because each generation is (more or less) going forward in establishing a more accurate morality correlating with advancements in science. I would think one can claim morality as it's own field of study which is advancing at a similar pace to science. Future generations will look back on how immoral we were today compared to their own more moral standards.
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      Jan 4 2013: Peter,

      I do believe 'God' exist - in you/myself, as an energy in the universe, and perhaps even a conscious omni-being...

      But hardly does the nature of God dictate we cannot understand objective truths... If anything God would have knowledge of the absolute moral truths; xe would know what is right and wrong for EVERY living organism and not just humans...

      Well, I kind of don't care about how ants treat ants, I care about humans treat humans and that can be looked at objectively - not absolutely. Consensus, community and consistency (not necessarily science) can dictate objective moral truths...

      (Did you read 'some' of the conversation before you posted?)
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        Jan 5 2013: I skimmed some of the replies before posting.

        If we are talking Abrahamic God, then we must allow for the effects of sin on an originally-perfect creation. The original creation would have firmly entrenched morals, installed by God. Today we have a bit of a pig's breakfast as we seek to superimpose our preferences on Gods perfect morals.

        Any other god; I am not qualified to say.

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          Jan 5 2013: Nothing you dictated disqualifies human beings from being able to be objective about human beings...
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      Jan 5 2013: I thought Jesus told us that he is 100% man (body) and 100% God (soul). And that we are his brother and sister. Would that not infer that we too, that so is our brother, 100% Man and 100% God?
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      Jan 5 2013: " At all times in mans history, man makes reference to a God or gods in order to explain or bring an understanding to concepts that he,(man) did not posse. Eventually, given time, science focused on explaining the mystery of the unexplainable. As knowledge increased over time, so did understanding. What was once attributed to God is now known through science. My belief is, religion was the precursor to science. Religion tried to answer questions that man had, and when the answer was not available it was given over to the realm of God. We must have an evolutionary need to have answers, and God was the provider of those answers. I believe that man created God. We created a divine God to be the keeper of answers to mysteries we did not yet have.

      Gods have always existed because the answers to our questions have always existed, we just did not have the understanding at the time.

      God provided or became the answer without needing the understanding." ~Dennis Hollinger

      We had the questions, we have the answers, and we can put the puzzle together as humans for the understanding. I think though if you look hard to occam's razor existence you will find that on every level of existence all that's ever been going on from the beginning of time is trying to figure it out on some fundamental level
  • Jan 3 2013: No, as moral values are set by a large number of variables, many of which we have no control over.
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      Jan 3 2013: I definitely feel as though I covered your concern previously, if not, get back to me!
  • Jan 2 2013: Read some human history and then look around you. The answer is plain to see.
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      Jan 2 2013: I would say read some of the history in this conversation, then look around the 'whole' modern/contemporary world.. The answer is not as either/or as you might want to think.

      Although we are the results of our history, our history does not dictate our current life styles and cultures.
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      Jan 2 2013: I agree with Nicholas, read the conversation history and you'll see that the answer isn't so plain to most people, even if they are educated.

      Could I even draw the conclusion that you perceive your moral values as the correct ones?
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    Jan 2 2013: Hey Nic,

    Could you add Sam Harris Talk to the description, I think it would be useful.
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      Jan 2 2013: AS Sam Harris proves biased, I prefer not to... Although I feel the 'religion v. science' debate is a naive one... religion can teach morals as well, does, has and will continue to do so... We can have a conversation of obj. moral truths without appealing to any particular philosophy.
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        Jan 2 2013: I beg to differ, science isn't biased, religion is. Sure religion has a lot to teach about moral values, or what we perceive as them but each religion has their own moral values, if we're going to come to a conclusion on this science is the only thing that can answer it. After all you're looking for objective truth, right?
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          Jan 2 2013: The idea of science has no universal application... Harris however, was the one I was referencing as being biased. Although, upon some research one can find an entire field of philosophy (feminist epistemology) that would argue the contrary - that our scientific procedures are in fact, biased

          What science 'does' we do need; consensus, consistency... Yes, these are great, what we do not need is the ego part. The experimental philosophy and not the communities of stuck up academics.
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        Jan 2 2013: Well, every person is biased, that includes you and me. And sure the scientific community could sure learn a thing or two about letting their ego go, on the other hand ego is what drives most of us, wither it be pure egoism or in an altruistic way.

        So, yes. Sam Harris is biased but the research he's doing is as far away from biased morality that I've seen.

        Objectiveness can not come from one person or even a consensus form all of mankind. It can only come from the scientific method.

        I claim as he does that morality is about suffering, or rather the lack of it. this can (hopefully) be proved in a not so distant future. But even if it is proved, like evolution or gravity or quantum mechanics is proved there will still be those who claim that it is not so, that their feelings tell them otherwise...
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          Jan 2 2013: Indeed, we are all biased thus we are all limited to our subjective opinions...

          Well, again, I was more directing to Harris' overall 'phantom theme' of his discussion. It is a new age atheist conception of 'science' and not a very general and universal understanding. In fact, just like 'religion' new age atheist (or neoatheist) overstate the word 'science' just as casually... This is the actual bias I am talking about...

          Science (like math, art, history, social studies, etc) is a subject, and nothing more. A subject requires consensus, consistency and community in order to strive... Those are the essential parts to making a method able to have objective results - not some loose definition of science. All the subjects we use/practice have this group-method... Although our western science does the best to understand said method... I would still argue we overestimate our abilities to be objective, far too often.. It's beyond having an ego to believe there is one method to finding answers... It's arrogance and ignorance.

          The fact is, Sam Harris does as well as any new age religious hipster does with explaining morals, because... he has a community of new age atheist supporting his thoughts, blindly. They do not see how they are in fact behaving religiously when they dictate their irreligion. Science is a subject and depending on the sub-subject depends on the method used... So, when there is a science of morals (too late ethics, is the subject), then we can further discuss how science can craft morals, until then, it's a new doctrine to me to suggest a vague idea of scientific method can create morals.

          Ethics is a subject/topic and philosophy is primary - while it has become a subject over time... everyone has personal philosophies and grouped philosophies (society, cultures, religions, etc)... morals are personal and ethics is the discussion (grouped concerned).

          Philosophy can dictate morals, not science.
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        Jan 2 2013: (Damn, i really dislike this stupid thread structure on TED)

        You may consider him to be a phenomenon just because he attracts great attention. But I'd like to make the point that "his" whole community is mostly looking for errors in his logic, that's a major difference that you don't see in other "religions".
        Never heard of a "neoatheist", funny term.

        Science is a subject based on math (the only true language) and observation (the only means we have of attaining information). Yes, science requires community (without a community, people, nothing could be studied), but what brings it forward is the lack of consistency and consensus. Every scientific theory has at some early point been suggested by one or a few that did not have consensus and did not want consistency, that is what brings it forward.

        I understand that you're not one to be an early adopter of new ways of thinking, you seem to believe that the old philosophies hold the universal understanding. I consider them to hold much wisdom, but they can only propel us so far.
        "Until then" I will support this idea with critical thinking, hoping to aid it to be either proved or "disproved", both are good as they would widen our understanding.

        Philosophy can guide science to dictate morals.

        (I hope you don't take any of this as ad hominem, you know I like you right?)
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          Jan 2 2013: I would say Sam Harris gets more support from his community, than not - the community being those who are new age atheist. He is a 'horsemen' for a reason - these terms and ideas do not arise from no where, it took people supporting the ideas to get there and to get HIM there. So, yeah, there is clear cultural bias, when it comes to dictating science as being more than just a subject of inquiry.

          Math is relative... What it applies to is up to theory to make practical... Hard science uses the best math theory to advance... That is all. Well not all, but the general conception, we are still advancing in math... How can we really know if we are advanced in anything else? Check out the top 10 question physicist cannot answer... They oddly seem mystic...

          It's not a matter of old v. new - it's a matter of looking at both and seeing where they overlap.

          Without philosophy there would be no science, and the question of ethics/morals is ancient ... far more literature in philosophy (and religion) than 'science' any day. Perhaps investigating all of their doctrines will dictate overlap and demonstrate consistency, into every community. Difficult for the new age atheist, as they already impress the idea 'religion is bad' - well, that right there, is arrogantly ignorant... And makes looking at history objectively more difficult, indeed looking at the world objectively, becomes more difficult.

          (Always in good faith of conversation, of course!)
      • Jan 4 2013: In regards to your first comment, I would argue that religion can't teach us morality... well any useful morality anyhow. It's true, it does have a few basic principles which are a good idea such as don't murder and don't steal, but these aren't a bi product of religion. These basic moralities are innate in humanity as well as in other apes too.
      • Jan 4 2013: A philosophy based around the supernatural.
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          Jan 4 2013: I define it a little differently....

          Religion - dogmas, social/cultural norms, metaphysical/philosophic concerns, appealing to authority, and (but not limited to) methods of indoctrination.

          Can you see where the context of religion can alter an entire conversation?

          Religion being an ample part of any society... Of course it teaches morals. The fundamentalist religions may teach contradictory morality; do one to others, unless they are not the same religion.... But, no matter, they dictate what you reference as basic moralities...

          Well, without the dictation, definition or expression of a moral, we will never know if our actions are moral or immoral. So, yes, religion teaches morals as well as ethics.

          To add: although ancient societies (Egypt and Sumeria) had laws, they still said breaking them would violate the Gods will, and the king was person in charge of punishing those who disobeyed the Gods... So, religion has and will always dictate morals.
      • Jan 4 2013: Well I'd say that our definition of religion is quite similar. Considering a philosophy generally dictates how one thinks and acts, I'd say that includes everything you mentioned, although I wouldn't necessarily include "methods of indoctrination" amongst those as I don't think they would be necessarily tied to the religion... unless it's something like Scientology where the brainwashing seems to be a big part of it.
        Concerning your main point, it seems that I have misunderstood you. I thought you were saying that religion has a monopoly on morality, but correct me if I'm wrong, it seems you are saying that it can act as a guide for one to follow. I'd certainly agree with that and I'd also add that religion is certainly not alone in this domain. Many branches of philosophy offer up moral guidance according to a set of core principles, for example the Star Trek philosophy for Trekkies...(seriously). Also, I would like to further accentuate the point that much of human morality is innate and we don't necessarily need any kind of philosophy, religious or otherwise, to be moral.
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          Jan 4 2013: Correct, religion has no monopoly on morality or ethics.

          I think we will always need some sort of philosophic articulation in order to grasp what is good ethically and not... I see no way out of philosophy. It's just going to happen.
  • Jan 1 2013: You have to be kidding!
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    Dec 31 2012: I guess there exist objective moral truths , for example anything we don't have proofs for might be consider objective moral truth .
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      Dec 31 2012: "I guess there exist (at least one) objective moral truth*. For example, anything we do not have proof* for, might be considered* an objective moral truth."

      I sense sarcasm? Or is the translation is just not done well?

