I must not have been clear enough. Let me reiterate: A moral is a true sentence containing a moral predicate. Therefore, since the sentence 'it is morally acceptable to kill babies' is false, that sentence does not count as a genuine moral. Therefore, your counterargument does not apply to moral realism.Dawgard said:However you word a sentence, whether imperitive or not, does no make it an actual moral. I could say anything, such as "it is morally acceptable to kill a baby", but that doesn't make it correct. Therefore sentences cannot be morals.
But OK, you've made it plain that you don't think that "morals" are true sentences containing moral predicates. Then I repeat my question: what are morals?
You say they are not concrete. You say they are not pie-in-the-sky. Are they abstract entities then? Platonic forms? If there were no humans, would absolute morals still exist? Where do they exist if not in this universe?
You say morals are not definable, yet they can be "reached" through logic and reason, but really, the only justification you've given so far is a pragmatic one: it's good for society if people believe in morals, and they are more likely to believe in morals if we say they are absolute. So basically, morality is in our enlightened self-interest, so we should believe in morals, and we call them "absolute" in order to get more people to believe in them. But enlightened self-interest has never been an adequate foundation for ethics, and pragmatism is but one step removed from relativism. Relativism says do what you want. Pragmatism says do whatever works--for you! So, until you can come up with better logic and reason, it seems you're stuck in the same boat as you say I'm in.
But I'm not stuck in the same boat as the relativists. Just because ancient cultures used to sacrifice babies, it does not follow that the moral realist position that the sentence 'it is wrong that someone tortures babies' is not objectively true. I can only speak from my position as a person raised in a modern, English-speaking civilization, but you are probably correct that if I was raised as an Aztec, I wouldn't have a problem with human sacrifice. Yet, according to moral realism, it would still be morally wrong that I participated in human sacrifice notwithstanding that I actually sacrificed humans. Like I said earlier, there are moral cripples. According to moral realism, a human-sacrificing Aztec would be a moral cripple--though not necessarily evil because they just didn't know the difference between right and wrong. If you were to say that human sacrifice was moral--for Aztecs--THAT is moral relativism. But surely that's not your position. . . .
To use your own analogy, just because someone is brainwashed into believing that 2 + 2 = 5, it does not follow that someone taught through repetition that 2 + 2 = 4 did not learn the truth. Similarly, if someone was raised to think that sacrificing babies to Satan is morally good, it does not follow that someone properly brought up to think that it is morally wrong to sacrifice babies did not learn the objective truth. Just because repetition is involved in learning falsities as well as truth, it does not follow that truth learned through repetition is not truth. Correct me if I'm wrong.
Regarding the indefinability of the moral predicates: as you say, words are intended to represent something. Some words represent simple things, and some words represent complex things. Thus words representing complex things can be defined using words that represent simple things. For example, I could define the word 'horse' as meaning the same as 'a large, solid-hoofed, herbivorous quadruped'.
Alas, it is not so easy with words that represent simple things. Take for example, the word 'yellow'. Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary defines 'yellow' as 'a color like that of egg yolk, ripe lemons, etc.' But what kind of a definition is THAT? Does 'yellow' mean the same as 'egg yolk', or does 'yellow' mean the same as 'ripe lemon'? I don't think it's either. Rather, if you want to know the definition of 'yellow' the dictionary instructs you to find an egg, crack it open, and look at the yolk, then find a ripe lemon and compare the two, and you will see for yourself the one thing that the egg yolk and the ripe lemon have in common: YELLOW!
Oh my God! Repetition! Again! !Que horrible!
In other words, the dictionary itself gives an ostensive definition (look it up!) for the word 'yellow'.
And so it is with the moral predicates. The predicate 'morally wrong' is intended to represent something. The problem is that something is simple, just like yellow is simple. So moral terms cannot be defined using nonmoral terms, in the way 'horse' can be defined using nonhorse terms. So, to say, as you have come close to saying, that 'that which is morally good is that which is conducive to survival' commits a logical fallacy, the naturalistic fallacy, first identified by G.E. Moore in his 1903 Principia Ethica. Similarly, some animal rights activists would like to define 'morally wrong' as 'causing suffering'. But this is like saying that 'yellow' means the same as 'lemon'.
So, moral predicates like 'morally wrong' cannot be defined in nonmoral terms. All I can do is show you suffering, murdering, cheating, mutilating, raping, wasting, vandalizing, etc. But 'morally wrong' does not mean the same as 'suffering', nor does 'morally wrong' mean the same as 'murdering', etc., nor does 'morally wrong' mean all those things taken together. Rather, 'morally wrong' is that quality that all those things have in common, just as 'yellow' represents that quality that egg yolks, ripe lemons, and ripe bananas all have in common.
Sorry, that's the best I can do. But it's also the best anyone else can do. . . .
And a final note, the ostensive definition of 'morally wrong' is absolutely NOT based on a "gut reaction", as you have suggested. Of course feelings of outrage are present upon witnessing a man beat a cripple in a wheelchair. However, feelings of outrage are also present in situations where there is no reason to suppose that something immoral has happened, as when one is caught in a traffic jam.