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Is ethics/morality nonsense?

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Clayton Posted: Fri, Aug 27 2010 3:54 AM

I have read several posters to these forums who seem to believe that ethics or morality is "nonsense." This seems to me to be an unjustifiable position short of adopting nihilism and asserting that everything without exception is nonsense.

I'll begin the discussion by discarding all forms of objective morality from the start. Morality is at least subjective, I think that is really beyond debate. Rothbard was wrong on this point (though, in my view, he was right that morality is important).

But "nonsense" means something more than merely "subjective", else all discussion of subjective preferences would be nonsense and then even economics would be nonsense (and so on until we arrived at nihilism... everything's nonsense).

So, we have the possibility of ethical relativism... there is a choice of cultural relativism or individual relativism. I reject cultural relativism for the same reason I reject any sort of collective valuation (and I think most people here would agree). So, this leaves only individual relativism. So, ethics is subjective and relative to the individual. But that doesn't make it nonsense. Any valuation is subjective and relative to the individual. This is praxeology 101.

Ethics parts ways from Misesean human action when it goes into the realm of ranking ends. If there is an "ought", then that means one end is better than another. Mises denied that value-free science can rank ends, it can only evaluate the effectiveness of one or another means in achieving an arbitrarily chosen end. But individuals do, in fact, valuate. This act of valuation is, itself, a ranking of one end over another. I can say "I prefer bananas to apples" without violating value-free praxeology just as much as I can say, "I prefer not killing to killing."

The difference, of course, between plain economic valuation and ethical valuation is what we are valuating. In the former, we are valuating states of affairs that would result from consuming a particular good or service but, in the latter we are valuating states of affairs that would result from our own actions towards another person.

Now, ethical language notably does not restrict itself to valuations over the individual's own actions. In fact, ethical language is primarily pointed away from the self and towards others. "I prefer you to not steal than to steal." While this preference is not a praxeological end since the subject is not the actor, it is no more of a mistake than to say, "I prefer it not to rain than to rain." There is no reason to disbelieve the expressed preference - it's not like I'm bargaining with someone over whether it will rain or not. It will rain or not rain no matter how I feel about it because I do not control the weather. So, there is no reason for me to conceal my true feelings on the matter. My expressed preference is my true preference. Similarly, you will steal or not steal (or at least attempt it) no matter how I feel about the matter but my expressed preference regarding your actions is my true preference.

In my view, ethical valuations are a subset of aesthetic valuations (which are a subset of all valuations, obviously). Aesthetic valuation is a ranking of the hedonic pleasure of experiencing something versus not experiencing it. For example, if I say, "The sunrise is beautiful" I mean that I am deriving more pleasure from experiencing the sunrise than I would from a different (hypothetical) set of circumstances in which this sunrise did not occur as it did. Since ethical valuations are a subset of aesthetic valuations, they are of the same form. If I say, "His donation to charity was good" I mean that I derive more pleasure from his having donated than I would have from a different (hypothetical) set of circumstances in which he did not donate to charity. And since there is no reason for me to lie about my preferences (I'm not bargaining), there is every reason to believe that my expressed preferences are my true preferences.

Given this description of what ethical valuations are (I've never read a description of ethics in this form anywhere), I believe I can give a functional explanation for why humans engage in ethical valuation at all (essentially, evolutionary ethics). 

Ethical valuation exists. Ethical valuation performs a function(s) in humans. Ethical valuations are not arbitrary (for the same reasons that aesthetic valuations are not arbitrary). Even if you dissent to any particular ethical valuation (who ever said that aesthetic valuations must correspond in the first place?), that doesn't make ethics "nonsense." In what way is ethics nonsense??

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MaikU replied on Fri, Aug 27 2010 6:16 AM

I don't know which group of people I dislike more: those, who claim, that morality is nonsense (that it doesn't exist), or those, who say that it is "purely subjective".

I don't believe morality is subjective, even though many people are applying it differently to different groups of people in their everyday life. Best example would be: it is ok to defend yourself from a thief in a dark alley, but when thief comes to your house with a badge or whatever to collect "taxes", now defence becomes "immoral" and your should give to him all your money or else. Why? This sort of thing is the root of all moral nihilism and moral relativism. People (especially younger generation) see these examples and tend to believe, that's how "morality always work" and we should abolish it.

But that's not the case. It doesn't mean it has to be like that. There is objective morality, or at least, how I understand it, a moral code which could apply to all people equally. Initiation of the use of force is wrong, for example. Stealing someone else's property is wrong etc.

