Total Posts:40|Showing Posts:1-30|Last Page
Jump to topic:

Arguments For/Against Moral Realism?

Fkkize
Posts: 2,149
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/10/2015 4:31:59 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Up until recently I've been a committed error-theorist and viewed the topic as somewhat settled. But now that my interest in metaethics has sparked a new, it seems like the topic is very much up in the air.
So, what do you think are the best arguments for and against moral realism?
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
Kozu
Posts: 381
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/10/2015 5:06:43 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/10/2015 4:31:59 PM, Fkkize wrote:
Up until recently I've been a committed error-theorist and viewed the topic as somewhat settled. But now that my interest in metaethics has sparked a new, it seems like the topic is very much up in the air.
So, what do you think are the best arguments for and against moral realism?

I was just thinking about starting a thread asking for arguments in favor of moral realism, I'm glad you made this. I *really* want to know why the majority of philosophers are moral realists. I always felt an appeal to intuition was the best realists had.
Fkkize
Posts: 2,149
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/10/2015 5:42:19 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/10/2015 5:06:43 PM, Kozu wrote:
At 8/10/2015 4:31:59 PM, Fkkize wrote:
Up until recently I've been a committed error-theorist and viewed the topic as somewhat settled. But now that my interest in metaethics has sparked a new, it seems like the topic is very much up in the air.
So, what do you think are the best arguments for and against moral realism?

I was just thinking about starting a thread asking for arguments in favor of moral realism, I'm glad you made this. I *really* want to know why the majority of philosophers are moral realists. I always felt an appeal to intuition was the best realists had.

Realism was out of fashion for quite some time now. Only recently it had a revival, primarily because of Derek Parfit's work. That's probably the place to look. I really want to read his On What Matters (then I could at least tell you some reasons), but it has about 1400 pages. So it might take me a while to get around to it. As far as I can tell, the few arguments I have seen are not all that strong, but in philosophy one shouldn't expect knockdown arguments anyway. Instead the reason for holding any position is a combination of positive arguments and rejecting the arguments of your opposition. Or in other words, promoting your view as the best candidate.
I think for example that either moral realism or error-theory has to be true (basically all or nothing), but I just wanted to collect some opinions and arguments.
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,245
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/10/2015 5:50:09 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
All arguments for Moral Realism reduce to pretty much the same argument: the Is-Ought problem as described by Hume. In order for a statement to be true, it must correspond to the facts of reality. But reality only embodies what is, not what ought to be. So it's not clear how morals could be grounded in reality, let alone intuitively known by humans.

One solution to this problem was put forth by Ayn Rand (I'm not sure if it's unique to her philosophy). I used to find it quite convincing, but I'm not so sure how I feel about it now. Basically, the idea is that morality is contextual; the "right" morality is determined by the answers to two questions - "For whom and for what?" Since life is "a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action", all living organisms choose life as their goal, and thus life-affirming behavior is proper so long as life is the goal being pursued. Since our world is populated only by people who choose life as their goal (whether or not they realize it), the value of life is objective, and a morality centered around that idea is objective also.
n7
Posts: 1,360
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/10/2015 7:40:15 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
I saw this argument for moral realism on here that was interesting. I don't think it's correct, but it went like this.

The statements "Killing is right" and "Killing is wrong" have no value under anti-moral realism. Therefore moral statements don't really refer to anything. But any position about moral realism must include meaningful ideas of morality that do refer to something, that would mean accepting moral realism.
404 coherent debate topic not found. Please restart the debate with clear resolution.


Uphold Marxist-Leninist-Maoist-Sargonist-n7ism.
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,245
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/10/2015 7:49:10 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/10/2015 7:40:15 PM, n7 wrote:
I saw this argument for moral realism on here that was interesting. I don't think it's correct, but it went like this.

The statements "Killing is right" and "Killing is wrong" have no value under anti-moral realism. Therefore moral statements don't really refer to anything. But any position about moral realism must include meaningful ideas of morality that do refer to something, that would mean accepting moral realism.

I think you have your terms a little mixed up. Moral Realism is basically Nihilism, so the statements "Killing is right" and "killing is wrong" have no value under moral realism, not anti-moral realism. And that argument is actually an argument for anti-moral realism, not moral realism.
Fkkize
Posts: 2,149
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/10/2015 7:49:12 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/10/2015 7:40:15 PM, n7 wrote:
I saw this argument for moral realism on here that was interesting. I don't think it's correct, but it went like this.

The statements "Killing is right" and "Killing is wrong" have no value under anti-moral realism. Therefore moral statements don't really refer to anything. But any position about moral realism must include meaningful ideas of morality that do refer to something, that would mean accepting moral realism.

Do you mean the one popculturepooka presented?
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
n7
Posts: 1,360
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/10/2015 8:28:57 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/10/2015 7:49:12 PM, Fkkize wrote:
At 8/10/2015 7:40:15 PM, n7 wrote:
I saw this argument for moral realism on here that was interesting. I don't think it's correct, but it went like this.

The statements "Killing is right" and "Killing is wrong" have no value under anti-moral realism. Therefore moral statements don't really refer to anything. But any position about moral realism must include meaningful ideas of morality that do refer to something, that would mean accepting moral realism.

Do you mean the one popculturepooka presented?

No. That was a modal argument if I remember. This has to do with any negation of moral realism relies on moral realism.
404 coherent debate topic not found. Please restart the debate with clear resolution.


