The Instigator
Merda
Pro (for)
Winning
10 Points
The Contender
Dimmitri.C
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

A defense of moral skepticism

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/29/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 4,068 times Debate No: 16766
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (12)
Votes (2)

 

Merda

Pro

What this debate is on

As Pro, I will be arguing in defense of moral skepticism in relation to the possibility of moral knowledge. Con will argue that moral truths or facts can be or are known.

Burden of Proof

The BOP shall be shared between my opponent and I. We must both not only refute the other's case, but must bring and defend our own case in order to win.

Rules

---Forfeiting of any round will constitute a loss of all seven points.

---Drops will count as concessions.

---No semantic arguments(arguments where one tries to win off of definitions alone or other forms of wordplay)

---No new arguments in the last round.

Definitions

Moral skepticism: the specific form of moral skepticism that I will be defending in this debate will be of the variety, Dogmatic skepticism about moral knowledge. This view holds that nobody ever knows that any substantive moral belief is true.[1]

Justified: to defend or uphold as warranted or well-grounded[2]

Infer: the process of deriving the strict logical consequences of assumed premises.[3] So when one is justified in believing something inferentially, it means that would be justified in holding a position that they arrived at through "logical consequences of assumed premises".

Noninferentially will then mean that one draws a conclusion through some other method other than the one stated above.

Moral claim: A claim making either a prescriptive or descriptive moral statement(ex. It is good to be nice.)

Believe: to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of
something[4]


Argumentation will begin in R2. Good luck to whomever accepts this debate.

[1] http://plato.stanford.edu...
[2] http://dictionary.reference.com...
[3] http://dictionary.reference.com...
[4] http://dictionary.reference.com...;
Dimmitri.C

Con

I accept the rules and definitions of this debate. I look forward to discussing this issue and sharing dialogue with you.


Debate Round No. 1
Merda

Pro

For my argument I will use a somewhat revised edition of Walter Sinnott-Armstrong's adaptation of the regress argument for general skepticism as applied to morality.

P1: If any person T is justified in believing any moral claim, then T must be justified either inferentially or
noninferentially.

This is akin to saying that an apple will either be red or a color other than red. It is simply descriptive of the two logical
options that arise when dealing with justification of knowledge.

P2: No person T is ever noninferentially justified in believing any moral claim.

To validate this premise, we only ought to look at the agreed upon definition of 'justified'. It says that a belief is justified
when it is warranted or well grounded, that is if it is based on some reason(inferentially).

C1: If any person T is justified in believing any moral claim, then T must be justified inferentially.

To put it simpler, if the solution is not A than it must be B. I have shown why it is not A. Therefore it must be B.

P3: If any person T is inferentially justified in believing any moral claim, then T must be justified either by
inference with some moral premises or by inference without
any moral premises.

The reason for this principle is the same as my first premise. Since to be justified means needing to be inferentially
justified and since to be inferentially justified one must derive logical consequences from some sort of premise, we are
left with the options of either a moral or a non-moral premise.

P4: No person T is ever justified in believing any moral claim by an inference without any moral premise.

This premise can be seen as coming from David Hume. It is better known as the is-ought problem. One cannot derive
prescriptive statements('ought') from descriptive statements('is') without comitting the naturalistic fallacy of assigning
non-natural properties to natural properties.

C2: If any person T is justified in believing any moral claim, then T must be justified by an inference with some
moral premise.

Again, if the solution is not A, it must be B. I have shown that the solution is not A(is-ought problem) and so therefore
it must be B.

P5: No person T is ever justified in believing a moral claim by an inference with a moral premise unless T is also
justified in believing that moral premise itself.

Simply put, you should not believe your five year old sister when she says the tooth fairy exists unless there is a
reasonable reason to believe her.

P6: If any person T is justified in believing any moral claim, then T must be justified by a chain of inferences
that either goes on infinitely or includes T itself as an
essential premise.

This is simply a continuation of P5. Why should you believe your sister? Because she is a genius. How do you know she
is a genius? She took an IQ test. How do you know the IQ test is accurate.... and so on in an infinite regress. Hence the
name of the argument.

P7: No person T is ever justified in believing any moral claim by a chain of inferences that includes T as an
essential premise.

This commits the fallacy of begging the question. A smple example would be if I said I was a genius and you asked me
how I knew this. If I answer with 'Well I'm a genius so of course I'd know if I was a genius.' This assumes the
conclusion as one of it's premises.

P8: No person T is ever justified in believing any moral claim by a chain of inferences that goes on infinitely.

This is probably the most self explanatory premise in this argument. If the chain of inferences goes on infinitely then
you don't actually get an answer to the problem of whether we can know moral facts.

C3: No person is ever justified in believing any moral claim.

