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Thread: Non-theistic Moral Realism

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    tWebber mattdamore's Avatar
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    Non-theistic Moral Realism

    I've been thinking of non-theistic moral realism (NMN) for a while and I was wondering what everyone thought of it.

    NMN: There are objective moral values and duties. The values supervene on intrinsically valuable non-normative properties, and the intrinsically valuable non-normative properties make or cause normative objective values to be. The intrinsically valuable non-normative properties also serve as reasons for action, which serve as the action-guiding principles grounding duties. The duties are objective because the reasons are objective; and the reasons are objective because the intrinsically valuable non-normative properties are objective.

    NMN admits the existence of brute moral facts and grounds it in the primitive "making-relation" subsisting between the non-normative properties and the normative properties of the values upon which they supervene. The theist is wont to ask about the metaphysical grounding of the non-normative properties themselves. But the non-theist protests that this explanation-expectation is unnecessary because the brute fact of the "making-relation" is sufficient for the grounding. Any objection, they say, lodged against its being a brute fact could equally apply to God's nature/commands.

    This is a heavily summarized view from a philosopher from DePauw University called Erik Wielenberg.

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    tWebber shunyadragon's Avatar
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    I believe we have Moral Realism (what ever that is?) regardless of whether it is Theist or Non-Theist. The nature of human existence in terms of Consciousness, Will, Morality and ethics simply exists. Other arguments aside concerning determinism or compatibilism, or libertarian free will none satisfy the question. We simply have a Will and is not necessarily free.
    Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
    Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

    go with the flow the river knows . . .

    Frank

    I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

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    tWebber mattdamore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shunyadragon View Post
    I believe we have Moral Realism (what ever that is?) regardless of whether it is Theist or Non-Theist. The nature of human existence in terms of Consciousness, Will, Morality and ethics simply exists. Other arguments aside concerning determinism or compatibilism, or libertarian free will none satisfy the question. We simply have a Will and is not necessarily free.
    Hey Shunyadragon,

    I appreciate your perspective. I do want to discuss the proposition,

    1. Non-theistic moral realism is the case

    whether or not the proposition,

    2. Theistic moral realism is the case.

    is the case.

    This is just in terms of the focus of the thread.

    You point out four elements of human existence:

    3. There is consciousness.
    4. There is will.
    5. There is morality.
    6. There is ethics.

    I'm assuming you're implying that these four elements entail moral realism. Non-theistic moral realists might broaden 3 and 4 by subsuming it under the heading of "cognitive faculties". I'm not sure that moral relativists would endorse 5 and 6 as implying moral realism, since moral relativism is an ethical system used to understand relative morality.

    I'm not sure what the relevance of the free-will debate has to do with moral realism, theistic or otherwise. But you admit that in affirming 4, you're affirming something relevant to 1 or 2. I'm not sure what it is, but if there is something relevant to 1 or 2, please confine its relevance to 1, as that is what I'd like the focus of the thread to be.
    Last edited by mattdamore; 02-12-2017 at 11:40 PM.

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    tWebber seer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattdamore View Post
    I've been thinking of non-theistic moral realism (NMN) for a while and I was wondering what everyone thought of it.

    NMN: There are objective moral values and duties. The values supervene on intrinsically valuable non-normative properties, and the intrinsically valuable non-normative properties make or cause normative objective values to be. The intrinsically valuable non-normative properties also serve as reasons for action, which serve as the action-guiding principles grounding duties. The duties are objective because the reasons are objective; and the reasons are objective because the intrinsically valuable non-normative properties are objective.

    NMN admits the existence of brute moral facts and grounds it in the primitive "making-relation" subsisting between the non-normative properties and the normative properties of the values upon which they supervene. The theist is wont to ask about the metaphysical grounding of the non-normative properties themselves. But the non-theist protests that this explanation-expectation is unnecessary because the brute fact of the "making-relation" is sufficient for the grounding. Any objection, they say, lodged against its being a brute fact could equally apply to God's nature/commands.