Almost nobody denies that, but why the very same people claim morality is "subjective" when it clearly is not the case. I think this sort of madness is growing out of misunderstanding of basic concepts.

I agree, one can make an exception is some extreme cases, even life-boat scenarios, but it doesn't disprove usefulness and necessity of morality itself. To deny morality or claim that it is always "subjective" is the same extreme, like claiming, that everything what could be called "just" should be derived from property rights (propertarianism).

"Dude... Roderick Long is the most anarchisty anarchist that has ever anarchisted!" - Evilsceptic

(english is not my native language, sorry for grammar.)

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Conza88 replied on Fri, Aug 27 2010 6:41 AM

"I'll begin the discussion by discarding all forms of objective morality from the start. Morality is at least subjective, I think that is really beyond debate. Rothbard was wrong on this point"

No he wasn't. Always baseless assertions. And define "morality", because I'm willing to bet you don't even understand his conception of it. Nothing but strawmen.

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But that's not the case. It doesn't mean it has to be like that. There is objective morality, or at least, how I understand it, a moral code which could apply to all people equally. Initiation of the use of force is wrong, for example. Stealing someone else's property is wrong etc.

Almost nobody denies that, but why the very same people claim morality is "subjective" when it clearly is not the case. I think this sort of madness is growing out of misunderstanding of basic concepts.

Some people see Robin Hood as a grand thief, others as a hero to society....

morals/ethics on any kind of individual level are nonsense.  They only start to make sense through society's agreement on them.  You know "consent of the governed" and all that.

Murder isn't wrong just becuase it is.  It is wrong becuase, through a process of trial-and-error, enough individual people have seen it as destructive as to warrant it wrong in their society.  That could change tomorow; see, NAZI Germany, or USSR Russia, or the eradication of Native Americans.

In States a fresh law is looked upon as a remedy for evil. Instead of themselves altering what is bad, people begin by demanding a law to alter it. ... In short, a law everywhere and for everything!

~Peter Kropotkin

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Greg replied on Fri, Aug 27 2010 8:19 AM

I've always though of morality as differentiating good (moral) and bad (immoral) actions from each other.

But if you accept that definition "morality" becomes useless and can be easily replaced with the word "preferences."

To Conza: What is Rothbard's definition of morality?

I seem to remember reading something (I'm pretty sure it was Rothbard) who said that when people discovered that there was a poisonous mushroom, they have established an ethic, don't eat poisonous mushrooms! But doesn't this just depend on someone's desire to live? EDIT: If ethics are just commonly held morals then I agree with this. 

I think you can prove objectively if you value certain ends, then there are certain actions you must take to achieve them. This again just reverts back to individual preferences though. 

To anyone: Can "wrong" and "right" actions be proven? This would be great if so!

"The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design." - F.A. Hayek
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Greg replied on Fri, Aug 27 2010 8:37 AM

I think in my last post I didn't differentiate between ethics and morality. I just think morality is nonsense and can only be analyzed as preferences but ethics are still okay because these are just commonly held morals (see: preferences) between groups of people. Ethics are okay and only exist because many people value the same ends such as living, prospering, and so on. 

"The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design." - F.A. Hayek
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 "The morality assumption/myth:  that you must obey a moral code created by someone else.

In order to become more competent (and freer) you need to strengthen your understanding of the cognitive links betweenyour actions and the consequences you produce.

Morality is basically a set of very general rules concerning what to do and what not to do, generally involving large consequences.

Blindly using someone else’s moral code, tends to reduce your competence, because it prevents the forming of proper cognitive links between actions and consequences.

To be freer you need to create your own moral code that applies only to yourself and your own actions.

Regards,onebornfree

For more information about onebornfree, please see profile.[ i.e. click on forum name "onebornfree"].

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z1235 replied on Fri, Aug 27 2010 8:56 AM

Clayton:
Ethical valuation exists. Ethical valuation performs a function(s) in humans. Ethical valuations are not arbitrary (for the same reasons that aesthetic valuations are not arbitrary). ...

Given this description of what ethical valuations are (I've never read a description of ethics in this form anywhere), I believe I can give a functional explanation for why humans engage in ethical valuation at all (essentially, evolutionary ethics). 

Perhaps I'm not fully grasping your angle, but if ethical valuations exist in the same way that gastronomic, sport, partner, pet, and fashion valuations (preferences) exist, then what is the basis for elevating them above the rest? It can't be the existence of functional explanations as I'm sure there are plenty of functional explanations for most other valuation/preference realms. I'd bet there's an evolutionary explanation for why most people dislike bitter food (essentially, evolutionary gastronomics).  

