Re: absolute morality

Technotranscendence (
Tue, 30 Nov 1999 21:24:26 -0800

On Monday, November 29, 1999 4:15 AM Rob Harris wrote:
> >This seems to be what most people mean by "objective" and,
> >perhaps, the common usage is better than Rand's, given that it is placing
> >the good in the _object_ apart from the _subject_
> You cannot "place good" into an object. "Good" is another human concept,
> so you need a human observer whose PERCEPTION of an object is good, the
> object itself is nothing of the sort.

Rob misunderstands here. Let me try to clear it up. In Objectivist discourse, there are three general classes of ethics (and of epistemology, esthetics, politics, of evaluative disciplines in general). These are:

  1. Intrinsicist which place the good in the object. Examples include the Decalogue (Ten Commandments), which are _roughly_ a set of rules which are taken to be good in themselves -- not because of what they do.
  2. Subjectivist which place the good in the subject. Examples include people who say what is good is whatever they feel like calling good.
  3. Objectivist which place the good in the relation of object to subject. Within Rand's particular theory that relation which defines the good is that which promotes (in a totalistic way) the agent's life.

> >I would quibble with one thing here which relates to my second point
> >Morality, as such, need not be the same for each species or type of
> It does to be "absolute".

Defined this issue in my last email.

> >I would not take this as meaning morality is subjective or arbitrary.
> I would. I think most people would agree with me.

Most people and Rob might be wrong. This is not a popularity contest.

> >It merely reflects on the fact of being being (no pun intended)
> Yes, the concept is subjective. The situation perception depends upon the
> nature of the subject (human, dog, worm, little green man).

I disagree. The "situation perception" depends on the subject and the object. I see, e.g., the computer screen shrink as a move away from it and grow as I move closer. Is this purely subjective? No. It's a relation between the object (my computer screen) and the subject (me). I can not will the screen to shrink or grow if it and I stay in the same place and nothing else changes.

For more on perception, see David Kelley's _The Evidence of the Senses: A Realist Theory of Perception_. A review of this book is at my web site under the title "Perception and Realism." Also at my site is "A Dialogue on Happiness," which covers many of the issues in this discussion.


Daniel Ust