The Awful Hubris of Misdirected Humility

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“Who am I to say someone else’s morality is wrong?” the moral relativist asks. It is a stance of humility that he takes, at least on the surface; for how could he be so arrogant as to say what another’s values ought to be?

I choose the male pronoun here because of recent dialogues about this with Paul and doctor(logic) (also male), on this website. At one point Paul had this to say about something I had just written on relativism (my emphasis added).

PAUL: Tom wrote:

TOM: It changes the whole meaning of morality from right or wrong to powerful or powerless. That may not seem wrong, incoherent, or illogical to you, but it absolutely turns my stomach.

PAUL: Yes, I agree about the definition change to the extent that absolute morality disappears, and all that’s left is 1) within an accepted moral code, people say “A is moral” or “B is not moral,” but 2) when looked at from an incompatible culture, or better, from above both cultures, what is right is defined by those with power (the relativistic Golden Rule is “He who has the gold makes the rules”), However, that doesn’t mean that people don’t feel like things are right and wrong, which is why the words are used as if absolutes, even by relativists, but, strictly speaking (or, from the vantage of being above two competing systems), it does come down to a matter of power as to which system will prevail, or, better, seem to be absolute from within one culture.

This is where this “humility” leads. Feelings rule–the feelings of the powerful, that is.

Even one-to-one it is this way. The humble relativist may not decide another’s morals, but he will certainly insist on determining his own. He will not be subject to anyone or anything in making this choice.

Christian humility is nothing like this. It hesitates not a moment to acknowledge there is truth, truth that applies to all persons; but this is not our own truth. It comes from the One to whom all of us must be subject. We are, each of us, tested by it. Through it we come to know our need for grace, for none of us scores perfectly on this test.

Humility is in the reception of grace, not in the rejection of truth.

31 Responses

  1. Tom Gilson says:

    Footnote: This topic with Paul goes back years, further I think than with anyone else taking the relativist position. I have taken a strong stance with him on it before, as I am again here. I think there is such a thing as being very dangerously wrong on this topic, and Paul is in that category. So are others of his opinion. I appreciate, though, his continuing to stay in the discussion with me and others here.

  2. The fundamental difference is one of definition. Morality as it is understood in non-materialistic systems is impossible in materialism.

    So materialists use the word “morality” but instead mean “preference”.

    There is no meaningful difference between the sum of preferences that determine the purchase of a car and the sum of preferences that determine a husband murdering his wife. Each act has consequences that are weighed in it is simple calculation.

    This reduces morality to an equation to be modeled by Economists.

    Within Christianity, morality has a different meaning. Morality is the unforced will of God at any moment. Our desires or the preferences of our society are irrelevant. We conform to his will and have meaning or we rebel and become irrelevant.

  3. Paul says:

    Tom, I also appreciate your style of discussion, you stay with the substance nearly every time (even if I think you’re wrong sometimes).

    You’re continuing to assign to relativism a characteristic that it doesn’t have. A relativist does not choose his or her morals, largely. Culture inculcates morals into people, this should be uncontroversial empirically. Adopting a moral code in relativism is not a whim, choice, or decision, etc., even as it is not objective nor absolute.

    This makes the issue of humility not a personal one, as if adopting a moral code was a personal choice that one could or could not be humble about.

  4. I agree with Paul, but want to add that an individual’s moral ideals are somewhat like an individual artist’s aesthetic ideals. Speaking for myself, I find it extremely difficult to reach my aesthetic ideals in my creative work. It is not the case that my work of art is tautologically the same thing as my aesthetic ideal. But as Paul says, I do not choose my aesthetic ideals per se. I certainly have influence over them, and can acquire tastes for new things or focus my tastes in certain directions, but my ideals are not completely up to my conscious mind at any given time.

  5. DL’s viewpoint suggests that morality is as unjustified a perspective as religion. Both are simply figments given that humans are nothing more than a configuration of atoms within materialism.

    Morality would be an illusion as “right” and “wrong” are fictional concepts like God that illogically limit our behavior.

    Eating newborns would surely be no different for a human than for a spider.

  6. Econ,

    Morality would be an illusion as “right” and “wrong” are fictional concepts like God that illogically limit our behavior.

    If materialism is true, then beauty and ugliness are illusions too? How about hunger and fullness? How about feelings of energy and exhaustion?

    Eating newborns would surely be no different for a human than for a spider.

