Philosophical Multicore

Sometimes controversial, sometimes fallacious, sometimes thought-provoking, and always fun.

Moral Goals

Posted by Michael Dickens on January 6, 2010

When it comes down to it, differences in morality stem from differences in moral goals. These goals are axioms of a sort, so it would seem that no axiom is better than any other. But is this truly the case?

One thing that most people agree on — although this is itself something of an axiom — is that objective rules are superior to subjective rules. This is empirically true. For example, you are allowed to go skiing, but if you can’t walk then you are physically unable to go skiing. Likewise, you are not allowed to kill people, but are still physically capable of killing people. Objectivity — that is, reality — trumps subjective rules. If you have an objection to assuming that the objective is better than the subjective, please say so. I just might end up agreeing with you.

So given that objectivity is better than subjectivity, we can ask the question, is there an objective moral goal? Perhaps there is, but I have no knowledge of one.

The closest thing to an objective perspective would be a perspective that, while not universal, is as wide as possible. What would such a perspective look like? Well, we can certainly think of a morality that encompasses as many perspectives as possible: try overall to maximize the happiness and minimize the suffering of every conscious being. From an individual perspective, your personal goal is to maximize your happiness. The widest possible perspective will encompass every individual’s perspective and attempt to maximize all of them.

It seems that if we assume that objectivity is better than subjectivity, and that we should try to get as close to objectivity as possible, that the moral objective of maximizing overall happiness is a good one. Is there some reason why this doesn’t follow? Why should we assume that objectivity is better than subjectivity — or should we at all?

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2 Responses to “Moral Goals”

  1. phynnboi said

    Human morality is purely subjective. Without humans, there is no human morality. It’s not like gravity: If mankind vanishes, gravity will still be here. Human morality is only as real as we make it (i.e., by punishing wrong-doers).

    (I say “human” morality because, as I understand it, other social animals have their own [largely instinctual] codes of conduct.)

  2. […] “Moral Objectivity Extrapolationism” is what I am calling a moral philosophy that I explained briefly in an earlier post. I will now be further solidifying this moral […]

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