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Is morality objectively derived from the facts of reality?

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tjfields
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Thenelli01,

 

In post #95 you wrote, “The fact is that there is objective criteria to determine whether an act is murder or self-defense.”

 

I agree that there can be objective criteria to determine whether an act is murder or self-defense. However, the criteria are not objectively derived from the facts of reality. Man has created the definition of ‘murder’; it is a manmade concept. By using the manmade concept of ‘murder’ as a starting point, it can be objectively demonstrated whether the act of killing a man meets the manmade definition murder.

 

When Ayn Rand used the word objective in the context of concept-formation, she didn't mean independent of man's consciousness. That is why she called consciousness an *active* process, which consists of two essentials: differentiation and integration. 

 

We choose what to relate by our ability to choose and to direct our awareness. "Regarding things through an active rearrangement and comparison, regarding things as similar, as members of a group, is * not dictated by reality alone nor consciousness alone, but by a volitionally established relationship between consciousness and existence." That is what Ayn Rand meant as objective.

 

In other words, we choose what to relate, but reality dictates what relationships exist. 

 

As for objective definitions, that was covered in ITOE. 

Edited by thenelli01
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I have no issue with this. It is only the claim that morality is objectively derived from the facts of reality that I question.

Well, you just explained what objective morality means, at least according to what Objectivism means. If you want to live or improve your life, only certain actions and values will enable that, based on what you discover about reality.

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TJ Fields:

 

Merriam-Webster has defined anything objective as: "An object, phenomenon or condition in the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought".

This in contrast with the subjective; "reality as perceived rather than independent of the mind".

This stems directly from Kant's phenomal-noumenal distinction; objects-as-I-see-them versus objects-as-they-actually-are.

 

Let's take a moment to examine this distinction.

 

For example, the Earth appears to be flat from our limited perspective, although we know it's actually round.  So one might call it objectively a sphere but subjectively, for all the little humans that live on it, flat.

But how do we know that it's round?  Well, one might mention the apparent motion of the sun and the changing seasons, and explain how the concept of a "planet" accounts for all of those observations.  But how do we know that the seasons objectively change, apart from our own interpretations of sensations?  Even if one were in a space capsule looking down at Earth, and could literally see its shape, in order to form the proper conclusion one must assume that the image in the window is actually somewhere beyond the window, and is a physical object in its own right, and is the same object which we usually call "the Earth".

Ultimately, if one were to consistently apply that distinction, one would discover that the only "objective" knowledge one can claim are of the sights, sounds, smells and textures one has experienced before. . .

Except that the act of conscious recollection also involves some interpretive element, which makes the past "subjective" as well.

 

So if one took Merriam-Webster's Kantian concept of "objective" and applied it to Rand's claim, you would be right; morality could never be derived from objective facts of any sort- and neither could anything else.

See Solipsism.

---

 

Now, as to your answer to the hypothetical (moving in ascending order of abstraction), you said that the morality of the cop's pending decision would "depend on who is making the moral determination".

Why?  Granted, everyone has a unique cognitive context; nobody else knows everything that I know and vice-versa.  But given all relevant information to that decision, why would one person's moral evaluation differ from another's?

 

That's the root of our confusion, here; the premise that everyone would answer any given question differently.  That's the direction to examine.

 

As for my own definitions:

 

"Consciousness" refers primarily to my own active intellect, and by extension, anything else which can be inferred to function similarly.

"Existence" refers to my own sensations secondarily; the essential referent is whatever can be inferred to cause such sensations.

"Identity" refers primarily to the actual similarities and differences between existents, with the corollary that my own concepts must reflect this.

 

With anything I experience in reality the two primary variables are that I experienced something, and that something else caused that experience.

 

"Objective" should mean observer-abstracted; a fact which holds true regardless of whom examines it or how (which is the goal of all science).

"Normative" should mean observer-integral; a fact which is necessarily derived from whom examines it and how (such as all desires and emotions).

 

"Subjective" is a stolen concept, which I'll discuss more momentarily, and should be expelled as the poison which it is.

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Suppose you were in an airplane, thousands of feet above the ground, and suddenly found yourself without a pilot.

If you wished to survive then you would have to land the plane yourself, which means you would have to learn how to fly it immediately; think on your feet.

You would have to observe your dials and instruments, and notice how they responded to your controls.  This would require you to first observe what they would do without any intervention.

In short, you would have to learn what your instruments would be doing when you weren't looking at them.  And since you couldn't pay attention to everything simultaneously, if you failed to properly deduce this, you would perish.

That's what the concept of observer-omitted reality refers to; the state of things regardless of your attention.  That's the basis of all human knowledge, which is the basis of all human action, from an infant's first steps to an astronaut's ascent.

