Moral Stands

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Well, no, not quite. Raolduke is saying that because morality is a human concept, it doesn't exist without humans. The justification was that no human concept actually exists unless we create it. But that clearly is not valid at face value, since gravity still exists regardless of whether or not we are here to theorize it. Applicability is a separate issue, but you're just as wrong about that as Raolduke is about the existence of concepts outside the human mind: The concept of ethics can and is often applied to animals and if we weren't here, the animals would still behave in roughly the same way.

So we'll need a better justification for why morality can't exist outside the human mind... Again, gravity. Humans are fallible and Newton's theory of gravity was flawed. Does that mean gravity doesn't exist outside the human mind? Of course not: just because we don't know the laws of physics completely, doesn't mean gravity doesn't exist.

So fallibility is also not a valid reason why morality/ethics isn't "real".
Ethics exists within the "mind" of any agent which distinguishes "good" behaviour from "bad", or "right" behaviour from "wrong". In absence of all such agents, ethics is also absent.
 

russ_watters

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If such an "agent" does not exist, does that prevent behaviors from happening? I can choose to analyze an animal's actions or not - does that change the actions?

Physics is the study of why objects behave the way they do.
Ethics is the study of why humans (or animals) behave the way they do.

Just like with physics, we may have invented the language for describing behavior, but we didn't invent behavior.

The fact that animals tend to behave a certain way and are cosistent in their behavior means that 'something' must be guiding their behavior, in the same way that the fact that planets behave in a certain way means that 'something' must be guiding their behavior. And these things exist whether we choose to examine them and label them or not.
 
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If such an "agent" does not exist, does that prevent behaviors from happening?
No, but that's not my point. Behaviours in the absence of any judgemental agent (an agent who distinguishes right from wrong, or good from bad) cannot be morally right or wrong - because it is the judgemental agent who supplies the moral standard against which the rightness or wrongness of the behaviour is judged. Take away all such judgemental agents and the behaviour stays the same, but it is no longer morally right or wrong.

It is rather like asking, in absence of the planet earth and the solar system, whether a particular direction in space is "north" or "south" - the question has no meaning, because it is only against the framework of the solar system that such a question can be answered. Similarly, in absence of some form of moral code (which exists in the mind of the moral agent making the judgement), asking whether an isolated behaviour is right or wrong has no meaning.

I can choose to analyze an animal's actions or not - does that change the actions?
No, but again that's not my point. It is the act of analysing an animal's actions which (may) result in moral judgements on those actions - the actions in themselves (in absence of such analysis) cannot be morally right or wrong.

If you need further evidence to support what I am saying : One agent may analyse the animal's actions to be morally right; another agent may analyse the same animal's actions to be morally wrong. This shows that the moral value of an action is the result of a convolution of the action itself along with the moral values of the agent judging the action - remove the agent and there is no moral value involved.

Ethics is the study of why humans (or animals) behave the way they do.
I beg to differ. Ethics is not so broad and general as the study of "why humans or animals behave the way they do"; it is more specifically the study of the general nature of morals and of the specific moral choices made by agents (which in turn implies that such agents must either have a set of moral standards, or their behaviours must be judged against an external set of moral standards)

The fact that animals tend to behave a certain way and are cosistent in their behavior means that 'something' must be guiding their behavior, in the same way that the fact that planets behave in a certain way means that 'something' must be guiding their behavior.
This does not lead to the conclusion that non-human animals have any set of moral standards. Moral judgements passed by humans on animal behaviour may simply be the result of anthropomorphising.
 
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loseyourname

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Physics is the study of why objects behave the way they do. Ethics is the study of why humans (or animals) behave the way they do.
Ethics is divided into descriptive and prescriptive ethics. What you seem to be talking about is descriptive ethics, which is the empirical study of the ethical systems actually used by people, or why they behave the way they behave ethically speaking. The descriptive ethicist is not concerned with all behavior, like why I chose the soup over the salad last night, just the ethical decisions that we make. Prescriptive ethics, on the other hand, is purely the study of how moral agents ought to behave. The former can exist in the absence of ethicists (but not in the absence of moral agents, any more than gravity would exist in the absense of space and mass), but the latter is a trickier. No doubt there actually exists some set of principles by which different groups of actors and reactors behave, but does there exist, in the absence of their articulation by ethicists, a set of principles by which these ought to behave? The answer is a clear cut no with many types of ethics; the law would not exist without lawmakers, business ethics would not exist in the absence of businesses, Victorian etiquette would not exist in the absence of prisses, etc.

So the question is this: Are ethical principles abstractions like gravity, or are they abstractions like legislative laws? The former abstracts from mind-independent reality, whereas the latter is straightforwardly a social construction.
 
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So the question is this: Are ethical principles abstractions like gravity, or are they abstractions like legislative laws? The former abstracts from mind-independent reality, whereas the latter is straightforwardly a social construction.
In other words, do moral or ethical principles exist independently of any agent or observer (like gravity), or are moral/ethical principles created from the interaction of observer (agent) and observed (and hence do not exist independently of observers or agents) (like legislative laws)?

How do we tell?

In the case of gravity we have been able to establish through countless empirical studies that there seems to be a principle at work which is independent of any and all observers. There appears to be a law of universal gravitational attraction with well-defined properties, which law is the same for every agent and observer.

In the case of legislative laws we have a clear case of laws which vary from one social system to another, and although there may often be similarity between many of these laws there is no identifiable "law of universal legislation" which operates independently of the agents or observers who make up these social systems - the laws are created by the agents and observers themselves, they do not exist in absence of these agents and observers.

What happens when we analyse moral and ethical principles in the same way?
 

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