Uphold Marxist-Leninist-Maoist-Sargonist-n7ism.
Fkkize
Posts: 2,149
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/10/2015 8:37:42 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/10/2015 8:28:57 PM, n7 wrote:
At 8/10/2015 7:49:12 PM, Fkkize wrote:
At 8/10/2015 7:40:15 PM, n7 wrote:
I saw this argument for moral realism on here that was interesting. I don't think it's correct, but it went like this.

The statements "Killing is right" and "Killing is wrong" have no value under anti-moral realism. Therefore moral statements don't really refer to anything. But any position about moral realism must include meaningful ideas of morality that do refer to something, that would mean accepting moral realism.

Do you mean the one popculturepooka presented?

No. That was a modal argument if I remember. This has to do with any negation of moral realism relies on moral realism.

Ok, then I don't get the argument. One can claim killing to be wrong while also not being a realist, but a subjectivist or a relativist for example.
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,245
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/10/2015 8:57:55 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/10/2015 8:37:42 PM, Fkkize wrote:
At 8/10/2015 8:28:57 PM, n7 wrote:
At 8/10/2015 7:49:12 PM, Fkkize wrote:
At 8/10/2015 7:40:15 PM, n7 wrote:
I saw this argument for moral realism on here that was interesting. I don't think it's correct, but it went like this.

The statements "Killing is right" and "Killing is wrong" have no value under anti-moral realism. Therefore moral statements don't really refer to anything. But any position about moral realism must include meaningful ideas of morality that do refer to something, that would mean accepting moral realism.

Do you mean the one popculturepooka presented?

No. That was a modal argument if I remember. This has to do with any negation of moral realism relies on moral realism.

Ok, then I don't get the argument. One can claim killing to be wrong while also not being a realist, but a subjectivist or a relativist for example.

The argument is that in order for the statement "morality doesn't exist in any objective sense" to be meaningful, "morality" must be meaningful, and in order for "morality" to be a meaningful, it must describe something which exists. Thus, the statement "morality doesn't exist" is contradictory, because it implies that morality is real.
Fkkize
Posts: 2,149
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/10/2015 9:12:16 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/10/2015 8:57:55 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 8/10/2015 8:37:42 PM, Fkkize wrote:
At 8/10/2015 8:28:57 PM, n7 wrote:
At 8/10/2015 7:49:12 PM, Fkkize wrote:
At 8/10/2015 7:40:15 PM, n7 wrote:
I saw this argument for moral realism on here that was interesting. I don't think it's correct, but it went like this.

The statements "Killing is right" and "Killing is wrong" have no value under anti-moral realism. Therefore moral statements don't really refer to anything. But any position about moral realism must include meaningful ideas of morality that do refer to something, that would mean accepting moral realism.

Do you mean the one popculturepooka presented?

No. That was a modal argument if I remember. This has to do with any negation of moral realism relies on moral realism.

Ok, then I don't get the argument. One can claim killing to be wrong while also not being a realist, but a subjectivist or a relativist for example.

The argument is that in order for the statement "morality doesn't exist in any objective sense" to be meaningful, "morality" must be meaningful, and in order for "morality" to be a meaningful, it must describe something which exists. Thus, the statement "morality doesn't exist" is contradictory, because it implies that morality is real.

Fair enough.
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
kp98
Posts: 729
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/10/2015 9:25:55 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
"morality doesn't exist" is contradictory, because it implies that morality is real.


"Middle-Earth doesn't exist" is contradictory because it implies Middle-Earth is real.

Not!
n7
Posts: 1,360
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/10/2015 9:36:54 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/10/2015 9:25:55 PM, kp98 wrote:
"morality doesn't exist" is contradictory, because it implies that morality is real.


"Middle-Earth doesn't exist" is contradictory because it implies Middle-Earth is real.

Not!
That's not a good objection.

Middle-Earth refers to things which do exist and have meaning. Land, human like entities, ect.
404 coherent debate topic not found. Please restart the debate with clear resolution.


Uphold Marxist-Leninist-Maoist-Sargonist-n7ism.
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,245
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/10/2015 9:48:53 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/10/2015 9:36:54 PM, n7 wrote:
At 8/10/2015 9:25:55 PM, kp98 wrote:
"morality doesn't exist" is contradictory, because it implies that morality is real.


"Middle-Earth doesn't exist" is contradictory because it implies Middle-Earth is real.

Not!
That's not a good objection.

Middle-Earth refers to things which do exist and have meaning. Land, human like entities, ect.

Good point. I guess one could say that morality brings together real concepts in a fanciful way as well though. I.e., "behavior conducive to a certain set of criteria or standards" and "objectivity".
Heterodox
Posts: 293
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/11/2015 7:51:43 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/10/2015 9:48:53 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 8/10/2015 9:36:54 PM, n7 wrote:
At 8/10/2015 9:25:55 PM, kp98 wrote:
"morality doesn't exist" is contradictory, because it implies that morality is real.


"Middle-Earth doesn't exist" is contradictory because it implies Middle-Earth is real.

Not!
That's not a good objection.

Middle-Earth refers to things which do exist and have meaning. Land, human like entities, ect.

Good point. I guess one could say that morality brings together real concepts in a fanciful way as well though. I.e., "behavior conducive to a certain set of criteria or standards" and "objectivity".

morality
n. A system of ideas of right and wrong conduct

Morality doesn't change - it's a concept. The assignment of right or wrong to any given action or set of actions is what changes (sometimes things are assigned values of right or wrong, not just actions), often times in consideration with the circumstances the actions were taken under.