    This is a heavily summarized view from a philosopher from DePauw University called Erik Wielenberg.
    If these non-theistic objective moral values/duties exist I never understood what power or authority they have. If we ignore or violate them what happens?
    “The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.” C.S. Lewis

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    tWebber mattdamore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    If these non-theistic objective moral values/duties exist I never understood what power or authority they have. If we ignore or violate them what happens?
    Hey seer,

    I haven't fully digested the view, but I assume the view would affirm something like this. The power and authority such values/duties have is that they are objectively binding, independent of culture and human opinion, and consequent upon beings endowed with cognitive faculties. Ignoring such values implies stepping outside the realm of goodness into that of objective evil, a solecism against our nature. Thus, to ignore such values is to step outside the dignity of "being human". Whether this involves other contingencies like prison time, death penalty, fines, exile, being socially ostracized, etc., is largely dependent on social convention; but moral realism would have the ontological tools for justifying the objectivity of such values. I'd say the same about violations as well. To introduce theism as a way to justify not ignoring them or not violating them is a way, I admit. But I think the non-theistic moral realist would say that while it's sufficient to do this (but they even combat that), it's not necessary. The feeling of disgust occasioned by witnessing a rape, for example, is symptomatic of the underlying objective evil of such a state of affairs. The actual instantiation of the state of affairs in the world instantiates accompanying, non-normative, intrinsically evil properties, which "make" the normative, intrinsic properties to be, and serve as the "reasons" that beings endowed with cognitive faculties make use of to ground duties and obligations to prevent rape. It's something like that, but I'm not being entirely exhaustive.

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    tWebber seer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattdamore View Post
    Hey seer,

    I haven't fully digested the view, but I assume the view would affirm something like this. The power and authority such values/duties have is that they are objectively binding, independent of culture and human opinion, and consequent upon beings endowed with cognitive faculties. Ignoring such values implies stepping outside the realm of goodness into that of objective evil, a solecism against our nature. Thus, to ignore such values is to step outside the dignity of "being human". Whether this involves other contingencies like prison time, death penalty, fines, exile, being socially ostracized, etc., is largely dependent on social convention; but moral realism would have the ontological tools for justifying the objectivity of such values. I'd say the same about violations as well. To introduce theism as a way to justify not ignoring them or not violating them is a way, I admit. But I think the non-theistic moral realist would say that while it's sufficient to do this (but they even combat that), it's not necessary. The feeling of disgust occasioned by witnessing a rape, for example, is symptomatic of the underlying objective evil of such a state of affairs. The actual instantiation of the state of affairs in the world instantiates accompanying, non-normative, intrinsically evil properties, which "make" the normative, intrinsic properties to be, and serve as the "reasons" that beings endowed with cognitive faculties make use of to ground duties and obligations to prevent rape. It's something like that, but I'm not being entirely exhaustive.
    Well Matt, that was a mouthful! First, things like prison time, death penalty, fines or moral disgust would naturally be in the picture with or without objective moral values/duties. A Stalin still does what he does and gets away with it whether objective moral values/duties exist or not, they in fact are not binding on him in any fashion. As despot is killed in a revolution whether objective moral values/duties exist or not. Some men find rape morally repulsive others find it pleasurable. I just do not see any practical use for non-theistic objective moral values/duties .
    Last edited by seer; 02-13-2017 at 01:16 AM.
    “The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.” C.S. Lewis

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    tWebber shunyadragon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattdamore View Post
    Hey Shunyadragon,

    I appreciate your perspective. I do want to discuss the proposition,

    1. Non-theistic moral realism is the case

    whether or not the proposition,

    2. Theistic moral realism is the case.

    is the case.

    This is just in terms of the focus of the thread.

    You point out four elements of human existence:

    3. There is consciousness.
    4. There is will.
    5. There is morality.
    6. There is ethics.

    I'm assuming you're implying that these four elements entail moral realism. Non-theistic moral realists might broaden 3 and 4 by subsuming it under the heading of "cognitive faculties". I'm not sure that moral relativists would endorse 5 and 6 as implying moral realism, since moral relativism is an ethical system used to understand relative morality.

    I'm not sure what the relevance of the free-will debate has to do with moral realism, theistic or otherwise. But you admit that in affirming 4, you're affirming something relevant to 1 or 2. I'm not sure what it is, but if there is something relevant to 1 or 2, please confine its relevance to 1, as that is what I'd like the focus of the thread to be.
    I understand and will interact on the Non-Theist perspective focusing on #1. Though it is difficult to isolate it from the different perspectives of the nature of our Will. I personally do not believe #1 can be distinguished from #2.
    Last edited by shunyadragon; 02-13-2017 at 01:56 AM.
    Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
    Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

    go with the flow the river knows . . .

