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Old 08-05-2009, 09:42 PM   #575736  /  #1
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Default Are moral statements truth-apt?

Well, I've got more free time on my hands right now than I expected, so I thought I might try this out. (I'd also like to use the chance to formulate my position more precisely.)

The topic would be whether (at least some) moral statements are capable of being true or false. Different formulations possible, but I won't discuss whether they are "objectively" true or not, because I find the term too unclear to be of much use. I won't argue for (and, if you bring them up, will argue against) the positions typically labelled as "subjectivist", though. By "true" I mean true, not true "for someone". I will, however, argue from a broadly pragmatist position.

I will basically argue that the burden is on you to provide good reasons to believe they aren't truth-apt and then I'll try to counter your arguments by showing that they either don't apply to moral statements or that they apply to other, uncontroversially truth-apt statements, too.

Oh, and I won't debate theists. That includes you, SMS, sorry.
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Old 08-06-2009, 06:28 AM   #575972  /  #2
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Why not debate theists?
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Old 08-06-2009, 06:47 AM   #575978  /  #3
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Originally Posted by Preno View Post
...I won't discuss whether they are "objectively" true or not, because I find the term too unclear to be of much use... By "true" I mean true, not true "for someone".
Wouldn't that be the defining characteristic of "objectively true"? And, can you at least state one of these moral statements that are true for all sentient beings (i.e., those that encompass the category of "true, not true 'for someone'") to give focus?

SMS. One can't debate theists about morality, as it is only objectively true to the deity posited. IOW, it would just be true "for someone" (the deity). By simply defining that deity to be "one who is all moral and thereby the arbiter of what is or is not morally true for all sentient beings" you've forfeited the intellectual "right" to engage in the debate. Your answer would always be a variant of the old playground response, "It's true because my Dad said so."

Last edited by Koyaanisqatsi; 08-06-2009 at 06:52 AM.
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Old 08-06-2009, 09:06 AM   #576003  /  #4
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Why not debate theists?
Because I'm just not interested in that.
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Originally Posted by Koyaanisqatsi View Post
Wouldn't that be the defining characteristic of "objectively true"?
Maybe, I dunno. I've seen people argue that morality is subjective because it's "mind-dependent", presumably regardless of whether everyone's opinion is in some sense equally valid or not.
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And, can you at least state one of these moral statements that are true for all sentient beings (i.e., those that encompass the category of "true, not true 'for someone'") to give focus?
Well, 'murder is wrong' or 'you shouldn't have hit your brother' are both true (althought I'm wouldn't say they hold "for all sentient beings").

Last edited by Preno; 08-06-2009 at 09:13 AM.
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Old 08-06-2009, 02:18 PM   #576116  /  #5
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Originally Posted by Koyaanisqatsi View Post
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...I won't discuss whether they are "objectively" true or not, because I find the term too unclear to be of much use... By "true" I mean true, not true "for someone".
Wouldn't that be the defining characteristic of "objectively true"? And, can you at least state one of these moral statements that are true for all sentient beings (i.e., those that encompass the category of "true, not true 'for someone'") to give focus?

SMS. One can't debate theists about morality, as it is only objectively true to the deity posited. IOW, it would just be true "for someone" (the deity). By simply defining that deity to be "one who is all moral and thereby the arbiter of what is or is not morally true for all sentient beings" you've forfeited the intellectual "right" to engage in the debate. Your answer would always be a variant of the old playground response, "It's true because my Dad said so."

not all theists root morality in God. so....yah.
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Old 08-06-2009, 02:20 PM   #576117  /  #6
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I doubt there are very few other people on this forum schooled in non-cognitivist thought, Preno. But have it your way...
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Old 08-06-2009, 09:04 PM   #576670  /  #7
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Well, 'murder is wrong' or 'you shouldn't have hit your brother' are both true (althought I'm wouldn't say they hold "for all sentient beings").
Well, here's where the qualifiers kick in . "Murder is wrong" for example. By murder, I assume you're using the legal definition of premeditated killing; the deliberate act of taking another's life for various reasons (i.e., "motives"). The obvious and cliche response is "What about killing Hitler" but that's boring, so let's say Jimmy Jones. You're on the compound at Guyana (with all that entails; i.e., jungle, armed fanatics, etc) and you know that he's about to poison everyone, but he hasn't done it yet. Would it be "wrong" to murder him to prevent his poisoning all of those people, knowing as you would that it would be the only way to save those people?

I know this gets into justification, but that's a significant element to what is or is not "morally true" if you will, so just responding with, "It's true that murder is wrong, but in that case, it was justified" or "something can be morally true and still justified" or the like, doesn't really address the complexity of the issue, IMO.

Same for "you shouldn't have hit your brother." I'll take a less critical scenario here. What if you hit your brother in order to get his attention, because the girl you knew he liked was walking his way and he wasn't paying attention to your constant verbal warnings? Let's say he was doing something embarrassing to himself. Would it then be true that it was "wrong" to hit him, if by doing so, it was the only way you could get him to stop acting like an idiot before the girl he loved saw him?

