About
Content
Store
Forum

Rebirth of Reason
War
People
Archives
Objectivism

Post to this threadMark all messages in this thread as readMark all messages in this thread as unread


Post 0

Friday, January 5, 2007 - 8:03amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
"(i) there are objective moral truths;"

Yes

"(ii) we know some of these truths through a kind of immediate, intellectual awareness, or “intuition”;"

I don't think so.

"(iii) our knowledge of moral truths gives us reasons for action independent of our desires."

Is this suggesting altruism or future directed action?

Post 1

Friday, January 5, 2007 - 2:56pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Hi Mike,

Concerning (iii) I don't think Huemer is suggesting nor commending altruism by that thesis alone. However, at that stage of metaethics, he is still leaving the question open whether altruism or egoism or both could be part of a rational morality. The issues decided in (iii) pertain to those you find in Chapter 7 if you click on the Analytical Contents button. I quote the first part of the AC for Chapter 7 Practical Reasons

7.1   The Humean argument against realism

Motivating reasons are distinguished from normative reasons. Humeans believe that reasons for action depend on desires, that moral attitudes inherently provide reasons for action, and that no mere belief about an objective fact is sufficient for the having of a desire. They conclude that moral attitudes are not beliefs about objective facts.

7.2   The connection between motivating and normative reasons

The ‘ought implies can’ principle and the principle of charity in interpretation can each be used to establish a close tie between normative and motivating reasons.

7.3   A rationalist conception of motivation

People are motivated by appetites, emotions, prudential considerations, and impartial reasons. The latter two are not desires in the ordinary sense. Moral reasons are a species of impartial reasons.



Concerning (ii) I'm with you. I approach Professor Huemer's book as a skeptic concerning ethical intuitionism. I do not see any reason to pose intuition as a basic form of cognition in epistemology in general, so Huemer will have to persuade me in his book that I am mistaken about that or that such a mode of cognition needs to be introduced specially for rational cognition in ethics. My present view for epistemology of ethics is that it can make do with the same types of cognition we envoke for epistemology in general. That is, I would expect to be able to resolve intuition into perception, conception, imagination, and feeling. But am open to having my mind changed, especially by the likes of Michael Huemer.

Stephen 


Post 2

Saturday, January 6, 2007 - 12:53pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
 Hi Stephen,

Regarding "ii", I found the following on Michael Huemer's website

"5.2 Ethical intuitions

Reasoning sometimes changes how things seem to us. But there is also a way things seem to us prior to reasoning; otherwise, reasoning could not get started. The way things seem prior to reasoning we may call an 'initial appearance'. An initial, intellectual appearance is an 'intuition'. That is, an intuition that p is a state of its seeming to one that p that is not dependent on inference from other beliefs and that results from thinking about p, as opposed to perceiving, remembering, or introspecting.(4) An ethical intuition is an intuition whose content is an evaluative proposition.

Many philosophers complain either that they don't know what an intuition is or that the term 'intuition' is essentially empty and provides no account at all of how one might know something.(5) I take it that these critics have just been answered. "


It seems to be a settled issue in his mind.  I find his reasoning a bit difficult to follow because I'm not used to trying to follow the language of philosophical discourse.  I may be able come into agreement with "intuition".  I don't think we are born with intellectual ideas.  But there is a pre-rational period of time in our development where perhaps these "intuitions" can be inculcated.  Similar to learning language.  We are "pre-wired" for language, is Michael Huemer suggesting the same for moral intuition?

And if something goes awry in the early development phase, we get a moral monster.  Similar to if a child is not exposed to language at the correct time they can never learn to speak.




Post 3

Saturday, January 6, 2007 - 1:15pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Some problems with Huemer's efforts ...

In the Introduction of the Analytical Contents link, (presumably) Huemer states that there is a case for exactly 5 metaethical theories:

1.3   Five metaethical theories

There are exactly five metaethical theories: non-cognitivism, subjectivism, nihilism, naturalism, and intuitionism.

