Are there many philosophers who seriously try to argue that there are no objective moral truths? If so, how would they refute the proposition that "it is always wrong to torture people purely for pleasure." ? Thank you for your consideration!

According to a recent survey of philosophers, a majority —but not a large majority—would tend to agree that there are objective moral truths. But the minority who don't is not small. So yes: there are "many" philosophers who don't believe in objective moral truths. Now these philosophers would say it's not true that it's always wrong to torture people purely for pleasure. Of course, this doesn't mean that they think it's okay to torture. They think that moral claims aren't the sorts of things that can be true. But why? The easiest way to get a feel for this is by appeal to the old chestnut that "is" doesn't imply "ought." No statement of non-moral facts ever entails a moral claim. We might be revolted by what torture amounts to, but "torturing people for pleasure revolts me" doesn't add up to "torturing people for pleasure is wrong"; there's a logical gap between "X revolts me" and "X is wrong." This isn't enough by itself. After all, there's a gap between biological truths and...

If we assume that relativism isn't true, how can we explain the fact that people behave differently?

First, let's ask what relativism means. The usual understanding is that it says what's right and wrong is not universal, but relative to some non-universal reference point—the predominant opinions in one's culture, typically. Your question appears to assume that relativism is the only good explanation for differences in behavior, but it's not clear why we should believe that. After all, many differences in behavior are matters of preference. I prefer to eat chocolate ice cream; you like rum and raisin. Neither of us is wrong, and relativism is neither relevant nor useful in explaining the difference between us. I like swing dancing; you don't. I don't like playing basketball; you do. We'll behave differently on that account. But neither of us is "right" or "wrong," and once again, relativism doesn't provide any additional insight. Wh do our taste in ice cream differ? Why do we prefer different leisure activities? Who knows? The answer is probably a complicated mixture of a lot of things,...

Is landlording—understood as “fulfilling on one’s own property the housing needs of, and receiving rent from, another person/party”—a fundamentally unethical practice? I ask because it seems to me, at this point, that a landlord puts at risk the most inelastic needs of human beings, placing them behind more-or-less arbitrary paywalls. Sure, there is no shortage of “ethical landlording” articles/podcasts, and I am willing to do research (look for disconfirmation of the above hunch) myself. But asking philosophers never hurts! Thank you.

If your question was whether there are some unethical landlords, the answer would surely be yes. But you asked if renting living space is a "fundamentally unethical practice." Your implicit argument that it might be is that "at this point" (at which point?) a landlord puts at risk the most inelastic needs of human beings, placing them behind more or less arbitrary paywalls." Let's agree: people need shelter. They also need food. And clothing. And in very many cases, transportation. And medical care. And many other things. And let's agree, at least for present purposes, that a society that doesn't have a reasonable way of providing such things isn't doing what it should. We can even put it more strongly: insofar as we can talk about obligations that a society has, let's agree, at least for present purposes, that societies are obliged to devise reasonable ways for providing these things. The word "reasonable" is covering a lot of territory, but I don't think that will affect the point I'd like to...

I am not a mind-independent moral realist. When I have a child, I am concerned that teaching them that certain actions are "good" or "bad" will instill an erroneous concept of objective moral realism that might have harmful consequences to their happiness in later life (for example not taking actions that will make them happy because they think they are somehow "wrong"). On the other hand, I am also concerned that explaining why not to take certain actions solely because of the possible social consequences (e.g. "if you are caught stealing then you may go to prison") will not instill a strong enough framework in their mind to prevent them from committing crimes or otherwise taking actions that could harm them. It can be difficult, for example, to predict the possible risks associated with certain actions when you are a child. So it is easier to teach that the action is "wrong" rather than explain the possible consequences, their liklihood and their impact. What do you recommend? Should I teach my...

I recommend that you don't think about it this way. Is mind-independent moral realism true? Geez. I don't know. (And, by the way, neither do you.) But here's some stuff I feel quite comfortable saying. I want my kids to be empathetic. I want them to give a damn about how their actions affect other people. I want them to take seriously the idea that if they wouldn't be willing to put up with being treated in some way or other, then they'd better have a very good reason, and not just a selfish one, for treating other people that way. I want my kids to treat others decently. I want them to be honest. I want them to be fair. I want them not to be jerks. Do I want all that because I'm convinced that mind independent moral realism is true? Nope. I want all that because I can't imagine not caring about such things. They seem right to me, and the fact that something called "mind independent moral realism" might not be true seems to me an awfully thin reason for turning my back on my considered judgment that...

