OK, so you believe there's no objective difference between "harm" and "well being." Fine. Don't ever become a doctor.
Why not? No, seriously, why not? I can't for the life of me figure out what difference it makes in practice, unless my subjective idea of "harm" diverges wildly from that of society at large.
Do you believe there's an objective difference between "harm" and "well-being" or not? Your footnote implies that you do think there's an objective difference, at least disagree with the idea that you believe there's no objective difference. But then you go on to argue that the belief that there is no objective difference wouldn't be a problem for a doctor as long as their idea of "harm" is in agreement with that of society at large. So, if "society at large" believes that Western medicine is harmful (OMG, SCARY CHEMICALS!) and all ailments ought to be treated with homeopathy and "colon cleansing," do you think that would make those treatments actually work
? There was a time when "society at large" thought ailments could be treated by balancing the humors and bleeding people with leeches. How big of a majority would it take to make bleeding with leeches the new proper medical treatment for anemia?
I guess I'm not getting what a poll of the subjective beliefs of "society at large" has to do with the efficacy of medical treatments, i.e., whether a doctor is causing "harm" or healing ("well-being") with the treatments they provide. I think that if the doctor does not understand that there is such a thing as actual, healthy functioning of the human body, in contrast to actions/treatments that actually cause harm to the human body, they're not in a position to diagnose and treat ailments.
And if their method is to take a poll of "society at large" to find out what their subjective opinions on the proper treatment of cardiac arrhythmia or brain tumors is, I'd have to say that doctor's a quack. Since you seem to think (or at least you'll pretend to think, for the sake of debate) that the subjective views of "society at large" even matter in this context, then I stand by my statement that you should not be a doctor. I'd say the same thing about a pilot who thought that the proper way to fly an airliner was to poll the passengers for their subjective views. Of course, you'll say I'm "mis-representing" your views, without bothering to explain your views. When you make arguments like this, it's very easy, for me at least, to get a wrong idea of what your views are, if I am in this case. If you don't actually think that the subjective views of "society at large" have anything to do with what does, or does not cause "harm," then you shouldn't argue as if you do.
Further, this is a fallacious appeal on your part, and you know it. Casting aspersions on another's character in lieu of a reasoned argument is old hat.
I'm not casting aspersions on your character. Many of my arguments rely on you being a decent person. I'm just saying that if you really, actually don't think there is a difference, in reality
between "harm" and "well-being," then you would be a very poor doctor. You might be able to get along for awhile by peeking over the shoulders of "society at large," (most voters would probably think that emptying a person's body of all blood would constitute "harm" to that person, so you'd avoid doing it), but there's always the chance that "society at large" could vote wrong
. There's a reason doctors go to medical school instead of hiring pollsters.
Yet somehow I get the sneaking suspicion that when it comes to how you live your life, you don't actually act on that belief.
And those atheists who rescinded their Christian beliefs weren't really Christians to begin with.
Apple, meet orange. I was not saying that if you changed
your beliefs about moral subjectivity to something else, that your original belief in moral subjectivity was not genuine. I was saying that the belief you hold on the level of profession does not appear to hold on the level of action, when you act
on your moral beliefs (specifically, when confronted with other moral claims you firmly reject, i.e, acting as if your beliefs are in some way more valid than theirs). If someone claimed to be a Christian, while worshiping Zeus in his temple every Sunday instead of going to church, I think it would be legitimate to question their claim to be a Christian.
>snip<It doesn't make much of a difference to my actions in the real world. It's just a different understanding of my own values, and of what justifies action from a personal perspective. It doesn't end up being different, in most respects, from the logically incoherent "objective morality" meta-ethical viewpoint, except that it doesn't inhibit understanding of others' values in the same way.
I never said I was a normative relativist. In fact, I distinctly recall denouncing normative relativism, either in that thread or in one of our PMs at the time. It is a self-contradictory meta-ethical position. I would denounce such a person [like a Nazi or a fundamentalist Muslim --KC]on my own social authority. Which is all I can speak from. Hopefully others would do the same. Otherwise, objective morality or not, I would have no influence.
I snipped a few things there to try (and probably still fail) to keep things somewhat brief. So you would be able to denounce certain types of actions and/or moral philosophies as wrong (or even "evil," perhaps?) on the basis of your own personal judgment and social authority. Within the context of your philosophy, do you have any way to make an argument that your personal judgment is better than theirs on the subject? Would you have any basis for moral outrage? Can I assume that you would not say something along the lines of "I think my judgment is better because I judge it to be better" (which would be circular)?
Unless I could show that their values contradict each other, which is quite likely.
That assumes a valuation of logical consistency, which is also subjective, right? You could write a brilliant essay demonstrating the logical contradictions in their position, and they could just say, "Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. The ideas you see as 'contradictory' in my morality are like two pillars that rise into the clouds, and somewhere up there, God puts a roof on it."