Since objective (agent-independent) morals/ethics clearly don't exist, the subjective ones are a mere subset of all possible valuation/preference realms, and I can see how someone would call them "nonsense" in the same way they'd call pizza valuations/preferences nonsense. Obviously, no subjective valuation/preference is "nonsense" to the subject that's making it. 

 

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I. Ryan replied on Fri, Aug 27 2010 9:12 AM

Clayton:

I have read several posters to these forums who seem to believe that ethics or morality is "nonsense."

If you are talking about Vichy, she uses the word "morality" to refer only to what most other people call "objective morality", and then calls it nonsense, just to be sensational. I hold the same views on it that she does, but I still use the word "morality" in the normal way.

If I wrote it more than a few weeks ago, I probably hate it by now.

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Conza88 replied on Fri, Aug 27 2010 9:15 AM

"To Conza: What is Rothbard's definition of morality?

I seem to remember reading something (I'm pretty sure it was Rothbard) who said that when people discovered that there was a poisonous mushroom, they have established an ethic, don't eat poisonous mushrooms! But doesn't this just depend on someone's desire to live? EDIT: If ethics are just commonly held morals then I agree with this."

http://mises.org/Community/forums/p/14813/311945.aspx#311945

http://mises.org/Community/forums/p/14813/312226.aspx#312226

Ron Paul is for self-government when compared to the Constitution. He's an anarcho-capitalist. Proof.
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I. Ryan replied on Fri, Aug 27 2010 9:16 AM

MaikU:

I don't believe morality is subjective, even though many people are applying it differently to different groups of people in their everyday life. Best example would be: it is ok to defend yourself from a thief in a dark alley, but when thief comes to your house with a badge or whatever to collect "taxes", now defence becomes "immoral" and your should give to him all your money or else. Why? This sort of thing is the root of all moral nihilism and moral relativism. People (especially younger generation) see these examples and tend to believe, that's how "morality always work" and we should abolish it.

But that's not the case. It doesn't mean it has to be like that. There is objective morality, or at least, how I understand it, a moral code which could apply to all people equally. Initiation of the use of force is wrong, for example. Stealing someone else's property is wrong etc.

Somebody could think that what most people call "objective morality" is nonsense, but also think that we should uniformly apply certain moral rules to everybody. Equally applying a moral code to everybody has nothing to do with the argument about whether morality is subjective or objective, in the normal sense of those terms.

If I wrote it more than a few weeks ago, I probably hate it by now.

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Clayton replied on Fri, Aug 27 2010 12:51 PM

Perhaps I'm not fully grasping your angle, but if ethical valuations exist in the same way that gastronomic, sport, partner, pet, and fashion valuations (preferences) exist, then what is the basis for elevating them above the rest?

What does it even mean for them to be "elevated above the rest"? I act in accord to my "gastronomic, sport, partner, pet, and fashion valuations" just like anyone else and I also act in accord to my ethical valuations. Ethical valuations are only different in that they primarily come to bear during disputes. This is what makes ethical valuations more "serious" than others, because the consequences (violence) are potentially very serious.

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Clayton replied on Fri, Aug 27 2010 1:04 PM

I don't believe morality is subjective

If you mean by "morality" the ordinary sense of the word - normative expressions of the form, "A person should not kill another person" then you are clearly mistaken. Something is objective if it is observer-independent. For example, the speed of light is objective since anyone can follow a procedure for measuring it and come up with the same answer as anybody else. And it is not only the laws of basic physics which are objective. Revealed preferences are objective since if you exchange something, you are showing by your actions that you preferred the thing you received in exchange to the thing you gave away in exchange.

Social norms that emerge from moral sentiments (for example, that murder is bad and deserves punishment) are objective since we can inquire into the group to see what social norms are widely held and how widely they are held. But a social norm is not an ethic. Moral sentiments - like "I believe murder is bad and should be punished" - are valuations and are, therefore, as subjective as any other valuation. Please show me where I'm going astray.

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z1235 replied on Fri, Aug 27 2010 1:12 PM

Clayton:
This is what makes ethical valuations more "serious" than others, because the consequences (violence) are potentially very serious.

A fist-happy English football fan would beg to differ. Assigning importance to valuations is a subjective valuation in its own right. 