 

Contrast this with the concept of "subjectivity"; the state of things exclusively from your own perspective, and notice the cognitive consequences of failing to generalize from it.

Now, morality is a normative inquiry which makes it inherently observer-integral; concerned with the state of things in direct relation to you.  But the specific relations involved (good for me or bad for me) necessitate prior conceptualization OF prior evaluation OF prior conceptualization, all the way down to self-evident pleasure and pain (which are generally considered "subjective" experiences).

To say that the moral evaluation of any given choice (such as murder) should depend on a vast amount of context is completely true.  To say that no truly universal evaluation is possible is itself a generalized evaluation. . .

 

Now, Ayn Rand claimed that Objectivist ethics was based on the objective facts of reality.

She didn't claim that these facts were self-evident, and neither did Newton or Einstein.  She only claimed that they were true regardless of which particular observers may ever choose to evaluate them (as did Newton and Einstein).

There are those who disagree, of course.  But the question is not that they disagree, but why; whether their objections are valid.

 

And on that point, I have not heard a single objection to Objectivism which is any more valid than those raised against human evolution.

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tjfields

 

Let's take a little aside which may help with your "chewing" of the problem.

 

 

What do you take to be the difference between

 

1.  A claim that there exists an intrinsic or mystical morality which is a property of reality or super-reality (the supernatural) and imposes real or supernatural duties upon man.

 

2.  A claim that man may discover and follow a set of principles and rules in accordance with his nature and the nature of reality, if he chooses to live.

Edited by StrictlyLogical
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thenelli01,

 

In post #101 you wrote, "We choose what to relate by our ability to choose and to direct our awareness. "Regarding things through an active rearrangement and comparison, regarding things as similar, as members of a group, is * not dictated by reality alone nor consciousness alone, but by a volitionally established relationship between consciousness and existence." That is what Ayn Rand meant as objective.

 

In other words, we choose what to relate, but reality dictates what relationships exist."

 

In post #95 you wrote when talking about the difference between murder and self defense, "So who is right?: the one who corresponds with reality. Reality is the objective standard. If others don't see that your action really was self-defense and sentence you to death for murder, then all that means is that they were wrong. That doesn't make your action immoral just because the consequences ended up negatively affecting your life. Man is not omniscient."

 

These statements implies that 'murder' is a relationship that exists in reality and that man can discover that relationship by an active rearrangement and comparison of things.

 

Is this correct?

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...

These statements implies that 'murder' is a relationship that exists in reality and that man can discover that relationship by an active rearrangement and comparison of things.

 

Is this correct?

 

The concept of murder is derived from reality, and the concept of "murder" requires a consciousness to form it.  

Edited by thenelli01
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thenelli01,

 

In post #108 you wrote, "The concept of murder is derived from reality, and the concept of "murder" requires a consciousness to form it."

 

Can I assume that this means that you are and/or have a consciousness and you form the concept of murder?

 

If so, since as you stated in post #95, "Man is not omniscient," does this mean that you do not know whether or not the concept of murder formed by your consciousness is the concept of murder that is derived from reality?

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thenelli01,

 

In post #108 you wrote, "The concept of murder is derived from reality, and the concept of "murder" requires a consciousness to form it."

 

Can I assume that this means that you are and/or have a consciousness and you form the concept of murder?

 

If so, since as you stated in post #95, "Man is not omniscient," does this mean that you do not know whether or not the concept of murder formed by your consciousness is the concept of murder that is derived from reality?

 

Your unstated premise is that because man is not omniscient, he cannot know anything for sure. 

 

As to your question -- "You know people are alive, you know people die, and you know that other people kill other people." (Credit: Fawkes) That is all experienced in reality.

Murder is a narrower concept or type of killing. Murder is when people kill other people under certain criteria vs. a different type of killing.

 

As to how you know whether or not you formed a concept correctly, you validate it through a process of reduction and integration. It is fairly easy to know whether or not you hold a concept correctly, or not, by introspecting. If you cannot come up with concretes or if you find contradictions, then that is probably a sign that you do not have a full grasp on the concept. [see: Floating Abstractions]

Edited by thenelli01
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thenelli01,

 

In post #110 you wrote, "Your unstated premise is that because man is not omniscient, he cannot know anything for sure."

 

This is not my unstated premise. I know lots of things "for sure." For example, I know "for sure" that if you, me, or any human falls from a 10,000 foot high cliff onto the rocks below with no means of stopping or slowing the decent, you, me, and every human will die. It does not matter how much introspecting I do or how much reduction and integration takes place, the result is the same.

 

You also wrote in post #110, "Murder is a narrower concept or type of killing. Murder is when people kill other people under certain criteria vs. a different type of killing."