Again, if not A or B, then C. We cannot be justified in believing moral claims based on a chain of inferences with T as an
essential premise or believe moral claims based on an infinite regress. Therefore we are left with only one option, that
we cannot be justified in believing moral claims.

I rest my case for now and very much look forward to my opponent's response.
Dimmitri.C

Con

I would like to thank my opponent for finding the time to offer me the opportunity to respond to such an informative argument. I really hope that the discussion which follows has the audience clinging to their keyboards.

Undeniably, my challenger has borrowed and fashioned an argument created by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong—an argument which diminishes ethical knowledge to nothing more than unjustified skepticism derived from non-inferential epistemology. I find this argument unconditionally unpersuasive and relatively distressing. Accordingly, I would like to lure attention to premise 2. Specifically, ‘No person T is ever noninferentially justified in believing any moral claim.’ The declaration being made here, “Knowledge of what is ethical cannot be accomplished unless it is consequential by means of warranted justification,” is primarily founded upon a conflation and misappropriation of moral ontology and moral epistemology. Thus, I find this premise to be demonstrably fallacious for a multitude of reasons. But then again, is this proposition comprehensive? First of all: I don’t perceive any reason to accept as true that a coherent human being with appropriately operational cognitive aptitudes wouldn’t be vindicated believing in the claim it is unconditionally immoral to torture and murder small children or babies merely for one's enjoyment. An idiosyncrasy may be drawn about what precisely makes this action immoral and how we know this action is immoral; consequently, there is still no discrepancy that it is, in principle, immoral.
Fundamentally, my opponent must create an argument that one way or another demonstrates the reasonableness of doubting knowledge of gratuitously immoral behaviour as unwarranted, i.e., torturing and killing small children; rather, than merely assert that our moral intuitions aren’t warranted unless they rest on inferential premisses. Conversely, knowledge of what is moral can justifiably rest on perceptive premisses; rather, than inferential premises. For example, one need not know atomic theory to be able to perceive water while one need not know how an internal combustion engine works in order to know that your car is running while you are driving it. Matthew Flannagan has written,[1]

Water is constituted by H20, if I2 is true it would follow one cannot tell that the cup of liquid I am drinking is water because of its taste unless I know that H20 tastes that way. But this is clearly false. Medieval men could recognize by taste a cup of water as well as any modern person despite not knowing anything about H20.”

He later writes,

“The property of being water is constituted by the property of being H20; as such H20 and water are not ontologically independent. Yet, as noted, for thousands of years people could perceive water, drink it, detect it, and use it etc without knowing anything about atomic theory. Hence, our knowledge of water is independent of our knowledge of H20. Yet this fact does not mean that water is not constituted by H20. Sinnott-Armstrong’s objection therefore fails; it is hard to avoid Craig’s assessment that Sinnott-Armstrong’s critique is “pervaded by the conflation of moral ontology with moral epistemology.”

Although it's sufficient to simply point out that P2 of my opponent's argument is demonstrably false, I'd like to offer an a fortiori argument by defending the rationality of inferring warranted beliefs from our noninferential moral experience. Any argument against the reliability of moral experience can be applied equally to sense experience. Suppose that one day you are taking a walk and you clearly perceive a tree to be in front of you. Are you justified in believing that there likely is a tree in front of you? Yes, for your sense experiences are prima facie justified. Of course, you could be wrong, but there's no good reason to think you are. The exact same scenario is true with moral experience. Suppose one forms the belief that it is wrong to lynch somebody based on their skin color. Are you justified in believing that it's actually wrong? Yes, for your moral experiences, like your sensory experiences, are prima facie justified. Any argument that one could use against trusting our moral experiences can be equally used against sense experience. There is no essential difference between the two.
One might retort, “But we can empirically confirm sense experience, while our moral experience cannot be empirically confirmed.” This response begs the question, for the very idea of attempting to empirically justifying our sense experience assumes that our sense experiences are reliable, since it assumes that we are accurately perceiving what is in fact happening.

The idea, of course, is that our experiences are prima facie justified. That is, they have a defeasible epistemic status. While our sense or moral experiences could be wrong (Say, it was a dark and foggy day), the proper thing to do is to assume them to be reliable until we have an adequate defeater for their reliability. We should not do is approach them with an ipso facto standard of skepticism, less we regress into complete agnosticism.

It seems to me that my challenger has generated a thought-provoking argument that draws a very stark inference, i.e., the denial of moral axioms. Nonetheless, the declaration of the argument is false as I have pointed out that knowledge of what constitutes moral behavior isn’t essential to inferential warrant and justification—beliefs can be understood as properly basic self-evident axioms. To suppose otherwise, as my opponent has done, is to participate in committing a category error, whereby, one conflates and misappropriates ontology with epistemology.

