The value of anything is established by its properties. If values aren't really arbitrary, then there is an absolute morality. The rest of this is trying to explain why values can't be arbitrary, they can only be misunderstood as arbitrary.
This thread is an argument that order is the basis of all concepts. Order is very rigid, so when you build a concept like a moral system on it, like all concepts should be built, it is going to lead to absolute results. Morality is based on values, and the only way to justify morality is to prove your values are accurate. My argument is that values aren't arbitrary, thus there is an absolute morality.
Original post below:
Many atheists shy away from absolute morality because it sounds religious. I argue that there has to be an absolute morality because the universe is absolute. This may seem wrong as there are many subjective things. I am contending that this isn't true because subjectivity resides on the conceptual level and like disorder and change is not a part of actual existence, but rather merely descriptive. Absolute morality has to exist because the base foundation for morality is order, which enables it to have structure as a social concept. This means that even as a concept, it has to have an absolute and most perfect form as a social concept.
I have been working on this for a while, and I think I am nearing completion, but I am wondering what faults may be found with this line of thought... I have had to return to the drawing board to correct my errors a few times already.
This below is an addendum:
What I am contending is that once morality is conceived as a concept, the nature of order upon which any concept is structured necessitates a most perfect form.
Individual perception causes humans to see the concept with innaccuracy in contrast to the order with which the concept maintains structure in conceptual reality. This creates subjectivity.
But where I am really going with this is that order is the base functional principle of any structure in the universe.
At the very foundation of the level of actuality lies order. Without order, molecules neither form nor bind. Order enables structure, which in turn enables every other level of existence. Order permeates every level of existence as its foundation, including anything that exists on the conceptual level. For this reason, structural order serves as the archetypal basis that justifies having a moral system.
Disorder is mistaken as coexisting with order, but it exists on the conceptual level only and is a name given to an observation of change. It is not a counterpart to order. That means disorder is not actual. It is conceptual.
These things tie together to start to point out that best action can be established on the basis of the order of the universe, and the lack of actuality of disorder which would be its only challenger.
I'll repeat what I said earlier to Heather. Things like molecules are structurally ordered. When this order disappates, nothing is there anymore and because nothing is there anymore, things like those molecules have nothing to hold them together so they fall apart. Isn't that what causes disorder in any structure?
It seems you're arguing that disorder causes disorder or that dissipation causes disorder. That's either a quasi-tautology or, in the case of dissipation, an explanation in need of an explanation, because you are leaving out what causes the dissipation.
What sort of thing is this "nothing" which you say makes those vital connections connect and fails to make those connections in its absence? God?
You speak of order as though it's a fifth force in the universe (the others being electromagnetic, the weak and strong atomic forces, and gravity). Do we really need to add "order" as a force in nature? And you do speak of order as a force in sentence constructions like "What is making the connection when order stops doing it...?"
Dammit. I need to stop swapping laptops with my wife... Reposting with my account.
You have it at dissipation. I don't think the process of dissipation can be called disorder. Disorder is always the aftermath. But it just happens and that is enough to work with. Why try to explain something like what causes dissipation if it isn't necessary? Why do you see it as important that we discover or describe what causes something we all know happens?
But with the other point, nothing isn't anything, and that is the point. When nothing makes the connection, you can't call it anything, you can't treat it as anything. That is really important to factor in to all the values you give to everything. We are forced by the limitations of the English language when talking about nothing, to describe it as if it was something. But it isn't really anything at all.
When you stop assigning values to disorder, it greatly will effect your decision-making. If you make a conscious effort to not apply value to disorder, it will effect your decision-making.
I don't care if you call order a force or whatever you want to call it. What matters to me is that order is represented at the base of every level. Order is represented in thought structure. Order is represented in physical reality. Because of this, it needs to be the foundation of any thought process. That makes it the foundation of any moral system. If you don't focus on maintaining order while building structure, you are building a crappy moral structure. That is the real point. You have to start with order to build any idea. But order is rigid, and because it is rigid, it will have no flexibility. If you take it for granted and don't focus on it, you may allow some disordered thinking in there.
People actually do say "Why base everything on order if it has a counterpart known as disorder". I have had it happen on more than one thread here on this site. It has no counterpart. Everything that is built by nature or by man in the physical or the conceptual is dependent on order alone. It may not be a force in the universe, but everything that concerns us depends on it.
This has been really fun to read through. After 20 pages of comments, I still think "order" needs a lot more unpacking and justification. It's too convenient to your theory and too poorly supported. I don't think there's anything fundamental about it. Order is just our minds grouping and separating our physical space into discrete but arbitrary objects. It's a type of mental shorthand we find useful, much like Lakoff's metaphors. As others have tried to convey, order/disorder is a continuum, and we're having trouble seeing how it can be said that one is actual while the other conceptual, and further, how this could possibly be significant to morality.
My conclusion is that I think your philosophy is muddled. But I think you would find Sam Harris interesting in The Moral Landscape. He contends there is absolute morality on the grounds that some things are clearly better or worse for human welfare, and that these things are in principle able to be investigated scientifically. This is a more concrete way to ground morality in the physical world. In fact, I kind of wonder whether you've read the book and are just trying to one-up the guy by reaching the same conclusion in a more rigorous philosophy-ish way.