      Because obviously there are obj. moral truths. You like to be fed right? You wouldn't enjoy to stop being fed, correct?
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        Jan 1 2013: Well , it wasn't my intention to be sarcastic , I just wanna point out that 'to be objective' imply some things , for instance 'to not be involved in any manner with that moral truth' , otherwise it's very hard (impossible) to distinguish between what's objective and what's subjective . That's why I ask : do we really know what's 'an objective truth' ? Is it of any help to us ?
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          Jan 2 2013: No person has to be involved with another person, in order to know the other person is getting treated poorly. BUT, I can know it is wrong. What is biased? Is it biased because I am only thinking about human beings, as being a human being? *Anthropocentrism

          Are you extending ethics to animals? Should we teach other animals the same way as people? Definitely, but to what degree? - These are ethical questions. Society makes the conclusions. And we can argue which society today is [un]ethical among smaller groups and individuals.

          But 'morals' are individual to everyone. So I do believe there are morals that every individual shares existentially, or superficially - but, essentially mutual moral beliefs - in extension, truth AND knowledge, that EVERYone, in general, as being a human being - shares, knows and practices.

          Just because every society (country, nation, bodies of nations...) behaves differently with another society... independently, and amongst themselves... Does not mean every different society cannot have overlapping moral values that permeate the cultures.

          Do we know what an absolute truth is?

          I would say to that, extremely few... But, with science, consensus and surveys... We will eventually understand what it takes to be truly absolute with truth and knowledge.

          - there is a definitive difference between the two ideas: absolute and objective.

          - read the other post E G

          - hope it translates okay...

          But, basically - Yes, we can know, because we can look at history and see how ancient societies knew what was an objective moral truth - and how they practiced their ethical systems with others...

          It's just hard to see/consider obj. moral truths today... But they exist. It's beyond logic, because logic isn't good with the metaphysical concerns philosophy anticipates. The *idea* of fuzzy logic - 'knowing what is not true, will make truth' - That's a great way to go about finding metaphysical answers to ethics and morals... without the faith
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        Jan 2 2013: I guess I got the idea of your comment . So you're trying to say that what we have discovered about morals is somehow found in any culture (also we should extend it to animals) and that by consensus and surveys we could eventually have acces to something like objective ( or to something like 'being absolute with the truth'). These prove somehow your opinion that there are objective truths (or that's what you intended to).

        Well , then what about this empirical truth :
        ' no human has the same perception like another one ' --- we will eventually reach consensus , that's right , but does it change something ?..... we have different perceptions , we don't know the same thing in the same way , in fact the existence of 'the same thing' is pure human convention ......... can you argue for something being objevtive in this situation ?
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          Jan 2 2013: I already have!

          The basic needs; food, shelter, water...

          To deny these things directly to another human being is wrong, always. There is no reason to deny another a meal or warmth if there is an abundance of both...

          For example: While America consumes 2/3 (two-thirds) of the world's resources, I feel this statistic alone dictates clear unethical behavior that a nation can practice, culturally.

          So while I, you and the next person can agree American culture is pretty wasteful... I would find it amazing for someone to disagree if they have ever actually took time to investigate the matter. Yes, we can have the same perspectives. Just because there are different elements and particulars involved, doesn't mean the answers will be entirely different - everyone needs to eat, sleep and drink water...

          Besides from the example: we can just figure that out, by an experiment... Try not eating, being warm and drinking a little water for a few days...
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        Jan 3 2013: It doesn't seem to me you have answered to my little objection ; why ? Simpy because any of us pervceive the need to eat or to sleep or to drink water in different ways . Therefore when there are different elements and particulars involved does mean the answer is different , maybe not entirely different but IT is different (as much as I noticed nothing in this world is entirely different of something else) . So my question remains somehow : what is the objective truth here ?
        - his need to eat or mine ? ...or maybe the common elements of the need to eat at both of us ?
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          Jan 3 2013: I think you answered your own inquiry of what is objectively true...

          We all need to eat, no matter the dimensions of how, what, where, when, who, why.... The bottom line, we all need to eat - that is an objective truth..

          Now, what sane, reasonable and truthful person can say... "Denying another to eat is right" Just not happening - no matter the circumstance. It is morally wrong to deny another to eat...

          Perhaps there will be circumstances where not letting someone eat, will be good... But, we should strongly consider what moments would have to be arisen, to be so objective about how to treat another... What would make it justifiable to deny another food?
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        Jan 4 2013: I don't think you understood :

        'The bottom line, we all need to eat - that is an objective truth'

        My counter argument : what does the need of eat is ?
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        Jan 4 2013: What is the need to eat ? is it the same for everybody ?
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          Jan 4 2013: Every person needs to eat, yes, no matter what they can, want or desire to eat, they NEED/HAVE to eat. This statement cannot be false.

          Even those who are fed through life support systems in hospitals are getting nutrition, indirectly eating.
  • Dec 26 2012: No, I can't see any way that a moral can be anything but subjective.
    Your example is not necessarily universal in everybody's eyes.
    Consider the teacher getting a painful stone in the back of the head while writing on the board, asking "who threw that?" and getting no answer. In the interests of maintaining discipline which will be better for all the kids in the long run he might hold the whole class behind for detention. Is this morally wrong? Certainly many kids will feel hard done by... but you could argue that it's the right action nonetheless.
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      Dec 27 2012: A 'stone' in the back of the head, wow. If I saw a kid do that I would point him/her out, and if I didn't, I feel the class would gain their proper retaliation... This example deals more with ethical systems - the conversation at hand is personal morality. Are their traits and qualities that overlap among individuals would prove consistently required morally? Absolutely. Here in this example, the class would require the group dynamic of to inspire for secrecy - in order to not be an outcast, everyone must be quiet.. So, upon knowing this dynamic of no one pointing fingers, it is justifiable for a teacher to punish the whole class (a very mild punishment, at that). Indeed, everyone is not guilty, per say, but everyone is preventing the guilty party from being pinpointed and thus all responsible. It's like when a corporation does a crime, who do you blame? The group or the group leaders? Can you prove it was a group mentality or not? No matter, the results will no longer be individual, but group-orientated. Morals are the concern of the individuals, indeed subjective, but there exist morals that exist in all of us.

      It is hard to pinpoint when a choice is objectively good or bad in response to an action or actions... But, your example does not suggest there is no obj. moral truths, but that finding them is difficult in some situations. There are social-dilemmas with morals, but none that disregard morals as being objective, but instead fuzzy or foggy to establish illumination.
  • Dec 20 2012: Thank you for your reply.

    We don't live in the conditions we used to live in. Of course if we would live in a time where we were a tribal species, the objective morality could suit us our whole life.
    But we have come a long way, and things changed and i don't really think that "going back to the roots" will help us as a species.

    But i absolutely agree with your point. We as a species NEED to study morals and ways we can affect them. We have a natural way to alter them, we just don't really know how. We should look for a way to educate and teach morals in an early age, so that the next generations would be better suited for the life in the modern age. I even think it is our responsibility, as is the responsibility of any parent to raise a "good" kid.

    But the evlutionary mechanisms as you put it, aren't up to the task anymore, the society changes too fast. The morals we are born with, the objective, "true" morals, will get outdated eventually. Of course, we can use them as a reference, but the natural state of things is not always the best suited one, when change happens.
  • Dec 20 2012: Some pre-suppositions:

    1. To say that there are absolute truths is to say that there is objective (something that is provable beyond human experience) goodness and objective badness.

    2. Mortmer Adler wrote "that it is unreal to think about science and philosophy as
    the line that divides knowledge from mere opinion in such a way that it puts mathematics, investigative science, and history on one side of that line and everything else on the other. This amounts to denying the legitimacy of the claim made by philosophy to give us knowledge of reality and provide us with truths that are, perhaps, more fundamental and important than those we learn from science."

    3. We must also assume that induction and deduction are not mutually exclusive and that there is a sliding scale between the two - we rarely if ever think one way over the other.

    4. Pure induction in religion and philosophy is merely superstition.

    5. Pure deduction in science is merely narrow mindedness and dos not fulfill the purpose of science: to find truth.

    6. If there is a personal God that created us with the purpose of relationship with him at least in the working out of our relationship with others around us, all is good - remember that the world may be unsafe but still be good.

    8. If there is bad in the world one might ask how a good God allows this - can one imagine any sense of free will (free will, like deductive and inductive thinking, is not mutually exclusive. Some persons have more than others) or the richness of experience in THIS life having the potential that it does without bad?

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    Dec 20 2012: Morality is a collective agreement between humans for what is socially acceptable then manifests itself into religion in the form of beliefs and into government as laws. The question itself is assuming there exists morals or rules or laws that are universal thus existing prior to humans? If so, you might be a candidate for scientology.
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      Dec 20 2012: Search engine: [Ethnic] group, ethics, and morality -plus- objectivity/objective and absolute

      Morality is personal. Ethics is the subject of morality. Objective is the opposite of subjective. There are no absolutes with human beings - there are only things that are good enough to be believed that way = objectivism, pragmatism and a dash of empiricism. How old are you by the way?

      Yes, you are right, the whole world doesn't act the same. Their are so many different things involved with the subjects and details of ethics, yeah, definitely got me there.. But, they are the most ancient things worried about in all the history of philosophy... We can look at all of these things in history and actually KNOW what is not good. I didn't really like the Scientology remark.

      So, if there is a religion that preaches that* Sign me up. Definitely love to meet once a week and talk. Would be excited.

      I don't know you, but if you're offended. Read the other arguments here to me, and we can continue debating. I just felt the Scientology remark was distasteful, sorry, it was low. . . They're worse than a cult.

      Remember my side: personal values of how to treat others can be objectively recognized; 1. exist naturally and 2. are common sense. (It's not a new or original side) Platinum rule for instance. Golden is culturally impractical.
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        Dec 20 2012: Sorry, didn't mean it in a bad way, only metaphorically to push the point. I agree there are universal truths we are moving toward finding but this is something that is a future goal, not something that exists already.
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          Dec 20 2012: So work towards the goal, and do not just accept what already exist as being what we have to settle with.
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    Dec 19 2012: Can you provide evidence that what we know as "morals" exists beyond the framework of a belief system?
    Here I am implying that most of what we call morals are merely an acquired belief in what is right or wrong.
  • Dec 18 2012: Here is what i think:

    "Morality" is made out of two components.

    Let me explain.
    The first is the part of morality we are BORN with. It is derived from evolution. These are the behavioral petterns and traits that have proven themselves to be useful to survival in tribes/small groups. These include all the behaviors and reactions that FEEL right. And exclude everything that does not. So these are the basic "rules". These are common amongst almost every human in every culture, simply, because we all inherit them.
    BUT! That does not mean we all feel EXACTLY strong about them. There are variations in everyone, someone has the "group survival" the "social" values stronger than the other. I'm sure there are a lot of categories of morality and everyone has a variation of them. But we all share them to some extent.

    The second part is what we "learn". A child comes into this world with a behavior, that is useful for the survival, but only for the first couple of months. Then it learns. A child's brain is plastic. It shapes with every input. So does the childs behavior, his morals, his sense of right and wrong. Because the brain is like that. It needs to get adapted to the local, dynamic conditions, it can't rely on "inherited wisdom". And it needs to do it fast. And once the child grows older, his original values get changed and stirred up and twisted and some get stronger, some weaker, so that it has the best chance at survival, to find a mate, to live etc.