Let's remove the justification scenario and just say you hauled off and hit your brother for no apparent reason, which would arguably make you sociopathic. Since sociopathy is a neurological condition, is it "wrong" that you hit your brother and if so, wrong to whom? Not to you, since you aren't biologically capable of knowing that would be wrong, you could only be told that was wrong, but you still wouldn't have any gestalt as to why it was wrong (or what "wrong" is).

Let's remove the qualifiers and say that you're not a sociopath, not autistic, etc., you're a "normally" functioning kid who just hit your brother. When asked why you did it, you respond, "He was being a jerk." Well, if he was being a jerk and you knew from passed experience that hitting him was the only way to get him to stop, is that wrong and again, to whom?
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Old 08-06-2009, 09:07 PM   #576674  /  #8
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not all theists root morality in God. so....yah.
Well, then, obviously you wouldn't be pulling that trump card and in that case you likely would not fall under the "theist" category that I assume Preno meant in his post. Did he really need to qualify that he would only debate the topic with theists who do not argue from a god mandated morality?
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Old 08-06-2009, 09:30 PM   #576711  /  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Koyaanisqatsi View Post
Well, here's where the qualifiers kick in . "Murder is wrong" for example. By murder, I assume you're using the legal definition of premeditated killing; the deliberate act of taking another's life for various reasons (i.e., "motives"). The obvious and cliche response is "What about killing Hitler" but that's boring, so let's say Jimmy Jones. You're on the compound at Guyana (with all that entails; i.e., jungle, armed fanatics, etc) and you know that he's about to poison everyone, but he hasn't done it yet. Would it be "wrong" to murder him to prevent his poisoning all of those people, knowing as you would that it would be the only way to save those people?

I know this gets into justification, but that's a significant element to what is or is not "morally true" if you will, so just responding with, "It's true that murder is wrong, but in that case, it was justified" or "something can be morally true and still justified" or the like, doesn't really address the complexity of the issue, IMO.
"Murder is wrong" obviously doesn't mean that every murder is wrong, just like "dogs have four legs" doesn't mean that all dogs have four legs. It means something like that in normal scenarios, murder is wrong. It's trivial and uncontroversial that you can come up with scenarios where it isn't.
Quote:
Same for "you shouldn't have hit your brother." I'll take a less critical scenario here. What if you hit your brother in order to get his attention, because the girl you knew he liked was walking his way and he wasn't paying attention to your constant verbal warnings? Let's say he was doing something embarrassing to himself. Would it then be true that it was "wrong" to hit him, if by doing so, it was the only way you could get him to stop acting like an idiot before the girl he loved saw him?
Same answer.
Quote:
Let's remove the justification scenario and just say you hauled off and hit your brother for no apparent reason, which would arguably make you sociopathic. Since sociopathy is a neurological condition, is it "wrong" that you hit your brother and if so, wrong to whom? Not to you, since you aren't biologically capable of knowing that would be wrong, you could only be told that was wrong, but you still wouldn't have any gestalt as to why it was wrong (or what "wrong" is).
Yes, he still shouldn't have hit his brother, even though he was a sociopath. I don't understand what sociopathy has to do with this. It's rather like saying that John suffers from dyscalculia, therefore, 4x7=32 "for John".
Quote:
Let's remove the qualifiers and say that you're not a sociopath, not autistic, etc., you're a "normally" functioning kid who just hit your brother. When asked why you did it, you respond, "He was being a jerk." Well, if he was being a jerk and you knew from passed experience that hitting him was the only way to get him to stop, is that wrong and again, to whom?
Same answer.

Note that it would be trivial to refer to specific cases instead, but it would take such a long time to fully describe a particular scenario over the internet that it just isn't worth the time and it would introduce a lot of irrelevant detail, anyway. The assumption is that cooperative interlocutors will not interpret the statement in ways in which the statement clearly wasn't intended. It's trivial that if one is not cooperative in this sense, one can find counter-examples to pretty much anything.
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Old 08-06-2009, 09:42 PM   #576727  /  #10
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"Murder is wrong" obviously doesn't mean that every murder is wrong
Then you can't just say "Murder is wrong."

Quote:
Yes, he still shouldn't have hit his brother, even though he was a sociopath. I don't understand what sociopathy has to do with this.
The question was "wrong to whom"? To the universe? To the mother? To the sociopath? A sociopath is incapable of knowing right from wrong, so to him, hitting his brother would not be "wrong."

Quote:
It's rather like saying that John suffers from dyscalculia, therefore, 4x7=32 "for John".
Sort of. And no matter how many times you explained to John that 4X7 does not equal 32, he would say that you are wrong. So what's the arbitrating principle on "wrongness" in that scenario? Mathematical law? Fiat?

Quote:
The assumption is that cooperative interlocutors will not interpret the statement in ways in which the statement clearly wasn't intended. It's trivial that if one is not cooperative in this sense, one can find counter-examples to pretty much anything.
So, because there are exceptions that disprove or simply reveal your assertions, they are to simply be discarded as problematic? You said "Murder is wrong" and then contradicted that statement by saying not all murders are wrong. So the questions obviously become, which murders are wrong and what is your method of establishing the universality of this "wrongness"?

