This Guy Gets It

Here:

The trouble with this approach is that once we have admitted that there are some absolute moral facts, it is hard to see why we shouldn’t think that there are many — as many as common sense and ordinary reasoning appear to warrant. Having given up on the purity of a thoroughgoing anti-absolutism, we would now be in the business of trying to figure out what absolute moral facts there are. To do that, we would need to employ our usual mix of argument, intuition and experience. And what argument, intuition and experience tell us is that whether we should slurp our noodles depends on what the local conventions are, but whether we should abuse children for fun does not.

This entry was posted in morality. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to This Guy Gets It

  1. Burk Braun says:

    “What’s essential to “right” and “wrong” is that they are normative terms, terms that are used to say how things ought to be, in contrast with how things actually are. But what relativistic cousin of “right” and “wrong” could play anything like such a normative role?”

    He's answered his own question, if could only sit still and listen. The cousin he is looking for is subjectivism… “I think that X is right”. .. it is right from how I view the world, and in the social terms I am party to as being interested generally in the welfare of others as well as myself. Whether it hews to some objective rightness or wrongness is entirely beside the point and useless to argue about.

    The normative statement is made from his own personal resources, and is presumed to cover the behavior of others / be attractive to others because he has thought a little bit as a social being responsible for the social whole, not just his own corner.

    It is very funny how you never define the boundary between the “opinion” case of noodles, and the “fact” case of torture. Where is the line? Is it the Potter Stewart line of “I'll know it when I see it”?

    That is the essence of subjectivism, and you seem to be for all practical purposes a subjectivist, while protesting against it every step of the way. Your system doesn't fulfill the least requirement of anything “objective”.

    So in the end, we don't need to “admit” any “facts”, because there are no facts to admit. There is only our more or less instinctive, more or less broadly thought-out personal perspective on moral questions.

    I would distinguish all this from relativism in this way- that we have every right to our own perspective, and to strongly judge others from that perspective, if we are affected by their actions. If the Chinese eat rotten eggs, it is not a big deal to me, and relativism is fine. But if the Muslims preach unending streams of hate and bile, and it does eventually affect me, I have every right to views on the matter, being part of the extended community that negotiates whether such behavior is “moral” or not.

    Like

  2. Burk Braun says:

    “The trouble is that while “Eating beef is wrong” is clearly a normative statement, “Eating beef is wrong relative to the moral code of the Hindus” is just a descriptive remark that carries no normative import whatsoever.”

    To go on slightly, this is a great example.

    “Eating beef is wrong” is phrased as though it were objective. But is it? Is it a “fact”? Obviously not. The speaker is saying that “I think that eating beef is wrong… ask me about me peculiar personal philosophy, please!”

    And then the person is sure to regale you with all sorts of perfectly reasonable arguments- global warming, cruelty to animals, bad health effects of beef, etc and on and on. But is the composite view a fact?

    Like

  3. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    “It is very funny how you never define the boundary between the “opinion” case of noodles, and the “fact” case of torture. Where is the line? Is it the Potter Stewart line of “I'll know it when I see it”?”

    No, what’s funny is that anyone would need a boundary! Are you kidding? It is here where you show how radical a view you take and one completely divorced from the view most take. I guarantee that if you asked 10 people if they understood the difference between an opinion regarding noodles and a moral fact or law as pertaining to torture, they would see and maintain a difference. Is everyone wrong? Why do you suppose it is that you don’t have more takers for your view? Hmmmm. Maybe the 20th Century?

    Beyond that, you are clearly missing or not addressing his point. We no longer believe in witches and the word doesn’t describe what it used to. The same has not happened with morality and for obvious reasons.

    Like

  4. Burk Braun says:

    Darrell-

    I'm not saying that I do not feel a difference subjectively. What I am saying is that it is as far as I can tell a quantitative one of degree of feeling, not one of kind, as you claim by making a distinction you are unable to define.

    The point is that if you claim a noodle-torture objective difference, then it is up to you to define it. It is a poor argument to appeal to popularity in place of defining your terms and distinctions. One suspects that the actual criterion is that of Potter Stewart, at best.

    The whole idea of moral “facts” is fatally misconstructed and created, as I mentioned above, by a lot of leading language that serves polemical, but not philosophical, purposes.

    Like

  5. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    “I'm not saying that I do not feel a difference subjectively. What I am saying is that it is as far as I can tell a quantitative one of degree of feeling, not one of kind, as you claim by making a distinction you are unable to define.”

    Well, maybe you “feel” a difference “subjectively” because you recognize a difference based in an objective source (God). That would fit with the experience of the vast majority of people from ancient times to the present. You are unable to tie or connect the difference you “feel” subjectively with an objective source or reason.

    “The point is that if you claim a noodle-torture objective difference, then it is up to you to define it.”

    I already have. There is a moral universal law, based in the existence of God, that we are to treat people differently than objects. People recognize such. People also can recognize that etiquette is cultural and not universal. Again, we are way passed this. What in the world are you talking about? This amounts to nothing more than a distraction from the fact you believe there is no real, intrinsic, ontological difference between etiquette and torturing people. You would equate saying “use the right fork” and “don’t torture people” to the same level. Really? What a debasing of the very idea of ethics. Imagine people from the CIA appearing before a Congressional Panel investigating the use of torture by the CIA and the CIA people saying something like, “difference strokes for different folks—what is so bad about torture?” And then asking the Panel to define the difference as you suggest. “Congressperson So-and-So, please define the difference between the proper table setting and torture—I’m unclear on that?” People would be shocked and appalled. Well, we should be when you ask the same question. Ridiculous.

    Further, you are not really addressing his point as if the writer didn’t know that not having and absolute or objective base would mean morality is subjective. Ummm, he knows that. What he is pointing out (and what you are missing) is that one, logically such would do away with a belief in morality just like no one believes in witches, and two, that no one really justifies their moral decision making by simple appeal to taste, feeling, or preference. Most justify their feelings and preferences in areas of significant moral decision making on objective sources or principles.

    Like

  6. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    All you are doing is repeating yourself. Yes, we get what you believe about morality being subjective and why. What we don’t understand is why you refuse to acknowledge and defend what that means.

    It means (regardless how one feels subjectively) that a concentration camp is an event intrinsically and ontologically no different than the event of an orphanage.

    Any such philosophy or world-view that would lead someone to that conclusion is rightly suspect.

    Like

  7. Burk Braun says:

    Darrell-

    You crack me up.. as though an ontological difference were defined here by you, or definable. There is no ontological difference, just as there is no ontological difference between positive and negative electric fields- they are all electric fields. And no ontological difference between weak and strong electric fields- they are all electric fields. Does that make strong electric fields the “same” as weak ones?

    The subjectivist position is the default here, since it covers all the cases without the need for distinctions that you fail to provide, and also because it fits with our most basic conception of what is good, from any concrete, self-aware angle. As I was pointing out above, the language of morals is polemically-driven, but not a good philosophical guide.

    Like

  8. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    Are you saying morality is like electric fields? I’m sure not, because such are objective. What is your point? The subjectivist position is not now, nor has ever been the default position. If it were, when we asked people about their moral decisions (around issues like torture, capital punishment and so on) making we would hear things like “I just feel that way,” or “that’s just my personal preference.” But we never do. So, the default position (whether you agree or not) is people connecting their subjective feelings and reasoning to objective sources.

    Like

Comments are closed.