    I find these sorts of arguments so irrational. They go like this…

    1) If morality is real, then it is independent of human subjective feeling. If morality is relative, then morality is purely subjective.

    2) Suppose morality is relative.

    3) Suppose I know morality is relative.

    4) Since I am no longer constrained by absolute morality (assuming I ever was), I will now do what I subjectively think best.

    5) I found, and still find, eating babies to be subjectively morally abhorrent.

    6) Therefore, in light of my new knowledge, I will eat babies and permit others to do so.

    No prizes for finding the error in this argument. Hint, it’s #6. It contradicts #4 and #5.

    NO! Humans are not spiders!

  7. Jake says:

    Moral relativism has pretty much been discredited empirically. Work by Steven Pinker, among others, shows beyond a doubt that humans have an in-born “moral compass”. Even though the specifics of morality may vary across cultures, there are certain general moral principles that all humans share. There was an interesting article by Pinker in the New York Times the other day that expounds on this (“The Moral Instinct”, available online at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html).

    Now, to an evoutionary psychologist such as Pinker, objective morality is not “out there” in a separate existence as some universal absolute, but was developed through neo-Darwinian evolution. To a theist, of course, our moral compass was instilled within us by God. There is no way to distinguish these two viewpoints empirically. But moral relativism? The scientific evidence is clearly against it.

  8. DL, the hypocrisy there is interesting.

    You’ll criticize Christians for attempting to enforce their morality while yours, under materialism, is no more justified. Both would simply be personal illusions with no basis in reality.

    You’d be a hypocrite for pretending Muslims were wrong to decapitate non-believers given that there is no objective morality. It would simply be a difference of opinion between you and them.

  9. ordinary seeker says:

    Jake, I think you misread the article. Moral relativity has not been disproven at all:

    All this brings us to a theory of how the moral sense can be universal and variable at the same time. The five moral spheres are universal, a legacy of evolution. But how they are ranked in importance, and which is brought in to moralize which area of social life — sex, government, commerce, religion, diet and so on — depends on the culture. Many of the flabbergasting practices in faraway places become more intelligible when you recognize that the same moralizing impulse that Western elites channel toward violations of harm and fairness (our moral obsessions) is channeled elsewhere to violations in the other spheres.

  10. Tom Gilson says:

    I agree with os here. If we have hardwired moral feelings, with just natural origins, that says nothing about what’s actually right or true. It just shows what we’ve been programmed for, which is not necessarily the same.

  11. MrTinkles says:

    “4) Since I am no longer constrained by absolute morality (assuming I ever was), I will now do what I subjectively think best.

    5) I found, and still find, eating babies to be subjectively morally abhorrent.

    6) Therefore, in light of my new knowledge, I will eat babies and permit others to do so.

    No prizes for finding the error in this argument. Hint, it’s #6. It contradicts #4 and #5.

    NO! Humans are not spiders!”

    Hmm…but “You find” eating babies morally abhorrent…Who are you? Or any of us? If there are no absolute morals, this is no more than opinion or feeling.

    Does it not beg the question of whether “best” is equivalent to “moral”?

  12. Jake says:

    OS,
    Maybe you are using a different definition of moral relativsm than I am. I can’t find a dictionary definition of the term, but wikipedia states that moral relativism is “the position that moral or ethical propositions do not reflect objective and/or universal moral truths, but instead make claims relative to social, cultural, historical or personal circumstances.” By this definition, Pinker’s work disproves moral relativism. Our morals are not a product of “social, cultural, historical or personal circumstances”, except when formulated as very specific precepts. They are hard wired, at least as general principles.

    When I read comments about eating newborns or torturing babies for fun as hypothetical moral choices, it makes me want to scream. No sane human would condone such things, because we are hard wired to believe that these things are wrong. And yet I read the moral relativists declare that it’s all just a personal preference, one set of morals is as good as another!

    Tom,

    I realize that Pinker’s work does not go as far as you would like to see in identifying moral absolutes, and that the moral principles he identifies are rather vague, but I think you need to look past his philosophical outlook and focus on the facts. Morals are hard wired into humans. Now, Pinker would say that evolution hard wires our morals with no particular purpose other than survival of the species. But a theistic evolutionist (which I consider myself to be) would say that God hard wired our moral compass as part of his plan for humanity. And an ID proponent could likewise say that our hard wiring was God’s design. The reason behind the hard wiring can never be deduced from science, but the fact that the hard wiring is there is most definitely a blow to moral relativism.