    And you can't tell a difference between the two parts, because really there is none, its the same morality you were born with, like a blueprint but with a unique variation of attributes, and then later changed to better suit your survival. Thats why there are different cultures with different moral values.

    That means there is no objective morality because everyone gets his morality shaped in a unique way.

    The original morality you are born with is just a framework, there to be changed.
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      Dec 19 2012: Edited* by your last statement,

      'Original morality' - would mean 'core' or 'basic' morality. So you may not want to directly admit obj. moral truths exist, but you have so indirectly suggested (just that) with your comment. Indeed they are shaped uniquely, but that does not dismiss we have fundamental moral systems. Which can be seen as overlapping into every individual.

      If we have evolutionary mechanisms designed to establish what we would call 'morality' a long with the ability to reflect on those mechanisms (cognition v metacognition)... I not only see this as a case for obj. moral truths I see this as an argument for public education of this world being terrible by not responding to our natural thoughts and behavior better, until we are proven 'abnormal'. In ancient times, they would have demanded students to question their own moral choices, and depending on the school system you look at, would of learned rhetoric, arithmetic and music as basic knowledge. Of course these schools would be for the elite, but I do not see how this style is expensive by today's standards...

      My point here is, if we have the instincts of morals, but have random chances of education to alter our instincts (to be bad or good or neither)... Then we can have to un/re - educate and set forth principles that are responsive to our human nature as well as premeditated on as being for the betterment of mankind: social thinking.

      If anything you should check out. . .How recently a group of researchers have proposed to study 'human evil' as a cultural concern, rather than an individual one -

      Indeed their are cultural factors to deal with, but no cultural factor can dictate there being no obj. moral truths, but perhaps that said cultural factor may be able to prevent that truth from being illuminated and educated.
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    Dec 17 2012: The word 'objective' is the root of the problem. Whatever happens inside the head of a person or persons is objective in the sense that neural pathways exist objectively. A similar argument could be made for the existence of God or leprechauns or kappas or angels: they objectively exist as images inside human brains. The ambiguity is that 'objective' can also mean that the objectively existent miscellanea inside our skulls exist outside our minds. (No evidence that they do, since science has discovered a multitude of subatomic particles -- but never a 'morality' particle).
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      Dec 17 2012: Lol, if we are to believe everything that is objective is limited to the physical, I feel that is the worse type of bias... Not saying that you do Thomas, but... Objectivity is not limited to what is real, how we apply what is 'real' to an idea - theory formation (Plato's forms) - is just as important, if not, more important than what the real facts are, no?
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        Dec 17 2012: The objective is not only physical (i.e. material) but also involves time and change, an additional dimension other than space in which matter exists. That said, our brains and our sense organs dimly perceive what is 'out their' and are quite capable of creating things inside our heads that go beyond that mysterious place called 'the world'. If one thinks about it, other humans are as inherently mysterious as are chimps or spiders or bacteria or methane gas molecules and we only dimly infer facts about all of these. I don't really know what 'important' means, but I know that female spiders often eat their mates and I'm OK with that. Ditto wars between ant colonies. I draw the line at innocent smallpox viruses using my body to survive and prosper. I have no moral qualms about exterminating the smallpox viruses that survive in the world. I have a big moral qualm with human genocide. Obviously (since genocides are human projects) not all folks agree with me and feel that a world without Tutsi humans (for example) would be just as desirable as a world without smallpox viruses. I don't condone human genocides -- and I like to think I'd have the courage to stand with those dying in a genocide -- but I'm going to throw my towel into the ring with Existentialism (especially Camus) and just say my moral choices are not anything transcendent. They are simply my choices. Patterns in my behavior. Facts on the ground.
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    Dec 17 2012: Updated: I do believe there exist objective moral truths, such as, "a person being punished for something they did not do is wrong." I would read through before responding, I have attempted to defend this position from quite a few perspectives...

    Objective as defined as being: impersonal and unbiased. And to be truly objective is to understand the series/patterns of subjective details that do and continue create objective existences. Not to be confused with absolutes...

    Math to me is an absolute concern; so I do think it is applicable to measure subjective/relative factors, but only in the nature of numbers as absolutes, not what they apply to. . . What they apply to are something which requires consistent re-evaluating what is thought to be objective. This making being objective, truly a difficult task, but do able. Science exist VERY efficiently for a reason. As my long time TED-friend pointed out, thank you.

    There could exist objective moral truths - unbiased of religion, heritage, nation and other cultural entities - which permeate every individual.

    Besides just having to get objective arguments for morals of people from consensus, we can get consensus from history. History of the above cultural entities dictate what their systems established as; at least dictated as; being good morals. So there exist at least preexisting proposals of what is morally sound.

    Ethics is the subject of morals... What is ethical depends on objective concerns of what is more correct morally; government for example. . .

    What is right, may not always be the easy choice, but the choice is the right one for a reason. . . We should not separate ethics and knowledge here, but we should also remember we should never actually, personally, try to divide ethics and knowledge. And that is morality, how it gets applied is based on ethical determinations. (This is the argument against there being absolute ethics)

    Are there objective moral truths? What are they?!?! Let's make a list.
    • Dec 18 2012: They have been listed already :)
      In King James Version they are known as "ten commandments". But from biblical Hebrew they are translatable as "the ten words", "the ten sayings" or "the ten matters". Don't you see the deviation here ? It is ' the fall ' ; they were interpreted as moral laws, but maybe initially it sounded like truth which tried to speak itself. " don't do to others..." because there no 'others' ; " love your neighbor as thyself " because it is yourself...etc. My humble version may look like this : whatever you hurt or damage, it's you who is hurt or damaged; whatever you love, it's you who is loved. iow giver and receiver are one. In this context altruism is not about sacrifice but about awareness.
      Morality is a kind of attempt to redouble our effort when we have forgotten who we are.
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        Dec 19 2012: I know that, but everyone else may not see those scriptures that way... (::cough:: neo-atheist ::cough::)

        But, to be fair, the more ancient commandments had 40 or so... No list should be so limited. And Muslims have 99 thoughts/phrases for God. I would prefer that list lol.
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    Dec 17 2012: Extremist are the ones who harm others for thoughts. No one should tolerate them, no matter their justifications. A bigger worry is that we care more about religious extremism than what big corporate embodiments do to the world... They truly harm people, far more than any 'terrorist' has in history. There are those historic moments that affect people personally and deeply, it is harsh do talk about it this way, but we are repeating history... We can look at history to what is objectively right. The great philosophers all over the world have drawn them out, a long ass time ago. We just are relaying/scaffolding on systems to do things for us, to make decisions for us, and are not taking individual responsibility to participate. Being objective about ourselves... What our systems do, as far as immoral actions, are they ethical? Are they telling us what we rely on, is virtuous? Or do we answer these questions unconsciously -and- perhaps subconsciously?

    No matter, what, most would say their system predicates just and moral decisions, based on empirical facts, respectable sources of reliability, etc. etc. all due to them being a part of the system... Religion, country, heritage, family. . . all perpetrate systems of thought that correspond with one another in evolutionary (nature) and cultural (nurture) [un/sub]conscious combinations

    Ethically a system, may not be moral. How we apply morals is not only done through what we believe are good morals, but, also how our personal cultures establish/create/mold what good morals are - whether indirectly or directly educated. Cultures ranging from large to small, all educate to perpetrate some thoughts more than others. This can be said for how we apply all natural thought - but, morals are the issue...

    By understanding all the real-idea's ('matter/thing' which effect the physical) that bring reality to the world, like those in ethics and morals... We can find overlap and patterns of what is usually going to be more benevolent.
  • Dec 16 2012: Nic,

    One quickly runs out of characters.

    I think I got your drift. But I did think the examples were relevant.

    We could go further on Theodore's comment. I think we at least agree that animals do not share the faculty of relating to their own moral values. Do you have any further comment to frans de waals video?
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      Dec 16 2012: I hardly gave comment to the video besides directing attention to prosocial selection....

      Nothing is 'like' morality and ethics besides moments which are 'like' ethics and morality... Otherwise examples to create arguments can be drawn from anywhere which will end up satisfying the counter-position. That goes for a lot of philosophical debates.

      And no, I do not agree animals do not share the faculty of relating to their own moral values, because we are animals. And depending on the certain animal also depends on how cognitively aware they are of themselves. Such as primates. We just have the ability to discuss them on objective terms, does not mean they cannot learn what is morally right on individual levels (again, depending on the animals - like mammals).

      Check out: Triune Brain
      • Dec 16 2012: OK,
        So your saying that "we" as animals, or primates, if you will, are then able to decipher our own degree of moral actions depends upon just how .. "cognitively aware they are of themselves." I guess that would not include a lot of animals in the discussion then... the fact being that a lot of animals are quite obviously not "self-aware" and cannot learn on an "individual level" as you say... then the same must apply to the entire species of homo sapiens. ... each individual's "ability to be cognitively aware of himself" must then determine his / her own degree of moral action. also .... as an individual an not as a "population of individuals"
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          Dec 16 2012: I think you did not read my suggested materials...

          But, no, you are begging the question, hard.

          " the fact being that a lot of animals are quite obviously not "self-aware" and cannot learn on an "individual level" as you say... then the same must apply to the entire species of homo sapiens. ..."

          No it doesn't. Each individual automatically has the ability to be cognitively aware of themselves. How well they perform metacognition, does not dictate anything to do with morals, necessarily.

          This in no way dictates an argument against obj. moral truths; we need food, stopping someone from eating is wrong. We need warmth, preventing someone from being sheltered is wrong. Genocide is wrong. The list goes on.

          Nothing you can argue about how well an individual can cognitively reflect will make any of the above right... unless they were fed propaganda of the above as being justifiable for some absurd reasonings... That is the point of trying to find obj moral truths, so when the above actions take place, human beings can get behind the fact they are wrong and to figure out ways to reprimand the wrong doings.
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    Dec 16 2012: Sam Harris makes a very valid argument that supports your statement, I agree with him.
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      Dec 16 2012: Among the Horseman of New Age Atheism, Sam Harris really is my favorite.
    • Dec 16 2012: Jimmy,

      But Sammy makes the assumption that moral values are about human well being. .... Excuse me, but has "everyone else" agreed to this ... or is it just his own subjective opinion....?
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        Dec 16 2012: That's just the thing, THAT IS the objective view on morality. If anything, as he says, morality must strive to minimize human suffering.

        Yes Daniel, everyone else has agreed to this, including you... :/
        And everyone has also agreed that there is a thing called the green house effect, everyone else has agreed that there is a heaven and hell...

        Excuse my sarcasm but your consensus to a scientific validation isn't needed at the moment.
        • Dec 16 2012: Jimmy,

          Did you forget about the question of morality in regards to the treatment of "other animals" ... do you eat "other animals" Jimmy ....?

