MarbitChow wrote:Ominous wrote:If you couldn't tell, I'm a moral relativist/subjectivist. Any attempt to argue for an objective, absolute moral system is laughable to me, so, if you hold a differing world view, we might as well stop now, as we're not going to be convincing one another of anything.

In that case, you might be interested in this:

Science can answer moral questions.

Harris makes a fairly basic mistake; he doesn't pay enough attention to Hume's is-ought divide. Admittedly, "pain is bad" is a pretty simple is-ought bridge; nonetheless, technically it's introducing a premise without justification from philosophical priors. He confuses the fact that science can infer what IS the common element of all human "ought" assessments (

with the same constraints as on any other IS inference), but presumes it follows we OUGHT to use that as the primary bridge across the "is-ought" divide. (

He also neglects to consider whether his chosen algorithm is an exact expression or merely an approximation, and whether it might be a particular case of a more general problem; but those problems are largely irrelevant here.)

Essentially, any manner of morality (objective or relative) is an ordering relationship over a set of choices; generally a

poset, although utilitarian economists and economic utilitarians often prefer restricting it to a

linear ordering and to exclude infinite ordinal magnitudes (

making the math simpler than I bother), and there are some some weird philosophers who don't mind having A>B>C>A cycles (

which I consider bullshit, and will ignore). Given the usual tools of set theory, showing the abstract existence of orderings is mathematically trivial. (

Relationships from C to C can be expressed as membership as a subset of C×C, the existence of which subset can be shown by application of the Axiom of Power Set (twice) to C; relations that are reflexive, antisymmetric, and transitive are posets; the set of posets can be shown non-empty for C≠Ø by the example of the relation where A≥B if A=B, and A||B if A≠B.) However, there is no basis from prior is-premises for indicating which one of these posets (or, more exactly, which general means of constructing a particular poset {≥,

C} from a set

C) must be the one referred to.

Contrariwise, once an definition is given for what is order relationship is the word "moral" refers to, it becomes objective and absolute. However, the use in English is ambiguous (deontological, consequential, theological, virtue, et cetera). This difficulty, however, is artificially correctable via an axiomatic definition. Once you have defined a bridge from is-to-ought, it is possible to make further inferences of "ought"; however, if a different axiomatic definition is used, a different sense of "ought" may result.

The differences resulting, however, do not make the resulting inferences about morality non-objective any more than the differences between Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry make all geometry non-objective. It's merely important to be clear at the linguistic/semantic level.