Then we're back to the issue of why your subjective judgment ought to carry any more weight than theirs.
>snip<Your claim is wrong because under a coherent subjective-morality meta-ethic, personal values - from the perspective of the person in question - justify judgment and action in a very similar way to the way in which the incoherent-on-closer-inspection "objective value" concept works for you. Moral judgments only contradict a subjective-morality meta-ethic when one adopts the premises of an objective-morality meta-ethic. Which is entirely unsurprising.
Your anticipations are based in a flawed understanding about how a subjective-morality paradigm can work, as you've demonstrated above. Of course you'll fail to accurately anticipate my responses based on it.
OK, then I'm probably misunderstanding what you mean by "subjective." I understand the term to refer to inner personal experiences, feelings, etc. that may feel very "true" or "right" to the person having them, but have no basis or validity in external reality. For example, a person can have an experience of alien abduction that feels very real to them, so that they become convinced that it is
real. They come on to a site like this and try to persuade us that their abductor-aliens are real, and people here would start saying things along the lines of, "Do you have any evidence? Anyone else see the saucer? Were you able to scratch an alien with your fingernails and collect forensic evidence? No? Then all you've got is a subjective experience. And BTW, "sleep paralysis" and "hypnogogic dreaming." So, not matter how real the UFO abductee feels their experience is, or how real a person experiencing an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary feels that is, they have no basis for their claims in external reality. They would not be able to persuade each other, or scientific-minded skeptics. Do you think that morality is "subjective" in this sense?
Now, there might be a situation in which a thousand people saw (what they believed to be) a flying saucer. We might call an event like this inter
-subjective. They still have no pieces of the alleged craft or any physical evidence, but people here would probably agree that they saw something
. They may be wrong about what it actually was, but there was some object in external reality (not in their heads) that they saw. Perhaps different groups among this thousand people might have different opinions--some might think it was a flying saucer, some might think it was an angel, some might think it was a military flare drop or swamp gas. These interpretations are all subjective. However, there is an element of external reality involved, and it would be possible, at least in principle, for there to be facts that make one of the groups most likely to be right
We could say that science is subjective. When a person looks at the readout of a scientific instrument or observes the results of an experiment, that's a subjective experience. If multiple scientists repeat the experiment, their observations of its results are also subjective. It's subjectivity all the way down. Yet, I think we would agree that there is an objective, external reality, and that through scientific methodology the scientists can converge on an ever-more-accurate understanding of that reality, even though their understanding is still subjective. Would you say that your concept of moral subjectivism is closer to this?
For example, in the previous thread, you brought up the question of whether it was OK to exterminate Neandertals as if that represented a genuine quandary for my position.
No. I did not. I brought it up as a means to question the importance of species-boundaries that you'd cited:
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?
Apparently, the ability to breed and produce reproductively viable offspring is a critical moral divide for you. My point in bringing up neanderthals was to probe this concept, to see if it holds up. Instead of addressing this, you went all Godwin on my ass.
No, my concept has to do with what is, or is not "good" (or "bad") for an entity based on the facts of its nature. A bullet, or a rapist, is just as "bad" for a Neandertal as for one of us. Now that I think I see where you're going, hopefully I can offer a better example. Let's say we encountered a race of intelligent methane-breathing cephalopods living in Jupiter's atmosphere. These beings mate like black widow spiders--the female kills and eats the male after fertilization, and uses his flesh to fill the nutrient sacs of her eggs. Each successful mating produces thousands of offspring, and when they hatch, the mother stands by and watches while they attack and eat one another, until only a few are left. If a female tries to spare her husband, he dies anyway, and then her children do as well, because their eggs' nutrient sacs are empty. If she tries to keep her children from eating each other, she ends up with a horde she cannot feed or educate that overruns everyone else's family, and if a society tries this, they rapidly outgrow their resource base, and all starve. Could we morally criticize these aliens for killing their males after mating and letting their children eat each other? I think I would have to say 'no,' and also that they could not morally criticize us for not killing males after sex and doing our best to raise all of our children to adulthood. In the same way, we could not prescribe oxygen treatment to a cephalopod who was having difficulty breathing, and they could not prescribe pure methane for a human with asthma.
In that sense, morality would be subjective (or "inter-subjective") to each species, since the Cosmos would not adjudicate between our species and theirs. But that doesn't mean there are no facts upon which the different moralities (or methods of treatment for breathing difficulty) are based.
However, the moral question becomes tougher if one or both species has highly sophisticated genetic engineering, so that the aliens could be made more like humans, or vice versa. If a human turned themselves into one of the aliens (presumably female!) to live among the alien society, would that be moral or immoral?
Is that the sort of argument you were trying to make?