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Azure replied on Fri, Aug 27 2010 1:37 PM

Now, ethical language notably does not restrict itself to valuations over the individual's own actions. In fact, ethical language is primarily pointed away from the self and towards others. "I prefer you to not steal than to steal." While this preference is not a praxeological end since the subject is not the actor, it is no more of a mistake than to say, "I prefer it not to rain than to rain." There is no reason to disbelieve the expressed preference - it's not like I'm bargaining with someone over whether it will rain or not. It will rain or not rain no matter how I feel about it because I do not control the weather. So, there is no reason for me to conceal my true feelings on the matter. My expressed preference is my true preference. Similarly, you will steal or not steal (or at least attempt it) no matter how I feel about the matter but my expressed preference regarding your actions is my true preference.

What separates a praxeological preference from an "academic" one is whether it compels a man to act or not. If I see a man mugging an old lady, my ethical valuations could certainly compel me to defend her against her attacker.

A praxeological theory of the impact of ethics on society must study just that: How ethical preferences influence people's actions. Catallitics only explains market actions of exchange. What is needed is a new branch of praxeology, devoted to the study of ethical (or, to use a more accurate term, ethically-motivated) actions.

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Clayton replied on Fri, Aug 27 2010 1:43 PM

A fist-happy English football fan would beg to differ. Assigning importance to valuations is a subjective valuation in its own right

Good point. I'll have to think about that. I still feel like there must be some defining difference between ethical valuations and other kinds of valuations since I feel like I (and other humans) just have this intuitive grasp of some meaningful distinction. It's possible that it's an illusion but then that illusion must be an important illusion and I would want to understand that.

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William replied on Fri, Aug 27 2010 2:58 PM

To be fair, and I will deal with this when I have time;  while ethics may be important, and they may be nonsense in a very real way, there is nothing saying they are not important nonsense

"I am not an ego along with other egos, but the sole ego: I am unique. Hence my wants too are unique, and my deeds; in short, everything about me is unique" Max Stirner
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@ OP Clayton,

Nice one, dude!  Somewhere back in the misty past I had been claiming ethics as equivalent to aesthetics.

To humbly submit my reply to your post, I (as one probably associated with the "ethics is nonsense" camp) would like to take the liberty to clarify the position of a self-considered nihilist.

As you stated, ethics are merely statements of preference.  The non-sensical begins as soon as that preference is assumed to be universally valid, and therefore universally projected.  It sounds like an insignificant difference, but stating,

"Charity is good."

as opposed to,

"I think charity is good."

I know that the second statement is implicit in the first, but the very real difference between the two is the hypothetical aspect of the second statement. 

In the first statement, there is no room for debate.  It is implicitly assumed that the first statement is a truth, or a law, a statement which is perfect, applicable in any and all scenarios forever.

The second statement is much less concrete, more a theory than a law.

It is the absolute nature of the first statement which I would call "nonsense", which is to say that "Charity is good" could possibly be a truth, but given our inability to objectively percieve reality (and therefore truth), there would be no way to find out.

Essiantially, to me the nonsense is the pretense of being privy to truth, rather than the preferential statement.

"What Stirner says is a word, a thought, a concept; what he means is no word, no thought, no concept. What he says is not what is meant, and what he means is unsayable." - Max Stirner, Stirner's Critics
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MaikU:
Almost nobody denies that

Intrasubjective consensus doth not a truth make.

That's another real big stumbling block I have while attempting to communicate with those who would believe that is the case.

"What Stirner says is a word, a thought, a concept; what he means is no word, no thought, no concept. What he says is not what is meant, and what he means is unsayable." - Max Stirner, Stirner's Critics
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William replied on Fri, Aug 27 2010 3:17 PM

Also, I may want to object to the word "nihilism"/"nihilist" if used as a form of radical skepticism (as I am not a skeptic), or the reference to the negation of meaning.  I am saying that there is no "negation" of meaning, but the word never had meaning within logical context to begin with.  It is simply an entaglment and unclarity of language.

"I am not an ego along with other egos, but the sole ego: I am unique. Hence my wants too are unique, and my deeds; in short, everything about me is unique" Max Stirner
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ClaytonB:
What does it even mean for them to be "elevated above the rest"? I act in accord to my "gastronomic, sport, partner, pet, and fashion valuations" just like anyone else and I also act in accord to my ethical valuations. Ethical valuations are only different in that they primarily come to bear during disputes. This is what makes ethical valuations more "serious" than others, because the consequences (violence) are potentially very serious.