  13. ordinary seeker says:

    Jake writes,

    but the fact that the hard wiring is there is most definitely a blow to moral relativism.

    No, it’s not. The article states that morality develops according to culture, which is what your definition of moral relativity states.

  14. Tom Gilson says:

    Jake,

    :I realize that Pinker’s work does not go as far as you would like to see in identifying moral absolutes…”

    Pinker’s work actually couldn’t go far enough in that direction, as long as it goes in the direction he has been taking it so far.

    I am quite convinced God has planted conscience in us as a good approximation of His moral law. It is hardwired in that sense. I just don’t expect Pinker to find it by the methods he uses; that is he can find that we have moral motions within, but it would be difficult to say where they came from. If you’re reasoning just from what he has found, and trying to get from there to support for theism, you would have to show how theism is a better explanation for them than evolution. That might be hard, since someone could take Pinker’s findings and relegate his morality to something like instinct or mere feelings.

    But I could be wrong; I haven’t done hard thinking on it from that direction.

  15. Paul says:

    The suposed hard-wiring of morality may be hard-wired enough to produce some commonalities across cultures, even strong ones, but it certainly isn’t hard-wired enough to produce absolute commonalities for all moral questions. I agree that some moral questions, like infanticide, are nearly universal, but nearly universal is a long way away from absolute universality, and the question here is moral absoluteness versus relativism. I think relativism is consistent with moral tendencies prroduced by evolution as Pinker suggests. But remember that evolution is a very messy process, full of starts and fits, and very conditional, so true universality absoluteness from that process is unlikely.

  16. Jake says:

    OS,

    Quoting you:

    The article states that morality develops according to culture, which is what your definition of moral relativity states.

    I’m wondering if you and I are reading the same article, or maybe you are only comprehending what you want to hear.

    Quoting the article:

    When anthropologists like Richard Shweder and Alan Fiske survey moral concerns across the globe, they find that a few themes keep popping up from amid the diversity. People everywhere, at least in some circumstances and with certain other folks in mind, think it’s bad to harm others and good to help them. They have a sense of fairness: that one should reciprocate favors, reward benefactors and punish cheaters. They value loyalty to a group, sharing and solidarity among its members and conformity to its norms. They believe that it is right to defer to legitimate authorities and to respect people with high status. And they exalt purity, cleanliness and sanctity while loathing defilement, contamination and carnality.

    and

    All this brings us to a theory of how the moral sense can be universal and variable at the same time. The five moral spheres are universal, a legacy of evolution.

    Let me summarize what the scientific data tells us about morals vs. what moral relativism says:

    Moral relativism:
    Choosing moral beliefs is much like choosing vanilla vs. chocolate. We all choose our moral beliefs based on what works for us, but if someone chooses different moral beliefs that work for them, we simply agree to disagree.

    Facts:
    Everyone has an innate moral compass that tells us that certain things (fairness, purity, loyalty, respect for authority) are right and certain things (harming others, cheating, defilement, carnality) are wrong.

    Moral relativism:
    Society lives by whatever moral rules those in power dictate. Might makes right.

    Facts:
    Certain things will always be considered morally right or morally wrong by most people. If those in power reject the moral sense of fairness or sanctity, the majority of people will never agree to it.

    Moral relativism:
    Our morals our culturally determined, based on historical or cultural circumstances.

    Facts:
    While there are differences in moral codes from one society to another, the underlying themes are always the same: the sense of fairness, purity, loyalty, and respect for authority.

    What does this mean for a materialistic worldview vs. a theistic worldview? Not much, really. The materialists can alway claim that any innate moral tendency is good for survival by inventing an NDE just-so story to explain it. But for a theist, this is just the type of moral hard wiring we should expect to see. Do people have the ten commandments written on their heart? Well, not exactly; otherwise, Moses would have had no reason to deliver them. But we do have a moral compass, an innate sense of right and wrong, that God has given to us. The specifics are left to be worked out through the revelation of scripture and the guidance of the holy spirit. But moral relativism (at least as I have defined it here) is pretty much dead. If you want to redefine moral relativism in light of the data, be my guest.

  17. Econ,

    You’ll criticize Christians for attempting to enforce their morality while yours, under materialism, is no more justified. Both would simply be personal illusions with no basis in reality.

    You mean like taste in art. Is that an illusion with no basis in reality?

    You’d be a hypocrite for pretending Muslims were wrong to decapitate non-believers given that there is no objective morality. It would simply be a difference of opinion between you and them.