Least that's how I see it, whether that has anything to do with moral realism i don't know.
kp98
Posts: 729
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/11/2015 8:13:20 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
Middle-Earth refers to things which do exist and have meaning. Land, human like entities, ect.

I strikes me that the land and human entities referred to don't exist/aren't real either, so I have to ask what is the difference between 'Middle-earth exists' and 'Belgium exists'?

I don't suppose Middle earth 'exists' in the same sense that Belgium 'exists', so it seems 'existence' is not defined well enough to be a useful concept. If we ask 'Does morality exist' do we mean 'exist' the sense that Middle earth exists, or in the sense that Belgium exists? Indeed, given that Belgium exists, isn't the 'existential difference' between Belgium and Middle earth stated by saying 'Middle-earth doesn't exist'?
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,245
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/11/2015 2:27:45 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/11/2015 7:51:43 AM, Heterodox wrote:
At 8/10/2015 9:48:53 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 8/10/2015 9:36:54 PM, n7 wrote:
At 8/10/2015 9:25:55 PM, kp98 wrote:
"morality doesn't exist" is contradictory, because it implies that morality is real.


"Middle-Earth doesn't exist" is contradictory because it implies Middle-Earth is real.

Not!
That's not a good objection.

Middle-Earth refers to things which do exist and have meaning. Land, human like entities, ect.

Good point. I guess one could say that morality brings together real concepts in a fanciful way as well though. I.e., "behavior conducive to a certain set of criteria or standards" and "objectivity".

morality
n. A system of ideas of right and wrong conduct

Morality doesn't change - it's a concept. The assignment of right or wrong to any given action or set of actions is what changes (sometimes things are assigned values of right or wrong, not just actions), often times in consideration with the circumstances the actions were taken under.


According to this definition, even nihilists would believe in morality (obviously a system of right and wrong does exist in the minds of some). I was talking about a transcendental, objective morality.

Least that's how I see it, whether that has anything to do with moral realism i don't know.
derailed
Posts: 41
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/12/2015 12:48:49 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/10/2015 4:31:59 PM, Fkkize wrote:
Up until recently I've been a committed error-theorist and viewed the topic as somewhat settled. But now that my interest in metaethics has sparked a new, it seems like the topic is very much up in the air.
So, what do you think are the best arguments for and against moral realism?

Moore's naturalistic fallacy seems to be one of the greatest challenges to moral realism (even though he doesn't seem to have believed this inevitably led to moral nihilism). Morality isn't something you can observe or know in the way that empirical or logical facts can be known. How does one "prove" or ground a moral fact? And why must morality be subject to the criterion of objective truth? (I've read your other post and am afraid I don't get the concept of "non-negotiables.") If moral realists believe morality exists independent of human interpretation, why is there not the same kind of consensus about it that we apply to other sorts of facts? (The Earth moves around the sun, there are three stories to my apartment building, etc. No one has reason to doubt these as long as they have access to basic observations about them.) We can observe people judging acts as moral or immoral - or we can react to something as "bad" (like the child torture in your other post) without reservation. But any claim to observe the "badness" of them seems to fall prey to Moore's naturalistic fallacy. And if they are "ineffable," as Moore seemed to believe, how do we come to know something that is ineffable?

Universal judgments and reactions of horror do not prove that those acts (like child torture) are wrong in an objective sense, only that most people find them abhorrent (besides the people who enjoy child torture - who, despite claims of universalism, do not seem that uncommon, given rates of pedophilia). Even if we all agree that child torture is wrong, does some response objectively follow from that? This seems to be the stakes for one's system of metaethics - if morals aren't objective, so the realist argument goes, anything is permissible. But there seem to be few people who actually think that, even moral nihilists. The interesting question is not whether we can prove child torture is wrong, but what to do about it, since some people will do it even though most agree it's wrong, and even in the face of harsh legal punishments for it. I don't see how a realist position helps us with this any more than relativism or nihilism.

It seems that moral realism's only appeal can be to metaphysics - a God or other supernatural force independent of humans that justifies an objective morality. Can ethics be separated from metaphysics and epistemology?

I'm not sure I totally get the difference between moral relativism and moral nihilism, especially fictionalism, which seems to argue that even if moral statements aren't true or false, they're useful. Not sure how this is essentially different in terms of prescribing moral behavior - they admit of no absolutes, but agree that there must be rules of some kind that are situational and flexible.

One last problem I see with moral realism is that no one seems to actually follow it. This does not show that it can't be true, but does show that our judgments tend to be subjective even when we believe they are objective. Most who believe in some absolute moral system find themselves opposed to certain aspects of it. For example, many Christians are against homosexuality because it's a form of fornication prohibited by the Bible, but will have premarital sex without a second thought. Or people may adopt an objective belief in compassion, but treat those who they believe to be immoral in cruel and vindictive ways. (Like the child torturer who seems to be ubiquitous in moral discussions being tortured and/or killed by a vengeful parent.)