Here's the list again:
1. non-cognitivism
2. subjectivism
3. nihilism
4. naturalism
5. intuitionism

He then goes on to describe 4 alternative metaethical theories:
1. non-cognitivism
2. subjectivism
3. reductionism
4. intuitionism

How come the lists aren't commensurate? Where did nihilism and naturalism go? Were they supposed to be subsumed by "reductionism"? Let's explore Huemer's entries under reductionism -- to look for philosophical error ...

4.1   What is reductionism?

Reductionists believe (i) that what it is for a thing to be good can be explained using non-evaluative expressions, and (ii) that we know moral truths on the basis of observation.

Belief (i) is not necessarily true -- though it gets so much mileage in the realm of professional philosophy. Some facts have inherent value. In stating propositions about facts with inherent value, you can get to an evaluative conclusion. Perhaps a sorites is, or several syllogisms, strung together -- but it is not necessarily true that "what it is for a thing to be good can be explained using non-evaluative expression."

4.3   The is-ought gap

4.3.1   Hume’s Law: an initial statement

It is impossible to validly deduce an evaluative statement from non-evaluative premises.

Big deal (see above).

*4.3.3   Geach’s challenge

Geach’s attempted counter-example fails because it is invalid and one of its premises is evaluative.

But it's "okay" for one premise to be evaluative (see above) -- one premise can talk about that which true of the world; and the other premise can talk about that which is true of our relation to the world. There's no actual invalidity in that. It's merely a tragedy of convention.

4.4.1   Can moral facts be known by observation?

Even if moral properties are reducible, it would be fallacious to infer that we can know moral truths by observation. We cannot observe that a thing is good, because there is no distinctive way that good things look, sound, smell, taste, or feel.

Tell that to someone who's being tortured to death. Ask them if there is something better -- something that they "know" is better (than being tortured to death); something "distinctively" different (than being tortured to death). Ask them if there is a way that the better things "look, sound, smell, taste, or feel."

4.4.2   Can moral facts be known by inference to the best explanation?

Even if some moral facts are explanatory, we cannot know moral truths by inference to the best explanation, because moral facts do not explain any observations that could not be explained as well by non-moral facts.

This is an equivocation of "explanation" with "understanding" -- a wrong-headed, hyper-intellectualization of morality, per se. As an example, think about explaining color to a blind man -- and you will see that there's more to moral truths than mere intellectualism and accurate explanation. The reason that blind men won't ever "get" the explanation (no matter how well it is given to them) is that they have to have the experience of sight -- in order to understand the concept of color. In the same way, moral truths are things which we have all experienced -- even if the experience was just a bully stealing the milk from your pre-school lunch. Color couldn't be successfully explained to a blind man and, for the same reason, morality couldn't be explained to a computer.

*4.4.3   Can moral claims be tested?

Moral theories do not generate any testable predictions without relying either on ad hoc posits or on the assumption that conscious beings have some independent access to moral truths.

So what? Wow. Geez. You mean we'd have to "rely" on the "assumption" that conscious beings have some independent access to moral truths??? Preposterous!!! Because it has clearly been "known" for centuries that this is impossible, right? A "proper" assumption is to take the opposite conclusion (that beings have NO such access), right? Let me ask this poignant question: What -- besides breaking with "traditional thought" -- leads to the one assumption over the other? No answer? Just as I thought.

4.5   The argument from radical dissimilarity

The simplest argument against reductionism is that moral properties just seem, on their face, radically different from natural properties.

Only when human welfare is thought of as "unnatural."

4.6   Explaining moral beliefs

Reductionist accounts of how moral beliefs might be justified fail to apply to nearly anyone’s actual beliefs.


Social metaphysics. Social metaphysics. Social metaphysics. Enough of that 'professional philosopher' crap, already.

I'll post on ethical intuitionism later. For now, it was important to highlight the "problems" that Huemer has regarding the "problems" of alternative positions.

Ed

 

 

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 1/06, 1:18pm)


Post 4

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - 12:01amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Ed

what do you think of this statement from that same Book:

"If morality is culturally relative, it does not follow that we should not interfere with the customs of other cultures; what follows is that we should interfere with other cultures if doing so accords with our customs."

