Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears, for I have come not to praise subjectivism, but to bury it.
Okay, maybe that's a bit overdramatic, particularly since I am a subjectivist in a sense. I believe that all value depends on desire an, if you eliminate desire from the universe, you eliminate all value.
However, there is one type of subjectivism that I would like to put an end to, if I could. It is the type that says that there are two types of reality - 'objective' reality and 'subjective' reality. These are mutually exclusive categories such that something is either 'objective' or 'subjective' but not both, and that both types of reality have equal merit.
I have a problem with all dual-reality theories. There is one reality. If somebody wants to assert a second type, I leave it up to them to demonstrate why we need it. Without that evidence, I am quite content with a single-reality theories.
In the case of subjectivism, I believe this:
All subjective statements that make sense and are true can be reduced to a set of objective statements that are true. Any subjective claim that cannot be reduced to an objective fact is an example of "making things up" - just like religion.
For example, I hate beans. My wife loves beans. Is this like and dislike of beans proof that something other than objective reality exists?
Absolutely not. My physical body (including my brain) is structured in such a way that I am disposed to avoid those states that would cause me to taste beans. My wife's body is structured in such a way that she is disposed to pursue states in which she tastes beans. This comes no closer to representing a different type of reality than car that gets 15 miles per gallon compared to a different car that gets 25 miles per gallon. Because of the different way in which the items are put together, they behave differently under otherwise identical situations.
Even the statements, "Cockroach! Ewwww!" or "Spinach! Yippee!" can be reduced to a set of objectively true statements. Cockroaches are entities that tend to cause within me feelings of revulsion - a state that I tend to want to avoid. Or, the taste of spinach is something that I am disposed to pursue.
If there are statements that cannot be reduced to objective fact, then I classify them as objective fiction.
Specifically, if moral claims are not objectively true, then they are objectively false. They are either reporting something that is true in the real world, or they are making false claims about the real world.
That's it. Those are the only two options.
As I said yesterday, this weekend's posts were inspired by an episode of the Infidel Guy radio show on Ethics without God in which Kevin Currie defended subjectivism. One of Kevin’s claims was that, when a person presented a moral theory, sooner or later they would have to provide some type of basic moral statement – a non-fact statement – that could not be reduced to anything in the real world. This basic moral statement, he asserted, can never be objective, and can only be accepted subjectively.
My position is that, as soon as you get to that point where you are introducing a ‘subjective truth’ into your argument, at that point you are introducing an ‘objective fiction.’ If you cross that line, everything that you do from that point on is ‘make believe’. It is fiction. It is a case of, ‘let’s pretend that this particular reason for action exists.’ If, as Kevin argues, morality requires this subjective statement, then morality itself is fiction – as much myth and superstition as religion.
My question is: how far can we go without actually inventing any of these subjevctive facts? If we confine ourselves to objective statements, is there anything in the real world that we cannot handle?
If so, why or how?
David Hume wrote that he found it inconceivable how one could derive ‘ought’ from ‘is’. Perhaps it is because the types of ‘ought’ that Hume was referring to were works of fiction made up in the mind of the author.
If you and I were writing two different books, we would each be able to make up our own ‘facts’. Those ‘facts’ would have relevance in our different works of fiction based merely on the fact that we chose to give them significance. There is no objective reality that our fictions need to match up to. No person’s work of fiction is any more or less valid than anybody else’s work of fiction.
I see no difference between works of fiction and these things we are told to think of as ‘subjective morality.’ They are simply games of make believe – as in, “Let’s pretend these things really are wrong,” that have no correspondence to the real world of objective fact.
So, let’s simply stop short of inventing these works of fiction and sticking with objectively true claims about the real world. If a proposition does an objectively true claim about the world, we throw it out. We count it as irrelevant. If it is not a fact about the world, then it is a fiction.
Subjective morality, since it is said to be something distinct and separate from the set of objective facts, gets put in the bin with, myth, superstition, lies, and other works of fiction.
We simply have no more need for 'subjective truth' when we are talking about the real world than we have for God, ghosts, psychic powers, or any other type of fiction.