Way of the Mister – On Morality

Brian Keith Dalton, an ex-mormon who produces this satirical religious vlog “The Way of the Mister” (Which I believe is a parody of Ray Comfort’s web show “The Way of the Master”) has sidestepped his role as a comedy spoof artist and started getting deep into the philosophical weeds giving many food for thought.

Over the past few years I’ve been waffling quite a bit on my views on this concept of “objective” morality. I think a portion of it is simply that most people who try to make the distinction between subjective and objective just don’t know what they’re talking about — that they conflate subjectivity with epistemic uncertainty in a way that makes it very difficult to make any headway in a conversation. Sam Harris (The Moral Landscape) was the first person I came across that pointed out that you can make objective claims about subjective experiences.

The question of objective morality has become the favourite hiding place for apologetics since it simultaneously entangles our strongest emotions and confusing language. You don’t have to deal with the fact that the god character that appears in the Old Testament is very clearly pro-slavery, if you can distract people by asking what their justification for being against slavery is. (Recall that an apologetic is an argument that merely allows you to feel as though you ought to win the debate regardless of whether or not it actually has the power to change the mind of someone who doesn’t already agree with you. For practical purposes they are meant to serve as conversation stoppers rather than tools for deepening discussion.)

Here I think the Mister has highlighted something important that I kind of knew but couldn’t express. When they talk about “objective moral values”, they’re talking about something which is woven into the fabric of the universe. They want “slavery is wrong” to exist as a fact in the same category of facts as “The sum of two odd numbers is an even number” and “like electrical charges repel”. So they’re looking for candidate sources in the wrong place, get confused when they can’t find one, then insert a god into the picture to make things fit.

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