I think it is important to look at the origin of ethics and morals to gain perspective as to why they have been elevated to their mythic status.  Not only do they deal with conflict as Clayton mentioned, but many originate from some sort of claimed divine revelation:

Hammurabi as God-king

Moses on Sinai

Jesus and the sermon on the mount, etc.

What better way than divine retribution to frighten an ancient, superstitious poulace to listen to your commands, and to peacefully interact with one another, so you can keep them generating tax revenue?

Now, with Humanism the dominant religion in the West (the belief in Man as lawgiver, rather than an external, divine entity) people can begin to question the existence of perfect laws created by imperfect men.  Without the harking to the supernatural , laws are on their way out.

"What Stirner says is a word, a thought, a concept; what he means is no word, no thought, no concept. What he says is not what is meant, and what he means is unsayable." - Max Stirner, Stirner's Critics
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Tsk, tsk Clayton, I thought you were better than that.  In your response to subjective morality, you have conflated intrasubjective consensus with objective truth.  In fact you seem to contradict yourself:

Clayton B:
Something is objective if it is observer-independent

I'm with you so far, then...

the speed of light is objective since anyone can follow a procedure for measuring it and come up with the same answer as anybody else.

Isn't the result still dependant upon an observation for validation?

 

 

"What Stirner says is a word, a thought, a concept; what he means is no word, no thought, no concept. What he says is not what is meant, and what he means is unsayable." - Max Stirner, Stirner's Critics
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@Jackson LaRose: (I'm just assuming you were being serious now, no idea whether you actually are, but I wanted to make that point anyway) I think what he meant by that was not that we have an absolute knowledge about the speed of light that can never change or that we can't be wrong, but that an objective truth exists (whether we know it or not). A true statement about the speed of light - independent of what humans think it is - exists (again, this statement is not supposed to represent a final truth, but as close to truth as possible within the bounds of human logic which of course itself cannot be proven to be flawless, but outside the boundaries of which we cannot even attempt to argue). Our views on that don't have to reflect our values or preferences, therefore we can try to determine the speed of light in a value-free manner.

However, with morals that is a different issue. As morals reflect the preferred ends of individuals, we can make true statements about our own perceived morality, yet still disagree about it with other people in a non-contradictory way (think of the ecos that think it's immoral to destroy a tree and that "protecting nature" is a desirable end in itself - this is not a matter or right or wrong, but about preferences: I personally value "nature" only insofar as it serves human ends, not as an end in itself, but I can accept that other people get intrinsic satisfaction from the state of nature being a certain way - that doesn't of course mean that I don't try not to suffer from those people trying to enact their visions on how nature is supposed to be).

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LibertarianfromGermany:
I think what he meant by that was not that we have an absolute knowledge about the speed of light that can never change or that we can't be wrong, but that an objective truth exists (whether we know it or not). A true statement about the speed of light - independent of what humans think it is - exists (again, this statement is not supposed to represent a final truth, but as close to truth as possible within the bounds of human logic which of course itself cannot be proven to be flawless, but outside the boundaries of which we cannot even attempt to argue).

I'm not sure what Clayton's intent was behind his last post.  I simply wanted to clarify the distinction between the theoretical, objective, observer independent "Reality At Large", and an (almost) universal agreement in regards to the interpretation of mutually perceived phenomena among a general population.

SImply put, there is distinct difference between an objective reality, and intersubjective consensus, no matter how broad that consensus may be.

As morals reflect the preferred ends of individuals, we can make true statements about our own perceived morality, yet still disagree about it with other people in a non-contradictory way

I think that the term "morals" is more than a synonym for "preferences".  It also relfects (for me anyways) an absolute way of thinking.  If I state,

"Murder is wrong."

Unless there is a specified end in which murder would not be an effective means, than the statement is completely open-ended.  To me, that seems to imply that under any circumstance, the act of murder is off the table.  In this way, moral statements are implicitly claims of knowledge of the absolute.  In any scenario that could ever occur until the end of time, Thou Shalt Not Kill!, because it will always be the incorrect action to undertake.  It is Wrong.  Making the inverse, not murdering, Right.  Therefore, one who does not murder can be considered Righteous

This is the distinction between two parties disagreeing in regards to preference, and two righteous parties disagreeing about absolute Truth.