So, even if objective morals exist, no one seems to agree on what they are. And yet we have strong propensities to do certain things. I don't see the latter as supporting realism, only that we think in terms of value judgments about behavior. If we must proceed with a greater level of uncertainty about morality than we do with other sorts of facts, I don't see how it makes much difference whether you are a moral realist, relativist, or nihilist. Unless you are a complete fundamentalist or amoralist, each position seems to accept a degree of both uncertainty and usefulness to morality; the difference seems to be in terms of degree rather than kind.
What they call talent is nothing but the capacity for doing continuous work in the right way. --Winslow Homer
Fkkize
Posts: 2,149
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/12/2015 2:04:34 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/12/2015 12:48:49 AM, derailed wrote:
At 8/10/2015 4:31:59 PM, Fkkize wrote:
Up until recently I've been a committed error-theorist and viewed the topic as somewhat settled. But now that my interest in metaethics has sparked a new, it seems like the topic is very much up in the air.
So, what do you think are the best arguments for and against moral realism?

Moore's naturalistic fallacy seems to be one of the greatest challenges to moral realism (even though he doesn't seem to have believed this inevitably led to moral nihilism).
Actually, the attitude most philosophers have to the OQA is that it is unsound, but there is a thought in its vicinity that is correct.

Morality isn't something you can observe or know in the way that empirical or logical facts can be known. How does one "prove" or ground a moral fact? And why must morality be subject to the criterion of objective truth? (I've read your other post and am afraid I don't get the concept of "non-negotiables.") If moral realists believe morality exists independent of human interpretation, why is there not the same kind of consensus about it that we apply to other sorts of facts? (The Earth moves around the sun, there are three stories to my apartment building, etc. No one has reason to doubt these as long as they have access to basic observations about them.) We can observe people judging acts as moral or immoral - or we can react to something as "bad" (like the child torture in your other post) without reservation.
I'll probably (try to) answer the problem of disagreement next week.

But any claim to observe the "badness" of them seems to fall prey to Moore's naturalistic fallacy. And if they are "ineffable," as Moore seemed to believe, how do we come to know something that is ineffable?

Universal judgments and reactions of horror do not prove that those acts (like child torture) are wrong in an objective sense, only that most people find them abhorrent (besides the people who enjoy child torture - who, despite claims of universalism, do not seem that uncommon, given rates of pedophilia). Even if we all agree that child torture is wrong, does some response objectively follow from that?
I agree. Intersubjectivity is not objectivity.

This seems to be the stakes for one's system of metaethics - if morals aren't objective, so the realist argument goes, anything is permissible. But there seem to be few people who actually think that, even moral nihilists. The interesting question is not whether we can prove child torture is wrong, but what to do about it, since some people will do it even though most agree it's wrong, and even in the face of harsh legal punishments for it. I don't see how a realist position helps us with this any more than relativism or nihilism.

It seems that moral realism's only appeal can be to metaphysics - a God or other supernatural force independent of humans that justifies an objective morality. Can ethics be separated from metaphysics and epistemology?
Well a realist certainly has to rely on both, theistic or not. It would be rather devastating if she could neither answer what moral properties are nor how we come to know about them.

I'm not sure I totally get the difference between moral relativism and moral nihilism, especially fictionalism, which seems to argue that even if moral statements aren't true or false, they're useful.
Nihilism is the claim that nothing is morally wrong (or right), relativism is the claim that moral imperatives are agent relative. The former might support abolishing moral talk while the latter certainly doesn't. I'll cover fictionalism in my next thread.

Not sure how this is essentially different in terms of prescribing moral behavior - they admit of no absolutes, but agree that there must be rules of some kind that are situational and flexible.

One last problem I see with moral realism is that no one seems to actually follow it. This does not show that it can't be true, but does show that our judgments tend to be subjective even when we believe they are objective. Most who believe in some absolute moral system find themselves opposed to certain aspects of it. For example, many Christians are against homosexuality because it's a form of fornication prohibited by the Bible, but will have premarital sex without a second thought. Or people may adopt an objective belief in compassion, but treat those who they believe to be immoral in cruel and vindictive ways. (Like the child torturer who seems to be ubiquitous in moral discussions being tortured and/or killed by a vengeful parent.)

So, even if objective morals exist, no one seems to agree on what they are. And yet we have strong propensities to do certain things. I don't see the latter as supporting realism, only that we think in terms of value judgments about behavior. If we must proceed with a greater level of uncertainty about morality than we do with other sorts of facts, I don't see how it makes much difference whether you are a moral realist, relativist, or nihilist. Unless you are a complete fundamentalist or amoralist, each position seems to accept a degree of both uncertainty and usefulness to morality; the difference seems to be in terms of degree rather than kind.
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
derailed
Posts: 41
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/12/2015 3:50:05 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/12/2015 2:04:34 AM, Fkkize wrote:
At 8/12/2015 12:48:49 AM, derailed wrote:
At 8/10/2015 4:31:59 PM, Fkkize wrote:
Up until recently I've been a committed error-theorist and viewed the topic as somewhat settled. But now that my interest in metaethics has sparked a new, it seems like the topic is very much up in the air.
So, what do you think are the best arguments for and against moral realism?

Moore's naturalistic fallacy seems to be one of the greatest challenges to moral realism (even though he doesn't seem to have believed this inevitably led to moral nihilism).
Actually, the attitude most philosophers have to the OQA is that it is unsound, but there is a thought in its vicinity that is correct.

