Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Isn't morality subjective?

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

This is a pretty basic question.

So I got in way over my head and while talking with someone I said values and morality are objective. He of course claimed that they are subjective, but I told him values are both dependent on reality and as a relationship between the value judge and that which is judged. Now he claims this in fact means values are subjective since subjective means particular to a certain person (personal. which doesn't imply dropping the context). I'm kind of confused on where to go from here to clearly make my point.

Can anyone help me?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Can anyone help me?

At each point in the conversation, you have to reevaluate how far you want to continue.

But your next question for him would be: by what means does each individual make his value-judgements?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is a pretty basic question.

So I got in way over my head and while talking with someone I said values and morality are objective. He of course claimed that they are subjective, but I told him values are both dependent on reality and as a relationship between the value judge and that which is judged. Now he claims this in fact means values are subjective since subjective means particular to a certain person (personal. which doesn't imply dropping the context). I'm kind of confused on where to go from here to clearly make my point.

Can anyone help me?

Just because different people may choose to do different things in a moral situation doesn't mean one of them was wrong, or that each person's choice is subjective. Both people can be in the same situation and decide what is in their best interests and do different things. It just means that they have different circumstances, or operate in different contexts. Hence, ethics is personal (in that valuing presupposes a valuer), but not subjective (in the sense that you can choose options which make your life better as opposed to worse).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just because different people may choose to do different things in a moral situation doesn't mean one of them was wrong, or that each person's choice is subjective.  Both people can be in the same situation and decide what is in their best interests and do different things.  It just means that they have different circumstances, or operate in different contexts.  Hence, ethics is personal (in that valuing presupposes a valuer), but not subjective (in the sense that you can choose options which make your life better as opposed to worse).

Well, I was going to respond to the original post and say that the personal is not the subjective, but I see Nate T said it pretty well.

What makes something subjective is not whether it is based on your own individual circumstances, preferences or talents, any more than your shoe size is subjective because it's for your foot and not someone else's. Subjectivity results from following your feelings over a non-contradictory method based on the facts of reality. It's important to remember, too, that facts about your consciousness are just as much facts of reality as the value of pi, even if they are not directly observed by anyone but you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Now he claims this in fact means values are subjective since subjective means particular to a certain person (personal. which doesn't imply dropping the context). I'm kind of confused on where to go from here to clearly make my point.

Suggestion: Buy a single-volume dictionary of philosophy. My favorite one, for my special purposes, is W. L. Reese, Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion. In it you can look up terms as other philosophizers use them. You may be amazed at the range of meanings throughout the history of philosophy.

For example, Reese offers four basic meanings of "subjectivism" -- one each for metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and esthetics.

Essentializing from my very limited readings in history of philosophy, here is what I infer "subjective" usually means: Pertaining to the subject (the mind) as opposed to "objective," which means pertaining to objects independent of the mind. In this use, "subjective" is usually an epistemological term but with implications for the other branches. However, in this use, "objective" is a strictly metaphysical idea.

Ayn Rand rejects those uses of the terms. See "Objectivity" and "Subjectivism" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon, as a start.

Inevitably, discussions between Objectivists and those who follow other philosophies will experience clashing contexts. I learned the phrase "clashing contexts" from Dr. Peikoff. At a conference in Virginia many years ago, he addressed the problem Objectivists have in understanding other philosophies.

Clashing contexts arise when an Objectivist tries to maintain his own philosophy as context while simultaneously trying to fully -- that is, contextually -- understand another philosophy, such as Plato's. The only solution -- to keep the motor of the mind from locking up -- is to consciously set aside one's own context for the moment, and try to be a Platonist. It works. I know from experience.

Knowing these things won't prevent terminology clashes, but it will enable you to work through them -- if you really need to talk to such people.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Now he claims this in fact means values are subjective since subjective means particular to a certain person
Rational values are objective because using only reason, a given set of facts leads to one conclusion. Where these guys get confuse is that facts are not really "given", so I may kow things you don't or vice versa, or, there may be facts about me (e.g. my hearing, color vision etc.) that are very different from analogous facts about you, which fully justifies certain life decisions that I have made that would be very wrong for you.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for all of the input! I definitly have a better grasp on the subject, although I still have a lot of thinking to do.

Burgess, I will definitly be purchasing that book. It sounds great.

Anyways, I simply walked away from the discussion. He was extremely sarcastic and obviously had no desire to actually engage in a conversation. Being a full time student and having a full time job (while attempting to learn more and more about Objectivism) I don't have the time or effort to deal with people like him.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Burgess, I will definitly be purchasing that book. It sounds great.

Keep in mind the qualification I added. I picked the Reese book out of about a half dozen candidates because I am interested in religion (east and west) as much as philosophy, for professional reasons. If you want a dictionary of Western philosophy only, they you should examine other dictionaries of philosophy as possibilities. You might even ask in OO for recommendations.

However, the Reese book is the best for a wide range of questions that arise from talking to religious as well as philosophical people, which is why I recommend it. That sounds like the best approach for you. It is a book you can expect to use for decades.

Anyways, I simply walked away from the discussion. He was extremely sarcastic and obviously had no desire to actually engage in a conversation. Being a full time student and having a full time job (while attempting to learn more and more about Objectivism) I don't have the time or effort to deal with people like him.

Good for you! That is the virtue of selfishness applied to real life.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Andrew, Does this persson think that values are subjective but other observations are objective? Is this the type of person who doubts whether the chair they sit in exists? If no, then you're already halfway home. If yes, you've got serious problems.

Other than what has been mentioned above, one way to tackle this is to play devils advocate and ask "how do you know that picture exists"? You take them in steps from the validation of their senses to the validity of reason. Thence, to the validity of reasoned morality.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is a pretty basic question.

So I got in way over my head and while talking with someone I said values and morality are objective. He of course claimed that they are subjective, but I told him values are both dependent on reality and as a relationship between the value judge and that which is judged. Now he claims this in fact means values are subjective since subjective means particular to a certain person (personal. which doesn't imply dropping the context). I'm kind of confused on where to go from here to clearly make my point.

Can anyone help me?

Why would you say "values and morality are objective" without knowing why that

is a fact, and saying at the same time WHY it is so? If it is in fact a fact. :)

That is the basis of your trouble.

What values were being discussed? What did the parties mean by "morality"?

The goal is not to beat someone over the head with your superior knowledge, or

in this case A superior knowledge, but to find out what they mean and show them

where what they say is not, in reality, what they rationally mean.

One can't rationally say what one irrationally means. But sometimes people

irrationally say what they rationally mean.

In other words: I suspect that your opponent simply meant that "because

individuals CAN choose their own values and morals, rationally or not, then all

values and morals, since I don't take the responsibility of judging the objective

value of any set of values and morals, are subjective."

..Where "subjecive" means: "I refuse to make a value judgement about this

because I'm not worthy to do so."

-Iakeo

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...