 

 

"What Stirner says is a word, a thought, a concept; what he means is no word, no thought, no concept. What he says is not what is meant, and what he means is unsayable." - Max Stirner, Stirner's Critics
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Eric080 replied on Sat, Aug 28 2010 12:33 AM

It seems to me that objective morality is incoherent and non-sensical.  We, as Austrians, should realize (and I think Clatyon established this) that all valuation is subjective.  Values are related between an object/action and its perceived utility, so it is necessarily mind-dependent, not mind-independent (Mackie's Argument from Queerness, basically no value is "inherent" in anything).  This reminds me of a Shakespeare quote:  "Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."  Okay, we've established that value is determined subjectively, now what makes it "morality"?  One of the key classical features of morality is that it applies to everyone everywhere.  If it doesn't do that, then why call it morality?

 

The thing I don't get about ethical subjectivists is that when you reduce ethics to the individual, why not just call them individual preferences?  Of course they could hypothetically be both a preference and moral at the same time, but I see no need for the moral attachment.  The problem is that they still want to hang on to right and wrong.  The thing with moral nihilists is that they are just as nihilistic towards morality as they are with objective taste standards.  They don't deny taste and they don't deny beneficial social behavior, they just deny that one ought to perform a certain social behavior and I tend to agree with that sentiment, since there is no basis in reality for an objective reason to do anything.

 

However, like I said, this doesn't negate valuation and since we all share many of the same values, it's something like morality.  We can still argue about what we as society want in a way that is rational, but if you're looking for that pie-in-the-sky objective morality, you won't find it.  I tend to think that might makes right as well.  If you take psychological egoism on its face (which is another topic altogether) any action we take is inherently the action we want, thus it is to some degree selfish.  So the action we take is dependent on our brain states and physiology, so to tell us that we ought to do something else is a pretty demanding claim.

 

Another point to make is how do we know what is truly right or truly wrong?  There is a looming epistemological issue here.  If we're limited by our perspective and different cultures share many different, ritualistic values, then I don't see how there is a lot of common ground to work with.  Any society to have advanced this far obviously doesn't support killing, lying, etc. so I'm not talking about those.  But I'm talking about the sorts of stuff like caning in Singapore.  The people who enforce that have been conditioned to believe caning is a fair punishment while we in the West view it as somewhat barbaric.  How do you know it is not us who have been "brainwashed"?  Basically morality is just a social control.  Whatever gets a society to not harm itself in the long run will be effective, even if they have differing standards of justice.

 

Even saying all of this, assuming we share equal values, discourse on how to go about actualizing these values does not disappear overnight or anything.  We can still have the debates about government intervention and all of that, just realizing that we are arguing for the maximization of subjective utility for the most members possible (because for whatever reason, that's what we value).  You can still make arguments from the self-ownership axiom because while ownership is also decided subjectively, most people will assume that we own ourselves and that we can work from there.  So Rothbard was onto something, he was just reaching for objectivity.  Of course every Marxist thinks that collectives are fulfilling and moral while libertarians think fending for yourself is.  It's what the individuals want disguised and sugar-coated to make it look like one system is dominant over another and to try to influence you into thinking like they do.  Not that I have a problem with it, it just is what it is.

"And it may be said with strict accuracy, that the taste a man may show for absolute government bears an exact ratio to the contempt he may profess for his countrymen." - de Tocqueville
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Sujoy replied on Sat, Aug 28 2010 2:46 AM

Morality is the attempt to execute a list of DOS and DONTS by an individual for himself at the place of event in which he does not have any direct self-interest. One may borrow some items of that list from others when he doesn't bother to put his own analysis into the matter. One may modify and expand the list based upon his policies which he makes based upon his experiences.

When one is placed into a situation where one or more persons are doing mutual actions, he will perform his action with them based upon his evaluation of what will benefit him more only if he is involved into the situation. There he will just make choice from his preferences. But if he is not involved into it, then doing or not doing any action with them appears to have no ordinal values to him. Morality comes to play in this state of mind of his.

He who does not bother doing any action where he does not have his benefit, will consider morality a nonsense; only preferences will matter to him. He who feels urge (for whatever reason - psycological or any other factor) to participate in a event where he does not have direct benefit of participation or loss of non-participation, will act according to his morality.

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AJ replied on Sat, Aug 28 2010 3:05 AM

1. Objective morality is nonsense. (Usually when people say "morality is nonsense" they are referring to what is more precisely termed objective morality, because of the stubborn tendency for people to want/hope/think that their own subjective moral sense is universal.)

2. Subjective senses of something feeling "right" and "wrong" (i.e., producing certain types of negative or positive physico-emotional reactions) are of course quite real for most people.

3. Morality is important even for those who realize this, because people's sense of right and wrong can be used to persuade them.