I could understand why moral realists would object to it, but why would relativists or nihilists? Here's a passage from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy that discusses objections to the Open Question Argument, but indicates that non-cognitivists and error theorists accept it:
Alternatively, perhaps the best explanation of the apparent "openness" of the relevant questions to competent users is that the predicates do not refer to properties at all. For it might be held that moral predicates do purport to refer to non-natural properties but fail to refer precisely because those properties would have to be so queer. This would be to defend a kind of error theory, as defended by John Mackie (see Mackie 1977 and Joyce 2001). In effect, this would be to grant that the non-naturalist is right about the semantics (moral predicates do purport to refer to non-natural properties) but wrong about the metaphysics (the non-naturalist is wrong to suppose moral predicates refer to anything).

Even more radically, it might be maintained that moral predicates do not even purport to refer to properties and that this explains why the relevant questions seem open. In particular, it has been argued that a non-cognitivist analysis of moral discourse can explain why the relevant questions seem open. The question, "I know its pleasant but is it good?" seems open on this account because one can admit that something is pleasant (or has whatever natural property you like) without having decided to approve (or disapprove) of the thing in question. It is easy enough to see why this would also block the inference to non-naturalism. For on a non-cognitivist account, as traditionally understood, moral predicates do not even purport to refer to properties but rather serve to express speakers' pro- and con-attitudes. Hence, the non-cognitivist concludes, moral predicates do not refer to properties at all, much less non-natural ones (see, e.g., Ayer 1952). In fact, it is fair to say that non-cognitivists eventually gained at least as much mileage from the Open Question Argument as non-naturalists.
http://plato.stanford.edu...

I'll probably (try to) answer the problem of disagreement next week.

I look forward to your thoughts. I always enjoy reading your posts.

This seems to be the stakes for one's system of metaethics - if morals aren't objective, so the realist argument goes, anything is permissible. But there seem to be few people who actually think that, even moral nihilists. The interesting question is not whether we can prove child torture is wrong, but what to do about it, since some people will do it even though most agree it's wrong, and even in the face of harsh legal punishments for it. I don't see how a realist position helps us with this any more than relativism or nihilism.

It seems that moral realism's only appeal can be to metaphysics - a God or other supernatural force independent of humans that justifies an objective morality. Can ethics be separated from metaphysics and epistemology?
Well a realist certainly has to rely on both, theistic or not. It would be rather devastating if she could neither answer what moral properties are nor how we come to know about them.

Right - and so a moral realist seems to have a heavier burden than a relativist or anti-realist; they must not only show that moral properties exist, but that a metaphysical and epistemological foundation for them exists as well.

Nihilism is the claim that nothing is morally wrong (or right), relativism is the claim that moral imperatives are agent relative. The former might support abolishing moral talk while the latter certainly doesn't. I'll cover fictionalism in my next thread.

But moral nihilism doesn't abolish talk about morality - especially if it goes by the name moral nihilism. It (at least seems to me) simply redefines the terms. Nihilists can talk in terms of "error" rather than morals, but I don't see the substantial difference. A true form of nihilism would seem to ignore all discourse about morality altogether as something outdated and unimportant. Yet, moral nihilists still seem preoccupied with how we value behavior, which is all I take morality to mean. If there's truly nothing "right" or "wrong" then why not go on letting others prescribe right and wrong, and just go with the flow (and get away with what you can)? Why argue against something being wrong (traditional moral discourse) if there's nothing wrong with it? (Or are we talking two different senses of wrong here?)

This is why, although I reject moral realism, I see relativism as the more logical conclusion, because it seems to me that moral nihilists are really relativists in disguise. I also believe that morality doesn't make much sense without a relational component. If we don't have a metaphysical, objective basis for morality, then how can our ethics work other than to account for the perspectives of others (since our behaviors only matter because of how they affect others, not how they relate to God or some metaphysical imperative)? This doesn't mean that we can't judge another person's behavior by our own standards. It just means that these judgments should not be absolute and should take alternative perspectives into account when making said judgments.

The little I've read of the fictionalism account of moral nihilism resonates with me too, though it seems to be missing something which I can't quite name. Perhaps it's the sense that it lacks a sense of urgency or investment. It's also not clear to me whether fictionalism attempts to merely describe how we behave, or prescribe how we should act? I could get on board with it as a descriptive account, but not sure of it as prescriptive.

Again, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on fictionalism, since I'm only vaguely familiar with it.
What they call talent is nothing but the capacity for doing continuous work in the right way. --Winslow Homer
Juan_Pablo
Posts: 2,052
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/12/2015 4:28:28 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
I'm not a moral objectivist. I do not believe there is a morality that exist that is innately true for everything. (The closest thing that qualifies to something like this is the detail that everything wants to feel pleasure, or happiness. Unfortunately, what brings pleasure for some can also bring unhappiness to others, which is why I'm a skeptic of moral relativism.)

However, there is such a thing as popular morality--a morality which tends to benefit most citizens of society. A utilitarian holds the view that the moral positions that serve society best are the moral position that benefit society the best overall and in tangible (measurable) terms. I subscribe to this view.

Morality is something we're constantly learning to improve and build upon to improve the lives of most people around us. We often incorporate these moral views into society's laws (I also don't believe that morality and law are divorced or should be divorced from each other; my position is that one springs from the other.)

But just because morality isn't objective doesn't mean it's wrong (Nihilist believe that because morality isn't objective, morality should be rejected; a position I believe is atrocious).

Morality exist in human communities (there's evidence that it exist among other species too) because it serves our species; it's a practical tool we use to make our lives better and more enjoyable. Necessity is the mother of invention, and morality was created because it genuinely does serve to make our lives far better.