Suppose I am closed in a room with an unconscious man who drank too much. It is a hot day and I try to keep the window open, to get some air, but it does not stay so. Case 1: I use this man's body (one of his feet) to prevent the window from getting closed. Case 2: I get sexually aroused and I have sex with this man. In both cases, he does not wake up, and he gets some bruises from my acting, but he comes to know what I did only some days later. Morally speaking, it seems that what I did in Case 1 was a minor offence (if it is an offence at all), but what I did in Case 2 was a serious crime, it was rape. But what difference between the cases justifies these different moral judgments? In both cases I used a man as a tool to advance my interests, I did something that he would probably not want, and I caused him some bruises. The difference, I suppose, is that he would *see* or *feel* that my action in Case 2 was more serious, more offensive. And that "society" would see or feel the same. But, morally...

You ask: "morally speaking, can my action BE more serious or offensive only because other people see it so? Suppose there was someone weird enough to think that your sleeping man would be indifferent between having his feet used to prop a window open and being raped in his sleep. And to make things clearer, suppose this person thinks that the sleeping man wouldn't mind either. It's hard to imagine the psychology of such a person, and may not even be clear if he would be a competent moral agent, but set that aside. What should we say? Perhaps we would say that we shouldn't judge this person more harshly for doing one of these things rather than the other. No harm was meant; it's just that the person was massively, unimaginably clueless. This would be someone we should keep close watch over; if they actually carried out the rape, we would be fully justified in confining them in some way. We might abstain from moral judgments about the person himself, but there's another question we can ask: if the...

I've been having a moral conflict about whether I should serve in the military or not and I came to the conclusion that it would be immoral for me to serve. But then I thought to myself, if I think it's immoral to serve I'm basically saying that anyone with the choice to not serve shouldn't serve, and if everyone who has the choice to not serve does that the military will collapse and since the country has no defenses a war will likely ensue that would cause many more deaths than if people had served. So does that falsify my claim that it is immoral to serve in the military?

You've given an apparently powerful reason for thinking that it's morally acceptable to have a military to defend the nation: lives will be saved. You've implicitly cast this in terms of defense. That is, you've implicitly offered a justification for having an army by appeal to the right of a nation to defend its citizens. It's plausible that having no military would lead to more deaths than having one. And it's morally plausible that people—and nations—have a right to self-defense. And so this raises an obvious question: what reasons are left for thinking that military service is immoral? There may be reasons. But you've shifted the burden onto yourself. If you want your view to be taken seriously, then you have to say more. If you leave the argument where it is, then you're open to the charge that you hold your position in bad faith. Are there reasons to the contrary? You could try to show that having armies leads in the long run to more deaths. Or you could try to argue that it's always wrong to...

There have been some excellent questions about whether moral claims can be objectively true or not. Isn't there an unspoken presupposition to that argument, however? "Moral claims can only exist in situations where there are beings who are subject to morality present in the first place." or perhaps you can word it better to capture what I am trying to say. In other words, if there were no sentient beings, then the concept of morality could not even exist, as only sentient beings are capable of moral reflection in the first place.

True: only sentient beings can think about moral questions, and so moral questions don't arise in a world with no sentient (or better, sapient) beings. Of course, in one sense of "arise," no questions arise unless there are creatures who can ponder the questions. Nonetheless, that doesn't make the way things are depend on the existence of thinking beings. There were electrons before we came on the scene, and there would be electrons even if neither we nor any creatures like us had existed. That said, you're right: moral matters have an intrinsic connection with beings who can ponder them. There are no live moral issues in a lifeless world, nor even in one with sentient but no sapient creatures. Moral truths are truths about how certain kinds of creature should behave if there were any. But this is consistent with there being moral truths even if nothing in the world knows those truths and even if none of the relevant kinds of creatures exist. Thus, one might say (I would) that before any thinking...

