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Thread: What does 'ontological grounding' mean, and how does it apply to morality?

  1. #1 What does 'ontological grounding' mean, and how does it apply to morality? 
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    Can someone please explain exactly what, if anything, this term means? I've been having a debate on Sodahead with a theist (and a troll as well) who keeps on making the claim that if there was no god, there could be no 'ontological grounding' for objective morality. I do not really know how to respond to that because it doesn't even make sense to me. I do believe in objective morality, but whether or not a god exists has nothing whatsoever to do with that so far as I can tell.

    Is he simply misusing the word 'ontology' to try and throw me off, or am I missing something here?


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    In short he's talking out of his arse.
    He seems to be using a circular argument by assuming that there's an objective morality and that this must come from god. And if there's a god then there must be an objective morality.

    So far as we can tell there's no objective morality (sorry), and that removes one of the props for the existence of god.
    I don't know what reasons YOU have for arguing for an objective morality, but "god" as the basis for one is as good, or as daft, as any other.
    Conversely, any other reason is equally as valid as "god".


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    Well, in order for anything to be objective, it must be based on certain premises. Reality itself is objective because of the laws od identity, non-contradiction and excluded middle, for example. If they weren't always true on a fractal level, reality would itself be meaningless.

    Therefore, certain actions can be said to be objectively immoral based on the premises, for example, that life is generally preferable to death, and pleasure is generally preferable to pain, and violating someone's free will needlessly is wrong. I would agree that there is likely no such thing as a transcendent or transcendental morality, but objective moral system clearly can and do exist, as long as we define morality as that which is conducive to the well-being and functionality of our fellow human beings and society as a whole.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fanghur View Post
    Well, in order for anything to be objective, it must be based on certain premises. Reality itself is objective because of the laws od identity, non-contradiction and excluded middle, for example. If they weren't always true on a fractal level, reality would itself be meaningless.
    But morality is a human construct.

    Therefore, certain actions can be said to be objectively immoral based on the premises, for example, that life is generally preferable to death, and pleasure is generally preferable to pain, and violating someone's free will needlessly is wrong.
    But again that's not objective, since life > death and pleasure > pain etc. are subjective human "preferences".

    but objective moral system clearly can and do exist, as long as we define morality as that which is conducive to the well-being and functionality of our fellow human beings and society as a whole.
    So in order to claim something as objective we have to make a subjective definition on which to base that claim? Got it.
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    Is it subjective that torturing a child causes that child unnecessary suffering? No, that is an objective fact. Maybe we are just using the word 'objective' in different ways. By the way, do you object to my assessment of the three logical absolutes?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fanghur View Post
    Is it subjective that torturing a child causes that child unnecessary suffering? No, that is an objective fact.
    Is it really an "objective fact"?
    Define "unnecessary".

    By the way, do you object to my assessment of the three logical absolutes?
    These: Reality itself is objective because of the laws od identity, non-contradiction and excluded middle?
    No I don't dispute that they are logical "absolutes".
    But, then again, logic is a human construct, and there are numerous types of logic.
    Logic is one way of looking at "reality" - not THE way. I.e. reality does not, necessarily, conform to logic.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Fanghur View Post
    Is it subjective that torturing a child causes that child unnecessary suffering? No, that is an objective fact.
    Is it really an "objective fact"?
    Define "unnecessary".


    By the way, do you object to my assessment of the three logical absolutes?
    These: Reality itself is objective because of the laws od identity, non-contradiction and excluded middle?
    No I don't dispute that they are logical "absolutes".
    But, then again, logic is a human construct, and there are numerous types of logic.
    Logic is one way of looking at "reality" - not THE way. I.e. reality does not, necessarily, conform to logic.
    (First point). Now we are just arguing semantics. I suppose if you want to look at the issue fractally then you can never get to truly fractal objectivity, but I am talking about in the practical sense here, not the absolute sense.


    (Second point). True, but you seem to be making the same fallacy that well-known apologist (and moron, incidentally. lol.) Matt Slick has made over and over again with regards to this issue; if I have misunderstood your position then I apologise.