          If you do so, then is it then morally acceptable in your eyes...? Do you agree with Nic, that the standard of measurement depends upon how "cognitively aware" they are of themselves...?

          Otherwise Jimmy, .. the millions of people who have never even heard of the greenhouse effect ... or heaven and hell ...???... Your point is totally missed here Jim. It makes no sense to me. Are you really trying to say that everyone has agreed to the idea that there is a heaven and hell .....??? Iol ... I really don't think so...

          What is it your really trying to say here....?
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        Dec 17 2012: Daniel,

        I do eat meat, and I find it morally wrong when taking a step outside of my own perspective, I'm gradually cutting down and in a while i expect to no longer eat meat. I don't find it morally wrong for the reasons you might think. I don't blame the lion for eating meat, it has no choice.
        I've been brought up eating meat, chopping the head of a chicken once or twice a week was customary when I was growing up, the reasoning was that our chickens lived good free lives where they could flourish, they had us to thank for that, therefore we had the right.
        I find eating meat wrong because of the environmental burden that comes with it. contrary to the lion we have a choice as we are omnivores.

        Yes, cognitive awareness has a part to play, I don't feel bad for smashing a rock. I rarely thing´k about it when walking through the woods that thousands of insects that I can't see are probably getting smashed. A chicken, according to me, is less cognitive aware then say a chimpanzee or a dolphin, the later two I would not devour.

        What I'm trying to say is that you don't have to agree for it to be true. It's like gravity, while you might not understand it or even believe in it, it is still so.

        Now, from what I remember you're no fan of science, rather you're a man of faith and religion. Your beliefs are based on folklore (written ones but still) while mine are based on validation.
        We have not yet validated that there are moral truths, I don't consider it a theory yet, I do however consider it a very strong thesis and am prepared to go with this since it is according to me the best explanation for morality.

        I'd like to add that I believe that everything has an explanation that can (or could) at some point be verified.
        • Dec 17 2012: Jimmy and Nic,

          As the confusion here continues... It seems like we have been down this way before..

          You came into the discussion here about 60 comments too late. You can, if you wish, read up on them and see where you stand in relation to the "subjective / objective" nature of gaining knowledge. When you can make an intelligible comment on that point specifically, then it may be of interest to proceed in discussing the idea of "objective moral truths" with you.

          It is clear that neither you or Sam Harris have noticed, the fact that Sam makes the assumption that moral truths are something that must encompass "human well being" Isn't that already a "subjective judgement" ...?? It's a logical blunder.

          You, as well as Nic, the originator of this discussion, have not yet managed to grasp the fact that the word "moral" is like the word "art" Its a collective concept.Now I ask you, .. is "art" something "objective" ..? I assume that you'll answer no to this. ... Why is art not something objective? Not for the reason that "some people" (you and sam harris) agree that is art or not art. But because the word "art" is only existing on an "ideal" basis. It only exists as a collective concept! An IDEA with your head and mine.. art is a collection of "forms of expression". Be it musical, painting, building, etc.etc.etc. It has a million different meanings, all of which fall in under the single "collective idea" When one first puts "CONTENT" in under the word "art" then and ONLY then can the word have any real meaning. Thus, any objectivity or subjectivity can not be decided. There must first be a concrete "example" So, as S.H. does, presents a few concrete examples. This one being agreed upon, that one not. The point is here that the "IDEA" of UNIVERSAL MORAL TRUTHS" is only an "IDEA" Do you and Nic see this now ??

          Of course we could carry this discussion even further and ask how "real" ideas in themselves are. I have chosen not to.
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        Dec 17 2012: I agree Daniel. While I think sams human wellbeing is fine as far as it goes, it is not universally agreed.

        Also I'd extend it to conscious beings capable of suffering.

        Although perhaps there is a convoluted way of linking human wellbeing to not being cruel to animals.
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        Dec 17 2012: Ehm, no... I'm not here to convince you Daniel as I know from previous conversations that that will never happen... I instead hope that I caught most of the inbetweeners with my argument.

        I leave it to someone else to continue this conversation as I don't have the energy to do this, my time is more well spent elsewhere.
        • Dec 18 2012: Truth is ... you don't have a clue
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    Dec 16 2012: It is a very difficult question. It may be one that no human being can answer, because to answer it wouldn't you have to talk to every person on earth, ask them what their morality is, why they believe what they believe, see how their morality compares to your own morality and the morality of every other person. And wouldn't you also have to talk to every person who ever lived in the past, and every person who will live in the future? And of course noone can do any of these things.
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      Dec 16 2012: I would agree to only having to talk to every person alive today would be a fantastic way to be 100% objective in this respect, but does any science really do that as of now?

      As far as the past - that's what books are for!

      But, I do not believe your suggestion is all we have to do to figure out an obj. moral truth. I think we can look at the hierarchy of needs of Maslow, evolutionary paradigms (psychology, behavioral, neurology, etc), [cog.] psychology of religion, the core doctrines of the major religions, ancient mythology... Yes, we can find obj. moral truths from these topics and sources if we look at them in obj. terms. Terms - which are to theorize there being obj. moral truths and figuring out systems which they align with in reality; in either theory of truth and/or paradigm of science.
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    Dec 14 2012: I tend to agree with your example, based on my ethical framework and secular values, although you'd need to look at specifics.

    It is just while there is often overlap we don't all share the same values framework. Some people think it is moral to cut the gentials of children based on supposed revelations. I would disagree.

    The problem with objective morality is it may only exist within a particular values framework. And we don't seem to be able to agree on the framework. You believe your god is real and the ultimate authority on morality and she says .......God says so, it not enough for me.
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      Dec 15 2012: Indeed, whether cutting off the foreskin of a child is right or wrong objectively is difficult to determine, therefore there is religious knowledge, belief knowledge and ethical knowledge behind such disputes... But that does not mean we cannot come to a consensus where everyone agrees such behavior is good or bad, right or wrong.

      I want to try to stay within the individual concern while being objective. Systems that exist are not individualized, they are exactly what they are called: systems. Within systems, yes, we will never find obj. moral truths, besides perhaps every human wants to protect themselves and their families, but does that make the moral good or bad? Individually, when we look at obj. moral truths, without the group, we can be clear that no one would like to have their happiness taken away from them, that they need to food to eat and to not feed them is wrong, they need warmth and to not give them warmth is inhumane, etc.

      As far as systems go... easily can any of the above individual moral obj. truths be manifested as not true and can be justified to be done is the contrary... Doesn't make the system right at all, just means we need to be better at identifying obj. moral truths like and other obj truth, and not be biased and listen to historic philosophers when they say it is impossible - they never had the internet to be proven so wrong, so easily.

      Love you Obey.
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        Dec 16 2012: Hi nl, what basis do you suggest to assess what is moral?
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          Dec 16 2012: What is moral?

          Humanitarianism, multiculturalism, tolerance, and the desire to understand (no matter how offensive the understanding may be).
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        Dec 17 2012: Hi nl, I tend to agree with your values, although I put limits on tolerance. I don't think we should tolerate actions that harm others. Freedom within limits. I don't think we should accept cultural norms that conflict with human rights, equality etc.

        But again, we need to have an agreed basis for why these things are moral, or at least a good argument why we think they are good moral basis
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          Dec 17 2012: Please make note of my new post*

          There already exist 'agreed basis', we just need to find them, look at them and be concerned with them more than what is consider right or wrong... To be true, an objective moral truth! What is true is always thought to be 'what is good' - who can disagree? Justified true belief = knowledge - what each are, exactly is variable, but we can agree denial of knowledge is negative. We should never tolerate ignorance, but that has nothing to do with being tolerant of other people's most basic needs and their personal values. Tolerance is taking their knowledge and wanting to find how it coherently replicates actual reality and corresponds efficiently.

          Perhaps tolerance isn't the best word, maybe [proto]feminist? Everyone is equal, period, but also that everyone is individual;y unique even though they all deserve the same treatment.

          What do you think Obey?
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      Dec 17 2012: As much as we might wish it, and desire it, there's no such thing as right and wrong, or good and evil, we're making it all up, as our notion of right and wrong varies according to time, location, and expediency. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't call some things right and wrong, or some acts good and evil, or anything ugly and beautiful, or sexy and not sexy--we should.

      How else would we experience either?

      In regard to an earlier conversation that's now closed you said this: "Dr Alexander may be largely correct, but it is not reasonably proven that his interpretation is correct."

      Here's a little story from my own collection. I'm not asking that you believe it or that you accept it, but whether it's open to "interpretation" to a degree that I should discount the source.

      Taken out-of-body to a ship--circular in shape--along with several other males. The only women in attendance was this one woman who stood at the front of the room, dressed all in white, before a bright screen on a wall. She held a pointer, and as she pointed to the screen, she appeared to be making calculations, which she shared with us.

      She said that in our locality an earthquake would take place on a certain date (in three months time), and at a precise time (early morning).

      I told others of this impending earthquake as I was left with a feeling of certainty that it would occur as predicted.

      The earthquake occurred three months later, as predicted, and at the time predicted.

      Without believing the validity of my story, would you say that, if true, it's not open to an "interpretation" that would dismiss the origin of the information and the subsequent prediction?
  • Dec 12 2012: Undoubtably there are objective moral truths.

    We cannot access those truths through human reason alone, however. Human reason leads us to make one of the two following flawed conclusions: 1.) By nature of our experience, we can reasonably conclude that there are immoral or evil acts (e.g. terrorism and rape). 2.) Since every person's experience is uniquely situated, culturally or otherwise, there is no epistemological ground to formulate those objective moral standards (what is immoral in one culture may not be immoral in the next), let alone suggest moral standards exist at all.

    The problem with the conclusion (1) is precisely what is articulated in conclusion (2): the impact of cultural particularity skews our perspective and objectivity. The problem of conclusion (2) is that it is fundamentally self-defeating. To say that there is no way to formulate or know objective moral truth is, itself, an objective truth! In other words, on what ground can those who conclude (2) say with any certainty that their position is correct at all?

    How are we to make of acts of terror, rape, or other injustices? The MOST either position can say is that such acts are culturally inappropriate and NOT that they are wrong in an evil or inherent sense. There is an alternative perspective, however, that does justice to what we inherently know to be wrong and evil.

    While severely unpopular (especially here in TED), divine revelation is the only way to access or know objective moral truths. This leads into several other, important conversations about the nature of revelation and existence of God. Nonetheless the only way we can cogently account for the very real response we illicite when encountering grave injustice is by appealing to God's normative and authoritative revelation (e.g. Mankind is made in the image of God, thus atrocities against mankind are inherently wrong).
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      Dec 12 2012: I like your logic here.

      I can deduct your God is not one of a fundamental nature (strictly doctrine bound), and the exact nature of your thoughts on God may prove integrating to myself, please if you start a conversation or comment in an existing one, give notice.

      Divine revelations can come in many accords, which no doubt you would agree on. Thank you for posting.

      *Edited: Seeing as my conversation is the first you posted on: 1. Thank you again and 2. welcome to
      • Dec 12 2012: Thanks, Nicholas (nice name by the way). These are good questions to be asking. I genuinely wonder if methodological naturalism can come up with a more compelling epistemology, but I do not know of one.

