• Bob Ross
    1.4k
    NOTE: I no longer believe this to be a cogent argument against moral realism.

    I think that Hume’s Guillotine can be deployed to validly extinguish the existence of moral facticity, if ‘moral’ language signifies ‘what one ought to be doing’, since in any event of reasoning about ‘what one ought to do’ it is going to be grounded in non-facts.

    No matter what prescription is being utilized, even if it is a normative fact or not, it will eventually take the form of the following (no matter how many syllogisms it takes to get there):

    P1: [normative non-fact]
    P2: [non-normative fact]
    C: [target normative statement {or some other normative fact/non-fact that derives the target}]

    As a quick short-circuited example, let’s say that the target normative statement, T, is a normative fact, then one would have to argue something which will bottom-out at:

    P1: One ought to abide by the normative facts.
    P2: T is a normative fact.
    C: T

    This implies, even if it is conceded that normative facts exist, that what informs the individual of ‘what they ought to do’ is a taste: not a normative fact. If this is the case, then the study of ‘what one ought to do’ is completely non-factual—and since ‘moral’ language signifies exactly that study, it is purely non-factual.

    I don’t think that the moral anti-realist has to concede that there are no normative facts but, rather, just that none of them dictate ‘what one ought to be doing’.

    Ammendments:

    I think I understand better some of the objections the moral realists have been making, and there is one in particular that I think is worth outlining and countering in this OP: if a normative fact is, well, a fact, then it is true in virtue of it corresponding correctly to reality (i.e., to a state of affairs) and thusly doesn't require further justification; and this doesn't seem to violate Hume's Guillotine since a normative statement is being justified with only normative statements. I think my original elaboration (above the updates) missed this key point, and to demonstrate let's take my short-circuited example:

    P1: One ought to abide by the normative facts.
    P2: T is a normative fact.
    C: T

    If T were a normative fact which expresses 'one ought...', then T is a true depiction of a state of affairs such that 'one ought...' and, thusly, it does not require further justification such as P1 and it informs the person what they ought to doing (since the normative fact refers to a prescriptive about the subject). I think, and correct me if I am wrong, this is what @Banno and @Leontiskos (as well as @J) are expressing (in a nutshell).
  • J
    225
    Shouldn't the first P2 be "normative fact" rather than "non-normative fact"?
  • Michael
    14.5k


    Let’s take a simple example: one ought not harm another.

    Broadly speaking there are three different approaches.

    1. The moral nihilist will argue that no statements of this kind are true.

    2. The moral anti-realist will argue that some statements of this kind are true and are made true by some mind-dependent feature of the world.

    3. The moral realist will argue that some statements of this kind are true and are made true by some mind-independent feature of the world.

    I don’t quite see how your argument proves 2 and/or disproves 1 and 3.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    That one ought not kick puppies for fun is a moral statement.
    It is a true statement that one ought not kick puppies for fun.
    Facts are true statements.

    Therefore there are moral facts.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    The way I see it, P2 will also be a description, which itself can encompass a normative fact but is not a normative fact itself. If you think I am wrong, then please give me an example of a syllogism that deploys three prescriptions (i.e., on per premise and one in the conclusion) which is valid. I don't see how that is possible.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    1. The moral nihilist will argue that no statements of this kind are true.

    Moral nihilism is a form of moral anti-realism, so my argument is more broad than that position and could be deployed by a person that holds that position.

    2. The moral anti-realist will argue that some statements of this kind are true and are made true by some mind-dependent feature of the world.

    This is moral subjectivism, and not moral anti-realism. The former is a form of the latter. Moral nihilists and non-cognitivists are also moral anti-realists, and they do not agree with your #2.

    3. The moral realist will argue that some statements of this kind are true and are made true by some mind-independent feature of the world.

    If my OP is true, then this position would be false because moral statements are not made true by some mind-independent feature of the world (i.e., they are not moral facts).
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    [P1] That one ought not kick puppies for fun is a moral statement.
    [P2] It is a true statement that one ought not kick puppies for fun.
    [P3] Facts are true statements.
    [C] Therefore there are moral facts.

    P1 can be true and be subjective. It would be a true statement because it corresponds to one’s psyche, and the prescription itself is non-factual (being a part of one’s psyche).