Morality is subjective, but that doesn't mean there aren't positions virtually all of humanity can agree one.
Juan_Pablo
Posts: 2,052
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/12/2015 4:29:29 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
Correction:

Unfortunately, what brings pleasure for some can also bring unhappiness to others, which is why I'm a skeptic of moral realism.
Juan_Pablo
Posts: 2,052
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/12/2015 4:32:40 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
Correction:

Morality is subjective, but that doesn't mean there aren't positions virtually all of humanity can agree on.

I think democracy also demonstrates that different systems of morality exist, thus showing that morality isn't objective.

But it doesn't mean morality is wrong.
Fkkize
Posts: 2,149
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/12/2015 7:56:36 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/12/2015 3:50:05 AM, derailed wrote:
At 8/12/2015 2:04:34 AM, Fkkize wrote:
At 8/12/2015 12:48:49 AM, derailed wrote:
At 8/10/2015 4:31:59 PM, Fkkize wrote:
Up until recently I've been a committed error-theorist and viewed the topic as somewhat settled. But now that my interest in metaethics has sparked a new, it seems like the topic is very much up in the air.
So, what do you think are the best arguments for and against moral realism?

Moore's naturalistic fallacy seems to be one of the greatest challenges to moral realism (even though he doesn't seem to have believed this inevitably led to moral nihilism).
Actually, the attitude most philosophers have to the OQA is that it is unsound, but there is a thought in its vicinity that is correct.

I could understand why moral realists would object to it, but why would relativists or nihilists? Here's a passage from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy that discusses objections to the Open Question Argument, but indicates that non-cognitivists and error theorists accept it:
Alternatively, perhaps the best explanation of the apparent "openness" of the relevant questions to competent users is that the predicates do not refer to properties at all. For it might be held that moral predicates do purport to refer to non-natural properties but fail to refer precisely because those properties would have to be so queer. This would be to defend a kind of error theory, as defended by John Mackie (see Mackie 1977 and Joyce 2001). In effect, this would be to grant that the non-naturalist is right about the semantics (moral predicates do purport to refer to non-natural properties) but wrong about the metaphysics (the non-naturalist is wrong to suppose moral predicates refer to anything).
Fair enough, but neither of them mentioned the argument. Sure, they can benefit from some version of it, but those who talk about it concede that it doesn't work. What many take from it is that by defining moral terms they somewhat loose their impact.
For example if "X is wrong" were to mean "I disapprove of X". Imagine telling someone that stealing is bad. Now imagine telling someone you disapprove of stealing. It just doesn't seem to carry as much weight.

Even more radically, it might be maintained that moral predicates do not even purport to refer to properties and that this explains why the relevant questions seem open. In particular, it has been argued that a non-cognitivist analysis of moral discourse can explain why the relevant questions seem open. The question, "I know its pleasant but is it good?" seems open on this account because one can admit that something is pleasant (or has whatever natural property you like) without having decided to approve (or disapprove) of the thing in question. It is easy enough to see why this would also block the inference to non-naturalism. For on a non-cognitivist account, as traditionally understood, moral predicates do not even purport to refer to properties but rather serve to express speakers' pro- and con-attitudes. Hence, the non-cognitivist concludes, moral predicates do not refer to properties at all, much less non-natural ones (see, e.g., Ayer 1952). In fact, it is fair to say that non-cognitivists eventually gained at least as much mileage from the Open Question Argument as non-naturalists.
I know Ayer used it, but I think non-cognitivism is for the most part either trivially false or unremarkable.

I'll probably (try to) answer the problem of disagreement next week.

I look forward to your thoughts. I always enjoy reading your posts.
Haha thanks!

Well a realist certainly has to rely on both, theistic or not. It would be rather devastating if she could neither answer what moral properties are nor how we come to know about them.

Right - and so a moral realist seems to have a heavier burden than a relativist or anti-realist; they must not only show that moral properties exist, but that a metaphysical and epistemological foundation for them exists as well.
In so far as we are talking about non-naturalism, yes, I think there is a greater burden.
(perhaps I should cover these things more systematically)

Nihilism is the claim that nothing is morally wrong (or right), relativism is the claim that moral imperatives are agent relative. The former might support abolishing moral talk while the latter certainly doesn't. I'll cover fictionalism in my next thread.

But moral nihilism doesn't abolish talk about morality - especially if it goes by the name moral nihilism. It (at least seems to me) simply redefines the terms. Nihilists can talk in terms of "error" rather than morals, but I don't see the substantial difference. A true form of nihilism would seem to ignore all discourse about morality altogether as something outdated and unimportant. Yet, moral nihilists still seem preoccupied with how we value behavior, which is all I take morality to mean. If there's truly nothing "right" or "wrong" then why not go on letting others prescribe right and wrong, and just go with the flow (and get away with what you can)? Why argue against something being wrong (traditional moral discourse) if there's nothing wrong with it? (Or are we talking two different senses of wrong here?)
In so far as there are nihilists, they are error-theorists. The label does not really matter. Many error-theorists are fictionalists so they do care about how we talk. Nihilism is one of those words that has many, many different meanings. In philosophy it's not about not mattering, it's about denial.
A mereological nihilist can care about objects, he just denies there are any. Etc.
But I see your point concerning abolishion.