Post 5

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - 9:10amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
With the exception of those philosophers who seem to believe that contradicting moral statements can both be right as long they are from differing cultures, or those philosophers who believe that value statements, as such, have no relationship to truth, nearly everyone believes that morality is absolute (that there is but on true morality everyone should hold). But, at the same time, they believe that morality is culturally relative in the sense that other cultures have different moral views... and therefore those other cultures are wrong. We Objectivists believe that it is morally wrong to initiate force against another, and that that is true regardless of who you are or what culture you are in - that it is an absolute moral value. And we know that other cultures can have different views, and that they are wrong.

The important issue here is about the interference Michael mentions in his post above. Does that person believe they have the right to interfere with those holding different moralities? And if so, what is the standard involved in making that decision? As Objectivists we have the concept of rights based on the difference between force and choice as our standard to let us know when it is okay to interfere and when it is not.

What was the basis for the Star Trek guideline that prohibited interference with other cultures? Or the dictum created in science fiction stories about time travel where they predict dire consequences for effecting any change in the past? Does this non-interference policy apply to cultures so technologically different that it is like telling a scientific exploration team that no matter how dire the circumstances they should do nothing that violated the moral customs of a newly discovered tribe of savages living under neanderthal conditions? Do these "more important than morality itself" cross-cultural rules extend to non-human cultures? I ask because there are animal rights people who would like us to not "interfere" with ant colonies, or anything in nature.

Advocates of a non-interference policy that supersedes all moral principles of the culture whose members are being told not to interfere don't seem to realize that this very policy is in itself a moral dictum that is being given priority over all other moral principles or values.

Post 6

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - 2:18pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
In a discussion on this exact quote I pointed out that in fact both BOTH ideas follow, and that is why cultural relativism is a contradiction in itself. It's as plausible an excuse for inter-cultural passiveness as it is for inter-cultural aggression.

the rebuttal was that systems of traditional, moral rules are not like the axioms of, say, set theory ("a point never understood by naive rationalists like Rand" apparently). What we have rather are rules which, in some cases, contradict each other. But these are part of a larger system in which context and other rules suggest where one rule is to prevail over another. This is why genuine moral conflict can amount to a clash of one good over another. Further, this is not something concocted by intellectuals. It's not an ethical theory. It's rather an empirical fact about the moral dimension of human society.
(Edited by Michael Philip on 9/11, 2:37pm)


Post 7

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - 7:02pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Michael,

I don't know where you got this quote from: "a point never understood by naive rationalists like Rand"

Rand was neither on the side of traditional moral values or the advocates of cultural relativism.

Post 8

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - 8:40pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Michael,
what do you think of this statement from that same Book:

"If morality is culturally relative, it does not follow that we should not interfere with the customs of other cultures; what follows is that we should interfere with other cultures if doing so accords with our customs."
Just as you say, there is a contradiction -- either a logical contradiction (an internal inconsistency), or at least an experiental/evidential contradiction (an external inconsistency) -- leading to the fact that relativism can be used as an excuse for acting merely on your feelings -- whether you are a brute pacifist, or a savage belligerent. Alasdair MacIntyre dealt with the issue in 1994 (Moral Relativism, Truth and Justification):

It is perhaps then unsurprising that some should have concluded that, where such rival moral standpoints are concerned, all fundamental rational justification can only be internal to, and relative to the standards of, each particular standpoint. From this it is sometimes further and at first sight plausibly inferred that this is an area of judgement in which no claims to truth can be sustained and that a rational person therefore could, at least qua rational person, be equally at home within the modes of life informed by the moral schemes of each of these standpoints. But this is a mistake. ...

The protagonists of those standpoints which generate large and systematic disagreements, like the members of the moral communities of humankind in general, are never themselves relativists. And consequently they could not consistently allow that the rational justification of their own positions is merely relative to some local scheme of justification. Their claims are a kind of which require unqualified justification. ...