Stutz I haven't read it because I haven't been satisfied with the contention when it has been explained to me. Some things seem better or worse, but that doesn't justify them as being better or worse.
But no, this was my own existential journey, as I tried to find out if morality, something I like had any actual validity. And of course it is muddled. It is incomplete.
But I don't understand your conclusion. What is muddled and what is clear? That could help me see what needs work.
"Some things seem better or worse, but that doesn't justify them as being better or worse."
It does if we set the ground rules for what the words "better" and worse" apply to. We do it in every other area, but people seem resistant to do it for morality.
Operationalism is need here. It is required for any search for empirical facts. Without defining terms it is hard to even have a reasonable discussion about anything. We set ground rules for what constitutes evidence and logic...but why should we value evidence and logic? What evidence could I show you that will make you value evidence? We value evidence because valuing evidence works really well for making accurate predictions on how the universe will behave. If you are interested in how the universe works...you ought to value evidence. If you are interested in morality...you ought to value the well-being of conscience creatures...because, what else could morality be referring to?
Morality can not apply to non-life. This excludes it from being absolute...but does give the grounds for objectively right and wrong answers to moral questions.
I don't think that Harris is arguing for an absolute morality...just an objective one. If we said that lying was absolutely immoral, then lying would be immoral no matter what situation you were in. In Harris' book he states that there can be different "peaks" in the landscape where there can be more than one objectively right answer to moral questions....or there can be something that is immoral in most situations but may be the most moral action in specific cases. Take his chess analogy:
"Morality could be a lot like chess: there are surely principles that generally apply, but they might admit of important exceptions. If you want to play good chess, a principle like “Don’t lose your Queen” is almost always worth following. But it admits of exceptions: sometimes sacrificing your Queen is a brilliant thing to do; occasionally, it is the only thing you can do."
While not losing your queen is objectively a good rule in chess, it is not absolutely good. I have a hard time arguing for objective morality(which I currently believe is true)...let alone an absolute one. I have never heard a good argument for an absolute morality.
This is a fair point. "Objective" is probably the more correct word choice. I suppose was trying to get at the lay argument between "absolute morality" vs. "moral relativism". Thank you for clarifying it.
I would say it is absolutely the wrong thing to do if the board is set up in a particular manner. People think of situations as if they are a different vantage point on an an experience. In reality, it is just a totally different yet similar looking situation.
Every situation has a different absolutely best thing to do. That we can't often perfectly figure out what it is doesn't change that there is a best thing to do.
What if it were just a simple social contract:
1) I promise not to kill you or anyone else:
a) Sets of conditions where this could be violated= exceptions. b) Types of weapons acceptable via contract. c) special conditions where one might not be held responsible.
2) I promise not to injury you or another in a non-lethal way:
a) Sets of conditions where this could be violated= exceptions. b) Types of physical contact acceptable via contract, c) special conditions where one might not be held responsible.
3)...4) yada yada....
At a certain age each member of the culture signs this social contract and is held as a permanent record. Each member knows what is expected, and can access advisors when issues come up for possible intervention.
Such a model could take into consideration some theist mandates, and rationalist ones. Other than this a 'normal' legal construct could be applied.
I think it works, but it needs to have a foundation. It needs to be based on something otherwise it is arbitrary. If it is arbitrary it is hard to justify holding people to it. I like the idea of making it cultural and ceremonial though, as a rite of passage.
I think we hangup on 'truth' issues.
I think a basic 'Social contract', that might include reasonable ideas from the worlds religions and insights from the philosophy of ethics, could be a synthetic construct. Right now, I think many are floundering under the weight of ambiguities, and are not able to to find an ethical course of action, so their fall back position is only self-interest, and 'entertainment'.
As an ex-catholic, I had to find something to fall back upon to help determine reasonable courses of action. Sadly, I have not always succeeded, but atleast no one has died on my shift, and the world is 'mostly better' for my presence.
If I remember correctly, Kant mentions in his writings about 'willing the good', and testing synthetic moral maxims via 'the catagorical imperative'. It seems clear that many of us do not attempt even a minor simulation to determine the social impact of decisions. At the moment it seems that many social decisions are tested by 'does it pay?', not 'does is further the social good?'
I remember studying Kant and finding myself unmoved by his theory for a number of reasons.
One of the main ones is that our choices are often made on the fly and not with much time to consider "Can I will that other people always do the same under the same circumstances?"
Also, some ethical decisions are trivial enough that to elevate them to a universal law seems rather silly. For example, the person in front of me in the self-checkout line at the grocery store has forgotten to take his change, which is about 15 cents. Whether I pocket the change or run him down to make sure he gets it is unlikely to be the result of the categorical imperative. Rather, it will come down to my character. People do what is in their nature.
Another problem is that people are not perfectly rational and tend to be lenient in their own case and to make excuses for their own behavior while ignoring the adverse consequences of universalizing a behavior.
Yet another problem comes in the framing of the question. A Jew-hating Nazi can easily frame the question such that, when it comes to Jews, he can certainly will that the killing of Jews become a universal law. A non-Nazi would frame it in terms of universalizing murder and decide that murdering Jews is wrong.