        I don't know how I'd give notice if I were to start a conversation, but I would be happy to let you know.
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          Dec 12 2012: By means of e-mailing me from my profile*
        • Dec 13 2012: Both Nics,

          Even "divine revelation" has to be cast under the observing eye of reason...
    • Dec 13 2012: Thanks Nic Nac for taking part in this most interesting conversation.

      When you say "We cannot access those things by human reason alone" Then I have to ask the question ... What other means do we have available than the faculty of human reason .....? In my mind, the faculty of reason is the highest faculty and best tool we have at our disposition ... or do you know of a tool that is better than "reason"
    • Dec 13 2012: Back again Nic Nac,

      You made a little self contradiction there in your second paragraph, point 2

      To say that there is no way to formulate or know objective moral truth is, itself, an objective truth! In other words, on what ground can those who conclude (2) say with any certainty that their position is correct at all?

      This doesn't rhyme with what your saying. Read it carefully over again ....
    • Dec 13 2012: Hi again Nic,

      As I commented to other comments here, I don't think our point of disagreement is concerning "objective truths" per se ... I think we are all in agreement that there do in fact exist "objective truths" ... but its "moral objective truths" we are looking at here.
      Because that which what we call "morals" in the same sense that the "idea of moral(ity) encompasses something that exists only within the human consciousness, ... strictly on an "ideal" plane. Because every moral act, as widely variable as they might be, must always fall under the observation of the individual human being that is evaluating the degree of moral action in that particular deed. As Cobus pointed out, there are even certain conditions that almost require the killing of another human being, exemplified by Cobus, the killing of one innocent person to save a hundred others. This is a hypothetical example but could easily be found the world today. So how then would we judge the "moral action" of this killing of an innocent person... Is it not so that killing of innocent people is immoral...? Is not this a logical contradiction if one assumes "objective moral truths" External conditions dictate the degree of the moral act. .. and not to mention the "freedom" of the person involved. We could go much deeper into this question obviously. In such a hypothetical example, one should rather be forced to re-define the word "moral" Because, a person in such a situation is forced into an un-free act. .... and then the conventional understanding of the idea of morality loses its meaning. The concept of morality cannot be applied to an un-free action....

      ...One more thing Nic, by reading your earlier response, I wonder if you are familiar with the book "Philosophy of Freedom" by Rudolf Steiner?
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      Dec 13 2012: This is a strange argument even if you assume there is some creator god.

      Are you assuming there is an objective reality and the god knows it.

      Or are you assuming the creator god gets to decide what is moral..

      Why assume that. It is just an arbitrary starting premise with no sound basis.
    • Dec 13 2012: Nic,

      One can probably interpret the story of Abraham and Isac in different ways. But was it not a "divine revelation" that Abraham was told by God to make the human offering of Isac on the mount of Moria. What Abraham did was not to kill Isac but rather to think himself. ... use reason
  • Dec 11 2012: The problem with that is, is the truth is political for most human beings. The human mind is NOT good at truth, think of all the controversial scientific discoveries that could have been surpressed in different ages because someone thought morality was 'objective'. If anything if morality IS objective, then wouldn't people who accept lies be disqualified in terms of having any rights because truth and a well functioning brain are pre-requisites?

    A moral person can only be moral if they have significant understanding of an issue they are deciding on AND have the biological requirements to make the correct judgements.

    People are not equal in terms of moral judgement and character, so the person who is most moral should have power over those who are less moral by definition, since truth and biological ability are pre-requisites for any kind of serious attempt at morality.

    Lastly you have no scientific background in how the mind works, the mind doesn't work according to rationalistic enlightenment principles at all.
  • Dec 10 2012: Here is a good practical example of a "cultural clash" in terms of objective moral truths.

    Check out the link below. Such was even used as one of your famous 5 examples.

    Do you think that a Chinese politician or a hundred Chinese politicians have the concept of social or political injustice in their minds and simply ignore it in this case ?? ... Do you think that their conscience bothers them...?? ... or do they not even have, or not even own, or never heard of, the concept of political / social injustice at all.... I mean, ... why shouldn't we put people in jail that don't agree with us and our political system....? The question perhaps about "moral truths" has apparently never arose in the minds of the Chinese politicians. .. It hasn't perhaps reached them yet ... The meme is still on its way there in the mail. Perhaps it has never even been a consideration for them that this might be something that you / we / "everyone" ... (except the 5% you were speaking about) ... consider their actions to be outside the "objective moral truth" that the rest of the world ... ..." has agreed on " ... and if "all" Chinese think this way, then were talking about whole lot of people..
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      Dec 12 2012: Sorry for delay, finals are here for me,

      I think you are confusing a key element of my position. Although I believe in obj. moral truths I do not believe that means they will be applied humanitarian-ly or to everyone by everyone, just because everyone knows these truths. Even if people limited their morality to their select groups, countries, religion etc. they would still polarize the same obj. moral truths as everyone else. I feel you are confusing obj. moral truths with altruism.

      These politicians have the morals, they just choose not to use them for this woman. By not using them, doesn't mean they do not have the capacity to be moral. I am sure they would not house arrest their family.

      Now as far as violating my considered obj. moral truth - punishment for something one did not do is wrong

      They (the politicians) didn't violate this truth - to themselves. They believe they are just to imprison her. However, that does not mean an outside on-looker will agree with their decision. Since they themselves would not like to be imprisoned, especially for no reason, the moral truth stands. Although violated, it still exist. Just because one will violate the obj. moral truth - like genocide or false imprisonment - does not mean it is not true.

      I guess I am a objective-subjectivist; there are objective truth, but can only be made so by subjective means. Scientific knowledge being objective and the science communities the subjective means.
  • Dec 9 2012: Basically, we all have our own internal experience of what is moral, immoral or amoral. I cannot understand how it could ever be considered anything "objective"
    The fact that something, (morals in this case) ... which is clearly "experiential" as well as "individual" makes any "objectiveness" of the idea of morals pretty hard to grasp.
    They are clearly a subjective experience. No two people can have the same experience. ... and to bring in statistics and percent of agreement here is also meaningless. Should we be discussing mathematics or geometry, then we could begin to talk about objectivity. There must first be a universal agreement on the terms of logic. To search for a universal agreement on something that is an individual experience would make no sense.

    "Morals" are "ideas" of what we consider right or wrong, all after each his own different value system and to each his own different degree. The action itself could hold a thousand different considerations of what is necessary to consider it a moral act or not a moral act. As would be determined by social pressures,.... religious, cultural, family, etc. etc.

    The idea of morals can be seen as a pedagogical force within our own soul being. A ruler for measuring our actions concerning the degrees of right and wrong that we as individuals choose to go along with or not, and eventually to project outward into society or not.
    When the force of empathy awakens within us, we then begin to consider how other peoples lives are influenced by the actions we ourselves do towards or against them, ... them against us,...them against others ... and others against others. We establish an inner consideration for the whole of society on what we consider to be right or wrong, on their part and on my part, ... and we give these considerations a name. That name is morality.
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      Dec 10 2012: I am not too familiar with the internalist position of epistemology.

      However, I roughly understand when one feels knowledge is based on experience, one cannot know knowledge without experience as the premise of the position (and even internalist believe in overlapping first-hand experiences btw) .. I will not dispute by an externalist position because I feel both are naive contemporary practices of epistemology - as they neglect to infuse psychological claims into their arguments.

      Then you create the absurdist argument... We need to define terms before we can dispute them (which I admire as being foundational). I had already created my terms, which are still not disputed - I listed 5 or so objective moral truths which anyone really cannot disagree (they are not perfect, but almost), and Gerald in attempting to dismiss the obj. truths actually defends them. I also dictated what I mean by objective; consensus of what is consistently subjective. And, if you have read my conversations between Edward and I, there are repeated arguments.

      So, now the argument can reside in culture - fine. But, since we are talking objective truths, they would also be culture-less, as they reside in every culture. I do not see how your final statement is an argument against obj. moral truths? In fact it is an argument there exist objective morality! Which I do not claim, but do not see as being wrong.

      So, we all have a mechanism of thinking which allows morality to be measured.. Cultures depend on how the individuals relate what they believe are good morals to one another... How does this impose the fact there is no obj. moral truths? Because we can look at religion and find them, and religion happens to be a major source of any nation's culture to create morals... We can also look at the art a culture produces and find where the inspirations are, perhaps a moral source?

      The only thing you have proven to me, thus far, is that obj. moral truths are extremely difficult to find...
  • Dec 8 2012: There do indeed, exist objectionable morals.
    That is the truth. That is undeniable.

    Each part is necessary, or there is no whole picture, no whole image.
    Missing parts do not reveal any truth. They only give rise to discussion, disagreement and disdain.

    Consequences are not moral. They are situational results. Unruly rules are chaotic at best.

    Morals are manufactured. They have obsolescence built in. They have a shelf-life.

    We are so disconnected from what is real that we don't fit in with what is.
    We don't, can't and won't see the truth right behind our eyes, so we make things up.
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    Gail .

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    Dec 8 2012: I'm not so ready to accept your conclusion that objective moral truths exist. I think that consequences exist. If a majority of people think that a certain consequences stems from a certain thought (that precedes an action because thought always precedes action), then a culture might decide that the initial thought or action is immoral. But even this is a short-sighted view.

    I come from the worldview where all are one. As I do to/for others, I do to/for myself. This poses challenges to each of us. Do I want to be taken care of and protected from myself? If so I will try to help others and try to protect them from themselves whether or not the other wants such help. I will also expect help in times of need or want. Such expectations are often not realized.

    If you are the helper, you can fool yourself into believing that you are doing it for moral purposes, but you are really doing it for selfish purposes - to make yourself feel better - because you have a belief (thought construct) that pre-determines what you expect to perceive in your reality.. If helping where help is not necessarily wanted is ingrained into the cultural norm, great problems will arise.

    One who does not want to be taken care of or protected from self will object strenuously to your definition of morality. She will say that you are invading her domain and that such invasion is a violation of her core rights. She will experience frustration (or anger) over the lack of control over her own consequences that are caused by a society's desire to control (manipulate) others, and will experience pain. She might look on the victimizer and call him immoral because he has deflected her intended consequences.

    The helpee, on the other hand, might well be considered "selfish" and "evil" by the helpers because she will not buy into the collective demand for domination of the individual for the sake of the collective will.

    PS: When I say the word you, I do not mean "you" personally. :-)
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      Dec 10 2012: I ask you kindly to read the conversations I have had with others here... If at that point you feel I have not covered your disputes... Then I will directly respond to your comment.

      But, I think you and Daniel are on the same page.
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        Gail .

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        Dec 11 2012: I am not so sure that Daniel & I are on the same page. I will try to add to my above post, so that it and this post should be taken together.

        There is a movement afloat. People around the globe are calling themselves "awakened". They look around their world and perceive much more than they were able to perceive before their awakening.