    More technically, I would deny, if pushed on it, P2; because technically “one ought not kick puppies for fun” is non-factual, so it is not a proposition or it is false (and only true as a non-factual claim). It would have to be “I believe that one ought not kick puppies”: then it is propositional.
  • Michael
    14.5k
    If my OP is true, then this position would be false because moral statements are not made true by some mind-independent feature of the world (i.e., they are not moral facts).Bob Ross

    A moral realist might claim that the statement "one ought not harm another" is made true by the mind-independent fact that one ought not harm another (much like someone might claim that the statement "electrons are negatively charged particles" is made true by the mind-independent fact that electrons are negatively charged particles).

    I don't see how you've shown that this can't be the case.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    The retreat into subjectivity. Subjective or objective "One ought not kick puppies for fun" is true, and that's its salient feature.

    But those not under the spell of logical positivism might puzzle at the lack of empathy apparent in Ayer's children, and further conclude that emotivism misses something of great import: that there are some things we ought despise.

    If you assume that only statements about material things or sense data are facts, then of course you will conclude that moral statements are not facts. You will have done no more than reiterated your assumption.

    So you are forced to deny what is blatantly evident, that these are indeed true statements, facts, simply to keep your ideology.
  • J
    225
    Oh, OK, so you meant that "T is a normative fact" is a non-normative fact. Got it.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    Puzzling.
  • J
    225
    No, it makes sense. The claim would be that the statement "T is a normative fact" states something non-normative, something factual, because it's a claim about a statement, not the reality the statement refers to. It's about normativity, not itself normative. I'm not sure I agree, but I think it can be said coherently.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    Hmm. I'm dubious.

    "One ought not pick one's nose" is normative. Supose it is a fact. Then it is a true.

    Then how is "It is true that one ought not pick one's nose" not also normative?

    To say of some normative statement, that it is true, is itself to make a normative statement, isn't it?
  • Banno
    23.5k
    A moral realist might claim that the statement "one ought not harm another" is made true by the mind-independent fact that one ought not harm anotherMichael

    Seems too strong to me.

    A moral realist need only claim that "one ought not harm another" is either true or false.

    A moral antirealist claims that it has no truth value...?
  • J
    225
    I agree, it's tricky. I think the question is whether adding "It is true that . . . " to a statement adds or changes anything of substance. In a non-normative context, would we say that "It is raining" and "It is true that it is raining" express two different propositions? I don't think so. But including normativity seems to genuinely add something. "You shouldn't pick your nose" and "It is true that you shouldn't pick your nose" arguably do say two different things. The one is normative, in that it's telling you what (not) to do. The other doesn't adjure or command or affirm an obligation or anything like that; it only reports on the truth of the first statement. Or so it appears . . . . and hopefully Bob Ross will tell us if this is what he meant. Maybe I'm too full of tofu turkey to think clearly about it tonight! I'll see how it looks in the morning.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    tofu turkeyJ

    Oh, is that now? Weird rituals.
  • Leontiskos
    1.6k
    "You shouldn't pick your nose" and "It is true that you shouldn't pick your nose" arguably do say two different things.J

    I'm with @Banno on this one. Even if we accept that they are different in subtle ways, I don't think they are different vis-à-vis normativity.

    Edit: Yet the problem is that P2 is a (descriptive) predication of normative facticity, not a per se predication of the truth of a normative statement. So now I agree with @J. :grin:
  • 180 Proof
    14.5k
    I might be repeating @Banno here but Hume's Guillotine says one cannot logically derive (moral) norms from non-normative facts. The moral anti-realist assumes that 'normative facts do not exist', even though they exist as evident in (e.g.) public health, medical & ecological sciences as well as institutional facts like money, traffic signs, marriage vows. The vast majority of considered facts are, in fact, theory/value-laden (i.e. normative), so Hume's Guillotine makes sense to me and 'moral anti-realism' does not.
  • Leontiskos
    1.6k
    Thoughts?Bob Ross

    I think you are begging the question again, and, like in the past, you very much need to define what you mean by 'fact'. All of your arguments depend on your premise that there are no moral facts, and yet you never end up saying what you mean by a fact such that your statement could be reliably assessed.
  • Banno
    23.5k

    Yet,
    P2: T is a normative fact.Bob Ross
    Hence in some way T says "One ought A"
    hence
    it is true that one ought A
    also says "one ought A".

    I don't see an escape.

    "T" is true IFF T.

