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Problems of Moral Fictionalism

Fkkize
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8/19/2015 6:10:43 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
I apologize for my absence. Anyway, I only skimmed through the posts and found error-theory, epistemology and ontology to be frequent topics, hence I decided to cover them next.
Here is Alexander Miller's meataethics flow-chart. If you like general categories, this is for you. Moreover I am going to mark the positions I think are not at all plausible.
http://puu.sh...

Note: If you have ideological problems with any of the positions covered here, then please keep them to yourself. These threads are for everyone sincerely interested in metaethics, myself included, not for those who think they found all answers already. I therefore encourage everyone to ignore such posts.

Let's say error-theory is successful. What do we do now? Many error-theorist want to allow for moral discourse. Why? Well it would be rather uncomfortable to just stop. Although moral claims are not true, they are useful in other ways, for example social cohesion. After all, most people want to live in a stable society.
Joyce illustrated this rather well. Suppose you want to start exercising. But you are a lazy guy. You are easily tempted to eat cake instead. It is therefore beneficial to come up with some unbreakable rule: I must do 50 sit ups per day. Of course nothing horrible is going to happen if you do, say, 47 or 43, but everyone knows you are more likely to achieve a goal if you have a proper routine. Although the rule is ultimately not true, its value is its usefulness.

Here, fictionalism comes into play. Fictionalism is, roughly, the thesis that a discourse does not aim at literal truth, because the entities in question don't exist, and instead aims at truth-according-to-the-fiction. Fictionalism is not just a thing in metaethics; for example I am a fictionalist about modality and William Lane Craig is a fictionalist about future and past times.

Imagine you come across a group of people in a heated debate about Superman's home planet. However if you were to ask them, they would of course concede it's all fiction. We might say they implicitly use an in-the-fiction operator in every statement they make. E.g. in-the-fiction-of-comics(Superman was born on Krypton).

The idea is to apply this to moral discourse. However there are some pressing worries. It is rather clear how to decide a dispute about comic-truths. You find the relevant comics and take a look. What is not clear at all is how to decide moral disputes. There is no canonical moral fiction one could examine. Fictionalism, therefore, does not give any ground on how to settle such disputes.
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
kp98
Posts: 729
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8/19/2015 6:30:15 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Fictionalism, therefore, does not give any ground on how to settle such disputes.

Fictionalism is the idea is that if we all 'agree to agree' on a moral system we can discuss morality within that system, even if that moral system is not true or a 'fiction'. Fictionalism is not a method of choosing the moral system to agree on - it kicks in after that agreement is reached.

In the same way the comic-world discussers can only have a meaningful discussion about events in the comic world if they agree (explicitly or implicitly) what counts as canon, otherwise they'd end up disussing what is canon, not events in the comic world as if they were real.
Fkkize
Posts: 2,149
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8/20/2015 9:57:59 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/19/2015 6:30:15 PM, kp98 wrote:
Fictionalism, therefore, does not give any ground on how to settle such disputes.

Fictionalism is the idea is that if we all 'agree to agree' on a moral system we can discuss morality within that system, even if that moral system is not true or a 'fiction'. Fictionalism is not a method of choosing the moral system to agree on - it kicks in after that agreement is reached.
Well, no. "Fictionalism about a region of discourse can provisionally be characterized as the view that claims made within that discourse are not best seen as aiming at literal truth but are better regarded as a sort of "fiction"." - SEP

In the same way the comic-world discussers can only have a meaningful discussion about events in the comic world if they agree (explicitly or implicitly) what counts as canon, otherwise they'd end up disussing what is canon, not events in the comic world as if they were real.
Of course, but my point is precisely that fictionalism gives us no ground to decide what is canon and therefore cannot settle moral disputes.
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
kp98
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8/20/2015 10:50:48 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
Well, no. "Fictionalism about a region of discourse can provisionally be characterized as the view that claims made within that discourse are not best seen as aiming at literal truth but are better regarded as a sort of "fiction"." - SEP

Well, yes! Note 'about a region of discourse' - ie a pre-agreed region where people have agreed what will be considered, whether fictional or not. The point is that people agree the rules of the game and to work within them. So a 'fictionalist' approach to moral discourse would involve accepting (say) utilitarianism as a given, ie not worrying about whether utilitarianism is true or not.

