Philosophical Multicore

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A Critique of Moral Objectivity Extrapolationism

Posted by Michael Dickens on March 29, 2010

A critique of this moral philosophy.

Objections to the First Postulate

If an objective morality exists, then all rational beings are obligated to follow it.

One might object to this postulate by arguing the difference between “should” and “have to”; that is, moral rightness and moral obligation. It could be argued that an objective morality only determines what is the morally right thing to do, and not what one’s moral obligations are; therefore, there is no obligation to follow an objective morality.

This makes it clear that we need a stronger definition of “morality”. We could simply define morality as the set of rules defining which actions are right and/or which actions we are obligated to perform; I think that for a morality to be complete, it must contain some of both. But even considering that some or even most of the moral laws may be regarding what is right rather than what we are obligated to do, we are still obligated to follow these laws. That is, we are bound by this obligation to judge moral worth by moral rightness and wrongness — even with “should” and “should not” rather than “have to” and “have not to”.

Objections to the Second Postulate

In the absence of an objective morality, all rational beings are obligated to follow whatever morality is closest to objective.

The most obvious objection herein is that all rational beings are not obligated to follow whatever morality is closest to objective; rather closest to all rational beings are so obligated. And which subset of rational beings is so obligated? The most obvious seems to be the subset that the near-objective morality applies to. This logic, however, sends us in a circle. It follows that people are only obligated to follow this morality if it serves their own interests. In essence, people are obligated only to serve their own interests. This conclusion is remarkably different from the original one. Still, though, it is not a completely amoral system, as people still have an obligation to themselves. This may in fact be a version of actual morality that most people practice in their day-to-day experiences.

This problem seems somewhat difficult to overcome. The second postulate will be true if we also assume that there must be some universal morality that applies equally to all rational beings; but I see no reason to assume the existence of such a system of morality.

A second objection is that there is no obligation to follow a morality that is anything short of objective. I don’t like this objection as much though, because it can be boiled down to the statement that the only morality is an objective morality. There is no reason to believe that subjective morality cannot be binding.

These are the objections that I have come up with. One of the objections remains unresolved.

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