Last edited by Koyaanisqatsi; 08-06-2009 at 09:47 PM.
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Old 08-06-2009, 09:44 PM   #576730  /  #11
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Koyaanisqatsi, are you taking up Preno's debate offer? If so, we should discuss the debate format.
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Old 08-06-2009, 09:59 PM   #576753  /  #12
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As raven says, this isn't really the place for this kind of discussion, but I'd just like to quickly reply to this:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Koy
So, because there are exceptions that disprove or simply reveal your assertions, they are to simply be discarded as problematic?
No, they are to be discarded because they blatantly misinterpret what those statements mean. If you think that by "murder is wrong", I actually mean that every murder is wrong, you're obviously wrong.
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Old 08-06-2009, 11:15 PM   #576832  /  #13
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not all theists root morality in God. so....yah.
Well, then, obviously you wouldn't be pulling that trump card and in that case you likely would not fall under the "theist" category that I assume Preno meant in his post. Did he really need to qualify that he would only debate the topic with theists who do not argue from a god mandated morality?
Yes.
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Old 08-06-2009, 11:17 PM   #576835  /  #14
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Preno......I can offer a much better challenge than Koy's blather.
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Old 08-07-2009, 05:24 PM   #577432  /  #15
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Koyaanisqatsi, are you taking up Preno's debate offer? If so, we should discuss the debate format.
Oh, sorry. I didn't reallize this was a proposal for a formal debate (I don't really pay attention to which forum I'm in; I usually just click on the titles that provoke or seem interesting). I''m not interested in formally debating the OP. Apologies all.

Last edited by Koyaanisqatsi; 08-07-2009 at 05:31 PM.
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Old 08-07-2009, 06:09 PM   #577485  /  #16
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I will, however, argue from a broadly pragmatist position
People should be aware that this type of truth is far from the type of our prephilosophical beliefs. It does not require truth to even reflect the way the world actually is.
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Old 08-07-2009, 06:19 PM   #577500  /  #17
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Koyaanisqatsi, are you taking up Preno's debate offer? If so, we should discuss the debate format.
Oh, sorry. I didn't reallize this was a proposal for a formal debate (I don't really pay attention to which forum I'm in; I usually just click on the titles that provoke or seem interesting). I''m not interested in formally debating the OP. Apologies all.
Would you guys like for some of the discussion to be split out to the Philosophy forum?
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Old 08-10-2009, 07:11 PM   #579825  /  #18
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Would you guys like for some of the discussion to be split out to the Philosophy forum?
Nah. The Rat Ring commentary thread will likely suffice for that.
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Old 08-12-2009, 02:53 PM   #581877  /  #19
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Quote:
I will, however, argue from a broadly pragmatist position
People should be aware that this type of truth is far from the type of our prephilosophical beliefs. It does not require truth to even reflect the way the world actually is.
Yeah, the thing is, I'm afraid you'd approach the whole thing from a somewhat metaphysical point of view and we'd be arguing about the "ontological status of morals" or about their "essence" or some such non-sense.
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Would you guys like for some of the discussion to be split out to the Philosophy forum?
No, thanks.
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Old 08-13-2009, 10:57 PM   #583656  /  #20
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Preno......I can offer a much better challenge than Koy's blather.
lulz
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Old 08-14-2009, 05:14 PM   #584373  /  #21
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I'm torn between non-cognitivism and error theory. Either way, I'm anti-realism.

I'd like to see a discussion of this in the philosophy section.
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Old 08-14-2009, 05:18 PM   #584376  /  #22
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preno,

I have no problem using your conception of truth. But we'd need to agree on a specific form of pragmatism.
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Old 08-21-2009, 10:26 PM   #590700  /  #23
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preno,

I have no problem using your conception of truth. But we'd need to agree on a specific form of pragmatism.
We would? I just wrote that to outline roughly from what position I'd be arguing. I wouldn't say I adhere to some specific form of pragmatism.
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Old 08-23-2009, 11:09 PM   #591925  /  #24
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I would guess you would adhere to whatever form seems most pragmatic, pragmatically speaking, at any given time.
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Old 09-11-2009, 12:55 AM   #609335  /  #25
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Originally Posted by Preno View Post
Well, I've got more free time on my hands right now than I expected, so I thought I might try this out. (I'd also like to use the chance to formulate my position more precisely.)

The topic would be whether (at least some) moral statements are capable of being true or false. Different formulations possible, but I won't discuss whether they are "objectively" true or not, because I find the term too unclear to be of much use. I won't argue for (and, if you bring them up, will argue against) the positions typically labelled as "subjectivist", though. By "true" I mean true, not true "for someone". I will, however, argue from a broadly pragmatist position.

I will basically argue that the burden is on you to provide good reasons to believe they aren't truth-apt and then I'll try to counter your arguments by showing that they either don't apply to moral statements or that they apply to other, uncontroversially truth-apt statements, too.

Oh, and I won't debate theists. That includes you, SMS, sorry.
I will debate this with you.
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