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Austin Dacey - Moral Values After Darwin
Posted: 15 May 2008 01:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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Universal human rights are moral facts
Keeping women in bondage would violate their human rights
——————
Keeping women in bondage is wrong

Since the first premise is false, the conclusion does not follow, and this becomes a bad argument.

But even a moral nihilist could get around this by simply rewording the argument:

Universal human rights are an integral part of the most desirable type of society

Keeping woman in bondage would violate their human rights

Hence, keeping woman in bondage is anathema to the most desirable type of society and is therefore, wrong.

“Wrong” simply meaning “not conducive to one’s stated goal/desire”

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Posted: 15 May 2008 01:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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(1) Re.: “Most desirable type of society”:  Where does that come from? Why claim it is “most desirable”? By whom? You mean that statistically more than 50% of the people who are alive today would desire it if asked? Should that sort of polling inform our ethical views? Presumably a large portion of the people alive today would claim that being gay or atheist is morally wrong as well ...

If by “most desirable” you mean ethically the most desirable, that seems simply to be saying it’s the most ethically justified. But that’s the sort of thing the ethical nihilist can’t say.

(2) Yes, clearly one can redefine one’s terms; e.g., say that by calling something “morally wrong” one is simply saying “I don’t like it”, but then we’re changing the subject. I just wanted to get clear on what was being said and not said.

[ Edited: 15 May 2008 01:38 PM by dougsmith ]
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Posted: 15 May 2008 01:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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dougsmith - 15 May 2008 12:41 PM

Facts are just true propositions (or states of affairs referred to by true propositions, but this gets us into some unnecessary hair-splitting). 

Well I hate to split hairs here, but the whole dialogue now seems to depend upon it.  I sensed that Brennen too was similarly concerned about our use of the word “fact” here.  But perhaps I’m wrong on that?  Your formulation (which I know is not yours, but a standard formulation) leaves the following question to be answered:

Are “facts” just true propositions, or are “facts” the things (states of affairs, as you say) that make propositions true?

If the former is the case, then the facts depend upon us and what we mean by “true”.  The emphasis or burden seems to shift.  Are we willing to say that truth claims are defeasible—that what is true now may not be true later (which would let in many moral claims), or are we forced to say that truth claims are indefeasible (which would seem to rule out moral assertions)?

If the latter is the case, then “truth” seems simply to be a matter of a subjective representation or linguistic proposition corresponding to an objective, non-linguistic external state of affairs.  Then, strictly speaking, we can never be certain about anything and never can attain truth, since we can’t step outside of our own minds (or outside of language) to compare our propositions with the (non-propositional) reality they purportedly represent.  That, at least, is what I understand as a damaging argument against any sort of correspondence theory of truth.

Perhaps I’ve gone off track.  If so, I appologize; and you may ignore at will.  But if you can clarify or set me straight here, that’d be welcomed.

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Posted: 15 May 2008 01:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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All truth claims are inherently defeasible, I would say. One has to separate metaphysics from epistemology, however. We don’t make something a fact by believing it to be true. If it is a fact, it is because there is the right correspondence relation between it and the world. We can have our opinions about which are the facts; some will be well-founded, others not. Further, truth (or knowledge of the truth) has nothing to do with certainty. One can know something to be true even if one is not certain about it. Descartes’s foundationalism is a real dead-end here.

And hair-splitting aside, yes, facts are states of affairs referred to by true propositions. The states of affairs make the propositions true or false; the true ones are “facts”.

Hope this clears things up for you about where I’m coming from.

grin

[ Edited: 16 May 2008 04:39 AM by dougsmith ]
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Posted: 15 May 2008 02:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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(1) Re.: “Most desirable type of society”:  Where does that come from? Why claim it is “most desirable”? By whom? You mean that statistically more than 50% of the people who are alive today would desire it if asked? Should that sort of polling inform our ethical views? Presumably a large portion of the people alive today would claim that being gay or atheist is morally wrong as well ...