 

So if you, using your consciousness and observing reality, formed the concept of 'murder' as X, this concept is objectively derived and is therefore correct. Then through the process of reduction and integration and by introspecting you form a new, or modified, concept of 'murder' as Y, this new, or modified, concept of 'murder' is also objectively derived and is therefore correct.  Is this what you are saying?

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thenelli01,

 

In post #110 you wrote, "Your unstated premise is that because man is not omniscient, he cannot know anything for sure."

 

This is not my unstated premise. I know lots of things "for sure." For example, I know "for sure" that if you, me, or any human falls from a 10,000 foot high cliff onto the rocks below with no means of stopping or slowing the decent, you, me, and every human will die. It does not matter how much introspecting I do or how much reduction and integration takes place, the result is the same.

 

You stated:

"If so, since as you stated in post #95, "Man is not omniscient," does this mean that you do not know whether or not the concept of murder formed by your consciousness is the concept of murder that is derived from reality?"

 

So you apply this rule arbitrarily? Why did you decide to apply the fact that "man is not omniscient" in this context?

 

 

You also wrote in post #110, "Murder is a narrower concept or type of killing. Murder is when people kill other people under certain criteria vs. a different type of killing."

 

So if you, using your consciousness and observing reality, formed the concept of 'murder' as X, this concept is objectively derived and is therefore correct. Then through the process of reduction and integration and by introspecting you form a new, or modified, concept of 'murder' as Y, this new, or modified, concept of 'murder' is also objectively derived and is therefore correct.  Is this what you are saying?

 

To the first hypothetical, it doesn't mean that you formed the concept properly or that it is necessarily objectively derived. When you get to higher level abstractions, most people learn concepts by definition and then relating to reality. So you may have a definition but not fully understand what its referents in reality are exactly. The purpose of reduction is to retrace the logical steps necessary to reform the concept -- tracing back from the lower level concepts in a logical hierarchical structure to the perceptual level. The purpose of integration is to tie it back in to make sure that there are no contradictions with the rest of your knowledge.

 

But, no, it is not possible to form the concept yourself objectively and then modify the concept if there was no change in knowledge. If the first concept was properly formed, and through a process of reduction and integration, your context of knowledge doesn't change, then there would be no reason to modify. If, through a validation process or through learning more relevant information, your context of knowledge expands and you modify the concept, it is possible for for both to be objectively correct.

When you form a concept and define it, you are doing so in a certain context. You are really saying: Based on my present knowledge, this is the proper definition of the concept and this is what it refers to.

 

...but this doesn't apply to learning by definition. The only way to *really* grasp a concept is to reform it. 

Edited by thenelli01
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thenelli01,

 

So you, using your consciousness and observing reality and then using reduction to retrace the logical steps necessary to reform the concept and using integration to tie it back in to make sure that there are no contradictions with the rest of your knowledge, you formed the concept of 'murder' as X, this concept is objectively derived and is therefore correct.

 

Now, when someone else, uses their consciousness and observing reality and then using reduction to retrace the logical steps necessary to reform the concept and using integration to tie it back in to make sure that there are no contradictions with the rest of their knowledge, they formed the concept of 'murder' as Y, this concept is objectively derived and is therefore correct.

 

Since these two objectively derived and correct concepts of 'murder' are different, how do you know which one is right?

 

As for your questions of " So you apply this rule arbitrarily? Why did you decide to apply the fact that "man is not omniscient" in this context?"

 

I do not know what rule I am applying arbitrarily and I was just asking a question which you answered.

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thenelli01,

 

So you, using your consciousness and observing reality and then using reduction to retrace the logical steps necessary to reform the concept and using integration to tie it back in to make sure that there are no contradictions with the rest of your knowledge, you formed the concept of 'murder' as X, this concept is objectively derived and is therefore correct.

 

Now, when someone else, uses their consciousness and observing reality and then using reduction to retrace the logical steps necessary to reform the concept and using integration to tie it back in to make sure that there are no contradictions with the rest of their knowledge, they formed the concept of 'murder' as Y, this concept is objectively derived and is therefore correct.

 

Since these two objectively derived and correct concepts of 'murder' are different, how do you know which one is right?

 

How are they different, can you make it more concrete?

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*Objective* derivation from all AVAILABLE knowledge does not automatically ensure accuracy; there is always the possibility of a "black swan" discovery.

* [Discarding Kant's concept of Objectivity now in favor of Rand's, which is perfectly functional]

Example: For an ancient Sumerian, the concept referring to the Earth would objectively (by all data available to him) but not accurately include "flatness".

So for two people to objectively form concepts X and Y, about the same referent, they must necessarily hold conceptual contexts X and Y. One must know something more than the other and at least one of them must be wrong.

The accurate definition is the one which reflects the actual facts of reality.