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1. Objective morality is nonsense. (Usually when people say "morality is nonsense" they are referring to what is more precisely termed objective morality, because of the stubborn tendency for people to want/hope/think that their own subjective moral sense is universal.)

2. Subjective senses of something feeling "right" and "wrong" (i.e., producing certain types of negative or positive physico-emotional reactions) are of course quite real for most people.

3. Morality is important even for those who realize this,

I hope that clears some things up for those that think the "morals are bogus" crowd dont think morals exist.

In States a fresh law is looked upon as a remedy for evil. Instead of themselves altering what is bad, people begin by demanding a law to alter it. ... In short, a law everywhere and for everything!

~Peter Kropotkin

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MaikU replied on Sat, Aug 28 2010 5:38 AM

Epicurus Ibn Kalhoun:

Some people see Robin Hood as a grand thief, others as a hero to society....

morals/ethics on any kind of individual level are nonsense.  They only start to make sense through society's agreement on them.  You know "consent of the governed" and all that.

Murder isn't wrong just becuase it is.  It is wrong becuase, through a process of trial-and-error, enough individual people have seen it as destructive as to warrant it wrong in their society.  That could change tomorow; see, NAZI Germany, or USSR Russia, or the eradication of Native Americans.

 

So you said almost the same in other words. I'm ok with this. I am also aware, that morality "do not exist" as some divine right/law. It comes from society, sure, or interactions between individuals. Well, that's how I see it. It is a consistent, logical and universal law. If moral theory is very arbitrary (I say "very" because there will always be grey areas, exceptions etc) and/or doesn't apply to all people, then it flawed.

 

"Dude... Roderick Long is the most anarchisty anarchist that has ever anarchisted!" - Evilsceptic

(english is not my native language, sorry for grammar.)

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MaikU replied on Sat, Aug 28 2010 6:10 AM

AJ:

1. Objective morality is nonsense. (Usually when people say "morality is nonsense" they are referring to what is more precisely termed objective morality, because of the stubborn tendency for people to want/hope/think that their own subjective moral sense is universal.)

 

So in other words.. objective truth do not exist, there is impossible to find what is right and wrong action, logic is subjective, science is only "faith" yada yada yada.

"Dude... Roderick Long is the most anarchisty anarchist that has ever anarchisted!" - Evilsceptic

(english is not my native language, sorry for grammar.)

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MaikU replied on Sat, Aug 28 2010 6:16 AM

Jackson LaRose:

MaikU:
Almost nobody denies that

Intrasubjective consensus doth not a truth make.

That's another real big stumbling block I have while attempting to communicate with those who would believe that is the case.

 

 

My point was to show, that this consensus is very important point of morality. If there is no consensus what "amount" is number 2, like someone to whom 2 and 2 equals 5, because to him this 5 is like to us 4. If you get what I mean.

"Dude... Roderick Long is the most anarchisty anarchist that has ever anarchisted!" - Evilsceptic

(english is not my native language, sorry for grammar.)

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MaikU: The point is: If the majority thinks that 3+3=7 (not talking about the meaning of the words, but about the logic), that doesn't make it so. If you take 3 sheeps and add another 3 sheeps, even if a majority thinks that you would have 7, you will still end up with 6 sheeps. Now, the majority wouldn't think that (at least in our time), because it's very easily disprovable, but the point is still that logic is in this sense independent of subjectivity. That doesn't mean that individuals can't get it wrong, of course, but that a "right" and "wrong" exists. But with morality, just as with preferences in general, you cannot make that right and wrong distinction: Even if the majority values 2 apples higher than 1 banana, that doesn't mean that 2 apples are intrinsically more valuable than 1 banana. The same with murder: You prefer murder to non-murder. The majority would agree with you.

 

But that doesn't make it any less subjective; even if the majority agreed that 2 apples are more valuable than 1 banana, that doesn't make it an objective fact (even though it would be reflected in prices of that society, it is still a preference, not a truth and any person may have a different value scale which would of course not be "wrong"), but just a predominant opinion.

 

What you can also derive from that is that notions of morality cannot be extracted from or discovered by a priori reasoning, because they are a matter of preference and therefore depend on the individuals' preferences in the society.

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I. Ryan replied on Sat, Aug 28 2010 7:57 AM

Maiku:

So in other words.. objective truth do not exist, there is impossible to find what is right and wrong action, logic is subjective, science is only "faith" yada yada yada.

Yeah, not really. See my response to you.

If I wrote it more than a few weeks ago, I probably hate it by now.