    The three logical absolutes are not logic in and of themselves, that is a fallacy of division. Rather they are the intrinsic properties of existence/essence/everything/whatever the word is for what transcendentals apply to itself that allows for logic to exist. If it wasn't true in a transcendental and absolute sense that X=X and X does not = Not X and however one might mathematically portray the law of excluded middle, then logic, and indeed existence itself, could not exist. The law of identity is essentially that everything that exists has a nature, and existence is part of something's nature. Therefore if the law of identity were not transcendentally true at a fractal level, then existence would be absolutely meaningless.
    Last edited by Fanghur; February 25th, 2013 at 09:34 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fanghur View Post
    (Girst point). Now we are just arguing semantics.
    Wrong.

    I suppose if you want to look at the issue fractally then you can never get to truly fractal objectivity
    What?

    but I am talking about in the practical sense here, not the absolute sense.
    So, by "objective" you mean... what? That most people agree with it? That's still subjective. Or is that what you meant by "arguing semantics"? I.e. when YOU use the word "objective" you don't actually mean objective?

    (Second point). True, but you seem to be making the same fallacy that well-known apologist (and moron, incidentally. lol.) Matt Slick has made over and over again with regards to this issue; if I have misunderstood your position then I apologise.
    I have no idea what you mean, who Matt Slick is, or what he said.

    The three logical absolutes are not logic in and of themselves, that is a fallacy of division. Rather they are the intrinsic properties of existence/essence/everything/whatever the word is for what transcendentals apply to itself that allows for logic to exist.
    Wrong.

    If it wasn't true in a transcendental and absolute sense that X=X and X does not = Not X and however one might mathematically portray the law of excluded middle, then logic, and indeed existence itself, could not exist.
    Rubbish. They're true for that particular subset of logic, not "absolutes" that are objectively true.

    The law of identity is essentially that everything that exists has a nature, and existence is part of something's nature.
    In other words a tautology.

    Therefore if the law of identity were not transcendentally true at a fractal level, then existence would be absolutely meaningless.
    Whatever "at a fractal level" means...

    Your three supposed "transcendental and absolute" laws are axioms for scholastic/ classical logic - check out paraconsistent logic and dialetheism.
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    Okay, so you are saying then a square circle is not necessarily an impossibility even though it would be a self-contradictory object? Or a horizontal vertical line? Are you saying that is might be possible for 2 + 2 to equal 5? Or for something to also be nothing?

    Are you saying that it is possible for something that exists in reality to simultaneously and in the same sense be what it is and not what it is? Can something simultaneously be both a rock and a tree at the same time in the same sense?

    In a universe with no minds, is it any less true that, for example, everything is by definition either a rock or not a rock? Or a black hole or not a black hole? Are you saying that there might conceivably be a third option in what we know of a true dichotomy?

    I am completely baffled that you could make such a claim; it is entirely self-refuting.


    And do you know what the term 'fractally flawed' means? Substitute 'flawed' with 'objective' and you should understand what I mean by it.
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    So you deny that they're axioms? That they are unprovable?
    FYI the claim about logic isn't mine - if you'd bothered to look up the other types you'd have realised that.
    Are you under the (false) impression that logic is the be-all and end-all with regard to reality?
    Are you under the (false) impression that logic is (can be) flawed?

    How about something that is a discrete localised particle while, at the same time, in a non-localised smeared wave?
    How about a single object that goes through two separated holes simultaneously?

    Yeah okay, "Substitute 'flawed' with 'objective'" - fractally objective. I have no idea what you mean by this either (or, more specifically, what your intended meaning is).
    To paraphrase: Are you simply misusing the word 'fractally' to try and throw me off, or am I missing something here?
    Last edited by Dywyddyr; February 26th, 2013 at 09:20 AM.
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    "How about something that is a discrete localised particle while, at the same time, in a no-localised smeared wave?"