I mean nothing other than “desirable” for the person making the argument.  Luckily, it seems a substantially large portion if not majority of people in the world find that their view of a “desirable society” includes universal human rights.

If by “most desirable” you mean ethically the most desirable, that seems simply to be saying it’s the most ethically justified. But that’s the sort of thing the ethical nihilist can’t say.

Well, actually I think a nihilist can make ethical claims, so as long as they are based on rational reasoning and emotions.  One can be a moral nihilist and still hold the same exact beliefs regarding right and wrong as say a moral realist; his justifications for those beliefs, however, will have to be rooted in reasoning instead of an appeal to any “absolute” morality.  A moral nihilist is simply holding that it is an epistemic error to assume that morals exist in the real world.  I wouldn’t call myself a moral nihilist however, since it is so commonly misinterpreted to mean someone without any scruples or concerns.  Though the view can be defended.

(2) Yes, clearly one can redefine one’s terms; e.g., say that by calling something “morally wrong” one is simply saying “I don’t like it”, but then we’re changing the subject. I just wanted to get clear on what was being said and not said.

Well, more than just “I don’t like it” I think we can define wrong as “not conducive to one’s desires/goals” and still make ethical judgements that are coherent without referring to any concrete moral realm.  Certainly any moral fact could be restated as an analysis of cause and effect.  For instance, “it is wrong to steal because it leads to distrust in society which impedes cooperation.”  I don’t think we need morals to justify ethics, if I may make a distinction between the two terms.

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Posted: 01 June 2008 11:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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Jackson - 10 May 2008 05:16 AM
Thomas Donnelly - 09 May 2008 08:04 PM

His new book is The Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life.

First Chapter of the book is on-line at richarddawkins.net:

http://richarddawkins.net/firstChapter,40

There is a featured article by Dacey on the Secular Conscience   in the June/July issue of Free Inquiry (that particular article is not yet available online)
http://secularhumanism.org/index.php?page=index&section=fi

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Posted: 12 June 2008 03:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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Jackson - 01 June 2008 11:44 AM
Jackson - 10 May 2008 05:16 AM
Thomas Donnelly - 09 May 2008 08:04 PM

His new book is The Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life.

First Chapter of the book is on-line at richarddawkins.net:

http://richarddawkins.net/firstChapter,40

There is a featured article by Dacey on the Secular Conscience   in the June/July issue of Free Inquiry (that particular article is not yet available online)
http://secularhumanism.org/index.php?page=index&section=fi

I read that particular article and heard his interview on POI, and I find I am a kindred secular spirit with his views.  This forum is a good example of the challenges facing secular beliefs and outlooks in terms of ethics and morality.

Put simply, if you cannot claim to hold ANY moral standards that apply Cross Culturally, then you Forfeit the concept of human rights, such a concept is meaningless, as the only basis or standard is culturally based.  That many of you may not be this far gone in your thinking does not mean that this strain of thought is FAR too common among the secular crowd.  And that strain of thought is MORE destructive to human rights than the Christian religious alternative.

And do you know why?  because at least that world view has the capacity to pass judgement, and that is a GOOD THING, yes it can be taken too far, but the ability to judge something as objectively good or bad is a needed. 


Do I think that morality is absolute?  of course not.  I fully agree that morality is a relative thing, change our wiring and our ethical constraints will change as well, this seems reasonable enough.  The problem is the conclusion many secular people draw from this, that because morality is NOT absolute, that there exist no objective standards.

Absolute is NOT the same as objective, please PLEASE be clear on the distinction.  To illustrate the distinction I will use taste.