While this does mean that anyone 'could' speculatively be wrong about almost anything, speculation cannot be given equal status with empirical support. That's why we have Rand's concept of Objectivity; to recognize what may constitute as an 'educatedly-guessed truth'.

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thenelli01,

 

You asked in post #114, “How are they different, can you make it more concrete?”

 

They are different because one is X and the other is Y. But if you wish to be more specific, for sake of example we will say that the two concepts are the exact opposite of each other.

 

I'm not understanding. Are you saying that they are using the word "murder" to denote two different concepts...

 

or... Are you saying that it is the same concept, just formed differently?

 

If it is the latter, I am gonna need specifics -- what facts of reality did they observe, what method of concept formation did they use, what did the process of validation look like, and how EXACTLY are they different? 

Edited by thenelli01
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thenelli01,

 

In post #119 you wrote, “If it is the latter, I am gonna need specifics -- what facts of reality did they observe, what method of concept formation did they use, what did the process of validation look like, and how EXACTLY are they different?”

 

I am not asking you for a specific rundown on or a specific decision about which of two concepts of murder is the correct one. I am asking a general question about how you determine which of two, or more, concepts (not using the same word to denote two different concepts) is the correct one.

 

If two people have formed a concept (by using their consciousness and observing reality and then using reduction to retrace the logical steps necessary to reform the concept and using integration to tie it back in to make sure that there are no contradictions with the rest of their knowledge) and these concepts are not the same (not using the same word to denote two different concepts), how does one know which one is right?

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thenelli01,

 

In post #119 you wrote, “If it is the latter, I am gonna need specifics -- what facts of reality did they observe, what method of concept formation did they use, what did the process of validation look like, and how EXACTLY are they different?”

 

I am not asking you for a specific rundown on or a specific decision about which of two concepts of murder is the correct one. I am asking a general question about how you determine which of two, or more, concepts (not using the same word to denote two different concepts) is the correct one.

 

If two people have formed a concept (by using their consciousness and observing reality and then using reduction to retrace the logical steps necessary to reform the concept and using integration to tie it back in to make sure that there are no contradictions with the rest of their knowledge) and these concepts are not the same (not using the same word to denote two different concepts), how does one know which one is right?

 

I'm not going to answer that question without understanding exactly what you are referring to. How are the concepts different? - do they have different definitions? What are the definitions of each? And what circumstances led to the difference?

 

If you ask an abstract question like this, you should be able to give a concrete example.

Edited by thenelli01
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StrictlyLogical;

 

I have never claimed that there is an intrinsic or mystical morality which is a property of reality or super-reality (the supernatural) and imposes real or supernatural duties upon man, nor do I think that there is one.

 

I do think that man may discover and follow a set of principles and rules in accordance with his nature and the nature of reality, if he chooses to live.

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At last! =D

"Murder" refers to the deliberate destruction of any peaceful human being.

The key words to analyze and reduce from there are 'deliberate', 'peaceful' and 'human'.

"Peaceful" and "destruction" refer to the same action, but negate each other; they're logical opposites. The action they refer to is the "initiation of force" (or violence), which means to interact with a rational human being the same way you interact with wild animals.

"Peaceful human" refers to any conscious being, with the specification that they are BEHAVING consciously (this trait applies to all who respect individual rights, and none who don't).

"Deliberate" is also a reference to consciousness but its extension is introspective; it means that situation X was hypothesized in advance BY a consciousness, evaluated and selectively actuated.

So "murder" is a certain arrangement of concepts which reduce to "the initiation of force," "human," "reason [behaving consciously]" and "choice", approximately. If you'd like to spend some more time on it I'd gladly provide a more thorough dissection.

But the idea is that if we keep breaking those down, we'll eventually arrive at concepts of literal, physical objects, at which point we can empirically judge the overarching abstraction. =]

*Note that "choice" is already reduced as far as it can go. It can be rotated around into "value" and "alternatives" but it doesn't break into anything smaller; it's implicit in every conscious thought and action.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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Oh, and the valuative aspect of "murder" connotes that it's unhealthy, shameful, etc; the normative aspect stems from how the overall concept fits into the ultimate value.

We can objectively evaluate this by reducing it to its smallest possible parts and carefully checking their accuracy, to ensure that the informative side of the concept is accurate, and then reintroducing the ultimate value to see how it REALLY relates to 'murder'.

---

Ultimately, the facts which determine a proper concept of "murder" include the nature and requirements of any human being, our fundamental method of interacting with reality, among literally hundreds of miniscule and discrete facts. The one to focus on (the central basis of "rights") is a generalization, from observations of our social interactions, of the optimal way for any group of conscious beings to coexist- and the consequences of failing to do so.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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