    I would be a hypocrite if I pretended Muslims were absolutely wrong. I don’t do that. I say that they are subjectively wrong. So it is primarily a difference in moral opinion. That doesn’t mean I ought not take action against them.

    Look at it this way. The debate here is about what it means to say someone is “wrong”. If moral realism is the case, then some people who say “I feel X is wrong” are objectively correct. If relativism is the case, then no one who says “I feel X is wrong” is objectively correct. That doesn’t mean that people don’t feel that some things are wrong, and it doesn’t mean they won’t defend their position with force if necessary.

    Again and again, relativists face the same inane criticism from realists. All the realists assume that there is an objective moral law that says “one ought not favor one’s own subjective views over the subjective opinions of another.” Well, I’m sorry but there can only be such an objective rule under moral realism. Yes, moral relativism is inconsistent with moral realism, but that’s obvious and totally unhelpful.

    Finally, I don’t convince you of a moral position merely by using the code word “wrong” and by stating that I am a realist. Moral appeals are appeals to the other guy’s values, not to an absolute standard or my own moral authority.

  18. Jake,

    Moral relativism:
    Choosing moral beliefs is much like choosing vanilla vs. chocolate. We all choose our moral beliefs based on what works for us, but if someone chooses different moral beliefs that work for them, we simply agree to disagree.

    Huh? We agree to disagree? Why? I certainly don’t. I might make a peace treaty in some cases, but I might decide to wage war. Same as you.

    Everyone has an innate moral compass that tells us that certain things (fairness, purity, loyalty, respect for authority) are right and certain things (harming others, cheating, defilement, carnality) are wrong.

    No. Not everyone. Suppose someone’s compass says something else. On what basis are they objectively wrong? Statistics? Does the majority standard determine morality?

  19. DL:

    You’ll criticize Christians for attempting to enforce their morality while yours, under materialism, is no more justified. Both would simply be personal illusions with no basis in reality.

    You mean like taste in art. Is that an illusion with no basis in reality?

    You raise an interesting question about aesthetics. As a Christian I believe that beauty is objective although our appreciation of it is subjective because of our limited perspective and our decay.

    Beauty in nature in some detached way is a pale reflection of the beauty of our Creator. Our ability to recognize that is severely limited.

  20. ordinary seeker says:

    Jake,
    Your statements about moral relativism reflect a misunderstanding of moral relativism.

  21. Econ,

    You raise an interesting question about aesthetics. As a Christian I believe that beauty is objective although our appreciation of it is subjective because of our limited perspective and our decay.

    What, if anything, would you say is subjective? How do you define the term?

    Perhaps this is actually a form of agreement for us. I would say that morality is as objective as aesthetics. 😛

  22. Tom Gilson says:

    doctor(logic), this needs some work, to say the least:

    The debate here is about what it means to say someone is “wrong”. If moral realism is the case, then some people who say “I feel X is wrong” are objectively correct. If relativism is the case, then no one who says “I feel X is wrong” is objectively correct. That doesn’t mean that people don’t feel that some things are wrong, and it doesn’t mean they won’t defend their position with force if necessary.

    That word “feel” changes everything. Regardless of whether moral realism or relativism is correct, people who say “I feel x is wrong” may be speaking complete truth, for they are making statements about their feelings.

    The real question is how you respond to this:

    If moral realism is the case, then some people who say “x is wrong” are objectively correct. If relativism is the case, then no one who says “x is wrong” is objectively correct.

    So is that what you meant? What is the relationship of morality to feelings?

    Again and again, relativists face the same inane criticism from realists. All the realists assume that there is an objective moral law that says “one ought not favor one’s own subjective views over the subjective opinions of another.” Well, I’m sorry but there can only be such an objective rule under moral realism. Yes, moral relativism is inconsistent with moral realism, but that’s obvious and totally unhelpful.

    Realists observe that people favor their own moral views over others, and that they use various means to enforce their favored views. The problem is not with the favoring but with the enforcing, for as we’ve often discussed, the only mutually agreeable way to justify such enforcement, logically consistent under relativism, goes something like this: “I agree you have the gun in your hand and that its barrel is pointing at me.” I have yet to hear you, Paul, os, or any other relativist here suggest any other basis for settling moral disagreements under relativism.

  23. ordinary seeker says:

    I have yet to hear you, Paul, os, or any other relativist here suggest any other basis for settling moral disagreements under relativism.