This is why, although I reject moral realism, I see relativism as the more logical conclusion, because it seems to me that moral nihilists are really relativists in disguise. I also believe that morality doesn't make much sense without a relational component. If we don't have a metaphysical, objective basis for morality, then how can our ethics work other than to account for the perspectives of others (since our behaviors only matter because of how they affect others, not how they relate to God or some metaphysical imperative)? This doesn't mean that we can't judge another person's behavior by our own standards. It just means that these judgments should not be absolute and should take alternative perspectives into account when making said judgments.
How would you respond to Joyce's argument?

The little I've read of the fictionalism account of moral nihilism resonates with me too, though it seems to be missing something which I can't quite name. Perhaps it's the sense that it lacks a sense of urgency or investment. It's also not clear to me whether fictionalism attempts to merely describe how we behave, or prescribe how we should act? I could get on board with it as a descriptive account, but not sure of it as prescriptive.

Again, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on fictionalism, since I'm only vaguely familiar with it.
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
derailed
Posts: 41
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/13/2015 4:31:58 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/12/2015 4:28:28 AM, Juan_Pablo wrote:
I'm not a moral objectivist. I do not believe there is a morality that exist that is innately true for everything. (The closest thing that qualifies to something like this is the detail that everything wants to feel pleasure, or happiness. Unfortunately, what brings pleasure for some can also bring unhappiness to others, which is why I'm a skeptic of moral relativism.)

However, there is such a thing as popular morality--a morality which tends to benefit most citizens of society. A utilitarian holds the view that the moral positions that serve society best are the moral position that benefit society the best overall and in tangible (measurable) terms. I subscribe to this view.

Do you hold a particular kind of utilitarianism or follow any particular theorists? Utilitarianism has a certain appeal for non-objective accounts of morality that try to be as broad in scope (and practical) as possible. The problem is that a) they don't seem to have solved very much, since there are widely divergent accounts of what is "best for society," whether you're talking in the abstract or in specifics about particular countries - you concede this much in your first paragraph ("Unfortunately, what brings pleasure for some can also bring unhappiness to others..."); and b) some utilitarian theories result in what I consider to be unacceptable revocation of individual rights in the name of "the good of society/largest number of persons."

E.g., Peter Singer, his views on infanticide of disabled infants and that some severely disabled people don't have "dignity" in the sense that others with greater means of autonomy do.

Certainly, we must accept some constraints on personal freedom in order to maximize goodness - but revoking basic notions of life-value is going too far for me.

Of course, Rawls' conception, based more on social justice than other versions, is closer to my own. I tend to pick and choice from the best theories/philosophers rather than hold close to any single camp.

Morality is something we're constantly learning to improve and build upon to improve the lives of most people around us. We often incorporate these moral views into society's laws (I also don't believe that morality and law are divorced or should be divorced from each other; my position is that one springs from the other.)

But just because morality isn't objective doesn't mean it's wrong (Nihilist believe that because morality isn't objective, morality should be rejected; a position I believe is atrocious).

Morality exist in human communities (there's evidence that it exist among other species too) because it serves our species; it's a practical tool we use to make our lives better and more enjoyable. Necessity is the mother of invention, and morality was created because it genuinely does serve to make our lives far better.

Morality is subjective, but that doesn't mean there aren't positions virtually all of humanity can agree one.

Yes, but even given your last point, don't you agree that we can't quite agree what to do about it? Even if most, if not all, societies and accounts of morality condemn child torture, lying, murder (non-state-sanctioned killing), etc., we still don't agree much about what to do with child torturers, liars, or murderers. So there's still enough disagreement IMO to make moral questions quite messy, even if those general agreements mean the situation isn't quite hopeless.
What they call talent is nothing but the capacity for doing continuous work in the right way. --Winslow Homer
derailed
Posts: 41
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/13/2015 5:56:18 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/12/2015 7:56:36 AM, Fkkize wrote:
Fair enough, but neither of them mentioned the argument. Sure, they can benefit from some version of it, but those who talk about it concede that it doesn't work. What many take from it is that by defining moral terms they somewhat loose their impact.
For example if "X is wrong" were to mean "I disapprove of X". Imagine telling someone that stealing is bad. Now imagine telling someone you disapprove of stealing. It just doesn't seem to carry as much weight.

Maybe there's some confusion in terms here. I referred to the naturalistic fallacy - you mentioned the Open Question Argument, which is an extension of the naturalistic fallacy, but perhaps they are really too different not to be parsed out here? I should have addressed this initially rather than quote the article about the OQA. Can you give a fuller explanation of why it (whatever you mean by "it") doesn't work?

What I originally referred to that seemed a great challenge to moral realism is the naturalistic fallacy (NF) - poorly named, but let's stick with that phrase. The NF goes like this: you can't observe goodness or badness (or whatever moral value X) because it's not a natural property. We say "pleasure is good," "decency is good," "compassion is good," but we haven't defined or proved goodness to exist; we've just asserted that we ascribe value X to other things. Moore got around this by saying that moral values are non-natural properties, ineffable and irreducible. I don't quite get this argument, and can't see how it can be defended other than through a theistic metaphysics.

This doesn't mean it's meaningless to say "pleasure is good," just that it isn't an objective statement. It's some other kind of statement, one loaded with subjective value, important but not empirical.

The open ended question - if I understand it correctly - is a bit different in that it says that as a consequence of the NF, moral assertions will always be in some sense "open." This seems an inevitable conclusion without objective morality; however, I think your argument is that this seems to make moral claims sound rather "weak," as in your stealing example. If you pressed me, I'd concede there's nothing inherently "bad" about child torture, but I'd vehemently argue against it as bad, wrong, horrific, etc. rather than simply saying I disapprove of it. I do believe it's possible to have strong moral beliefs that are defensible - and to unequivocally condemn things that have no good argument in favor of them - and yet this is probably the exception rather than the rule. There's open questions, and then there's "open" ones.

