Thursday, November 8, 2012

The objective\subjective split

The Barefoot Bum has a series of blog posts on a debate with libertarians who support objective morality. This post is tangential to that debate so I'm posting here as 'a way into' a topic I wish to talk about.

 The Bum notes :

(We can also exclude the case where, by dint of careful examination, we might be able to objectively determine ownership, but only at the "cost" of having enough information about the world to make good inferences about people's minds. Minds are just as real as rocks and trees, and all of reality is causally interconnected; the distinction between objectivity and subjectivity is a distinction of convenience, not a fundamental dualism.) [link]

For a distinction of convenience I find the split between objective and subjective very inconvenient ! Take for example the following inquiry :

Are ownership rights objective, subjective or neither? I say neither, that it is category mistake to consider ownership rights either objective or subjective.  Allow me to adapt my Socrates finger point and explain.

1) Humans are a territoriality pack species willing to fight and die over access to land, tools, dwellings etc. (objectively determinable statement. An alien species could observe this.)

 2) When a pack or individual human gains control of territory and wishes to maintain control of territory, he or his pack must stay and defend this territory against other pack members or other packs because of 1. (objectively determinable)

 3) Humans are self-aware (objectively determinable).

 Now I have a problem. I need to infer a normative statement from series of positivist statements.

 4) The majority of humans will persistently assent to the assertion that humans desire to improve our condition from the situation described in (1) and (2). A minority who share common characteristics (eg sociopaths) will consistently dissent. (subjectively determinable normative)

 5) The union between the objective and the subjective constitute the real, which I will call the human condition.
 5a) It is a category mistake to equivocate between the objective, subjective and the human condition.

 6) Because humans are a self-aware species(3) we can identify consistently determinable true statements about the human condition.

 7) Moral rights are normative statements concerning the human condition.

 8) Ownership is a moral right arising from (1), (2), (4) and (7).

 Conclusion : It is a category mistake to consider ownership as either objective or subjective because it arises from the intersection of the objective and subjective.

The Hobo has more thoughts on objective morality [here].


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