        One thing that these people have in common is that they understand, from personal experience and logical thinking, that we are one. They also agree that we create our own realities - which is something that can be tested, but only on an individual basis. Because of how reality works, I can never prove it to you because that's not how the world works.

        Still, once we have manifested enough things to prove our abilities to ourselves, no amount of arguments will cause us to deny our great (recognized) and proven power.

        A person who deliberately manifests reality understands one thing. As we treat others - be it in our own mind or in the world - we will face the consequences of the belief (thought construct) that caused the action. The consequence then is a choice. Those who have seen their own perfection are able to see the perfection of others regardless of behaviors which you might call immoral. Those who have never seen their own perfection will not be able to recognize perfection in others.

        This recognition - or lack of it - affects our behaviors because we know that if we violate what we know to be true - as we do, it is done to us (we create in our lives) - we have violated OURSELVES. Violation of self is as harmful (to self and others - where others = the rest of our being) as it is irrational.

        Thus, as I said in my earlier post, there are no morals - only consequences.

        If the consequences are painful and you are not awakened (aware of your ability to deliberately manifest your reality) you will seek to explain the consequences in ways that your belief system will allow - invent words such as morals.
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          Dec 17 2012: "They also agree that we create our own realities - which is something that can be tested, but only on an individual basis."

          TED L we have broad agreement, and agreement on many specifics. I'd like to expand on the statement that I've isolated above for discussion.

          It's true that we "create our own realities" regarding outcomes that we might knowingly and unknowingly set in motion. We also create our "realities" by how we perceive those outcomes, as well.

          Hence, our perspective creates perception which creates experience which creates perspective--although we might allow at this point to change our perspective because of our experience, and the circle continues.

          Notably, our experience is our reality. But our perspective was father of that experience--a perspective that first shaped our perception of the event that we might have brought into existence by the power of our thoughts, our words, and our actions--the several means we use to create our reality.

          For example, I was struck by the words of a father, whose daughter died in the recent school massacre in Connecticut. Rather than condemn the act and the shooter, he saw it as an opportunity to use his daughter's death to enhance life--his and others.

          He might have brought any number of perspectives to the death of his daughter which would have shaped his reality, indeed, would have existed as his reality.

          As you suggest, we're at choice as to how we might create our realities, as nothing is set in stone. Similarly, the father who responded in one way because of his perspective, might at some later date change that perspective and act in yet another way--that is, experience it differently--creating yet another reality for himself.
  • Dec 7 2012: Hi again Nic.

    Just got home from work and read your response.

    We are now leading this discussion into the "reality" of thought now. This is a particularly esoteric question that must lead us further into the recognition of a spiritual reality that exists after (and also before for that matter) or physical existence. (...) For if you say that thoughts are a reality, then you must consider that they come from somewhere else, they remain in existence while I am "using them" and will as well continue their existence after my physical death. Is this what you mean?

    As Richard Dawkins continually harps on his idea of the "invisible spaghetti monster" ... this "idea" of his is then apparently "real" in your opinion .....(...) see what I mean now..? Not all ideas are "real"

    I don't mean at all to say that things must be able to be measured in order to be considered "real"

    The "idea" of "morality" is absolutely real. But it in itself has no "content" ... until we give it content. It is only available for our mind to grasp because we have first "thought" about it .... We as human beings think our way through to the "collective concept" ... just like the weather example. The snow, the rain, the cold, the heat ... all must be something ... .. we one day in our long forgotten past decided to call it weather. The animals have no "concept" of weather. They experience it of course. But the concept only exists in the mind that can observe the phenomena collectively and then put them all in a bag and say ..."Hey, all this stuff is happening in our environment every day, and it changes every day, but we can call it something ... lets call it "the weather"

    This is exactly the same with morality. There are an endless number of variations that can exemplify the word / idea "morality" But still it cannot be considered something objective in itself. A concrete example can of course be more or less moral depending upon the individual and the direct situation involved.
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      Dec 7 2012: I feel you suffer from an atomist delusion (I see it a lot with neoatheist)...

      Although a God may not be real because I think it so, the reality is my mind reacts in a certain particular way when I do think about God. This making the feeling of God a real thing, that can be measured - not God itself. However, if I was to look at everyone's brain when they think about God, I may not know exactly what God is, but I will know the relation between the real thought (emotion, memory, etc) and how the achieved that real thought - by thinking about God. Now this is a more realistic example, as it can be applied to the world - especially morality.

      An objective - is a consensual claim that exist due to consistency.

      People consistently believe in God, it does not make the idea true, but it makes it an idea.
      Now that is the same thing with morality; just because the thought exist does not make the answer true, but it makes the impression there is a true answer; there are in fact objective moral truths.
      Although there may never be one absolute answer (that was never the concern) but there will be in fact the most objective choice available upon attempting to be objective (by recognizing subjective methods to doing so).

      I am sure you are one of those "science is everything" kind of people...

      So let's look at how science is done; are you familiar with paradigms? Kuhn "structure of scientific revolutions"

      When an idea of objectivity is proposed (paradigm) those who are interested in working under this paradigm are able to do through theory as well as the already existing empirical facts.

      Now take a contemporary example: evolutionary paradigm - which dictates by looking at evolution process we are better equipped to handle social sciences.

      You, being this man of reason, cannot deny evolution is a key component to figuring out how our brain, body and minds work, right?

      Well by your expression, this objective theory is 'there' but not. Yet, it does so much, how?
      • Dec 7 2012: Hi Nic.

        No,no,no .. you've got me all wrong Nic.

        I have nothing to do with neo-atheism...

        Nothing to do with science....

        I'm just a regular guy. ... really !!
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          Dec 7 2012: Well then,

          We can both agree there are objective facts in this world - empirical data.
          We can both further agree those facts are used to make theory and to enhance theory.
          As Gerald suggested, objective morality is a theory, and finding objective moral truths is the same as finding data to enhance such a theory.
          I take into consideration that there already exist obj. moral truths, and have presented 5 or so statements here in this conversation - these would be existing data.
          In order for the theory to work out or not, requires the disputes if there are in fact examples/data that exist in order to strengthen the theory's plausibility.

          As far as this conversation is concerned I am getting feedback that since morals are automatically a personal thing, they are unlikely to objective. Yet, if we can find overlapping morals (even if 5% of the world is the exception) we can still say there are most like the objective moral for everyone that - punishing someone for something they did not do is wrong. As Gerald said "PROBABLY' going to 'work out' all the time as being obj. morals. Which is the first step to the fact they do exist, but the stress of figuring them out should still be apparent in the theory formation of obj. moral truths.

          Now, are we on a similar page?
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        Gail .

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        Dec 11 2012: Oooooh, Nic, You misread Daniel and the insults are not necessary to make a point if you have a good point to make. But, as you requested, I will keep reading.
  • Dec 7 2012: Hello again Nic.

    You don't get the point...

    The word "moral" is an "IDEA" The word moral exists only on the "ideal"plane. It does not exist as something concrete ... as all of the examples do. ... an example of a "moral truth" is something quite different than the "idea" of something that is moral. The idea "morality" is existing only at the mercy of your own thinking. Had the human being not been able to "think of the idea" morality, it would simply not exist. ... In as far as "ideas themselves" really exist in "reality" we can only then begin to speak of them being "objective" or not.

    Take this example. I ask "Do you have any weather over there in New Jersey?"

    ... of course you do ... But the word "weather" is also a collection of concepts. ... and then, as soon as one presents a form of concrete "example of" weather, such as.. .... you may have rain today ... maybe snow ... maybe sunshine ... All these examples are then concepts within themselves that fall in under the "concept of weather" But the concept of "weather" encompasses a hundred different external conditions that we put, ... all of them under the collective concept of weather.

    The word "moral" or "morality" is exactly the same. It s a sort of "over concept" that must be filled with a "content" or meaning before one can begin to speak of its "objectivity"

    Does the idea of an "objective weather truth" strike you as kinda funny ..?? yes, and it should.

    The "objective" side of reality arises only when the content of the concept is first filled with meaning ... through an example. Its raining hard here, its very cold, its wet, etc. etc.

    The degree of "reality" that the "idea itself " has, from the collective world of ideas, would lead us off into a far distant discussion which I prefer not to go into at this moment.
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      Dec 7 2012: Ahhh, now I see where you are coming from...

      Then we are at odds. I understand there are degrees of relativity in which I am not taking into account when I say "objective moral truths" exist. Yet, I feel your defense is purely a philosophic one, which can deteriorate over time. It is good but will only prove good in argument and nothing practical. Let's discuss.

      I understand your weather example, but there are a few contextual disputes.

      Let me first note: That thoughts DO exist in reality. You are using one right now to communicate with me; computers were an idea that were create into the physical world. Your brain is not a magical device; there are electrochemical properties which are physical constantly - you can measure the activity - they exist in reality.

      But besides this point. You are proposing something cannot be objective unless it can be atomistically measured (empirically amounted with physical objects being counted)? Well that's a poor argumentation (see first point). And one that relies on hard relativism.

      Your saying there is a problem with the word 'moral' - fine. You believe it is empty? Good. But you must realize this is an empty argument. When the word morality is spoken, people will understand, no matter where you are in the world; the idea of doing what is ethical (what is right over wrong) is a part of their religion, community, culture and family educations. No one exist without a moral lesson, even if they never used the word 'moral'.

      So, I guess I must give you the 'meaning' for morals before we can talk objectivity, because you never took an ethics class? Never did something wrong to someone else and felt bad about it? Never seen a mean act and violent event which you were able to learn from?

      If you wish to start at square one with what is ethical, we can. But the idea (morality) does not need to be filled, it already exist. Objective morality is the moral binding that is within all mankind, its there, but hard to measure. GL
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    Dec 7 2012: Yes!
    There are objective moral truths.
    They are the rules of human SYMBIOSIS formed 10,000 years ago and saved in our DNA by our ancestors.

    (For SYMBIOSIS see the 1st article, points 1-8, at
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      Dec 7 2012: So far I like it!

      Will read more and get back to you later.

      I can see that there are genetic dispositions to understanding objective morals.
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    Dec 6 2012: They are objective, but not in the sense that there is such a thing as right and wrong. They are objective in the sense that societies where people are punished for nothing won't work as well as societies with justice.
    Truths are objective for dialectical reasons.
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      Dec 6 2012: Gerald,

      "They are objective, but not in the sense that there is such a thing as right and wrong."

      They* as in objective moral truths, okay? So you believe there are objective circumstances where a situation will always prove - a matter of a fact. BUT! You do not believe the matter of a fact can be right or wrong - objectively, absolutely or... ?
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        Dec 6 2012: I mean that moral truths are not really moral and are not really truths. They are theories, at best, about what PROBABLY improves harmony in societies.
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          Dec 6 2012: I would love to agree, since I am an existential absurdist...

          However I will list 3 more objectively moral truths, and Gerald, if you can disprove any to be simply what is 'probably' what improves harmony in ethics. I will have less choice in the manner of agreeing that all morals truths are simply subjective.

