Saturday, April 15, 2006

Taking Measurements on a Deserted Island



One claim often made by relativists is that without a device to precisely measure morality, we cannot say that morality is based on facts.

I challenge relativists to go to a deserted island where there are no metre sticks, litre bottles, clocks, thermometers, pH meters or altimiters and tell me that measurements of length, volume, time, temperature, water acidity and altitude cease to be based on facts. All aspects of reality exist as facts. Morality is no exception.


Please note: I am NOT saying that we have no way of determining morality from immorality. That issue is separate from the above stated relativist claim, and thus is saved for another post.

11 comments:

TheJollyNihilist said...

Check out this optical illusion:

http://www.ebaumsworld.com/checkershadow.html

Without the ability to objectively test the shades of gray, our perception would give us inaccurate information. That's my argument with respect to morality. There are no objective morality tests, thus all moral notions are products of FALLIBLE perception.

For example, I perceive armed robbery to be highly immoral. However, that can't be tested. Thus, my notion of armed robbery's immorality might be an illusion, blinding me to its inherent high moral character.

And, when it comes right down to it, all philosophical moral "tests" are built around presumptions.
* The presumption that health is better than illness.
* The presumption that happiness is better than depression.
* The presumption that survival is better than death.
* The presumption that peace is better than animosity.
* The presumption that freedom is better than slavery.

The problem is, "better than" is a phrase exclusively for use in statements of opinion. Nothing is inherently better than anything else. Moral tests, then, that are based upon unprovable presumptions cannot prove anything.

Hellbound Alleee said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Francois Tremblay said...

The question was there because of you, frances. Answer the damn question, or why are you posting ? Are you trolling ? What is the point here ?

Of course our understanding of perception is "fallible". That's why we use methods such as the scientific method. Are you against such methods ?

When have we presumed any of the presumptions you have listed ? Can you quote us on this ? Or do you just treat ANY moral reasoning as presumption, no matter how justified it is ? Have you read the article I gave you last time, and why haven't you commented on it yet ?

Frances, you use facts in all other areas of life, just like we do. You just refuse to admit it in the case of morality. Because this is an extraordinary claim, YOU HAVE THE BURDEN OF PROOF. Put up or shut up.

TheJollyNihilist said...

Of course our understanding of perception is "fallible". That's why we use methods such as the scientific method. Are you against such methods ?

Of course not. I'm simply arguing morality is beyond the realm of scientific study, at least at the moment.

When have we presumed any of the presumptions you have listed ? Can you quote us on this ? Or do you just treat ANY moral reasoning as presumption, no matter how justified it is ? Have you read the article I gave you last time, and why haven't you commented on it yet ?

I did read your essay. I particularly took note of this sentence:

"Both Christianity and relativism fail to account for the basic moral assumptions we all make."

In that sentence, you explicitly make my point. You are making basic moral ASSUMPTIONS. A foundation of assumptions do not make for a good argument.

Frances, you use facts in all other areas of life, just like we do. You just refuse to admit it in the case of morality. Because this is an extraordinary claim, YOU HAVE THE BURDEN OF PROOF. Put up or shut up.

I use facts in reaching my OPINIONS about morality. That is widespread throughout human activities. I use facts about the weather (temperature, amount of precipitation, etc.) to reach opinions about whether it's pleasant outside. I use facts about a movie (running time, cast, etc.) to reach opinions about whether it's a good one or a bad one. And finally, I use facts about human behavior to reach opinions about whether said behavior is moral or immoral.

However, no behavior is intrinsically moral anymore than a movie is intrinsically good or a day's weather is intrinsically pleasant. In all these cases, facts are employed in order to reach opinions.


And now, I'll briefly respond to the main post:

I challenge relativists to go to a deserted island where there are no metre sticks, litre bottles, clocks, thermometers, pH meters or altimiters and tell me that measurements of length, volume, time, temperature, water acidity and altitude cease to be based on facts.

