Re: "Objective" Morality

From: Tennessee Leeuwenburg (
Date: Mon Aug 08 2005 - 20:16:04 MDT

That's incorrect : Objective != Universal.

Universal means that the same morality applies universally (i.e. for
everyone) whereas Objective means that for any one person their
morality is an objective fact.

i.e. with Universal morality, an action is moral no matter who takes
it, whereas with objective morality, you can have actions that are
right-for-me but wrong-for-you, because of (for example) things we
might know, or difference in our cognitive schemas, etc.

Subtle difference though, and not always (or often) reflected in useage.

Just as we have a science for physics, it's not inconcievable that we
could have a science for morality. Or, if not morality, a science
surrounding a set of variables measuring things which one might
describe as "moral". No need to get into a definitional debate right

Most people on this list accept that moral-for-humans !=
moral-for-all-consciousnesses. Geddes bangs on about how behaving in a
moral way might be an evolutionary advantage, and maybe he's right and
maybe he's not. But that's what he's trying to say.

It's certainly not out of the question that one could, for any given
definition of morality, perform science on it, and establish the truth
or otherwise of a variety of claims.


On 8/9/05, Marcello Mathias Herreshoff <> wrote:
> Hello,
> I have been reading the SL4 list for some time now. I have repeatedly seen
> people (mostly Mark Geddes but sometimes others) use the phrase "Objective
> Morality".
> For a list which is supposed to be humanities best hope, I find this highly
> disconcerting. The phrase "Objective Morality" (sometimes pronounced
> "Universal Morality") makes as much sense as "colorless green idea".
> Any statements about it is vacuous.
> Consider it means for a statement to be objective. It means that a rational
> system using Bayes' Law and reasonable priors (and there are ways of getting
> these!) will arrive at that conclusion that the statement is highly probable
> given the available evidence.
> I encourage you to read Technical Explanation of Technical Explanation:
> for the full explanation.
> For example, if you don't believe that the accuracy of Newton's Law of
> Universal Gravitation is objective, observe the moon's orbit. It very
> accurately matches the theory. Because this evidence is rather improbable
> given ignorance, but highly probable assuming Universal Gravitation, and
> because the law should have a reasonably high prior, one can safely conclude
> that Newton's law is in fact accurate.
> Now, what about objective morality? The only way to find out would be by
> testing the morality of some test scenarios. However, this can not be done
> because performing the test would entail already having some definition of
> morality.
> Naturally, any definition of morality would pass with flying colors if it
> were tested against itself this way! Thus the likelihood of the evidence is
> the same whether our hypothetical "objective" morality is objective or not.
> The only possible piece of evidence has no strength whatsoever. "Objective"
> is a complete misnomer for anything with this property.
> Note that I am *not* saying that there is no optimal definition of morality
> for human kind, determinable by Coherent Extrapolated Volition. I'm simply
> saying that this optimal morality does not have a special place in the grand
> scheme of things and that if we don't try to instantiate it, we won't.
> -=+Marcello Mathias Herreshoff


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:00:51 MDT