I'm sure this doesn't address the concerns of more sophisticated thinkers than myself, but what am I missing that devastates the NF and/or the OQA?

I know Ayer used it, but I think non-cognitivism is for the most part either trivially false or unremarkable.

Whoa! Can you clarify? I thought you were an error theorist; isn't that pretty similar to non-cognitivism? I'm not that familiar with non-cognitivism, but after reading about it as a result of these posts, I fear that my own position comes close to it. In fact what I describe above about the naturalistic fallacy (moral statements are not truth-statements, empirically speaking) seems to be essentially the non-cognitivist position (and error theory?). What, exactly, do you find so objectionable about this idea? And how can one be an anti-realist in morals and not be a non-cognitivist?

I'm not sure if non-cognitivists claim that all moral claims are reducible to irrational thought (such as emotion). If this is the case, I would differ. However, I do believe there is an irrational component to moral claims, and furthermore, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

In so far as we are talking about non-naturalism, yes, I think there is a greater burden.
(perhaps I should cover these things more systematically)

Can one be a moral anti-realist while also being a naturalist? How would this work?

In so far as there are nihilists, they are error-theorists. The label does not really matter. Many error-theorists are fictionalists so they do care about how we talk. Nihilism is one of those words that has many, many different meanings. In philosophy it's not about not mattering, it's about denial.
A mereological nihilist can care about objects, he just denies there are any. Etc.
But I see your point concerning abolishion.

I understand the concept of nihilism, but I guess I still don't get the difference between moral nihilism and moral relativism. To say moral discourse matters even if it isn't objectively true seems to be essentially the same concept as moral relativism.

This is why, although I reject moral realism, I see relativism as the more logical conclusion, because it seems to me that moral nihilists are really relativists in disguise. I also believe that morality doesn't make much sense without a relational component. If we don't have a metaphysical, objective basis for morality, then how can our ethics work other than to account for the perspectives of others (since our behaviors only matter because of how they affect others, not how they relate to God or some metaphysical imperative)? This doesn't mean that we can't judge another person's behavior by our own standards. It just means that these judgments should not be absolute and should take alternative perspectives into account when making said judgments.
How would you respond to Joyce's argument?

I have to confess that I don't "get it." I don't get how these "non-negotiables" imply the necessity of an objective framework; I also am not sure I accept these non-negotiables as being such. As I pointed out in response to another post, we may seem to agree certain things are wrong, but we haven't agreed on what to do about them, so there still seems a lot of negotiation about these matters after all.

I read the intro to Myth of Morality after your post, and maybe it's just me and my unfamiliarity with error theory, but I don't buy it. The whole phlogiston analogy (which comes from Mackie?), seems flawed. He claims this illustrates not just how a particular belief (in phlogiston) is flawed, but an entire framework is flawed (all the non-negotiable beliefs about phlogiston), which is why it isn't synonymous with oxygen. And this compares to how moral discourse, as a framework, is too flawed to salvage. Have I understood this point correctly?

But here's my problem. It isn't the framework that's fundamentally flawed. It was the best guess of a limited empirical chemistry. This doesn't negate, obviously, the whole framework of chemistry (or empirical science!) in the same sense that Joyce (and Mackie?) suggest these non-negotiables negate morality as a framework. Any more than Lamarckianism suggests that evolutionary thinking is wrong. We can reject Lamarckianism because it has no empirical basis, and accept Darwinism because it has a better basis.

Joyce's analogy to "tapu" here seems more apt - a Western way of thinking would reject belief in a superstitious system of ontological contamination, because it goes against its fundamental empirical (non-negotiable) principles. Fair enough (although as a historian of disability, Western culture has actually applied such a concept to disabled people, but I digress) - moral discourse shouldn't be like superstition or something that seems to go against some basic tenets of moral philosophy. But this simply redefines terms (we talk about "error" rather than "morals") rather than actually gets away from a "non-negotiable" of moral discourse. The only non-negotiable to moral philosophy, to me, is a systematic way of valuing human behavior. To reject this is to reject the idea that we should place value on behavior, and not even error theorists seem to advocate this.

But perhaps I'm missing some import of the "non-negotiable" concept?
What they call talent is nothing but the capacity for doing continuous work in the right way. --Winslow Homer
derailed
Posts: 41
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
8/13/2015 4:05:41 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/13/2015 4:31:58 AM, derailed wrote:

Of course, Rawls' conception, based more on social justice than other versions, is closer to my own. I tend to pick and choice from the best theories/philosophers rather than hold close to any single camp.

Oops, realized that Rawls is a contractualist (I've been reading about contractualism lately). I sometimes mix up utilitarianism and contractualism as they seem to be two different formulations of a similar approach - morality as a means of maximizing goodness (or orderliness, at least) in society, whether through "utility" or "mutual agreement/benefit." Both seem to me to have similar strengths (practical methods that don't require an objective basis, broad in scope, they seem to actually describe the way people and social systems behave), but the same weaknesses (questionable means of determining what gets defined as "utility" or "mutual benefit" [not to mention who gets to define them], problematic implications for individual rights).
What they call talent is nothing but the capacity for doing continuous work in the right way. --Winslow Homer