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MaikU:
I am also aware, that morality "do not exist" as some divine right/law. It comes from society, sure, or interactions between individuals. Well, that's how I see it. It is a consistent, logical and universal law.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present the Humanist:

"Law is not granted by the divine.  Man is capable of grasping Truth, therefore has become the giver of law.

"What Stirner says is a word, a thought, a concept; what he means is no word, no thought, no concept. What he says is not what is meant, and what he means is unsayable." - Max Stirner, Stirner's Critics
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MaikU:
If there is no consensus what "amount" is number 2, like someone to whom 2 and 2 equals 5, because to him this 5 is like to us 4.

The number "2" is merely a symbolic representation of a phenomena.  It must presuppose agreement between users of the Indo-European numeric system as to what that funny squigle represents.

If instead, you are referring to the observation of amounts of items, consider the following scenario.

Two individuals are in a room counting the same set of items.  They compare the results of their observations:

Person #1: Four

Person#2: Five

Given this information, which person is observing the "true" amount of items?  What further information would you require to make a determination?  Would you need to see the amount for yourself?  Perhaps if there were more observers, a clear majority opinion would emerge.  Would that be sufficient to convince you of who was "right"?  Perhaps some sort of scientific experiment could be constructed to observe.  Are these sufficient methods of determining "true" from "false"?

"What Stirner says is a word, a thought, a concept; what he means is no word, no thought, no concept. What he says is not what is meant, and what he means is unsayable." - Max Stirner, Stirner's Critics
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LibertarianfromGermany:
the point is still that logic is in this sense independent of subjectivity

Logic is directly dependent on observation.  Without observation, there is no knowledge.  Without knowledge, there is no reasoning.

"What Stirner says is a word, a thought, a concept; what he means is no word, no thought, no concept. What he says is not what is meant, and what he means is unsayable." - Max Stirner, Stirner's Critics
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For you.  But there are objective truths that exist whether you percieve/know of them or not; gravity, for one.

In States a fresh law is looked upon as a remedy for evil. Instead of themselves altering what is bad, people begin by demanding a law to alter it. ... In short, a law everywhere and for everything!

~Peter Kropotkin

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William replied on Sat, Aug 28 2010 12:08 PM

2. Subjective senses of something feeling "right" and "wrong" (i.e., producing certain types of negative or positive physico-emotional reactions) are of course quite real for most people.

If there is such a thing and it is called an "ethic", it can not be expressed in any formal meaningful way in language.  It is outside the scope of the logic and language world. There can be no ethical propositions. It would at best be a "practiced art" and can not be spoken of.

I can not bring Dvorak's 9th symphony as a proposition to any meaningful discussion in philosophy as it is outside the scope of language. More over language when used as arguments in the aesthetic over such a thing are equally meaningless (people can not say, and bring up unequal propositions of what makes the symphony "good" or "bad"). 

Once again, it may be important, but it is important nonsense.

"I am not an ego along with other egos, but the sole ego: I am unique. Hence my wants too are unique, and my deeds; in short, everything about me is unique" Max Stirner
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Zavoi replied on Sat, Aug 28 2010 12:13 PM

Clayton:
In my view, ethical valuations are a subset of aesthetic valuations (which are a subset of all valuations, obviously).

Gregory Drew:
Ethics are okay and only exist because many people value the same ends such as living, prospering, and so on.

z1235:
Since objective (agent-independent) morals/ethics clearly don't exist, the subjective ones are a mere subset of all possible valuation/preference realms, and I can see how someone would call them "nonsense" in the same way they'd call pizza valuations/preferences nonsense.

Jackson LaRose:
As you stated, ethics are merely statements of preference.

LibertarianfromGermany:
As morals reflect the preferred ends of individuals…

Eric080:
We, as Austrians, should realize (and I think Clatyon established this) that all valuation is subjective.

LibertarianfromGermany:
Even if the majority values 2 apples higher than 1 banana, that doesn't mean that 2 apples are intrinsically more valuable than 1 banana. The same with murder: You prefer murder to non-murder. The majority would agree with you.

Does morality/ethics have to be about valuations or preferences?

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LaRose:
Logic is directly dependent on observation.  Without observation, there is no knowledge.  Without knowledge, there is no reasoning.

Read: "in this sense". I've repeadetly stated that I'm not talking about absolute truths, but about the closest to that possible within the human mind. Objective simply means value-free and therefore valid for logic in all human minds. Mathematical logic is in this sense objective, valuations like prefering a good over another or prefering a certain set of moral actions to another are not.

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