    The law of identity applies at a meta level and defines what the nature of something is. At the quantum level the nature of many fundamental particles is that they possess both wave and particle properties, and because of this they are capable of very strange behaviour. That is what they are: they possess both wave and particle properties and they do not NOT possess both wave and particle properties. Things are different at the quantum level, but they still are what they are and are not what they are not; an electron is an electron and is not a quark or a proton. The three tautological premises still hold true.

    "How about a single object that goes through two separated holes simultaneously?"

    First of all, I would just like to point out that just because something appears by all rights to be totally counter intuitive and lacking a consistent nature, that does not necessarily mean that we are justified in assuming absolutely that at some level they do not have a nature; that would be an argument from ignorance. For example, if there was a repeating sequence of random numbers a googolplex, it would be absolutely impossible for us to detect that it actually is not truly random, and yet it is not random. Who's to say that the quantum level of reality doesn't operate in an analogous or near-analogous way? By definition it would be impossible for us to know.

    In any event, it is the wave-like properties of the 'particles' that allows such a thing to occur; that wave-particle nature is what it is and is not what it is not, and it is not. That conforms to the laws of identity and non-contradiction, at least as I picture them.

    A fractally flawed argument is an argument that is flawed at every conceivable level no matter how many layers you peel back. Pascal's Wager is an example of a fractally flawed argument. Yes, I may have technically been misusing the word 'fractally'when speaking of 'fractally objective', but I did it solely for lack of a better term.
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    So you deny that they're axioms? That they are unprovable?

    The law of identity applies at a meta level and defines what the nature of something is.
    Does the "law of contradiction"?

    First of all, I would just like to point out that just because something appears by all rights to be totally counter intuitive and lacking a consistent nature, that does not necessarily mean that we are justified in assuming absolutely that at some level they do not have a nature; that would be an argument from ignorance.
    I'm not arguing about its nature.
    And you appear to be assuming that logic holds true regardless.
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    'Nature' is what I am talking about. Logic is our way of mathematically and conceptually describing the nature of reality and determining what is or isn't true. To me the logical absolutes, or rather what we call the logical absolutes/tautologies/axioms, say this:

    "Everything necessarily is what it is, is not what it is not, and is not neither or both at the same time."

    Can you think of any conceivable situation when that would not apply at some level? Or even how it possibly COULD not apply? Everything, including absolutely nothing, has a nature which is can be defined by our conceptual depiction of those three tautologies. I suggest you do a YouTube search for 'Matt Dillahunty vs Matt Slick'; Dillahunty explains my position much better than I can.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fanghur View Post
    'Nature' is what I am talking about.
    Ah right.
    My argument is invalid because you choose to view it as something other than what I'm talking about.

    Logic is our way of mathematically and conceptually describing the nature of reality and determining what is or isn't true.
    But you persist in forgetting/ ignoring that there is more than one form of logic.

    To me the logical absolutes, or rather what we call the logical absolutes/tautologies/axioms, say this:
    "Everything necessarily is what it is, is not what it is not, and is not neither or both at the same time."
    But they are ONLY "absolutes" for that particular logic.
    Logic is a human construct. Ergo those "absolutes" are not, in fact, absolute.

    Everything, including absolutely nothing, has a nature which is can be defined by our conceptual depiction of those three tautologies.
    Yet I have just given two examples of something that violates the law of contradiction.

    I suggest you do a YouTube search for 'Matt Dillahunty vs Matt Slick'; Dillahunty explains my position much better than I can.
    Why should I search for someone else? If you can't make your own argument then you don't have one.
    (Plus, of course, you apparently couldn't be bothered to check out what I've put forward...)
    Edit: I've just done a Google search, and, so far as I can tell. you seem to be arguing Slick's position:
    "Mr. Slick was trying to make the point that logic is absolute—that it is true in all times, places, and circumstances."
    Try this for a refutation.


