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I think its important to realize that conversion doesn’t come over the course of one argument. It’s a slow process, and the reasoning has to happen within that persons own mind over an extended period of time. You’re asking someone to turn their world view upside down- be patient.
All arguments are good, both altruistic and moral, both theoretical and emperical. Generally I think people will want to have an understanding of the entire picture before seriously considering it. I myself became a libertarian for altruistic reasons, but have gradually changed to a more moral stand point since.
Most importantly: Be a role model. Always stay calm and civil, and never steam-roll anyone. Avoid putting people in a closed defensive position. Do what you can to live morally and to be sucessful. Peoples views are heavily effected by the people in their presence they look up too – do the best you can to be one of those people.
I love to look at videos of Milton Friedman for his amazing charisma and persuasive argumentation. Although I know his views on money and altruism are a bit problematic, I think his style is very admireable.
ps. I’m comitted to the long term project of turning my dad from a environmentalist, highly academical, social democrat into a libertarian. It’s a very slow process, but it moves steadily forward. I sent him a link the other day to a video of a speech by Dr. Woods himself. At first he shot it down as just shallow rethorics, but a week later he called me an said he had been thinking about it the whole week, and that he was considering ordering Meltdown. For every time I meet him and discuss these issues, he is willing to admit that a few more bad things about the government and a few more good things about the market.
Thanks, I’d like to point out though thats it’s not as impressive as it sounds. It’s maybe more of a first-and-a-half language, as nearly all culture we consume here from an early age is in English. I’m just not used to having written academic arguments in English.
Henceforth I will refer to “right and wrong” as “morality”, since it makes the prose flow better, so to speak – I’d say those terms are interchangeable, let me know if you disagree.
I think what you are trying to do is to turn objective morality into a praxiological axiom, but I don’t think that works.
You say that you don’t know how not to believe in objective morality. If the source of this morality is your inability not to believe in it, what makes it objective?
Let me explain my moral basis and adress the example of the murderous dictator:
My subjective moral basis can be simplified into two categories: emotional and rational.
My emotional morality is my biological reward system. I feel bad when some things happen, and I feel good when other things happen – just like physical pain, but more geared to the long term. These feelings are hard wired in to me and I can and do act upon them without knowing in detail how they work.
My rational morality is my own rules and perscriptions on how to live my life and treat others in order to best cater to my emotional morality. My rational morality is more or less conciously re-evalutated over time trough reason and trial and error.
I emotionaly condemn the dictator because his actions make my stomach turn.
I rationaly condemn the dictator because I would not like to live in a society that shared his morality.
I’d say your objective view raises much harder questions. First of all there is the huge task of finding what this objective moral is. Next you have to ask: Does it apply to other animals? Would it apply to other animals if they where smarter? Does it apply to mentaly retarded humans? Does it apply to featuses? Does it apply to sperm?
You are saying that my argument fall short because it concludes that there is no objective morality. With this you could be saying one of the following 2 things:
Either you know for a fact that there is objective morality, and an argument disproving that fact must therefore be false, in which case I would like you to present the evidence or theory behind this fact.
Or you are saying that my conclusion is wrong because you would want there to be an objective morality, ie my conclusion is wrong because you want it to be wrong. I don’t know if this is what you are saying, but I if it is, I don’t think thats a logical standpoint.
Now to your question “upon what basis can we declare any action RIGHT or WRONG?”
I don’t think we can declare actions right or wrong. I can declare actions right or wrong, and you can declare actions right or wrong, and if our moral framworks are reasonably compatible, we can have succesfull peaceful interaction.
My moral framework is a result of my upbringing, my political views and, to a quite large degree, my biological composition. That is the basis upon which I, not we, declare actions right or wrong.
ps. I hope this does not sound to unfriendly. English is not my first language, and my tone might be more harsh than I mean it to be.
I’d like to come at this issue from an evolutionary perspective.
As Dr J, I also do believe we can observe a common sense of morality across humanity. Moreover, I don’t think it’s limited to humanity. Even though our natural moral code is probably the most advanced, I’d say any species that relies heavily on a social structure can display similar treats.
Why? Because it’s benificial for the individual to get along with the group, and it’s benificial for the group not to kill and steal from each other.
Evolution and markets really work in the same way. There is variation, and there is selection. Just as advanced technology and wealth is the result of companies competing for the patron of their customer, courtesy and morality is the result of competition an cooperation among peoples and cultures.
But the evolution of morality is not only working on a biological, inter-generational scale, it’s also working on a cultural and individual scale. Acting moral will most times yield the best results, thus through personal trial and error, and observing people we value and/or admire, morality adapts to forms that fit the modern framework.
I’d definitly say that right and wrong are only matters of perception – but I would also say that those perceptions are very well grounden and non the less real.
Richard Dawkins is very good on the explenation of values and morality from an evolutionary perspective, I’d recommend him for further reading.