Leave Barry Manilow out of this

I was reading Tom Clark on the emptiness of supernaturalism and was prompted (not for the first time) to think about the idea of objective morality.

…it’s difficult, perhaps impossible, to find in impersonal Nature any sort of validation for our moral intuitions, intuitions which evolutionary accounts suggest had adaptive value, whether or not they reflect objective values. Yet we ordinarily suppose our moral norms do reflect something objective, something that’s independent of them but which they accurately reflect. This moral logic says murder is objectively and intrinsically wrong, period, so we’re right to strongly feel that it’s wrong.

We do strongly feel that murder is wrong, but that’s because we’re the kind of beings we are; a different kind of being wouldn’t. Imagine for instance a being with thoughts but no feelings – literally no feelings. Not a being with slightly flattened feelings like Spock, but one with no feelings at all. A being like that wouldn’t, by definition, strongly feel that murder is wrong, because it wouldn’t feel anything, but it also wouldn’t because it is feeling that makes it wrong. The putative objective moral sense actually cashes out as the feeling-capacity. It depends on things mattering. Without that, murder is no more immoral than unplugging a lamp. If the being with no feelings were a whole species rather than an individual, murder would be a matter of indifference, like everything else. Murder is wrong because we value our own lives and those of other people – if none of us valued either one in the slightest (and assuming no harm to any other feeling entity, etc) then murder wouldn’t be wrong. I find this thought quite interesting.

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