    So you deny that they're axioms? That they are unprovable?
    Last edited by Dywyddyr; February 26th, 2013 at 09:35 AM.
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    First of all, I described why the two examples you gave did not in fact violate the law of non-contradiction and identity, at least not in the way that I think of them. Secondly, I know there are other forms of logic other than Aristotelian, but I also know that none of them would work unless these tautologies were true of reality; otherwise we would be unable to make truth statements about reality.

    And as for axioms being unprovable, in this case I would strongly argue that these three tautologies, at least in the way I am envisioning them, are true by virtue of their very nature. Now, can we mathematically prove something which is the foundation of mathematics and whose validity is required for the validity of the very mathematics that we would have to use to try and prove them? No. Such a thing is logically impossible. But I don't care, that is taking Gödel's incompleteness theorem too far.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fanghur View Post
    First of all, I described why the two examples you gave did not in fact violate the law of non-contradiction.
    That would be incorrect.
    For the first one you referred ONLY to its nature.
    For the second you referred to nature and waffled around the point.

    Secondly, I know there are other forms of logic other than Aristotelian, but I also know that none of them would work unless these tautologies were true of reality; otherwise we would be unable to make truth statements about reality.
    So you didn't actually bother AT ALL to check on paraconsistent logic and dialetheism? Okay.

    And as for axioms being unprovable, in this case I would strongly argue that these three tautologies, at least in the way I am envisioning them, are true by virtue of their very nature. Now, can we mathematically prove something which is the foundation of mathematics and whose validity is required for the validity of the very mathematics that we would have to use to try and prove them? No. Such a thing is logically impossible. But I don't care, because they are self-evidentially true.
    You mean "la la la I'm not listening therefore I'm right"?
    Or is "I'm right because I'm sure I am"?

    For someone who persistently appeals to logic (of whatever form) you don't seem too adept at applying it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fanghur View Post
    Can someone please explain exactly what, if anything, this term means? I've been having a debate on Sodahead with a theist (and a troll as well) who keeps on making the claim that if there was no god, there could be no 'ontological grounding' for objective morality. I do not really know how to respond to that because it doesn't even make sense to me. I do believe in objective morality, but whether or not a god exists has nothing whatsoever to do with that so far as I can tell.

    Is he simply misusing the word 'ontology' to try and throw me off, or am I missing something here?
    Think he is misusing the word.

    There's no requirement for a god to support an ontological argument...it stands on its own as a statement of being.
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    Dywyddr, as it so happens I did look up those other proposed systems of logic that you mentioned, and found out that they are rejected, or at least avoided, by a great many philosophers and mathematicians because of how, forgive the pun, 'illogical' the whole concept is. And they are certainly not mainstream. So I would ask that you not make ad hominem attacks on my character.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fanghur View Post
    Dywyddr, as it so happens I did look up those other proposed systems of logic that you mentioned, and found out that they are rejected, or at least avoided, by a great many philosophers and mathematicians because of how, forgive the pun, 'illogical' the whole concept is. And they are certainly not mainstream. So I would ask that you not make ad hominem attacks on my character.
    Hmm, avoided by a "great many"? Any source for that?
    Especially since, for example, paraconsistent logic has proved useful in maths and also in semantics, set theory, software engineering...
    Regardless of how "mainstream" they may or may not be the fact remains that exist and are used (and useful). Ergo classical logic is not the be-all and end-all.

    As for "ad hom", please look up the meaning of that. You're misapplying it.
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    Excuse me, you are correct. Rejected and ad hominem were not the correct words. What I should have said was 'criticized', in both cases.

    For now let's just agree to disagree, because it is obvious that I am not doing a proper job of explaining my position here. Do you have any other advice about the original reason I started this thread?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fanghur View Post
    Excuse me, you are correct. Rejected and ad hominem were not the correct words. What I should have said was 'criticized', in both cases.
    Ah well, criticisms...

    For now let's just agree to disagree, because it is obvious that I am not doing a proper job of explaining my position here.
    I'm not sure what your position is, since your argument seems more like Slick's despite you stating that Mullahanty explains your POV.
    But, okay, we''l leave (although I would like, at some point, to hammer it out).

