Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Are ethics Subjective or Objective?

Right folks. Thats it! The intellectuals have done it again. This is the big MAMA! of all arguements in our stupid intellectual society of today regarding the field of ethics.
Often it is heard by these pomo-wanking lefties, these infantile subjectivist scum that ethics are subjective and whimsical. An interesting debate on will put more light on the issue.

Here it goes: The following is an example of the attack on the use of objective scientific thought on studying behaviour, ethics, politics, religion, esthetics etc etc....

PhD philosopher Richard Goorde agrees and quotes:

The first firebrand is lobbed into the audience by Edward Slingerland, an expert on ancient Chinese thought and human cognition at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. "Religion is not going away," he announced. Even those of us who fancy ourselves rationalists and scientists, he said, rely on moral values - a set of distinctly unscientific beliefs.

Where, for instance, does our conviction that human rights are universal come from? "Humans' rights to me are as mysterious as the holy trinity," he told the audience at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. "You can't do a CT scan to show where humans' rights are, you can't cut someone open and show us their human rights," he pointed out. "It's not an empirical thing, it's just something we strongly believe. It's a purely metaphysical entity."
New Scientist, 10 November 2007.

James Vallient a man with commonsense refutes:

With all due respect to Hume, values are not a species of mythological beast, arbitrary, whimsical or some kind of religious invention. They are a fact about life itself.

"Good" is a teleological concept. It implies an answer to the questions: "Good to whom and for what?"

Teleology is a phenomenon of biology: since only a living being acts in order to survive, only to such a being can something be "good for" it or "bad for" it. As all of our observations show, life is value-pursuit and only living things pursue values. A plant will act to reach the sunlight, but, if it cannot, it will die. For it, sunlight is good -- failing to reach it is bad. Life is the ultimate end of all of its value-pursuing, the only standard by which we can evaluate what is "good" or "bad" for the plant.
The same is true for people -- but only humans can and must choose the values they will pursue. We can act perversely -- in opposition to our health and life. We must select our values carefully. That's why only human beings have or need ethics.

It might be helpful to add something that was only before implicit. Rand believed that most ethical thinking started "in the middle." She believed that the question "What are the values that we should pursue?" could not be answered without first answering the questions, "What are values -- and why do we need values at all?"

Early on, I had written:

"If a value is the object of my action -- something I act to obtain or keep -- then they are very real, indeed. Every living organism I have ever observed pursues certain ends. Survival requires this. Even you [Richard Goode] have goals, I suspect.

"For human beings, who can and must choose the values they pursue, the only question is: are the values I am pursuing actually going to achieve my survival, health and prosperity. Humans, unfortunately, can act, and have acted, self-destructively.

"At the physical level, something is either nutritious for me to eat or it is not. It may even be poison. My nature dictates the range of healthy values open to me. IF I want to live, I must eat within this range of items. Period.

"Thus it is for all values.

"The 'good' is an aspect of reality in relation to human survival and well-being.

"My well-being cannot be achieved arbitrarily. As a human being, I must discover those principles, not just of proper nutrition, but of proper living in general.

"A wildfire in my neighborhood is bad thing by this standard. Running from one, if it got too close, would be a good thing by this standard. Such an evaluation is a purely factual one. IF I want to live, condition X is bad, action Y is good.

"The fact that I am alive and that my life has certain (very empirical) conditions attached to its continuation and prosperity is what makes this relationship a perfectly objective one.

"For example, I have already alluded to the virtue of rationality. As a human being, this is my most basic tool of survival. As such, let me suggest, its exercise is my most basic virtue.

"This relationship to reality exists for all objective virtues. There is only price that can buy the values of credibility and trust -- in reality -- and that is honesty. So, too, a life of initiating violence is dangerous and self-defeating and unproductive. Etc.

"That Hitler was evil is not subjective at all. It is as OBJECTIVE as math."

You questioned whether even cabbages pursued values. I answered:

"Not consciously, of course, Richard, but all living organisms pursue their values. Plants pursue sunlight through phototropism, absorb the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, etc. They do act in order to survive. Even a modest single-cell organism is a complex machine of value-pursuit, with an entire architecture for survival, thriving, and reproduction. In mobile animals, this pursuit has the added help of consciousness (indeed, that's the function of consciousness). In humans, this value-pursuit becomes self-conscious, a deliberate purpose. That is why only humans, who consciously select the values they pursue, have or need a science of ethics.

"Life can be defined as just that: the process of self-generated, self-sustaining activity."

I also wrote:

"Value-pursuit is simply a fact about living organisms. It makes life possible. The relationship of my subjective values to my actual survival is an objective one. Since this is ~ why ~ living organisms pursue values in the first place, this is what makes them objective or not. If one were to pursue the subjective values of, say, Nazism, this relationship between fact and value would be otherwise."

It is a matter of fact that Nazism (or poison) is bad for my survival and, indeed, for all human life. It is a matter of fact (see below) that freedom is good for my survival and, indeed, for all human life.

My objective values are the necessary (and very real and empirically determined) requirements and conditions of my life.

Thus, under any given set of circumstances, and assuming it has a choice of actions, what a living being is determines what it ought to do.


Kasper said...

Objectivity is both a metaphysical and an epistemological concept. It pertains to the relationship of consciousness to existence. Metaphysically, it is the recognition of the fact that reality exists independent of any perceiver’s consciousness. Epistemologically, it is the recognition of the fact that a perceiver’s (man’s) consciousness must acquire knowledge of reality by certain means (reason) in accordance with certain rules (logic). This means that although reality is immutable and, in any given context, only one answer is true, the truth is not automatically available to a human consciousness and can be obtained only by a certain mental process which is required of every man who seeks knowledge—that there is no substitute for this process, no escape from the responsibility for it, no shortcuts, no special revelations to privileged observers—and that there can be no such thing as a final “authority” in matters pertaining to human knowledge. Metaphysically, the only authority is reality; epistemologically—one’s own mind. The first is the ultimate arbiter of the second.

The concept of objectivity contains the reason why the question “Who decides what is right or wrong?” is wrong. Nobody “decides.” Nature does not decide—it merely is; man does not decide, in issues of knowledge, he merely observes that which is. When it comes to applying his knowledge, man decides what he chooses to do, according to what he has learned, remembering that the basic principle of rational action in all aspects of human existence, is: “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.” This means that man does not create reality and can achieve his values only by making his decisions consonant with the facts of reality.

Please note that to be objective does not mean "set in concrete".

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