    "T" is a fact IFF T.
  • Leontiskos
    1.6k
    No, it makes sense. The claim would be that the statement "T is a normative fact" states something non-normative, something factual, because it's a claim about a statement, not the reality the statement refers to. It's about normativity, not itself normative.J

    To say of some normative statement, that it is true, is itself to make a normative statement, isn't it?Banno

    I think there is a legitimate ambiguity here. "T is a normative fact," could be read as, "T is normatively binding," in which case Banno would be right since this is equivalent to the claim that the normative statement is true. Yet, "T is a normative fact," could also be read as a description or categorization of a fact at a meta-ethical level, in which case the claim is not itself normative. I think this is how the OP intended it, but I sort of agree with Banno again at this point.
  • Leontiskos
    1.6k


    I think the OP meant something like this:

    1. All normative facts are Y.
    2. X is a normative fact.
    3. Therefore, X is Y.

    The middle term is meant to be descriptive, not normative.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    "T is a normative fact," could be read as, "T is normatively binding,"Leontiskos

    "T is a normative fact," could also be read as a description or categorization of a fact at a meta-ethical level, in which case the claim is not itself normative.Leontiskos

    "One ought not pick one's nose" has six words... not morally binding.

    "One ought not pick one's nose" is true... then you ought not pick your nose.

    I think this is how the OP intended it,Leontiskos
    So do I, but was in error.


    Edit: part of that error may be the antirealist thesis that normative statements do not have a truth value. But if that were so then they would have no place in a truth-functional syllogism.

    That's one of the problems with supposing that moral statements are not either true nor false - they drop out of rational discussion.

    It's an unappetising doctrine.
  • Leontiskos
    1.6k
    "One ought not pick one's nose" has six words... not morally binding.

    "One ought not pick one's nose" is true... then you ought not pick your nose.
    Banno

    Yes, but the claim of the OP is not that it is true, but rather that it is a normative fact, hence the ambiguity. This goes back to that tricky question of intention, for we can speak about normative propositions in a non-normative manner.

    Edit: part of that error may be the antirealist thesis that normative statements do not have a truth value. But if that were so then they would have no place in a truth-functional syllogism.Banno

    I don't really disagree with you in the end, but there are some subtle differences between practical syllogisms and speculative syllogisms, and there is an interesting question about whether one knows them both in the same manner. I think some of that is coming into this as well.

    In any case, at the end of the day I think your argument about the truth or falsity of moral statements is sound.
  • Apustimelogist
    395


    I will be thinking about this but first impression is I like this a lot. A kind of Carollian regress. My intuition is that it makes sense and probably does echo sentiments of some anti-realists who might ask why they should care about the moral facts.... or rather, express their skepticism that there is anything at all to compel them to abide by the moral facts.
  • Sirius
    39


    A moral realist might claim that the statement "one ought not harm another" is made true by the mind-independent fact that one ought not harm another (much like someone might claim that the statement "electrons are negatively charged particles" is made true by the mind-independent fact that electrons are negatively charged particles).

    I don't see how you've shown that this can't be the case

    1. Naturalism is true

    2. The linguistic and non-linguistic practices which do not refer to or supervene on any natural fact outside the linguistic and non-linguistic practices must solely depend on the collective mind judgements of the community. These mind-dependent judgements were shaped by our evolutionary history, but you would have to show evolution's main job was to ensure we arrive at true moral statement, even if it harmed our adaptability, which is clearly false.

    3. "Do not harm others" does not supervene on any natural fact apart from the linguistic + non-linguistic practices in a community. Were a community to adopt "Do harm others", there would be no natural fact to which one could point to show "Do harm others" is false, whereas in the case of electrons, we could refer to the electron field, upon which "electrons are negative charged" does supervene. Or to give a better example, if someone said, "the trees don't have leaves", we would point to the tree to show it is false.



    Conclusion, moral facts are mind-dependent, moral realism is false
  • Banno
    23.5k
    but the claim of the OP is not that it is true, but rather that it is a normative fact,Leontiskos

    No ambiguity. If it is a fact, it is true. If it is not true, it is not a fact.

    we can speak about normative propositions in a non-normative manner.Leontiskos
    Yes, as in
    "One ought not pick one's nose" has six wordsBanno
    But saying they are facts has implications.