Smell.  To human beings, it is an objective fact that dung smells like.. well sh*t.  But for the sake of argument, it may very well be the case that to a dungbeetle dung smells fantastic.  Here the concept of an ABSOLUTE standard of taste/smell is nonsensical.  There is no absolute standard of taste constant throughout the universe, constant between all creatures.  Wrong on its face, bad just terrible logic (religious).  However, we CAN say that it is an objective fact that dung smells bad within the Human subset to human beings.  To the extent that our wiring is common as well as our goals, certain judgments of what is BETTER or WORSE can be made in terms of taste, and also, ethics (not everything, but perhaps some things).

After all, we are not comparing humans and velociraptors!

 

And here some of the sacred liberal cows MUST be severed from secular thought, the chains broken to free secular peoples from gutter level rationales.  Egalitarianism.  Not ALL ideas are equally valid, not all beliefs equally sensible, not all practices equally beneficial, not all economic systems equally prosperous etc. etc.

Slavery is NOT a successful strategy for improving human happiness and prosperity to more people, honor killings is NOT a reasonable action, letting young kids be raised by other young adolescent males is NOT as stabilizing as being raised in a regular home with 2 parents (lord of the flies anyone?).

I am not trying to construct some air tight moral framework here, just making the point that without SOME objective standards that apply cross culturally, secular people will be impotent in their moral critiques.  If they cannot EVER brings themselves to judge another cultures actions or members therein as right/wrong then they will forfeit ANY ethical standards. 

anthropologist type objection:

Hey wait a minute!  this tribe in ditchwater helluvia thinks child torture, just for the fun of it is a GOOD thing!


Irenicus: SO WHAT !!!!!!!!!  the anthropologists type of view is one of the least useful and most deranged because they are UNIQUELY acquainted with the cases of man bites dog, and from those anomaly’s of nature attempt to reject ANY sort of standard.

the exceptions need not disprove the rule, that is a key kernel of wisdom.  Do NOT fall into such a fallacy people!

even IF some tribe thinks its ok, it is an OBJECTIVE FACT within the human subset that torturing kids for the fun of it is NOT a successful strategy for increasing human happiness for MOST people.  There will ALWAYS be exceptions, psychopaths, people GENUINELY wired differently, exotic cultural warpings, none of this should lure us away from trying to find and defend SOME standards!

[ Edited: 22 June 2008 03:29 AM by Irenicus ]
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Posted: 12 June 2008 03:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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Irenicus - 12 June 2008 03:11 PM


Do I think that morality is absolute?  of course not.  I fully agree that morality is a relative thing, change our wiring and our ethical constraints will change as well, this seems reasonable enough.  The problem is the conclusion many secular people draw from this, that because morality is NOT absolute, that there exist no objective standards.

Absolute is NOT the same as objective, please PLEASE be clear on the distinction.  To illustrate the distinction I will use taste.

Welcome to the forum—You might want to post something in the “Introduce Yourself” forum
Example:
http://www.centerforinquiry.net/forums/viewthread/4134/

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Posted: 05 July 2008 09:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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Sorry for digging up an old thread, but this topic is what inspired me to join the forum in the first place!  I wrote the following in an email to Austin Dacey; I have yet to receive a reply (no doubt he is busy) but perhaps y’all might find it interesting:

Subject: Is consequentialism not subjectivist?

Dr. Dacey,

I recently enjoyed your interview of May 9, 2008 on Point of Inquiry.
However, I have a point of confusion along the lines of DJ Grothe’s
questions:

You make the point that sociopaths are amoral and perhaps can’t feel
love for others the way they might love themselves.  But if the
sociopath do not suffer regret by injuring others (and they are
smart/self-possessed enough to not injure themselves), can their
amorality be called immoral?

If not, is then consequentialism not just reason applied to moral
premises which are themselves ultimately subjective?  This is different
than a sense of vision or hearing, because while our perceptions are
fallible, they are an attempt to build a model of phenomena that are not
agent-relative (at least, where Planck’s constant can be taken to be
zero!).

Thank you!


Regards,

<Hypnos’ real name>

PS:  There is a fine discussion thread linked from this show’s webpage.
If you permit, I’d like to post our exchange to this thread.

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