RE: [asa] Dawkins new book

From: Thomas Pearson <>
Date: Mon Oct 26 2009 - 19:02:19 EDT

On Monday, October 26, 2009, "Schwarzwald" wrote:


>>> If anything, I think if objective is being equated with public
opinion (As in, a social standard - some spoken or unspoken agreement in
a given community or culture that X is wrong) or something similar
("This rule is posted in public, anyone can read the rule, therefore
it's an objective fact and therefore the rule is objective!"),
objectivity is being downgraded.<<


At the risk of seeing this conversation degenerate into a semantic
dispute, I'll just say that I don't think of objective norms or claims
as being the expression of a transient "public opinion." Most objective
norms are deeply embedded in our cultural practices, and have an
enduring pedigree. Perhaps better examples than the one I offered
earlier would be rules of etiquette, or maybe rules of the road. It's
an objective fact (or so it seems to me) that we have a long tradition
in the U.S. of driving on the right side of the road. Is that not
objectively true? It's not a universal fact, nor does it originate in
some unimpeachable source. But wouldn't it be odd to deny that, in the
U.S., it's objectively true that folks drive on the right side of the

>>>Because I'm talking about objective moral values, purposes, intrinsic
meanings, etc. Not mere objective facts like 'The cat is on the mat'.
Not objective in the sense that "the rules of Monopoly are objectively
right and wrong, because they're written on the inside of the box, and
the location and pattern of the ink is an objective fact."<<<


But it seems obvious to me that moral values, purposes and intrinsic
meanings are objective in precisely the same sense that the rules of
Monopoly are objective. The rules of Monopoly are not universal in
scope, the way that moral values, purposes and intrinsic meaning can be;
nor are the rules of Monopoly promulgated by an incorrigible source.
But in terms of objectivity, they both appear to occupy a level playing
field. You obviously do not agree with this, and I have a hard time
understanding your position. Can you say more about what makes the
objectivity of moral values, purposes and intrinsic meanings
substantively different from the objectivity of the rules of Monopoly?


>>>If you think what I mean by (for example) an objective morality is
something like "Can it be written down on a piece of paper and posted on
a wall, and more than one person can agree that that rule is written
there and they agree to follow it", then yes, we're just not
communicating with each other. I thought I made that clear when I agreed
that people can come up with rules, that these rules can even be
"consistent", etc - and that these features were unimportant for what I
was talking about.<<<

As a Christian, I'm firmly committed to an objective morality. But I'm
not necessarily committed to a universal and transcendent morality. And
your social contract example - "written down on a piece of paper. .
.they agree to follow it. . .people can come up with rules" - is one I
find equally implausible. A number of thinkers who are a lot smarter
than me have held to an objective morality without recourse to a
universal and transcendent morality, and without collapsing into a
socially constructed morality. It's surely not the case that what makes
morality objective requires something universal and transcendent.


It's not clear to me if you hold that an objective morality - or
anything else truly objective - does in fact require something universal
and transcendent. Again, could you say more about that? I appreciate
your comments, and I'd like to hear more of them.


Tom Pearson




Thomas D. Pearson

Department of History & Philosophy

The University of Texas-Pan American

Edinburg, Texas









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Received on Mon Oct 26 19:03:21 2009

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