          Genocide is wrong
          Happiness is preferable to suffering
          Kindness is a virtue and not a vice
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        Dec 6 2012: Injustice is fine, for instance, but it causes primates to riot. That's why it's "evil". Any other reason is superstitious.
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          Dec 6 2012: I feel this argument is in light of their being objective morals that every human shares... How is it contrary?
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        Dec 6 2012: "Genocide is wrong."
        Genocide is wrong for global harmony, because it involves war, and because war is disadvantageous compared with peace. I could explain why, but I feel it's not necessary.

        "happiness is preferable to sufferin."
        Suffering is defined as something that people (animals) need to avoid. By definition, suffering must then be avoided. It doesn't really exist, though. Pain is just an alarm signal in animals' virtual realities.

        "Kindness is a virtue"
        Same thing, kindness and virtues have definitions that make them compatible with one another. Kindness does have a biological root, and there is endocrinal pay-off for good-doers, not just for the beneficiaries of the righteousness.
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        Dec 6 2012: You're right. Injustice can be said objectively to cause pain on intelligent social animals.
        But pain is subjective... right?
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          Dec 6 2012: Well, now this is where I feel emotivism is misguided - although the feeling is subjective, if we were to inflict that pain on every individual they would also feel pain, thus making it an objective case in point. (This goes for your above 3 responses)
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        Dec 6 2012: Please rephrase. I'm not sure I'm getting your point, unless your point is that subjectivity becomes objectivity if many people share it.
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        Dec 7 2012: So objective truths change with time and tides?
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    Dec 6 2012: Syria.

    100 years ago no one would care about a rebellion in any country, now with instant media you know what's going on except you are still frustrated because you still can't physically transport there in the click now universe. is it that Syria rates big news? Big moral issues?

    Watch this and then think Syria or our food supply?

    I think most people ignore this on purpose deliberately, We like to choose our moral battles pending on the data available whether they are manipulated or not.
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      Dec 6 2012: So, where do you stand in the debate Ken?

      That objectivity is possible but requires constant subjective reflection in order to be truly objective?
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        Dec 7 2012: They're both moral issues except one is hidden and out of sight which usually means out of mind, one is sad as the world doesn't want to get involved out right for fear of turning it into a "Hooligan" fest and the other is an agreement to deliberately starve millions of future generations of humans. One is short and painful the other is a non profit expense if acted upon.

        From my personal perspective i don't see a choice, i vote Tuna and hope we do what the legend of the Australian navy does at night. Sinks any pirate fishing boats within it's waters, whether this is true or not it's what other nations should do to protect their marine resources.

        So who has the moral upperhand? The Democratic rebel fighter? or the greenpeace nutters trying to stop the collapse of a essential predator species of fish from going extinct?

        I think the media has chosen for the planet.
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          Dec 7 2012: Ken,

          Allow me to give you a little ray of sunshine

          Indeed we are living in dark times, we have the power to get a man to the moon in every household yet there is a holocaust of children dying every few months...

          However, part of the objective mindset is to not only look at what is immediate in the world today, but also in history. This is not the only period in time where mass amounts of people starve while others thrive ignorantly at the others expense.

          There is no 'new' era per say, we are just reenacting cultural norms which seem to cycle on a global scale. What is new is the developing technology which is not in of itself progress, but has been presented as such anyways... A smartphone, is a computer, but we use them for toys - I see this statement as the core issue of our generation.

          We are able to know anything we wish about the world, yet we care more about popculture, entertainment and being entertained. (At least in America, sure it overlaps in other countries.) The reason this is, is due to poor education about objectivism, because people do not believe it exist in philosophical schools. Which is destructive, because at the end of the day while they try no to be objective, they truly are, even though their arguments are against such objectivity. It's mind blowing how short sighted academic philosophy is at a contemporary level. Have these men integrate science into philosophy, there would be no more hard relativism or subjectivism.

          Now for your ray of hope:

          If I, a 21 year old, realized the above, I cannot be the only one doing so today, neither are you. Either the world has to collapse before we get things right, or there will be small movements to get there.

          In a time of instant information, we are some of probably the most ignorant, because there is more to know. An education to filter all this information of the world would be best, until then, know that there is a collective movement in the world that the internet inspired; [in]directly.
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    Dec 6 2012: You say: QUOTE "I do believe there exist objective moral truths,".
    And you say: QUOTE "Although I believe in absolutes (but no absolute morals) myself, ".
    Can you explain the difference between objective and absolute?
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      Dec 6 2012: An absolute - exist within itself. No matter the relative perspective, it will always be constant.

      For example: the number 1 - an other worldly humanoid visiting our planet, will only see that we inhabit this planet, one planet - it is an absolute, we inhibit this one planet (even if the alien call 1 (one) something else). I am one individual and not two.

      An objective - exist within consensus or consistency. Objectivity does in fact matter upon subjective perspectives to be constant.

      For example: psychology is the study of the psyche or mind

      The difference in my examples: while even objectively 1 will be a constant, this constant is easily argued to supervene into the absolute. As exampled above. However the principles of psychology (although the subject exist) will vary from person to person and community to community. Psychology objectively is a topic of science, but does not mean the objective of each psychologist is the same.
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        Dec 6 2012: 1) You say "An absolute - exist within itself"-- That is a violation of the Law of Causation in that it insists there is no cause for an absolute which exists apart from anything and everything.
        2) You say "An objective - exist within consensus or consistency"-- Webster says the word means "without bias or prejudice; detached; impersonal". That hardly sounds like a consensus.
        3) You say "supervene into the absolute"-- can you dumb that down for me? I do not get your point.
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          Dec 6 2012: 1. Existing within itself does not predicate it is outside of existence or avoids natural laws (whatever those may be absolutely). It means that it can never not be itself - whatever 'it' may be as an absolute. Such as 1.
          2. Perhaps you should broaden your understanding of what it means to have 'no bias' and for something to be impersonal.
          2.a. To have no bias, there must of been a bias. To be impersonal, it must of first been personal. We are subjective beings, to perform within a consensus (say science) is to acknowledge all the subjectivity in order to be objective. It's a process, not an either/or.
          3. In order for something to be considered absolute, in an objective matter (every body agrees it is absolutely so), there still must of been establishment. The establishment of what is absolute would of came from reflection of what is considered objective. Again, a process. If we are to ever configure what is absolutely true in any topic, subject or natural law... We are required to use what we have figured out objectively in order to know if we are on the right track. Whether we are on track towards an absolute truth, well, that is complex. So much so, I feel we require another civilization of humanoids in order for our consensus (objectivity) to be 'more' valid or 'better equipped' to be valid about absolute claims.
          3.a. What is absolute is problematic, which is why I want avoid it here in this conversation. Also we may only be able to philosophically prove what is absolute, and may never actually objectively know. But that is what science is for.
  • Dec 6 2012: Nicholas,

    Good question ! There have been several on TED before you that have had similar ones.

    I would have to answer no.

    The situation in question, or, what is demanded of the person in regards to this or that particular "moral act" is and has to be of a purely subjective nature. The measurement of the degree of good, according to the situation, might be the "moral" content of this ...and we must take into consideration the "inner development" of that particular person in the particular situation. The words "moral truths" is an abstraction. The content of the two words is not any "perceivable object" or any concrete reality within itself in any way. It is like the word "intelligence" or the word "love" ... words which are conditioned by external circumstances. The real content of the word is relative to the individual in relation to the situation.

    The content of the concept "objective moral truths" in this respect, cannot properly be called "objective" in that sense.... no less than one can have an "objective intelligence" or "objective love" As each person has his or her own "length of measurement" for their individual moral actions.
    However, I would say that the soul forces, that summon a particular moral action are quite real and operate in each of us "as individuals" regardless of race, creed, color, religion or culture. The force of empathy for example. Empathy is perhaps the major driving force for what we call a morality or moral code.
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      Dec 6 2012: Daniel,

      A few questions and responses:
      1. You believe in objectivity, but not in obj. morality? I think that is the case, but I am unsure.
      2. Are you being an emotivist or a non-cognitivist here?

      A. Please look at my responses to Pat and Edward to see if there are disputes there that are relevant to your thoughts. So I am not just repeating arguments and so that you may use their arguments to help yours.
      B. Please keep in mind I never deny subjectivity is a part of what is objective, in fact, I require such. With this in mind, how does that change what you think it is you are responding in the debate of objective moral truths?
      • Dec 6 2012: Hi again Nicholas,

        I took a quick look at your responses to Pat and Edward. I'm not sure they were so very fruitful for me for a starting point in our discussion.
        However, I do think your question is quite interesting and I would like to hear just how you see any form of "objective moral truths" in the world today. The question of the "subject / object" relationship is also an excellent one. There aren't really too many people that carry the nature of human perception so far that they actually gain a proper understanding of this relationship. Furthermore, it is indeed essential for understanding the nature of especially moral ideas. That you see the subjective as being something objective is already along my lines of thinking... and tells me as well that these thoughts are not new to you ... if we understand each other correctly...?

        Should we wander off in this direction of the subject / object relationship ( or the nature of thinking) we may need quite a few pages for comments....
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          Dec 7 2012: If there exist any type of objective moral truth today, we can find it in the small revolutions that are taking place on the internet (hacktivist), in smaller countries (like Syria), the atheist movements, the consistent spread of cultural knowledge...

          All of this is done by technology and desires; the very nature of these actions dictate the want of communication and brotherhood throughout the world. More and more we are uniting into one singular world and people enjoy it because it teaches them new perspectives and realities that they can add to their own persons and communities. I take the rapid interest in Eastern philosophy from cognitive science communities as a sign of this nature of communication and seeking brotherhood - we want to know the absolute truth and are doing so by our natures of looking for the objective ones.

          All of the above is something I gathered from a divergent process of thought. And what connects them all is information. Everybody is looking for more information, even if it just about what they already know, they want more of it. America has the terrible trend of worrying about what celebrities are doing on saturday, but at the same, they want to know because that interest them. We are able to have this rapid drive to want to know because there is now more than ever, an abundance of information at our finger tips. So much so, we have no education programs of how to filter all of this knowledge - it proves dangerous.

          To respond to your question further:

          Nothing is new, nothing is original. There are only new ways to express originality, through creative trials and efforts. Indeed my thoughts are not my own, I would never claim they are!

          The subjectivity each human has, does not need to be limited just one perspective. We should strive for mulitple consciousnesses, multiple ways of looking at life and by doing so we will see our thoughts do stack up with others to make objectives true.

          There will always be momentary exceptions
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    Dec 6 2012: Yes, ethics are that, morality is about agreement, ethics are about the golden rule.

    what you see is a reflection of you, literally, not everyone figures that out, think the mafia member who constantly thinks about revenge.
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      Dec 6 2012: I do not see how your first statement relates to the second, please clarify.

      Also, I do not believe morality is about agreement (as that is an individual issue) nor do I feel ethics would come down to the Golden Rule (as that is a social issue of what is individually is justifiable morally). Ethics is the topic, morals are the problems or solutions to the topic.