    How are moral disagreements usually settled, Tom? In this country, people vote. That’s the way moral disagreements are settled under relativism.

  24. Tom,

    If moral realism is the case, then some people who say “x is wrong” are objectively correct. If relativism is the case, then no one who says “x is wrong” is objectively correct.

    So is that what you meant? What is the relationship of morality to feelings?

    That is what I meant, but there’s more to it. You have tried to say that under moral realism, there’s no morality at all. That is part of what I am disputing here.

    If assume that “X is wrong” means “I feel X is wrong”, that does not mean that morality does not exist under relativism. Morality is still the name we give to feelings about actions.

    Two more examples.

    Suppose that aesthetics is subjective. If I say, “X is beautiful” I mean that “I feel X is beautiful.” The concept of beauty does not vanish or become illusory when we acknowledge that it is subjective.

    The allergenic nature of peanuts is subjective because peanuts don’t cause allergic reactions to everyone. If I say that “peanuts are allergens”, I really mean “peanuts are allergens to me” or “I am allergic to peanuts.” Just because the reaction is subjective does not mean that allergies do not exist.

    The problem is not with the favoring but with the enforcing, for as we’ve often discussed, the only mutually agreeable way to justify such enforcement, logically consistent under relativism, goes something like this: “I agree you have the gun in your hand and that its barrel is pointing at me.” I have yet to hear you, Paul, os, or any other relativist here suggest any other basis for settling moral disagreements under relativism.

    I would venture to say that, much of the time, moral disagreements are about facts and policies, not values.

    For example, abstinence only education (AOE) sounds attractive to some because they believe that humans can be kept innocent, or because they think that sex education is tacit approval of adolescent sex. However, giving AOE advocates the benefit of the doubt, I would say that it is not the policy that they are committed to. Rather, they believe that AOE will reduce the amount of suffering in the world, and that, upon reflection, reduction in suffering is more important than the policy or the principle that authorities should be obeyed.

    In the case of AOE, the arguments are not made down the barrel of a gun. They are made using politics, which is, for the most part, debate and gentle persuasion.

    So, when most AOE advocates and dissenters argue over AOE policy, they share the same goal. They all want children to be physically and psychologically healthy, and while these definitions may be fuzzy, they can easily be persuaded that AOE is a good thing (or bad thing) based on the results of the policy. As it happens, AOE doesn’t satisfy their shared moral values. No matter how well intentioned, AOE causes more STD’s and more teen pregnancies. In some ideal world (the Garden of Eden?), AOE might work, but the real world is not ideal, and an AOE-first policy will move us further from their ideal world by discrediting the very notion.

    Logic is front and center in the debate. It’s not just a difference between what we each want. We want the same thing. It’s just the logic of how they get to policy is flawed by their own moral standards.

    Again, I say that moral argumentation is effective when it causes the receiver to re-evaluate his facts and logic in light of his moral goals, and thereby re-align his policy.

    However, when the moral values are in opposition and irreconcilable, objectivists use precisely the same methods of force as relativists. Objectivists are more than happy to kill and torture when people don’t agree with them. The difference is that they take more pride in their coercion.

  25. Paul says:

    Tom, in the worst cases (which is not all cases), differing moralities may well have to settle their differences through power. Be careful out there, it’s a jungle.

  26. Tom Gilson says:

    os and Paul, your responses expressed similar logic:

    How are moral disagreements usually settled, Tom? In this country, people vote. That’s the way moral disagreements are settled under relativism.

    and

    Tom, in the worst cases (which is not all cases), differing moralities may well have to settle their differences through power. Be careful out there, it’s a jungle.

    Voting is a power method, though a constrained power method (the Christian history of how this came to be is rather fascinating). The jungle is, well, the jungle. Even in the best cases, Paul, your morality seems to be a matter of either easy agreement when it works, or power struggle when it doesn’t. So if there’s no question, there’s no question. If there’s a question, there’s power. Power rules.

  27. Tom Gilson says:

    I was going to respond to dl but just got interrupted

  28. Paul says:

    Tom, I think you understand well what I was trying to say about how relativism works. We can now decide whether we like it or not. But I don’t see how it is incoherent or contradicted by empirical evidence outside of the Bible (with the slight exception of the question of whether evolutionary tendencies create an “objective” morality). Agreed?

  29. Tom Gilson says:

    doctor(logic), this still isn’t as cut-and-dried as you think.