For simplicity's sake, let's go with length. Even without meter sticks, one can objectively test length. For example, the tree could be 5 arm-lengths from the rock, whereas the tree is 8 arm-lengths from the shell. That's objective measurement, even if you don't have a special instrument. By doing the arm-length measurements, one has objective data to employ in making conclusions.

There is no objective data for morality. Sure, there are facts. Here are some examples of facts:

Armed robbery represents one person threatening another.

Armed robbery represents one person taking the valuables of others.

Armed robbery represents coercion, facilitated by a weapon.

I admit those are facts, which can be employed in reaching moral opinions. But, those facts cannot be employed in reaching moral facts. For, there is no way of proving any of those facts listed above has any relationship with the concept of morality.

Francois Tremblay said...

"Of course not. I'm simply arguing morality is beyond the realm of scientific study, at least at the moment."

You keep evading like crazy. I didn't state that we only used scientific methods to determine morality.

Do you ever read what anyone says ? Or do you just want to straw man us all the way ?


"I use facts in reaching my OPINIONS about morality."

We don't give a shit about your opinions - only about FACTS. Do you base your moral decisions on facts, yes or no ?

If you answer yes, then you are a hypocrite. If you answer no, then you are a liar.

TheJollyNihilist said...

We don't give a shit about your opinions - only about FACTS. Do you base your moral decisions on facts, yes or no ?

If you answer yes, then you are a hypocrite. If you answer no, then you are a liar.


In the context about which you speak, I use FACTS in order to reach OPINIONS.

I'll go with my three examples from the previous post.

I use FACTS about the weather in order to reach the OPINION that it's "pleasant" outside. However, another person could use the very same facts in order to reach the opinion that it's "unpleasant" outside.

I use FACTS about a movie in order to reach the OPINION that it's a "good movie." However, another person could use the very same facts in order to reach the opinion that it's a "bad movie."

I use FACTS about a particular behavior in order to reach the OPINION that it's a "moral" behavior. However, another person could use the very same facts in order to reach the opinion that it's an "immoral" behavior.

In these cases, I use facts in order to develop opinions.

No weather is objectively "pleasant."

No movie is objectively "good."

No behavior is objectively "moral."

Francois Tremblay said...

"In the context about which you speak, I use FACTS in order to reach OPINIONS."

That is not what I asked you, evader. I asked you if you used facts to make decisions. Answer yes or no.

TheJollyNihilist said...

That is not what I asked you, evader. I asked you if you used facts to make decisions. Answer yes or no.

Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

In the context of which you speak, I use facts to reach opinions, and then base my decisions on those opinions.

Example:

I note the following facts: It is 85 degrees outside. There is no precipitation.

I reach the following opinion: It is pleasant outside.

I make the following decision: Since it is pleasant outside, I will take a walk.

In that case, my decision is based upon my opinion.

Example:

I note the following facts: A movie is only 90 minutes long. A movie's cast has many award winners. A movie employs a fractured timeline narrative.

I reach the following opinion: It is a good movie.

I make the following decision: I will buy this movie on DVD.

In that case, also, my decision is based upon my opinion.

Example:

I note the following facts: John Kerry is pro-choice. John Kerry is pro-gay rights. John Kerry is anti-vouchers.

I reach the following opinion: John Kerry is a good candidate for president.

I made the following decision: I will vote for John Kerry as president.

In that case, too, my decision is based upon my opinion.

I view moral issues the same way. I gather facts. I use those facts to form an opinion. I make decisions that are consistent with my opinions.

Facts, in this context, are simply a means by which to reach opinions.

Francois Tremblay said...

So you admit that you really do use facts to make your decisions, and that you are a moral realist, not a relativist ?

TheJollyNihilist said...

Here's the simplest way I can boil it down:

I use facts in order to reach my opinions.

I use those opinions to make my moral decisions.

Simply put, all my moral decisions are compatible with my moral opinions, which are informed by facts.

Francois Tremblay said...

I'll take your answer as a yes. Welcome to the side of the good guys. ;)