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Friday, July 10, 2009

Morals Are Not Objectively Real and Neither Is...

My friend laughed. "If morals are objectively real, where are they?"

"Hmm," I thought, "good point. So, the only things that are objectively real are those located in space and time."

"But, wait... the physical universe is not located in space and time, so..."

"The physical universe is not objectively real!"

23 comments:

  1. Gene, thanks for revisiting this topic, but it doesn`t seems you`re really exerting yourself, other than to make light of what you purport to take seriously.

    You might be the only guy chasing his tail who fooled himself into thinking he caught it.

    Our existence is proof that the universe exists in space and time. But where do morals objectively exist, apart from the individuals thinking about them? Do other species have "morals" that govern their behavior, or is there no objective moral order apart from man? Is the human "objective" moral order universal, for all individuals, across all history?

    Inquiring ants want to know!

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  2. TT, I don't think most physicists (at least most cosmologists) would agree with you. The physical universe itself does not have particular space-time coordinates; relative to what?

    Gene, rather than giving such a grandiose example, can't you pick something easier, like the Pythagorean Theorem or a pun? I grant you, no matter what you pick, TT or other critics will find some reason to throw out your remark as silly, but still it might be helpful.

    For the record, folks, I used to be a materialist and Gene talked me down from the ledge. I didn't even realize how much importance I was vesting with the physical world until I debated him about it on anti-state.

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  3. Bob, the fact that the universe itself is not a turtle sitting on the back of another doesn`t mean that the universe and matter/phenomena within it are not OBJECTIVE.

    The question, assuming Gene is not asserting the lack of objectivity of the universe, is just what the heck Gene MEANS by "objective", and just how it is that there is an moral order to the universe that exists just as objectively as, say, Saturn, the Tokugawa bakufu ot Gitmo.

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  4. "Our existence is proof that the universe exists in space and time."

    Tom, that's ridiculous. Think about what you're saying -- the universe cannot be "in" space! Just where in space do you think it's located?

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  5. "Bob, the fact that the universe itself is not a turtle sitting on the back of another doesn`t mean that the universe and matter/phenomena within it are not OBJECTIVE."

    Exactly right, Tom -- the fact that something is not located in space and time does not mean it's not objective.

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  6. Gene, not sure what the deal was with this post being down for some time, but am glad to see it back.

    As I noted on my related blog post, your implication appears to be that, just as the universe does not exist in space or time, but is objective, so there exists an objective moral order, that does not exist in space or time.

    If so, inquiring minds want to know (1) whether the objective moral order is a part of the universe, (2) what methods can we apply to confirm the existence of and explore the objective moral order, (3) whether such methods are distinct from the scientific method, and (4) just what the heck you mean by ""objective", anyway.

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  7. scineram7:48 AM

    How do I sense and experience morality?

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  8. Yes. I would like to know:

    (1) whether the objective moral order is a part of the universe, (2) what methods can we apply to confirm the existence of and explore the objective moral order, (3) whether such methods are distinct from the scientific method.

    By the way, I would like to know how/why anarchists like Bob Murphy are Christian too.

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  9. (1) whether the objective moral order is a part of the universe

    Little fuzzy on the meaning of universe, Tom?

    (2) what methods can we apply to confirm the existence of and explore the objective moral order,

    Live.
    Introspect.
    Meditate.
    Observe the law of karma at work.
    Philosophize.
    You know, kind of do the things say, Socrates or Buddha did to learn about this.

    (3) whether such methods are distinct from the scientific method, and

    Not all that distinct, really. A bit more introspection, perhaps.

    (4) just what the heck you mean by ""objective", anyway.

    That's great, Tom. After spending months arguing with me that moral laws are not objective, it now occurs to you that you don't know what objective means?!

    Try "confirmable by all humans who are normally endowed and willing to make the effort to try and confirm them."

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  10. Gene, How do any of the methods you listed in step 2 lead to any conclusion that isn't subjective?

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  11. "Gene, How do any of the methods you listed in step 2 lead to any conclusion that isn't subjective?"

    Well, Jon, to start with, no "conclusion" can be subjective! But, in any case, these are much the same methods scientists or mathematicians use, and so the conclusions reached are as objective, and we can tell they are objective because we can reason about them and reach agreements on the truth or falsity of our findings.

    What more "objectivity" do you want? A voice coming out of a burning bush and announcing a set of rules, or something?

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  12. After spending months arguing with me that moral laws are not objective

    More objectively, I questioned you months ago, and you have finally responded.

    it now occurs to you that you don't know what objective means?

    No; it occurred to me at the time of my first remarks that I don`t know what YOU mean by "objective" (ridiculous scare quotes), and I noted so then. I still don`t know what you mean.

    Little fuzzy on the meaning of universe, Tom?

    No, my friend; just trying to clarify terms and what YOU mean.