Bibliography:

[1] http://www.mandm.org.nz...
Debate Round No. 2
Merda

Pro

"Undeniably, my challenger has borrowed and fashioned an argument created by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong—an argument which diminishes ethical knowledge to nothing more than unjustified skepticism derived from non-inferential epistemology."

Just in case my opponent is trying to say that I plagurized an argument, I will point out that I did cite Walter Sinnott-Armstrong as the main source of my main argument. Here is what I said in R2."For my argument I will use a somewhat revised edition of Walter Sinnott-Armstrong's adaptation of the regress argument for general skepticism as applied to morality."

P2: No person T is ever noninferentially justified in believing any moral claim.

My opponent argues that most people are able to noninferentially know that torturing babies is wrong. He writes specifically that:

"I don’t perceive any reason to accept as true that a coherent human being with appropriately operational cognitive aptitudes wouldn’t be vindicatedbelieving in the claim it is unconditionally immoral to torture and murder small children or babies merely for one's enjoyment."

It is true that most people would not say that it is moral to do this, however I will bring two points against this. A.--- I said that no in is justified in noninferentially believing a moral claim. As in the case of torturing babies, one may fallaciously believe that they are right and that it is immoral, one is not justified in believing it without reason. Refer to the agreed definition of 'justified'.Justified:todefendorupholdaswarrantedorwell-grounded. So even though the act of torturing babies for fun might seem wrong to anyone without the ability to reason, one is not justfied in believing it without some sort of reason.

My opponent then makes an argument that one can be justified in believing something noninferentially based solely on sensory experience. He makes the analogy that we know we are drinking a cup of water even if we don't know it's chemical composition. But this makes the fallacy of assuming that moral properties are the same as natural proerties. The way someone would be justified in believing that they are drinking water is completely different form the way that one would be justified in believing that lynching one based on skin color is wrong. The reason sensory experiences are prima facie justified is because of the nature of sensory experience. It is the basis of empirical knowledge. However humans do not possess any sort of "moral sense" that taps into natural moral properties in the world and tells us what is right and wrong. My opponent then goes on to make a small argument of his own.

a fortioriargument by defending the rationality of inferring warranted beliefs from our noninferential moral experience.

In this argument, my opponent makes a category error by equating moral facts with sense experience. Again, sense experience alarms us of the outside world. We can feel real properties such as softness, hardness or bumpiness. While I may be referring the the ontological existence of moral facts here, I have a legitimate reason. You see we can actually be noninferentially justified in believing that our sensory experiences give us mostly warranted information as to natural properties of the world. However, with the case of moral properties, my opponent makes a presuppositional problem in assuming their existence. If he is to equate moral intuition with sensory experience then he must bring justification.

The last thing my opponent writes was actually very interesting. He writes: "To suppose otherwise, as my opponent has done, is to participate in committing a category error, whereby, one conflates and misappropriates ontology with epistemology." This is clearly false in regards to my argument. At no point did I say that there were no moral facts. This is strictly an argument dealing with justification of believing that we can know moral facts if they exist.




Dimmitri.C

Con

Dimmitri.C forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
Merda

Pro

My opponent has forfeited R3 and endorsed a Pro vote in the comments section. Extend all arguments and Vote Pro.
Dimmitri.C

Con

Vote Pro!
Debate Round No. 4
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Contradiction 5 years ago
Contradiction
Well darn! Con was on the right track responding to Pro's arguments.
Posted by Dimmitri.C 5 years ago
Dimmitri.C
Ah, darn! I went out last night and completely missed the due date time for posting my argument! I am sorry, Merda. I urge all voters to vote for Pro!
Posted by headphonegut 5 years ago
headphonegut
Interesting
Posted by popculturepooka 5 years ago
popculturepooka
Yeah, I did a double take (more like a quintuple take, actually) at p2 as well.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
Tim looking forward to your response to the first rebuttal.
Posted by Dimmitri.C 5 years ago
Dimmitri.C
I don't understand why my argument appeared in bold? I didn't even click on the option. I apologise for the mistake and concede spelling and grammar points for this round.
Posted by RogueAngel 5 years ago
RogueAngel
Very bold argument from Con.
Posted by Dimmitri.C 5 years ago
Dimmitri.C
My first response will be up in a moment.
Posted by vardas0antras 5 years ago
vardas0antras
"I wish my opponent all the best of luck within this debate"
But not too much luck, of course :D
Posted by Dimmitri.C 5 years ago
Dimmitri.C
I wish my opponent all the best of luck within this debate.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Adam_The_Analyst 5 years ago
Adam_The_Analyst
MerdaDimmitri.CTied
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Total points awarded:70 
Reasons for voting decision: lol.
Vote Placed by vardas0antras 5 years ago
vardas0antras
MerdaDimmitri.CTied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Do I need to say?