What is being claimed on behalf of each particular moral standpoint in its conflicts with its rivals is that its distinctive account (whether fully explicit or partially implicit) of the nature, status and content of morality (both of how the concepts of a good, a virtue, a duty and right action are to be correctly understood, and of what in fact are goods or the good, virtues, duties and types of right action) is true.

Two aspects of this claim to truth are important to note at the outset. The first is that those who claim truth for the central theses of their own moral standpoint are thereby also committed to a set of theses about rational justification. For they are bound to hold that the arguments advanced in support of rival and incompatible sets of theses are unsound, not that they merely fail relative to this or that set of standards, but that either their premises are false or their inferences invalid. But insofar as the claim to truth also involves this further claim, it commits those who uphold it to a non-relativist conception of rational justification, to a belief that there must be somehow or other adequate standards of rational justification, which are not the standards internal to this or that standpoint, but are the standards of rational justification as such.

Secondly, just because this is so, making a claim to truth opens up the possibility that the claim may fail, and that the outcome of an enquiry initially designed to vindicate that claim may result instead in a conclusion that the central moral theses of those who initiated the enquiry are false. One might have concluded from the account of the fundamental disagreements between rival standpoints which relativists have taken to warrant their conclusions that, just because the standards to which the partisans of each appeal are to a significant degree internal to each standpoint, any possibility of something that could be recognized as a refutation of one's own standpoint by that of another was precluded. Since each contending party recognizes only judgements by its own standards, each seemed to be assured of judgements only in its favour, at least on central issues. But when one notices that the claim made by each contending party is a claim to truth, this inference is put in question. ...

What the claim to truth denies is, as Nietzsche understood, any version of perspectivism. ...

Yet if the claims made from the rival and contending points of view are not claims to truth, the adherents of the different standpoints in contention will not be able to understand the central claims of their own particular standpoint as logically incompatible with the claims of those rivals. ... It is only insofar as the claims of any one such tradition are framed in terms of a conception of truth which is more and other than that of some conception of rational acceptability or justification that rival moral standpoints can be understood as logically incompatible. ...

The exercise of this imaginative ability to understand one's own fundamental moral positions from some external and alien point of view is then yet another characteristic necessary for those engaged in enquiry who, beginning within some one particular moral standpoint, aspire first to identify and then to overcome its limitations. What this ability can on occasion achieve is a discovery that problems and difficulties, incoherencies and resourcelessnesses, in dealing with which over some extended period one's own standpoint has proved sterile, can in fact be understood and explained from some other rival point of view as precisely the types of difficulty and problem which would be engendered by the particular local partialities and one-sidedness of one's own tradition. If that alternative rival point of view has not proved similarly sterile in relation to its own difficulties and problems, then the enquirer has excellent reasons for treating the alternative rival point of view as more powerful in providing resources for moving rationally from a statement of how things seem to be from a particular local point of view to how they in fact are, by revealing what it was that was hitherto limiting in that standpoint which had up till now been her or his own.

So even though all such reasoning has to begin from and initially accept the limitations and constraints of some particular moral standpoint, the resources provided by an adequate conception of truth, by logic and by the exercise of philosophical and moral imagination are on occasion sufficient to enable enquiry to identify and to transcend what in those limitations and constraints hinders enquiry or renders it sterile. ...

So on fundamental matters, moral or philosophical, the existence of continuing disagreement, even between highly intelligent people, should not lead us to suppose that there are not adequate resources available for the rational resolution of such disagreement.
Recap:
The argument for relativism is a claim to truth, upon which rational justification rests conceptually (so that truth has to be prior to justification, and cannot be equated with justification -- from either inside or outside of any particular moral standpoint). If you can say not just that other standpoints are wrong, but why they are wrong, and even why they have to be/have to have been wrong (by pointing out a contradiction that dissolves upon a shift in standpoints), then you get a shiny blue ribbon!

:-)

Ed


Post 9

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - 11:05pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Steve,
that was part of the rebuttal from the other side.

Ed, basically the rebuttal to my claim was a Hayekian argument.