    Frank

    I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

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    tWebber shunyadragon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shunyadragon View Post
    I understand and will interact on the Non-Theist perspective focusing on #1. Though it is difficult to isolate it from the different perspectives of the nature of our Will. I personally do not believe #1 can be distinguished from #2.
    . . . from the human perspective.
    Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
    Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

    go with the flow the river knows . . .

    Frank

    I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

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    tWebber mattdamore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    Well Matt, that was a mouthful! First, things like prison time, death penalty, fines or moral disgust would naturally be in the picture with or without objective moral values/duties. A Stalin still does what he does and gets away with it whether objective moral values/duties exist or not, they in fact are not binding on him in any fashion. As despot is killed in a revolution whether objective moral values/duties exist or not. Some men find rape morally repulsive others find it pleasurable. I just do not see any practical use for non-theistic objective moral values/duties .
    Sorry for the mouthful! The view itself is pretty complex and I'm trying to do it justice, but even after the mouthful, I have to say I'm still leaving a lot out.

    I didn't mean to say that things like prison time follow from moral realism; that's why I said that those activities would be a matter of convention. What would hold Stalin, a despot, or the rapist accountable would be the non-normative, intrinsically good properties inhering in morally relevant states of affairs, grasped by agents with cognitive faculties, and then mapped onto the normative, intrinsically good properties upon which they supervene, whilst also such non-normative, intrinsically good properties serving as the reasons (constituting action-guiding moral principles) for moral obligations. The practical use of such non-theistic approaches would, according to them, be the ability to denounce moral evils and wrong actions (and praise moral good and right actions). According to this view, the rapist who finds rape pleasurable is objectively evil, deserving of moral opprobrium, and subject to that legal censure backed by a justice system that (per the moral realist) can succeed or fail to align itself with the objective moral furniture of good and evil, right and wrong.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mattdamore View Post
    I've been thinking of non-theistic moral realism (NMN) for a while and I was wondering what everyone thought of it.

    NMN: and the intrinsically valuable non-normative properties make or cause normative objective values to be. The intrinsically valuable non-normative properties also serve as reasons for action, which serve as the action-guiding principles grounding duties. The duties are objective because the reasons are objective; and the reasons are objective because the intrinsically valuable non-normative properties are objective.

    NMN admits the existence of brute moral facts and grounds it in the primitive "making-relation" subsisting between the non-normative properties and the normative properties of the values upon which they supervene. The theist is wont to ask about the metaphysical grounding of the non-normative properties themselves. But the non-theist protests that this explanation-expectation is unnecessary because the brute fact of the "making-relation" is sufficient for the grounding. Any objection, they say, lodged against its being a brute fact could equally apply to God's nature/commands.

    This is a heavily summarized view from a philosopher from DePauw University called Erik Wielenberg.
    Not sure if I understand all of the terms...but I might diagree if I think this means what I think it means....."There are objective moral values and duties. The values supervene on intrinsically valuable non-normative properties, "
    I think there are "objective" values (= "universal") but only because inherent human nature is similar and this makes it appear as if these values are "objective". In this sense this (nature) has to be "normative". This "inherent normal" (?) might serve as "reason" for action---as you say, but reason is not objective....in fact human reasoning is very subjective---our creativity can make a wrong into a right and a right into a wrong. (That is why we have hypocrisy---we do not adhere to claimed values because of inconvenience and use our "reasoning" to justify such conduct)

    If the human species existed together on earth with another intelligent non-human species whose "inherent normal" (nature) was different---then their "objective" values would necessarily be different---simply because their survival would depend on a different set of conditions/nature.....(Thus, "human moral values" cannot apply to God---nor can they apply to other animal species because they are "not human")

    "Making-relation" may appear sufficient grounding for moral values/principles---but because human reason can be subjective---such principles can become relative and utilitarian. Such a situation will eventually lead to moral bankruptcy. In order to have long-term consistency of moral values/principles it is better to make them "objective" in a metaphysical (abstract) sense so as to give such values the quality of wisdom/truth (Wisdom = knowledge that remains true/correct over time) A metaphysical paradigm need not have "God" in it---but it does need to have a narrative that explains human purpose and the meaning of our existence, one that will remain consistent over a very long period of time.

    here is a scenario of a society without a metaphysical paradigm:-
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbBv2ZGC2VI

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