I'll go into more detail about that:
Why would we want to maximize our obedience to Yahweh? The Bible provides an unequivocal answer in both Testaments: if we do, he will reward us (maximize our well being); if we don't, he will punish us (maximize our suffering).
It offers us an answer that works if
we plug in a positive valuation of the reward and/or a negative valuation of the punishment. Those valuations are subjective.
So, your proposed alternative standard reduces to maximizing human well-being. The empirical inquiry turns to questions like, "Does Yahweh actually exist?" "Do we have a valid understanding of his commands?" "Does obedience to him actually maximize human well-being?" and so on.
The empirical inquiry which results from an acceptance of the subjective standard does proceed logically and objectively. Given goals A and B, with A being some definite proportion more or less important than B, the best course of action is objectively X, Y and Z. You claim the standard reduces to whether it maximizes some coherently-defined idea of human well-being? Sure. Everything does. Everything can also reduce to whether it maximizes the average temperature of the Earth, or whether it maximizes the sum-total of human knowledge. Or whether it maximizes the temperature of the rest of the universe relative to Earth (the inverse of the goal mentioned above), or whether it maximizes human ignorance. That we will largely agree on our goals has no bearing on their objectivity.
They are subjective, relative to the deity, since he (or again, to be more precise, the humans who purport to speak for him) can make up any arbitrary set of commands he (they) like. This is no different from you or I asserting a right to just make up any "morality" we like.
You misunderstand me. I am not claiming that they are objectively true. I am saying that they have an objective state:
"X is true of the deity's moral opinions" is an objective assertion, true or false, about the deity's moral opinions.
"X is true of kcrady's moral opinions" is an objective assertion, true or false, about your moral opinions.
"X is true of any other part of physical reality" is an objective assertion, true or false, about whatever part of physical reality is being discussed.
Invalid comparison. "The rest of reality" isn't a person or persons, and its facts don't change arbitrarily according to whim, like the commands of an absolute dictator (human or divine) can.
You are placing the contents of minds into a different category than that of any other part of physical reality. That is supernaturalism. I am treating mind-contents in the same way as I would anything else. They're real. They have a state. It's not a matter of opinion.
These are the sort of questions that are only vexing for philosophers.
And yet you decided to make a statement on one side of the question when you posted in this thread. Your attempt to dismiss my position on the grounds that it is supposedly useless navel-gazing is disingenuous, given your attention to the same topic.
"How do we know we're not all brains in vats?" "Why should I take care of my car and obey traffic laws instead of just driving it off a cliff?" "What if there are five people tied to a train track and the only way I can keep a trolley from running them over is to shove a fat guy onto the tracks in front of the trolley to stop it?" "How do I know you're not just a figment of my imagination?" Fun for ivory-tower debates perhaps, but not much use for navigating through life.Most
things don't need to be understood in order to navigate through life. Hell, most people hold ill-defined religious beliefs without it unduly impacting their navigation through life. Your point here is null.
Most people (I strongly suspect including yourself) have a pretty good general idea of what their well-being consists of, how they would like others to treat them, and why they would prefer to maximize their well-being rather than be tortured, raped, and murdered--even without recourse to a rigorous inquiry into scientific fields like psychology, anthropology, biology, physics, etc..
Naturally. I have values, and I act on them. The difference between us is that I don't pretend that mine are some sort of ultimate truth of the universe.
Who else would you suggest? We are talking about principles of human behavior, after all. Every other species has a set of behaviors adapted to maximize its well-being, why should humans be any different?
I would expect us to behave similarly, yes. As for "is it objectively right for us to do so", the answer is "null". The question is incoherent as stated, without added assumptions. Consider: What is so special about these species-divisions? Back when Neanderthals were still around, was it objectively right to promote what we see as human flourishing alone? Or did they get included? Did it depend on our ability to interbreed? Why the hell does any of this matter in the first place, outside
of what we personally value?
do humans want to maximize their well-being? Is the reason something that critically depends on other human desires, or is it entirely based in fact?
Any humans that sought some other goal, like death, suffering, maximal randomness of behavior, etc. would be at a self-imposed disadvantage relative to well-being maximizers, and would be weeded out by natural selection. Example: the members of the Heaven's Gate cult. The bases of "well-being" as a standard (natural selection, the nature of the human nervous system--pain hurts!--the requirements of human physical, psychological, and societal health, etc.) are facts.
This idea of well-being is a fact. Its adherence by both behaviour and biology is a fact. That it should be sought, morally
, is not. That was my fault for not asking quite the right question. I already know enough about why humans end up valuing the things they do. I meant to ask why they should
I don't think desires/values resolve as "true" or "false," more like "works" or "doesn't work" to maximize their well-being.
Good. So you agree that the argument that the value of "well-being" as a positive thing resolves as "true" is a circular one. "'Promoting X is good' resolves as positive because promoting X is good!" - FYI, this doesn't demonstrate that X is good.
I strongly suspect that you personally do not have a great deal of vexing difficulty with this in your own life. That you do not, upon waking up in the morning, pace back and forth struggling with the choice of whether you'd rather go to work to provide for yourself and your family, or take up Russian roulette as a hobby. I also doubt that, if you were presented a choice between being treated kindly and courteously by others, and having them slowly skin you alive, that you would find the choice to be a mighty philosophical quandary to wrestle with. The reasons for this are all based in empirical facts about your physiology and psychology as a human being, and ultimately rooted in the generalized operating principles of physics.
You're right. I have values. They have a definite objective state, encoded as they are in my brain and the rest of me. They are not objectively correct
, they resolve as correct to me subjectively, and for some - to others - incorrect, subjectively.
I don't find it all that vexing. What I find vexing is the residual attachment others seem to have to having an external value-god, even when the original one didn't offer what it was supposed to, logically.
I haven't read Sam Harris' book yet, but I do think his metaphor of a "moral landscape" with various peaks and valleys of well-being is apt. Yes, there is subjectivity involved in choosing which peak(s) of well-being you might want to pursue. Mozart might prefer success as a composer to success as a farmer, while Wendell Berry might prefer to have his hands in the good earth. Nonetheless, both prefer peaks to valleys. Returning to the analogy of car care, it's a subjective choice whether one wants to drive to San Francisco or Los Angeles, but the contents of the car's maintenance manual and traffic laws still show--objectively--the best principles/behaviors for keeping the car in running order and maximizing its chances of arriving safely.
The best set of principles/behaviours for achieving a particular set of values is an objectively correct combination. The values themselves have never been established to be so, and upon reflection I no longer consider the concept to be coherent.