An inventor creates a life-saving drug for disease X, which has no other cure. Worldwide, death by disease X among white people has been eliminated because of his drug; however, the death rate remains at pre-drug levels among non-whites because he has contractually restricted its sale and use to white people. For non-whites who die from disease X, is this inventor a causal factor in their death? My friend and I have debated this. I argue YES. The actions the inventor has taken to restrict the sale of his drug demonstrate intent with full knowledge of the consequences of the actions he has taken. I think his actions are not only causal, but in a world where this medicine is readily available everywhere, he becomes the primary cause of death. My friend argues NO. The inventor has done nothing with respect to non-whites. There is no causal relationship. Pulling a man from a burning building saves a life, but not doing so doesn't cause a death. Where I see actions that cause harm, my friend sees...

As you've described the case, there's something the inventor could do that would save lives. There's also a dispute about how to analyze the notion of a cause. Some would say (your friend apparently is in this camp) that absences—in the case, not doing something—can't be causes. Others disagree and provide accounts that allow absences to be causal. This is an abstract and complicated issue, but how much difference will it make to how we judge the inventor? Suppose I'm in a war zone and happen to know that there's an IED in a certain spot. I see someone running on a path that will take him over the IED and almost certainly leave him dead. Let's assume I even know who it is and know that in all relevant respects, he's an innocent. As it happens, I'm behind a barrier, but I could easily warn him. I don't. He runs over the IED and dies in the blast. Is there something I could have done that would have saved him? We've already said yes. Would it have come at any significant cost? We can stipulate for...

Hello philosophers in a recent debate I was involved in a theist stated “For morality to be objective, moral propositions such as "Killing is bad","Stealing is bad", etc... need to be true independently of the person who is stating them. “ I countered “That is the way this position is normally put but a problem arises as in if there are objective moral facts how would we know this to be the fact? To know something is an objective moral fact only needs an agent to know this , how can a moral fact be known independent of a human mind to decide?” Is my position logically sound or are there problems with my reply?

I think your counterargument is conflating issues that need to be kept distinct. Your interlocutor ((I'll call him or her your friend) said, correctly, that if morality is objective, the truth of moral claims doesn't depend on the person who makes them. That seems fine. To say that something is objectively true is to say that it's true whether or not anyone believes it. Your response was to ask how we could know that there are objective moral facts, if there really are. But that's a separate issue, and in fact it has nothing in particular to do with moral claims. If there are objective facts about what's going on now (say, in the Earth's frame of reference) in some remote part of the universe, then those facts are facts whether or not we could ever be in a position to know them. Whether X is mind-independently true and whether anyone is in a position to know that X is true are different matters. You ask: "how can a moral fact be known independent of a human mind to decide?" That's...

By what definition, and extent, and to what purpose do we as humans classify the idea and act of murder as evil? To most people I ask this question seems ludicrous and the answer alarmingly obvious, but I have yet to understand why we identify this occurrence as ‘evil.’ I can understand that the intent of murder and its outcome can result in a way that selfishly benefits the murderer at such a terrible cost, and I can understand that the action of taking someone’s life is just as cruel to the deceased as it is to the people that knew and loved that victim, but it seems hypocritical to me that we as a society generalize the idea of killing as evil when relatively many of us favor capital punishment, strong military, and, at least in fiction, vigilante justice. We send men and women to violent battlefields yet, before they leave, indoctrinate the poor souls into thinking that the very act of murder is evil just by itself. They come back scarred because of this. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto...

Well, we think that murder is wrong, and that it's often (usually?) not just wrong but very wrong—wrong enough to count as evil. Robbing someone of their purse is bad; robbing them of the life is worse. What you say you don't understand is why we count murder as (typically? often? almost always?) evil in spite of the fact that we think killing isn't always wrong. You see some sort of hypocrisy here. But why? After all: not all killing is wrong. The obvious example: killing in self-defense, which I hope we can agree is morally acceptable in a way that murder isn't. Even more so: killing by a police officer to protect the life of an innocent person threatened by an assailant. Capital punishment is a harder case. I think it's wrong, but I don't think people who believe otherwise are therefore morally blind. War is complicated business, but there's a case to be made that going to war is at least sometimes morally acceptable too. The place where what you're saying seems to miss the mark is here: it...

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