      An objective morality, however, must come from agreement and [meta]ethics are what is being discussed in order to be objective. Morality is morality, the difference between right and wrong - ethics is just the topic which morality falls under and ethics is the concern of morality, they are arbitrarily exclusive.

      Indeed, countries can disagree with the morality another country has, but this means little for the individuals of the country. As national identity is not individual identity automatically. These issues of morality would be subjective to the countries and cultures within the countries.

      We are all subjective vessels, yet, there seems to exist overlapping morals in the world as seen in religions and schools of philosophy. What are they exactly? Is what I struggle with.
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        Dec 6 2012: Morality is agreement as with the mafia member, it is immoral for him not to shoot someone or not to seek revenge.

        Ethics has to do with the hell that this guy is going to live in as he created it by making the decision that this conduct is ok and by deciding that he is separate from the people he chooses to attack.
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          Dec 6 2012: Alright the 'psycho-circumstance' - a psychotic person will find joy in harming others. Is this joy bad, objectively, although the individual feels it is good? I would say yes (and I am assured any would agree), but that would not change the fact of his enjoyment in slaughter.

          If anything, it would be the reflection of the mafia man's actions that would create hell (his moral reflection of applied ethics). If he never reflected or cared to reflect, he would be in the psycho-circumstance. Which, although he feels is justified or good - those in society, and the topic of ethics would never suggest he was in the right for harming people with no greater good in mind besides selfish rewards to either him or his gang.
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        Dec 6 2012: I guess? This is real simple stuff. The mafia guy would be in hell he just doesn't realize it, he would say that is because of someone he needs to get even with.
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          Dec 6 2012: If he never realized he is in hell, he isn't, because he is a psycho. If he realized his actions were wrong then he would not be a psycho, but a psychopath, therefore he recognizes he is doing wrong and still does it - no matter the reason. (For argument sakes: the psycho believes what he is doing is good, but a psychopath knows he is doing wrong but does it anyways because he wants to.)

          But, is the mafia man moral for harming another - for any personal reason? Objectively I argue no, he is not moral - no matter his psycho-ness or psychopath-ness.

          Any argument for him being justifiably moral will be one that voids subjectivism as appropriate to define what is moral - while also believing subjectivism is the major premise for what is moral.

          It's like returning a knife to someone you know will stab someone with it later. It is objectively justifiable to keep his possession knowing that if you return the knife, you are violating a higher ethical issue; murder. Murder is a higher ethical concern than stealing; stealing will go unnoticed (when placed next to) murder (and not apart of the murderous act). Even if by keeping the knife the individual become punished for not returning it, and no one cares to hear his reason, the individual would still have performed a much higher ethical choice by not returning a knife to someone he knows will stab someone later.

          The mafia man is always objectively wrong for harming another, no matter how he reflects on his actions.
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        Dec 6 2012: I have said as much about this as I'm going to, your objections are duly noted.
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          Dec 6 2012: Thank you for your discussion in my debate - the psycho circumstance is a strong argument against what would be objectively moral to everybody.
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      Gail .

      • +1
      Dec 11 2012: Holy Cow!!!, Pat. We agree on something. Ethics and morals are very different things. :-)
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    Dec 6 2012: I believe that there is such thing as objective moral truths; in fact just because communities developed unethical behavior doesn’t mean that somehow inside their culture it is ethical. Ethics is above culture and societies, cultural relativism is a simplistic arrogant (self-contradictory), ignorant argument for those who intend to continue the cycle of stupidity and ungrounded morality that has plagued humanity for it entire existence.
    Objective Morality can be approached using science knowledge and our history.
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      Dec 6 2012: " Objective Morality can be approached using science knowledge and our history. "

      How would one do so with scientific knowledge?

      Your further input would be appreciated for this debate as well as my pursuit to prove objective morality does in fact exist.
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        Dec 7 2012: Scientific can be used as an analogy and also an interrelationship between functioning things.
        If you think about it, the cooperation in a society (morality) should operate as completely balance ecosystem, with minimum losses (defined as happiness of all, well being of all, safety of all, etc.). And using the symbolic meaning of the actions of a system (such as biology) and other sciences you can create module for how society should function.
        Also Science is the use of deduction to come to a conclusion, and suing a scientific method you can deduce the right action from any situation. The problem with morality is when there is more than one right option or no right options.
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    Dec 6 2012: Most humans gather into groups from small clans to major socities and nations. Interaction requires rules/laws/morals, One group will be different from another group. Such things as headhunting; sodomy; religion; child labor; women's rights; racial segregation;adultery; ettiquette; human sacrifice; charity; cannibalism; etc. will always be subjective. One group will accept something as being right and another will forbid it as being wrong. Unanimous, objective moral truth cannot exist. We all know the difference between good and evil, but we do not live according to that knowledge. We are vain in our imaginations and our foolish hearts are darkened. Oh what wretched people we are, who will rescue us? Hmmm.
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      Dec 6 2012: So you believe there are no objective truths, but we all have the ability to know from right or wrong (good or evil)?

      Wouldn't that ability allow even the most savage individual to learn why an objective truth would be justifiable? Like the platinum rule or 'Kindness is a virtue and not a vice'?

      Although a moral truth may be justifiable to everyone, does not mean everyone will practice that moral with everyone - that is not the question. The question stands; are there objective moral truths exist?

      Even if someone is only objectively moral to his friends and families s/he would still be objectively moral. The universality of a moral truth does not mean it will be used universally.
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        Dec 6 2012: To repeat my answer: "Unanimous, objective moral truth cannot exist."
        RE: Your question: "Wouldn't that ability allow even the most savage individual to learn why an objective truth would be justifiable? Like the platinum rule or 'Kindness is a virtue and not a vice'?"
        I do not accept the need for "justifiability" of an objective truth.
        RE: Your response, "the question stands" makes me think you are seeking a particular answer. Are you?
        We agree that just because all sane people know good and evil does not mean they will behave any particular way.
        Do we agree that good=right and evil= wrong?
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          Dec 6 2012: Your response is confusing.

          Truth requires justification, how would an objective truth not be acceptable to you if it were justifiable?

          This is a debate, and although I would enjoy learning more objective moral truths, I stated my bias immediately in the description, I believe they exist. If they do not, prove it in rational terms.

          If we can agree all sane people know good and evil, then there would be a foundation for what every sane person would find objectively true. (Note: in the debate of normal and abnormal psychology - there seems to be no such thing as normal.)

          Yes, I would argue that good=right and evil=wrong, objectively, but the measures for such objectivity may be various and subjective to an individual or group.

          Your last question denotes a objective truth no?
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        Dec 6 2012: 1) RE: "Your response is confusing."-- I hope you are not offering that as an objective truth.
        2) RE: "Truth requires justification. . . "-- truth subsumes justification.
        3) RE " This is a debate. . . "-- the key word in your post is "moral". Morals change from one society to another so there can be no UNIVERSAL/UNANIMOUS/GLOBAL objective moral truth.
        4) RE: "If we can agree all sane people. . . "-- I used the word "sane" in a forensic sense only to indicate someone who is not criminally insane. I do not recognize psychology as a science so I have nothing beyond that.
        5) RE: "Yes, I would argue . . . "-- without qualification we agree that right=good and wrong=evil.
        6) RE: "Your last question denotes . . . "-- a question cannot denote a truth so the answer is no.
        Are you still confused?
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          Dec 6 2012: 2. I equated truth with 'true knowledge' so I did set up the a poor proposition for your rebuttal. However an objective moral truth would be an universal piece of knowledge, if it exist, thus a true piece of knowledge - as it is always valid in any respect to everybody. So, in my intended context, truth does require justification as the truth equates knowledge in the concern of objective [moral] truths.
          3. No ethics change from society to society. Ethics is the topic, morals are the subjects. The question could be: Are there universal ethical principles in which morally overlap in every society? But I am disregarding society, not dismissing, but disregarding as your argument still does not negate objective moral truths. Therefore every individual can still agree on one moral truth while a society does not - such as, maybe, "kindness is virtue and not vice" or "happiness trumps unhappiness."
          4. Not recognizing psychology as a science is a flawed sentiment, and could be a source in which you do not believe in objective moral truths. Flawed due to the fact of your own proposition of 'insane' - therefore if law indicates insane, then there were psychological determinations in that labeling of a person.
          5. Rhetorical questions are declarative statements. You indirectly admitted there must be at least one objective moral truth; what is right is good and what is wrong is evil/bad. I believe in the topic of objective morality, that statement will always be true. So, thank you for disagreeing so well you ended up agreeing.
          5.a. The above response was in the mindset of virtue epistemology - knowledge and benevolence should be one of the same. Although somewhat off topic, there is no question that denying a virtuous epistemological view point is being absurd insofar, why would anyone not want to be virtuous with their knowledge in terms of ethics? See my response to Pat - and the psycho v. psychopath circumstance.

          Are you picking up what I am putting down?
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        Dec 6 2012: No I am not picking up what you are laying down, which appears to be sophomoric sophistry riddled with frequent fallacies of logic and a generous portion of verbosity. I am outta here!
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          Dec 6 2012: The subject of logic needs to be expanded as it is too primitive (as far as modern education goes) to handle metaphysical ordeals like the one presented here. However, cognitive biases (or just biases) are more appropriate to consider. And in that respect, I feel you are biased in your ideals of logic and what is good or bad rhetoric.

          With that said, I take this comment as a compliment, although it is a biased opinion.
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      Dec 6 2012: To put it simply, primitive cultures develop primitive laws and beliefs; this is far from morality and ethics.
      To say that true morality doesn't exist is to say forget everything.
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        Dec 6 2012: The rules of ethics, acceptability, and morality apply only within the culture for which they were developed. Loud belching at the dinner table is considered complimentary in some cultures and rude in others. This is true in primitive and in modern cultures. If you want to establish ABSOLUTE right (good) and wrong (evil) you must leave the subjective world of morality, ethics, and culture behind. As Mr. Anjorin says above, "There is an absolute right, and there is an absolute wrong. . .".
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          Dec 6 2012: Social norms such as belching are much different then ethics, and your quote just contradicted your original argument.
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        Dec 6 2012: 1) RE: "Social norms . . . "-- you say norms, I say ethics, acceptability, and morality. Belching is just one example. Maybe you prefer a different example? How about bribery, collusion, and influence peddling?
        2) RE: "your quote just contradicted . . . "-- by "your quote" do you mean the quotation from Mr. Anjorin's response? What is my "original argument" and how does the quote contradict it?
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          Dec 6 2012: "There is an absolute right, and there is an absolute wrong. . .".meaning there are absolute ethics. This is contrary to your original argument: "Unanimous, objective moral truth cannot exist.". Ethics is wright and wrong, and it is not the same as culture or morality.

          And yes belching is much different then those other things. All of which are examples something that is wrong (an can actually cause wrong....). In fact they are all economically of society bad behaviors.
          Bribery is bad when it is used in bad context, quite simple.
          Collusion is bad when it involves companies benefiting off of lying, quite simple.
          Influence Peddling is bad because it involves bribery (sometimes) and unfair treatment by authority (which should treat people fair) whose job and duty is to be fair, also quite simple.