Its not intended as a method of determining moral truth - it is more like accepting that there is no truth - only various fictions that one can have meaningful discourse within but discourse between them is meaningless becase they are all fictions.
Fkkize
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8/20/2015 11:18:50 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/20/2015 10:50:48 AM, kp98 wrote:
Well, no. "Fictionalism about a region of discourse can provisionally be characterized as the view that claims made within that discourse are not best seen as aiming at literal truth but are better regarded as a sort of "fiction"." - SEP

Well, yes! Note 'about a region of discourse' - ie a pre-agreed region where people have agreed what will be considered, whether fictional or not. The point is that people agree the rules of the game and to work within them. So a 'fictionalist' approach to moral discourse would involve accepting (say) utilitarianism as a given, ie not worrying about whether utilitarianism is true or not.
For once that is not what fictionalists claim. Secondly, again, fictionalism does not provide any ground to decide which first order theory to accept. If you can provide an independent standard that states that, say, utilitarianism is correct, then fictionalism collapses into realism. If you want to have a debate about what first order theory to follow, then you get discourse ethics, not fictionalism.

Its not intended as a method of determining moral truth - it is more like accepting that there is no truth -
Agreed.

only various fictions that one can have meaningful discourse within but discourse between them is meaningless becase they are all fictions.
False, not meaningless. Fictionalism is a cognitivist view.
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
sdavio
Posts: 1,801
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8/20/2015 1:05:09 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/19/2015 6:10:43 PM, Fkkize wrote:

I think an issue with pushing moral discourse into a paradigm involving a "true" / "false" dichotomy is that a moralistic sentence doesn't directly describe a state of affairs, and cannot possibly be reduced into a set of descriptions of states of affairs without losing some or all of its meaning; a moral statement is a demand, and not a description. However, it's a demand which is not personalized to the person making it; even reducing "You ought to do X!" to "Do X!" removes some element of its meaning because implicit in the latter is the idea that I, personally, am making the demand. In a moral demand, the person making it implicitly depersonalizes themselves from the standard.

This, I think, means that while due to socially determined differences, the statements "You ought to do X" and "Do X!" cannot be reduced to a common meaning, their relationship to truth-value is equal, since they are both orders.
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
SNP1
Posts: 2,407
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8/20/2015 1:49:24 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
I view moral claims as ways of talking about your desires or emotional state.

If someone says "killing is wrong" they either are saying that they do not desire killing (or it could be desired but other desires or emotional states where it us not the most desirable) or have a negative emotional response to killing.

If someone says "charity is good" they are either saying that they desire charity or they have a positive emotional response to charity.
#TheApatheticNihilistPartyofAmerica
#WarOnDDO
Fkkize
Posts: 2,149
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8/20/2015 1:51:01 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/20/2015 1:05:09 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 8/19/2015 6:10:43 PM, Fkkize wrote:

I think an issue with pushing moral discourse into a paradigm involving a "true" / "false" dichotomy is that a moralistic sentence doesn't directly describe a state of affairs, and cannot possibly be reduced into a set of descriptions of states of affairs without losing some or all of its meaning; a moral statement is a demand, and not a description. However, it's a demand which is not personalized to the person making it; even reducing "You ought to do X!" to "Do X!" removes some element of its meaning because implicit in the latter is the idea that I, personally, am making the demand. In a moral demand, the person making it implicitly depersonalizes themselves from the standard.

This, I think, means that while due to socially determined differences, the statements "You ought to do X" and "Do X!" cannot be reduced to a common meaning, their relationship to truth-value is equal, since they are both orders.

Although I think moral statements can be true or false, I can agree that "good" etc loose a part of their meaning when attempted to analyze.
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
Fkkize
Posts: 2,149
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8/20/2015 1:51:48 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/20/2015 1:49:24 PM, SNP1 wrote:
I view moral claims as ways of talking about your desires or emotional state.

If someone says "killing is wrong" they either are saying that they do not desire killing (or it could be desired but other desires or emotional states where it us not the most desirable) or have a negative emotional response to killing.

If someone says "charity is good" they are either saying that they desire charity or they have a positive emotional response to charity.

Looks like I've got to cover emotivism next ;)
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
SNP1
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8/20/2015 2:13:00 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/20/2015 1:51:48 PM, Fkkize wrote:
Looks like I've got to cover emotivism next ;)

I'm not a pure emotivist, but that is a big part.

For example, self-loathing christian gays.
They have a positive emotional response to homosexuality (the loathing comes later). They, however, do not desire to be gay because of the psychological impacts of their religion (which is what leads to the loathing).

Certain moral claims are made because of desires that people have, sometimes independant of the emotion response.
#TheApatheticNihilistPartyofAmerica
#WarOnDDO
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,255
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8/20/2015 3:55:44 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
This is only a problem insofar as Moral Fictionalism claims to be able to ground morality in unshakable evidence, which I don't think is the case.

Although there is no definitive text we can go to for answers, I think most people are committed to roughly the same moral principles. However, when these principles conflict, moral discourse is generally futile.

Usually what a moral fictionalist will do is appeal to the prevailing morality of the day in order to make their argument, and cast anyone who questions it as an outsider whose objections have no relevance to normal people. In other words, "Here's my argument for those who are on board with the present conception of morality - and to those of you who are not, I have nothing to say to you."