"systems of traditional, moral rules are not like the axioms of, say, set theory. What we have rather are rules which, in some cases, contradict each other. But these are part of a larger system in which context and other rules suggest where one rule is to prevail over another. This is why genuine moral conflict can amount to a clash of one good over another. Further, this is not something concocted by intellectuals. It's not an ethical theory. It's rather an empirical fact about the moral dimension of human society."




I was wondering what either of you make of the claims in the rebuttal (leaving aside the snarky comment made about Rand) ?
(Edited by Michael Philip on 9/11, 11:12pm)


Post 10

Thursday, September 12, 2013 - 6:47pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
any opinions on that rebuttal? I don't quite understand the argument that was made

Post 11

Thursday, September 12, 2013 - 7:50pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
I think that there is some truth in the rebuttal that was made, though the "morality" of a culture can, and often is, objectively immoral (or moral). That implies there is no "clash of one good over another", except perhaps by taking the two out of their applicable context.



Sanction: 6, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 6, No Sanction: 0
Post 12

Thursday, September 12, 2013 - 9:09pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Michael,

Here's a rebuttal ...
systems of traditional, moral rules are not like the axioms of, say, set theory ("a point never understood by naive rationalists like Rand" apparently).  What we have rather are rules which, in some cases, contradict each other. But these are part of a larger system in which context and other rules suggest where one rule is to prevail over another.
First, there is the muddle-headedness of presuming that moral systems are all rule-based, which is not true. This point is separate from whether those assumed/presumed rules of moral systems are similar or not to the axioms of some kind of a mathematical or scientific theory. This muddledness is carried over into the other sentences, showing that it is not merely a mistaken choice, but an ingrained error -- i.e., a wrong way to think (about morality). Morality is a code of values, not rules -- even though some moralities highlight rules at the expense of values! Therefore, the last 2 sentences, when fixed, look like this:

"What we have rather are values which, in some cases, contradict each other. But these are part of a larger system in which context and other values suggest where one value is to prevail over another."

Even when fixed and applied to Objectivism, the argument that Rand was a naïve rationalist (at least with respect to morality/ethics) is a non sequitur. Rand didn't think morality was just a set of rules, so none of these criticisms harm her or her philosophical position on morality.

This is why genuine moral conflict can amount to a clash of one good over another.
Ooooo, did you see that Bait-N-Switch equivocation?! First there is this mention of rules. Rules, rules, rules. Then, out of the blue, we are talking about goods or values. Then this follows:

Further, this is not something concocted by intellectuals. It's not an ethical theory. It's rather an empirical fact about the moral dimension of human society.
Okay, I forget the fallacy here, but you start with an error (e.g., moral systems are all rule-based) and then you correct yourself midstream and continue on to a conclusion which is relevant to your latest (correct) point while being totally irrelevant to the (false) point you started with. It's some kind of a "cover-up" fallacy, but I forget the name. Here's another example of this fallacy:

Politicians are alien reptiles who feed on human flesh.
As anyone can see with their own eyes, politicians slither around questions like they are snakes or something -- always managing to avoid being pinned down. Also, they, at least metaphorically, "bite" at their opponents with negative campaign ads.
-------------------------------
Further, this is not something concocted by intellectuals. It's not political theory. It's rather an empirical fact about the political dimension of public society.
Do you see how, by the time you get to the conclusion, you seem to want to agree with the whole argument? The first premise is sort of slipped under the radar, so to speak -- as the argument finishes with strong points which most everyone can agree on.

It's shoddy reasoning.

 
Ed


Post 13

Friday, September 13, 2013 - 8:51amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Nicely done, Ed.

Post 14

Friday, September 13, 2013 - 5:34pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Thanks, Steve.

Ed

Sanction: 6, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 6, No Sanction: 0
Post 15

Sunday, September 15, 2013 - 9:55pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Coming back to the topic of intuition

I think there is a valid use of the concept intuition which refers to automated subconscious integration, and our conscious experience of these subconscious integrations. For example, the chess master who "knows" what piece he should move next just by looking at the pattern on the board, without explicit conscious analysis. Or the wife who "knows" what her husband is thinking just by the expression of his face. Or the guy in the movie Twister, who "knew" which way the tornado was going to move just by looking at it. All of these things could be called intuition.