    I`m glad that you say that the "objective moral order" is part of and not separate from the universe, which is characterized by discernable laws that can be expressed mathematically and by matter and energy, existing and moving in time and space.

    Do we agree about the nature of the universe? If so, then aren`t you also asserting that the "objective moral order" is characterized by discernable laws that can be expressed mathematically and by matter and energy, existing and moving in time and space?

    It seems to me that the methods you outline for exploring the "objective moral order" are subjective (unique to individuals of our species) and not susceptible of confirmation by others via testing, and so is fundamentally different from the enterprise of scientists and mathematicians.

    As I asked you last time:

    "In part, I`m trying to figure out what YOU mean by an "objective moral truth", which appears to be something real and can be tested for despite the inability of a particular observer to perceive directly - like beings that can`t directly perceive light (or like us who can`t personally physically observe much of what technology allows us to).

    "Is that what you mean?

    "And are you asserting that, for every conscious and self-aware being - regardless of species - that there is a uniform, objective moral order in the universe? [Leaving aside the question of how this objective moral order applies to type of organisms that are not conscious, or are conscious but not self-aware.]

    "Or are you only talking about an objective moral order that exists only for humans, that perhaps someday can be identified and located in universally shared mental processes, based on brain activity and arising from shared genes?

    "Or an objective moral order that exists for some humans, but not all - depending on physical development of the brain as we mature (with the development of some being impaired via genetic or other defect)?"

    Care to clarify?

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  13. Tom and Gene, are you guys flirting or are you actually trying to understand each other's position?

    Gene, Tom thinks "universe" means the physical universe. So now he thinks you are agreeing with him that objective morality must be made up of quarks. This is because of your quip, "Having trouble with UNIVERSE Tom?" instead of just telling him what you mean.

    Tom, is Sherlock Holmes part of the universe? Is it objectively true that Sherlock Holmes is smart and has Moriarity as an enemy?

    What about mathematics, Tom? Is it objectively true that 2+2=4? Is that equation part of the physical universe?

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  14. "are you guys flirting or are you actually trying to understand each other's position?"

    Bob, I can`t speak for Gene, but yes AND yes.

    Holmes and Moriarty are NOT part of the universe, but their fictional characters certainly are, in books, other media and in thoughts.

    Mathematics are tools that we make objective use of to describe the universe. The concepts expressed by 2+2=4 exist, and appear to be correct (though 2c +2c=4c may be incorrect if c=the velocity of light or an object).

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  15. Tom, are thoughts material things then? I assume you believe that my thinking about Holmes, is nothing more than a certain configuration of brain cells etc.? (I'm not ridiculing the idea, I just want to make sure I have your position down.)

    OK Gene we've got a hard core materialist on our hands. Go get em Yoda. Was I any different at his age?

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  16. Bob, thoughts obviously have a physical basis in our brains. Their existence is fleeting, though they might last a bit longer if written down.

    "Was I any different at his age?"

    Are you speaking from the future? I`ve passed the mid-century mark.

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  17. Tom,

    I didn't say, "Tom do you think thoughts have a physical basis?" I asked if you thought they were nothing more than something physical.

    I'm trying to get you to admit that things exist that aren't physical.

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  18. Bob, thoughts are objectively real, have a material existence AND are more than "a certain configuration of brain cells etc."

    But while thoughts may convey information (within the brain and, if communicated, to others) the existence of a though does not make the information they contain "real".

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  19. "I'm trying to get you to admit that things exist that aren't physical."

    Bob, every thing that "exists" consists of mass and energy.

    Our descriptive rules for nature "exist" only as thoughts or as physical descriptions of such thoughts.

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  20. 'Bob, every thing that "exists" consists of mass and energy.

    'Our descriptive rules for nature "exist" only as thoughts or as physical descriptions of such thoughts.'

    As thoughts?! And thoughts consist of mass and energy?

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  21. "Are you speaking from the future? I`ve passed the mid-century mark."

    No, Tom, he's speaking of mental age -- most people get through their materialist stage by about 20.

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  22. "The concepts expressed by 2+2=4 exist..."

    I'm sorry, Tom, this freshman philosophy BS is such a stupid bundle of contradictions that there really is no sense trying to "discuss" (oh, yeah, I forgot, "discussion" doesn't exist since it's not made of matter and energy) things with "someone" (some lump of matter, I mean, of course) who can keep such rubbish in their head is really quite "pointless" (yes, I know, there is no "point" to anything, as it's all just a bunch of atoms colliding).

    I hope your electrons thrive in the future, Tom!

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  23. I was just reading Jon Bentley's Programming Pearls, an old favorite. Or it used to be -- now that I've been enlightened by Tom, I realized that "algorithms," the main topic of the book, the ideas that make up coding patterns, rather than the patterns themselves, simply don't exist, as they certainly aren't made of matter and energy! What stupidity -- it's as if all of these computer science departments had been studying ghosts or something!

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