    Suppose that aesthetics is subjective. If I say, “X is beautiful” I mean that “I feel X is beautiful.” The concept of beauty does not vanish or become illusory when we acknowledge that it is subjective.

    Aesthetics are not normally applied to others in the way morals are. We don’t say to a painting, “you are wrong,” and then take it to jail. If we do say something like “this painting is not aesthetically good,” and then throw it away, that’s hardly parallel, for we know it does not experience our opprobrium or the penalty as a subject does.

    I will grant there is a feelings component to moral judgments. I will not grant that feelings as such are sufficient justification for judgments and moral penalties being applied to individuals, groups, or nations. For they are, as the song says, nothing more than feelings.

    The allergenic nature of peanuts is subjective because peanuts don’t cause allergic reactions to everyone. If I say that “peanuts are allergens”, I really mean “peanuts are allergens to me” or “I am allergic to peanuts.” Just because the reaction is subjective does not mean that allergies do not exist.

    I’ve seen “subjective” defined lots of ways on this blog, but never that one. If I say “peanuts are allergens,” there is an implied but omitted modifier in there “peanuts are allergens to some persons.” That is objectively true.

    So, when most AOE advocates and dissenters argue over AOE policy, they share the same goal. They all want children to be physically and psychologically healthy, and while these definitions may be fuzzy, they can easily be persuaded that AOE is a good thing (or bad thing) based on the results of the policy.

    AOE is motivated by many factors, not just the instrumental results. Biblically based AOE–and I have had many conversations with leaders of this movement–is based on the results in terms of mental and emotional health, physical health, pregnancies, long-term family stability, and God’s commandments regarding sex. (I probably missed some other factors that should be on that list.) So your earlier suggestion that morals are based on facts and not on values overlooks a lot.

    There are special circumstances, yes, where this is true:

    Logic is front and center in the debate. It’s not just a difference between what we each want. We want the same thing. It’s just the logic of how they get to policy is flawed by their own moral standards.

    Again, I say that moral argumentation is effective when it causes the receiver to re-evaluate his facts and logic in light of his moral goals, and thereby re-align his policy.

    But there are very few moral policy decisions that are just a matter of empirically testable outcomes.

    I’ll save the rest for another comment, for it introduces new complexity.

  30. Tom,

    I will grant there is a feelings component to moral judgments. I will not grant that feelings as such are sufficient justification for judgments and moral penalties being applied to individuals, groups, or nations. For they are, as the song says, nothing more than feelings.

    Yes, I understand that you don’t grant that morality is just a matter of feelings. However, I am saying that if it is just feelings, then feelings are “sufficient justification for judgments and moral penalties being applied to individuals, groups, or nations.”

    If we discovered there were no moral absolutes, we would act in pretty much the same way we do now.

    I have two new cans of worms I would like to open, but you may want to inaugurate them with a blog post…

    The first has to do with values. I contend that being good in the hyper-abstract sense is not a value that anyone possesses. I can’t value being good before I know what goodness entails, even in a general sense. If absolute goodness turns out to be subjectively evil to me, why would I value being good?

    In order for goodness to be valuable to me in a general sense, it has to relate back to my feelings, e.g., what I would prefer to have chosen in hindsight, or what I would choose if I had more information. In a sense, I think your interpretation of Christianity aims for this result. You probably think that God wants you to act such that, in hindsight, you will be glad you acted that way. (Of course, there’s that little snag that you have to die first before you get to know that.)

    Here’s the thing I’m challenging. You are arguing that the mere demonstration that there is an objective moral rule X should be sufficient to compel anyone to rationally follow X. I’m not seeing that.

    This question of values is relevant to persuasiveness. Objective morality is not persuasive if it is subjectively abhorrent because no one values objective morality for the sake of valuing objective morality. No one wants to be good for the sake of being good (e.g., imagine if good folk go to Hell, and evil folk go to Heaven.)

    This brings me to my second can of worms. How do you think moral persuasion works? If another person says “X is wrong!” how do you evaluate and respond to the claim? I would be interested to see you do an analysis of the process. We’ve touched on it before, but I don’t recall you describing how it works in detail.

  31. Tom Gilson says:

    doctor(logic), I think we’re circling around the same topics, questions, and responses repeatedly lately. I’m going to spend some more time thinking about this before I come back to it. I’m trying to show that persuasiveness is not the whole story. Behavior isn’t even the whole story. But it’s not coming through. So I’ll see what some creative thinking time will do to help with that.

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