In all these cases the person experiences their intuition as a form of direct but inexplicable knowledge, a hunch, a gut feeling which bypasses reason. But it is not knowledge obtained without reason since they had to think about it before in order to form the integrations, it's just the experience of it that feels as if it came out of nowhere. Someone inclined to mysticism would attribute their intuitions to some supernatural realm, but an Objectivist would see them as what they are, subconscious integrations, which can be wrong and always have to be double checked, but should never be ignored.

The term is also useful to denote layman or common sense understanding of the world, based on observations only, without theory. This is where the idea of something being counterintuitive comes from. For example the fact that one can balance two forks on a quarter on the edge of a glass is counterintuitive the first time one sees it, but learning the physics behind it helps us internalize the knowledge until it becomes intuitive. Also the solution to the Monty Hall problem in statistics is counterintuitive for a lot of people who are not mathematicians. All paradoxes are just situations when our intuition clashes with reality, resolving the paradox means understanding reality better so our intuition won't clash with it.

Some philosophers take intuitions as a primary, and try to reason and infer principles from them. A lot of moral reasoning by non-Objectivist philosophers starts from "moral intuitions" of what is right and wrong and then trying to generalize a principle from it. Of course this is backwards and wrong because the intuitions are a result of the ideas held by the philosopher, so trying to get ideas from intuition is trying to reverse cause and effect. But the fact that some people have a wrong view of intuition does not make it an invalid concept.

Having said all that, Harry Binswanger has suggested that instead of subconscious integration intuition can be thought of as reactive subconscious or reactive subconscious theory (RST). This easily explains gut feelings in terms of the triggering of a series of un-conceptualized associations. He doesn't believe that the subconscious does any integrating on its own.

Post 16

Monday, September 16, 2013 - 6:38pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Good stuff, Michael.

I like Binswanger's theory of the subconscious as a 'reactive associator.' Let me try to capture its essence with reference to film:

When you watch a horror film and there is a woman in a bathroom looking in the mirror and, from her point of view, you can see in the mirror that there is a bathtub behind her with the curtain drawn closed, then don't you get scared and watch that bathtub curtain for movement? You have no choice in the matter (if the movie has already drawn you in). You react to that association of details with the expectation that there is a man -- a man with some kind of a knife or something -- who is hiding in the bathtub behind the curtains.

The reason that you automatically (subconsciously) make this association is because you've seen this kind of thing play out before on the screen. In fact, the associations are so automatic that some movie-makers have successfully pulled-off comedic spoofs of horror films. Comedy is something that only works when there is prior expectation of something. For instance, a young child may laugh when an adult falls over and breaks things -- because adults aren't "supposed to" fall over -- but will not necessarily laugh at a young child doing the same.

Segway into Animal Cognition
Also, a dog will not laugh when anyone falls down, but -- because of a complete lack of integrated expectations -- will think that an adult falling down is evidence that that adult wants to play with them. When I was younger I had a pet dog named Tapper. Whenever I fell off a chair or fell down, he ran up to me with a ball in his mouth. He couldn't tell that I was hurt and therefore did not want to play with him. He didn't form, either consciously or subconsciously, any explanations of human behavior. He was stuck in an epistemology with about 4 remembered associations -- food, play, threat, sleep -- which got forced into, or onto, every new circumstance.

Ed


Post 17

Friday, January 31 - 2:43pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

BTW Ed, quite a no. of those in the Hayekian tradition think that virtue (or virtue ethics) are just social rules as well. Take this comment for instance:

 

" Virtue and duty are social rules. Yes, they are ultimately derived from our moral sentiments, but at the level of philosophical theorizing, we can deal with them on the level of social rules most of the time"

 

 

(Edited by Michael Philip on 1/31, 2:56pm)



Post to this thread
User ID Password reminder or create a free account.