    Do you have any other advice about the original reason I started this thread?
    Theists, when cornered, (and as a generalisation) do tend to go for sophistry and double-talk (and, in my experience, back-tracking etc.), just do your best to keep it on-topic and avoid sidetracks (something I'm never good at!).
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    That would be 'Dillahunty', not 'Mullahunty', and no. They both agree that the three tautologies are absolute and transcendent, the only difference is that Dillahunty rightly argues that they are not contingent on anything, whereas Slick makes the ad hoc assertion that they are 'Part of God's nature because they are conceptual', despite being corrected numerous times that they are non-conceptual. Anyway, thanks.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fanghur View Post
    That would be 'Dillahunty', not 'Mullahunty', and no. They both agree that the three tautologies are absolute and transcendent, the only difference is that Dillahunty rightly argues that they are not contingent on anything, whereas Slick makes the ad hoc assertion that they are 'Part of God's nature because they are conceptual', despite being corrected numerous times that they are non-conceptual. Anyway, thanks.
    My bad on his name.
    But you missed something.
    Dillahunty conceded that they're absolute (rather than argue that particular point) for the sake of argument. And then subsequently showed that Slick's argument, in and of itself, doesn't hold up.
    Here: " The fact that two people agree to the conventions of logic as a prerequisite for a discussion does not prove that those conventions are transcendent or absolute"
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fanghur View Post
    Well, in order for anything to be objective, it must be based on certain premises. Reality itself is objective because of the laws od identity, non-contradiction and excluded middle, for example. If they weren't always true on a fractal level, reality would itself be meaningless.

    Therefore, certain actions can be said to be objectively immoral based on the premises, for example, that life is generally preferable to death, and pleasure is generally preferable to pain, and violating someone's free will needlessly is wrong. I would agree that there is likely no such thing as a transcendent or transcendental morality, but objective moral system clearly can and do exist, as long as we define morality as that which is conducive to the well-being and functionality of our fellow human beings and society as a whole.
    This is sufficiently vague that it allows you to read your preexisting moral biases into it, probably some form of humanism. A theist might even agree that morality should be conducive to the well-being and functionality of our fellow human beings and society as a whole. The difference is he would say that this is best accomplished by having everybody convert to the beliefs of his own religion.

    You're going to have to define things a lot better than that, starting with your definition of "well-being of our fellow human beings," and how you will measure this. Do you care about all human beings equally? What is the relative worth of a 90-year old on his death bed versus a young child versus an unborn fetus? How about your own family versus a complete stranger?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Fanghur View Post
    That would be 'Dillahunty', not 'Mullahunty', and no. They both agree that the three tautologies are absolute and transcendent, the only difference is that Dillahunty rightly argues that they are not contingent on anything, whereas Slick makes the ad hoc assertion that they are 'Part of God's nature because they are conceptual', despite being corrected numerous times that they are non-conceptual. Anyway, thanks.
    My bad on his name.
    But you missed something.
    Dillahunty conceded that they're absolute (rather than argue that particular point) for the sake of argument. And then subsequently showed that Slick's argument, in and of itself, doesn't hold up.
    Here: " The fact that two people agree to the conventions of logic as a prerequisite for a discussion does not prove that those conventions are transcendent or absolute"
    Yes, but I also know that he actually does believe that; he has referred to them as transcendent and absolute on other occasions besides this one debate, and even in this the follow up the following week after Slick apparently went all over YouTube claiming 'victory' and disproving the existence of god using is own argument FOR the existence of god:

    Matt Slick: ~"Everything is either physical or conceptual, that is a true dichotomy."

    TheoreticalBS: "Then which of those two categories is god in?"

    Matt Slick: "Neither."

    Like I said, he's a moron. lol.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    So far as we can tell there's no objective morality (sorry)
    Sorry to jump in late here but the whole sector of moral realist philosophers may take offence at this claim
    As is often the case with technical subjects we are presented with an unfortunate choice: an explanation that is accurate but incomprehensible, or comprehensible but wrong.
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