Saturday, February 13, 2016

Objective Moral Values - the 2016 Edition

I tried to post the following on The Secular Outpost , but Disqus yakked up a hairball when I tried to log in, so I’m posting it here. Read the post first, if you’d like context. Jeffrey Jay Lowder was inviting an open discussion on objective moral values.

I’m with the “approachable scientifically” contingent.

As a non-philosopher, I get stuck on the term “objective”. Given that objective means true or false regardless of what people think about it, and that morality is a body of standards regarding right and wrong behavior, then I can imagine some spongy “globally recognized standards” that might obtain for long periods of time. I find truly objective morality - true or false regardless of what observers think about it, presumably eternally - impossible to pin down without stipulating some bedrock thing(s) that we agree not to investigate further.

I can envision it boiling down to this: We procreate, and adopt behaviors that make procreation more likely. To become social, we adopted more complex behavior to help families, kin, clans and communities thrive. So, I might be able to derive some objective moral values and duties that apply universally, eternally to basic social creatures.

If that is what we’re trying to discover, then yes, I’m convinced that objective moral values exist, as a set of properties and behaviors of biological creatures that succeed at being social.

Once we move beyond that, it starts to appear to this untrained eye as a bunch of engineering exercises performed by people with different outlooks and goals. Thought-provoking, but abstract.

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