    In any case, at the end of the day I think your argument about the truth or falsity of moral statements is sound.Leontiskos

    Cheers. It's pretty straight Ordinary Language stuff.
  • Moliere
    4.2k
    That one ought not kick puppies for fun is a moral statement.
    It is a true statement that one ought not kick puppies for fun.
    Facts are true statements.

    Therefore there are moral facts.
    Banno

    If it is a true statement its truth does not share a sense with other uses of "truth". "One ought not kick puppies for fun" is false, in sense of the natural world. It fits the form of a proposition, but it doesn't rely upon any feature of the natural world for its truth. Rather we are using the word "true" in the place of the moral words "good" or "bad", which have no natural instantiations.

    Now this would get along with the notion of non-natural moral facts. A more minimal anti-realist position is simply to note that there are no such facts.

    For my part, though, I'd just say the significance of animal cruelty far outweighs whether there even is a fact to the matter. Animal cruelty is bad is enough for me; it need not be true. And stated like that could it even be true? ""Animal cruelty is bad" is true" -- what does that mean other than to simply assert the first sentence? Then aren't we actually talking in terms of goodness and badness, and not in terms of truth? So what is truth doing here anyways? Making our commitments Real, and thereby more important?

    This is the line of questioning that begins me thinking towards anti-realism on ethics. It seems to me that the heart of the matter isn't the same as the way the sciences work, and so it worth noting that there is a distinction to be made between moral truths -- if we wish to speak that way -- and truths of the natural world. I have a deep doubt of any claim to a science of ethics.
  • 180 Proof
    14.5k
    Conclusion, moral facts are mind-dependent, moral realism is falseSirius
    So harm (e.g. theft via hacking micro-transactions, betrayal of a country, rape of a coma patient or infant) happens to the victim only when it is observed by the victim? :chin:

    Moral prescriptions (i.e. hypothetical imperatives – not "customary preferences", "emotional reactions", "subjective intuitions", etc) seem, except for implementation, indistinguishable from algorithms (i.e. adaptive rules). Caveat: not all algorithms are moral and not all morals are algorithms.

    Nonetheless, if algorthms (i.e. If x, then y; therefore ought to z in order to prevent / mitigate either x and/or y) are necessarily "mind-dependent facts", then when generated by programs without minds, algorthms are not "normative facts"? This conclusion doesn't make sense.
  • Sirius
    39


    So harm (e.g. theft via hacking micro-transactions, betrayal of a country, rape of a coma patient or infant) happens to the victim only when it is observed by the victim? :chin:

    I will repeat what l said earlier on and add clarification to it

    "Do not harm others" or in general "X is bad" does not supervene on any natural fact apart from the linguistic + non-linguistic practices in a community. These practices are shaped by non-moral natural facts ( evolutionary adaptability ) and historical/cultural circumstances.

    Here's a thought experiment. Imagine if we lived in a planet where torturing the elderly helped our adaptability, for whatever reason, then we would have evolved to see torturing the elderly as good. We will still have meta-ethics and normative ethics in that planet , but we would look at an old man and think, it's good to torture him.

    If this is too difficult to imagine. Then just look at how historical and cultural circumstances change many moral facts.

    Do you believe some religious people claim "Homosexuality is bad" because "bad" supervenes over "homosexuality" ?

    Or does "good" supervene over "Homosexuality" for progressives ?

    Or maybe, progressives relate to a different cultural/historical memes compared to religious people ? This is the simplest explanation

    If not, then l will wait till eternity for you to explain which defective cognitive faculty in religious people or progressives makes them make the wrong judgment. Is this cognitive faculty mysterious and undetectable ?
  • 180 Proof
    14.5k
    l will wait till eternity for you to explain which defective cognitive faculty in religious people or progressives makes them make the wrong judgment. Is this cognitive faculty mysterious and undetectable ?Sirius
    Changing recognition of facts (e.g. "cultural / historical lineages") do not change facts as facts. Ignorance afflicts both "religious people" and "progressives" alike so the cognitive faculty is neither "defective" (as you suggest) nor "mysterious and undetectable". The difference is that "religious people" (i.e. supernaturalists) tend to eschew techniques of rational self-correction (i.e. learning) – relying on fallacious appeals to tradition, authority, popularity, incredulity, etc – much more than "progessives" (i.e. naturalists) do.

    I will repeat what l said earlier ...
    ... rather than address the questions I put to what you said earlier. How tedious. :roll:

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/855846
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